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The Art of Technology
Updated: 2 hours 47 sec ago

America’s super-secret court names five lawyers as public advocates

2 hours 46 min ago

Lady Blind Justice (credit: Marc Treble)

America’s most secretive court has now named its five amici curae—friends of the court—who will act as an outsider public advocate at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The move was one of the provisions in the USA Freedom Act, which passed in June 2015 as a package of modest reforms to the national security system.

The five named attorneys are Jonathan G. Cedarbaum, John D. Cline, Laura Donahue, Amy Jeffress, and Marc Zwillinger. In September 2015, the FISC appointed Preston Burton as its first public advocate, but he will only serve in that role as a one-off for a particular case.

Top lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation called these attorneys “impressive.”

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Prominent climate scientist offers scathing critique of Obama’s Paris plans

11/27/2015 9:00pm

Hansen, in 1988, testifying before a U.S. Senate committee. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Three days before the beginning of a critical international climate conference in Paris, one of the world's most famous climate scientists, James Hansen, has written a withering criticism of President Obama's approach.

The Paris meeting will be attended by the heads of state of more than 130 countries, including Obama. Heading in, the United States has adopted a policy of calling for each country to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions, and will push for the adoption of technology to capture and store carbon dioxide. That approach, Hansen wrote in a new letter posted on his web site, "is so gross, it is best described as unadulterated 100 percent pure bullshit."

In his "communication" published on Friday, Hansen argued that world leaders are eager to avoid the embarrassment of the last major climate meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, which was largely ineffectual. This time, world leaders will reach a deal, Hansen says, and pat themselves on the back. This deal will likely include pledges to cut emissions by 2025. For example, the United States is expected to aim for cuts of 25 percent based on 2005 carbon levels.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

At 11:59pm EST on Sunday, the NSA will stop in-house phone metadata collection

11/27/2015 5:40pm

The Obama administration said on Friday that it would go ahead with the scheduled closure of the National Security Agency’s bulk phone records collection program. The USA Freedom Act, which passed in early June, outlined this weekend's deadline.

The NSA’s collection of vast amounts of metadata pertaining to calls made by users of telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon was unknown to the general public until June 2013, when The Guardian leaked its first document from former security contractor Edward Snowden.

Now, instead of the NSA keeping the metadata onsite, the organization will theoretically have to obtain a warrant from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to request metadata pertaining to a person or a group from a telecom company.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Judge: There’s no proof Yelp manipulates reviews

11/27/2015 5:10pm

(credit: Michael Dorausch)

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit alleging Yelp manipulated reviews in an attempt to coerce businesses to buy advertisements.

Lawyers representing a Yelp shareholder filed suit in August of 2014, saying that the company had misled investors with false statements about the veracity of its reviews.

The complaint, which sought class action status, was filed four months after The Wall Street Journal revealed that the Federal Trade Commission had received more than 2,000 complaints about Yelp. The WSJ article roughly correlated with a significant drop in the value of Yelp stock.

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Lenovo teaming up with Razer for a new range of gaming PCs

11/27/2015 5:00pm

Y Series Razer Edition prototype, front view.

3 more images in gallery

Lenovo and gaming PC company Razer have partnered up to build a new range of Lenovo gaming PCs. The giant Chinese PC OEM will have a range of Razer-branded Y series PCs available next year. The full set will be unveiled at CES in January, but this week at DreamHack Winter in Sweden the first prototype was shown off.

Except for the Lenovo label across the top, this device has that classic Razer look: an aggressive, angular case, and lots of green lights. It'll also include Razer's "Chroma" custom lighting feature.

In addition to producing and selling the co-branded systems, the companies say that they will be working together to develop "new technologies" to enhance the gaming experience.

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When children are breached—inside the massive VTech hack

11/27/2015 4:45pm

(credit: Troy Hunt)

Troy Hunt is the founder of haveibeenpwned.com. This post originally appeared on his website and is reprinted with his permission.

I suspect we’re all getting a little bit too conditioned to data breaches lately. They’re in the mainstream news on what seems like a daily basis to the point where this is the new normal. Certainly the Ashley Madison debacle took that to a whole new level, but when it comes to our identities being leaked all over the place, it’s just another day on the Web.

When it’s hundreds of thousands of children including their names, genders and birthdates, that’s off the charts. When it includes their parents as well—along with their home addresses—and you can link the two and emphatically say “Here is 9-year-old Mary, I know where she lives and I have other personally identifiable information about her parents (including their password and security question),” I start to run out of superlatives to even describe how bad that is.

Read 55 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Black Friday Dealmaster starts early with the post-turkey bargains [Updated]

11/27/2015 4:20pm

A fabulous felicitous fowl-feast festivity to you, Arsians far and wide! Though our eyes are heavily lidded with (apocryphal) tryptophan and (real) booze—because honestly, Thanksgiving means families and families mean drinking, especially when your aunt who favors Donald Trump starts arguing with your uncle who favors Bernie Sanders—our fine partners at TechBargains still managed to find the time to gather together some early bird pre-Black Friday deals for you to peruse, should you be in the mood to whip out the ol’ credit card and indulge in that grand old holiday tradition of buying stuff. This is a great opportunity to get the jump on some slick bargains, because remember, it’s only 365 days until next Black Friday!

We’ll have a couple of updates to this list on Friday as things expire and new deals pop in, so keep an eye out if there’s something in particular you’re looking for. And, of course, you could always hit up TechBargains for an even bigger list of things to buy.

Featured deals

Amazon Fire & Kindle things Laptops and tablets Desktops HDTVs Gaming Electronics and components Home

For more Black Friday deals, check out TechBargains. Happy consuming!

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Kickstarter-launched drone startup denies it cheated customers

11/27/2015 3:45pm

(credit: David Black)

As the fallout continues from the implosion of Europe’s largest Kickstarter-funded project, Torquing Group has staunchly denied that it cheated or stole from its Zano-drone customers.

"We strongly refute any allegations made that may suggest that the board of directors have misappropriated any funds," it wrote.

In an update posted to Kickstarter on Wednesday, the company published a pie chart showing that 46 percent of company spending went to "stock and manufacturing," followed by 14 percent at "gross wages." However, Torquing noted that these financial figures were unaudited.

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Global carbon emissions slowed for third straight year to near-stall

11/27/2015 3:00pm

Emissions trends: China flattening, US flat, and EU dropping. But be very afraid of India's growth. (credit: Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency)

Recently, the US released its analysis of the country's 2014 carbon emissions. It showed that while carbon emissions are still growing, their growth has slowed even as economic activity expanded. A new report indicates the same held true globally. Even though the global economy expanded by three percent last year, carbon emissions only rose by half a percent. The report raises the hope that we've partly decoupled economic growth and carbon emissions.

The analysis was performed by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency in cooperation with the European Commission's Joint Research Center. It gathered statistics on energy use from governments, NGOs, and the energy industry to compile numbers on the energy economy and its carbon emissions.

In past years, the news was pretty grim. For roughly a decade, emissions were rising at about four percent a year, bringing CO2 levels up to 400 parts-per-million earlier this year for the first time in millions of years. But earlier in this decade, the growth rate dropped to one percent a year for a couple of years. At the time, it wasn't clear whether this was a momentary blip or indicative of a long-term change.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Our first catch of the day: A SpaceX rocket from 2014

11/27/2015 2:00pm

Here's what a rocket looks like after 14 months at sea. (credit: Drucey/Imgur)

The central section of a SpaceX rocket launched in September 2014 evidently had quite a journey. The rocket’s interstage, which connects the first stage of the rocket to its second stage, blasted nearly to the edge of space before falling back to Earth and into the Atlantic Ocean. From there it swirled and ebbed, unbothered by human hands, for more than a year before Thursday.

Then along came Joseph Thomas, a boatman for Tresco Boat Services, which runs an inter-island ferry service for the islands of Tresco, Bryher, and St.Martin's. Thomas operates in the Atlantic Ocean, southwest of Cornwall, England. He first spied seabirds feeding on something quite large, which he presumed to be a dead, floating whale. As he got closer, he thought it might be part of a barnacle-covered plane. No, he later learned, it was a rocket.

But what rocket? A reddit user named /drucey began posting images of the find, and the Internet detectives did their work. They determined it wasn’t part of the SpaceX rocket that launched and then failed on July 28, 2015. (That rocket was named CRS-7 because it was SpaceX’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station; it carried 1,800 kg of supplies and experiments.) Based upon photos of the debris as well as SpaceX rockets on the launch pad, the reddit users instead confirmed the interstage in question belonged to CRS-4, which launched successfully on September 21, 2014.

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Samsung’s Smartcam HD Plus is like a Nest Cam that’s not shackled to the cloud

11/27/2015 1:30pm

(credit: Valentina Palladino)

When you think "Samsung," you think of smartphones, TVs, and maybe smart kitchen appliances if you're a foodie. However, it's not the first company to come to mind when you think "home security." Samsung has a range of Wi-Fi connected home security cameras, though, and the most recent addition to the family is the Smartcam HD Plus. With 1080p video recording, motion and sound detection, two-way audio, and customizable action zones, this camera wants to take the popular Nest Cam head on.

The Smartcam includes some of the best features of other home security cameras we've tried. There's a lot you can do with it, and if you can get past the annoying app experience, you can turn it into a smart watchdog for your home.

SPECS AT A GLANCE: SAMSUNG SMARTCAM HD PLUS CAMERA RESOLUTION Up to 1080p FIELD OF VIEW 130 degrees INTERNET 2.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi LIVE STREAMING Yes NIGHT VISION Yes MOTION/SOUND DETECTION Motion and sound MOBILE APP Android and iOS SUBSCRIPTION None; Comes with a 16GB microSD card for local storage, supports up to a 128GB card EXTRA FEATURES Two-way talk, customizable audio messages, sound effects, motion zone selection PRICE $190 Design: This looks familiar...

To say that the Smartcam HD Plus looks similar to the Nest Cam would be an understatement. The small, glossy-black device looks nearly identical to Nest's watchful eye, featuring a bulbous head where the lens lies and a narrow neck that attaches to the base. The Smartcam HD Plus' base is bigger than Nest's, however, and the camera can be tilted back and forth easily. To turn the head from side to side, you need to loosen the screws at the base of the neck—which is inconvenient to say the least.

Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

How spam filters, intelligent design, and a volcano started my decade at Ars

11/27/2015 12:00pm

My favorite photo of the eruptions that were going on a decade ago. (credit: USGS)

My very first story for Ars Technica was my first-ever bit of writing for the public. The anniversary of the story is a pretty significant event for me since it marks the start of an entirely new career—so the 10th anniversary should be a really big deal. But naturally, I got busy and distracted and neglected it when it happened earlier this month.

Still, recognizing it a bit late is surprisingly appropriate. That first story was about Mount Saint Helens, and it was all ready to go for the one-year anniversary of the start of new eruptions there. But spam filters ended up catching it before it could get to Jonathan Gitlin, who had arranged for me to start contributing. By the time it ran, I had to rewrite the initial paragraph, noting that the anniversary had passed with little notice. (The more things change...)

At the time I wrote it, I had very little idea of what I was doing when it came to writing. But I was inspired to write in part by actions a federal judge would later label "breathtaking inanity." Those actions were taken by a school board in Dover, Pennsylvania, that had instituted a policy of promoting "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution.

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Raspberry Pi Zero sells out within 24 hours

11/27/2015 11:58am

(credit: Wired)

The Pi Zero—the new £4 Raspberry Pi—has sold out in under 24 hours. The Raspberry Pi Foundation says that around 20,000 individual Pi Zeroes have been sold in the last day, along with a further 10,000 copies of the MagPi magazine which had a Pi Zero on the front. "You'd think we'd be used to it by now, but we're always amazed by the level of interest in new Raspberry Pi products," said Eben Upton, the founder of the foundation.

"Right now it appears that we've sold every individual Zero we made... people are scouring the country for the last few Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury and Smiths branches that haven't sold out [of the MagPi magazine]," Upton told Wired.

Upton said they are producing more Zeroes "as fast as we can" at its factory in Pencoed, Wales, but didn't specify when more stock would be available.

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Robotic race car series will support Formula E next year

11/27/2015 11:35am

Autonomous cars are not entirely strangers to the race track. Earlier this year we brought you news of Robby, the autonomous Audi RS7 that has learned the racing line at Sonoma Raceway in California. Robby is apparently as fast as an experienced human racing driver when it comes to lap times, but there's more to racing than just being fast—you need competition. Next year we'll finally get to see what happens when you put 20 autonomous cars on track and race them, thanks to the newly announced support series for Formula E.

Called Roborace, the new series is a partnership between Formula E and Kinetik, an investment fund that's been putting a lot of money into electric vehicle development. It will follow the Formula E schedule in 2016-2017 with hour-long races between 10 teams, each of which has two cars. The cars will be mechanically identical; the competition will be in coding the AI. According to the release from Formula E, one of the teams will be organized as a crowd-sourced community team, something we plan to look into with greater detail as it develops.

Kinetik founder Denis Sverdlov said that Roborace "is a celebration of revolutionary technology and innovation that humanity has achieved in that area so far. It’s a global platform to show that robotic technologies and AI can co-exist with us in real life. Thus, anyone who is at the edge of this transformation now has a platform to show the advantages of their driverless solutions and this shall push the development of the technology.”

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The new Gear VR proves virtual reality is finally consumer-ready

11/27/2015 11:30am

I can see the future, and it's here... today!

4 more images in gallery

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

About a year ago, Samsung and Oculus released the Gear VR "Innovator Edition," a phone holster/virtual reality headset that straddled the line between dev kit and early adopter hardware. This month, Samsung updated that early access hardware to a bona fide consumer product; the new Gear VR is the first explicitly consumer-facing offering from Oculus in its more than three years of public existence as a company.

We've had a few days now to play around with that retail hardware, enough time to determine that Oculus and Samsung have squeezed an impressive virtual reality experience out of common smartphone hardware and a relatively cheap headset. At $100, the consumer Gear VR is a no-brainer for anyone who already uses a compatible Samsung Galaxy phone. For everyone else, it's an impressive bit of technology that could be a deciding factor when choosing your next phone.

Superb comfort

The biggest refinements in the consumer Gear VR over last year's Innovator Edition come in increased comfort. The headstrap has been completely redesigned. The curved, cushioned hard plastic of last year's model has been replaced with a relatively simple elastic strap behind the head and an optional, rigid fabric strap over the top of the skull. The new design makes the unit easier to adjust for a comfortable fit thanks to velcro pads that now bend properly around the hinges.

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Germany’s Supreme Court rules that ISPs can be ordered to block piracy websites

11/27/2015 11:29am

(credit: ComQuat)

Germany's Supreme Court has ruled that an ISP can be required to block sites that infringe on copyright, even though the ISP has no relationship with them. However, this is subject to two conditions: before seeking an order that require ISPs to block a website, the copyright holders must have explored all other avenues, for example contacting the operators of the site in question, and the Web hosting company. In addition, Web blocks can only be used for sites which "on balance" have more illegal than legal content. However, the court did not provide any guidelines for how that balance would be judged.

As TorrentFreak explains, "The origin of the ruling dates back seven years when German music rights group GEMA, known for its aggressive anti-piracy stance, found music tracks on major file-hosting sites being distributed via the music linking site 3DL.am." When GEMA was unable to contact 3DL.am's operators it asked Germany's leading ISP, Deutsche Telekom, to block access to the site for all its users. Deutsche Telekom refused, on the grounds that it was simply providing connectivity, and had nothing to do with any alleged infringement on the site.

In the end, GEMA's case ended up before the German Supreme Court, which said that copyright holders could ask for an injunction forcing ISPs to block access to websites. It cited Article 8 of the EU Copyright Directive as justification for its decision, which states: "Member States shall ensure that rightholders are in a position to apply for an injunction against intermediaries whose services are used by a third party to infringe a copyright or related right."

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The rich are less generous when they think there’s high economic inequality

11/27/2015 11:00am

(credit: Flickr user Todd Sanders)

"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me... They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are...”

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that in 1925 in a short story called The Rich Boy. Today, some highly touted recent research seems to prove him right, indicating that those with higher incomes are less generous than those with lower incomes. But the new study shows that the upper echelons of society are not simply peopled by greedier, less moral individuals; the rich are merely tight fisted when they are surrounded by actual or even perceived income inequality. As different as they may be, they seem to be as susceptible to their surroundings as the rest of us.

Researchers at the University of Toronto and Stanford decided to revisit the reams of data from psychological experiments demonstrating that money is just as corrupting a force as power and that high earners are selfish. Instead, they suspected that being surrounded by vast economic inequality is what renders the economic elite less generous.

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Master & Dynamic MW60 wireless headphones offer style and performance

11/27/2015 10:01am

Priced at £419 (€579/$549), there's no denying that Master & Dynamic's wireless MW60 headphones are expensive—but boy do they look it. Cast out of aluminium and finished in pillow-soft lambskin leather, the MW60s are as much a fashion statement as they are a functional piece of audio equipment. They even smell expensive when you take them out of the box. For a company that I hadn't even heard of until a few weeks ago (Master & Dynamic is based in New York) that's impressive.

While everyone has slightly different tastes, it's hard not to be taken in by the retro-inspired design of the MW60, which combines modern minimalism with the sleek curves of a radio mic from the 1950s. The finish, as you'd hope for given the price, is flawless. There are no rough edges, or loose stitches, or wobbly hinges to detract from the design. Even the headband adjustment—a typical point of failure for a lot of headphones—is suitably robust, with a piston-like mechanism that feels like it'll survive plenty of rough handling. I do wish it allowed for subtle adjustments, though. As it is, you either have no adjustment or all the adjustment.

As a style statement, then, the MW60s are up there with the best of them, but all that fuss over materials isn't just for for show. The lambskin-covered circumaural memory foam pads isolate well, and are extremely comfortable over long listening periods, while the padded headband helps take some of the edge off the MW60's rather hefty weight—an inescapable side-effect of all that metal and leather.

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OnePlus admits that it’s selling dodgy USB Type-C cables and adapters

11/27/2015 9:00am

At the start of the month we wrote about Benson Leung, a tenacious Google engineer who had made it his life mission to test various USB Type-C cables and adapters, to check whether they actually conform to USB Type-C specifications. Unsurprisingly, he found that most cheap Type-C cables and adapters do not conform, and could thus could potentially cause damage to your devices while charging.

A week later, the same Google engineer announced an altogether more shocking finding: the USB Type-C cables and adapters sold by smartphone maker OnePlus aren't up to snuff. Here was an official, first-party hardware company selling USB cables and adapters that might damage your devices. As you might expect, the Android community was equal parts apoplectic and perplexed by this development.

The issue with the OnePlus USB Type-C cable and adapter was similar to some of the dodgy parts that Leung had previously tested: where OnePlus should've used a 56kΩ resistor, it instead used a 10kΩ resistor. As a result, a connected device may attempt to draw 3A, when the power source (the USB port on your computer, a third-party wall charger) is only rated to supply 2A, potentially frying your power source.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Remember that $9 computer? For one day only, it’ll be $8, plus shipping

11/27/2015 8:15am

The underside recalls an older circuit board design. (credit: Cyrus Farivar)

OAKLAND, Calif.—Earlier this year, Next Thing Co. announced a $9 Linux computer.

But for one day only, the price will fall to just $8, starting at 7am Eastern Time on November 30.

Still, the cost of moving physical items ain’t cheap—shipping from Hong Kong, where the CHIP computer is made, starts at $6 to the United States. It will be available at Getchip.com, with the promo code: GETCHIP.

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