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The auto engineering marvels at the Lane Motor Museum are ridiculously cool

6/25/2016 10:00am

From the entrance of Nashville, TN's Lane Motor Museum. (credit: Megan Geuss)

When Ars was invited to do a test drive of the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze in Nashville, we wanted to make the most of our trip down south. Between playing the tourist by looking for live music and eating hot chicken, we made a stop at the Lane Motor Museum. Founded by Jeff Lane in 2003, the museum houses an extraordinary collection of rare and replica vehicles, including oddities and historical models. 

We took plenty of pictures, but there were a lot of cars we missed as well. For a more complete look, we recommend you stop by next time you're in Nashville.

We've separated photos of some of the coolest cars into categories. The first category are traditional vehicles, plane components, or vehicle styles that have been modified to create something new and exciting. For instance, the replica Dymaxion, originally designed by Buckminster Fuller, is a spiritual ancestor of today's nerd/maker culture. The Dymaxion was supposed to eventually be an all-purpose vehicle, capable of flying, driving, and floating. Alas, after a couple fateful accidents and a lack of funding, work on the Dymaxion was discontinued.

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To mitigate poverty, Y Combinator set to launch minimum income plan

6/25/2016 9:00am

(credit: Jaegar Moore)

OAKLAND, Calif.—Earlier this month, Y Combinator, the famed Silicon Valley incubator dropped a bombshell: it had selected this city to be the home of its new "Basic Income" pilot project, to start later this year.

The idea is pretty simple. Give some people a small amount of money per month, no strings attached, for a year, and see what happens. With any luck, people will use it to lift themselves out of poverty.

In this case, as Matt Krisiloff of Y Combinator Research (YCR) told Ars, that means spending about $1.5 million over the course of a year to study the distribution of "$1,500 or $2,000" per month to "30 to 50" people. There will also be a similar-sized control group that gets nothing. The project is set to start before the end of 2016.

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China’s powerful new rocket makes a successful debut launch

6/25/2016 8:59am

The Long March 7 rocket lifted off at 8:01am ET on Saturday morning. (credit: Chinese TV screenshot)

China's developing space program took another major step forward on Saturday with the launch of its Long March 7 rocket, a new class of booster capable of lifting up to 13.5 metric tons to low-Earth orbit (LEO). The primary payload of the flight was a dummy version of its next-generation crew capsule and some CubeSats.

The launch highlighted several key advances for the rapidly modernizing Chinese rocket program. It marked the first launch from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, located on Hainan Island, the country's southernmost point. This allows better access to geostationary orbit for Chinese satellites. The Long March 7 also operates with kerosene and liquid oxygen fuels, rather than more environmentally dangerous hypergolic fuels used to power earlier launchers that were based on 1970s technology.

The new 53-meter Long March 7 rocket is the medium-class version of a new launch family that will also include Long March 5, a heavy lift launch system comparable to the Delta IV Heavy rocket, and Long March 6, a rocket that will launch small satellites into space. Developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the new fleet of vehicles will allow China to build and service a new space station, which may debut as early as 2022. The rocket launched Saturday is expected to deliver cargo resupply vehicles to China's space station.

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From expert pitchfork user to competent Mac user

6/25/2016 8:00am

(credit: Kris Connor/ Getty Images)

I grew up in a low-tech household. My dad only replaced something if it caught fire. We owned about 15 cars (mostly Humber 80s), and 13 of them were used to keep the other two running. Same story for tractors and any other farm equipment you care to name. Dad’s basic rule was that if he couldn't repair it, we didn't need it. We weren't anti-technology, but technology had to serve a purpose. It had to work reliably or at least be fun to repair.

Then I decided I wanted a computer. Much saving ensued, and after a while I was the proud owner of a secondhand Commodore VIC-20, with an expanded memory system, advanced BASIC, and a wonky tape drive... and no TV to plug it into. After begging an old black-and-white television from family friends, I was set for my computing adventures. But they didn't turn out as planned.

Yes, I loved the games, and I tried programming. I even enjoyed attempting to make games involving weird lumpy things colliding with other weird lumpy things. But I never really understood how to program. I could do simple things, but I didn't have the dedication or background to go further. There was no one around to guide me into programming, and, even worse, I couldn't imagine doing anything useful with my VIC-20. After a couple of years, the VIC-20 got packed away and forgotten.

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Independence Day: Resurgence: Like a high-budget porno, minus sex and fun

6/24/2016 7:36pm

Heaven help us that we've reached this point: where the legacy of a blatant B-movie retread like 1996's Independence Day can be looked upon fondly, especially in light of a sequel. I have no interest in holding the original film up to some American Film Institute-level standard; the campy Roland Emmerich flick is a classic because it knew its place as a piece of hyperbolic, chest-thumping sci-fi.

But what happens when the original creator doesn't know how to make that kind of fun happen anymore? That's when you get Independence Day: Resurgence, the long-teased, finally-here sequel that somehow hews closely to its predictable source material without repeating a single good note. Abandon any hopes for the last film's cheesy-yet-inspiring President Bill Pullman. Don't get your hopes up for a comically cocky fighter pilot or an abrasive and darkly funny super-nerd. And prepare yourself for phoned-in dialogue and action set pieces so underwhelming that you'll swear you've tuned into a high-budget porno—albeit one that distinctly lacks anything in the way of sex. Or fun.

No two actors can replace Will Smith, apparently

Jeff Goldblum returns as David Levinson. Photo Credit: Claudette Barius.

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It's 2016 in America, and our country is kickin' it with a female president, a smattering of low-flying transportation and surveillance aircraft, strong alliances with the world's greatest nations (even Russia!), and a fully operational moon base. Life's pretty sweet these days, so long as you don't have a chip on your shoulder about your parents dying when a bunch of aliens messed your planet up in 1996. Conveniently enough, most of this film's heroes have that in common.

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Following a period of turmoil, Wikimedia Foundation appoints new director

6/24/2016 4:37pm

Earlier today, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales announced that the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees has appointed Katherine Maher as its new executive director.

Maher formerly served as communications officer for Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that governs the massive online encyclopedia. She became interim director in March following a period of turmoil during which a board member and former Executive Director Lila Tretikov both resigned. Those resignations came after an unprecedented "no-confidence" vote by the site's editors.

"Our mission is vast, diverse, and inclusive, where everyone can find a home and purpose," said Maher in a statement. "We are driven by an insatiable curiosity for the world around us, and a fundamental belief in the power of collaboration and cooperation. I'm honored by this opportunity to serve this remarkable organization and movement, and I look forward to building our future together."

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“Nothing’s gone wrong with Theranos… Consumers love it,” says investor

6/24/2016 4:32pm

Theranos CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes. (credit: Max Morse for TechCrunch)

In recent months, medical testing company Theranos has been slammed by media reports and federal inspections that say its blood testing devices don’t work. Amid the revelations, the company’s president stepped down, Theranos voided or corrected tens of thousands of blood test results, and Walgreens dumped its arrangement. Theranos now faces hefty federal sanctions, criminal charges, and several lawsuits from ex-customers. It has seen its valuation drop from $9 billion to just $800 million.

Still, “nothing’s gone wrong with Theranos,” according to ground-floor investor Tim Draper.

In a Thursday interview with Bloomberg, Draper accused competitors and others of unfairly drumming up negative publicity and excessive scrutiny on Theranos and its founder and CEO, Elizabeth Holmes. “Theranos is being attacked by the powers that be in big pharma, in [Holmes’] competitors, in the world of medical insurance, the people in government who are going to be very much affected by a really cheap, really effective, wonderful solution,” he said. Those attacks echo “the way Uber was being attacked by the taxi drivers and Bitcoin was attacked by the banks,” he explained.

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800-pound Comodo tries to trademark upstart rival’s “Let’s Encrypt” name

6/24/2016 4:20pm

(credit: wbeem)

Update: On Friday afternoon, Comodo surrendered all claims to the trademarks. CTO Robin Alden wrote:

Comodo has filed for express abandonment of the trademark applications at this time instead of waiting and allowing them to lapse.

Following collaboration between Let's Encrypt and Comodo, the trademark issue is now resolved and behind us and we'd like to thank the Let's Encrypt team for helping to bring it to a resolution.

Comodo, the world's biggest issuer of browser-trusted digital certificates for websites, has come under fire for registering trademarks containing the words "let's encrypt," a phrase that just happens to be the name of a nonprofit project that provides certificates for free.

In a blog post, a Let's Encrypt senior official said Comodo has filed applications with the US Patent and Trademark Office for at least three such trademarks, including "Let's Encrypt," "Let's Encrypt with Comodo," and "Comodo Let's Encrypt." Over the past few months, the nonprofit has repeatedly asked Comodo to abandon the applications, and Comodo has declined. Let's Encrypt, which is the public face of the Internet Security Research Group, said it has been using the name since November 2014.

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The most powerful variant of the world’s most reliable rocket just launched

6/24/2016 3:50pm

An Atlas V rocket launched Friday morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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The Atlas V rocket is not the world's most powerful rocket, but it can credibly claim to be the most reliable. Before Friday morning, it had flown 62 times into space, completing its primary mission each time. That 100 percent mission success rate is unparalleled in the history of orbital rockets over so many flights. Accordingly, it's a source of pride for its manufacturer, United Launch Alliance.

The 63rd flight on Friday was also a success, delivering the MUOS-5 satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit 31,000km above Earth for the US Navy. This is the final satellite in the five-satellite constellation, which provides war fighters with significantly improved communications.

The launch was also notable because it flew the 551 variant of the rocket. This combines the core stage along with five solid rocket boosters, which burn for 88.3 seconds at the beginning of the flight to give the rocket an initial kick off the launch pad. This most powerful variant of the Atlas V rocket can deliver up to 19 tons of payload to low-Earth orbit and 8.9 tons to geostationary transfer orbit. The 551 configuration first flew back in 2006, when it launched the New Horizons mission to Pluto.

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Surface 3 stocks dwindling as Microsoft plans system’s demise

6/24/2016 3:28pm

The Surface 3's non-LTE version.

Microsoft's Surface 3 impressed us when it launched last spring. It's a smaller, cheaper iteration of its Surface Pro concept, and this setup struck us as a pretty compelling mix. But there are signs that the device is not long for this world. Brad Sams at Thurrott.com writes that many versions are listed as out of stock in Microsoft's online store, with no expected availability. Online, only the 2GB RAM/64GB storage/LTE version is in stock.

In-store stock levels show a bit more availability, but the Surface 3 remains limited, with only some configurations on offer.

This kind of shortage at this stage in a device's life is generally an indication that manufacturing is slowing down or stopping entirely, and evidence points to this possibly being the case. In a statement, Microsoft said:

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Our social network is in another castle: The new face of Nintendo

6/24/2016 3:15pm

The smartphone app Miitomo is but one aspect of the rapidly changing face of Nintendo. (credit: Nintendo)

As Nintendo gears up for its next console generation, the hardware and software guessers have focused on patent leaks and rumor mills, looking for any juicy hints and scraps as to the company's future. Maybe we'll get a crazy controller, a hybrid home/portable device, or a few retro-throwback features.

But if you want to understand the Nintendo of the future, the writing is already on the wall, and that wall is a very public one, revolving around social media and player interconnectivity. Nintendo is rapidly redefining its take on being a "family friendly" entertainment company, setting the table for a very weird Nintendo NX generation.

Forget the Wii's "blue ocean" strategy of winning over new players with gimmicks. Nintendo may very well be eyeing an even more intense way to capture new fans' minds and hearts with fully interconnected, online-focused products that will need constant tending by, and public responses from, a company that came to prominence in a much more conservative era.

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How Comcast and Charter are trying to fix their awful customer service

6/24/2016 1:40pm

You can check out any time you'd like, but you can never... well, you know the song. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Comcast and Charter yesterday told US senators how they're trying to fix their poorly rated customer service. Executives from the nation's two largest cable companies testified in a hearing in response to a Senate investigation detailing the industry's shortcomings.

Comcast Cable Senior VP of Customer Service Tom Karinshak detailed some customer service initiatives, mostly ones that are already in progress. Transcripts of the companies' testimony along with Senate investigative reports are available here. AT&T (owner of DirecTV) and Dish also testified.

"At Comcast, we understand why we are here," Karinshak said. "We and the industry as a whole have not always made customer service the high priority it should have been. We regret that history and have committed to our customers that we will lead the way with initiatives to change it; we are committed to making every part of our customers’ experience better, and we have already begun to do so."

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Hands-on with the emulator that adds depth to old 2D NES games

6/24/2016 1:30pm

See 3DNES' conversions in action in our video review. (video link)

A few months ago, we took note of 3DNES, a surprising new emulator that automatically adds depth to the flat, blocky pixels of classic Nintendo Entertainment System games. The Web-based beta version of the emulator from March is getting a full release as a $30, downloadable Windows executable later today via itch.io.

Ars got exclusive access to the near-final version of that standalone emulator earlier this month. Our time testing 3DNES reveals a promising new direction for classic game emulation, but there are still a bunch of rough edges.

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Here’s how many calories you may burn standing at work versus sitting, strolling

6/24/2016 1:03pm

(credit: Marco Arment)

With the rise of standing desks, office workers hope to brush off the health risks linked to prolonged sitting, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and early death. But they might do well to walk calories off instead, a new study suggests.

In one of the few studies to carefully count the calories people burn while sitting at a desk, standing, or taking a leisurely stroll, researchers found little difference between being plopped down or upright. Standing for an hour might burn off an extra nine calories or so, about the amount in a single gummy bear. Slow walking, on the other hand, incinerated 2.4 to 2.7-fold more calories than standing or sitting, respectively. If office workers fit in an hour of strolling throughout each day—tallying trips to the bathroom, walks to the printer, or strides on a treadmill desk—they could easily burn through an extra 130 calories. That’s a little more than what previous research suggests could help people keep pounds off, the authors report in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

“If you’re looking for weight control or just solely at the energy expenditure, standing isn’t that much more beneficial than sitting,” Seth Creasy, an exercise physiologist at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study, told Ars. Of course, calorie burning isn’t the only reason people might choose a standing desk. Being upright could be beneficial for productivity or posture, Creasy said. However, more research is needed to know if those benefits are real because the studies that have been done so far have come up with mixed or inconclusive results.

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Electric vehicles at altitude: Pikes Peak qualifying day

6/24/2016 12:50pm

Tajima-san's car, the 2016 Tajima Rimac E-Runner Concept_One.

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—Racing at Pikes Peak starts early, really early. At this point I'm no stranger to the fact that a day at the track means leaving the house before dawn. But here at the mountain, the road is reopened for two-way traffic at 8:30am—so 4am it is. We're here because Giti Tires and Team APEV with Monster Sport invited Cars Technica to embed with them as Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima attempts to become "King of the Mountain" for the eighth time.

Tajima-san runs in the Electric Modified class for purpose-built machines. On Thursday morning, we got our first look at his 1.1MW (1,500hp) Tajima Rimac E-Runner Concept_One as well as some of the cars from other classes. Acura is here with three NSXes. There's an almost-stock NSX in Time Attack 2 Production, a second NSX—minus its AC and some interior trim—running in Time Attack 1 and silhouette NSX with four electric motors and torque vectoring in Electric Modified. There's even a Tesla Model S that is being campaigned by Blake Fuller.

Later in the day, the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb inducted its 2016 Hall of Fame. On the way in we were greeted by Arrow's latest Project SAM—a Corvette Z06 that Sam Schmidt will drive on Sunday after the final race up to the top and back to lead the entire field back to the start line. Between this and Frédéric Sausset at Le Mans, it's inspiring how motorsports is using technology to make itself more accessible, particularly because it's leading to real-world applications.

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You can now livestream right from the YouTube app

6/24/2016 11:53am

YouTube's live mode.

YouTube is finally ready to take on Periscope, Facebook Live, and other livestreaming mobile services, as the company is building live mobile video broadcasting right into the core YouTube app. Firing up a livestream seems pretty simple, according to the introductory blog post. "You won’t need to open anything else, just hit the big red capture button right there in the corner, take or select a photo to use as a thumbnail, and you can broadcast live to your fans and chat in near real time," YouTube says.

Like most existing YouTube livestreaming functions, the blog post says these live videos will "have all the features your regular videos have" including search, recommendations, and controls for who can view them. Live video alerts will be sent to your subscribers when they view your profile, and creators can enable a chat function if they want to hear from viewers. YouTube promises that because this is on YouTube, "it’ll be faster and more reliable than anything else out there."

The feature launched at "VidCon," a conference for online video producers. For now, live mobile broadcasting from the core app is only available to a few VIPs, but YouTube promises it will be "rolling out more widely soon."

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Oculus reverses course, dumps its VR headset-checking DRM

6/24/2016 11:20am

Oculus has quietly dumped its unpopular checks for Oculus headsets, meaning HTC Vive owners can resume using the popular Revive hack without having to work around DRM. (credit: Sam Machkovech)

What a difference an Internet uproar can make.

The Oculus team has reversed course on one of its most unpopular decisions since launching the Rift VR headset in April: headset-specific DRM. After weeks of playing cat-and-mouse to block the "Revive" workaround that translated the VR calls of Oculus games to work smoothly and seamlessly inside of the rival HTC Vive, Oculus quietly updated its hardware-specific runtime on Friday and removed all traces of that controversial DRM.

What's more, Oculus didn't mention the change in its runtime update notes, which are curiously future-dated one day forward on Saturday, June 25. The news instead broke when Revive's head developer posted a note on the project's Github download page. "I've only just tested this and I'm still in disbelief," the unnamed LibreVR developer wrote. Accordingly, the Revive team has since removed the patch's DRM-disabling feature, which had later been implemented as an extreme measure to make Oculus games play on the HTC Vive.

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CivilizationEDU will make high school totally radical next year

6/24/2016 10:40am

Now I can learn about the pyramids while having fun (credit: civilization.com)

Hey, kids! Put away those boring old history books. There's a new way to learn about geopolitical conflict. It's a video game!

*Record scratch sound effect*

That's right, it's CivilizationEDU, the new education-focused version of the hit simulation series that will make learning fun! This isn't your daddy's old "Oh no, I died of dysentery" educational gaming, either! Starting next year, The Games for Change Conference and GlassLab Inc. will partner with 2K Games to "provide students with the opportunity to think critically and create historical events, consider and evaluate the geographical ramifications of their economic and technological decisions, and to engage in systems thinking and experiment with the causal/correlative relationships between military, technology, political and socioeconomic development."

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FBI’s use of Tor exploit is like peering through “broken blinds”

6/24/2016 9:57am

(credit: Billie)

Law enforcement does not need a warrant to hack someone’s computer, according to a just-unsealed court order written by a federal judge in Virginia.

This case, United States v. Matish, is one of at least 135 cases currently being prosecuted nationwide stemming from the FBI’s investigation of the Tor-hidden child pornography site called "Playpen."

US District Judge Henry Coke Morgan, Jr. further explained in the order on Thursday that warrantless government-sanctioned hacking "resembles" law enforcement looking through broken blinds. In this case, however, a warrant was sought and obtained. Judge Morgan found that even if the warrant did not exist—or was found to be invalid—the search would have been valid.

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The Turing Test: A puzzle game that asks if machines can think

6/24/2016 9:00am

Can machines think? This is the question posed by Alan Turing's 1950 paper, Computer Machinery and Intelligence. Turing believed that by the year 2000, our understanding of computers would have evolved to the point where machines could think, work out problems, and be able to imitate a human. As of today, Turing's predictions might not have all come true, but humans are sometimes duped in small ways every day, not least through the many online chat and help bots that make you think you're talking to a human.

What does it mean to be human in a world in which machines can imitate humans? Where does the human component begin and end? What does the human component even consist of? Bulkhead Interactive's The Turing Test explores these questions.

At its core, The Turing Test is a first-person puzzle game in which you explore a research base on Europa, a moon of Jupiter. The puzzles are supposedly designed in such a way so as to make them impossible for a computer to solve. Only a human mind can unlock the puzzles, thus setting up a potential answer for the riddle of what it means to be human.

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