posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Everywhere you look in this game, there's another stunning vista. Even though it only has two games to its name, Borderlands was already kind of feeling set in its ways. The 2012 sequel to the 2009 original largely provided more of the same mix of shooting action, RPG-style leveling, and a ridiculously huge selection of ever-more-powerful guns. It's not that the Borderlands games are bad—on the contrary, they provide some of the most finely tuned, all-out shooting insanity this side of the Serious Sam series, especially when played cooperatively with friends. It's just that, even after only two games, Borderlands was already feeling like the kind of franchise that was going to stick to a predictable, proven formula, perhaps for decades—the kind of series where if you'd played one game, you'd feel like you played them all. Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
The U.S. National Security Agency has worked with companies to weaken encryption products at the same time it infiltrated firms to gain access to sensitive systems, according to a purportedly leaked classified document outlined in an article on The Intercept. The document, allegedly leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, appears to be a highly classified summary intended for a very small group of vetted national security officials according to details included in The Intercept article, which was published this weekend. The document outlines six programs at the core of the NSA's mission, collected under the name Sentry Eagle. The Intercept claims the document states "The facts contained in [the Sentry Eagle] program constitute a combination of the greatest number of highly sensitive facts related to NSA/CSS’s overall cryptologic mission." Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Look closely at the large chip near the middle of the board—it's fuzzy, but it says "A8X." Apple.club.tw We're three days out from Apple's next event, which means it's time for the supply chain and rumor mill to go into overdrive. Over the weekend, Taiwanese blog apple.club.tw republished photos of what are supposedly components from a new iPad, including shots of the TouchID button and cable and the logic board. The logic board shot revealed an interesting detail, assuming it's genuine—Apple is apparently building a new "A8X" processor to power at least one of its new tablets. When the iPad went Retina back in 2012, Apple needed to amp up its processors’ graphics power to account for the higher-resolution screens. The result was the A5X, which used the same CPU cores as the A5 but included more GPU cores and a wider, 128-bit memory interface. The A6X did the same thing to the A6 in the iPhone 5. It’s safe to assume the A8X would upgrade the Apple A8 in the same way. The existence of an A8X would come as a surprise. Last year Apple was able to standardize on the A7 across the iPhone and iPad lineup, which had obvious benefits—the company only had to design one chip, and that chip used less silicon than would a larger A7X. Ordering one part instead of two increases volume discounts and simplifies the supply chain, too. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Ready to rock? My Electric Loog arrives, just shy of a year after the Kickstarter launch—and after a long stay in a container at the Port of Los Angeles. Sean Gallagher A little less than a year ago, I backed a Kickstarter project launched by Rafael Atijas, a New York based designer. The project was the Electric Loog, a small, three-string electric guitar designed for children (and adults) to jam with. It seemed like a perfect project—Atijas created the Loog as part of a master's thesis at NYU, and he was working on refining the design for production. The risks seemed minimal. Atijas already successfully executed an acoustic version of the Loog in 2011, and that knocked its funding goal out of the park. This time, for $150, I'd get an instrument for my collection with plenty of upside. I could build the Loog and share it with my daughter. Maybe I could even take it along with me while I travel for Ars, jamming in hotel rooms with headphones on. I happily said "Shut up and take my money," then sat back and waited for an anticipated May delivery.CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true}); This past week, after a series of twists, turns and delays, my Loog arrived. Following Atijas' updates along the way has been the equivalent of reading a business case study in why it's so hard to execute what is essentially a "maker" project as a mass-produced product. The Loog encountered manufacturing problems in China, a port strike in Los Angeles, and quality control issues during production ramp-up that resulted in a few small flaws in the delivered guitars. Atijas had to make what he characterized as a "flash" trip to China just last week when the latest issues emerged. Now his New York company is unboxing everything left in the first shipment to check for issues, and Atijas is preparing to ship out replacements to backers with flawed guitars in order to make-good on his promise. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Megan Geuss Two weeks ago, I heard about a new company called Yondr that was making lightweight smartphone socks-with-locks that prevent the smartphone's user from accessing the device during a concert, movie, or party. At the time, Yondr had quietly teamed up with two Bay Area music venues—Milk Bar in San Francisco and Stork Club in Oakland—for a pair of trial runs in which concert-goers would be asked to place their phones in the Yondr case before entering the venue in order to create a phone-free space. I was curious—would people even go for this? Preventing fans from accessing their phones during a show might seem like an extraordinary step, especially in tech-centric San Francisco. But even the most compulsive texters among us can say that they've seen That Person: the guy in front of you at the concert who holds up his iPhone to record eight minutes of video, forcing you to watch your favorite band through his tiny screen, or the girl whose phone lights up with texts while you're in the theater trying to watch an important scene. Read 51 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
"Play. Create. Share" has long been the three-word slogan for the charming, if a bit well-worn, LittleBigPlanet games. For most players it's likely more than a motto, it's an actual schedule of events as well. You play the game to get a feel for what's possible, then mess around with the creation tools, and finally share it with the community in the hope that it's worth the effort. About a year after LittleBigPlanet's 2008 release, Microsoft tried its own hand at the design-your-own-game game with Kodu Game Lab, a $5 download doomed to the backwater of the Xbox 360's Indie Games program. I spent $5 and an ounce of curiosity on that release back in the day, and I can't say I came away impressed. I was expecting a magic wand to impart knowledge and power in the wizardry of "coding" in a way that I could understand as someone with no real experience in programming or game design. Instead, Kodu was a bare bones logic learning tool that threw me in to the deep end of ifs, thens, and whens with little guidance and little ability to build anything with real depth. Project Spark, the free-to-play design lab that Microsoft first showed at its E3 2013 press conference, is everything I wanted Kodu to be at the time. Spark is a learning tool, sure, but it's also a genuine platform for making games. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Scott K. Johnson A view from Potholes Coulee, with a pond fed by irrigation runoff. 25 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } It's hard to believe the desert-like Scablands neighbors the rest of lush Washington state. Just ask J Harlen Bretz; he spent the better part of a century trying to convince his colleagues this landscape wasn't always so dry. As Ars writer Scott Johnson discovered, the Scablands are essentially wounds, still unhealed by time and erosion. These canyons were carved into the land after a series of unfathomably large floods unleashed by the catastrophic draining of great glacial lakes—half the volume of Lake Michigan splashed onto this land in less than a week. Johnson crammed supplies into his backpack and attempted to survey the lands that Bretz obsessed over (and dedicated his life to studying). His feature outlines both the past and present experiences of exploring The Scablands, but there simply wasn't enough room for all the images he took of the breathtaking scene. So like the excess of water that led to its creation, an excess of visuals led to another Scablands birth (this time, only a gallery). Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
EASTERN WASHINGTON—Traveling from the verdant, mossy coastal belt of the Pacific Northwest, one could be forgiven for feeling that the defining characteristic of Eastern Washington is its dryness. It's a land seemingly starved of rain in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains. But the dry landscape known as the “Scablands” actually tells a story about excess—excess of water, water that was torrential and sudden. The Scablands are essentially wounds, still unhealed by time and erosion. They cut through the land and down into the rock after a series of unfathomably large floods unleashed by the catastrophic draining of great glacial lakes—half the volume of Lake Michigan splashed onto the land in less than a week. If you can imagine that, you’ve got us beat. The story recorded in this landscape is so incredible, it took one geologist decades to convince his colleagues that he was reading it correctly. Inflation of the modern American vernacular has devalued superlatives like “awesome” and “epic,” but we’re going to need them where we’re going. Read 72 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
A health care worker in Dallas has become the first person to become infected with the Ebola virus within the US. Reuters is among many outlets that are reporting that a nurse who treated an Ebola patient has now tested positive for the virus. That patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, contracted the virus in Liberia, but travelled to the US while still asymptomatic. He was treated by the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital before dying last week. The newly diagnosed patient was one of the nurses involved in his treatment. According to the BBC, the nurse wore standard protective gear during the treatment: gown, gloves, respiratory mask, and face shield. Nevertheless, the individual began experiencing a low-grade fever, and checked into the same hospital where he or she works; the patient has been kept in isolation since. Authorities are currently preventing anyone from entering the individual's apartment pending a decontamination. Preliminary testing in Dallas indicates an Ebola infection; confirmatory tests from the Centers for Disease Control are pending. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Sebastian Surendar A federal judge has declined to suppress evidence the government is using against the alleged Silk Road mastermind, paving the way for a federal trial set for next month in connection to the website that once sold illicit drugs and hacking tools. US District Judge Katherine Forrest's decision Friday sidestepped the controversial issue of whether federal prosecutors breached defendant Ross Ulbricht's constitutional rights of unlawful search and seizure. Ulbricht's defense team asserts that the Federal Bureau of Investigation or even the National Security Agency somehow unlawfully gained access to Silk Road severs in Iceland, which paved the way for several search warrants of e-mail and social networking accounts the government said belong to Ulbricht. But the New York judge said that it doesn't matter whether the government unlawfully accessed the severs. That's because she ruled that Ulbricht has no right to even challenge the seizure of the servers that ultimately led to his downfall last year. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
On the home screen we've got a fatter action bar, new nav drawer icon, and all the content buttons have new colors. The text is bolder, too. 13 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});Android L promises to bring a full redesign to all of Android, but thanks to the unbundled nature of Android, some of it is already trickling out to devices. The latest app to get a Material Design makeover is the Play Store, which now looks more at home in Android L than it does in KitKat. The latest update came out this week, which added most of the new Material Design elements. While it looks mostly done to our eyes, there are one or two details where the new color schemes clearly still need to be implimented, and there are new icons that are in some parts of the app but not others. We think the end result will look pretty close to this new "5.0" version. If you're interested in more Material Design goodness, we've previously given Chrome Beta get the before-and-after Gallery treatment and dug through Google's design documents to get a preview of what L will eventually look like. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Last week a man was arrested in Fort Lauderdale, FL when his two credit cards were declined after he spent $600 on bottle service at a nightclub. The story wouldn't be all that interesting were it not for the fact that the man, Don Marcani, had not reached his credit limit that night. In fact, he was able to pay his $1,000 bail the next morning using one of the credit cards that was declined earlier. As Marcani told NBC 6 South Florida, he and his friend used a Wells Fargo credit card to buy $80-worth of drinks at the bar of Cyn Nightclub. Then they decided to move into the VIP section, costing them $600. The waitress took Marcani's credit card, but when she tried to run the credit card later that night, it was declined. Marcani then provided a Capital One credit card, which was also declined. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Stack Exchange This Q&A is part of a weekly series of posts highlighting common questions encountered by technophiles and answered by users at Stack Exchange, a free, community-powered network of 100+ Q&A sites. here asks: There are many well-known best practices about exception handling in isolation. I know the "do's and don'ts" well enough, but things get complicated when it comes to best practices or patterns in larger environments. "Throw early, catch late" — I've heard many times and it still confuses me. Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Last weekend, the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall hosted BrickCon, one of the nation's largest and longest-running public exhibitions of LEGO art and dioramas. While Ars' staff suffers from varying levels of LEGO-mania, we all thought this convention's 13th annual iteration might be a cool place to see a range of amateur and professional block creations. This year's show, in particular, caught our eye thanks to a hot tip about a Doom-themed installation, so we rushed in with our camera to snap a few choice hellions, and then we proceeded to catalog much of what we saw at the show. Take a look at our gallery for Technics, trains, war reenactments, pop culture minutiae, castles, space stations, boats, cars, and much more. LEGO, meet DOOM. 63 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Army General Keith Alexander. DOD/NSA New financial disclosure documents released this month by the National Security Agency (NSA) show that Keith Alexander, who served as its director from August 2005 until March 2014, had thousands of dollars of investments during his tenure in a handful of technology firms. Each year disclosed has a checked box next to this statement: "Reported financial interests or affiliations are unrelated to assigned or prospective duties, and no conflicts appear to exist." Alexander repeatedly made the public case that the American public is at "greater risk" from a terrorist attack in the wake of the Snowden disclosures. Statements such as those could have a positive impact on the companies he was invested in, which could have eventually helped his personal bottom line. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
The iPhone 6 Plus is coated with glass, not sapphire. Lee Hutchninson Let's go over the GT Advanced Technologies timeline. In late 2013, the company inked a deal with Apple to provide sapphire glass for iPhones and other gadgets—Apple would loan GT the money to build a sapphire manufacturing facility in Arizona, and in exchange, GT would sell that sapphire primarily to Apple. Rumor had it that the then-forthcoming iPhone 6 would use sapphire or sapphire-coated glass to protect their displays from scratches, and it sent GT's stock climbing. On September 9, Apple announced new iPhones with "ion-strengthened glass," not sapphire. This sent GT's stock sliding downward. On Monday, GT filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And today, GT said in separate filings with the US Bankruptcy Court in New Hampshire that it wants to terminate its contract with Apple and close the Arizona facility. The filing to end the contract with Apple (PDF) states that the terms of GT's contract with Apple are "oppressive and burdensome," and the separate filing requesting to shutter the sapphire plant claims that doing so is the only way to rescue GT's business. Closing the factory will cut 890 jobs (PDF). From the filing: ...the cash burn at GTAT's sapphire manufacturing operations for the benefit of Apple is not sustainable. Therefore, after a careful evaluation of all alternatives, and in consultation with its advisors, GTAT has determined that in order to preserve the value of its estates it must wind down its sapphire manufacturing operations in Mesa, Arizona, and Salem, Massachusetts, with reductions in associated supporting personnel at GTAT's Merrimack, New Hampshire, offices. Concurrently with the filing of this Motion, GTAT has also filed a separate motion seeking to reject a series of Apple agreements related to these operations that will no longer be required. GT may yet pursue additional legal action against Apple, as the company "believes that it has many claims against Apple arising out of its business relationship with Apple." More specific information about "further claims" was not disclosed. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
A screenshot of the log-in for SnapSaved.com, a failed (or perhaps malicious) web-based front end for Snapchat that saved users' private images and allowed them to be hacked. SnapSaved.com A cache of about 13 gigabytes of stolen images from Snapchat—some of them apparently of nude, underage users of the “ephemeral” messaging platform—was posted online Thursday night, many of them to the image-sharing site 4chan’s /b/ discussion board. However, the threads linking to the images have largely been shut down by 4Chan over concerns of trafficking in what could be considered child pornography. Over 100,000 user images and videos were in the cache, according to 4chan discussions. The images are apparently not from Snapchat’s own network but from the database of a third-party application that allows Snapchat users to save images and videos sent over the service online. In an official statement to the press, a Snapchat spokesperson said, “We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached, and were not the source of these leaks. Snapchatters were victimized by their use of third-party apps to send and receive Snaps, a practice that we expressly prohibit in our Terms of Service precisely because they compromise our users’ security.” According to a report by Business Insider, 4chan users who gained access to the images downloaded them and started to create a searchable database indexed by the usernames associated with the images. The files were also briefly hosted on a Web server that hosted Web exploits and malware. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
The FAA had barred search-and-rescue volunteer Gene Robinson from flying this five-pound Spectra styrofoam drone to find the missing. mahapix studio New documents released by the Federal Aviation Administration show that there are now more entities than ever that have been granted permission to fly drones—from military grade models all the way down to an inexpensive hobbyist drones. According to the June 2014 list that was released this month to MuckRock and published this week by Motherboard under a Freedom of Information Act request, there are now over 700 military units, universities, government agencies and local law enforcement that have applied for a Certificates of Authorization (COA). Over 500 of those applications are currently active, with the remainder pending. Previously, such a list had not been publicly updated since January 2013. “Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft—manned or unmanned—in US airspace needs some level of authorization from the FAA to ensure the safety of our skies,” Ian Gregor, a FAA spokesman for the Pacific Division, previously told Ars in a statement. “The FAA authorizes UAS [unmanned aircraft system] operations that are not for hobby or recreation on a case-by-case basis. Public entities (federal, state, and local governments and public universities) may apply for a COA, which, when approved, provides authorization for UAS operations in the [national airspace system]." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
EIA The net energy consumption of the US has held fairly steady for nearly 20 years. Over the past decade, however, there's been a large increase in production of energy within the US. As a result, the US government's energy figures for the first half of this year show that the differences between production and consumption have dropped to the lowest level in 29 years. This represents a net drop in energy imports by 17 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. According to the Energy Information Agency, the boost in energy production came from a variety of sources. Natural gas was the largest, accounting for just over half of the annual increase. Coal accounted for another quarter, renewable energy for 12 percent, and petroleum for eight. The EIA also notes that energy use this year was unusually high due to the intense cold that hit most of the nation in the first few months of 2014. The vast majority of the country's imports come in the form of petroleum products and crude oil. These imports have been decreasing as new sources of oil are tapped and automotive efficiency standards are tightening. Refined petroleum products remain the largest US energy export; smaller quantities of coal and natural gas are also shipped overseas. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
We've been expecting the next version of Windows to work differently when it comes to updates and upgrades, and with the release of the Windows 10 Technical Preview, Microsoft's intentions are a little clearer. The current Windows update model is superficially simple, but it has a few complexities. Every so often, the company releases a major update to Windows. In theory, that version of the operating system remains essentially unaltered for its lifetime. It receives critical (security) updates on a monthly basis (Patch Tuesday), and periodic non-security bug fixes (both monthly and as larger Service Packs), but significant functional changes are reserved for the next operating system version. This policy, with rules such as "Service Packs don't add features," was publicly propagated. But it was never really true. Service Packs didn't add new features, except when they did. Windows XP Service Pack 2 was, in modern parlance, "Windows XP R2," or perhaps "Windows XP point 1." It was recognizable as Windows XP, but it included a bunch of new, security-oriented features in the core operating system and Internet Explorer 6. It also made some breaking changes to enhance security at the possible expense of application compatibility. Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Google Google says it has removed 170,706 URLs in the wake of a European high court ruling in May requiring search engines to take down “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant” materials from search results upon request by EU citizens. In all, the search giant said it has already been asked to remove about half a million URLs from its search results, and it has removed about 42 percent of them, according to its latest Transparency Report published Thursday. "In evaluating a request, we will look at whether the results include outdated or inaccurate information about the person," the report said. "We’ll also weigh whether or not there’s a public interest in the information remaining in our search results—for example, if it relates to financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions or your public conduct as a government official (elected or unelected). Our removals team has to look at each page individually and base decisions on the limited context provided by the requestor and the information on the webpage. Is it a news story? Does it relate to a criminal charge that resulted in a later conviction or was dismissed?" Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
This is a 2014 Moto X, but use your imagination. Andrew Cunningham There are tons of rumors swirling around about the release date of the next Nexus phone, but one of the few reliable sources out there, The Wall Street Journal, says that the device is due out "this month." The Journal doesn't seem to take much stock in the name "Nexus 6," as it only refers to the device by its codename, "Shamu." The device is expected to be a Motorola-built 5.9-inch phablet that shares a lot with the 2014 Moto X. We've even seen pictures of something matching that description and running a never-before-seen build of Android L. In the less-reliable category: there have been a few murmurs that say October 15 is the magical day—one day before Apple's iPad/Yosemite launch. Of course, this time last year, various rumors pegged the Nexus 5 launch for nearly every day on the calendar. Last year, we saw articles claiming Nexus day was October 14, October 15, October 18, October 21, October 24, October 28, October 30, October 31, November 1, and November 14. Eventually it ended up being October 31—Halloween. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
It's been an interesting week for people who like to quantify the technical and graphical performance of games. It's also been interesting for Ubisoft, which has been busy walking back statements after inadvertently setting off a debate regarding how hardware power, frame rates, and artistry all factor in to modern game design. The issue began on Monday, when Assassin's Creed Unity Senior Producer Vincent Pontbriand told Videogamer.com that Assassin's Creed Unity was being locked at a 900p resolution and 30 frames per second on both the PS4 and Xbox One. That's somewhat noteworthy in itself, given the interest in counting pixels and frames as a way of comparing the two systems' power, but it was Pontbriand's stated reasoning that really gave the story legs. "We decided to lock them at the same specs to avoid all the debates and stuff," Pontbriand told VideoGamer.com. Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
A species of damselfish. Klaus Stiefel Apart from strengthening the greenhouse effect, our emissions of carbon dioxide also affect the chemistry of the oceans. When CO2 dissolves in water, it lowers the pH, which makes it more difficult for organisms to make calcium carbonate shells. The low pH also has some direct physiological effects on other marine organisms like fish. The big question mark for the future is whether these organisms can adapt or evolve to better deal with a higher-CO2 world. A new study in Nature Climate Change digs into the adaptation part of that question. The study, led by Megan Welch at James Cook University, follows up on a previous experiment we covered in 2012. In that work, researchers put spiny damselfish hatchlings in tanks with varying levels of CO2 and tested several behaviors. First, researchers put the fish in a split tank with one side containing the odor of a predator, and then they measured how much time the fish spent in each side. High CO2 made the animals much less likely to avoid the predator cue. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
A class of coding vulnerabilities could allow attackers to fool Windows system administrators into running malicious code because of a simple omission: quotation marks. The attack relies on scripts or batch files that use the command-line interface, or "shell," on a Windows system but contain a simple coding error—allowing untrusted input to be run as a command. In the current incarnation of the exploit, an attacker appends a valid command onto the end of the name of a directory using the ampersand character. A script with the coding error then reads the input and executes the command with administrator rights. "The scenario... requires a ‘standard’ user with access rights to create a directory to a fileserver and an administrator executing a vulnerable script," Frank Lycops and Raf Cox, security researchers with The Security Factory, said in an e-mail interview. "This allows the attacker to gain the privileges of the user running the script, thus becoming an administrator." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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