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The Art of Technology
Updated: 3 hours 37 min ago

Am I being taken advantage of during the job application test?

9/21/2014 2:40pm
Stack Exchange

This Q&A is part of a weekly series of posts highlighting common questions encountered by technophiles and answered by users at Stack Exchange, a free, community-powered network of 100+ Q&A sites.

CodeWarrior asks:

I am looking for a job and have applied to a number of positions. One employer responded. I had a pretty lengthy phone interview (perhaps more than an hour) and they then set me up with a developer test. I was told that the test was estimated to take between six and eight hours and that, provided the results met with their approval, I would be paid for my work.

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Why this tiny Italian restaurant gives a discount for bad Yelp reviews

9/21/2014 2:00pm
Botto Bistro, in Richmond, California. Cyrus Farivar

RICHMOND, CA—Of all the places that have come up with a clever way to protest Yelp’s alleged aggressive advertising tactics, a small plucky Italian restaurant in a strip mall just northeast of San Francisco is as unlikely as they come.

For a few weeks now, Botto Bistro has been actively trying to become the worst-reviewed restaurant on Yelp as a way to stick it to the venerated review site—so much so that they’re offering 25 percent off for anyone who does so.

In recent years, Yelp has been publicly accused of extortionasking for money from businesses that are automatically listed on the site in exchange for preferred placement on the site. There are also accusations of abruptly vanishing positive reviews and suddenly appearing negative reviews. Earlier this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco dismissed two cases alleging that such behavior by Yelp is illegal.

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Reversible, tiny, faster: Hands-on with the USB Type-C plug

9/21/2014 1:00pm
Megan Geuss

SAN FRANCISCO—Last week, Ars met up with several representatives of the non-profit USB Implementer's Forum (USB-IF) to check out some of the first USB Type-C connectors off the assembly lines. The Type-C specification was announced in December and finalized in August, and it's set to bring a number of improvements to its predecessors, in addition to being smaller than the Type-A USB plugs we're familiar with today.

Considering how many USB Type-A devices are still being actively built out there (over 4 billion USB-compatible products are made each year), this smaller, reversible connector represents a significant jump. Jeff Ravencraft, president and COO of USB-IF, told Ars that USB-IF wanted a connector that worked equally well for large and small devices. “We also understand that yeah the consumer maybe has some trouble with putting in that cable connector,” he added of the Type-C's new-found ability to be plugged in right-side up or upside down, like Apple's Lightning connector.

The new Type-C connector is also slightly bigger than its proprietary cousin, with Type-C sized at approximately 8.4mm by 2.6mm and Lightning coming in at 7.7 mm by 1.7 mm. Unlike the reversible Lightning, but similar to USB connectors before it, the USB Type-C connector has a mid-plate inside the receptacle that the plug surrounds when it's inserted.

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Lone Star Le Mans: Ars goes racing in Texas

9/20/2014 5:50pm"xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});It's no secret that Cars Technica is a big fan of the World Endurance Championship. Thousand horsepower hybrids, racing versions of road cars like Porsche's 911 and Ferrari's 458, the sights, the sounds; we love it all. Once a year, the series visits the US, coming to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, where it shares an event with our national endurance racing series, the Tudor United Sportscar Championship. Ars is in town for the races as part of a future feature, but in the meantime here's a gallery to give you a flavor of the event. Not pictured? The crushing humidity.

Audi's R18 e-tron quattro. Diesel power, flywheel hybrid, and a string of Le Mans victories

48 more images in gallery

.related-stories { display: none !important; }

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Home Depot ignored security warnings for years, employees say

9/20/2014 3:10pm

Former information technology employees at Home Depot claim that the retailer’s management had been warned for years that its retail systems were vulnerable to attack, according to a report by The New York Times. Resistance to advice on fixing systems reportedly led several members of Home Depot’s computer security team to quit, and one who remained warned friends to use cash when shopping at the retailer’s stores.

In 2012, Home Depot hired Ricky Joe Mitchell as its senior IT security architect. Mitchell got the job after being fired from EnerVest Operating in Charleston, West Virginia—and he sabotaged that company’s network in an act of revenge, taking the company offline for 30 days. Mitchell retained his position at Home Depot even after his indictment a year later and remained in charge of Home Depot’s security until he pled guilty to federal charges in January of 2014.

The Home Depot breach, which reportedly began in April of 2014 and went undetected until earlier this month, exposed an estimated 56 million credit card numbers. Home Depot spokesperson Stephen Holmes told The New York Times that the company maintains “robust security systems.” Home Depot officials have said that the malware used in the attack, BlackPOS, had not been seen before and would have been difficult to detect with its security scans.

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Oculus announces new virtual reality headset prototype, Crescent Bay

9/20/2014 2:08pm
Oculus' Crescent Bay Prototype. Oculus VR

Oculus VR announced a new prototype for its virtual reality headset at the Oculus Connect conference in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Some new features on the updated headset, called Crescent Bay, include improved optics, 360 degree head tracking (thanks to LED on the back of the headstrap), higher resolution, and a higher refresh rate. The headset is also lighter than the previous Oculus prototype. New built-in headphones, along with software from partner RealSpace3D, promise a virtual surround sound audio component to the Rift (though users will still be able to use their own headphones, if they wish).

While Oculus has yet to go into details on the tech specs of the new prototype, CEO Brendan Iribe said Crescent Bay's jump in performance over the latest Rift development kit is similar to the jump from last year's original DK1 dev kit to the new DK2. While this isn't the long-desired consumer version of the Rift headset, Iribe said it is closer than ever to being a consumer-ready product.

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There’s not a creativity deficit in science

9/20/2014 1:00pm

Not so long ago, on a website not so far away, an opinion was expressed: creativity was being suppressed in science. On the surface, the statistics support this: younger researchers are getting progressively less of the funding. Older researchers, it is asserted, tend to propose less risky and less innovative research. As with any good opinion in science, Nobel prize winners are wheeled as supporting cast. But, is it really true? Are we truly suppressing the creative side of science?

The answer is, overwhelmingly, no. Scientific papers are a crude measure for scientific progress, but never have more papers being produced per year than now. Clearly, something creative is going on here. If you don't like scientific papers, simply look at technological progress: your smartphone would not have nearly as much punch without the creativity of scientists; antiviral drugs were not found lying about on the ground; experimental stem-cell therapies were not accidentally attempted. Behind all of these new things lies a decade or more of scientific research. But, you know, thats not creative at all.

Maybe a lack of creativity manifests if we restrict ourselves to more fundamental breakthroughs, like... finding exoplanets, brown dwarfs, the anisotropy in cosmic microwave background, the Higgs Boson, Bose Einstein Condensates, or the acceleration of the rate of expansion of the universe. Not to mention very clever experiments that test the very nature of reality itself, like Wheeler's delayed choice experiment, and Bell inequality tests. Oh wait, all of those have happened in the last 20 years. Some have even garnered Nobel prizes for their work.

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Swedish voter uses JavaScript code as write-in candidate

9/20/2014 10:15am

Swedish democracy had its latest workout last Sunday, September 14, with the election of members to the national parliament (Riksdag), county council assemblies, and municipal assemblies. While established political parties drew most of the votes, Sweden allows (and then minutely chronicles) write-in votes. This process has created such venerable institutions as the Kalle Anka Partiet (the "Donald Duck Party," a common write-in), but it also lends itself to more mischievous uses—such as jotting down a bit of JavaScript on the vote form.

Valmyndigheten, the Swedish electoral authority, helpfully logs every single write-in vote across the country, then publishes the complete list on its website. In last Sunday's election, for instance, Swedes voted for:

  • Satanistiskt initiativ
  • Schizofrena autistpartiet
  • Wisemans wisdoms
  • Young volcanoes
  • Vote for pedro
  • Jesus kristus! vår frälsare som älskare oss, dog för oss vill oss det absolut bästa! Halleluja ("Jesus Christ ! Our savior loves us, died for us, wants the best for us! Hallelujah")
  • Ett bättre Sverige för Allah ("A better Sweden for Allah")
  • Bangkok bargirls
  • Led Zeppelin

And, naturally, the "Cannabispartiet."

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Gamestop execs “very bullish” on reselling consoles’ used DLC

9/20/2014 9:00am
The doors to the 2014 GameStop Expo held in Anaheim, California, last week. Sam Machkovech

Last week, during the third annual GameStop Expo, executives at the nation's leading game-focused retailer met with Ars behind the expo's floor of playable game kiosks to detail their plans for life—and revenue—beyond the sale of physical video games. As gamers have begun cozying up to a brave new world of downloadable, triple-A games, GameStop has responded with the recent acquisition of non-gaming, hardware-focused companies Simply Mac, Spring Mobile, and Cricket Wireless.

That's not to say the company is preparing for an imminent departure from the gaming space; between DLC card sales, next-gen hardware, and a 2013 victory over the threat of one-time-use codes, GameStop still has enough physical product to push in its 4,400 American stores. But our conversations with multiple GameStop executives revealed a somewhat surprising desire: to begin buying and selling used downloadable content.

"One of the questions, frankly, the industry is going to have to address going forward is [this]: 'Is the value of a digital game less than the value of a physical game?'" Executive Vice President Mike Hogan told Ars. "If you can’t trade in a digital game—which you can’t, at this point in time, but maybe you can in the future—there’s less residual value."

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Chased from San Francisco, parking startup pops up in SoCal

9/20/2014 8:00am
Desmond Talkington

MonkeyParking, the Italian startup that allows iPhone users to sell public parking spaces via its smartphone app, has now set up shop in Southern California after being run out of San Francisco in June.

According to a blog post from nearly a month ago, which was only discovered by local media this week, MonkeyParking is now operating in the cities of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.

The respective city attorneys did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment, but Santa Monica (the hometown of yours truly) told a local newspaper that it does not look favorably upon the company.

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Bendy silicon is sensitive enough to register a falling virus

9/19/2014 7:05pm
The lasers involved look nothing like these. NREL

One of the side benefits of the smartphone generation is that there is lots of interest in making new and better sensors. The current generation of smartphones comes equipped with accelerometers, gyroscopes, proximity sensors, and light sensors. Thanks to these, your smartphone knows its orientation, its motion, when it's in the dark, and when you put it to your face. It's a compass, a level, a location beacon, a pedometer, and much, much, more. We're told that wearable devices are the next big thing. These devices will be packed with even more sensors.

The sensitivity of sensors often depend on their physical dimensions: big gyroscopes can detect smaller changes in location and orientation than small gyroscopes. Likewise, long cantilevers measure smaller changes in torque than short cantilevers. This is simply because a change in torque rotates the cantilever by a fixed angle—the longer the cantilever is, the larger the displacement at the end, and larger displacements are easier to detect.

But a team of Canadian researchers have found that it's possible to make a relatively compact sensor that's also exquisitely sensitive—so sensitive, in fact, that it can detect the force exerted by a virus falling on it.

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Texas man must pay $40.4M for running Bitcoin-based scam

9/19/2014 6:40pm

A federal judge in Texas has convicted a local man of conducting a massive Bitcoin-based Ponzi scheme, and ordered him to pay $40.4 million. The court found on Friday that Tendon Shavers had created a virtual bitcoin-based hedge fund that many suspected of being a scam—and it turned out they were right.

The Bitcoin Savings and Trust (BTCST) shut down in August 2012, and by June 2013 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed charges against its founder. In a statement at the time, the SEC said Shavers "raised at least 700,000 Bitcoin in BTCST investments, which amounted to more than $4.5 million based on the average price of Bitcoin in 2011 and 2012 when the investments were offered and sold."

Judge Amos Mazzant wrote:

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Alibaba raises over $21 billion, making it the biggest IPO ever in the US

9/19/2014 6:10pm
Charles Chan

When Alibaba stopped trading its shares on Friday, the Chinese e-commerce company had officially logged the biggest Initial Public Offering (IPO) in US history, raising $21.8 billion in its first day on the New York Stock Exchange. The company's earnings give it a market capitalization of over $200 billion, "putting it among the 20 biggest companies by market cap in the US," the Wall Street Journal notes.

Alibaba's IPO beat out record IPOs like Visa's $17.9 billion IPO in 2008 and General Motors' $15.8 billion sale in 2010. And Alibaba beat out its peers in the tech sector too, like Facebook (whose first-day earnings were $16 billion) and Google (whose 2004 IPO raised only $1.67 billion—paltry in today’s terms).

Earlier this month, the company announced that it would price shares at $66 per share. This morning around 12pm ET, the NYSE gave the go-ahead for the company, whose ticker symbol is BABA, to start trading. Shares started at $92.70, a third larger than what the company was aiming for, and ended the day at $93.89 after reaching a high of $99.70. In after hours trading, Alibaba is just down slightly at $93.60 per share, as of this writing.

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US courts agree to restore 10 years of deleted online public records

9/19/2014 5:35pm

The US bureaucracy agreed Friday to restore a decade's worth of electronic federal court documents that were deleted last month from online viewing because of an upgrade to a computer database known as PACER.

The move by the Administrative Office of the Courts, first reported by The Washington Post, comes amid a fierce backlash from lawmakers who urged it to restore the data that is among the few methods of delivering court documents to the public. It's a paid service, costing 10 cents a page, and has long been criticized as a deeply dated system that already does too little and charges too much for online access to things like judicial orders and court briefs.

To be restored are, combined, about a decade's worth of court dockets and all manner of documents at the US Courts of Appeals for the 2nd, 7th, 11th, and Federal Circuits, as well as the Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California.

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FAA bars drone from delivering game ball to college football matchup

9/19/2014 5:10pm
Don McCullough

The Federal Aviation Administration has blocked plans for a small drone to deliver the game football for the University of Michigan kickoff Saturday against the University of Utah before a crowd of about 110,000 fans.

The FAA's move is the latest example of flight regulators blocking the use of small drones for commercial purposes, despite the questionable legal authority for them to do so. The drone, built by Ann Arbor-based SkySpecs, was supposed to participate in a pre-game program of the American football game to celebrate the University of Michigan's 100-year anniversary of its aerospace-engineering program.

Bloomberg News said that after the FAA explained its rules, "the school backed down."

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A not-so-friendly reminder from the gov’t: Yelp is not for kids

9/19/2014 3:00pm

In some ways, the modern Internet is a Wild West in terms of privacy. Internet companies collect and share heaps of data from adults, but getting the same data from kids—even a few of them, even by mistake—can land them in hot water.

This week, Yelp agreed to pay a $450,000 fine to settle charges that it violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. The FTC's complaint outlines how Yelp's mobile app allowed kids under 13 to register for the site, between 2009 and April 2013.

COPPA requires app-makers and website owners to get explicit parental permission before collecting any personal information about children under 13. That personal information can include things as simple as a name and email address. COPPA is the reason why Facebook and many other popular sites don't allow users under 13.

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Hack runs Android apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers

9/19/2014 2:30pm
The official Android Twitter app running on Mac OS. Ron Amadeo

If you remember, about a week ago, Google gave Chrome OS the ability to run Android apps through the "App Runtime for Chrome." The release came with a lot of limitations—it only worked with certain apps and only worked on Chrome OS. But a developer by the name of "Vladikoff" has slowly been stripping away these limits. First he figured out how to load any app on Chrome OS, instead of just the four that are officially supported. Now he's made an even bigger breakthrough and gotten Android apps to work on any desktop OS that Chrome runs on. You can now run Android apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

The hack depends on App Runtime for Chrome (ARC), which is built using Native Client, a Google project that allows Chrome to run native code safely within a web browser. While ARC was only officially released as an extension on Chrome OS, Native Client extensions are meant to be cross-platform. The main barrier to entry is obtaining ARC Chrome Web Store, which flags desktop versions of Chrome as "incompatible."

Vladikoff made a custom version of ARC, called ARChon, that can be sideloaded simply by dragging the file onto Chrome. It should get Android apps up and running on any platform running the desktop version of Chrome 37 and up. The hard part is getting Android apps that are compatible with it. ARC doesn't run raw Android app packages (APKs)—they need to be converted into a Chrome extension—but Vladikoff has a tool called "chromeos-apk" that will take care of that, too.

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2014 Ig Nobel awards honor nasal tampons made of bacon

9/19/2014 2:20pm
Here, Nobel-winning economist Eric Maskin delivers a 24/7 lecture, in which he explains his research in 24 seconds, then in seven words. Improbable Research

The 24th Ig Nobel prizes were awarded last night, recognizing scientific research that “first makes people laugh and then makes them think."

The traditionally elaborate ceremony's entertainment included the Win-a-Date-With-a-Nobel-Laureate Contest, two Paper Airplane Deluges, and an opera set to the music of Mozart and called What's Eating You, "about people who stop eating food and instead nourish themselves exclusively with pills."

The awards for individual categories were presented at Harvard University by "a group of genuine, genuinely bemused Nobel Laureates." All but one of the teams managed to get representatives to Boston to receive the awards in person (and the group that couldn't make it appeared by video).

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Bill would limit reach of US search warrants for data stored abroad

9/19/2014 1:50pm
Aurich vs The Whitehouse, DWI

Proposed legislation unveiled Thursday seeks to undermine the Obama administration's position that any company with operations in the United States must comply with valid warrants for data, even when that data is stored on overseas servers.

The bipartisan Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS Act) [PDF] comes in response to a federal judge's July decision ordering Microsoft to turn over e-mails stored on its Irish servers as part of a Department of Justice drug investigation. The Department of Justice argued that global jurisdiction is necessary in an age when "electronic communications are used extensively by criminals of all types in the United States and abroad, from fraudsters to hackers to drug dealers, in furtherance of violations of US law." New York US District Judge Loretta Preska agreed, ruling that "it is a question of control, not a question of the location of that information." The decision is stayed pending appeal.

Microsoft, along with a slew of other companies, maintains that the Obama administration's position in the case puts US tech companies into conflict with foreign data protection laws. And it fears that if the court decision stands, foreigners could lose more confidence in US companies' cloud and tech offerings, especially in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations.

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AT&T’s friends: Meet the companies and politicians “enthusiastic” about DirecTV buy

9/19/2014 12:35pm
bfishadow/ Flickr

Customers, consumer advocacy groups, and small cable companies are speaking out against AT&T’s proposed purchase of DirecTV.

But just as Comcast was able to claim broad support for its Time Warner Cable merger, AT&T has plenty of moneyed interests and politicians on its side. Microsoft wrote to the Federal Communications Commission this week in support of the merger, pointing to AT&T’s promises to expand broadband deployments if it’s allowed to buy the satellite TV company.

Microsoft, which partners with AT&T to offer technology services to businesses, echoed AT&T’s talking points in its letter:

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