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The Art of Technology
Updated: 2 hours 35 min ago

How Wet Hot American Summer redeemed Netflix’s comedic reputation

7/31/2015 10:30am

ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x251", kws:["bottom"], collapse: true}]);Netflix's rise as a streaming-video powerhouse has been so meteoric, it's easy to forget that the company only began pushing its own in-house content a little over two years ago. House of Cards enjoyed its Netflix debut in February 2013, and the service has since flourished with enough critically acclaimed dramas to make it nearly feel like an entrenched American media company.

But it's not—and a primary reason is because it has fumbled on the flipside of the television content equation. Namely, Netflix's original comedies haven't been as universally beloved. The company racked up countless headlines by landing the golden goose that was Arrested Development, but that series' awkward, green-screen-fueled return didn't come close to living up to expectationsUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt aside, the rest of the service's major comedies have ranged from serviceable network-TV rejects (Bojack Horseman) to bland flops (Bad SamaritansGrace and Frankie)—subjective opinions, yes, but those series certainly haven't gained nearly as much traction as the likes of Orange Is The New Black.

That's why Friday's launch of the eight-episode series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is a pretty big deal for Netflix. For starters, it's good—really, it's hilarious—but it also sees Netflix making a valuable detour that may very well define its future as a comedy outlet. The rest of Netflix's comedies have had one unfortunate thing in common: a desperation to pull off "safe," network-standards-compatible sitcom content. Considering that Netflix doesn't have to bow to advertisers' concerns over language and content, that commonality is surprising and, frankly, holding back its series' potential.

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Nvidia fires up “voluntary recall” of Shield tablets with hot batteries

7/31/2015 10:17am

Nvidia today announced a "voluntary recall" of its 8-inch Shield Android tablet. Certain tablets sold between July of 2014 and July of 2015 (the entire lifetime of the device so far) include batteries prone to overheating, and the recall notice says they pose a "fire hazard." Users with affected tablets are being asked to return them to Nvidia, which will replace them free of charge.

To see if your battery needs to be replaced, Nvidia says you first need to update your tablet to the latest available version of Android. Once that's done, go to Settings, then About Tablet, then Status. If the entry under "Battery" says "B01," your tablet is unaffected. If it says "Y01," it should be replaced. Tap the Y01 to launch an app that will guide you through the recall process.

Nvidia says you should only use the affected tablets for as long as you need to back up your data. Tablets sent to the company will be wiped and deactivated.

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Teslas will soon be able to park themselves, steer on the highway

7/31/2015 10:00am

According to Tesla boss Elon Musk, a software update is coming that will enable the Tesla Model S to steer itself on the highway and parallel park autonomously. Announcing the plan on Twitter, Musk said that dealing with low-contrast lane markings has been the final hurdle to getting the feature working.

Highway Autosteer makes the Model S capable of NHTSA's level two automation, still a far cry from a car being able to remotely drive itself from the beginning to end of a destination. While Tesla has made many announcements recently about self-driving features for the Model S that will be unlocked via the version 7 firmware, it remains unclear exactly how such cars will be legal on US roads outside of California (which has issued self-driving cars with permits).

This is no doubt an exciting update for Tesla owners. However, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that plenty of other cars already come with adaptive cruise control and lane centering—the Audi RS7 we drove last month is one such example. And self-parking cars predate the smartphone age, with Toyota being the first to market in 2003 with self-parking Priuses (in Japan). Still, welcome to the club, Tesla.

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Windows 10 upgrade resets your default browser to Edge; Mozilla is very unhappy

7/31/2015 9:21am

Mozilla CEO Chris Beard has blasted Microsoft for overriding user choice and forcing Edge as the default browser in Windows 10. If you had set Firefox or Chrome as your default Web browser in Windows 7 or 8, upgrading to Windows 10 will reset it to Edge instead.

Furthermore, Mozilla claims that it's now much harder to change default apps in Windows 10: "It now takes more than twice the number of mouse clicks, scrolling through content and some technical sophistication for people to reassert the choices they had previously made in earlier versions of Windows."

Mozilla clearly isn't happy. Chris Beard not only penned a blog post about Windows 10's heavy-handed treatment of default apps, but he also wrote Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella an open letter, asking him to reconsider. "Please give your users the choice and control they deserve in Windows 10," he pleads.

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BMW’s EnLighten app wants to take away your red light blues

7/31/2015 9:00am

As anyone who commutes knows, waiting at traffic lights sucks. It's also not great for the environment. All too many drivers will accelerate hard and then brake to a stop, only to sit there idling their engines waiting for a green, burning unnecessary gas all the way.

The EnLighten display, running on a BMW. BMW In part, the push towards V2I—vehicle to infrastructure—communications systems is meant to help solve this problem, timing traffic signals for optimum traffic flow. V2I is still some years away, but in the meantime BMW has released an iOS app that achieves some of the same functions, at least for drivers in Oregon (Portland and Eugene) or Salt Lake City.

The EnLighten app—which has actually been available as a standalone iOS and Android app for a while now—lives on a driver's iOS phone but runs through BMW's iDrive infotainment system. When running, the iDrive screen shows the status of the nearest traffic signal ahead, along with a real-time prediction of when the light will change.

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Searching for a consensus on how to fix biomedical research

7/31/2015 8:00am

In the US, biomedical research has been suffering for roughly the last decade. There are a number of reasons, including stagnant or declining federal funding, lack of appropriate training for young researchers, excessive regulations that detract from productivity, and issues with intellectual property rights. To remedy these concerns, both individual researchers and entire organizations have invested time and resources into making recommendations to resolve one or more of the perceived issues.

So far, however, little progress has been made on any measures that could improve the research environment. To assist in identifying areas where immediate action should be taken, the authors of yet another set of recommendations conducted a meta-analysis of the existing proposals. They were able to identify eight that were endorsed by a majority of scientific community leaders.

While the report is useful for figuring out what the consensus solutions are, it brings us no closer to implementing any of them.

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14 million PCs upgraded to Windows 10 in the first day

7/31/2015 12:09am

Just one day after its release, 14 million systems are now running Windows 10, according to Microsoft.

The staggered roll-out of Windows 10 to those who have "reserved" a copy will continue over several weeks, with Windows 7 and 8 users being notified of when their upgrade is available with an icon in their system tray. While we liked Windows 10 a lot, we wouldn't be too eager to upgrade just yet.

Over the last few days Microsoft has released a number of patches to fix Windows 10 bugs, and they're set to continue as the operating system is refined and adjusted. Giving Microsoft a few weeks to smooth a few of Windows 10's rougher edges will make for an easier life.

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Report: New version of Google Glass being “quietly distributed” to workplaces

7/30/2015 9:10pm

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google Glass is back! Google is "quietly distributing" a new version of the wearable eyepieces "exclusively" to businesses, where the company hopes it will be received better than it was in the consumer market. The report says that Google "doesn’t plan to officially launch the new version" but hopes to have businesses using it by fall this year.

The new version reportedly has quite a few upgrades over the consumer version. For starters, the unit is finally hinged, allowing it to be folded up just like a real pair of glasses. It's got a new Intel processor, a larger, thinner display prism, improved wireless connectivity, and vertical prism adjustment, as well as horizontal. It also has an external battery pack now, for all-day business use.

The Journal's report backs up a lot of earlier details which have been streaming in from 9to5Google. In addition to most of the items above, the site says the unit is called "Google Glass Enterprise Edition" and has an Intel Atom processor and support for 5GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi. 9to5 says the unit will be more rugged, waterproof, and will be distributed through the "Glass for Work" program.

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Crypto activists announce vision for Tor exit relay in every library

7/30/2015 6:39pm

Crypto nerds have now firmly set their sights on libraries, with the ultimate goal of setting up Tor exit relays in as many of these ubiquitous public institutions as possible. As of now, only about 1,000 exit relays exist worldwide. If this plan is successful, it could vastly increase the scope and speed of the famed anonymizing network.

"We love this—we hope that more libraries and news outlets will start hosting Tor exit nodes," Kate Krauss, a spokeswoman for the Tor Project, told Ars. "It's a bold statement for free speech."

The plan is being executed by the Library Freedom Project (LFP), a new group trying to get American libraries to incorporate more privacy tools into their everyday operations as a way to protect patrons from aggressive snooping. The group’s new campaign was announced earlier this week.

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Report: New Apple TV and SDK due in September, maybe for real this time

7/30/2015 6:15pm

One of the things Apple was supposed to announce at WWDC in June was a new version of the Apple TV, the company's now more than three-year-old set-top box. Days before the keynote, though, the New York Times reported that those plans had been postponed at the last minute because "the product was not ready." Today, a report from Buzzfeed, the same outlet that originally reported on the WWDC plans, says that a refined version of the same box will actually be coming out in September alongside Apple's next-generation iPhones and the final version of iOS 9.

The basic hardware sounds pretty much the same as it did back in March when the original rumors made the rounds. The new box will include a version of the A8 SoC included in the iPhone 6 and sixth-generation iPod Touch, more internal storage, Siri support, and a new remote control with some kind of integrated touchpad (I'd take anything that would save us from the endless clicking the current Apple TV requires).

Most importantly, the new Apple TV would be released alongside an SDK and app store that would open the platform up. Currently, content providers have to work with Apple to create channels which are then pushed out to everyone with an Apple TV. An app store could increase the amount and variety of content available on the device, and (alongside the gamepad APIs introduced back in iOS 7) could make the set-top box into a sort of mini game console in its own right.

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IT worker who used law firm job for insider trades gets 2 years in prison

7/30/2015 6:05pm

A senior IT professional who was a trusted employee of a top Silicon Valley law firm is headed to prison.

Dimitry Braverman was arrested last year at his home in San Mateo, California. The 42-year-old man was accused of loading up on stocks and options for companies he knew had mergers or other major transactions on the way, because he had access to confidential information at the law firm he worked at, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati.

Braverman, who made $305,000 in profits off the illegal transactions, pled guilty in November. The companies he traded on included retailer Gymboree,, Epicor Software, Seagate Technology, software firm Dealertrack Technologies, storage company Xyratex, and pharmaceutical companies YM Biosciences and Astex Pharmaceuticals.

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Appeals court upholds Microsoft’s legal win over Motorola

7/30/2015 5:48pm

The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has upheld (PDF) a 2013 jury verdict finding that Motorola must pay Microsoft $14.5 million for violating its commitments to license certain standard-essential patents on a "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" (FRAND) basis.

Today's decision ends one major front in a patent battle between Microsoft and Motorola that began in 2010. Microsoft has long claimed it has patents that must be licensed by all Android device makers, and Motorola has long been the biggest holdout. When Microsoft sued Motorola over patents in 2010, Motorola shot back with its own patent licensing demands, suggesting it should be paid a 2.25 percent royalty on Windows and Xbox machines, which would have added up to around $4 billion.

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Dealmaster: Save on a computer pre-loaded with Windows 10

7/30/2015 5:40pm

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our partners at TechBargains, the Dealmaster is back! With the arrival of Windows 10, you might be thinking about upgrading your PC.

Well, we've got great news! Here are a bunch of deals on computers with Windows 10 pre-installed.

Computers now shipping with Windows 10

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New study shows Spain’s “Google tax” has been a disaster for publishers

7/30/2015 5:04pm

A study commissioned by Spanish publishers has found that a new intellectual property law passed in Spain last year, which charges news aggregators like Google for showing snippets and linking to news stories, has done substantial damage to the Spanish news industry.

In the short-term, the study found, the law will cost publishers €10 million, or about $10.9 million, which would fall disproportionately on smaller publishers. Consumers would experience a smaller variety of content, and the law "impedes the ability of innovation to enter the market."

The study concludes that there's no "theoretical or empirical justification" for the fee. The full study (PDF) is available for download; it's in Spanish with an English-language executive summary.

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The audiophile’s dilemma: strangers can’t identify $340 cables, either [Updated]

7/30/2015 4:30pm

"Vegas again," I thought, as the noisy A320 plonked down onto the runway at McCarran. I was in the front, thanks to a plethora of reward miles on United, and across the row through the portal I could see the Vegas Strip—hungry, pulsing. It was only a few months since I'd last been here for CES, and coming back to the city felt a lot like putting back on that dirty, comfortable sweater you just can't seem to bring yourself to throw away.

But this time I wasn't here to report on gadgets or meet vendors or anything else quite like I'd done before—this time, I was going up on stage myself. After calling out the audiophile cable gods, I'd come to settle the score. I'd brought a $340 "audiophile grade" Ethernet cable, and I was ready to put it to the test with the assistance of the James Randi Educational Foundation in front of a live audience of several hundred people.

My room was waiting for me at the Mandalay Bay hotel—the very first place I'd ever stayed in Vegas on my very first conference back in 2003 and the place that always springs to mind before anything else when I think of the city. After taxiing to the lobby, the place even smelled the same: fresh, in a vaguely artificial floral way. I'd sleep, and then I'd sing and dance up on stage. The goal was to find out if a $340 Ethernet cable made any difference when you're using it to connect a computer to a NAS on which music was stored. To all common sense and science, the answer was "no," but that hasn't stopped a certain subset of audiophiles from believing in them—and from other silliness like decrying the efficacy of the scientific method when it comes to audio testing.

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After publishing secret spy docs, German news site investigated for treason

7/30/2015 4:18pm

A well-known German political and tech news website has received (English translation here) a nearly unprecedented letter from the German Federal Public Prosecutor, saying that two of the site’s top editors are being investigated for treason after having published secret government documents earlier this year.’s two earlier articles (one in February and another in April) detailed the proposed surveillance expansion of social networks by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, an intelligence agency.

"We don’t know if we should cry or not," Markus Beckedahl, the site’s editor-in-chief, told Ars from Berlin. He was specifically named as one of the targets of the investigation, along with Andre Meister, another top editor. A third target, named "Unknown," was also mentioned in the letter.

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The first machine that can jump on water

7/30/2015 4:00pm

We’ve made machines that can float on water, and machines that can walk on water, but until now, robots or automata that can leap suddenly into the air from the surface of a pond have eluded us. Now, a group of engineers, led by a researcher at the Seoul National University, have created a machine that can jump on water. Rather impressively so, in fact.

To patch this gaping hole in machine locomotion, the engineers studied the mechanics behind the water strider, an insect that can easily jump upwards from a pond. It’s an ability that’s poorly understood in insects in general, so trying to recreate it in machines has the beneficial side effect of improving our understanding of the insects themselves.

The trick, according to an analysis of a high-speed film of water striders, is to push down on the water with the maximum velocity that the surface tension can take. The further the insect’s leg pushes down, the greater the surface tension that builds under the leg and the better the upward jump. But if the leg pushes too far, the meniscus—the curved water surface—can’t take it and gives way, allowing the leg to sink.

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Cable TV box rental fees cost average household $232 a year

7/30/2015 3:28pm

A new survey of the country's top pay-TV providers shows that about 99 percent of US customers rent set-top boxes directly from their providers and pay an average of $231.82 a year in rental fees.

Customers "spend, on average, $89.16 a year renting a single set-top box," or $7.43 a month. But the full price paid by the average household is much higher because "the average number of set-top boxes leased to a household is approximately 2.6," US Senators Edward Markey (D-MA.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a press release announcing the results of the survey.

The senators sent questions about set-top boxes to providers last November and today released a summary of the results and the companies' responses, though parts of the responses were not made public "because of competitive sensitivity." The providers who responded were AT&T, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Dish, DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon.

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Chrome tests “discarding” background tabs to save memory

7/30/2015 3:18pm

How many tabs do you have open right now? I'm currently writing and researching this article, writing and researching another, longer article, listening to SoundCloud, and monitoring Ars chat, TweetDeck, and Parsely—so I've got 71 tabs open across my six monitors taking up 10GB of RAM. (I admit that I'm probably on the upper end of things.) I'm not using all of those tabs right now, but I do need them open—open tabs are my to-do list. The problem is that Chrome keeps all of these tabs up and running at 100% whether I'm using them or not. This is bad for memory usage and—if you're running on a laptop—power usage.

A new feature being tested in the nightly "Canary" version of Chrome seems like a boon for heavy tab users like me: it will "discard" tabs that aren't being used when it encounters a low-memory situation. "Discarding" a tab doesn't mean forcibly closing a tab, just suspending it and unloading it from memory. The tab itself would still be visible in the tab bar, but unloading it would save your computer the work of keeping it running. The feature has existed in Chrome OS for some time, but now it's moving over to Windows and Mac OS, with a Linux implementation coming soon.

Chrome has a tab ranking system, and it would automatically suspend your "least interesting" tabs when it hits a low-memory situation. A page lists the ranking system for tabs:

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FCC has already gotten 2,000 “net neutrality” complaints

7/30/2015 2:25pm

The Federal Communications Commission received about 2,000 net neutrality complaints from consumers over a one-month period, according to a National Journal article today. The overarching theme of the complaints is that customers are fed up with their Internet service providers, often due to slow speeds, high prices, and data caps. In a sampling of 60 complaints, the most frequent targets were AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon.

There doesn't seem to be any smoking-gun proof of violations of the core net neutrality rules that prohibit Internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic or prioritizing services in exchange for payment. But the FCC's reclassification of broadband providers as common carriers allows customers to complain that general business practices are “unjust” or “unreasonable," making it a judgment call as to whether many of the early complaints are really violations.

National Journal filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FCC, which provided an estimate of the number of complaints received in the first month after the rules took effect June 12. The FCC also provided copies of 60 complaints, which are available here.

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