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Updated: 1 hour 15 min ago

Sling TV didn’t tell users its newest channels “restrict” certain programs

3/30/2015 9:30pm

Megan Geuss Over the weekend, reddit users posting on the subreddit /r/cordcutters were surprised to find that some of Sling TV's most recent channel additions—A&E, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network (LMN), and WE TV—were not entirely available. Shows like Criminal Minds on A&E, Kept Woman on Lifetime, and Intervention on LMN were throwing up a “Restricted Content” notice, sometimes for eight- and ten-hour blocks.

The new channels are not part of Sling TV's basic, $20 per month package, but require users to pay an extra $5 per month for the Lifestyle Extra package.

“Due to rights restrictions, this content can not be streamed on Sling TV,” the notice tells Sling TV users.

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Tim Cook leads tech sector opposition to “dangerous” Indiana law

3/30/2015 8:30pm

Opposition to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence last week, has been particularly strong among the tech and hobbyist sectors, and that opposition grew even louder thanks to a letter written by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

His Sunday op-ed, printed in the Washington Post on Sunday, didn't mince words, describing Indiana's new bill—and similar bills around the nation, including a few that have yet to be signed into law—as "dangerous" means of enabling discrimination. He urged states considering similar laws to think again, pointing out how their signing "truly will hurt jobs, growth and economic vibrancy."

"These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear," Cook wrote. "They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality." Cook went on to describe his stringent religious upbringing: "I have great reverence for religious freedom. As a child, I was baptized in a Baptist church, and faith has always been an important part of my life. I was never taught, nor do I believe, that religion should be used as an excuse to discriminate."

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New ARM-powered chip aims for battery life measured in decades

3/30/2015 6:45pm

The number of things getting plugged into the "Internet of Things" has already reached the point of satire. But there's a new, extremely low power technology that's being prepared for market that could put computing power and network access into a whole new class of sensors, wearables, and practically disposable devices. That's because it can run off a battery charge for over over 10 years.

Atmel, the San Jose-based microcontroller maker, today released samples of a new type of ultra-low power, ARM based microcontroller that could radically extend the battery life of small low-power intelligent devices. The new SAM L21 32-bit ARM family of microcontroller (MCUs) consume less than 35 microamps of power per megahertz of processing speed while active, and less than 200 nanoamps of power overall when in deep sleep mode—with varying states in between.

The chip is so low power that it can be powered off energy capture from the body, as Andreas Eieland, Atmel's Director of Product Marketing for low-power products, demonstrated at CES earlier this year.

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Project Spartan gets its first public outing in new Windows 10 build

3/30/2015 5:15pm

Microsoft promised that Windows 10 builds would be coming more often, and it looks like that's happening. It's not even two weeks since the last build, and another build—number 10049—is out today. Fast track users should find the build available immediately.

The big change in this version: it includes Microsoft's new, legacy-free browser, codenamed Project Spartan. This is the first public outing for the new browser, with its reduced, Chrome-like interface and Cortana integration.

This first iteration isn't feature complete, as major pieces such as history and downloads are not available yet. However, the big new features that Spartan brings—annotations and notes on Web content, reading mode, and, of course, Cortana—are all available, to a greater or lesser extent. In common with earlier Cortana previews that were geographically limited, Spartan's Cortana will initially only work in the US. Announcing the new build, Microsoft's Joe Belfiore emphasized that this is "NOT a polished, ready-for-everyone release," and that it will be held for the addition of features and improvements before it's made broadly available. Likewise, known issues with the Windows build itself mean that some may want to stick to the slow track for the time being.

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PSA: Get ready for VR with PS4 bundle featuring free PlayStation camera

3/30/2015 4:35pm

Because Sony has refused to officially lower the price of the PS4 below its $400 starting point (aside from occasional holiday deals), getting a good deal on the system requires looking for bundle offers from retailers eager to move stock. A few offers are going on right now, and they provide additional hardware and software on top of the base PS4 package (which already includes a downloadable code for The Last of Us).

Best Buy is currently offering a free PlayStation camera valued at $60 alongside any new PlayStation 4 system purchase. The camera isn't exactly a must-have accessory these days, as it's mainly useful for adding your voice and face to Twitch streaming or playing a handful of games like Just Dance 2014. But the camera will eventually be a key part of Sony's "Project Morpheus" virtual reality solution, scheduled for early next year. At that point, it will be necessary equipment to track the headset and the PlayStation Move hand-tracking controllers. Getting that camera for free now is sure to decrease the necessary entry fee when Sony finally joins the VR race.

If a free camera doesn't appeal to you, Amazon has its own deal on the PS4 right now, offering a copy of Bloodborne and a $20 gift card on top of the included Last of Us download code. At Wal-mart, you can get the system with The Last of Us, an extra controller, and your choice of Watch Dogs, Need for Speed: Rivals or Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, all for the base price of $400.

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Amazon launches “Home Services” business, wants to give you drum lessons

3/30/2015 4:20pm

Today Amazon officially announced Amazon Home Services, a marketplace where customers can request repair work and personal lessons from service providers in their area. The concept is like TaskRabbit—services are provided by individual contractors, not Amazon, but those contractors are rated by customers and vetted by the online shopping behemoth. All services provided are backed by Amazon.

Services include banal things like assembling a bed (from $57 to $140), installing a garbage disposal ($149 to $200), setting up a wireless printer ($84 to $210), or “computer software configuration” ($120 to $210). The value proposition for Amazon Home Services is that people don't have to call around to find a contractor and then get a quote from them—the price is listed up front. For a custom job, you'll get a quote delivered to you after you specify the details of the job.

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Mortal Kombat producer “quits” Twitter over violent threats to family

3/30/2015 3:30pm

On Friday, a longtime Mortal Kombat producer used his Twitter account to denounce the service over how it enables anonymous abuse, then said he will "quit" the site.

Shaun Himmerick, executive producer of the upcoming sequel Mortal Kombat X, responded to a tweet from a supposed fighting-game fan with a less-than-charming request for the series' next iteration. The fan's Twitter account no longer exists; it may have been suspended after the user sexually threatened Himmerick's wife over whether a longtime MK character might return to the new sequel.

Himmerick posted a screencap of the offending tweet with the caption, "Why I'll quit Twitter." He then clarified that his beef wasn't with posts about his games but about his family. He decried attacks aimed at both him and his daughter, though he didn't repost or quote any examples of these—it's not clear whether these threats have also been made or whether he was being preemptive.

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Gmail for Android gets a unified inbox view

3/30/2015 3:20pm

The gmail navigation drawer, showing the new "All Inboxes" option.

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With Android 5.0 Lollipop, Gmail the application became the generic mail client for Android, meaning you can funnel your Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, Exchange, POP3, and IMAP mail all to a single app. In the past, you've had to switch between accounts in the navigation drawer to see all your mail—now things are getting a lot easier thanks to a unified inbox.

The Official Gmail Blog just announced that, starting today, an “All Inboxes” option will show up in the Gmail for Android navigation drawer (presumably, this requires an app update). The new option will display all your incoming mail from all your accounts in a single list.

Another addition to the app is that all e-mails, even ones from non-Gmail accounts, will get Gmail's trademark conversation view applied to them. This means any e-mail will have all the replies to it below the text, allowing you to easily know the context of a message.

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Two feds who investigated Silk Road accused of stealing from it, too

3/30/2015 2:46pm

Two federal agents whose work helped to shut down the Silk Road online drug marketplace have been accused of stealing from the Darknet market during the investigation. The criminal complaint (PDF), unveiled today, reveals a remarkable level of corruption within the investigation into the drug marketplace, which hosted more than $200 million in transactions.

Government prosecutors have charged former DEA agent Carl Force and former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges with wire fraud and money laundering. Force is also charged with stealing government property and "conflict of interest."

The government had multiple investigations into Silk Road. Force and Bridges both worked on one based out of Baltimore. Force was the lead undercover agent in charge of communicating with Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR), the operator of the Silk Road site, while Bridges was a computer forensics expert.

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Arizona court protects climate scientists’ e-mails from think tank

3/30/2015 2:39pm

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (EELI), which brands itself as the home of "free-market environmentalism through strategic litigation," has lost another round of said strategic litigation. An Arizona court has ruled that a large collection of e-mails from faculty at state universities can remain private.

The group (formerly the American Tradition Institute) has been attempting to obtain the e-mails of climate scientists who work at state universities through the states' freedom of information laws. In cases where e-mails are not released, EELI has sued. Last year, it lost a case in Virginia that focused on the e-mails of climate scientist Michael Mann, as a court ruled that information about research still in progress could be shielded from freedom of information requests in that state.

In the new case, the EELI went after the e-mails of faculty at state universities in Arizona, apparently including two who attempt to reconstruct past climates using proxies for global temperature: Jonathan Overpeck and Malcolm Hughes. The state Board of Regents refused to release over 1,700 e-mails, saying they were private, involved student information, or discussed ongoing research projects. This prompted EELI to sue.

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Game store swatted, nearly became complicit in inciting police response

3/30/2015 2:28pm

A New Jersey video game shop fell victim to a calculated "swatting" attempt on Saturday night—one that, according to reports, nearly saw the victim play an active role in inflaming the police response.

The story began by resembling far too many other recent swatting attempts. As Jersey area news site Cliff View Pilot reported, Passaic County officers received an anonymous, phony tip about a hostage situation with shotguns and wounded victims. The location in question was a video game store in Clifton, New Jersey, called Digital Press. The store was hosting its usual monthly gaming meetup that night—ironically, one devoted to "super cute" video games—and the county sheriff's department sent a SWAT team to the shopping strip in question to investigate.

What made this swatting different from other recent high-profile cases, according to tips sent to gaming site Kotaku, was that the victims also received an anonymous call that attempted to pour gasoline on the fire. The game shop's Web administrator, Frankie Viturello, told a story of seeing a police presence begin to descend upon the store's shopping district, at which point the 40-strong crowd of gamers locked the shop's doors and relocated away from the windows and toward the building's basement. Soon afterward, the shop received a call from a supposed fire department representative.

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Supreme Court questions involuntary human GPS monitoring

3/30/2015 1:38pm

Torrey Grady. North Carolina Department of Justice

The Supreme Court ordered North Carolina's legal system to re-examine whether it is constitutional to require a convicted sex offender to wear an electronic GPS anklet for the rest of his life. For the moment, Monday's ruling renders uncertain the legal justification for North Carolina's electronic monitoring program—which has more than 600 offenders wearing ankle bracelets—and the future of some 40 other states that also require GPS surveillance on tens of thousands of others.

The justices ordered North Carolina to apply reasoning from a 2012 decision when the high court ruled that affixing GPS devices to vehicles to track their every move without a court warrant was an unconstitutional trespass or search. In doing so, the justices sided with sex offender Torrey Grady, 36, who demanded that the 2012 precedent should apply when the GPS device is hooked to a human.

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Russia: We’re building a new space station with NASA. NASA: huh?

3/30/2015 1:26pm

Over the weekend, the head of Russia's Roscosmos space agency dropped a bit of a bombshell on the space world, claiming that it is working with NASA on a replacement for the International Space Station. But today, NASA released a statement that effectively said, "We're not sure what you're talking about."

"Roscosmos and NASA will fulfil the program of building a future orbital station," Igor Komarov is quoted as saying. "We will elaborate the details. It is going to be an open project, not restricted only to current participants, but open for other countries willing to join it." This is quite a surprise, given that Russia had recently been talking about going its own way after the ISS' life span runs out in 2024. The "open for other countries" is also contrary to US policy, which prevents NASA from cooperating with China in space exploration.

But today, NASA released a statement to NBC News that basically ignored the space station issue. "We are pleased Roscosmos... expressed interest in continuing international cooperation for human space exploration," NASA told the site. The agency instead focused on its plan to go to Mars: "The United States is planning to lead a human mission to Mars in the 2030s, and we have advanced that effort farther than at any point in NASA's history."

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AT&T’s newest fiber customers to pay $40 more than Google Fiber users

3/30/2015 1:17pm

AT&T today launched its gigabit fiber Internet service in parts of Cupertino, California, but the price isn't as good as it is in cities where AT&T faces competition from Google Fiber.

Google Fiber and AT&T's U-verse with GigaPower compete head-to-head in Kansas City and Austin. In those cities, AT&T matches Google's $70-per-month price for gigabit service, as long as you opt in to a program that lets AT&T watch your Web browsing and serve up personalized ads.

But AT&T charges more when it doesn't have to compete against Google. In Cupertino, AT&T said today it will offer "Internet speeds up to 1Gbps starting as low as $110 a month, or speeds at 300Mbps as low as $80 a month, with a one-year price guarantee." Despite being $40 more than AT&T's price for the same gigabit service in Kansas City and Austin, the Cupertino offer still requires opting in to the Internet usage monitoring.

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Gold Apple Watch Edition comes with a buying experience worthy of the 1%

3/30/2015 1:07pm

You probably already know if you're going to shell out $10,000 or more for the Apple Watch Edition—aside from being made of gold, it isn't going to do anything that the $349 Apple Watch Sport or the $549 Apple Watch can't do. However, buying and getting support for the five-figure watches will apparently be substantially different, according to a report from 9to5Mac.

It begins with the buying experience itself. The cheaper Apple Watches will reportedly be sold using five- to ten-minute demo sessions at tables set up throughout Apple Stores, but the Apple Watch Edition will be demoed in private one-on-one sessions that can last up to an hour. Accessories and alternate bands will apparently be offered after customers have been allowed to try on the watches.

Once you've bought your five-figure smart watch, you can elect to have it set up in the store, or you can take it home and go through a "Virtual Personal Setup" video chat with an employee. The Personal Setup feature will reportedly be available to stainless steel Apple Watch wearers, too, but only Edition buyers will get "an exclusive, dedicated Apple Watch Edition phone line for two years of 24/7 technical support." An AppleCare+ purchase extends your watch hotline privileges to three years.

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HTC One M9 review: HTC’s flagship feels like an afterthought

3/30/2015 12:45pm

When we reviewed the HTC One M8 last year, our primary complaint was how little it was changed from the M7. HTC basically recycled the M7 design with the M8. Apple gets away with updating its designs every other year because it's a market leader. HTC is definitely not a market leader though, so we think it's fair to expect it to be nimbler and faster than its bigger rivals—that's really the only path to success when you aren't winning.

Now, HTC is back with a new flagship—the HTC One M9. While the M7 to M8 transition was underwhelming, with the M9, HTC has slowed down to nearly a standstill, as the design is nearly identical to the HTC M8. The Snapdragon 810 SoC—meant to give the M9 a speed boost over the M8—has been throttled so much that the M9 is at best equal to the M8, and in some cases slower. The other small improvements HTC tried to make—relocating the power button and an upgraded camera—didn't work out well, either.

The (dated) design

Our biggest problem with the M9 (and M8 and M7) is the massive bezel. Including the on-screen buttons, the bottom has a full inch of device that isn't being used to display content.

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.related-stories { display: none !important; }

ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true}]);Have you seen an M8? If so, you're most of the way there. HTC has tweaked things a bit by giving the side of the device a ridge—imagine if the back of the exterior was sized about 2 percent bigger than the front and the edges weren't flush. It serves as a way to tell the M8 and M9 apart, but isn't really functional or good looking.

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Europe’s law enforcement chief joins in crypto panic

3/30/2015 12:06pm

The director of Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, has warned about the growing use of encryption for online communications. Speaking to BBC Radio, Rob Wainwright said: "It's become perhaps the biggest problem for the police and the security service authorities in dealing with the threats from terrorism." Wainwright is just the latest in a string of high-ranking government officials on both sides of the Atlantic that have made similar statements, including FBI Director James Comey, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, the head of London's Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Wainwright told the BBC that the use of encrypted services "changed the very nature of counter-terrorist work from one that has been traditionally reliant on having good monitoring capability of communications to one that essentially doesn't provide that anymore." What that overlooks is that the "good monitoring capability" was of very few channels, used sporadically. Today, by contrast, online users engage with many digital services—social media, messaging, e-mail, VoIP—on a constant basis, and often simultaneously. Although the percentage of traffic that can be monitored may be lower, the volume is much higher, which means that, overall, more information is available for counter-terrorism agencies.

Wainwright also claimed that terrorists were using the "dark net," "where users can go online anonymously, away from the gaze of police and security services." One of Snowden's leaks revealed that the NSA has managed to unmask anonymous users of Tor, so that ability to avoid the "gaze" of the police and security services is not absolute.

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Verizon tells Congress to rein in FCC’s power over Internet providers

3/30/2015 12:01pm

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam has told Congress that it needs to "retake responsibility for policymaking in the Internet ecosystem" because the Federal Communications Commission's regulatory decisions have reached "absurd new levels."

"[T]he existing legal regime and its accompanying regulatory processes are outdated and broken," McAdam wrote in a letter Friday to leaders of the House and Senate Commerce committees and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (courtesy of The Hill). "Congress last established a clear policy framework almost 20 years ago, well before most of today's technology was even developed. As a result, regulators are applying early 20th century tools to highly dynamic 21st century markets and technologies. Inefficiencies and collateral damage are inevitable. It is time for Congress to re-take responsibility for policymaking in the Internet ecosystem."

Verizon is mad about the FCC's decision to reclassify broadband as a common carrier service and impose network neutrality restrictions that prevent Internet providers from blocking or throttling Internet content or prioritizing content in exchange for payment. McAdam's letter also objected to rules that let Dish use discounts intended for small businesses to save $3.3 billion in an auction for wireless spectrum licenses. McAdam said the FCC has repeatedly helped Dish boost its spectrum holdings even though the satellite provider hasn't "announced any plans to use this spectrum to serve customers."

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UK school group threatens to call police on kids playing adult games

3/30/2015 10:28am

A group of school principals in Cheshire, England is warning parents that they will be on the lookout for evidence that children in their care have access to adult video games at home and will "contact the Police and Children's Social Care" if they are made aware of it.

The Nantwich Education Partnership, which represents 16 schools in Cheshire, sent a note to parents last month expressing concern that "several children have reported playing, or watching adults play games which are inappropriate for their age and have described the levels of violence and sexual content they have witnessed." The letter specifically cites Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and Dogs of War (which we assume is a misnamed mangling of God or War or Gears of War) as inappropriate, and also warns parents that children should not have access to Facebook or WhatsApp accounts before they are old enough.

"Access to these games OR to some social media sites such as those above increases early sexualized behaviours (sometimes harmful) in children AND leaves them vulnerable to grooming for sexual exploitation or extreme violence," the letter reads (as reprinted by The Daily Mail). "If your child is allowed to have inappropriate access to any game or associated product that is designated 18+ we will are [sic] advised to contact the Police and Children’s Social Care as it is neglectful."

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2,636 Icelandic genomes pinpoint risk for Alzheimer’s, other diseases

3/30/2015 10:00am

An Icelandic genetics firm has sequenced the genomes of 2,636 of its countrymen and women, finding genetic markers for a variety of diseases, as well as a new timeline for the paternal ancestor of all humans.

Iceland is, in many ways, perfectly suited to being a genetic case study. It has a small population with limited genetic diversity, a result of the population descending from a small number of settlers—between 8 and 20 thousand, who arrived just 1100 years ago. It also has an unusually well-documented genealogical history, with information sometimes stretching all the way back to the initial settlement of the country. Combined with excellent medical records, it's a veritable treasure trove for genetic researchers.

The researchers at genetics firm deCODE compared the complete genomes of participants with historical and medical records, publishing their findings in a series of four papers in Nature Genetics last Wednesday. The wealth of data allowed them to track down genetic mutations that are related to a number of diseases, some of them rare. Although few diseases are caused by a single genetic mutation, a combination of mutations can increase the risk for certain diseases. Having access to a large genetic sample with corresponding medical data can help to pinpoint certain risk-increasing mutations.

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