Arstechnica

Syndicate content
The Art of Technology
Updated: 3 hours 30 min ago

Captured by amateur video, NYPD “chokehold” arrest results in death

7/21/2014 1:28pm


"I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I can't breathe!"

Those were the last words captured on amateur video of an African-American man who died after New York Police Department officers subdued him during an arrest.

The death of Eric Garner, who appeared to be wrestled to the ground with a chokehold (a move that is banned by the NYPD), is the latest example of the surveillance society turned on its head. In the Digital Age, no longer is it just the watchers watching the watched.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Retro revival: Warner Bros. options movie rights to Space Invaders game

7/21/2014 12:59pm
Pre-production concept art from the film...

I really thought Hollywood was scraping the bottom of the barrel when it announced a movie based on the tabletop game Battleship a few years ago. Then that film went on to make over $300 million internationally, seemingly proving there is no gaming license dumb enough that it can't be turned into a successful big-budget blockbuster.

Thus, the recent news that Warner Bros. has apparently purchased the film rights to Space Invaders is somehow unsurprising. Never mind that the 1978 arcade classic is not exactly known for its deep plot or rich character development or that the concept of aliens invading Earth from space is not exactly a brilliant new film concept that requires a video game license. No, this business deal is obviously more about trying to hit the nostalgia-zone of the 40- and 50-somethings who remember wasting endless quarters on the game in their youth and hopefully translating those warm memories to box office sales.

The Wrap reports that heavy-hitter producers Akiva Goldsmith (Winter's Tale), Joby Harold (Edge of Tomorrow), and Tory Tunnell (Awake) are already attached to the project, which might increase its chances of actually reaching theaters at some point. Then again, films based on classic gaming franchises seem to have a habit of getting caught in development hell indefinitely; there's no hint of progress on previously announced Asteroids and Spy Hunter film adaptations, not to mention the J.J. Abrams Portal and Half-Life film project plans that seem to have been immediately pushed aside for more Star Wars.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Undocumented iOS functions allow monitoring of personal data, expert says

7/21/2014 12:53pm
Zdziarski

Apple has endowed iPhones with undocumented functions that allow unauthorized people in privileged positions to wirelessly connect and harvest pictures, text messages, and other sensitive data without entering a password or PIN, a forensic scientist warned over the weekend.

Jonathan Zdziarski, an iOS jailbreaker and forensic expert, told attendees of the Hope X conference that he can't be sure Apple engineers enabled the mechanisms with the intention of accommodating surveillance by the National Security Agency and law enforcement groups. Still, he said some of the services serve little or no purpose other than to make huge amounts of data available to anyone who has access to a computer, alarm clock, or other device that has ever been paired with a targeted device.

Zdziarski said the service that raises the most concern is known as com.apple.mobile.file_relay. It dishes out a staggering amount of data—including account data for e-mail, Twitter, iCloud, and other services, a full copy of the address book including deleted entries, the user cache folder, logs of geographic positions, and a complete dump of the user photo album—all without requiring a backup password to be entered. He said two other services dubbed com.apple.pcapd and com.apple.mobile.house_arrest may have legitimate uses for app developers or support people but can also be used to spy on users by government agencies or even jilted ex-lovers. The Pcapd service, for instance, allows people to wirelessly monitor all network traffic traveling into and out of the device, even when it's not running in a special developer or support mode. House_arrest, meanwhile, allows the copying of sensitive files and documents from Twitter, Facebook, and many other applications.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Bungie: Cross-generation Destiny wouldn’t be fair to low-res players

7/21/2014 11:56am
A comparison of the graphical differences between the PS3 and PS4 versions of the Destiny beta.

Console gamers are used to being unable to play online against others on competing platforms, thanks more to business arrangements than any underlying technical issues. But with Bungie's MMO shooter Destiny launching across two overlapping console generations, one might think that PlayStation 4 users could expect to be able to play against their friends using the PlayStation 3 through the PlayStation Network (or across the Xbox One/Xbox 360 divide using Xbox Live).

Even that kind of cross-platform play is not available in Destiny, though, a state of affairs that Bungie attributes to a sense of fair play across different gameplay resolutions.

“I’ll speak for the hypothetical player. I have a disadvantage sniping across the map because [my opponent with a next-gen console] is only two pixels on my screen and I’m four pixels on his," Bungie engineer Roger Wolfson told Digital Trends. "You see that in the world of PC gaming, where people are always racing to the best video card to give themselves the advantage."

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Verizon FiOS finally symmetrical, upload speeds boosted to match download

7/21/2014 11:40am

Verizon has boosted FiOS upload speeds to make them match download speeds, the company announced today. Both existing customers and new subscribers will get the speed upgrade. The increase is "free to current customers," Verizon said.

For example, the 15/5Mbps tier (15Mbps downstream and 5Mbps upstream) will now be 15Mbps in both directions. Other tiers before the upgrade were 50/25, 75/35, 150/65, 300/65, and 500/100. In all cases, the second number will be increased to match the first.

Additionally, a new 25/25 tier will be the entry level package for new customers, starting at $64.99 a month standalone, the "same pricing as current levels for 15/5," a Verizon spokesperson told Ars.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Explaining Continuity: The tech tying iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite together

7/20/2014 9:00pm
Continuity changes how your iPhones, iPads, and Macs interact with one another. Let's look at the technology underneath all these features. Apple

Apple wants you to buy Apple devices. It insists, mostly successfully, that computers, tablets, and phones are fully separate product categories with separate use cases and that “you should be able to use the right device for the moment.” The company brags on its earnings calls that first-time iPhone buyers are more likely to pick up additional Apple devices in the future. It’s selling a vision in which everything works best if you own an iPhone and an iPad and a Mac rather than mixing and matching.

If you subscribe to Apple’s philosophy, iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite will reward your faith. While iOS and OS X have shared certain services and features since 2011 or so, this year’s releases will take that interoperability to the next level under the “Continuity” banner.

Yes, for those of us who prefer to live in between ecosystems, Continuity takes today’s vendor lock-in problems and makes them even worse. For the large number of people who own and use multiple Apple products, though, it promises to make your devices work together in ways beyond simple data synchronization.

Read 42 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Apollo 11 turns 45: A lunar landing anniversary retrospective

7/20/2014 5:35pm

CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});
On July 20, 1969, at about four minutes before 10:00pm Central Daylight Time, former naval aviator and test pilot Neil Armstrong became the first human being to stand on the surface of the Moon. About 20 minutes later, he was followed by Buzz Aldrin, an Air Force colonel with a PhD in astronautics from MIT (Aldrin had, quite literally, written the book on orbital rendezvous techniques). Armstrong and Aldrin’s landing was the culmination of almost a decade of scientific and engineering work by hundreds of thousands of people across the United States. Even though the lunar program’s goals were ultimately political, the Apollo project ranks as one of the greatest engineering achievements in human history.

The six successful Apollo landings between 1969 and 1972 still inspire awe today, almost half a century later. A big part of that awe comes from the fact that those voyages from the Earth to the Moon were accomplished with only the most basic of computing assistance. There were no supercomputers as we’d understand them today; although the computers that eventually powered the Apollo spacecraft were almost unbelievably advanced at the time, they are alarmingly primitive when viewed through the lens of 21st century computing.

Fortunately for amateur and professional historians wondering how the effort succeeded despite its comparatively primitive computing, NASA has extensive historical resources about project Apollo available in the public domain to study, including the outstanding Apollo Lunar Surface Journal (along with its companion site, the Apollo Flight Journal). We’ve combed through gigabytes of documents and images to bring you this brief retrospective of some lesser-known interesting historical tidbits around Apollo 11 and that one small step nearly a half-century ago.

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Growth factor restores insulin response in diabetic mice

7/20/2014 3:00pm
NIH

In Type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin, leaving your body unable to make it. In Type 2 diabetes, the body continues to produce insulin, but organs don't respond to it efficiently. As a result, insulin injections, which effectively treat Type 1, don't do as much to help people with Type 2 diabetes.

There is a class of drugs called thiazolidinediones that help restore the body's ability to respond to insulin. Unfortunately, these drugs also cause a variety of side effects, including weight gain, bone density loss, and heart problems, so the search for a less problematic treatment has continued.

Now, working with mice, researchers have found that a well-known growth factor also restores the body's sensitivity to insulin and does so without any of the side effects associated with existing drugs. And they show that a modified form of the growth factor can still work effectively while reducing the risk of unforeseen consequences. This doesn't mean that using this method as a treatment will be free of side effects, but it does provide a promising avenue for further experiments.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

DOE, commercial partners start world’s largest carbon capture project

7/20/2014 1:20pm

Earlier this week, the US Department of Energy announced that work has started on what when finished will be the world's largest carbon capture facility. Located in Thompsons, Texas, the project will capture a portion of the emissions from the coal-fired W.A. Parish Generating Station. The CO2 will then be compressed and piped to the West Ranch oil field, where it will be injected under ground. This will help liberate oil that's otherwise difficult to extract, but has the added benefit that the carbon dioxide typically stays underground, sequestered.

The project was originally planned as a small pilot that would only extract CO2 from the equivalent of 60 megawatts of the plant's 3,500MW of generating capacity. When it was realized that the amount of CO2 from 60MW of would be too little CO2 to supply the oil field's needs, the project scope was expanded to 240MW. At that scale, the facility would become the largest of its type in the world.

The exhaust gas will have its sulfates removed before being bubbled through a solution of amines, which will bind the CO2. Once separated from the rest of the gasses, the carbon dioxide will be released by heating the amine solution, which can be recycled. The CO2 is then sent under pressure via a pipeline.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Robotic glove gives you extra fingers for grabbing

7/20/2014 1:00pm
Melanie Gonick / MIT

Four fingers and a thumb on each hand is pretty useful. Humans have gone from caves to sprawling cities in part because of our dexterous digits.

But researchers at MIT think we could do even better if we had an upgrade. They have developed a glove with two extra robotic fingers that respond intelligently to your movements, allowing you to perform two-handed tasks with just one robot-enhanced hand.

"You do not need to command the robot, but simply move your fingers naturally. Then the robotic fingers react and assist your fingers," said the glove's creator Harry Asada, of MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Search-and-rescue drone mission readies for takeoff after defeating FAA

7/19/2014 2:34pm
The FAA had barred search-and-rescue volunteer Gene Robinson from flying this five-pound Spectra styrofoam drone to find the missing. mahapix studio

A Texas volunteer search-and-rescue outfit that uses five-pound drones to find missing persons is resuming operations following its Friday courthouse victory against US flight regulators.

Federal Aviation Administration officials in February grounded Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team, which deployed the unmanned aircraft to search for the missing for free.

EquuSearch, which does not charge for its services, says it has found more than 300 persons alive in some 42 states and eight countries. It challenged the FAA's order and, indirectly, prevailed. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found [PDF] that the e-mail from the FAA to EquuSearch was not the official method for a cease-and-desist order.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

The Internet’s Own Boy review: Remembering—and honoring—Aaron Swartz

7/19/2014 1:37pm
The Internet's Own Boy

Every element of Aaron Swartz’s brief, remarkable life exemplifies the stuff we cover all the time on Ars. His tech-filled upbringing, his teenage rise to geek royalty, his hand in reddit’s genesis, and his online political activism made him a worthy subject of Ars conversation well before he became a household name.

Sadly, Swartz’s story didn’t reach critical mass until he took his own life nearly two years after being indicted by a federal court on twelve felony charges. The case hinged on allegations that he had downloaded 4.8 million documents from JSTOR, an online academic research archive, which he accessed from within MIT’s campus without permission.

In the weeks after his suicide, the Internet saw both a massive outpouring of grief and a comprehensive examination of what made his case so outrageous. The latter makes the new feature-length documentary about his life, The Internet’s Own Boy, less than indispensable in telling Swartz’s story, but considering the fact that he spent his final years trying to make information free and open, that’s fitting.

Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Pirate Bay traffic has doubled post-ISP blocks

7/19/2014 11:04am
Timothy Tolle

Despite court-governed blocks and its founders being jailed, The Pirate Bay's traffic has doubled since 2011.

The world's most infamous peer-to-peer file-sharing site shared these stats with Torrent Freak, adding that nine percent of all visitors use a proxy to access the site and that the US continues to be its biggest source of traffic (last year it was revealed that the US was responsible for a third of traffic to the site). That's despite the majority of copyright complaints about content shared on The Pirate Bay coming from US record labels and Hollywood studios.

An increasing number of countries around the globe block the site by forcing Internet service providers to directly block access. In 2011, Advocate General Cruz Villalón of the European Court of Justice said that forcing an ISP to filter Web traffic would infringe upon its fundamental rights. The installation of such a filter would be "a restriction on the right to respect for the privacy of communications and the right to protection of personal data." In addition, "such a system would restrict freedom of information, which is also protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights." Essentially, forcing ISPs to block Web content by their own expense and indefinitely breaches rights of citizens and companies. This view was upheld by the court.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

A guide to winning the customer service cancellation phone battle

7/19/2014 9:45am
You can check out any time you'd like, but you can never... well, you know the song. Aurich Lawson

AOL VP Ryan Block’s cancellation nightmare phone call with Comcast’s customer service went insanely viral this week, drawing a contrite canned response from Comcast’s public relations group and likely resulting in the firing of the overly zealous customer service employee who badgered Block for 10 solid minutes about his request to terminate service. Unfortunately, Block’s experience is far from unique. Putting aside the Comcast representative’s hilariously insensitive tenacity ("This phone call is a really, actually amazing example of why I don't want to stay with Comcast," Block said at one point), terrible phone-based customer service is standard operating procedure for most companies.

There is some delicious irony in the fact that Block is an AOL employee, since AOL’s ludicrous and borderline-abusive customer retention tactics are the stuff of legends. However, in this instance, Block's affiliation with AOL was immaterial: he was just another customer being forced to fight a war to cancel his Internet service.

Why do companies like Comcast and AOL make it so hard to pull the plug? Do customer service representatives get some kind of incentive for keeping customers from canceling? Is there anything you can do to power through their garbage and get what you want without having to verbally fight it out, Block-style?

Read 31 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Ars editor learns feds have his old IP addresses, full credit card numbers

7/19/2014 8:00am
Jonathan Ryan

In May 2014, I reported on my efforts to learn what the feds know about me whenever I enter and exit the country. In particular, I wanted my Passenger Name Records (PNR), data created by airlines, hotels, and cruise ships whenever travel is booked.

But instead of providing what I had requested, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turned over only basic information about my travel going back to 1994. So I appealed—and without explanation, the government recently turned over the actual PNRs I had requested the first time.

The 76 new pages of data, covering 2005 through 2013, show that CBP retains massive amounts of data on us when we travel internationally. My own PNRs include not just every mailing address, e-mail, and phone number I've ever used; some of them also contain:

Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Citing lack of interest, Lenovo pulls 8-inch Windows tablets from the US [Updated]

7/18/2014 9:50pm
Lenovo's 8-inch Windows tablets can't get traction in the US. Peter Bright

Lenovo announced today that it will no longer sell its 8-inch Windows tablets in the US, less than a year after introducing both the lower-end Miix 2 8 and the high-end ThinkPad Tablet 8. IT World reports that Lenovo is stopping sales because of a general lack of interest but that the ThinkPad 8 in particular will continue to be sold in international markets where it has managed to gain more traction. The company will also continue to sell 10-inch Windows tablets, which it claims are performing better, as well as its 7- and 8-inch Android tablets.

This isn't great news for Microsoft, which came to the small-screen tablet market late but has devoted considerable energy to making Windows work on those screens. When first released, Windows 8 required 1366×768 screens and didn't work well in portrait mode, making it poorly suited for smaller tablets with lower-resolution screens that were easy to hold upright. Microsoft later loosened those resolution restrictions, and Windows 8.1 tweaked the OS to work better in portrait mode. After a rocky start, high-quality small-screened Windows tablets began to hit the market in late 2013.

Lenovo is only the third largest PC manufacturer in the US (though it's number one worldwide), so its exit from the 8-inch Windows tablet market isn't as worrisome as it would be if Dell were to pack up and leave. Still, it's probably a bad sign for the other OEMs, who are all selling similar Windows tablets running similar hardware in a market dominated by the iPad Mini, the Kindle Fire, and any number of Android tablets from the likes of Samsung and Asus.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Google tests new Chrome OS UI that’s more Android than Windows

7/18/2014 6:23pm
The Chrome OS "Athena" UI is obviously a work-in-progress. Francois Beaufort

Google-watchers may have already heard about "Project Athena," a Chrome OS-related experiment of Google's that has appeared in the Chromium source code a few times in the past. Today we got our first official look at the new interface via Francois Beaufort, a Chrome enthusiast who was hired by Google last year after leaking several high-profile Chrome features.

The new UI, pictured above, displays a cascading stack of cards, each of which appears to represent an individual browser tab. At the bottom of the screen, an app drawer full of dummy icons and a Search field will allow the user to jump quickly into other applications. The battery indicator and network status are in the upper-right corner of the screen. Putting aside the rough, obviously-a-work-in-progress aesthetic of the interface, it bears a strong resemblance to the new multitasking UI in the Android L release, which shows apps and individual browser tabs as a similar stack of cards.

The Android L developer preview's multitasking UI on a 2013 Nexus 7. Andrew Cunningham

The current Chrome user interface, codenamed "Aura," hews much closer to Windows 7 than to Android, and it works better with a traditional keyboard and mouse combo than with fingers. The Athena UI looks like a more touch-friendly take on Chrome OS—touchscreens are gradually beginning to show up on Chromebooks like the Pixel and one of Acer's C720 models, but as we pointed out in our Chromebook Pixel review the operating system isn't particularly touch-friendly. It's possible that Google is looking to give touchscreen Chromebooks a boost by developing an interface for them that's easier to use.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Russia caught editing Wikipedia entry about downed Malaysian airliner

7/18/2014 5:41pm

The world is still reeling from the shock of the deaths of 298 people on Malaysian flight MH17, which was shot down in Ukraine yesterday, but the battle to write and rewrite history has already begun online.

Thanks to a Twitter bot that monitors Wikipedia edits made from Russian government IP addresses, someone from the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) has been caught editing a Russian-language Wikipedia reference to MH17 in an article on aviation disasters.

Статья в Википедии Список авиационных катастроф в гражданской авиации была отредактирована ВГТРК http://t.co/peZ60q07Fj

— Госправки (@RuGovEdits) July 18, 2014

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

“SOHOpelessly BROKEN” hacking contest aims to test home router security

7/18/2014 4:33pm

Over the past few years, consumer-grade routers have emerged as a key security threat. Whether manufactured by Asus, Linksys, D-Link, Micronet, Tenda, TP-Link, or others, small office/home office (SOHO) routers have suffered a variety of real-world attacks that in some cases have allowed hackers to remotely commandeer hundreds of thousands of devices.

Now, security advocates are sponsoring "SOHOpelessly BROKEN," a no-holds-barred router hacking competition at next month's Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas. The contest will challenge attendees to unleash novel exploits on 10 off-the-shelf SOHO routers running recent firmware versions.

"The objective in this contest is to demonstrate previously unidentified vulnerabilities in off-the-shelf consumer wireless routers," organizers said. "Contestants must identify weaknesses and exploit the routers to gain control. Pop as many as you can over the weekend to win. Contest will take place at Defcon 22, August 7-12, 2014 in the Wireless Village contest area."

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Photoshopping of adult porn nets man 10-year child-porn conviction

7/18/2014 4:23pm

A federal appeals court upheld Thursday the child pornography conviction and accompanying 10-year prison term handed to a Nebraska man who superimposed the image of an underaged girl's face onto a picture of two adults having sex.

The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected (PDF) claims from 28-year-old Jeffrey Anderson that his actions were protected by the First Amendment. Anderson sent the doctored image to his 11-year-old half-sister via Facebook, resulting in the charge of distributing child pornography. Anderson had superimposed the half sister's face onto the photo, the court said.

Among other defenses, Anderson argued that because no minor engaged in sex, he should not have been charged.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

novalug.com