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The Art of Technology
Updated: 5 weeks 5 days ago

Google has removed 170,000-plus URLs under “right to be forgotten” edict

10/10/2014 2:40pm

Google says it has removed 170,706 URLs in the wake of a European high court ruling in May requiring search engines to take down “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant” materials from search results upon request by EU citizens.

In all, the search giant said it has already been asked to remove about half a million URLs from its search results, and it has removed about 42 percent of them, according to its latest Transparency Report published Thursday.

"In evaluating a request, we will look at whether the results include outdated or inaccurate information about the person," the report said. "We’ll also weigh whether or not there’s a public interest in the information remaining in our search results—for example, if it relates to financial scams, professional malpractice, criminal convictions or your public conduct as a government official (elected or unelected). Our removals team has to look at each page individually and base decisions on the limited context provided by the requestor and the information on the webpage. Is it a news story? Does it relate to a criminal charge that resulted in a later conviction or was dismissed?"

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Wall Street Journal: Nexus 6 to release this month

10/10/2014 2:25pm
This is a 2014 Moto X, but use your imagination. Andrew Cunningham

There are tons of rumors swirling around about the release date of the next Nexus phone, but one of the few reliable sources out there, The Wall Street Journal, says that the device is due out "this month."

The Journal doesn't seem to take much stock in the name "Nexus 6," as it only refers to the device by its codename, "Shamu." The device is expected to be a Motorola-built 5.9-inch phablet that shares a lot with the 2014 Moto X. We've even seen pictures of something matching that description and running a never-before-seen build of Android L.

In the less-reliable category: there have been a few murmurs that say October 15 is the magical day—one day before Apple's iPad/Yosemite launch. Of course, this time last year, various rumors pegged the Nexus 5 launch for nearly every day on the calendar. Last year, we saw articles claiming Nexus day was October 14October 15October 18October 21October 24October 28October 30October 31November 1, and November 14. Eventually it ended up being October 31—Halloween.

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Assassin’s Creed Unity meets gaming’s “great frame rate debate”

10/10/2014 2:05pm

It's been an interesting week for people who like to quantify the technical and graphical performance of games. It's also been interesting for Ubisoft, which has been busy walking back statements after inadvertently setting off a debate regarding how hardware power, frame rates, and artistry all factor in to modern game design.

The issue began on Monday, when Assassin's Creed Unity Senior Producer Vincent Pontbriand told that Assassin's Creed Unity was being locked at a 900p resolution and 30 frames per second on both the PS4 and Xbox One. That's somewhat noteworthy in itself, given the interest in counting pixels and frames as a way of comparing the two systems' power, but it was Pontbriand's stated reasoning that really gave the story legs.

"We decided to lock them at the same specs to avoid all the debates and stuff," Pontbriand told

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Fish unable to rapidly adapt to ocean acidification

10/10/2014 1:45pm
A species of damselfish. Klaus Stiefel

Apart from strengthening the greenhouse effect, our emissions of carbon dioxide also affect the chemistry of the oceans. When CO2 dissolves in water, it lowers the pH, which makes it more difficult for organisms to make calcium carbonate shells. The low pH also has some direct physiological effects on other marine organisms like fish. The big question mark for the future is whether these organisms can adapt or evolve to better deal with a higher-CO2 world. A new study in Nature Climate Change digs into the adaptation part of that question.

The study, led by Megan Welch at James Cook University, follows up on a previous experiment we covered in 2012. In that work, researchers put spiny damselfish hatchlings in tanks with varying levels of CO2 and tested several behaviors.

First, researchers put the fish in a split tank with one side containing the odor of a predator, and then they measured how much time the fish spent in each side. High CO2 made the animals much less likely to avoid the predator cue.

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Poor punctuation leads to Windows shell vulnerability

10/10/2014 1:35pm

A class of coding vulnerabilities could allow attackers to fool Windows system administrators into running malicious code because of a simple omission: quotation marks.

The attack relies on scripts or batch files that use the command-line interface, or "shell," on a Windows system but contain a simple coding error—allowing untrusted input to be run as a command. In the current incarnation of the exploit, an attacker appends a valid command onto the end of the name of a directory using the ampersand character. A script with the coding error then reads the input and executes the command with administrator rights.

"The scenario... requires a ‘standard’ user with access rights to create a directory to a fileserver and an administrator executing a vulnerable script," Frank Lycops and Raf Cox, security researchers with The Security Factory, said in an e-mail interview. "This allows the attacker to gain the privileges of the user running the script, thus becoming an administrator."

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HP accidentally signed malware, will revoke certificate

10/10/2014 12:20pm

Hewlett-Packard has alerted some customers that it will be revoking a digital certificate used to sign a huge swath of software—including hardware drivers and other software essential to running on older HP computers. The certificate is being revoked because the company learned it had been used to digitally sign malware that had infected a developer’s PC.

An HP executive told security reporter Brian Krebs that that the certificate itself wasn’t compromised. HP Global Chief Information Security Officer Brett Wahlin said that HP had recently been alerted to the signed malware—a four-year old Windows Trojan—by Symantec. Wahlin said that it appears the malware, which had infected an HP employee's computer, accidentally got digitally signed as part of a separate software package—and then sent a signed copy of itself back to its point of origin. Though the malware has since been distributed over the Internet while bearing HP's certificate, Wahlin noted that the Trojan was never shipped to HP customers as part of the software package.

“When people hear this, many will automatically assume we had some sort of compromise within our code signing infrastructure, and that is not the case,” Wahlin told Krebs. “We can show that we’ve never had a breach on our [certificate authority] and that our code-signing infrastructure is 100 percent intact.”

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Google finally wrests Rockstar patent suit out of East Texas

10/10/2014 11:20am
It's final: the Rockstar patent case will be heard in a court near Google's headquarters in Northern California. bubbletea1

It's been nearly one year since Rockstar Consortium, a patent holding company owned in part by Microsoft and Apple, launched a major patent assault against Google. Now, the issue of where the case will be heard has finally been resolved—in Google's favor.

Google took the case to the nation's top patent court to get it out of East Texas and back to its home state, California. The matter of venue isn't a mere sideline skirmish. East Texas courts are generally considered tough on patent defendants, with few cases resolving on summary judgment, stringent discovery rules, and last-minute scheduling decisions. Google's Texas case was scheduled to be heard in front of US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap, who hears far more patent cases than any other district court judge in the nation.

Rockstar v. Google: A brief history

Nortel, a Canadian telecom company, went bankrupt in 2009. Two years later, the company's patents were auctioned off. Microsoft, Apple, RIM, Ericsson, and Sony, grouping together as "Rockstar Bidco," spent $4.5 billion to buy the whole batch. Google bid $4.4 billion, seeking to beef up its patent portfolio, but it wasn't enough. After the auction, Google's top lawyer called the purchase a "hostile, organized campaign against Android."

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Obama: I want the FCC to ban paid Internet fast lanes

10/10/2014 10:26am

President Barack Obama yesterday said he is still “unequivocally committed to net neutrality” and that he wants the Federal Communications Commission to issue rules that prevent Internet service providers from creating paid fast lanes.

“There are a lot of aspects to net neutrality,” Obama said in response to a question at an event hosted by Cross Campus in Santa Monica, CA. “I know one of the things people are most concerned about is paid prioritization, the notion that somehow, some folks can pay a little more money and get better service, more exclusive access to customers through the Internet. That’s something I oppose. I was opposed to it when I ran; I continue to be opposed to it now.”

Obama pointed out that the FCC is “an independent agency” but said he wants the commission to prevent paid prioritization.

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NFL fan allegedly aims laser-pointer at QB, brags about it on Twitter

10/10/2014 9:00am

Found the play (10:02 left 4th qtr) when Kyle Orton said he was hit with a laser pointer. No doubt about it. #Bills

— Prescott Rossi (@PrescottRossi) October 8, 2014

A 17-year-old fan accused of pointing a green laser in the eye of the visiting team's quarterback at an NFL matchup over the weekend was cited Thursday on allegations of disorderly conduct and banned from Detroit Lions games.

The incident is similar to one that happened in June at the World Cup, when Russian coach Fabio Capello blamed his team’s 1-1 draw with Algeria on a laser pointer fired at his goalkeeper during the game.

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Lenovo unveils a tablet with a projector and the thinnest Yoga laptop yet

10/9/2014 11:00pm
The Yoga 3 Pro showing off its elaborate hinge in action. Lenovo

Lenovo is doubling down on its Yoga brand, unveiling a bunch of new tablets and laptops sporting the name today. The highlights were the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro, a 13.3-inch Android tablet with an integrated pico-projector, and the Yoga 3 Pro, a 13.3-inch Windows tablet with a 360 degree hinge that contains more than 800 parts.

Many of Lenovo's Yoga tablets have been a little unusual, as tablets go. Instead of simple cuboids, they've had a bulge along the bottom that's housed a hinged stand to prop the screen up. In the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro, this bulge is used to house a tiny projector that can cast a respectable 50 inch picture onto a nearby wall, so if the 13.3 inch, 2560×1440 LCD isn't big enough to watch a movie on, the wall may do the job.

The Yoga 2 Pro with its projector all lit up. Lenovo

The Android 4.4 tablet unusually sports a 4 core Intel Atom processor running at up to 1.86GHz. It pairs this with 2GB RAM and 32GB storage (with a microSD slot for adding another 64GB). Connectivity comes from dual band 802.11/b/g/n, and in some countries, optional 3G/4G. It has dual cameras; an 8MP rear and 1.6MP front device. The whole package weighs just over 2lbs. The battery lasts up to 15 hours on a charge. It'll be available from the end of the month starting at $499.

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Microsoft CEO apologizes for “inarticulate” comments on gender pay gap

10/9/2014 10:40pm
Satya Nadella at Thursday's Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

On Thursday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella issued an apology on his personal Twitter account after making comments about the gender pay gap at a women-in-technology conference, and he followed that up with a lengthy internal Microsoft memo.

Re/code published the memo, which saw Nadella acknowledge his mistakes during a conversation with Harvey Mudd president Maria Klawe (herself a Microsoft board member). "Toward the end of the interview, Maria asked me what advice I would offer women who are not comfortable asking for pay raises," Nadella wrote. "I answered that question completely wrong."

His memo continued by acknowledging industry-wide initiatives meant to "close the pay gap," then added, "when it comes to career advice on getting a raise when you think it’s deserved, Maria’s advice was the right advice. If you think you deserve a raise, you should just ask."

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Tesla Motors gives us "the D"—dual-motor, all-wheel drive Model S variants

10/9/2014 10:15pm
The updated -D models will have another motor between the front wheels. Tesla Motors

After teasing the Internet with a poorly-worded Twitter announcement earlier in the week, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk this evening unveiled a new optional powertrain configuration for the entire line of the company's flagship Model S sedans: dual motors, powering all four wheels.

This image of a P85D's hindquarters leaked prior to the event.

After making a few good-natured jokes about how he recently received a crash-course in the colloquial meaning of "the D," Musk kicked off the event by having a factory robot hoist an all-wheel drive Model S frame up from beneath the stage. USA Today jumped the gun with their announcement summary, and the report proved accurate. All-wheel drive will be an available option on all Model S trim levels and the new top-end P85D version will have a 0-60 time of 3.2 seconds. It will also feature a small increase in range, to 275 miles, over its rear-wheel drive predecessor.

Standard Model S sedans have until now all featured a single rear motor slung between and slightly behind the car’s rear axle, powering the rear wheels only; the new "D" models will add a second motor between the two front wheels. The new models will have a "D" suffix added to their model, so the entry-level Model S with the 60 kWh battery and all-wheel drive would be the "60D," and the top-end P85 performance model would become the "P85D."

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Hubble sees influence of a jetstream on a hot, Jupiter-sized exoplanet

10/9/2014 7:45pm
Tracking the planet's output as it completes an orbit. Hubble

Since the discovery of the very first exoplanets, it's been clear that there are lots of worlds out there that are markedly different from our solar system: hot Jupiters nearly skimming their host stars' surface, super-Earths, mini-Neptunes.

But we don't know exactly what these worlds look like. For the most part, we've been left to infer their properties using indirect measurements.

This week's edition of Science contains a description of one of the exceptions. The Hubble Space Telescope has imaged light from a hot Jupiter called WASP-43b, detecting temperature differences between the planet's day and night sides. The results suggest that the planet has an eastward jet stream that redistributes some of the heat from its host star, but otherwise there's very little circulation of heat.

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Google, Oracle Java API copyright battle lands at Supreme Court

10/9/2014 5:20pm
Peter Kaminski

Google is asking the US Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court ruling that said Oracle's Java API's were protected by copyright.

Google told the justices in a petition [PDF] this week that assigning copyright to the code—the Application Programming Interfaces that enable programs to talk to one another—sets a dangerous precedent.

The appellate court's May ruling, Google said, allows "copyright monopolies over the basic building blocks of computer design and programming."

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Symantec is splitting up to form two companies

10/9/2014 5:15pm

On Thursday afternoon, giant antivirus firm Symantec announced that it would split up into two separate, publicly traded companies: one focused on security and one focused on information management. Symantec is the company that produces The Norton antivirus security suite.

This is this third giant technology company to announce a split into two separate companies in ten days.

Last week, eBay announced that it would spin off its PayPal division so that the two companies could pursue different strategies. Then on Sunday, HP announced that it would separate into “Consumer” and “Enterprise” companies, with the consumer side focusing on PCs and printers and the enterprise company providing corporate hardware and services. Symantec, it seems, is adopting a similar philosophy, saying that the two sides of the company as it stands face unique challenges. “Taking this decisive step will enable each business to maximize its potential. Both businesses will have substantial operational and financial scale to thrive,” Michael A. Brown, symantec president and CEO said.

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There’s more than one reason why iOS 8’s growth has stalled

10/9/2014 4:50pm

If you follow Apple news closely, at some point in the last week you've probably seen the graph above. It's from Apple's Developer Support page, and the company calculates the figure by looking at the iOS versions of devices accessing the App Store. Like Google's analogous developer dashboard for Android, it's meant to give developers a broad look at OS usage so they can use that data to determine which OSes to support with their apps.

The problem with the graph above isn't that it shows iOS 8 and iOS 7 with the same amount of share, but that the number for iOS 8 has climbed just a single percentage point since the last measurement was taken on September 21. Apple's data mirrors what a number of other independent firms have been claiming virtually since launch day—Chitika's data shows that iOS 8 had rolled out to 7.3 percent of the iOS userbase after 24 hours of availability, while iOS 7 had already hit 18.2 percent in the first 24 hours after its launch. More recent data from Fiksu shows an adoption curve closer to iOS 5 (the last version you needed iTunes to upgrade to) than to iOS 6 or iOS 7.

Fiksu's data shows iOS 8 with 40 percent of the iOS pie after 22 days, compared to nearly 60 percent for iOS 7 and iOS 6. Fiksu

Though the Ars audience is generally more tech-savvy than the general populace, our own data shows that you guys are embracing iOS 8 less enthusiastically than you picked up iOS 7. Here's data from iOS 7's first two full weeks (running from September 22 of 2013 to October 5) compared to data from iOS 8's first two full weeks (September 21 of 2014 to October 4). Around 70 percent of our site visits came from iOS 7 in that time period, compared to about 60 percent from iOS 8.

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Amazon to open store with same-day delivery and pickup of online orders

10/9/2014 4:20pm
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Steve Jurvetson

Amazon plans to open "its first brick-and-mortar store" in Manhattan, with the possibility of expanding to other cities, The Wall Street Journal reported today. The store would open in time for the holiday shopping season.

"Amazon’s space at 7 West 34th Street, across from the Empire State Building in Midtown, would function as a mini-warehouse, with limited inventory for same-day delivery within New York, product returns and exchanges, and pickups of online orders," the report said. "A customer could, for example, order a pan in the morning and pick it up that evening in time to use for dinner... Amazon also may consider using the space to showcase inventory, particularly its devices like the Kindle e-readers, Fire smartphone or Fire TV set-top box, according to people familiar with the company’s thinking."

Amazon already offers same-day delivery in New York and other big cities and has set up temporary "pop up" shops and lockers for receiving orders. Rumors of a non-temporary retail store have been floating for years. Seattle was intended to be the location of Amazon's first physical store in 2012, but those plans were scrapped.

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Why are new patent suits down 40 percent?

10/9/2014 4:00pm
Lex Machina

Data produced by Lex Machina shows that patent lawsuits reached a low point in September, down 40 percent from September in 2013. Last month saw fewer new patent complaints filed than any other month in recent years, going back to 2011.

The drop comes shortly after new patent rules came down from the Supreme Court. Most notably, the Alice v. CLS Bank decision made it clear that courts shouldn't accept "do it on a computer"-type patents as valid. That's resulted in nearly a dozen patents being tossed out in a short period of time, and some patent trolls with dubious patents aren't bothering to fight it out anymore.

"It is an interesting coincidence to me it lines up with Alice this way," said Brian Howard, Lex Machina's legal data scientist. "I'm not sure I can say Alice caused this, yet—but it is an interesting correlation."

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Thursday Dealmaster has a 37 percent discount on a Dell Inspiron 23

10/9/2014 3:35pm

And a good Dealmaster day to you, too, fellow Arsians! We come to you today bearing a meaty, 37 percent discount on the i3 iteration of Dell's Inspiron 23 line, along with a cool 25 percent off a 65-inch Toshiba Smart LED set, a smattering of Dell desktops and laptops, and plenty more.

Top deal:


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New Jersey lawmakers want to restrict who can see cars’ black box data

10/9/2014 3:15pm
New Jersey wants to protect the information on black boxes in cars. Chris Yarzab

New Jersey looks set to become the next state to enact privacy laws [PDF] regarding who can view the data stored on a vehicle's black box—technically called an event data recorder or an EDR. Over 90 percent of all cars and light trucks in the US are now equipped [PDF] with EDRs that can track a vehicle's technical status and operational performance, making the information particularly useful to law enforcement and insurance companies when crashes happen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has made EDRs mandatory on all new cars.

New Jersey's potential new rules are outlined in two identical bills before state legislature—one was unanimously recommended for passage by the state's Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee last week, and the other is pending before the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. If enacted, the law would prevent access to a driver's EDR data unless law enforcement had a warrant, or EDR data could be accessed via a discovery order if the driver were involved in a civil lawsuit.

Car repair shops also sometimes use EDR data to diagnose troubles with cars—in those instances, the repair facility would have to secure the owner's consent before downloading the information.

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