posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, based in Chile. (credit: ESO) One of the earliest indications of the existence of dark matter came from an examination of the rotation of nearby galaxies. The study showed that stars orbit the galaxy at speeds that indicate there's more mass there than the visible matter would indicate. Now, researchers have taken this analysis back in time, to a period when the Universe was only a couple billion years old, and the ancestors of today's large galaxies were forming stars at a rapid clip. Oddly, the researchers find no need for dark matter to explain the rotation of these early galaxies. While there are a number of plausible explanations for dark matter's absence at this early stage of galaxy formation, it does suggest our models of the early Universe could use some refining. The measurements at issue here are what are called the "galaxy rotation curves." These curves track the speed at which stars rotate as a function of their distance from the center of the galaxy. If regular matter were all that was present, it would be easy to predict what we'd see. Close to the galaxy's center, stars would only feel a portion of the total galactic mass, so they would orbit at a relatively sedate speed. Any faster, and their orbits would shift outward. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / An AT&T truck in 2000. (credit: Getty Images | Tim Boyle) AT&T is failing to provide fast Internet service to many customers and is doing a poor job maintaining old copper phone networks, mayors and other elected officials from California and Nevada said yesterday. The officials are taking the side of workers in a union's ongoing labor dispute with AT&T, saying that the carrier has cut jobs while letting customers suffer long network outages. "All too many Californians and Nevadans have waited far too long for AT&T to build the high-speed broadband infrastructure promised to them," the officials said in a letter to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. "Not only is AT&T failing to provide access to 21st-century high-speed connections to many communities, but it is also not maintaining the copper lines that are vital to landline phone access, 911 and emergency services and basic Internet service." The letter to AT&T was signed by dozens of elected officials from California and Nevada, including the mayors of Reno, Nevada; Santa Clara, Daly City, Chula Vista, Emeryville, Berkeley, and Arvin, California. It was also signed by Los Angeles City Council members Mike Bonin and Curren Price, California Sens. Jim Beall and Josh Newman, and California State Assembly member Tom Daly. Arvin Mayor Jose Gurrola said in a press release that "AT&T has reneged on its responsibility to customers in more rural areas like Arvin." Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images News) The United States Department of Justice announced today indictments of four suspects in the criminal intrusion and theft of data from over 500 million Yahoo users. In a statement this morning, acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord said that two officers of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) hired two criminal hackers—one of them already on the FBI's Most Wanted list—to break into Yahoo and gain access to the accounts of US government and political figures, Russian journalists, and other individuals. "Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, both FSB officers, protected, directed, facilitated and paid criminal hackers to collect information through computer intrusions in the United States and elsewhere," McCord said. "They worked with co-conspirators Alexsey Belan and Karim Baratov to hack into computers of American companies providing email and internet-related services, to maintain unauthorized access to those computers and to steal information, including information about individual users and the private contents of their accounts." McCord added that Belan and Baratov then used the access to commit additional crimes, including stealing electronic gift cards and using contact information found in the accounts for other fraud schemes. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images) Facebook has claimed that it tweaked its community standards review system that allows users to report abusive, offensive, and illegal images and posts in light of a BBC investigation that highlighted the ease with which obscene material could be found on the site. In a clash with MPs, the company's UK policy director Simon Milner told the home affairs committee chair Yvette Cooper that the images reported by the BBC were "rather innocent" but added that comments below the pictures were "horrible." Facebook's community standards team—made up of thousands of people based in Dublin, Texas, California, and Hyderabad—didn't scrutinise, in detail, reports made via the company's review tool because, Milner said, it was the comments rather than the image that was abhorrent. It meant the system failed to flag up the abusive content. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
AUSTIN, Texas—"You have got to be kidding me." Alarms and flashing lights have begun blaring in a hotel meeting room, much to the chagrin of CIA Senior Collection Analyst David Clopper. The officer, along with a team of his colleagues, is in the middle of demonstrating his department's training materials, and he has to account for these materials before leaving the room. In some cases, this might require picking up a few stacks of paper, or some pamphlets and flyers. Clopper, on the other hand, has to pick up dozens of 10-sided dice, over 100 colored gems, and hundreds of custom-printed cards that describe hypothetical crises across the globe. That's nothing compared to the mess of cards on the other side of the room, which, moments ago, were being used to track and capture the elusive drug kingpin El Chapo. Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Early versions of the Machines from The Animatrix. (credit: The Animatrix) Blade Runner and Mad Max are back, so why not The Matrix? The Hollywood Reporter says sources have confirmed that Warner Bros is starting work on a reboot of The Matrix, and it even has a star in mind: Michael B. Jordan, who recently broke out as the star of Creed. Zak Penn (Alphas, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Incredible Hulk) is currently writing a treatment. The Matrix was not expected to be a blockbuster when Warners released it in March 1999. At the time, writer/director siblings the Wachowskis were best known for an indie film noir called Bound about lesbian lovers plotting the ultimate crime. But the innovative camera effects (bullet time!) and futuristic originality of The Matrix blew audiences away, rocketing it to the fourth-highest box office on Earth that year. Who could forget badass Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, offering the blue and red pills, or Carrie Ann Moss as Trinity, using nmap when she wasn't doing gun ballet. And then there was Keanu Reeves as Neo, downloading data over his brain port and intoning gravely, "I know kung-fu." Though the sequels never lived up to the promise of the first film, the franchise was a game changer, influencing science fiction to this day. Everything from Inception to Mr. Robot owes something to the style and themes that the Wachowskis popularized. Plus, bullet time has forever left its mark on action scenes, both technologically and stylistically. Any time you see a fight scene that moves between fast and slow motion, viewed in 360 degrees, you are looking at a special effect that the Wachowskis invented. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Sebastian Anthony) Rejoice, Chrome users! With Chrome 57, released this week, your laptop might soon get more than three hours of battery life when you have multiple tabs open. In September last year the Chromium team said changes were coming to Chrome's handling of background tabs, but they've landed in the stable branch of Chrome a little sooner than expected. Basically, from now on, background tabs will be limited to an average CPU load of just 1 percent on a single core. Chrome 57's actual mechanism for background tab throttling is a little more complex. After 10 seconds of being in the background (i.e. not in focus), each tab has a budget (in seconds) for how much CPU wall time it can use. (Wall time is the actual real-world time it takes for a process to start and complete.) The background tab is only allowed to use the CPU if it hasn't consumed its entire budget. Here's the kicker: the budget constantly regenerates, but only at a rate of 0.01 seconds per second. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Scott Kublin) North America, before the arrival of humans, had some crazy critters. Among the cast of giants was the wooly mammoth and its cousin the mastodon, as well as beavers that could stand two meters tall. But if you could go back just a little bit further, you’d find that one North American icon is missing—the bison. Like humans, bison are relatively new on the North American scene. They made their way from Asia during a time when a low sea level left a bridge of land between Siberia and Alaska. Exactly when they took that trip has been an open question, though. It definitely occurred during the ice ages of the last 3 million years, and some studies constrain their crossing to the last 640,000 years. A new study led by the University of Alberta’s Duane Froese took advantage of a lucky find in the north of Canada’s Yukon Territory to come up with a pretty good answer. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / As Stephen Merritt once sang, "I think I need a new heart." (credit: Getty Images) In 2009, Steve Jobs received a liver transplant—not in northern California where he lived, but across the country in Memphis, Tennessee. Given the general complications of both travel and a transplant, Jobs’ decision may seem like an odd choice. But it was a strategic move that almost certainly got him a liver much more quickly than if Jobs had just waited for a liver to become available in California. Eight years later, the Apple founder’s procedure continues to highlight the state of transplants in the US: when it comes to organs, we have a big math problem. Today, there’s a much greater need than there are organs to go around. It’s a problem currently being tackled in part by mathematicians and developers, who are crafting clever algorithms that aim to make organ allocation as fair as possible. But it’s complicated math that’s done against a backdrop of sticky ethical issues, and the debates surrounding it are heated and contentious. The problem(s) Before we can understand how researchers are using math to take on the bigger issues plaguing organ allocation, we have to understand what those issues are and where current strategies—mathematical or otherwise—have failed. Read 37 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images) According to new figures released by Customs and Border Patrol, the number of electronic devices searched at the border has jumped by five times between 2015 and 2016. Device searches this year appear to be well on pace to exceed last year’s totals as well. However, when compared with the total number of people arriving into the United States, such searches remain exceedingly rare. Robert Brisley, a CBP spokesman based in Atlanta, sent Ars a lengthy statement detailing the agency’s policy regarding such searches. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Teams looks good, but is unfortunately its chat is quite bulky in a vertical direction. (credit: Microsoft) After being in beta since November, Microsoft Teams is now available to anyone with a suitable Office 365 subscription. Teams is a group messaging application organized around chatrooms. Slack has become the darling of media and software development types, with its modern, Web-based take on what is actually an old-fashioned mode of computerized communication. Slack is text-heavy and line-oriented, much like the IRC that it mimics. Slack arguably brought IRC into the 21st century and added such niceties as persistent message storage so that you can see what happened before you even joined a particular channel. Slack also includes inline images and emoji. If instant messaging apps like Skype are an alternative to the telephone, Slack represents an alternative to standing around the office watercooler or hanging out in the break room. Teams builds on this same heritage, but it adds a Microsoft twist: Rather than being a standalone service, as Slack is, Teams is an integrated part of Office 365. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Getty | Pureradiancephoto) After spending millions to combat the opioid epidemic ravaging its citizens, the working-class city of Everett, Washington, is taking the maker of opioid painkiller OxyContin to federal court. The city claims that the drug maker, Purdue Pharma, knowingly sold to black markets out of pure greed, enabling the devastating epidemic hitting Everett and the rest of the country. According to the lawsuit (PDF) filed in federal court in Seattle, Everett accuses Purdue Pharma of “knowingly, recklessly, and/or negligently supplying OxyContin to obviously suspicious physicians and pharmacies and enabling the illegal diversion of OxyContin into the black market, including to drug rings, pill mills, and other dealers for dispersal of the highly addictive pills in Everett.” Purdue’s goal, Everett alleges, was to “generate enormous profits” at the expense of the people of Everett. Purdue isn’t new to court battles. In 2007, the infamous drug maker and three of its executives pled guilty in federal court and paid out $634.5 million in fines for purposefully misleading regulators, doctors, and patients about the addictiveness of their opioid painkiller. Around the same time, Purdue was also sued by several states, including Washington, over similar allegations. Purdue agreed to a $19.5 million multi-state settlement. And in 2015, Purdue settled a case with Kentucky, agreeing to pay $24 million. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / David Charles Hahn (left), pictured here with his half brother Kevin Breeding, just months before his death in September 2016. (credit: Kenneth Hahn) Last year, Ars reported on the death of David Charles Hahn, who was profiled by Harper’s Magazine in 1998 for having attempted to build a homemade breeder nuclear reactor in his mother’s backyard shed. Hahn’s death was still being investigated by the medical examiner in Macomb County, Michigan, and it was not known whether his exposure to radiation as a teenager contributed to his death. That investigation concluded on December 2, 2016. On Tuesday, David’s father, Kenneth Hahn, called Ars to confirm that his son died of alcohol poisoning and that his previous nuclear experiments played no role in his passing. He said that he came upon our months-old request for comment while cleaning out old e-mails. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: flickr user: Neil Lall) Sometimes a beautiful data set occurs in the wild, begging to be analyzed. When a Swedish housing company decided to switch around half of its apartments so that tenants paid for their electricity, it created a natural, controlled experiment. Three economists—Mikael Elinder, Sebastian Escobar, and Ingel Petré—were all over it. The data they collected helped to illuminate a somewhat murky question about how people respond to economic incentives. Elinder and his colleagues found that most people didn’t actually change their behavior much, but the top 20 percent of electricity hogs reduced their consumption so much that the total electricity usage across the buildings dropped by 24 percent. The implication is that when electricity was included in rent, the cost of these freeloaders was invisible to them. Once they had to pay for power themselves, it was good for the planet—and for everyone else’s pockets. Split incentives When tenants pay their own apartment’s electricity costs, they have an incentive to keep an eye on their energy consumption, but landlords have little incentive to keep their apartments energy-efficient. When electricity is included in rent, it’s the landlords who have an incentive to improve energy efficiency in their apartments, but tenants can use energy with abandon and not have to pay the costs. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Andrew Cunningham) A seven-month investigation by Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service has found that Apple's Russian arm illegally fixed prices for certain iPhone models, according to a report from the Financial Times. The FAS found that Apple told 16 retailers to "hold the prices" of these iPhones and that Apple would contact the retailers in the event that the company found their prices "inappropriate." Apple may have terminated agreements with retailers unwilling to meet those pricing guidelines. The full report is posted in Russian here; affected phones include the iPhone 5S and 5C, the 6 and 6 Plus, and the 6S and 6S Plus. The prices were fixed for a period of roughly three months. A penalty has not been set, though the report indicates that it could be as much as 15 percent of Apple's sales in Russia. The company will have three months to challenge the decision once the full ruling is published later in the month. The investigation and the ruling only apply to Apple's Russian subsidiary, and the FAS dropped a similar investigation against Apple Inc. and other international subsidiaries "due to lack of evidence." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: AlienVault) Eight days after developers patched a critical flaw in the Apache Struts Web application framework, there has been no let-up in the volley of attacks attempting to exploit the vulnerability, which affects a disproportionate number of high-impact websites, a security researcher said Tuesday. As of Tuesday morning, 503 unique IP addresses were attempting to exploit the code execution, Jaime Blasco, chief scientist with security firm AlienVault Labs, told Ars. Based on the addresses, the attack origins were most concentrated in China (300 unique IPs), followed by the US (92), Taiwan (71), Hong Kong (15), the Netherlands (9), Russia (4), Canada (3), Italy (3), the UK, (3), and Indonesia (3). In an attempt to go undetected, the attackers in many cases have tweaked the two exploits that were being widely used in last week's wave. AlienVault has responded by updating the signatures it uses to detect the attacks. The five-year-old vulnerability resides in Web applications that were developed using a buggy version of Apache Struts. In many cases, the use of a single such app allows attackers to inject commands of their choice into the Web server hosting it. Like the attacks seen last week, the exploits are being used to infect vulnerable servers with a wide variety malware. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
(credit: AJC1) A federal judge is agreeing with the FBI's contention that publicly disclosing its methods on how it spies on journalists could hamper national security. A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Freedom of the Press Foundation sought FBI procedures surrounding the agency's protocol when issuing National Security Letters (NSLs) against members of the media. Without a court warrant, an NSL allows the bureau to obtain "subscriber information and toll billing records information, or electronic communication transactional records" from third-party wire or electronic communication providers if such information is "relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." The items withheld from the organization, according to US District Judge Haywood Gilliam, included "instructions for managing and conducting cyber investigations," the "instructions for investigating and charging members of the news media," an NSL "PowerPoint training presentation," and other materials in draft form. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
SolarReserve The Chilean government recently gave the go-ahead on a massive solar thermal plant that is expected to produce electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week—a considerable feat for a plant that depends solely on solar energy. The plant, proposed for a site in Chile’s Tamarugal province, would consist of three 150 megawatt solar thermal towers, which become heated as mirrors placed around each tower reflect sunlight onto it. That heat is transferred to molten salt, which circulates through the plant during the day and is stored in tanks at night. The salt, a mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate that’s kept at a balmy 1,050 degrees Fahrenheit (566 degrees Celsius), is used as a “heat transfer fluid.” As energy is needed, the salt can be dispatched to a heat exchanger, where it will lend its heat to water to create a super-heated steam. That steam is used to move a traditional steam turbine to create electricity. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Thomas Jackson) Six advertising industry trade groups yesterday thanked Republican lawmakers for introducing legislation that would overturn rules that protect the privacy of Internet users. If the rules are overturned, advertisers would not be prevented from buying consumers' Web browsing history from Internet service providers. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) last week introduced Congressional Review Act resolutions that would overturn the Federal Communications Commission's privacy rules for Internet service providers and prevent the FCC from issuing similar regulations in the future. "We wholeheartedly commend Senator Flake and Congressman Blackburn, and their Senate and House colleagues, for introducing resolutions of disapproval for the FCC's ill-considered move to create a new, costly, counterproductive, confusing and unnecessary regulatory regime around privacy for broadband providers," ad industry lobby and trade groups said in a statement issued by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, Data & Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and Network Advertising Initiative. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Scott Pruitt during his confirmation hearings. (credit: Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images) Last week, newly appointed EPA head Scott Pruitt made some comments about climate change that were clearly at odds with a basic scientific understanding of the climate. Since then, various groups of scientists have pointed out just how wrong he was and have offered to help out if he decides to come to grips with reality. First, a reminder of what Pruitt said during a CNBC interview: I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there's tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don't know that yet. We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis. That statement is wrong on a number of levels, and various groups have not been shy in pointing out its flaws. The day following, the head of the American Geophysical Union, Eric Davidson, penned a short response. "In contrast with [Pruitt's] statement," he wrote, "an impressive array of scientific societies and many academies of science, national governments, and other organizations worldwide have agreed on the scientific basis of climate change and the conclusion that human actions are a primary driver." He referred Pruitt to the AGU's position statement on climate change, which calls for urgent action on humanity's role in climate change. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, we have a bunch of new deals to share. Now you can get a bonus when you buy a Newegg gift card: get $10 extra with the purchase of a $100 Newegg gift card. We also have deals on the new Sony PSVR Aim when you preorder and Microsoft's Surface Pro 4, plus 30 percent off routers, switches, and networking products. Check out the full list of deals below. Featured Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The Switch's JoyCon controllers in their Grip cradle. (credit: Mark Walton) Early numbers are still rolling in for Nintendo's Switch, and for now it looks like the news is still good: according to numbers compiled by SuperData from both Famitsu and market research firm GfK, Nintendo's new console has sold 1.5 million units worldwide, including 500,000 consoles in the US, 360,000 in Japan, 85,000 in the UK, and 110,000 in France. SuperData also says that 89 percent of Switch buyers have also purchased The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which would work out to sales of about 1.34 million (this doesn't account for Wii U sales of the title). GamesIndustry.biz points out that "most" of these numbers just account for the console's first week of sales and that the actual number should be higher now. The numbers are also measuring consoles actually sold to customers, while Nintendo's official sales figures count consoles shipped to retailers (a higher number). As we've already said, it's not really possible to draw conclusions one way or the other about the long-term health of the Switch from these initial sales. On the one hand, it's good for Nintendo that the console is selling so briskly and that the company appears to be well on its way to its own sales goal of two million units shipped by the end of March. On the other hand, even the Wii U sold pretty well in its launch window, and early sales goals are just as likely to be about hitting manufacturing targets as measuring actual consumer enthusiasm. Still, these figures suggest that at the very least, Nintendo's most enthusiastic supporters aren't feeling burned by the Wii U and that they haven't been spooked by reports of hardware problems like Joy Con connection issues or dead pixels. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Preschool age girl with cystic fibrosis sits with her mom while receiving a breathing treatment. (credit: Getty | Steve Debenport) Just over the northern border of the US, patients with the same devastating genetic condition—cystic fibrosis—are living an average of 10 years longer, researchers reported Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. After adjusting for differences among patients’ overall health, disease severity, and clinical factors, a team of American and Canadian researchers found that cystic fibrosis patients’ median age of survival is 50.9 years in Canada and 40.6 years in the US. Though the study did not fully assess the causes for the “significant survival gap,” the researchers noted that better access to lung transplants and healthcare in general appeared to play a role. In fact, when comparing Canadian patients who have universal, government-provided health insurance with US patients who have private insurance, the researchers found no difference in the risk of death. But, US patients with continuous or intermittent Medicare or Medicaid or with no insurance at all had 36 to 77 percent higher risks of death than their Canadian counterparts. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Together at last. Kind of. (credit: Aurich Lawson) PlayStation Now, Sony's own "Netflix-of-games" online streaming service, is about to get a lot more attractive. The company announced on Monday that the service will begin to officially support games from its current PlayStation 4 platform starting "in 2017." Right now, PS Now only supports games from the older PS3 system. It's a vague start date, but we think we know when to expect the switchover: sometime after this August. Almost exactly one month ago, Sony had a less-welcome announcement for its PS Now users, telling them that pretty much all devices they used to log in and play games would no longer work starting on August 15. That means if you liked playing PS Now games on the portable PlayStation Vita, smart TVs from Sony and Samsung, or your old PlayStation 3, you would soon be out of luck. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Matthias Mueller, Chairman of German automaker Volkswagen AG, speaks at the company's annual press conference to present its financial results for 2016 on March 14, 2017 in Wolfsburg, Germany. (credit: Sean Gallup | Getty Images) Despite its ongoing diesel emissions problem, in January of this year Volkswagen Group overtook Toyota Motor Corporation as the world's largest carmaker. In 2016, VW's brands sold 10.3 million vehicles, beating out Toyota by more than 100,000 units. The company even remained profitable—$7.55 billion (€7.1 billion) from revenues of $231 billion (€217 billion)—in spite of that scandal, which has now cost it almost $20 billion. So it was surprising to hear that CEO Matthias Mueller wouldn't rule out a merger with Fiat-Chrysler, according to Reuters. "I am not ruling out a conversation," Mueller told journalists, although he added that "I am pretty confident about the future of Volkswagen, with or without Marchionne," referring to Fiat-Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne. Mueller was speaking at VW Group's annual conference on Tuesday when he made the remarks. The remarks are in relatively stark contrast to his dismissal of the idea at last week's Geneva International Motor Show, made after Marchionne suggested that VW could be his group's next corporate acquisition. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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