posted 11 days ago on ars technica
A 3D XPoint wafer. (credit: Intel) In 2015, Intel and Micron announced 3D XPoint (pronounced "three dee cross point"), a new form of high-speed, non-volatile, solid-state storage. But we're still waiting for products that actually use the technology. The first 3D XPoint storage should hit the market this year. Branded "Optane," Intel briefly documented (on a PDF that has since been pulled from its website) the first specs of the first of these products: the Intel SSD DC P4800X is a 375GB half-height, half-length PCIe NVMe card aimed at enterprise markets. Optane should also eventually come in 750GB and 1.5TB versions. Taiwanese site PCADV spotted the specs while they were up. When Intel announced 3D XPoint, the company said that it would be 1,000 times faster than NAND flash, 10 times denser than (volatile) DRAM, and with 1,000 times the endurance of NAND, too, which would greatly reduce the susceptibility of 3D XPoint drives to write-induced failures. The specs of this first SSD reflect these ambitions, but perhaps not in quite the way people would have expected. P4800X spec sheet. (credit: PCADV) The 2,400MB/s read speed is high, but it's not king of the hill. Introduced in 2014, Intel's SSD DC P3700, the company's nearest equivalent product using NAND flash technology, boasts up to 2,800MB/s reads. Samsung's consumer-oriented 960 EVO manages 3,200MB/s read performance. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Wordfence) Attacks on websites running an outdated version of WordPress are increasing at a viral rate. Almost 2 million pages have been defaced since a serious vulnerability in the content management system came to light nine days ago. The figure represents a 26 percent spike in the past 24 hours. A rogues' gallery of sites have been hit by the defacements. They include conservative commentator Glenn Beck's glennbeck.com, Linux distributor Suse's news.opensuse.org, the US Department of Energy-supported jcesr.org, the Utah Office of Tourism's travel.utah.gov, and many more. At least 19 separate campaigns are participating and, in many cases, competing against each other in the defacements. Virtually all of the vandalism is being carried out by exploiting a severe vulnerability WordPress fixed in WordPress version 4.7.2, which was released on January 26. In an attempt to curb attacks before automatic updates installed the patch, the severity of the bug—which resides in a programming interface known as REST—wasn't disclosed until February 1. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / A small, ingestible voltaic cell powered by the acidic fluids in the stomach. (credit: MIT | Diemut Strebe) Move over, wearables. Soon, ingestibles that run on the power of a grumbling gut may be the go-to health-tracking devices. New wireless gadgets could deliver drugs and continuously measure temperature, all while harvesting energy from churning, acidic gut fluids, researchers report this week in Nature Biomedical Engineering. Prototypes have successfully made their way through the bowels of pigs, and the design will need tweaking for human use. But the findings suggest that next-generation ingestible devices will be able to safely harvest energy for a slew of health tracking and monitoring purposes—potentially even for extended periods of time. Consumable contraptions have already proved useful for video capture and health monitoring. They measure things like breathing, temperature, pH, drug delivery, heart rate, and pressure. But most gulp-able gadgets still require an old-fashioned battery, which can cause life-threatening burns and injuries in living tissue. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / L-R: Peter Rander, Argo AI COO; Ken Washington, Ford vice president of research and advanced engineering; Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO; Bryan Salesky, Argo AI CEO; Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, product development, and chief technical officer; and Laura Merling, Ford Smart Mobility LLC vice president of autonomous vehicle solutions. Salesky and Rander are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively. (credit: Ford) If you had to pick a single buzzword to define the auto industry of late, it would have to be "mobility." Car companies are coming to grips with demographic and socioeconomic changes and the rise of the sharing economy and are moving beyond the old way of doing business, i.e., just building cars and selling them to customers. Ford has been on the leading edge of this trend, announcing in August last year that it plans to put an SAE level 4 autonomous vehicle into mass production as a ride-sharing service in 2021. Today, it announced that, as part of that plan, it is investing $1 billion over five years in a company called Argo AI, a startup led by the former leads of Google and Uber's self-driving programs. "The next decade will be defined by the automation of the automobile, and autonomous vehicles will have as significant an impact on society as Ford's moving assembly line did 100 years ago," said Ford president and CEO Mark Fields. "As Ford expands to be an auto and a mobility company, we believe that investing in Argo AI will create significant value for our shareholders by strengthening Ford's leadership in bringing self-driving vehicles to market in the near term and by creating technology that could be licensed to others in the future." This isn't the first strategic investment in self-driving technology from the Blue Oval. As part of last August's reveal, the company announced it was investing in lidar sensor-maker Velodyne and 3D-mapping company Civil Maps. Ford also purchased a machine-vision company called SAIPS and entered into a licensing agreement with another, Nirenberg Neuroscience. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Getty | Boston Globe ) Remember when that pharmaceutical trade group launched a flashy ad campaign to convince consumers that it was different from the price-gouging Shkrelis of the industry? Well, one of its members just took an old, cheap drug and priced a year’s worth of it at $89,000. The steroid drug, deflazacort, which treats Duchenne muscular dystrophy, has been approved overseas for years and is sold as a generic. Duchenne affects about 15,000 people in the US. Families here have been importing a year’s worth for around $1,200. But Marathon Pharmaceuticals (a member of the PhRMA trade group) finally got it FDA-approved Thursday under an “orphan drug” status, which covers drugs that treat rare diseases. Under that status, Marathon has exclusive rights to sell deflazacort in the US for seven years. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Why did a commercial organization endorse the SLS rocket? (credit: NASA) This week, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which counts rocket builders SpaceX and Blue Origin among its executive members, made news by declaring its support for NASA’s Space Launch System rocket. The organization’s new chairman, Alan Stern, announced during a conference that “we see many benefits in the development of NASA’s SLS.” This caused a stir in the commercial space community. Later, during an interview with Ars, Stern explained that the commercial space organization has, in the past, engaged in a “bruising battle” over the government’s massive rocket and its influential prime contractor Boeing. The commercial space industry group (of which Boeing is not a member) contended the private sector could deliver the same capability as the SLS for far less than the $2 billion NASA has spent annually this decade to develop the rocket. The SLS will initially be able to heft 70 metric tons to low Earth orbit, but that could grow to 130 metric tons by the late 2020s. But now, Stern said the organization believes the SLS will enable the aims of commercial companies to develop businesses on the Moon, as well as support asteroid mining and other ventures his members are interested in. “We are taking a long view,” Stern said. “This is clearly to the advantage of the expansion of commercial spaceflight. Now, with a new administration and a new Congress, we wanted to put our stake down on the side of SLS.” Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
An encouraging garbage can. (credit: Ryan Mickle - Flickr) Too often, science news extrapolates wildly from the science in question. Take, for example, that time a small study done in mice mutated into diet advice for humans. Press releases are sometimes the origin of the hype; other times, the hype might be added by reporters and editors for some extra juice in the story. But sometimes, the extrapolation is embedded in the science itself. Researchers are not immune to bias, and sometimes they make unsupported claims based on their data. A paper in PNAS this week takes a big leap from its evidence to claim that the emotion of pride “evolved to guide behavior to elicit valuation and respect from others.” The paper itself has some nifty findings, but getting from the data to the conclusions requires the mental equivalent of an Olympic long jump. You think humor is just as important as the next guy What the researchers found—and this is the neat part—is that we think highly of other people who have traits that we ourselves would be proud of. More than 1,300 people from 16 different countries answered a survey about traits like sense of humor, generosity, athletic skill, popularity, and responsibility. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Hoshi Ludwig We've all heard anecdotes about trolling on Wikipedia and other social platforms, but rarely has anyone been able to quantify levels and origins of online abuse. That's about to change. Researchers with Alphabet tech incubator Jigsaw worked with Wikimedia Foundation to analyze 100,000 comments left on English-language Wikipedia. They found predictable patterns behind who will launch personal attacks, and when. The goal of the research team was to lay the groundwork for an automated system to "reduce toxic discussions" on Wikipedia. The team's work could one day lead to the creation of a warning system for moderators. The researchers caution that this system would require more research to implement, but they have released a paper with some fascinating early findings. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / But we already have Wi-Fi. (credit: Getty Images | Jose Luis Pelaez Inc.) Charter admits that it accidentally charged a "Wi-Fi Activation" fee to some customers, and the company is now facing a lawsuit over the charges. The wrongful charges hit customers of Bright House Networks, a company that Charter purchased last year. A complaint filed on January 31 in the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida by customer Sharon Memmer seeks class-action status for all customers who were charged the "Illegitimate Wi-Fi Activation Fee." Charter offered no comment on the lawsuit but acknowledged the mistake and says it intends to make things right. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Steam Greenlight as it looked at launch in 2012. (credit: Steam) Nearly five years after Steam Greenlight was first announced, Valve said today it is doing away with the controversial system that let users vote on which games they thought should be sold on the popular PC digital distribution service. The service will be replaced with something called Steam Direct, providing developers with more straightforward access to the platform for an unknown fee. Direct will launch in the spring. Greenlight was Valve's first attempt to significantly open the Steam store beyond its original tightly curated list of games selected by a small group of Valve staffers. Valve says it considers that effort a qualified success, which has led to over 100 Greenlight games that have grossed at least $1 million on the platform. "Many of those would likely not have been published in the old, heavily curated Steam store," the company notes in its press release. That said, Valve now sees Greenlight as "the largest remaining obstacle" to developers having a direct path to the Steam audience. "Our goal is to provide developers and publishers with a more direct publishing path and ultimately connect gamers with even more great content." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Hubble Space Telescope image of 47 Tucanae, also known as NGC 104, the second-brightest globular cluster in the night sky after Omega Centauri. (credit: ESA/Hubble) A team of researchers has turned up evidence for an intermediate-mass black hole, one that weighs in between the remains of exploded stars and the supermassive giants that sit at the center of galaxies. Although a number of objects have been put forward as intermediate-mass black holes over the years, we've never conclusively identified one. Black holes, in theory, can exist at any mass—there's no limit on how big or small a black hole can be. In practice, however, they must be created by a natural process (so far, the Large Hadron Collider hasn’t seemed to make any). Stellar-mass black holes, the most common type, are formed in the wreckage of collapsed stars, and most have just a few times the mass of the Sun (Solar masses). At the other end of the scale are supermassive black holes, which usually have hundreds of thousands or even millions of Solar masses. They reside in the cores of galaxies. Although we’re not clear how they form, their existence is not in question. There’s a big gap between the stellar-mass and supermassive black holes, or between about 100 and 100,000 Solar masses. While we've never confirmed the existence of anything in that gap, intermediate mass black holes are expected to exist in certain environments such as globular clusters. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Prince performing on stage during the 1984 Purple Rain tour. (credit: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns) While he was alive, Prince was notable for being a skeptic of online music. Those who manage his estate, though, have chosen to finally embrace it. The records Prince produced during his time with Warner Bros., which include albums like 1999 and Purple Rain, will be available on Spotify and other streaming services starting Sunday. The news was broken by Napster, formerly known as Rhapsody, which confirmed to NPR that it would start streaming the Prince classics this Sunday. Spotify told the BBC it will have the same material, and it's generally expected that Apple Music will have the goods as well. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / No longer do these ports need to be defiled with glue. (credit: Casey Johnston) Windows 10 and Surface hardware are now good enough for government work, even when dealing with classified data. The operating system and the Surface Pro 3 and 4, Surface Book, and Surface Studio have all been added to the NSA's Commercial Solutions for Classified Programs (CSfC) list. This means that, when properly configured and used in a properly designed layered deployment, the hardware and software all provide adequate security for classified data. To further increase the appeal of the Surface in constrained enterprise environments, today Microsoft is announcing Surface Enterprise Management Mode (SEMM) for Surface Pro 4, Surface Book, and Surface Studio. SEMM enables administrators with physical access to the hardware to lock out integrated peripherals such as webcam, microphone, and USB ports. This locking out is done by the firmware, disabling the devices in question, rendering them wholly inaccessible to the operating system. It's intended as a much more elegant alternative to supergluing the ports or drilling out the cameras. SEMM is designed to allow not just static configuration, wherein the devices are disabled permanently, but also dynamic configuration that responds to the environment. For example, a SEMM system could be configured so that when it was on a classified network the USB ports and camera were disabled, but when on an open network they were re-enabled. The system uses digital signatures and certificates to manage the configurations, preventing end users from re-enabling devices that they shouldn't have access to. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
If you've looked at some of our reviews in the last couple of days, you may have noticed a few different benchmarks and some new charts that we weren't using before. We don't usually do this, but behind the scenes we've just given our benchmark suite a comprehensive update for the first time since 2013. In the interest of keeping you all informed and letting you know what we're thinking here on the Ars Orbiting HQ, this is a good opportunity to run through the tests we do, why we do them, and why we care about benchmarks in the first place. Charts These colors may look a little wonky compared to our old ones, but they're more legible to people with different types of color blindness. First, you'll notice that we're using some new colors in our charts. As much as we liked the bright colors in our previous charts—colors chosen to match the Ars color palette, incidentally—we got semi-regular feedback from colorblind folks that they were hard to read. Ars Creative Director Aurich Lawson chose our new chart colors to be easily legible by people with all common forms of color blindness. What we're using: CPU and GPU compute benchmarks Geekbench 4 is our primary benchmark for CPU performance and GPU compute performance. (credit: Andrew Cunningham) We may use benchmarks other than these when we're doing in-depth component reviews of the latest flagship processors or graphics cards, but generally speaking in phone and laptop reviews these are the standard benchmarks we'll be running on everything. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / A quantum many-body spin system, visualizing the complicated interactions among the particles. (credit: Gorshkov Group, Johns Hopkins) It's notoriously difficult to make sense of Quantum mechanics, and it's equally difficult to calculate the behavior of many quantum systems. That's due in part to the description of a quantum system called its wavefunction. The wavefunction for most single objects is pretty complicated on its own, and adding a second object makes predicting things even harder, since the wavefunction for the entire system becomes a mixture of the two individual ones. The more objects you add, the harder the calculations become. As a result, many-body calculations are usually done through methods that produce an approximation. These typically involve either sampling potential solutions at random or figuring out some way to compress the problem down to something that can be solved. Now, though, two researchers at ETH Zurich, named Giuseppe Carleo and Matthias Troyer, have provided a third option: set a neural network loose on quantum mechanics. Getting spooky This additional method could be useful, because there are a lot of cases where the existing methods fail. Random sampling is used in a variety of fields (it's technically called Monte Carlo sampling, after the games of chance played in the famous casino there). But random sampling is only effective if the number of likely possible solutions isn't too large. If it is, then you're unlikely to randomly sample the relevant ones. The alternative, called compression, relies on cases where it's possible to represent the wavefunction in a computationally efficient form. Not every quantum system is amenable to that approach. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge Washington DC's city council has unanimously approved the terms of a test deployment of sidewalk-crawling delivery “drones” within the District, scheduled to begin in September. The regulations, part of an amendment to the district's budget bill, paves the way for tests with robotic delivery vehicles from Starship Technologies, a London-headquartered robotics company with engineering operations based in Estonia. Amazon and other companies have been working on technology for flying delivery drones, but Starship's more pedestrian approach is at least theoretically a better fit for Washington, which is a no-fly zone for drones. The regulations aren't restricted to Starship—any company could participate in the trial period, but there are some ground rules, so to speak: the robots can't weigh more than 50 pounds without their payload, they must travel no faster than 10mph, and they're restricted to sidewalks. Any robots that fail must be retrieved within 24 hours. The pilot period is set to run from September 15 until the end of the year. While the test period is open, Starship is clearly positioned as the first mover. Founded by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis (the cofounders of Skype), the company's robots are the only contenders that currently fit the bill and are already being tested in Europe. Intended for deliveries within a three-mile radius, the six-wheeled electric robots can be monitored in transit by customers with a smartphone, and they weigh less than 40 pounds even when loaded. At that weight, the biggest concern may be how Starship prevents people from snatching its robotic minions off the DC streets. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / A Surfboard modem. (credit: Arris) Last year, Charter was punished by the Federal Communications Commission because it had spent two years preventing customers from using their own modems. As a result, the nation’s second-biggest cable company must now follow a shortened testing procedure to verify third-party modems and file compliance reports every six months detailing its efforts to let customers attach their own modems to its network. The company also had to pay a $640,000 fine. The FCC's rules are clear: cable companies must let customers use their own equipment (including modems) unless it isn’t compatible with the network or unless it would cause some kind of harm or was designed to let customers obtain services they didn't pay for. But if you’re a customer of a company that simply refuses to let you use a third-party modem, getting what you want is not easy. Elbert Davis of Crown City, Ohio, is a customer of Armstrong, a much smaller cable company with about 800,000 subscribers. He owns a Motorola/Arris Surfboard SB 6121 modem that he'd like to use instead of the Arris CM820 supplied by Armstrong. But the cable company won't allow it, despite offering no proof that it would harm the network or is incompatible. (The Surfboard is a DOCSIS 3.0 device certified by CableLabs, the cable industry's equipment testing body.) Read 32 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
(credit: Derek K. Miller) Patients, advocates, and care providers are growing increasingly frustrated that new and often very pricey cancer drugs do little to improve patients’ survival, Kaiser Health News reports. For instance, the 72 cancer therapies approved between 2002 and 2014 only bought patients an extra 2.1 months of life compared with older drugs, researchers have found. And there’s no evidence that two-thirds of the drugs approved in the last two years improve survival at all. Yet, that doesn’t keep some of those drugs from coming with heavy price tags and concerning side-effects. Among cancer drugs approved in 2016, the average cost for a year’s worth of treatment was $171,000. And like survival, side-effects aren’t always improved with the higher prices. For example, among thyroid cancer patients, those taking the most expensive drug, cabozantinib, had the worst reports of side effects, including diarrhea, fatigue, sleep disturbance, distress, and difficulty remembering. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
In the last console generation, Valve expanded on its PC focus with Xbox 360 and PS3 ports of hit games like The Orange Box, Portal 2, and the Left 4 Dead series. In a wide-ranging media roundtable this week, however, Valve's Gabe Newell said the consoles' "walled garden" isn't a place he's eager to revisit. Some of his complaints, though, seem a little outdated now that we're well into a new console generation. Newell suggested that people he's worked with on the console side seemed a bit retrograde in their thinking on business models. "We get really frustrated working in walled gardens," he said, as reported by Eurogamer. "So you try to talk to someone who's doing product planning on a console about free-to-play games and they say, 'Oh, we're not sure free-to-play is a good idea' and you're like, 'The ship has left.'" That console free-to-play resistance may have been truer in 2012, when Valve last ported a game to home consoles (Counter-Strike: GO). In the years since, though, both Sony and Microsoft seem much more willing to embrace full games that can be played without paying a cent. Popular free-to-play PC titles like World of Tanks, Hawken, and Smite are all doing well on both the PS4 and Xbox One. Both console makers have also invested in a few free-to-play exclusives in recent years: Gigantic and Happy Wars on the Xbox One and Planetside 2 and Let It Die on the PS4, to name some examples. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / The Xiaomi Mi Mix. (credit: Ron Amadeo) According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi is looking to join the ranks of Apple, Samsung, and Huawei by developing its own smartphone chips. The report says the move is part of "aspirations to join the top tier" of smartphone manufacturers and an attempt to stand out from the slew of other OEMs. For now the processor is apparently called "Pinecone," and will be released "within a month" according to the report. This might be talking about the processor of the Xiaomi Mi 6, which, if Xiaomi keeps to the usual yearly release cycle, should be out sometime in March. Xiaomi's chip design division isn't coming from nowhere—through a shell company called "Beijing Pinecone Electronics," Xiaomi paid $15 million to acquire mobile processor technology from Datang subsidiary Leadcore Technology Ltd. Today every Android OEM that isn't Samsung or Huawei relies on Qualcomm for high-end phone processors. Sometimes Qualcomm drops the ball, like with 2015's hotter-than-usual Snapdragon 810, and when that happens, most OEMs have no alternative. Samsung has its in-house Exynos SoC division, but most years still ships Qualcomm devices to the US market. In 2015, Samsung used its chip diversity to its advantage and shipped Exynos in the Galaxy S6, dodging the Snapdragon 810 problems and creating the best-performing smartphone of the year. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
WhatsApp is rolling out two-step verification to all its users on Android, iOS, and Windows after testing the feature since last November. It's an optional feature meant to boost security of your messaging account—it's disabled by default, so you must enable it yourself to reap the benefits. When enabled, you'll be required to input a six-digit code of your choice when you're asked to verify your phone number. Enabling two-step verification is easy: just navigate to the Account page under Settings in WhatsApp and choose Two-Step Verification. After you make your six-digital authentication code, you'll be asked for it every seven days as well as whenever you need to verify your phone number (for example, when you register your account on a new phone). You can also add an e-mail when you enable two-step verification which WhatsApp will use to e-mail you a link to disable the feature if you ever forget your code. But let's say you forget your code but didn't enter a recovery e0mail in WhatsApp. In this case, you'll be able to log back into WhatsApp only after seven days of your last use of the app. According to WhatsApp, however, there will be consequences for your messages and account in this case: "After these seven days, your number will be permitted to reverify on WhatsApp without your passcode, but you will lose all pending messages upon reverifying—they will be deleted" WhatsApp's FAQ page states. "If your number is reverified on WhatsApp after 30 days of last using WhatsApp, and without your passcode, your account will be deleted and a new one will be created upon successfully reverifying." Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Video shot/edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link) The market is about to be flooded with a new wave of Chromebooks, all focused on Android apps. Chrome OS and Android were always meant for different devices, but now OEMs are making Chromebooks that can deliver the best of both worlds. Google's Play Store has already come to some older Chromebooks, but Samsung's new Chromebook Plus and Pro models are the first that explicitly play up their Android compatibility. These devices follow in the footsteps of the Asus Chromebook Flip, which was the first Chrome OS two-in-one back when the operating system didn't really lend itself to that type of hardware design. Now a convertible design is apt to run Chrome OS and Android apps on the same system, but this union of operating systems isn't perfect yet. Read 35 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge Setting aside Valve's VR mini-game collection The Lab, it's been over three years since the once mighty games developer released its last full-fat video game—the e-sports MOBA Dota 2. Its last single-player, story-driven game, Portal 2, was released in 2011. So expectations have been low for the announcement of any new Valve games, with even the fabled Half-Life 3 relegated to mere Internet meme. It comes as something of a surprise, then, to hear Valve confirm it isn't just working on one new game—it's working on three. Moreover, while all three games are being developed specifically for VR, they won't be short, throwaway experiences like those in The Lab. They are, according to Valve founder and padre to PC gaming Gabe Newell, "full games." "Right now we're building three VR games," Newell told reporters at a roundtable discussion at its offices in Seattle. "When I say we're building three games, we're building three full games, not experiments." Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 12 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: Rafy/Syfy) Things are getting complicated in The Expanse. On Earth, political intrigue is afoot. Mars is getting ready for war. Fred Johnson's Outer Planets Alliance is trying to prevent one. And we finally know a bit more about the mysterious protomolecule and the evil scientists responsible. On this week's Decrypted, we're joined by Naren Shankar, The Expanse's showrunner. Naren talks to us about his journey to the show, which started with a PhD in engineering. Shankar cut his teeth in television working on Star Trek with Ron Moore, whom many will recognize as the man behind the later seasons of Deep Space Nine and Battlestar Galactica. Topics we discuss include the contrast between the utopia of Starfleet and the gritty realism of The Expanse, what drew him to the show, and the ongoing need to balance effective storytelling versus obeying all the laws of physics. I'll be analyzing, debating, and dissecting The Expanse every week with a different guest, and we'll post the podcast on Fridays throughout the season. New episodes air on Wednesdays in the US, so you have time to watch before we get into major spoilers. Yes, there are spoilers. The Expanse season 2 will air in the UK on Netflix, though an exact premiere date hasn't yet been announced. Listen when you're ready! Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Stay with us, but we've got an idea so crazy it just might work(s). (credit: 20th Century Fox) Cloud backups these days are all the rage—for good reason. Rather than dealing with shuffling physical media offsite, you can simply back up the data offsite, where it can be stored in one of many professionally monitored data centers. Unfortunately, this kind of service isn’t free, and the cost can be a barrier. However, there is a cost-effective way to store your cloud backups: Usenet. With access to a Usenet news server, you can simply upload your backup there, and it will be stored redundantly in news servers all over the world. Best of all, this approach typically costs considerably less than a cloud backup service. If you’re not an IT greybeard, you may not be familiar with Usenet. To put it within a frame of reference any Ars reader may recognize, Yahoo once described the Ars Technica forums as "the successor to Usenet and precursor of Reddit." And while that's not a 100 percent accurate, Usenet is kinda, sorta like an ancient Reddit. It's a collection of forums, organized by subject, where anyone can use to anonymously discuss nearly any topic. Where Usenet differs from Reddit, however, is in many of the technical details. Read 56 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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