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The Art of Technology
Updated: 1 hour 14 min ago

Teardown confirms improved heat dissipation system in new Chromecasts

1 hour 25 min ago

iFixit's teardown of the 2015 Chromecast (above) and the new Chromecast Audio (below). Hello, thermal paste! (credit: iFixit)

Exactly how much stuff can Google cram into the tiny hockey puck that is this year's line of Chromecast dongles? According to the screwdriver-happy folks at iFixit, quite a bit, though seemingly half of the stuff in both the updated Chromecast and its new Chromecast Audio sibling is a giant wad of thermal paste.

So much paste. (credit: iFixit)

According to iFixit, teardowns of both units revealed two gum-sized wads of the blue stuff—one on each side of the electromagnetic shield casing—which is good news for anybody who had issues with a piping-hot original model of the Chromecast, since the device continues to operate without a fan. The rest of the teardown confirmed information already gleaned from Marvell, the company responsible for both the old and new Chromecasts' processors, including figures such as 512MB of SDRAM in the HDMI-enabled Chromecast, 256MB of SDRAM in the Chromecast Audio, and 256MB of NAND flash memory in both.

iFixit had good things to say about the 2015 Chromecast's HDMI cable design. (credit: iFixit)

Also clearly visible were the advertised three-antenna array and a "super-durable" internal HDMI cable housing, and the latter was a big bonus for iFixit, who points out that such a replaceable and repairable cable "adds longevity... by addressing what is likely to be the most common problem—a damaged plug or loose HDMI connection."

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Systems that keep the genome safe earn three Nobels in chemistry

2 hours 9 min ago

A DNA repair protein shown in two modes, patrolling undamaged DNA (in green) and bound to a DNA damage site (magenta). Once identified, other enzymes are recruited to perform repairs. (credit: Myrna Romero and Jung-Hyun Min)

The human genome is over three billion base pairs long. Even if each day carries a one-in-a-million risk of damage to a base, that means over 3,000 damaged bases every day—in each of our trillions of cells. And many things raise the risk of damage substantially, from smoking and sunlight to simply duplicating the genome when cells divide. Without a way of managing this damage, our genomes would quickly degenerate into a useless mess.

This year's Nobel in Chemistry goes to three individuals who helped clarify the role of DNA damage repair. Thomas Lindahl, currently in London, is credited for recognizing that DNA repair is an essential process and characterizing a simple repair pathway. Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar, both in North Carolina, share the prize for their roles in identifying two major additional means of performing repair.

Lindahl's role in recognizing the need for repair is more significant than it might sound. Relative to many other complex molecules, DNA is remarkably stable. While it was recognized that it could be damaged under unusual circumstances, such as X-ray exposure, it was thought that no special actions were needed to keep genomes intact under normal conditions.

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Verizon, fed up with mass porn lawsuits, fights broad subpoenas

2 hours 48 min ago

(credit: Getty Images)

Porn studio Malibu Media has filed more than 4,300 lawsuits over Internet piracy since 2009, making it the most litigious copyright holder in the nation. The lawsuits accuse users at particular IP addresses of downloading Malibu's movies via BitTorrent. Malibu can only get contact information for the defendants from ISPs, who know which subscriber holds which IP address at any given time.

Now one big ISP, Verizon, is apparently tired of the dragnet tactics being used by Malibu Media and its attorneys. On Monday, Verizon filed a motion to quash (PDF) Malibu's newest subpoena, calling it an overreach that threatens Verizon's ability to, among other things, help law enforcement with their subpoenas.

In the motion, Verizon describes Malibu's practice of suing thousands of people for alleged copyright violations. The cases follow a "common arc," Verizon lawyers explain, quoting another case:

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Closer look at a star turns up mysterious clumps of matter

3 hours 42 min ago

Enlarge / Using images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered fast-moving, wave-like features in the dusty disc around the nearby star AU Microscopii. The top row shows a Hubble image of the AU Mic disc from 2010, the middle row Hubble from 2011, and the bottom row VLT/SPHERE data from 2014. The scale bar at the top of the picture indicates the diameter of the orbit of the planet Neptune (60 AU). The outer parts of the disc have been artificially brightened to reveal the faint structure. (credit: ESO)

A new, more detailed look at the star AU Microscopii has revealed some baffling behavior. The star was first discovered from a ground-based telescope back in the 1980s, before images from the Hubble Space Telescope showed that it was orbited by a debris disk. Some new images bring an unprecedented level of detail to the system—even more than Hubble, despite being another ground-based observation.

Previous observations of Microscopii’s debris disk, which is thought to be the remains of planet-forming material, discovered a peculiar series of variations in the intensity of the light passing through that disk. These variations were thought to be structures, clumps of stuff, all on one side of the disk as seen from Earth.

This unusual structure inspired a lot of interest in the system, as it raised suspicion that there might be planets there, perturbing the clumps. It became one of the first targets of the new SPHERE instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT). SPHERE specializes in high-contrast imaging, allowing the VLT to point toward a bright star and block out most of its light, revealing a more detailed view of the environment near the star.

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Android adware wields potent root exploits to gain permanent foothold

3 hours 57 min ago

Enlarge / In-the-wild samples of Kemoge impersonating well-known apps. (credit: FireEye)

Researchers have uncovered yet another Android-based adware campaign targeting people who download what they believe are trusted titles from websites and other third-party app stores.

The apps use repackaged icons to disguise themselves as popular titles and are offered for download through pop-up ads on visited websites and in-app promotions, according to a blog post published Wednesday by researchers from security firm FireEye. Once installed, the apps exploit as many as eight separate Android vulnerabilities that allow the apps to gain deep root access privileges. From there, the apps launch code libraries mimicking legitimate Android services, such as com.facebook.qdservice.rp.provider and, to gain a permanent foothold on infected phones.

FireEye researchers wrote:

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Kickstarter just launched its most useful crowdfunding project so far

4 hours 2 min ago

A syrian refugee camp in Jordan, as seen from a helicopter. (credit: US Department of State)

Humanitarianism isn't usually the first word we think of when discussing Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site best known for helping launch inventions. Then again, there's always a first for everything.

The Brooklyn-based crowdfunding project has begun its first social service campaign to raise money on behalf of Syrian refugees. As many as 12 million people have been displaced by the Syrian civil war, the White House said, and half of them are children.

The funding project, which commenced Tuesday at the White House's urging, has already raised nearly $1 million. The US government said it has already provided $4.5 billion in humanitarian assistance "to people affected by this conflict."

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How to stop your PS4 from pushing unwanted games to your home menu

4 hours 12 min ago

Hey, how did that get there? (credit: NeoGAF / MMaRsu)

Yesterday morning, NeoGAF user MMaRsu turned on his PlayStation 4 and saw an icon for Destiny expansion "The Taken King" sitting in the menu. That wouldn't be all that noteworthy, except for the fact that MMaRsu says he never actually purchased "The Taken King."

That icon wasn't a surprise gift from the Destiny fairy (or Sony, Activision, or Bungie, for that matter). It was more of an advertisement that, when selected, provided MMaRsu the opportunity to buy and play the game from the PlayStation store. And MMaRsu wasn't alone; Twitter users and other message board posters began complaining about the same unwanted icon appearing on their systems yesterday.

This kind of marketing intrusion into the home menu is new to most PS4 users, but it's not actually a novel thing for the system. In fact, the groundwork was laid over a year ago, when PS4 System Update version 1.75 added the capability for "featured content from the PlayStation Store [to be] automatically downloaded while the PS4 system is either powered on or in standby mode."

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Net neutrality on chopping block as Democrats fight to save FCC’s rules

4 hours 26 min ago

Net neutrality protest at the White House in November 2014. (credit: Stephen Melkisethian)

Senators Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) today said they will try to preserve the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules in a budget standoff with Republicans.

A Republican budget proposal that came out in June would prevent the FCC from enforcing its net neutrality rules until Internet providers who are suing the commission have exhausted all their legal options.

"ISPs are certainly free to file their suits but until they prevail, and I don’t believe they will, there is no basis for Republicans blocking the FCC from doing its job," Franken said in a press conference today.

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Pandora makes $450M acquisition so it can sell you live music tickets

4 hours 59 min ago

In the ongoing battle for streaming music supremacy, Pandora may be among the oldest services, but it also has the least differentiators. Apple Music offers radio channels, Rdio lets you choose your music, and Spotify gives you that on top of offline play. But Pandora for most of its time has settled for curated, related-listening style channels where users could skip a limited number of songs and fine-tune the auto-selection.

Today, however, Pandora announced an acquisition that could hint at a change. For $450 million in money and assets, the company purchased Ticketfly, one of the leading live music ticket sites competing against the LiveNation Ticketmaster behemoths.

“This is a game-changer for Pandora—and much more importantly—a game-changer for music,” said Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews in a press release. “Over the past 10 years, we have amassed the largest, most engaged audience in streaming music history. With Ticketfly, we will thrill music lovers and lift ticket sales for artists as the most effective marketplace for connecting music makers and fans.”

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Review: Nest Cam watches over your home so you don’t have to

6 hours 19 min ago

(credit: Valentina Palladino)

Nest Cam is Alphabet's way of fully folding the Dropcam brand into its smart home ecosystem. Nest acquired Dropcam in 2014, and almost exactly a year later, it's launching a newer, better version of the home security camera. While Nest still supports existing Dropcams with its software, it wants to entice the newly smart home curious with a tiny Wi-Fi-connected camera that's a no-brainer to use and that quietly watches over your home without much input on your part.

But while it's simple to set up and use, the $199 Nest Cam is like most other Wi-Fi security cameras in that it's limited by a subscription paywall that prevents you from using some of its best features unless you pay up. Surveillance doesn't come cheap, but Nest Cam does have solid features that make it a decent security camera and an even better watchful eye.


Dropcam slimmed down, at least in frame, to become Nest Cam. The neck of the device, which connects the bulbous camera head to its magnetic base, is much thinner than the Dropcam Pro's. The pivot joint is more adjustable, too, allowing you to turn the cam sideways and tilt it up and down to get the best angle to view the room it's in. You can twist the back of the device's head to spin the lens and the indicator light a full 360 degrees.

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VW to begin diesel recall in January, should wrap up by year end

7 hours 28 min ago

(credit: Flickr)

Beleaguered German car manufacturer Volkswagen will begin the largest recall in its history for vehicles that have been affected by the diesel emissions test scandal. The recall will begin in the new year once German authorities have approved the company's plans to fix the cars, according the The Wall Street Journal. The recall is expected to be complete by the end of 2016.

In an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, new Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller said that while the company hopes to fix all affected European cars by the end of 2016, it is still waiting for approval from the Environmental Protection Agency before the same recall can happen in the US. A software update would work for most cars, but other vehicles would require new fuel injection equipment and catalytic converters, he added.

As many as 11 million diesel cars worldwide have been equipped with software allegedly used to cheat emissions tests. Volkswagen faces a mountain of costs and damage claims in addition to the recall, following an investigation by the US environmental regulator last month. The company has set aside €6.5 billion ($7.27 billion) to cover costs as a result of the scandal.

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Elon Musk hints at Tesla Model Y with falcon-wing doors

7 hours 39 min ago

Elon Musk, the world's greatest one-man PR machine, has hinted at the existence of another Tesla: the Model Y.

Musk revealed the information in a tweet last week, which he quickly deleted. Musk had taken to Twitter following the début of the Model X—Tesla's SUV with falcon-wing rear doors. A fan tweeted at Musk, saying she would love for the Model 3 to have falcon-wing doors as well. Somewhat surprisingly, Musk responded with: "There will be a Model 3 and a Model Y. One of the two will."

At this point, we're fairly certain the Model 3 won't have falcon-wing doors; all signs point to it being a smaller, cheaper version of the Model S. It would follow, then, that the Model Y might be a smaller, cheaper version of the Model X. Tesla trademarked the name "Model Y" back in 2013, around the same time that it trademarked the Model E.

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Verizon’s zombie cookie gets new life

8 hours 59 min ago

(credit: Robert Scoble)

Verizon is giving a new mission to its controversial hidden identifier that tracks users of mobile devices. Verizon said in a little-noticed announcement that it will soon begin sharing the profiles with AOL's ad network, which in turn monitors users across a large swath of the Internet.

That means AOL's ad network will be able to match millions of Internet users to their real-world details gathered by Verizon, including "your gender, age range and interests." AOL's network is on 40 percent of websites, including on ProPublica.

AOL will also be able to use data from Verizon's identifier to track the apps that mobile users open, what sites they visit, and for how long. Verizon purchased AOL earlier this year.

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If Apple didn’t hold $181B overseas, it would owe $59B in US taxes

9 hours 58 min ago

(credit: 401(K) 2012)

More than any other American company, Apple holds $181.1 billion in offshore accounts, according to a Tuesday report released by Citizens for Tax Justice, an advocacy group.

Other major American tech firms—including Cisco, Google, Hewlett-Packard, and Oracle—are among the largest companies that are using legal but questionable tax tricks to keep money overseas and effectively pay little to no American federal corporate taxes.

Citizens for Tax Justice concluded: "Multinational corporations’ use of tax havens allows them to avoid an estimated $90 billion in federal income taxes each year."

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“Teledildonics” patent troll backs down from lawsuit against Kickstarter

10/6/2015 7:23pm

The Frebble, a haptic device that enables "online hand-holding," was sued for allegedly infringing a cybersex patent. (credit:

A patent troll that sued several small companies offering "cybersex" products has backed away from its largest target, the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

TZU Technologies filed six lawsuits in June, mostly against manufacturers of computing-enabled sex toys. One of the defendants, Holland Haptics, was a Kickstarter project whose product, the "Frebble," allows for a more tame form of interaction, proffering a kind of simple online "hand-holding." TZU said both Holland Haptics and Kickstarter were infringing its patent, numbered 6,368,268.

Kickstarter refused to pay a "nuisance" settlement demand, preferring instead to litigate the case on principle. On the same day Kickstarter was going to file its response to the lawsuit, TZU offered a "walkaway" settlement in which Kickstarter would pay it nothing, as long as it signed a confidentiality agreement. Again, Kickstarter refused.

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Hands on: the new Lumia flagships are competent, Continuum is cool

10/6/2015 6:13pm

Lots of products revealed: Surface Pro 4, Band 2, Lumia 950 and Continuum dock. Video shot and edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

As a spec sheet exercise, the new Lumia flagships, the 1.8GHz six core Snapdragon 808-powered Lumia 950, and the 2GHz eight core 810-powered Lumia 950 XL, do all the things they're meant to do. With a 5.2 or 5.7 inch AMOLED screen, respectively, a 2560×1440 resolution, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, microSD expansion, 20MP optically stabilized rear and 5MP front cameras, and the usual array of sensors, they solidly fit in the "high-end" category.

Their most exciting features aren't simple specs, however. They're Windows features: Hello biometric logins, and Continuum.

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Far Cry Primal coming to XB1/PS4 February 23, PC in March

10/6/2015 5:23pm

Forget Louie in the back over there; save yourself! (credit: Ubisoft)

On Monday, Ubisoft posted a bunch of vague cave-painting images and videos on its social media feeds, hinting at an impending announcement. It didn't take long for fans and media outlets to guess that it would be related to the company's open-world shooting series Far Cry, and that hunch was confirmed on Tuesday with the official reveal of next year's Far Cry Primal.

Much like Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, this spinoff entry in the series transports the series' general gameplay formula to an entirely new, unrelated location and era—though this time, instead of a neon-soaked warp to a violent super-future full of robotic dinosaurs, Far Cry Primal will take players to a prehistoric era that, according to today's new teaser trailer, will be inhabited by saber-tooth tigers and wooly mammoths.

Far Cry Primal teaser.

The teaser showed off rudimentary, handmade weapons like spears and bows, and the game's announcement mentioned the need to craft other tools, make use of fire for protection, and guard fellow tribespeople, so we may finally see the Far Cry series resemble the growing field of open-world-survival games that have been dominating PC sales charts lately (ARK: Survival Evolved, The Long Dark, et al).

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Hands-on: The Surface Book is a laptop. But it’s also a tablet.

10/6/2015 4:55pm

Video shot and edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

Almost as soon as Microsoft announced the Surface RT and Surface Pro in 2012, there was an immediate reaction: "OK, that's sort of nice, I guess, but when will there be a Surface laptop?"

There's never been any doubt about the Surface line's build quality, attention to detail, and aesthetics. But for many of us, a tablet with a kickstand and separate keyboard lacks an essential quality: lapability. The Surface Pro 3's variable-position kickstand and more secure magnetic keyboard attachment meant that the thing could be used on your lap at a pinch, but it never had the stability or convenience of a true laptop with a stiff hinge, and no matter how much Microsoft claimed it to be a laptop replacement, it wasn't.

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Time Warner Cable promises to stop acting like a cable company

10/6/2015 4:38pm

Time Warner Cable has a reputation for providing bad customer service, which isn't unusual for a cable company. But TWC promised to fix its shortcomings in an open letter to customers published in major newspapers this past weekend.

"We get it. We know how you feel about cable companies. We’ve seen where Time Warner Cable falls on customer satisfaction surveys and we know the 'cable guy' jokes by heart," the company said.

TWC yesterday reprinted the letter on the company blog and issued a press release describing some of the improvements it has made and plans to make. "We hear you loud and clear. We’re changing," the press release said.

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Metal Gear Solid 5 FOB insurance: The worst kind of microtransaction

10/6/2015 4:20pm

Metal Gear Online, the squad-based multiplayer part of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, goes live today, and with it comes a whole host of madcap microtransactions. The most galling of the bunch is the "FOB insurance service," which guarantees that players will be compensated for any losses due to attacks on their Forward Operating Base in multiplayer. Exact pricing for the insurance (which uses MB Coins that can be bought with real-world money), has not yet been revealed.

Event FOB missions—which see players raid another player's base—are ostensibly a big part of MGSV's multiplayer, so it's rather odd that Konami is offering insurance that can render the whole thing pointless. Sure, the raiding party will still get their stuff, but then the raided party will get to keep what's stolen, which throws the whole in-game economy into what is likely to be total apocalyptic chaos and a complete breakdown of the moral fabric of MGSV multiplayer. Maybe.

FOB insurance isn't a one-off payment either, with players required to renew the virtual insurance policy periodically in order to remain protected. Just like real-life, not everything will be covered by the policy either, including abducted staff being held in the Brig; wounded staff (although, staff lost due to death or extraction will be compensated); staff used in defence of the FOB; and nuclear weapons.

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