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The Art of Technology
Updated: 2 hours 27 min ago

Space-ready materials, race-tuned dynamics—meet the most credible Corvette yet

1/14/2015 7:00pm

The Corvette has many identities. It has long been America’s homegrown sports car. And over the decades, Corvettes have variously been boulevard cruisers, track-focused animals, even mid-life crisis mobiles. But perhaps most often, these vehicles are highway eye candy, the envy of many thrill seekers.

Corvette has not reached its current status on gear appeal alone, however. The unseen ingredient to its success has been technology, and the 2014 Corvette Stingray is simply the latest in a long line of vehicles that quietly thrive off clever innovations while looks and speed grab most of the attention. Now, this seventh-generation Corvette is a looker, but it’s also—by quite a margin—the most versatile sports car to wear the name. There's never been a 'vette quite like this, thanks to the C7's liberal use of clever upgrades throughout: lightweight materials more common to the aerospace industry; clever electronics controlling the engine, drivetrain, and so on. Over the summer we spent a week with one to see how it all works and ask what the fuss was about. The answer? This is the most credible Corvette yet.

A brief (three graphs!) history

The first Corvettes took to the streets in 1953, and even then the car was known for some innovation. The initial Corvettes used glass fiber reinforced plastic body panels, something of a novelty in the 1950s. But these vehicles were powered by a rather anemic six cylinder engine coupled to a two-speed automatic transmission—they were neither particularly quick, nor that popular.

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Big Cable, Obama spar over government-run broadband networks

1/14/2015 6:30pm

President Obama today continued his push for municipal broadband networks while cable companies and Republican members of the Federal Communications Commission claimed government-run networks are often taxpayer ripoffs.

Obama spoke at Cedar Falls Utilities in Iowa, one day after calling for an end to laws in 19 states that make it difficult for cities and towns to create their own broadband networks. Cedar Falls, which is not in one of those states, offers 1Gbps fiber Internet service for $135 a month. Comcast’s fastest residential service tops out at 505Mbps and costs $400 a month.

“Your network is as fast as some of the best networks in the world,” Obama told the Cedar Falls crowd. “Here’s the catch, in too many places across America some big companies are doing everything they can to keep out competitors… In some states it is virtually impossible to create networks like the one you have in Cedar Falls. Today I’m saying enough is enough, we’re going to change that.”

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Zombie cookie: The tracking cookie that you can’t kill

1/14/2015 6:06pm

An online advertising clearinghouse relied on by Google, Yahoo, and Facebook is using controversial cookies that come back from the dead to track the Web surfing of Verizon customers.

The company, called Turn, is taking advantage of a hidden undeletable number that Verizon uses to monitor customers' habits on their smartphones and tablets. Turn uses the Verizon number to respawn tracking cookies that users have deleted.

"We are trying to use the most persistent identifier that we can in order to do what we do," Max Ochoa, Turn's chief privacy officer, told ProPublica.

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New York City finally gets its first commercial wind turbine

1/14/2015 5:35pm

Given I was headed to the public introduction of New York City's largest wind turbine, I almost expected it to be visible from the subway station. But it was also New York City's first commercial-scale wind turbine, so the standards for "largest" were pretty low. At 100kW, it's dwarfed by the multi-MegaWatt monsters that are going up elsewhere in the country. But as a pioneering project, it may have performed a critical function: it helped highlight just how many things are wrong with New York City's permitting process.

The new turbine is sited on the equally new Sunset Park recycling facility in Brooklyn (we'll have more on the recycling facility later). To get a glimpse of it, you have to get past the Gowanus Expressway and the wall of warehouses that sit a block off the waterfront. Then, once you make your way past a federal detention center, it finally comes into view. Having seen the large industrial-scale turbines, a commercial one is decidedly less impressive. Still, it was spinning away happily on what was not an especially windy day.

The wind turbine may be the largest in New York City, but it hardly dominates the neighborhood it's situated in.

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When operating at full capacity, the turbine can supply up to four percent of the recycling facility's power needs; combined with a 600kW array of solar panels, the facility can get up to 20 percent of its energy from local renewable sources. The turbine took only a month to put up, and, given that it's expected to operate at about 30 percent of its rated capacity, it's expected to have covered its costs by five years from now. Which makes you wonder why Sims Municipal Recycling, which runs the facility, didn't put up more than one on its rather large site.

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Obama wants Congress to increase prison sentences for hackers

1/14/2015 5:15pm

The Obama administration, currently engaged in a war of words with North Korea over the recent hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment, is calling on Congress to increase prison sentences for hackers and to expand the definition of hacking.

During next week's State of the Union address, the president is set to publicly urge increased prison time and other changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act—the statute that was used to prosecute Internet activist Aaron Swartz before he committed suicide in 2013.

Number 10

At issue is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), passed in 1984 to bolster the government's ability to nab hackers who destroy or disrupt computer functionality or who steal information.

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BlackBerry says $7.5 billion Samsung takeover deal is bogus [Updated]

1/14/2015 4:16pm

Update: BlackBerry has denied that Samsung approached the company for a possible deal. That news sent BlackBerry shares tumbling 16 percent in after-hours trading. Ars has reached out to Samsung for additional confirmation and will make a second update if we hear back. Phew! What a wacky day on Wall Street!

Original report: CNBC first reported that Samsung had approached BlackBerry late Wednesday afternoon, and Reuters shortly thereafter reported that Samsung was interested in paying $7.5 billion for the Canadian company. “According to a person familiar with the matter and documents seen by Reuters,” Samsung is hoping to get its mitts on BlackBerry's valuable patent portfolio, primarily.

The news has sent BlackBerry's usually ho-hum stock price soaring, with the company up 30 percent at the time of this writing.

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Want Google’s modular Android phone? Find a food truck in Puerto Rico

1/14/2015 4:02pm"xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true});

Google's modular Project Ara smartphone still isn't a thing you can buy, but over the last year or so it has moved from idea on paper to dummy prototype to actual working prototype. Today, at its Project Ara Module Developers Conference in Mountain View, Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group shared some more information on Ara and when we might expect to see phones in the wild.

Google's first test market for the first Ara phone will apparently be Puerto Rico, a US territory chosen because of its "diverse mobile user base," the fact that many of those users' cell phones are their primary means of Internet access, and because its free trade zones would make it easier to get modules. Gizmodo reports that the version of Ara that launches in Puerto Rico will include LTE and "at least a day" of battery life, and that between 20 and 30 Ara modules should be available by then.

The strangest thing about the test launch is actually the distribution method—Google apparently wants to turn actual food trucks into portable stores that will demonstrate and sell phones and modules to interested parties. It works for halal food and ice cream, I guess, so why not try it for phones?

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Ars unexpectedly travels to China… to check out commercial research

1/14/2015 3:35pm

In a rather unexpected development, I'm going to China.

It's for work. Ars is sending me and a few other editors to General Electric’s Global Research Centers, specifically GE's China Technology Center in Shanghai. This is a new kind of partnership for us, one where we get unprecedented access to GE researchers to find out what they're doing, and GE is going to sponsor our explorations of related scientific and technical matters that interest us.

This isn't the first time we've be visited a research lab. We've been to CERN, Fermi, and Brookhaven National Lab; we've also spent time at the Broad genome center. But all of those are government-supported basic research. They certainly aren't disappointed when their work has commercial applications; some of them even have partnerships with companies. But that's generally separate from the main focus of such facilities.

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Comcast-owned NBC loves Obama too much, right-wing PAC claims

1/14/2015 3:30pm

A right-wing political action committee (PAC) claims that the Comcast-owned NBC is manipulating the news to hide President Obama’s shortcomings and is speaking out against Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC).

The group, Conservative War Chest (CWC), issued a press release describing “The appearance of collusion by NBC with Obama Administration officials and Democratic activists to shape the news agenda.”

Comcast purchased NBCUniversal during Obama’s first term and is now seeking Federal Communications Commission approval of its TWC merger.

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Facebook At Work finally lets employees get away with Facebook at work

1/14/2015 2:17pm

On Wednesday, Facebook finally unveiled a long-rumored version of its social network, dubbed Facebook At Work, with an emphasis on organizational communication for employees at a single company. The service, which is set to launch as a free app on Android's Google Play and iOS' App Store later today, will still require participating companies to receive an official invite, but upon launching the service, employees will enter an ad-free, no-subscription version of Facebook that connects employees only to each other, as opposed to the wider world.

Facebook hasn't revealed many screenshots or any demo footage ahead of the app's launch, but Facebook offered Ars a brief description: "Facebook at Work is a separate experience that gives employees the ability to connect and collaborate efficiently using Facebook tools, [including] many that they’re likely already using, such as News Feed, Groups, messages, and events." In that respect, the service will both mirror those of corporate communication tools like Yammer and Slack and offer its own familiar twist for employees who have already gotten hooked on Facebook's style.

In the meantime, creator Lars Rasmussen made the interview rounds on Wednesday to describe what users can expect from the work-only version. In short, users will be allowed to have both their personal and work logins running at the same time, though in separate apps; they'll be able to share documents through the Work site but not yet edit them; and much of the way posts and links are presented will resemble Facebook Groups.

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Samsung finally puts Tizen on a smartphone, launches the Z1 in India

1/14/2015 1:55pm

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.related-stories { display: none !important; }"xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true});Samsung has been shipping Tizen on smartwatches and a few appliances, but the company's goal has always been to use the OS as a smartphone platform. As a smartphone platform, though, Tizen has suffered delay after delay—the OS was originally scheduled to see a commercial smartphone launch in "August or September" of 2013.

Today, smartphone Tizen is finally a commercial product. As anticipated, Samsung announced that the "Samsung Z1" would be available starting today in India for Rs 5,700 (about $92).

At around $100, it's roughly the same price as Google's Android One devices. For specs, the Z1 has a 4-inch 800×480 display, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 768MB of RAM, 1500 mAh battery, 3.1MP rear camera, and "VGA" front camera.

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NSA official: Support of backdoored Dual_EC_DRBG was “regrettable”

1/14/2015 1:43pm

It was a mistake for the National Security Agency to support a critical cryptographic function after researchers presented evidence that it contained a fatal flaw that could be exploited by US intelligence agents, the agency's research director said.

The comments by NSA Director of Research Michael Wertheimer were included in an article headlined The Mathematics Community and the NSA published this week in a publication called Notices. The article responds to blistering criticism from some mathematicians, civil liberties advocates, and security professionals following documents provided by former NSA subcontractor Edward Snowden showing that the agency deliberately tried to subvert widely used crypto standards. One of those standards, according to The New York Times, was a random number generator known as Dual EC_DRBG, which was later revealed to be the default method for generating crucial random numbers in the BSAFE crypto toolkit developed by EMC-owned security firm RSA.

NSA officials shepherded Dual EC_DRBG through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in 2006. A year later, researchers from Microsoft presented evidence that the number generator contained a type of backdoor known to cryptographers as a "trap door." The weakness, the researchers said, allowed those who knew the specific NSA-generated points on the standard's elliptic curve to work backward to guess any crypto key created by the generator. Despite widespread coverage of the research and concern expressed by security experts, the NSA continued to support Dual EC_DRBG. It wasn't until September 2013—six years after the research came to light—that RSA advised customers to stop using the NSA-influenced code. Last year, NIST also advised against its use.

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Report: HomeKit uses AppleTV as a smart home hub, sometimes [Updated]

1/14/2015 1:22pm

Apple announced its HomeKit smart home framework back at WWDC in June of 2014, but since then Apple has been relatively quiet about it. The company finalized the licensing requirements for its partners back in October, and the first certified wireless chips reportedly began going out in November, but there has been little official news. Some companies with HomeKit-enabled products were at CES last week, though, and they were able to reveal a few functional details.

One of the things that HomeKit will enable is centralized control for multiple smart home devices, something you'll be able to do through apps and using Siri voice commands. If you want to issue voice commands while you're away from home, however, The Verge reports that you'll also need an Apple TV on your home network to work as a hub that will pass along those commands. This is, apparently, the only HomeKit-related reason why you'd need an Apple TV—you can still operate your devices remotely if you use an app, and you can use Siri to operate things if you're still in your house, but using Siri remotely will need a set-top box.

HomeKit support was quietly added to the Apple TV back in the iOS 8.1 update (software version 7.0.1, using the Apple TV's numbering), but the company didn't make a big deal about it and it wasn't clear what its role in Apple's smart home ecosystem would be. The answer is apparently "not much," but HomeKit is still in its infancy and the box could see its capabilities expand as more devices and features join the ecosystem.

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Windows Phone getting even cheaper with two new sub-$100 smartphones

1/14/2015 1:03pm
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Microsoft is continuing to make its Lumia lineup of Windows Phones even more affordable with the launch of Lumia 435 and 532. The two 4-inch phones will cost about €69 and €79 respectively (about $81 and $93), before any operator incentives are added.

While one phone is a member of a new 400 series, and the other is a 500 series device, the two handsets are far more similar than they are different. Both use 1.2GHz Snapdragon processors; dual-core in the 435, quad-core in the 532. Both have 4-inch 800×480 screens, with the 532 supporting the Glance feature found on many other Lumias. Both have 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage, and both support microSD cards up to 128GB. Both are 3G devices supporting up to 42Mbps HSDPA. Both have VGA-quality front-facing cameras. The biggest practical difference is in the rear-facing cameras: 2MP fixed focus on the 435, 5MP fixed focus on the 532.

And the almost identical Lumia 435. Microsoft

They're also nearly identical in size and appearance: they're a little on the thick side (11.7mm/11.6mm for 435/532) but otherwise quite small, as befits the 4-inch screen.

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“Startup” will glitterbomb your least favorite people

1/14/2015 12:41pm

Someone ruined your day? Why not take sweet, petty revenge by sending them a surprise envelope full of glitter, guaranteed to get everywhere and annoy them for, potentially, weeks? Such fabulous vengeance can now be easily attained, thanks to

Calling glitter "the herpes of the craft world"—and it should be noted that the whole site is written with the kind of NSFW potty mouth that can only be born from years of minor frustrations, finally boiling over into a shimmering rage—the service will send an envelope crammed with powdery shiny stuff anywhere in the world for the princely sum of AUS$9.99 (about US$8.15). Even better, they'll cram in a note telling the recipient how much of a jerk they are.

Yes, this is an actual service you can pay real Earth money for. What's more, there's apparently a long-ignored market for glittery retribution. "The response has been f***ing huge," the site's founder Mathew Carpenter tells "We've been upvoted on Reddit thousands of times, the amount of times the website has been shared on Facebook and Twitter has been more than I can count whilst drunk, and for some reason we're making a tonne of money. Who knew, aye?"

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Super Mario Galaxy 2 leads slate of downloadable Wii games on Wii U

1/14/2015 10:38am

Nintendo has announced that it will release select Wii games in downloadable versions for the Wii U starting today. Super Mario Galaxy 2, available later today, will be the first game to get the downloadable treatment, followed by the Wii version of Punch-Out!! on January 22 and Metroid Prime Trilogy on January 29.

All three games will be available for $19.99 in the US, but early adopters can download them for half price during their first week of availability. Wii game downloads will cost ¥2500 (about $25) in Japan and £17.99 or €19.99 in Europe (About $23 to $27).

While all original Wii game discs can already be played on the Wii U by switching the new console to "Wii mode," the new downloadable versions can be played entirely on the Wii U GamePad if the original game supported the Wii Classic Controller. The downloads also won't be subject to the supply constraints of some of the more collectible Wii discs; the limited-edition Metroid Prime Trilogy routinely goes for $60 or higher on auction sites.

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“New Nintendo 3DS XL” to launch in US on February 13 for $200 [Updated]

1/14/2015 9:35am

Update (Jan. 14): Nintendo confirmed the Feb. 13 US release date reported below in a Nintendo Direct presentation this morning, also announcing a suggested retail price of $199.99.

There was no mention of a standard-sized version of the system for the US, suggesting the XL-sized version will be the only one available in this country for the time being. Nintendo did announce a special edition gold version of the console, styled with The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask art, to promote the Feb. 13 launch of Majora's Mask 3D.

The base package won't include an AC Adapter, but customers can re-use any AC adapter from previous DSi or 3DS systems, or purchase one separately, Nintendo said.

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Silk Road stunner: Ulbricht admits founding the site, but says he isn’t DPR

1/13/2015 7:50pm

NEW YORK—Once they got the chance, it took prosecutors less than a minute to point the finger—literally—at Ross Ulbricht.

The jury of six men and six women were assembled in Manhattan's federal courthouse to hear a story about a "dark and secret part of the Internet," government lawyer Timothy Howard explained. The story was about "a website called Silk Road, where anybody, anywhere could buy and sell dangerous drugs with the click of a mouse."

"That man," Howard said, turning to look straight at Ulbricht and extending his arm towards him. "The defendant—Ross Ulbricht—he was the kingpin of this criminal empire."

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Man gets 10 years in prison after perpetrating website sales scam

1/13/2015 7:15pm

A California man was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison after engaging in a years-long scheme to defraud people who responded to his ads selling domain names and websites that he claimed continually generated revenue.

Federal prosecutors alleged that John Winston Boone scammed 18 people for approximately $1.3 million—providing false PayPal records to his victims to illustrate this profitability. Initially, Boone plead not guilty, but later changed his plea in late 2013.

United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, who was the same judge in a 2013 Los Angeles Prenda hearing, called the defendant’s conduct "cruel and callous." Judge Wright also noted that Boone "showed a lack of humanity that was so base and so depraved."

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Obama calls for end to 19 state laws that harm community broadband

1/13/2015 6:57pm

President Obama today called for an end to state laws that restrict the rights of cities and towns to build their own broadband networks.

In a report titled, "Community-based broadband solutions: The benefits of competition and choice for community development and highspeed Internet access," the White House said it wants to "end laws that harm broadband service competition."

"Laws in 19 states—some specifically written by special interests trying to stifle new competitors—have held back broadband access and, with it, economic opportunity," the report said. "Today President Obama is announcing a new effort to support local choice in broadband, formally opposing measures that limit the range of options to available to communities to spur expanded local broadband infrastructure, including ownership of networks. As a first step, the Administration is filing a letter with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging it to join this effort by addressing barriers inhibiting local communities from responding to the broadband needs of their citizens."

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