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The Art of Technology
Updated: 1 hour 23 min ago

Eight days later, Bungie leaving disconnected Destiny players stranded

1 hour 57 min ago

While opinions have been mixed on Destiny, Bungie's first post-Halo video game, most impressions and reviews of the game thus far—including our own—have at least praised its online stability. That's no small feat for an always-online game, especially in its first week, but error reports are beginning to accumulate from Destiny players across all four of the game's consoles.

There's a reason for that: Bungie launched its "shared world shooter" without much of a customer support structure in place. Eight days after launch, users who haven't been able to connect—including one of Ars Technica's own contributors, who still can't get online with an Xbox 360 copy of the game—have exhausted all of the suggestions listed at At that point, those users are directed to visit Bungie's forums, "staffed by community mentors who are here to help you."

The end result is a funneling of complaints to a forum whose topics are broken down not by official categories but by hashtags. With nothing in the way of a trackable "ticket" system or a customer service hotline, users are stuck with a "#help" page that is currently dominated by topic titles like "I've Given Up on Destiny and Got My Refund; Here's Why Maybe You Should Too" and "Bungie Please Give Us Info."

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Artificial sweeteners may leave their users glucose intolerant

2 hours 10 min ago
Flickr user Bukowsky18

People who are watching their weight will often opt for a diet soda, reasoning that the fewer calories, the better. But the availability of drinks and foods made with artificial sweeteners like saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame hasn't seemed to help much with our booming obesity levels. Now, some researchers might have identified a reason for this: the sweeteners leave their users with elevated blood glucose levels. But they don't seem to act directly on human metabolism. Instead, the effects come through alterations in the bacterial populations that live inside us.

The paper that describes this work, which was performed by a large collaboration of researchers from Israel, is being released by Nature today. The researchers note that epidemiological studies about the effects of artificial sweeteners have produced mixed results; some show a benefit, while others indicate that they're associated with weight gain and diabetes risk. Given that human populations haven't given us a clear answer, the researchers turned to mice, where they could do a carefully controlled study.

They started taking a group of genetically matched mice and spiking their drinking water with either sucrose or a commercial prep of an artificial sweetener (either saccharin, sucralose, or aspartame). After five weeks, they checked the blood glucose levels of these animals. Eleven weeks later, the groups that were given the artificial sweeteners all had elevated blood glucose levels compared to those that received sucrose. This is typically a sign of metabolic problems, most often caused by insulin losing its effectiveness. It can be a precursor to type 2 diabetes.

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Senior IT worker at top tech law firm arrested for insider trading

2 hours 21 min ago

A senior IT employee with the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati has been arrested for grabbing the firm's confidential client information and using it to trade stocks.

FBI agents arrested 41-year-old Dimitry Braverman at his San Mateo, California, home on Tuesday morning, according to a report in the New York Law Journal. He was released on a $500,000 bond secured by $100,000 cash.

That same day, the SEC filed a civil suit against Braverman. He's accused of loading up on stock and stock options over a three-year period for companies involved in eight pending transactions. After the transactions, he sold the stock or used his options, reaping about $297,000 in profits.

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Japan stuck in some kind of time warp, still loves music CDs

2 hours 39 min ago
The Tower Records store in Shibuya, Japan. Wikipedia

After the United States, Japan is the second largest music market in the world. And while the country is usually seen as an early adopter of new technology, digital music sales haven't taken off. In total, 85 percent of music in Japan is purchased on a flat, plastic circle called a "compact disc" or "CD."

The New York Times takes a look at Japan's music situation, which surprisingly trails the rest of the world in the move to online distribution. Japan's online music sales are actually going down—online sales have gone from almost $1 billion in 2009 to just $400 million last year.

Japan has proven a tough nut to crack for the music industry's move to online, with the chairman of the Universal Music Group saying “Japan is utterly totally unique." Part of the reason CD sales are still going strong is Japanese culture's love of collecting things. There's also a general "protectionist business climate" within the Japanese music industry, which is suspicious of digital sales. (Where have we heard that before?)

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You thought this year was bad: Sony predicts $2.1B loss in fiscal 2015

3 hours 4 min ago
Sony's Xperia Z. Andrew Cunningham

This fiscal year, Sony announced that it lost over $1.2 billion. According to revised forecasting, the company is on pace to lose nearly double that figure by the end of the following fiscal year, largely due to lackluster sales of its mobile phones.

According to a new document released by the Japanese corporate giant on Wednesday, the company will lose $2.1 billion during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2015.

During the 2013 fiscal year, Sony managed to profit $435 million, its first profit in years. Overall, the company has missed profits in six of the last seven years. If the upcoming $2.1 billion in net losses prediction proves to be correct, Sony will have sustained over $12 billion in losses in eight years.

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iOS 8 over-the-air updates are rolling out now

3 hours 43 min ago
iOS 8 has been released to the public. Andrew Cunningham

As promised at the iPhone 6 unveiling last week, Apple has just released iOS 8 to current iDevice users with compatible hardware. The software arrives two days ahead of the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and it's available either as an over-the-air update or through iTunes. The update should be available for the iPhone 4S, 5, 5C, and 5S; all iPads except the first-generation model; the fifth-generation iPod Touch; and both revisions of the third-generation Apple TV.

You can read pretty much everything there is to know about iOS 8 in our main review, but suffice it to say this is a big update. The headlining features include the new extensions, Continuity features that make your iDevices work more seamlessly with one another, improvements to many core applications, Family Sharing accounts that allow you to share purchases between different Apple IDs at no extra cost, and more.

Our tests indicate that the update didn't have adverse effects on battery life, and, for almost all current iOS users, it's a no-brainer. However, if you're using older devices with an Apple A5 chip—the iPhone 4S, iPad 2, non-Retina iPad Mini, and the iPod Touch—you may want to read our posts about those specific devices to decide whether the added features outweigh performance problems we ran into. You'll still probably want to update, but we wouldn't blame you if you wanted to wait for some performance-enhancing updates from Apple.

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Researchers create a one-dimensional crystal

3 hours 50 min ago

Graphene, a sheet of carbon one atom thick, has properties that are distinct from other forms of carbon—even graphite, which is just a bulk collection of graphene sheets. That's prompted researchers to look into other forms of what are called two-dimensional materials (at an atom thick, the third dimension isn't counted). And now, they've started experimenting with one-dimensional materials, which are essentially a line of single atoms.

Unfortunately, single atoms aren't especially cooperative about getting in line. Even stable crystals, like those formed by a salt, stay together in part because there are multiple interaction partners for each atom that stabilize the structure. Putting atoms in a line gets rid of most of these interactions, leaving the remaining ones unstable.

But researchers have figured out a way around this problem: they've managed to pack a line of atoms inside a carbon nanotube. Having chosen cesium iodide for their work, they simply had to pick a diameter that was larger than the atoms (over 3.4 Angstroms) but smaller than you'd need to put two atoms side-by-side (less than 8 Angstroms). They chose double-walled carbon nanotubes and loaded them with CsI simply by vaporizing the chemical under pressure.

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Senators opposing net neutrality rake in more campaign cash

3 hours 54 min ago
FamZoo Staff

Senators who have vocalized their opposition to net neutrality are taking in, on average, 40 percent more campaign cash from the broadband-delivery industry than those who support it, according to an analysis of campaign data.

The data (XLSX)—a Maplight analysis of campaign contributions prepared for Ars Technica—highlights the disparity between what the monied Washington interests want compared to the public's desires. Most of the 800,000 initial public comments to the Federal Communications Commission backed the FCC adopting net neutrality rules. The commission is weighing whether to enact regulations that, among other things, could prevent broadband providers from charging for Internet fast lanes. The public commenting period ended Monday.

What the commission will do is anybody's guess, but the political money so far is lining up against net neutrality. No vote date has been set.

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Google’s rumored Android Silver program is reportedly dead

4 hours 3 min ago

Google's reportedly real Android Silver program is now reportedly dead. According to The Information, Google is shelving the project.

Android Silver was supposed to get high-end stock Android phones into the hands of users, sort of like the Nexus program, but in a way that was more mainstream and inclusive of the rest of the industry. Silver would have given big ad dollars to OEMs and carriers in exchange for sticking to Google's guidelines. Just like Nexus phones, Google would handle the software and updates, and it would be up to OEMs to create "premium" hardware. The program was expected to launch in the US, Germany, and Japan as early as next year, but now it seems like that isn't happening.

The Information pegs the July departure of Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora as the reason for the program's cancellation. Arora was the program's primary champion inside of Google, and with the 10 year Google veteran leaving for Softbank, the program's momentum fizzled.

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New e-mail shows “stingray” maker may have lied to FCC back in 2010

4 hours 9 min ago
The 15 states in which the ACLU knows that police use cell phone tracking devices. ACLU

A newly published e-mail from 2010 shows that Harris Corporation, one of the best-known makers of cellular surveillance systems, told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that its purpose "is only to provide state/local law enforcement officials with authority to utilize this equipment in emergency situations."

That e-mail was among 27 pages of e-mails that were part of the company’s application to get FCC authorization to sell the device in the United States. Neither the FCC nor Harris Corporation immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment, and Harris traditionally stays mum on its operations.

"We do not comment on solutions we may or may not provide to classified Department of Defense or law enforcement agencies," Jim Burke, a spokesman for Harris, told Ars last month.

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Air Force funds pocket-sized drone for surveilling tight spaces

4 hours 22 min ago
Technology from the Extreme Access System for Entry, a tethered drone developed by CyPhy Works and tested by the Army, is being applied to an even smaller drone for the Air Force. CyPhy Works

The US Air Force has awarded a contract to CyPhy Works, a Danvers, Massachusetts-based startup led by CEO (and iRobot co-founder) Helen Greiner. CyPhy will design and deliver a pocket-sized drone for use in search and rescue operations in collapsed buildings, tunnels, and other confined spaces and steep grades that may be difficult for crawling robots to negotiate. The drone, called the Extreme Access Pocket Flyer, will also provide a way to search for improvised explosive devices and conduct surveillance of tunnels and other spaces without the use of radio frequency controls.

An illustration of the Extreme Access Pocket Flyer released by CyPhy Works. CyPhy Works The Pocket Flyer will carry a panoramic camera that provides both a 360-degree view from the drone. The tiny hexacopter, which measures about seven inches across when fully configured, is based on technology already demonstrated in CyPhy Works' Extreme Access System for Entry (EASE) and Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) flying robot (a tethered, self-flying quadrocopter that provides both remote-controlled high-resolution video and a wireless communications relay capability). The EASE drone in action at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

Like CyPhy's other flyers, the Pocket Flyer is connected to a microfilament tether that provides power and Ethernet networking to the aircraft. This lets the drone control high-resolution video feeds from its onboard camera. In the case of the Pocket Flyer, the tether limits its range to 400 feet from the operator. But the tether also gives the aircraft virtually unlimited flight time—the portable base station for the Pocket Flyer has hot-swappable batteries that last for two hours each, or it can be plugged into another power source and flown indefinitely.

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Popular financial trojan Citadel gets a makeover as a corporate spy

4 hours 49 min ago
Courtesy of IBM Trusteer

The Citadel trojan, a popular program used by cybercriminals to gather banking credentials and steal money from accounts, has become the latest financial malware to be repurposed as a tool to steal industrial secrets—this time from petrochemical companies in the Middle East.

During mid-summer, unknown attackers used the program to gather data, including e-mail messages and credentials, from the firms, IBM Trusteer stated in an analysis published on Monday. The company's researchers identified Citadel as the malware used to infect and steal data from the companies, which included "one of the largest sellers of petrochemical products in the Middle East and a regional supplier of raw petrochemical materials," the analysis stated.

The attack shows that either cybercriminals are branching out into stealing valuable industrial secrets or that industrial and nation-state spies are using off-the-shelf malware and opportunistic infections to gather sensitive information, says Dana Tamir, director of enterprise security for IBM Trusteer.

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Senators cave to industry, abandon unbundling of broadcast TV channels

5 hours 19 min ago

The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote today on a satellite bill without a controversial provision that would have let cable and satellite customers choose which broadcast TV channels they pay for instead of having to buy them all in a bundle.

The “Local Choice” proposal by US Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD) had been attached to the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA), a reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act which lets satellite companies retransmit out-of-market broadcast TV channels to rural customers.

Rockefeller and Thune argued that the proposal would prevent blackouts caused by failed negotiations between TV broadcasters and pay-TV companies, such as one that led Time Warner Cable to temporarily black out CBS last year in protest of CBS price hikes. Pay-TV companies would have to offer broadcast channels to subscribers at prices set by the broadcasters and pass the fees they collect back to the TV stations.

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A slide into obsolescence: iOS 8 on the iPad 2

7 hours 40 min ago
iOS 8 doesn't make a huge difference, visually, save a few small points."xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});In case you've been so content with your iPad 2 over the last few years that you've drifted away from paying attention to the Apple product cycle, here is some six-month-old news: Apple finally stopped selling the iPad 2 model back in March. After it hung on at the bottom of the tablet product line for a couple of years to be a rock for the education and corporate markets, Apple kicked the iPad 2 out and resurrected the iPad 4 as the new full-size budget model.

But for now, Apple is continuing to update the iPad 2, in part because it has so much in common with the non-retina iPad mini, including the Apple A5 processor and 1024x768 display. But the iPad 2 hung around so long because it's also a legacy device. There are students depending on updates, as well as companies who used the iPad as a default device, like Square.

iOS 7 didn't do a whole lot of damage to the iPad 2, and even improved it in some aspects, like how fast the browser could load webpages. But this time around, the new version of iOS 8 appears to make the start of a much bigger decline, not only in performance, but in appearance.

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iOS 8 on the iPhone 4S: Performance isn’t the (only) problem

7 hours 43 min ago
The iPhone 4S. I remember when this was the one that made my old phone feel slow. Andrew Cunningham"xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});iPhones have about a year to be top-of-the-line. Then they have a year to be the modest-but-capable midrange model. After that, they become the free-with-contract choice. And then, in their last year, they enter that no-man's-land where they're still getting software updates but are no longer being sold.

2014 is the year the iPhone 4S was told to pack up its things and move to the retirement home. As a going away present, Apple gave it iOS 8, which in all likelihood will be the last major version upgrade it gets.

For the last two years, we've taken the oldest phone supported by each new iOS update and looked at what you stand to gain (and lose) by installing the update. We were impressed by iOS 6 on the iPhone 3GS, but iOS 7 on the iPhone 4 came with some serious compromises. The 4S has stayed pretty speedy over the years, but how does iOS 8 treat it?

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iOS 8, thoroughly reviewed

7 hours 47 min ago
iOS 8 is here, and it's a big deal. Andrew Cunningham

"Huge for developers. Massive for everyone else."

That was Apple's tagline for iOS 8 when the software was announced at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference back in June. Overuse of hyperbole is a pet peeve of mine, but after using iOS 8 for a couple of months, I have to say that they're warranted in this case. iOS 7 was a comprehensive makeover for an operating system that needed to reclaim visual focus and consistency. iOS 7.1 improved stability and speed while addressing the new design's worst shortcomings and most egregious excesses. And iOS 8 is the update that turns its attention from the way everything looks to the way it works."xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});Just as iOS 6's look had begun to grow stale by the time 2013 rolled around (six years is a pretty good run, though), iOS' restrictions on third-party applications and UI customization now feel outdated. Sure, back in 2007, slow processors and small RAM banks required a strict, Spartan approach to what apps could do and the ways they could interact. But now, our smartphones and tablets have become powerful mini-computers in their own right. Competing platforms like Android, Windows, and Windows Phone have all demonstrated that it's possible to make these little gadgets more computer-y without tanking performance or battery life.

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Android Browser flaw a “privacy disaster” for half of Android users

9/16/2014 7:00pm
Thanks to a bug in the Android Browser, your cookies aren't safe. Surian Soosay

A bug quietly reported on September 1 appears to have grave implications for Android users. Android Browser, the open source, WebKit-based browser that used to be part of the Android Open Source Platform (AOSP), has a flaw that enables malicious sites to inject JavaScript into other sites. Those malicious JavaScripts can in turn read cookies and password fields, submit forms, grab keyboard input, or do practically anything else.

Browsers are generally designed to prevent a script from one site from being able to access content from another site. They do this by enforcing what is called the Same Origin Policy (SOP): scripts can only read or modify resources (such as the elements of a webpage) that come from the same origin as the script, where the origin is determined by the combination of scheme (which is to say, protocol, typically HTTP or HTTPS), domain, and port number.

The SOP should then prevent a script loaded from http://malware.bad/ from being able to access content at

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Why T-Mobile needs Wi-Fi calling: its network can’t match AT&T and Verizon

9/16/2014 6:30pm
T-Mobile's "data strong network." T-Mobile

T-Mobile US’ latest “Un-carrier” move is just about the most amazing thing ever, CEO John Legere said last week.

“This is like adding millions of towers to our network in a single day,” Legere boasted in a press release. “The difference between us and the traditional carriers is that they’ll do everything they can to make more money off you. We’ll do everything we can to solve your problems.”

The innovation is actually something that T-Mobile has had since 2007: Wi-Fi calling. It makes sense for T-Mobile to promote Wi-Fi calling now, given that Apple is adding the capability to iPhones in iOS 8. The initiative has some nice benefits for customers—T-Mobile offered to upgrade all customers to phones that can make Wi-Fi calls and is giving out a free “Personal CellSpot,” a Wi-Fi router that prioritizes voice calls.

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Apple’s two-factor authentication now protects iCloud backups

9/16/2014 5:47pm

Apple has put fixes in place to its iCloud cloud storage service that now prevent an attacker from mining data from an iOS device backup stored in the cloud by gaining access to the user’s password—at least if that user has turned on Apple’s new two-factor authentication.

As we reported last week, iCloud previously did not use two-factor authentication to help protect backup data or the Find My iPhone service. This meant that the accounts of victims of social engineering attacks or those who used passwords based on personal data could be harvested of their backup data—allowing the attacker to gain access to photos, call records, SMS records, e-mail, and other personal data. Apple had said that it was moving to provide additional protection through two-factor authentication in advance of the release of iOS 8.

We tried accessing one of the accounts attacked during our testing just prior to the Apple event last week using Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker, a forensic tool that uses a reverse-engineered version of Apple’s iOS backup protocols to extract backup data from an iCloud account. The account now has two-factor authentication turned on, and the attempt failed—it yielded an unspecified HTTP error.

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US law would safeguard free-speech rights to criticize business online

9/16/2014 5:35pm

A member of the House of Representatives is offering legislation that would make it illegal for businesses to take action against consumers who write "honest" negative reviews online about products and services.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) told the National Journal that the forthcoming measure would make it illegal for companies to have non-disparagement clauses in their consumer contracts.

"It's un-American that any consumer would be penalized for writing an honest review," Swalwell said. "I'm introducing this legislation to put a stop to this egregious behavior so people can share honest reviews without fear of litigation."

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