posted 13 days ago on ars technica
Gawker.com, facing a $140 million jury verdict for publishing a sex tape of Terry Bollea (better known as pro wrestling icon Hulk Hogan), is shuttering operations next week, according to a post on the site. "Nick Denton, the company’s outgoing CEO, informed current staffers of the site’s fate on Thursday afternoon, just hours before a bankruptcy court in Manhattan will decide whether to approve Univision’s bid for Gawker Media’s other assets," the website said. "Staffers will soon be assigned to other editorial roles, either at one of the other six sites or elsewhere within Univision. Near-term plans for Gawker.com’s coverage, as well as the site’s archives, have not yet been finalized." Univision acquired Gawker Media for $135 million on Tuesday. Gawker Media's other holdings include Gizmodo, Deadspin, Jezebel, Lifehacker, Kotaku, and Jalopnik. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy two months ago and went up for sale following the jury's verdict. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Esther Vargas) Twitter said Thursday it has shut down 235,000 accounts linked to violent extremism in the last six months alone. That brings the total number of terminated Twitter accounts associated with terrorism to 360,000 since mid-2015. San Francisco-based Twitter, which had come under fire for allegedly not doing enough to crack down on extremist speech on its site, said it condemns acts of terrorism and that it is "committed to eliminating the promotion of violence or terrorism on our platform." The announcement on Twitter's blog comes as lawmakers mull legislation demanding that Internet companies report suspected terrorist activities to the government. It also comes days after Twitter fended off a lawsuit (PDF) accusing the company of providing material support to terrorists and of being a "tool for spreading extremist propaganda." Twitter's successful defense was, among other things, that the Communications Decency Act shields the company from being legally liable for content posted on its site. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Andrew Cunningham) There may come a day when your Apple Watch doesn't need to be tethered to your iPhone to work, but that day won't be soon. According to a new report from Bloomberg, Apple's plans to put cellular modems in the next version of the Apple Watch have been put on hold because of concerns about battery life. While Apple is still reportedly "studying lower-power cellular data chips" for inclusion in future generations, the next watch will still rely on your iPhone for its data connection. That said, the report indicates that Apple does plan to ship GPS functionality in the new Apple Watch. This will be of particular interest to people who use the watch for outdoor exercise like running and biking. Today's Apple Watch relies on your iPhone for GPS, and, when untethered from your phone, it can only provide you with rough estimates about distance and pace. The next Apple Watch is expected at some point in the fall, possibly at the traditional September iPhone event that is rumored to be happening on September 7. WatchOS 3, a major revamp of the wearable operating system, will also be released this fall as an update for existing Apple Watch owners. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Enlarge T-Mobile USA has announced a $70 unlimited data plan, but in reality the plan has a lot of limits. And T-Mobile said it will stop offering cheaper plans to new customers. The $70 unlimited "T-Mobile One" plan caps hotspot usage to 2G speeds, which T-Mobile defines as up to 128kbps. Normal-speed mobile hotspot usage will cost $15 for each 5GB allotment. The new unlimited plan also throttles video to 480p, similar to the carrier's Binge On promotion that throttles video and exempts it from data caps. On the new unlimited plan, customers who want HD video must pay an extra $25 a month per line. The unlimited plan also throttles customers who use more than 26GB a month if they are connected to a congested cell tower. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, we have a bunch of great deals to share today. You can now get a Dell Inspiron 3650 desktop, complete with a Core i7 Skylake processor, AMD R9 360 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 2TB hard drive for just $579. That's a steal on a desktop computer that typically costs over $900. To go along with that deal, Amazon's daily deal will save you 30 percent off PC accessories, components, and more. Check out the full list of deals below. Featured Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: US DOD) Technology has changed sports by offering things like instant replay and the ability to determine precisely where a ball is relative to lines on the field and court. But these offerings don’t always sit well with players and fans, who may worry about the loss of some human influence on the run of play. It has been said that no technology is value-neutral, that it will-—in undetermined ways—influence anything it is applied to. Technology has now been applied to many sports, which have changed as a result, as evidenced by one of the oldest sports around. Fencing is an old sport. The earliest evidence of it comes from Egypt during the reign of Ramses III. A relief carving from roughly 1190 BCE in the temple of Madinat Habu depicts combatants wearing masks and wielding weapons as part of a bout or tournament. The modern sport has its earliest roots in 15th century Spain, where Diego de Valera wrote Treatise on Arms, a manuscript discussing swordsmanship for duels and self-defense. Fencing can be traced through the European Renaissance. Eventually, dueling weapons and blade weapons fell out of favor, replaced by black powder and guns. For swords, this was reflected in a change in nature from a cutting to a thrusting action coupled with more skilled swordsmanship. These changes favored using agility and speed as opposed to brute force. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Here are some of Ötzi's clothes on display at the Museum of Archaeology, Bolzano. From top left: a shoe with grass interior (left) and leather exterior (right), the leather coat (reassembled by the museum), leather loincloth, grass coat, fur hat, and leather leggings. Institute for Mummies and the Iceman For the past two decades, scientists have analyzed every minute detail of Ötzi, a 5,300-year-old natural mummy found in the ice of the Italian Ötztal Alps. But one remaining mystery was the provenance of his clothing, made from leather and fur. Now, thanks to refined techniques in DNA sequencing, a team of scientists has identified how the clothing was made—and discovered something surprising about Ötzi's domestic habits. Ötzi lived during the Copper Age, when humans had been domesticating animals for a few thousand years, and our cutting-edge technologies included stone tools and fired pottery. From previous studies, we know that Ötzi was likely murdered by an arrow and a blow to the head. We also know he suffered from arthritis, and he ate a meal of deer and berries before he died. The team's new findings, published in Nature Scientific Reports, are as much a demonstration of DNA sequencing wizardry as they are about ancient fashion. It's incredibly difficult to get genetic material out of tanned hides, because they've generally been scraped, heated, and exposed to fatty acids. Plus, the hides and furs themselves had disintegrated. But the researchers used several methods for extracting DNA from the hides that made up Ötzi's shoelace, hat, loincloth, coats, leggings, and quiver. First they compared the strands of DNA they did find with other mapped genomes to identify species. Then the researchers targeted very small, specific regions in the DNA for reconstruction to learn more about the animals' relationships with today's domestic breeds. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Microsoft today released its PowerShell scripting language and command-line shell as open source. The project joins .NET and the Chakra JavaScript engine as an MIT-licensed open source project hosted on GitHub. Alpha version prebuilt packages of the open source version are available for CentOS, Ubuntu, and OS X, in addition, of course, to Windows. Additional platforms are promised in the future. Announcing the release, Microsoft's Jeffrey Snover described the impetus for the move: customers liked the use of PowerShell for management, remote control, and configuration but didn't like that it was Windows-only. To address this concern, Microsoft first had to bring .NET, and then PowerShell itself, to Linux and other platforms. Snover says that PowerShell will be extended so that remote scripting can natively use ssh as its transport instead of Windows remoting. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Mike Mozart) AT&T's entry-level smartphone data plan that offers 300MB for $20 a month will no longer be available to new customers beginning August 21. Additionally, the current 2GB plan that costs $30 will be replaced by a $30 plan offering only 1GB. A new $40 plan will offer 3GB, while $60 will provide 6GB, replacing today's $50 5GB plan. On the plus side for customers who buy the lowest-cost data plans, AT&T is changing its phone access charge to $20 a month per device. You need to add the data and device access charges together to get the monthly cost before miscellaneous fees. Currently, AT&T imposes a $25-per-month access charge on plans with 5GB or less and $15 on bigger plans. Going forward, the $20 charge will apply regardless of size, with some exceptions—two-year contracts will still have access charges of $40 a month. These changes are part of a revamp of AT&T's Mobile Share Value plans. In some cases, the new data prices offer better value. For example, it will cost $90 to get 16GB, while today it costs $100 for 15GB. The dollar-per-gigabyte value gets better from there. While today you'd pay $175 for 25GB and $225 for 30GB, next week it will cost $110 for 25GB and $135 for 30GB. The plans come with mobile hotspot capability, rollover data, and unlimited talk and text. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Best Buy) Best Buy's 50th anniversary is just around the corner on August 22, 2016, and the company is giving its customers a bunch of exclusive deals to celebrate. The electronics retailer will have 50 deals available in store and online that will last for just 50 hours: the Black Friday-like shopping event starts today, August 18, at 10pm Central Time and ends at 11:59pm on Saturday, August 20. Discounts include $180 off Beats wireless headphones, $400 off a 65-inch Samsung 4K UHD TV, and $150 off select MacBook Pro notebooks, with additional savings for students. Customers who shop online will also get free two-day shipping on almost everything included in the sale. Here are some of the other deals included in the anniversary celebration: Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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This is not a Zen chip. I just included it because, well, the original AMD Athlon holds a special place in my heart. It's also the last time that AMD challenged Intel for the performance crown. Click through to the rest of the Zen slide deck. InF! AMD's new Zen CPU architecture has been officially delayed until "early 2017." The first Zen chips, which will be produced on a 14nm FinFET process, had originally been expected sometime in Q3 or Q4 2016. At an event in San Francisco, AMD also revealed a few more details of the Zen's low-level architecture, and in a multithreaded Blender rendering demo showed that an 8-core/16-thread "Summit Ridge" Zen CPU outperformed an 8C/16T Broadwell-E CPU (presumably the Core i7-6900K) at the same clockspeed. AMD showed off a dual-CPU Windows server setup using the 32-core/64-thread "Naples" enterprise-oriented Zen CPU at the same event, but didn't provide any kind of performance figures. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge A Tesla Model S has burst into flames during a test drive in the south west of France. Four people were in the car, including a Tesla employee; they all escaped safely before the car was "totally destroyed" within five minutes of the fire starting. Tesla confirmed the incident and said that it's working with French authorities to determine exactly what happened, "and will share our findings as soon as possible." A Tesla official said: "Nobody was harmed. The vehicle provided warning and passengers were able to safely exit the vehicle." In the tweet below you can see a video of the burning Tesla. Presumably this was caught a few minutes after the blaze had begun, as there isn't much car left. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge On Monday, the Ford Motor Company made news with the announcement that it will build a fleet of self-driving ride-share vehicles. Whether or not that news had any impact at Uber is unknown, but today Uber and Volvo announced plans to partner on a $300 million program to develop fully autonomous vehicles by 2021, a year that now promises plenty of self-driving vehicles (we're expecting one from BMW as well). "Volvo is one of the most progressive and contemporary car makers in the world. It is a world leader in the development of active safety and autonomous drive technology and possesses an unrivaled safety credibility. We are very proud to be the partner of choice for Uber, one of the world’s leading technology companies. This alliance places Volvo at the heart of the current technological revolution in the automotive industry," said Håkan Samuelsson, Volvo CEO. Uber's boss, Travis Kalanick, was similarly upbeat: "Over one million people die in car accidents every year. These are tragedies that self-driving technology can help solve, but we can’t do this alone. That’s why our partnership with a great manufacturer like Volvo is so important. Volvo is a leader in vehicle development and best-in-class when it comes to safety. By combining the capabilities of Uber and Volvo we will get to the future faster, together." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Yooka-Laylee's Gamescom 2016 trailer. COLOGNE, Germany—It's midnight and my friends and I, intent on staying up all night, have just downed our fifth Coca-Cola of the evening. Laid out in front of us, between a pile of unwashed sleeping bags and half-eaten chocolate bars, are four Nintendo 64 controllers and a copy of GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie. Brushing the sleep from my eyes, I pick up Banjo-Kazooie, slide it into the cartridge slot, and stare in awe at a blocky banjo-playing bear. Having never played on a Nintendo 64 before (I was very much s PC gamer), the bright and colourful Banjo-Kazooie was a revelation. And though it would sometimes get swapped out for sporadic bouts of Golden Gun mode, for the next 12 hours, Banjo-Kazooie was all that mattered. The tiny booths in the back halls of Gamescom's Koelnmesse might not be as cosy as my living room floor, but there's no denying it: Yooka-Laylee is one heck of a nostalgia play, and 12-year-old me couldn't be happier. Indeed, squint hard enough, and you might just mistake Yooka-Laylee for Banjo-Kazooie. Led by a team of ex-developers from Rare—creator of the Banjo-Kazooie series amongst others—Yooka-Laylee is an unashamed love letter to the colourful '90s platformer. The titular Yooka and Laylee, a lizard and a bat, can double-jump, float, roll, and swim much like their '90s counterparts. The levels they explore, while larger and more like the open worlds of modern games, are similar too, being made up of intricately designed platforms that shine a vibrant green where most games are content with being a dull brown. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Parallels) Like clockwork, Parallels releases a new version of its desktop virtualization software for Mac computers every year. They often coincide with major new versions of the Windows and Mac operating systems, requiring major software changes to bring new Windows features to Apple computers or to make sure everything keeps working properly. Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac is thus being announced today, but there isn't much to be excited about. While Parallels can run just about any operating system in a virtual machine, its primary purpose is letting Mac users run Windows applications. For that use case, last year's Parallels Desktop 11 release is still good enough. There was an obvious reason to upgrade to Parallels 11 last year for people who wanted to run Windows 10 on a Mac. That's because Parallels 11 was the only version to support Windows 10 in Coherence Mode, which lets Windows applications run on a Mac in their own windows and integrate with the Mac's Notification Center. Without Coherence Mode, Windows applications are all contained in a single window that displays Microsoft's whole operating system. Read 17 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: NIST) Cisco Systems has confirmed that recently-leaked malware tied to the National Security Agency exploited a high-severity vulnerability that had gone undetected for years in every supported version of the company's Adaptive Security Appliance firewall. The previously unknown flaw makes it possible for remote attackers who have already gained a foothold in a targeted network to gain full control over a firewall, Cisco warned in an advisory published Wednesday. The bug poses a significant risk because it allows attackers to monitor and control all data passing through a vulnerable network. To exploit the vulnerability, an attacker must control a computer already authorized to access the firewall or the firewall must have been misconfigured to omit this standard safeguard. "It's still a critical vulnerability even though it requires access to the internal or management network, as once exploited it gives the attacker the opportunity to monitor all network traffic," Mustafa Al-Bassam, a security researcher, told Ars. "I wouldn't imagine it would be difficult for the NSA to get access to a device in a large company's internal network, especially if it was a datacenter." Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Getty | Bloomberg) Aetna announced Monday that due to grave financial losses, it will dramatically slash its participation in public insurance marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act. In 2017, Aetna will only offer insurance policies in 242 counties scattered across four states—that’s a nearly 70-percent decrease from its 2016 offerings in 778 counties across 15 states. The deep cuts have largely been seen as a blow to the sustainability of the healthcare law, which has seen other big insurers also pull out, namely UnitedHealth group and Humana. But the explanation that Aetna was forced to scale back due to heavy profit cuts doesn’t square with previous statements by the company. In April, Mark Bertolini, the chairman and chief executive of Aetna, told investors that the insurance giant anticipated losses and could weather them, even calling participation in the marketplaces during the rocky first years “a good investment.” And in a July 5 letter (PDF) to the Department of Justice, obtained by the Huffington Post by a Freedom of Information Act request, Bertolini explicitly threatened that Aetna would back out of the marketplace if the department tried to block its planned $37 billion merger with Humana. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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First trailer for Arrival, based on Ted Chiang's Nebula-winning novella, "Story of Your Life." Alien invasion might be a lot weirder than you think. That's the premise of Arrival, a first contact story told from the point of view of linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who is the first to translate the language of the mysterious "heptapods" whose ships arrive on Earth seemingly just to make conversation. If this movie is even a quarter as good as the novella it's based on, we're in for a damn fine story. (For those who have not had the pleasure of reading it, Chiang's collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, has just been reissued as a handsome paperback.) Though the film is dramatizing the alien visitation with international politics and war threats, the original story explores a more personal crisis. Without giving away spoilers, the central idea is that the heptapods' written language allows the reader to know the ending of a sentence at the moment they start reading it. Based in part on the aliens' mathematics—and informed by the Earthly mathematics of Fermat's Principle—the heptapods' language changes the consciousness of humans who decipher it, essentially allowing them to remember the future. So what happens when a conversation with an alien changes your perception of linear time? In Chiang's story, it raises questions about whether you will make the same life decisions despite knowing when people will die—indeed, knowing when you will die. The result is a moving, intense exploration of temporality, linguistics, and the human psyche. It's clear that some of these themes are going to come up in the movie, too, though with the added dramatics of some kind of standoff with Russia. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Joint Quantum Institute) If you know me, you know that I tend to get obsessive about imaging. I usually stick to optical microscopes, but occasionally the folks who play with electrons and ions do something exciting, too. A recently published paper on ion microscopy has me pretty excited at the moment, which is about all the excuse I need to dig in. Ion microscopy is similar to electron microscopy. In a typical electron microscope, you fire a beam of electrons at a sample and examine the angles at which the electrons scatter. These angles are directly related to the surface of the sample, so with a few optics (magnetic lenses, in the case of electrons), you get an image. Because electrons are heavy and energetic, they have a very short wavelength, so smaller features can be imaged. After the development of the electron microscope, scientists realized that you can do similar things with ions—the nucleus of an atom with some or all of the electrons stripped off it. Hence, ion microscopy. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Always keeping your house tidy and spotless may earn you the label of “neat freak”—but “super happy” may be a more accurate tag. When people voluntarily take on unpleasant tasks such as housework, they tend to be in particularly happy states, according to a new study on hedonism. The finding challenges an old prediction by some researchers that humans can be constant pleasure-seekers. Instead, the new study suggests we might seek out fun, uplifting activities mainly when we’re in bad or down moods. But when we’re on the up, we’re more likely to go for the dull and dreary assignments. This finding of “flexible hedonism,” reported Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may seem counterintuitive because it suggests we sabotage our own high spirits. But it hints at the idea that humans tend to make sensible short-term trade-offs on happiness for long-term gains. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A federal appeals court says the maker of an online spying tool can be sued on accusations of wiretapping. The federal lawsuit was brought by a man whose e-mail and instant messages to a woman were captured by the husband of the woman. That husband used that data as a "battering ram" as part of his 2010 divorce proceedings. It's the second time in a week that a federal court has ruled in a wiretapping case—in favor of a person whose online communications were intercepted without consent. The other ruling was against Google. A judge ruled that a person not using Gmail who sent e-mail to another person using Gmail had not consented to Gmail's automatic scanning of the e-mail for marketing purposes. Hence, Google could be sued (PDF) for alleged wiretapping violations. For the moment, the two outcomes are a major victory for privacy. But the reasoning in the lawsuit against the makers of the WebWatcher spy program could have ramifications far beyond the privacy context—and it places liability on the producers of spyware tools. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Peter Kaminski / flickr) SAN FRANCISCO—Oracle lawyers argued in federal court today that their copyright trial loss against Google should be thrown out because they were denied key evidence in discovery. Oracle attorney Annette Hurst said that the launch of Google Play on Chrome OS, which happened in the middle of the trial, showed that Google was trying to break into the market for Java SE on desktops. In her view, that move dramatically changes the amount of market harm that Oracle experienced, and the evidence should have been shared with the jury. "This is a game-changer," Hurst told US District Judge William Alsup, who oversaw the trial. "The whole foundation for their case is gone. [Android] isn't 'transformative'; it's on desktops and laptops." Read 27 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Emoji in iOS 10. Andrew Cunningham Emoji have become important. They’ve permeated our conversations and our messaging apps and our popular culture to a degree that no one could have anticipated just a few years ago, and when your phone or computer gets an update, new emoji are often featured prominently in the release notes or even announced in their own press releases. That the “language” is so universal and recognizable is due in large part to the Unicode Consortium, the group of major tech companies in charge of defining and approving new emoji (and dozens of other character sets, besides). Every year, it proposes, discusses, and approves new additions to the language, and that heavyweights like Apple, Google, and Microsoft have become so diligent about supporting new versions is a rare victory for standards in an age where every tech company on Earth is trying to lock you into its own proprietary silo. But the Unicode Consortium can only do so much to influence the way any given emoji looks and is interpreted. Every new version of the Unicode spec includes a description of each character, a sample image, and other broad recommendations for implementation, but companies implementing the spec are free to represent the emoji pretty much however they want. And as the language’s range of expression continues to grow, so do the opportunities for misunderstanding. Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Christian Petersen / Gett Images) It’s not often that you can say you’re in better shape than an Olympic athlete. But an American adult is half as likely as an Olympian to have cavities, based on data from the CDC and from a 2013 study of athletes competing in the 2012 London Olympics. And three-quarters of these Olympians had gingivitis. Of course, the demands of Olympic-level training set these athletes apart from the rest of us. Thirty percent of the athletes studied had taken a blow to the mouth, jaw, or face. And the average person doesn’t need an Olympic marathoner’s high-carb diet or sports drinks, which can contribute to tooth decay and other problems. Professor Ian Needleman, who co-authored the 2013 study, explained in an interview with Ars the additional risk factors that Olympic athletes face. Needleman, of the Centre for Oral Health and Performance at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute in London, noted that “there’s good evidence that during high-intensity training, immunity is challenged.” Prolonged training also leads to dehydration in the mouth, he said, “and we have very good data showing that dehydration reduces saliva’s protection” against tooth decay, dental erosion, and gum disease. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Kim et al., Science (2016)) Touchscreens have transformed the way we interact with electronics, enabling the development of elegant handheld devices. But currently, their screens are limited to a fixed size. As flexible and wearable electronics are in development, the touchscreens we'll need in the future will have to be both flexible and biocompatible. In an investigation recently published in Science, researchers have designed an ionic touchscreen that boasts stretchability and biocompatibility, allowing easy integration with the human body. The team selected a hydrogel-based material for their work. Hydrogels are soft, water-filled polymer networks; their mechanical properties are similar to those of certain tissues, and they can be made of biocompatible materials. As an added bonus, they’re highly transparent. In this case, the scientists selected an ionic hydrogel—a polyacrylamide base containing lithium chloride salts. For a gel to function as a touchscreen panel, it has to conduct electricity, which is why there's lithium chloride present. To produce a uniform electrostatic field across the panel, voltage was applied at all the panel corners. When a person touches the panel with their finger, the finger acts as a conductor that is grounded. As a result, a potential difference is generated between the electrode and the touch point causing the current to flow from the electrode through the finger. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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