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Mysterious orbits of dwarf galaxies found all over the nearby Universe

7/23/2014 9:11am
A rare dwarf galaxy that initiated a burst of star formation within the last billion years. NASA

Large galaxies such as the Milky Way appear to have been built by repeated mergers of smaller ones, but not every small galaxy has ended up being swallowed completely by a large one. The Milky Way is orbited by dozens of dwarf galaxies, some of which have been disrupted and stripped of stars, while others may have slipped into orbit largely intact. Similar dwarf galaxies orbit our nearby neighbors, including Andromeda.

Based on what we know about these mergers and computer modeling of galaxy formation and growth, the collection of dwarfs should be an unruly lot, having approached the galaxy they orbit from directions that are essentially random. Yet the dwarfs orbiting the Milky Way largely inhabit a single plane, orbiting in a manner analogous to moons around a giant planet.

It's easy to dismiss that as a fluke of chance, but that became a bit harder to do as evidence built over the past several years that most of Andromeda's dwarf galaxies were also organized into a single plane. Stranger still, that plane's edge is oriented toward the Milky Way. Now, a French-Australian team of astronomers has figured out a way to search existing data for the presence of planes farther out from the Milky Way, finding that Andromeda's setup is actually quite common.

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Preview: A closer look at OS X Yosemite, just in time for the public beta

7/23/2014 9:00am
This is Yosemite. Andrew Cunningham

CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});It's not difficult to get your hands on pre-release Apple software. For a mere $198 a year ($99 each for OS X and iOS) you can download beta versions of operating systems from Apple's developer site even if you've never written a line of code in your life.

This year, Apple is taking things a step further. The new public beta program for OS X Yosemite officially launches Thursday, taking software that has traditionally been protected from the public by a $99 paywall and distributing it to the first million users who sign up on Apple's site. It's a very Microsoft-esque way to roll out an OS: you give enthusiasts a chance to work with an early-but-reasonably-stable build in exchange for valuable bug-squashing feedback. Ideally, it will keep Yosemite from suffering from some of the general bugginess that affected iOS 7.0 when it launched last year.

In advance of the public beta, we've been given about a week of time to use the third developer preview and get a sense of what Yosemite brings to the table. Beta subscribers will get a slightly newer build of the operating system, but at this point most of the features are locked down and ready for evaluation by the public.

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The never-advertised, always coveted headphones built and sold in Brooklyn

7/23/2014 8:00am
Exploring Grado Labs' manufacturing space and creating our own pair of headphones. Shot and edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

Buried in a packed townhouse on a quiet street in south Brooklyn is a manufacturing operation that produces some of the most renowned headphones in the business. Despite Yelp reviews for the business, Grado Labs doesn't sell directly from its location to consumers, though it does take the occasional walk-up request for repairs. For the most part, its long-time employees, including owner John Grado and his son Jonathan, tinker away through four crowded floors on audio gear that hasn't appeared in advertising since the 1960's.

In the building, the company assembles and ships models that range from the flagship PS1000, priced at $1,700, to the $79 SR60s. As of early June, Grado has evolved the drivers for the second time in 23 years, from the I-series to the E-series.

The average New York City apartment building is narrow to begin with, but Grado's space is like a house eternally in the middle of moving day. You get around by edging your way around boxes, through the halls, on the stairs, and in the rooms. During the holiday season, Jonathan says, the boxes are stacked high enough to effectively move the walls in.

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Review: Amazon’s Fire Phone offers new gimmicks, old platform growing pains

7/22/2014 9:00pm
Amazon's first phone isn't without its charms, but is it good enough to replace the iOS or Android stuff you already have? Andrew Cunningham

CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});It took other companies a long time to respond to the iPad. Early efforts like the first Samsung Galaxy Tabs, the Motorola Xoom, and Barnes & Noble's Nook Color had their fans, but compared to Apple's tablets, they all had major flaws. Amazon's first Kindle Fire had its problems too, but Amazon's name recognition and the tablet's $199 price made it one of the iPad's first semi-credible competitors. It opened the door for even better tablets at the same price point, and Android's tablet market share is largely built on the cheap tablet foundation that Amazon helped establish.

Amazon's first smartphone is taking the opposite path. It's jumping into the high-end smartphone market surprisingly late in the game. The market started showing signs of saturation, and its competitors are entrenched. At $649 unlocked for a 32GB phone ($199 with a two-year contract), it doesn't have a price advantage. It's also not being subsidized by Amazon's media storefronts or by "Special Offers"-style advertisements.

Because it's 2014, because the phone costs what it does, and because there are dozens of great phones to be had at (and well below) this price bracket, it's going to be much more difficult for users to overlook flaws or shortcomings when compared to those first Kindle Fire tablets. Amazon's phone brings unique features, like its Dynamic Perspective head tracking cameras and its Firefly scanning software, but can the phone get by on a couple of cool features if it has other problems?

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Are the people who refuse to accept climate change ill-informed?

7/22/2014 8:15pm
Flickr user: TWM Labs

Polls relating to publicly controversial scientific issues often trigger a great wailing and gnashing of teeth from science advocates. When large proportions of a population seem poorly informed about evolution, climate change, or genetically modified foods, the usual response is to bemoan the state of science literacy. It can seem obvious that many people don’t understand the science of evolution, for example—or the scientific method, generally—and that opinions would change if only we could educate them.

Research has shown, unfortunately, it's not that simple. Ars has previously covered Yale Professor Dan Kahan’s research into what he calls “cultural cognition,” and the idea goes like this: public opinion on these topics is fundamentally tied to cultural identities rather than assessment of scientific evidence. In other words, rather than evaluate the science, people form opinions based on what they think people with a similar background believe.

That shouldn’t come as a shock, especially given the well-known political or religious divides apparent for climate change and evolution.

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YouTube star hit with copyright lawsuit, label seeks $150,000 per song

7/22/2014 7:05pm
Michelle Phan, a very popular YouTube user, demonstrates the stretchiness of hair ties. Michelle Phan

Popular YouTube user Michelle Phan is being sued for alleged copyright infringement on songs she has used in her videos, according to reports from the BBC. Ultra Records claims that Phan has used 50 of its songs in her YouTube posts and on her website illegally despite one of the label's own artists objecting to the legal action.

Phan's YouTube channel centers around using and buying makeup, and her videos are often backed by upbeat music with the artist credited in the video's description. Artists whom Phan has used in her videos include Kaskade, deadmau5, and Calvin Harris.

Kaskade spoke out on Twitter about the lawsuit, condemning Ultra for pursuing Phan for copyright infringement. "Copyright law is a dinosaur, ill-suited for the landscape of today’s media," he wrote. "We can’t love (& won’t buy) music we haven’t heard." If it's exposure artists are looking for, Phan's audience isn't a bad target. She boasts more than six million subscribers and videos that consistently crack a million views each.

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Porn studio sues immigrant who has “no idea how BitTorrent works,” wins big

7/22/2014 6:30pm
A defendant accused of illegally downloading porn on BitTorrent argued it was like having a pirated CD slipped in his bag on the way out of the store. The judge didn't buy it. zen Sutherland

Porn studio Malibu Media files more copyright lawsuits than anyone else in the US since the fall of Prenda Law; hundreds of suits against "John Doe" defendants have been filed in just the last few months. Nearly all of those cases settle before the case is decided on the merits.

However, in a rare development yesterday, a Malibu lawsuit proceeded to a judgment—and it was a slam dunk for the porn studio. In a terse five-page order (PDF), US District Judge Robert Jonker tore apart defendant Don Bui's arguments that using BitTorrent and the site Kickass Torrents to get porn files didn't violate Malibu's copyright.

In the case, the defendant admitted he had 57 unauthorized copies of Malibu Media movies on his hard drive and had used BitTorrent technology to get them. Bui tried to shift the blame to the Kickass Torrents website, but it didn't work. He also tried to distinguish the technology he used from earlier technologies found to violate copyright laws, like Grokster. That didn't sway Jonker, who wrote:

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Liveblog: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talks Q4 earnings, big layoffs

7/22/2014 5:00pm
Satya Nadella and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop in a photo-op. View Liveblog2014-07-22T16:30:00-05:00

Last week, Microsoft announced that it would be making the largest set of staff cuts in the company’s history, axing as many as 18,000 jobs over the next fiscal year. This week, CEO Satya Nadella will be delivering Microsoft’s fourth-quarter earnings results, and according to his corporate-speak-filled layoff e-mail, Nadella will take the opportunity to "share further specifics on where we [Microsoft] are focusing our innovation investments."

This likely means elaboration on both the specific nature of the cuts (which Microsoft EVP and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop discussed at length in his own e-mail last week) and some details on where and how Microsoft plans to expend effort to improve itself. There will also likely be a barrage of questions from analysts wanting to know about how the cuts will affect Microsoft’s business strategy, since Nadella’s e-mail contained language indicating that he wanted to (among other things) flatten the organization’s notoriously thick management layer cake.

Shares of MSFT actually jumped a few points when trading commenced after the layoff announcements on the morning of July 17; revenues are expected to be up from last fiscal year’s fourth quarter, and analyst expectations are that Microsoft’s Q414 performance will come in at about $0.60 per share, down from $0.66 last year.

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iPhones and Macs rise, iPads and iPods drop in Apple’s Q3 2014 [Updated]

7/22/2014 4:58pm
Apple has set another quarterly record for iPhone sales, despite the fact that the iPhone 5S is due for replacement relatively soon. Jacqui Cheng

It's been another quiet, by-the-books quarter for Apple, which has yet to release any major updates to any of its products so far in this calendar year. For the third quarter of 2014, the company projected it would maintain profit margins between 37 and 38 percent on revenues between $36 and $38 billion, and it met the revenue estimates with profits of $7.7 billion on revenue of $37.4 billion. Revenue is about six percent higher and profit is 11.6 percent higher than Q3 of 2013, in which the company earned $6.9 billion of profit on $35.3 billion of revenue.

The company's gross margin was considerably higher than the estimate, at 39.4 percent compared to 36.9 percent a year ago, an increase of 6.8 percent.

iPhone and Mac sales were both up over the year-ago quarter—Apple sold 35.2 million iPhones (compared to 31.24 million) and 4.41 million Macs (compared to 3.75 million) this quarter, despite the fact that most of its products are either mid-cycle or nearing the end of their refresh cycles. The delay of Intel's next-generation Broadwell CPUs has kept Apple from making more than minor tweaks to its Mac lineup this year.

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EA delays Battlefield: Hardline to 2015, Dragon Age to Nov. 18

7/22/2014 4:55pm
EA

The busy holiday gaming season, set to get its start in earnest during a packed October this year, is looking a little less packed today. That's because EA has announced that two of its biggest titles have slipped from planned October release dates to give the developers more time to finish up their work.

The bigger of the two delays is the spin-off shooter franchise Battlefield: Hardline, which has been pushed from October 21 to an unspecified date in "early 2015." According to a blog post announcing the move, that delay comes after a post-E3 beta for the game seemingly failed to live up to player expectations.

"We’ve been pouring over the data and feedback [from the beta], and have already been putting a lot of it right into the game and sharing it directly with you," DICE VP and Group GM Karl Magnus Troedsson wrote in the blog post. "This feedback also spurred us to start thinking about other possibilities and ways we could push Hardline innovation further and make the game even better. The more we thought about these ideas, the more we knew we had to get them into the game you will all be playing. However, there was only one problem. We would need more time. Time that we didn’t have if we decided to move forward with launching in just a couple of months."

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Apple’s Q3 2014 earnings call liveblog

7/22/2014 4:50pm
Apple's newly split stock price has been on the rise lately. Let's see if this quarter's earnings make it move one way or the other. Andrew Cunningham View Liveblog2014-07-22T16:00:00-05:00

Apple will be announcing its Q3 2014 financial results on Tuesday, July 22 at 5pm Eastern time (2pm Pacific), and the standard earnings call with press and analysts will follow shortly afterward. As we usually do, we'll be following along with the call to liveblog and provide charts and other contextual information—Apple rarely makes major announcements on these calls, but it does give more information on how particular Apple products are doing both in the US and other markets.

Apple's third fiscal quarter runs from the beginning of April to the end of June, and while WWDC was full of new software announcements, those updates (and the new hardware that will accompany them) won't actually be available until the fall, late in Q4 2014 or early in Q1 2015. Beyond a new, slightly cheaper iMac and a security lock for the Mac Pro, we just haven't gotten many new gadgets lately, and the majority of Apple's money is made by selling hardware. That said, Apple's products tend to sell well even when they're in the middle of a refresh cycle. One stat in particular to keep an eye on: will iPad sales continue to be down as they were last quarter, or will they bounce back up? Analysts believe that tablet sales are beginning to level off, and the iPad's sales numbers will be a major data point in that discussion.

Apple's guidance for the quarter predicted revenue between $36 billion and $38 billion with profit margins between 37 and 38 percent. Other predictions for this quarter can be found in the Q2 2014 announcement.

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YouTube restores eviction lawyer protest video amid DMCA takedown flap

7/22/2014 3:49pm
Sarah Braun

A YouTube video featuring a controversial San Francisco lawyer who has been representing landlords in eviction procedures appears to have been newly restored on Tuesday after being made unavailable for a week.

The lawyer, Daniel Bornstein, filed a seemingly spurious copyright infringement claim under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Many have noted (including Ars founder Ken Fisher a decade ago) that the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown provision practically encourages an overzealous response from those who claim copyright ownership.

The two-minute video depicts Bornstein at a January 2014 seminar in which he is speaking to local landlords but is interrupted by protesters angry at the rise in San Francisco evictions. Many such evictions have been blamed on rising rents, which have in turn been blamed on the huge influx of cash from high-paid tech jobs. (Just last week, the median home sales price in San Francisco topped $1 million for the first time.)

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Tuesday Dealmaster has a 28-inch Dell 4K monitor for $399.99

7/22/2014 2:58pm

Greetings, Arsians! Our partners at LogicBuy are back with even more deals. Have you upgraded to 4k yet? The top deal this week is a 28-inch 4K Dell monitor for just $399.99. That's $300 off the MSRP! There are a few options this week from Dell, and the company just started taking Bitcoin. So if you've got some lying around, make the most of them by hitting up these deals.

Featured Deal
Lowest price ever! Dell P2815Q 28" 4K UltraHD 3840x2160 Monitor w/3 year warranty for $399.99 with free shipping (list price $699.99)


Monitors:

HDTV and home theater

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Tor developers vow to fix bug that can uncloak users

7/22/2014 2:15pm

Developers of the Tor privacy service say they're close to fixing a weakness that researchers for an abruptly canceled conference presentation said provides a low-cost way for adversaries to deanonymize hundreds of thousands of users.

The talk previously scheduled for next month's Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas was titled "You Don't Have to be the NSA to Break Tor: Deanonymizing Users on a Budget." The abstract said that the hack cost less than $3,000 and could uncloak hundreds of thousands of users. On Monday, Black Hat organizers said the presentation was canceled at the request of attorneys from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), where the researchers were employed, as well as the Software Engineering Institute (SEI). The attorneys said only that the materials to be presented "have not yet been approved by CMU/SEI for public release." Researchers Alexander Volynkin and Michael McCord have yet to explain why their talk was pulled.

Tor officials responded by saying that they're working on an update for individual Tor relay nodes that will close the unspecified security hole.

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Supreme Court cut Internet streaming to nearly 80,000 Aereo customers

7/22/2014 2:05pm

As part of its last-ditch effort to be classified as a cable company, Aereo has filed documents with the US Copyright Office that has made public previously unknown details about the company.

At the end of 2013, Aereo had 77,596 subscribers in 10 cities, according to Peter Kafka of Re/code, who published the information earlier today. About 27,000 of them lived in New York City, Aereo's first market. Boston, its second market, had 12,000 subscribers, while Atlanta had 10,000.

By way of comparison, Kafka notes that Netflix has more than 50 million subscribers worldwide, while Hulu has 6 million subscribers for its premium service.

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Video Games: The Movie is a quarter too short

7/22/2014 1:55pm
This screenshot reminds us that Video Games: The Movie is better than the Bob Hoskins Super Mario Bros. film, but that's not saying much. Variance Films

The announcement of Video Games: The Movie was exciting and promising enough to help most fans stomach its amateur status (and its awkward title). Not that gaming documentaries are a rarity anymore; other recent, popular flicks have poked their noses into gaming culture, but they’ve typically chosen and focused on a niche, like competitive retro play or small-fry development.

VGTM, on the other hand, cast its documentary net wide by way of a giant interview cast. With luminaries like Nolan Bushnell, Warren Spector, Rob Pardo, David Crane (Pitfall), and other important games-history figures, the film’s comprehensive reputation preceded it.

Unfortunately, the film's scope, in fact, is its greatest stumble. This feature-length debut from director Jeremy Snead boasts an impressive cast and noticeable polish, but it has “overreach” written all over it, proven by a lack of focus, wildly varying levels of authority, and crippling indecision about whether gaming culture should still adopt the defensive pose of old.

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Gynecologist used secret pencam to film patients’ sex organs

7/22/2014 1:18pm

Johns Hopkins Health System is agreeing to pay more than 8,000 women as much as $190 million to settle a lawsuit charging a gynecologist with deploying a secret pencam to shoot photos and videos of patients' sex organs.

The Monday settlement is believed to be the largest involving sexual misconduct involving a physician.

The male doctor, Nikita Levy, committed suicide last year, days after a fellow doctor became suspicious and alerted administrators at the Baltimore-based hospital—one of the country's most prestigious medical centers. Levy died after wrapping his head in plastic and overdosing on helium.

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Deaf advocacy groups to Verizon: Don’t kill net neutrality on our behalf

7/22/2014 1:06pm

No company has lobbied more fiercely against network neutrality than Verizon, which filed the lawsuit that overturned the FCC's rules prohibiting ISPs from blocking and discriminating against Web content. But the absence of net neutrality rules isn't just good for Verizon—it's also good for the blind, deaf, and disabled, Verizon claims.

That's what Verizon lobbyists said in talks with congressional staffers, according to a Mother Jones report last month. "Three Hill sources tell Mother Jones that Verizon lobbyists have cited the needs of blind, deaf, and disabled people to try to convince congressional staffers and their bosses to get on board with the fast lane idea," the report said. With "fast lanes," Web services—including those designed for the blind, deaf, and disabled—could be prioritized in exchange for payment.

Now, advocacy groups for deaf people have filed comments with the FCC saying they don't agree with Verizon's position.

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Verizon nearly doubles quarterly profits after buying Verizon Wireless

7/22/2014 12:56pm
Robert Scoble

Just how profitable is fully acquiring America’s largest mobile phone companyVery.

In February of this year, Verizon purchased the remaining minority stake in Verizon Wireless previously held by Vodafone. Verizon has since raked in $4.2 billion in profits during the second quarter of 2014, compared to $2.2 billion over the same time period in 2013. Still, investors remained unmoved: Verizon’s stock price was essentially flat on the news.

One data point that likely contributed to the new, bigger company’s bottom line is Verizon Wireless’ ever-rising average revenue per account (ARPA); this rose 4.7 percent quarter-over-quarter, hitting just shy of $160 per month. As recently as January 2014, Verizon customers on average paid the most of any major carrier in the United States, at $148 per month.

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New Xiaomi Mi 4 smartphone takes its design cues from the iPhone

7/22/2014 12:13pm

Xiaomi is one of the biggest phone makers in China and is often called the "Apple of China" by the western press. The moniker is well-deserved, as the CEO has a penchant for doing product announcements wearing jeans and a black shirt and using Apple's trademark "One More Thing" surprise at the end of a show.

Today, the company announced the Xiaomi Mi 4, a new version of its flagship smartphone. The spec rundown is a 5-inch 1080p IPS LCD, 2.5Ghz Snapdragon 801 chipset, 3GB RAM, 13MP rear camera, 8MP front camera, and a 3080mAh battery. The real kicker is the price, 1,999 Yuan (about $320) for 16GB of storage, or 2,499 Yuan (about $400) for the 64GB version. The specs are similar to the OnePlus One—a 5.5-inch device for $300—and while the Mi 4 is slightly more expensive, the difference is that you can actually buy the Xiaomi device if you live in China.

And sure enough, Xiaomi is still taking inspiration from its western role model, as the Mi 4 looks like a big iPhone. A segmented metal band with chamfered edges surrounds the phone, and it even uses a similar earpiece design. The rest of the outside is plastic, but for the new version Xiaomi says it has incorporated a stainless steel frame into the device.

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