posted 11 days ago on ars technica
billy kerr The Justice Department says it's perfectly legal for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to cut Internet access of hotel rooms, pose as repairmen, and gather evidence of illegal activity—without a court warrant. The government said in a court filing late Monday that the Caesars Palace occupants—who called the hotel desk to fix the problem—invited the undercover agents into their Las Vegas rooms, which is enough consent where a warrant is not needed. "Law enforcement has long been permitted to obtain consent by posing as a confederate, business associate, or service provider. In fact, the government uses ruses every day in its undercover operations, and consent obtained by such ruses is valid unless the deceit leaves the occupant with no choice but to consent to an entry. In this case, the ruse—which involved a brief interruption of DSL service for which no Fourth Amendment intrusion was necessary, and which did not interfere with the occupants' other means of Internet access—was not coercive," federal prosecutors wrote [PDF] in defense of the tactic. This initiative preceded the arrest of an alleged leader of a well-known Chinese crime syndicate and other associates. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. AT&T AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said today that his company will "pause" investments in fiber networks until the net neutrality debate is over. The statement came two days after President Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband as a utility and impose bans on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. "We can't go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed," Stephenson told investors, according to Reuters. "We think it is prudent to just pause and make sure we have line of sight and understanding as to what those rules would look like." Stephenson was speaking at a Wells Fargo event. AT&T said in April that it would "expand its ultra-fast fiber network to up to 100 candidate cities and municipalities nationwide," but it never promised to build in all of them. Buildouts were dependent on local officials cooperating with the company. AT&T has also claimed that it will bring fiber to "two million additional locations" if the federal government approves its purchase of DirecTV. But AT&T has never said how many customers will get AT&T fiber if the deal isn't approved, making it impossible to judge whether the potential investment would be an increase over existing plans. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Lockheed Martin A United Nations commission is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland today to begin discussions on placing controls on the development of weapons systems that can target and kill without the intervention of humans, the New York Times reports. The discussions come a year after a UN Human Rights Council report called for a ban on “Lethal autonomous robotics” and as some scientists express concerns that artificially intelligent weapons could potentially make the wrong decisions about who to kill. SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk recently called artificial intelligence potentially more dangerous than nuclear weapons. Peter Asaro, the cofounder of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC), told the Times, “Our concern is with how the targets are determined, and more importantly, who determines them—are these human-designated targets? Or are these systems automatically deciding what is a target?” Intelligent weapons systems are intended to reduce the risk to both innocent bystanders and friendly troops, focusing their lethality on carefully—albeit artificially—chosen targets. The technology in development now could allow unmanned aircraft and missile systems to avoid and evade detection, identify a specific target from among a clutter of others, and destroy it without communicating with the humans who launched them. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Yesterday, during an official visit to China, President Obama joined with Chinese President Xi Jinping to announce an agreement to control future carbon emissions. Previously, the US committed to cutting its carbon emissions by 17 percent relative to 2005 levels; those cuts were expected to be reached by 2020. The new goal would give the US until 2025, but it involves significantly deeper cuts: at least 26 percent. China hadn't previously set specific targets, although it has raced to establish itself as a renewable energy powerhouse. The country has the largest installed wind capacity and trails only Germany in photovoltaics. Now, Beijing has agreed to work toward having its emissions peak in 2030, a goal that will almost certainly see the country retiring some coal generating capacity before its full lifetime. As a major manufacturer of renewable energy generating equipment, China clearly has an economic interest in pushing for its expansion. The severity of its pollution problems also provides an impetus to move away from coal for its power generation. In the US, the move away from coal has largely been economic, driven by the availability of cheap natural gas. The impetus for further cuts in emissions, however, may come from EPA rules that are being developed under the auspices of the Clean Air Act. These rules, however, have drawn harsh criticism from Congressional Republicans, who now have majorities in both chambers. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
NEW YORK—The next versions of Visual Studio and .NET were given their official names today—Visual Studio 2015 and .NET 2015—along with a first preview release using this name. Visual Studio 2015 will also take the next step along Microsoft's path of making Visual Studio into a cross-platform development tool. Visual Studio 2013 took strides in this direction with its preview support for HTML5/Cordova apps, and with Xamarin, .NET developers can reach multiple platforms. In Visual Studio 2015, that cross-platform reach is going to include C++ too. Microsoft's development environment will include support for the Clang compiler and LLVM infrastructure for targeting Android and, in a later iteration, iOS. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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NEW YORK—Earlier this year, Microsoft open sourced a big chunk of .NET, publishing its new compiler, Roslyn, and many .NET libraries under the Apache license. Today, the company took that same open sourcing effort a great deal further. Microsoft announced that its full server .NET stack, including the just-in-time compiler and runtime and the core class libraries that all .NET software depends on, will all be open sourced. The code will be hosted on GitHub and published under a permissive MIT-style license. With this release, Microsoft wants to make sure that the .NET stack is fully functional and production quality on both Linux and OS X. The company is working with the Mono community to make sure that this platform is "enterprise-ready." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
President Obama announces the nomination of Rep. Melvin Watt, left, as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and Tom Wheeler, right, as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), on May 1, 2013. White House Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is not convinced that the FCC should treat consumer broadband service as a utility despite President Obama urging him to do so. A report last night in The Washington Post says Wheeler met Monday with Web companies including Google, Yahoo, and Etsy and told them that he wants to find a compromise that addresses the concerns of Internet service providers such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and AT&T. Wheeler was formerly a lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries. “What you want is what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn’t affect your business,” Wheeler told attendees of the meeting, according to the Post's sources. “What I’ve got to figure out is how to split the baby.” Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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green kozi New research from two American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) affiliates definitively shows local law enforcement surveillance technology spreading throughout California—with hardly any public oversight. The ACLU of Northern California (ACLUNC) and the ACLU of California (ACLUCA) reported Wednesday that California’s 58 counties and its 60 largest cities have collectively spent over $65 million on such technology over the last decade. Often, the money comes through federally-funded grants or outside foundation money that city councils and county boards of supervisors are all-too-ready to accept. "We found evidence of public debate related to surveillance technology adoption less than 15 percent of the time," the ACLUCA told Ars in a statement by e-mail. "None of the 52 communities with two or more surveillance technologies publicly debated every technology. We found a publicly-available use policy for fewer than one in five surveillance technologies." Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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It's estimated that there were once four billion American chestnut trees in the eastern US. Now there are almost none. Oak Ridge National Lab The relationship between the US public and genetically modified organisms is a bit ambiguous. Efforts to label GMO foods were defeated in California, while some Hawaiian islands have banned the planting of GMO crops. But for most Americans, these issues remain pretty abstract. That may change thanks to work taking place in upstate New York. There, scientists are planning the return of an American icon in a genetically modified form. And if all goes according to plan, ten thousand GMO chestnut trees could be ready to plant in as little as five years. People could find them in parks and playgrounds and even in their neighbors' yards. The American chestnut was once a major feature of the Appalachian forests, with its range covering the entire East Coast. But it fell victim to an invasive species: a fungal blight has pretty much wiped out the species in its native range. A few nearly dead trees sporadically send out shoots, and some survivors outside its normal range are the only reasons we're still able to grow any American chestnuts. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
A watch face, the rearranged menu, and the about screen. Phandroid With seemingly everyone getting in on the Lollipop party, you can rest assured that your wrist will not be left out of the proceedings. Phandroid has gotten its hands on a leaked version of what it is calling "Android Wear 5.0," an upcoming update to Android Wear. The update reportedly bumps the base OS from Android 4.4 to Android 5.0 Lollipop and adds a few much-needed improvements. The best sounding one is an undo function to bring back cards that you've accidentally swiped away. Right now, any accidental input can delete a card forever, and it's very frustrating. The report says that after dismissing a card, "just swipe upwards and you'll be presented with an undo option." The fabled Watch Face API is reportedly included in the update, which will finally give developers a supported way to create custom watch faces. The custom watch face market is alive and well right now, but they all use undocumented APIs. As part of the new API, weather notifications can be displayed directly on the watch face, with the report showing little weather icons that could be displayed directly on the background. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Google We're still waiting for the Nexus Factory Image page to update with Lollipop builds for all the Nexus owners out there, but Android Police has managed to snag a link direct from Google's servers before the page gets updated. 2012 Nexus 7 (Wi-Fi) owners: Your build of Lollipop is here. That link should get you the LRX21P build of Android 5.0 direct from Google's servers. The 2012 Nexus 7 is the first 7-inch tablet from Google and should be one of the oldest devices to get updated to Lollipop. This is a factory image, so as part of the install, your entire device will be wiped. Instructions on how to use this are here. You'll need to install the SDK, boot your phone into a special flashing mode, and do some command line work to unlock your bootloader and update to Lollipop. If that sounds too complicated, you can always wait for the OTA, which will do a non-destructive upgrade. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Andrew Cunningham If you were thinking that a high-end handset or a Nexus would be the first device to get the Android 5.0 update, guess again: as far as we can tell, the $179 second-generation Moto G is the first phone to receive a final version of the update. Other phones, including the second-generation Moto X and the LG G3, have made steps toward a Lollipop update, but the Moto G appears to be the first device to move beyond the testing phase. Our unlocked US version of the phone is downloading its 386.7MB Lollipop update now. Motorola's "Moto" phones are known for their relatively clean, "stock" versions of Android, and as such the official release notes for the Moto G's Lollipop update focus mostly on things that will be coming to all Moto and Nexus phones that will get Lollipop. High on the list are the new "Material Design" UI, lock screen notifications, multi-user support (brand-new to phones, though it was introduced to Android tablets in version 4.2), and the "Project Volta" battery life enhancements. As of this writing, this update only appears to be rolling out to the larger, second-generation Moto G. Even though the internal hardware is substantially identical, there are no updates available for our first-generation model from late 2013. Expect other Moto phones and the supported members of the Nexus family to begin getting their Lollipop update in the coming days. Our coverage, including our full Lollipop review and several pieces revisiting older devices running Lollipop, will continue as those updates roll out. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Wikimedia Microsoft has disclosed a potentially catastrophic vulnerability in virtually all versions of Windows. People operating Windows systems, particularly those who run websites, should immediately install a patch Microsoft released Tuesday morning. The vulnerability resides in the Microsoft secure channel (schannel) security component that implements the secure sockets layer and transport layer security (TLS) protocols, according to a Microsoft advisory. A failure to properly filter specially formed packets makes it possible for attackers to execute attack code of their choosing by sending malicious traffic to a Windows-based server. While the advisory makes reference to vulnerabilities targeting Windows servers, the vulnerability is rated critical for client and sever versions of Windows alike, an indication the remote-code bug may also threaten Windows desktops and laptop users as well. Amol Sarwate, director of engineering at Qualys, told Ars the flaw leaves client machines open if users run software that monitors Internet ports and accepts encrypted connections. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Comcast Comcast today said it supports President Obama's entire network neutrality proposal—except for that part about reclassifying broadband as a utility. "What is remarkable is that if you compare the President’s articulation of his vision for net neutrality as set forth in the White House talking points released yesterday afternoon, we are on the record as agreeing with every point," Comcast Executive VP David Cohen wrote in a blog post titled, "Surprise! We agree with the president’s principles on net neutrality." The areas of agreement between Comcast and Obama are as follows, he wrote: Free and open Internet. We agree—and that is our practice. No blocking. We agree—and that is our practice. No throttling. We agree—and that is our practice. Increased transparency. We agree—and that is our practice. No paid prioritization. We agree—and that is our practice. Comcast has to follow net neutrality rules until 2018 because of conditions imposed on its purchase of NBCUniversal. Net neutrality rules that apply to all ISPs would put Comcast and its competitors on a level playing field in that regard. But Obama and Comcast disagree on how to implement them. Obama said that the Federal Communications Commission needs to reclassify consumer broadband service as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act in order to impose these rules. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Andrew Cunningham When Adrienne Moore switched from an iPhone 4 to a Samsung Galaxy S5 earlier this year, problems with iMessage prohibited her new phone from getting text messages sent to her number. She filed a lawsuit in May, and Reuters reports that US District Judge Lucy Koh has ruled that the suit will move forward. Apple acknowledged earlier this year that there was a "server-side bug" causing trouble for customers attempting to leave iMessage and deregister their numbers. If your number is still in Apple's system, iMessages sent to you could appear to senders as if they've been delivered even though the recipient hasn't actually gotten them. Moore claims that the inability to receive messages interfered with her mobile contract, and that Apple violated California's Consumers Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law. In an earlier motion to dismiss the suit (PDF), Apple said that Moore "did not tell Apple that she was no longer using her iPhone" (in other words, she didn't de-register the iPhone from the iMessage service before getting rid of it), and that Apple never promised that iMessage "would automatically recognize a user's transition to a new device. From that motion: Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Thomas Hawk RPX is sometimes called a "defensive patent aggregator." The company's main business is to sell expensive memberships to big companies, then buy up patents that are being used, or could be used in the future, by "patent trolls" to sue them. It's an extremely profitable business—this year, RPX is expecting to earn $56 million on $256 million in revenue. That's allowed RPX to expand into other business lines. Earlier this year, it started offering protection from trolls, which RPX calls non-practicing entities or NPEs, through an old-fashioned product: insurance. By paying an annual premium, companies could get their legal fees covered if (or when) they get hit with a patent troll lawsuit. RPX also became authorized as a coverholder at Lloyd's. RPX exists because NPE lawsuits have become extremely common and now constitute around 60 percent of all patent suits. In the second quarter of this year, 855 lawsuits were filed by NPEs. Most of those lawsuits are aimed at companies with less than $100 million in revenue; according to RPX, 1 in 10 "top tier VC-funded companies" are sued within five years of being funded. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Microsoft's Lync communications server is to be rebranded. The next version, due to be released next year, will be named instead Skype for Business. It will retain Lync's infrastructure—the ability to use on-premises servers, optional federation with external communications networks, and so on and so forth—but the branding and client design will closely match those of Microsoft's consumer communication platform. The Skype and Lync development teams have been working together since shortly after Microsoft bought the popular Skype platform for $8.5 billion in 2011. Skype for Business will further improve interoperability with regular Skype. While voice and instant messaging are already interoperable between Lync and Skype, the next version will add video messaging and access to the Skype user directory. This will mean that, should administrators choose to enable it, the Skype for Business client software will serve as a fairly fully featured Skype client, too. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Kaspersky Lab The Stuxnet computer worm that attacked Iran's nuclear development program was first seeded to a handful of carefully selected targets before finally taking hold in uranium enrichment facilities, according to a book published Tuesday. The new account, included in Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon by Wired reporter Kim Zetter, is at odds with the now-popular narrative that the malware first penetrated Iran's Natanz enrichment facility and later unexpectedly broke loose to infect hundreds of thousands of other sites across the globe. That earlier account, provided by New York Times journalist David Sanger, characterized the escape outside of Natanz as a programming error that was never intended by engineers in the US and Israel, the two countries Sanger and Zetter said devised and unleashed Stuxnet. According to Zetter, the world's first known cyber weapon first infected Iranian companies with close ties to Iranian nuclear facilities and only later found its way to Natanz. "To get their weapon into the plant, the attackers launched an offensive against four companies," Zetter wrote. "All of the companies were involved in industrial control processing of some sort, either manufacturing products or assembling components or installing industrial control systems. They were likely chosen because they had some connection to Natanz as contractors and provided a gateway through which to pass Stuxnet to Natanz through infected employees." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Fox Broadcasting / Screenshot via Simpsons Wiki Two men in the United Kingdom have been sentenced to jail for operating "Dancing Jesus," a website with illegal links to music that was operational between 2006 and 2011. The BBC reports that Kane Robinson, 26, of North Shields, was sentenced to 32 months. Richard Graham, a 22-year-old from Leicestershire, was sentenced to 21 months. At previous hearings, both men admitted they were guilty of the charge of illegal distribution of music. The Dancing Jesus site had links to more than 250,000 music tracks over its lifespan, according to the British Phonographic Society (BPI). In 2010, the group launched an investigation of the men that also involved the City of London police and the UK Intellectual Property Office. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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GNOME.org The foundation that runs the open source software project GNOME has accused Groupon of infringing its registered trademark with a new product called “Gnome,” and it's trying to raise $80,000 in donations to oppose Groupon’s trademark applications. Groupon told Ars that the company is willing to find another name if it can’t find an acceptable compromise with the GNOME Foundation. GNOME, a desktop environment for Linux-based operating systems, was created in 1997 as the “GNU Network Object Model Environment.” The acronym is no longer used, but the project name is still stylized in all upper-case letters. It’s had a registered trademark since 2006 for downloadable computer software for creating and managing computer desktops, software for graphical user interfaces, word processing, database management, use as a spreadsheet, and for software tools and libraries that can be used to develop other software applications. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
If our weekend review got you excited to dive back into some multiplayer Halo on the Xbox One, Microsoft and its online infrastructure team have some bad news for you. Online matchmaking for Halo: The Master Chief collection is currently "limited," nearly 12 hours after the game launched in the US, with plenty of players complaining about being unable to connect to multiplayer firefights. "Xbox members, are you having a tough time matchmaking in Halo: The Master Chief Collection?" Microsoft asks rhetorically on the Xbox Live status page. "As you read this message, we’re working with our external partner to correct this issue right away. We appreciate your patience in the meantime! We’ll update you again when we have more information." The issues were further confirmed by developer 343 Industries on the game's official Twitter feed: "We're aware that some users are experiencing longer than normal Matchmaking search times. We are actively working on a fix for this issue. If after a few minutes you're unable to find a match, exit Matchmaking and then begin searching again." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Toyota held an earlier Onramp event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, earlier this year. Dito Milian In 2012, Toyota and Subaru made a lot of car enthusiasts very happy by releasing an affordable rear wheel drive sports car. The car was the first to rival Mazda’s Miata for entry level driving thrills in some time, and it has been a hit with the target market. You’re sure to find plenty of Scion FR-Ss and Subaru BRZs (the two versions sold in the US) at most gatherings of gear heads these days. But one of the car's cooler features is so far only available on Toyota’s Japanese version, the Toyota 86. The Sports Drive Logger is an $800 option that can record data (to a USB drive) from a multitude of sensors via the car’s Controller Area Network, or CAN, which it combines with positional data from a dedicated GPS antenna. What’s more, if that data was captured at one of three Japanese race tracks (Fuji, Suzuka, or Tsukuba), you can import it into Gran Turismo 6, visualize it through the game, and even race against yourself. The CAN-Gateway ECU device. The thing that looks like a mouse is actually the GPS antenna. Toyota That’s all great if you live in Japan, own a Toyota 86, and attend track days at Fuji, but Toyota hopes to adapt the technology and use it to inspire people to interact with their cars in new and different ways. The result is called a CAN-Gateway ECU, which adds Bluetooth to the mix. To help drive that technology to car owners, Toyota will hold the Onramp Challenge next month. The San Mateo, California, event includes a hackathon on December 6 and 7 where participants get to play with Scion FR-Ss equipped with the CAN-Gateway devices. The CAN-Gateway ECUs will give the hackathon participants access to data from the car’s steering, brake, and throttle positions, along with sensors that measure yaw rate, acceleration, and lateral G forces. Hackers will also have access to a very accurate GPS feed, and all of that refreshes every tenth of a second. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Game Informer It's been more than four long years since the world was first exposed to the "beautiful stupidity" of Just Cause 2, though the sprawling, over-the-top action game has lived on in that interim thanks in part to a great, unofficial multiplayer mod. The wait for a follow-up won't carry on much longer, though, as Avalanche Studios has just announced Just Cause 3 via the cover of an upcoming issue of Game Informer. Aside from the PC, PS4, and Xbox One target platforms and a vague release date of 2015, there's not much concrete information about the game yet. Game Informer mentions "vastly improved parachute and grapple mechanics" and an "all-new wingsuit" as part of the festivities. A teaser video briefly discusses the game's fictionalized Mediterranean setting and Avalanche's work on the title over three years in its New York studio space. "It wasn't necessarily hard for anyone to guess what exactly it was we were doing here," one developer says. Those who want more information can look forward to a full month of teaser coverage on Game Informer's site. In the meantime, we're just gonna grapple our way on to a few hundred more planes in Just Cause 2 if you don't mind. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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The jagged surface of the comet, as imaged by Rosetta. ESA The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission took roughly a decade from launch to approach its ultimate destination: the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Since then, it's entered a close orbit and has been providing spectacular images of the surface of this alien world. But later today, it's set to start its most ambitious activity yet, the launch of the Philae lander, which is intended to set up a monitoring system on the comet's surface itself. The ESA will livestream events from mission control starting at 4pm US Eastern time today (19:00 GMT). Philae is a small, solar-powered lander that contains 10 instruments that are intended to examine the composition of the comet, both at its surface and internally. There's also a small drill that will obtain samples up to 30cm deep at the landing site. All that comes from a power budget that averages eight Watts when the sun is shining on it. The weight budget for the Rosetta mission, however, didn't allow for any engines or guidance systems. Instead, Philae will simply be released by the orbiter and left to drift to the comet's surface, driven by the initial momentum of the separation and pulled by the body's weak gravity. Once in motion, no course corrections will be possible during the seven hours it will take to reach the comet's surface. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A fine wintry November to you all, Arsians! We're approaching the holiday buying season, and that means that if you haven't started buying stuff, it's time to start! Our deal list this week comes courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, who have assembled a fine assortment of things that will tickle your wallet. The featured deal this time around is a Dell XPS 18 all-in-one, with a Haswell i7 CPU, a 256GB SSD, and a 1080p touchscreen. It weighs about 5 lbs (2.26 kg) and comes with an iMac-like stand, though unlike an iMac, it's also relatively portable and can be carried around if you happen to want to move it from room to room. There are plenty of other things in the list if all-in-ones aren't your thing, though. We have laptops, monitors, headsets—all kinds of stuff. Get your buy on! Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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