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The Art of Technology
Updated: 2 hours 55 min ago

Dealmaster: Buy Fallout 4, get a $25 gift card

9/3/2015 3:20pm

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, the Dealmaster is back with a big list of deals for your consideration. Today's top item is Fallout 4 on PS4, Xbox One, or PC plus a $25 dell gift card for $59.99. That's the normal price, but with the gift card you could get something cool from the Dell store.

Featured Labor Day Gaming Deals


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After outcry, “edutainment” game removes slave-Tetris mode

9/3/2015 1:46pm

In recent years, online video game store Steam has exploded with more games thanks to looser release rules. This has happened in large part thanks to store subsections like Early Release, where unfinished games can be sold with giant asterisks attached, and Steam Greenlight, where fan votes can dictate which games get approved for the store.

Still, the growing deluge of Steam games is so huge that even questionable stuff can sit on the store for months at a time. A recent 25 percent sale on the Steam version of Playing History 2: Slave Trade brought the game back into the limelight—especially its trailer video, which showcased a "slave Tetris" mode. On Monday, following wider reactions from users on Steam and social media, the creator removed that mode from both the trailer and the game itself, explaining on Twitter and Steam that "it was perceived to be extremely insensitive by some people."

The mode, which can still be seen in Let's Play videos captured before the game's update, flatly asked players to stack dead-eyed African bodies that had been squished into uncomfortable Tetris shapes into a slave ship. (The mode's instructions included an oddly rhetorical question: "How come the slave traders were so inhumane?") Players didn't try to "clear" the board by creating full lines; instead, they accumulated points for fitting more bodies onto the ship before reaching its top line. The mode concluded with an informational note about slaves being "packed to use every square millimeter."

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eBay seller who sued over negative feedback dinged $19k in legal fees

9/3/2015 1:40pm

When Med Express sued Amy Nicholls for giving negative feedback on eBay, she didn't back down and remove the feedback. Instead, she lawyered up, acquiring pro bono counsel with help from Paul Levy at Public Citizen, who's been called "the Web Bully's worst enemy."

Med Express founder Richard Radey quickly backed down and apologized, but it didn't sit well. "Problem is, I don't believe a word of what he says," Levy told Ars in 2013. Radey had a history of such lawsuits. Levy sought sanctions and attorneys' fees.

That battle has, at long last, been won. A Medina County, Ohio, judge ruled (PDF) this week that Med Express and Radey must pay $19,250 to Tom Haren and Jeffrey Nye, the two Ohio lawyers who represented Nicholls and one other defendant. Levy worked on the case pro bono and sought no fees.

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I met my first girlfriend through Windows 95: An Internet love story

9/3/2015 1:00pm

Nearly 19 years ago, I said "I love you" to a girl, face-to-face, for the first time. It's a moment I remember clearly: Flowers. A ring. An awkward kiss. Both of our moms hovering around since each had driven us three hours to a halfway point.ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x251", kws:["bottom"], collapse: true}]);

It was weird like any early teenage romance, but this particular iteration of adolescent awkwardness remains unique even in retrospect.

My "I love you moment"—like any sense memories from my teenage years of 1996-98—mostly revolves around my bedroom. Here I hid from the feeling that I didn’t fit in at my high school, from feeling inferior to my siblings, from my parents’ dissolving marriage. And luckily I had quite the hiding place: a nook on the room’s far wall, sectioned off in such a way that the light from a single window, the sound from a nearby stereo, and the glow from an overweight CRT monitor filled the whole space.

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Union says Verizon spends $3.50 per year maintaining each landline

9/3/2015 12:40pm

A union representing Verizon workers has called for investigations into whether the company is allowing its copper phone and DSL networks to deteriorate.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) said it is sending letters to regulators in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, DC. The union, which is trying to pressure Verizon while it negotiates a new contract, pointed to a Verizon statement that the telco has spent $200 million on its copper network since 2008.

"$200 million represents 0.39 percent of the $50.7 billion Verizon spent on its wireline network from 2008 to 2014," the CWA said.

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Kyoto Protocol program may have boosted waste greenhouse gas production

9/3/2015 12:21pm

A recent paper published in Nature Climate Change describes how some Russian projects operating under the auspices of Kyoto Protocol’s Joint Implementation mechanism have increased waste greenhouse gas generation to unprecedented levels. These findings indicate that perverse incentives created by an emissions credit system are undermining some of the environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol’s initiatives. Better regulatory oversight is needed to ensure that the intent of the agreement is adhered to.

In 2005, the Kyoto Protocol established two project-based initiatives, the Clean Development Mechanism for emission reductions projects in developing countries, and the Joint Implementation for projects in industrialized countries. The latter covers Russia and most European Union countries, as well as a few others.

These initiatives provide emission reduction credits to companies if they eliminate any greenhouse gasses that are produced as waste. But revenues that companies receive from these credits can easily exceed the cost of reducing the waste in the first place. Ironically, this creates incentives for companies to increase production of these gases beyond the market demand for them, provided those gasses are not vented into the environment.

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Intel’s Skylake lineup is robbing us of the performance king we deserve

9/3/2015 12:09pm

Intel's range of sixth-generation Core processors, codenamed Skylake, is now public. And boy, am I disappointed.

Most of the fifth-generation Core processors have successors, at least approximately. The Broadwell generation's rollout was slow and messy, with Intel apparently struggling to get its 14nm manufacturing process as refined and as reliable as it wanted. The announced Skylake lineup is more complete, and it shouldn't take so long to come to market, so that's an improvement. But amid all that Broadwell mess was a truly monstrous chip: an almost mythical beast, the Core i7 5775C. What made this part so special? It paired two features. One is mundane: the processor is socketed rather than soldered, meaning that enthusiasts can use it in self-built systems, pairing it with the precise range of components that they want.

The other is rather more exotic: the chip has Iris Pro graphics, and with it, 128MB of eDRAM. Crack open the processor and it has not one big chip in its package but two, with the eDRAM nestled alongside the processor itself. The RAM is primarily there to accelerate graphics operations, but Intel's design means that it is not dedicated to this task. For Broadwell, it functions as a large, high bandwidth level 4 cache (the other 3 levels being part of the processor chip itself). Skylake shakes up the design somewhat, changing the topology and allowing the eDRAM to cache even more stuff, but the effect is still the same: a monstrously large cache for a mainstream commodity processor.

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Many new top-level domains have become Internet’s “bad neighborhoods” [Updated]

9/3/2015 11:22am

There were many who warned that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' (ICANN) decision to allow a host of new commercial generic top-level Internet domains was going to create a huge opportunity for Internet scammers and hackers. The approval of top-level domains (TLDs) beyond those assigned to countries and generic ones such as .com, .org, and .net created an opportunity, some in the security industry warned, for criminals to set up "look-alike" domains in the new namespace that aped legitimate sites already registered in .com or elsewhere.

Well, the warnings were spot-on. Based on data just published (PDF) by the network security and deep packet inspection tool vendor Blue Coat, that's exactly what happened: some of the new "neighborhoods" open for name registration have become almost exclusively the domain of people setting up hosts for spam e-mailing, scams, shady software downloads, malware distribution, botnet operations and "phishing" attacks, or other suspicious content. One hundred percent of sites accessed with the .zip and .review TLD that had been scanned and added to Blue Coat's domain database were classified by Blue Coat's researchers as "shady."

Of course, these rankings may be distorted by the fact that there are so few records in Blue Coat's database for these domains—.zip isn't even officially available yet from domain registrars, so it's not clear how there were any records for it at all. Update: A Google spokesperson (and many others) reached out to Ars to point out that .ZIP has never been publicly released, which we noted earlier.  The only site currently sporting an actual .zip domain is Google's site advertising the TLD. A Blue Coat spokesperson pointed to a blog post from the company today that clarifies how .zip got on the "shady" list:

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Pre-event Apple rumor roundup: A song of iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs

9/3/2015 11:16am

Apple’s September 9 product event is still several days away, but the ebb and flow of the great Rumor River has brought us many tidings ahead of time. Nothing is ever certain until Apple announces it, but when you get this close to a product reveal, the leaks get more accurate and it gets easier to separate truth from fiction.

The current scuttlebutt is that this event will revolve around three product lines. A routine iPhone bump and a more powerful Apple TV with better software and an App Store are supposedly sure things. That fabled “iPad Pro” could make an appearance, too, but it’s apparently still up in the air. And don’t get your hopes up about new Macs—despite Intel’s new Skylake processors, rumors say we won’t be getting refreshes just yet.

The “iPhone 6S,” “6S Plus,” and the rest of the lineup Apple's new iPhones will probably look a lot like the old ones. Andrew Cunningham

Apple is keeping the same basic design for this year’s iPhone refreshes, something that shouldn’t surprise anyone who pays attention to these things. Changes to the body will supposedly be limited to a new “rose gold” color option and the use of 7000-series aluminum, the kind used for the Sport version of the Apple Watch. This will supposedly make the new iPhones infinitesimally thicker but will prevent the bending problems that some people ran into with the originals.

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Pwn2Own loses HP as its sponsor amid new cyberweapon restrictions

9/3/2015 10:57am

The next scheduled Pwn2Own hacking competition has lost Hewlett-Packard as its longstanding sponsor amid legal concerns that the company could run afoul of recent changes to an international treaty that governs software exploits.

Dragos Ruiu, organizer of both Pwn2Own and the PacSec West security conference in Japan, said HP lawyers spent more than $1 million researching the recent changes to the so-called Wassenaar Arrangement. He said they ultimately concluded that the legal uncertainty and compliance hurdles were too high for them to move forward.

"I am left being kind of grumpy now that HP is not involved," Ruiu told Ars. He said that he plans to organize a scaled-down hacking competition to fill the void at this year's conference, which is scheduled for November 11 and 12.

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Samsung unveils world’s first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc player

9/3/2015 10:04am

Oooh... curvy. Samsung's new UBS-K8500 UHD Blu-ray disc player.

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ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x251", kws:["bottom"], collapse: true}]);BERLIN—Samsung has debuted the world's first ultra high-definition (UHD) Blu-ray player at IFA, the catchily titled UBS-K8500. Sporting a curved design to go along with the company's many curved TVs, the UBS-K8500 promises to play back movies at four times the resolution of standard Blu-ray discs, and with a colour palette that's 64 times larger (10-bit vs. 8-bit colour). Samsung's new UHD Blu-ray player will also support the new high dynamic range (HDR) standard via its HDMI 2.0a port.

Samsung didn't reveal the UBS-K8500's exact pricing or availability, only saying that it would be "less than $500" (~£400) when it launches in the US and Europe next year.

Some of the first content for UHD Blu-ray players will come courtesy of 20th Century Fox, which promises to launch several UHD Blu-rays for the launch of Samsung's players. Not only will new films get the UHD treatment, but there'll be some remastered back-catalogue stuff, too. Fox showed off the box art for one such film, the Colin Firth-led Kingsman: The Secret Service.

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Tesla’s $35,000 Model 3 will start production in 2017

9/3/2015 9:54am

God bless Elon Musk and his Twitter feed. While other companies rely on secretive press offices or employ PR giants to handle their communications, Musk happily uses the 140-character platform to break news about what's going on at Tesla and SpaceX. Wednesday, we learned that the Model 3—Tesla's next electric vehicle after the Model X SUV—will go into production in 2017, but only once the Gigafactory is up and running.

Model 3, our smaller and lower cost sedan will start production in about 2 years. Fully operational Gigafactory needed.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 2, 2015

The Gigafactory is a $5 billion plant that Tesla is building near Sparks, Nevada in partnership with Panasonic. The plan is to achieve significant economies of scale at the Gigafactory, which will make the Model 3's $35,000 price tag possible—something Musk also told us via Twitter yesterday.

@elonmusk $35k price, unveil in March, preorders start then.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 2, 2015

When the Model 3 hits the streets in 2017 (assuming no Gigafactory-related delays) it won't have as easy a time in the marketplace as the Model S, which even now still has no real competition. Chevrolet is launching the Bolt next year, a $30,000 EV which will match Tesla's 200-mile (321km) range. However, Tesla has cleverly positioned itself as a premium brand with the Model S (and forthcoming Model X). Leveraging that cachet to move Model 3s seems like a no-brainer.

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14-year-old added to police database for using Snapchat to send naked selfie

9/3/2015 9:29am

A 14-year-old boy has been added to a UK police intelligence database for using Snapchat to send a naked picture of himself to a female classmate he was flirting with from his bedroom. She saved the image and shared it with others, which is how the case came to light. Although the boy was not arrested or charged, the incident was nonetheless recorded as a crime of "making and distributing an indecent image of a child," even though it was of himself. As The Guardian reports, "the [database] file remains active for a minimum of 10 years, meaning the incident may be flagged to potential employers conducting an advanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, such as for those who work with children."

A BBC radio report on the Today programme points out that had the boy been formally accused of a crime, he would have been granted all the usual protections guaranteed by law. Instead, when he was questioned about the incident at his school with a police officer present, his parents were not informed, and there was no one defending the teenager, or even advising him about the implications of the interrogation and his answers to questions. The police officer later claimed that it was not necessary to inform parents beforehand in such circumstances, and that she had the power to deal with the matter on the spot.

As well as losing basic defence rights in this way, the boy doubly suffered because of his young age: possessing or distributing indecent images of a person under 18 is illegal, even, apparently, if they're of yourself. And, perhaps more intriguingly, had he been an adult, then the sharing of his naked image by others at his school would have been classed as revenge porn and he would have been protected as a victim.

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Hands on with Sony’s new Xperia Z5 phones, including that ludicrous 4K display

9/3/2015 8:51am

Sony's new Xperia Z5.

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ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x251", kws:["bottom"], collapse: true}]);BERLIN—Forget QuadHD displays: the new hotness is 4K. At IFA 2015, Sony took the wraps off its new Z5, Z5 Compact, and Z5 Premium phones, with the flagship Z5 Premium sporting a 5.5-inch 4K (3840×2160) display, which works out to a ridiculous 806 PPI. The jury's still out on whether you actually need a 4K display in a phone, but—in Sony's demos, at least—it looked ridiculously good, with vibrant colours and deep blacks.

4K content is still thin on the ground, though, and while Netflix's Android app does support 4K, it only does so for a limited number of devices—it's not clear yet whether the Z5 Premium is one of them. There's also the worry of how much of an effect that 4K screen will have on battery life. Sony's Xperia series has historically had great battery life (up to two days in the case of the Z3 Compact), so it'd be a shame to see that disappear because of a crazy high-resolution screen. For its part, Sony says the Z5 Premium's beefy 3430mAh battery will be good enough for two days of use.

Aside from a 4K display, the Z5 Premium also features a blingtastic mirrored glass back in black, gold, or chrome. No doubt it will need constant cleaning to keep it looking shiny. Sadly, while we didn't get any hands-on time with the Z5 Premium, we did get to play with the Premium's little brothers. Aside from the 4K display and glossy finish on the Premium, all of the Z5 smartphones have near-identical specs.

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City-run ISP makes 10Gbps available to all residents and businesses

9/3/2015 8:25am

A municipal Internet service provider in Salisbury, North Carolina, announced today that it is making 10Gbps service available throughout the city, to both businesses and residents.

The city-run Fibrant, which has deployed fiber throughout Salisbury, was created five years ago after city officials were unable to persuade private ISPs to upgrade their infrastructure. Gigabit download and upload speeds have been available to residents since last year for $105 a month, while customers can pay as little as $45 a month for 50Mbps symmetrical service. TV and phone service is available, too.

Fibrant officials don’t actually expect much, if any demand from residents for the 10Gbps download and upload service. The big speed upgrade is mainly targeted at businesses, but the announcement said 10Gbps service is now "available to every premises in the city," including all homes.

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Rival traffic app PhantomAlert wants to shut Waze down after alleged theft

9/2/2015 6:57pm

PhantomAlert, a company that makes a Waze-like traffic smartphone app, has now sued its better-known rival for copyright infringement.

The Washington DC-based company argues in a Tuesday filing that after a failed data-sharing deal between itself and Waze collapsed in 2010, within two years, Waze apparently stole PhantomAlert’s "points of interest" database.

As the civil complaint states:

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Lenovo “Magic View” concept is a crazy mix of a smartwatch and Google Glass

9/2/2015 6:15pm

The Lenovo Magic View—it's a watch with a two displays.

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ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x251", kws:["bottom"], collapse: true}]); After checking out the second generation Moto 360 at a recent Motorola/Lenovo event, we stumbled upon this crazy smart watch concept from Lenovo. Called the "Magic View," this device takes the round Moto 360 form factor and adds a second display to the band. The second display isn't an LCD though, it's a viewfinder that you have to hold up to your eye to see.

The viewfinder reminds us a lot of Google Glass, and it seems to be based on the same technology: light is projected into a prism that serves as the display surface. Google Glass used this to make a see-through display, but on the Magic View, the prism is encased in the watch, so there is a solid black background. And just like Google Glass, the display was so pixel dense and the lenses focused it so  that holding it up to your face made me think I was looking at a much larger display

Lenovo's Android-based watch OS would allow you to send certain images or movies to the viewfinder by swiping down with two fingers. Then just hold the display up to your eye to enter a little world of media. The display is virtually impossible to see unless you're holding it right up to your eye—from any other angle it looks like a solar panel from a cheap calculator.

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Online drug dealer betrayed by poor opsec pleads guilty to importing molly

9/2/2015 6:03pm

A Massachusetts drug vendor who bought methylone (also known as "molly") from China and was busted by the digital trail he left on the USPS tracking website has pleaded guilty to four drug-related charges.

Harold Bates was charged back in March 2014 with conspiracy to import methylone, importation of methylone, and possession with intent to distribute methylone, among other crimes.

According to a Tuesday court filing, Bates admitted to the top three charges, including the primary accusation of importing methylone, and one count of possession by an inmate in prison of a prohibited object.

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Attacks accessing Mac keychain without permission date back to 2011

9/2/2015 5:41pm

On Tuesday, Ars chronicled an OS X technique that's being actively used by an underhanded piece of adware to access people's Mac keychain without permission. Now there's evidence the underlying weakness has been exploited for four years.

As documented by Twitter user @noarfromspace, the keychain-penetrating technique was carried out in 2011 by a piece of malware known as DevilRobber. The then new threat caught the attention of security researchers because it commandeered a Mac's graphics card and CPU to perform the mathematical calculations necessary to mine Bitcoins, something that was novel at the time. Less obvious was the DevilRobber's use of the AppleScript programming language to locate a window requesting permission to access the Keychain and then simulate a mouse click over the OK button.

Thomas Reed, who is director of Mac offerings at security firm Malwarebytes, said he tested the AppleScript on the current version of Apple's OS X and found it worked, as long as a user had already allowed the app running the script to control the Mac. On Monday, Reed disclosed the same technique was being used by the Genieo adware installer to gain access to a Safari extensions list that's protected inside the Mac Keychain. Coincidentally, researchers located in Beirut independently reported the technique on Tuesday, the same day Ars Chronicled the Malwarebytes' findings involving Genieo.

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Man arrested for parodying mayor on Twitter gets $125K in civil lawsuit

9/2/2015 4:50pm

An Illinois man arrested when his residence was raided for parodying his town's mayor on Twitter is settling a civil rights lawsuit with the city of Peoria for $125,000. The accord spells out that the local authorities are not to prosecute people for parodies or satire.

Plaintiff Jon Daniel, the operator of the @peoriamayor handle, was initially accused last year of impersonating a public official in violation of Illinois law. However, the 30-year-old was never charged. His arrest was kicked off after the local mayor, Jim Ardis, was concerned that the tweets in that account falsely portrayed him as a drug abuser who associates with prostitutes. One tweet Ardis was concerned about said, "Who stole my crackpipe?"

As part of the agreement, (PDF) which includes legal fees, his attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union said Peoria will publish a "directive" to the police department making it clear that Illinois law criminalizing impersonation of a public official does not include parody and satire.

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