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The Art of Technology
Updated: 1 hour 24 min ago

Man arrested for disparaging police on Facebook settles suit for $35,000

9/23/2015 1:40pm

(credit: mkhmarketing)

A Wisconsin man arrested for posting disparaging and profanity laced comments on a local police department's Facebook page has settled a civil rights lawsuit and is being awarded $35,000.

Thomas G. Smith used the Facebook page of a rural Wisconsin village called Arena to, among other things, label local cops as "fucking racists bastards."

He was charged criminally in state court on allegations of disorderly conduct and unlawful use of computerized communications. He was sentenced to a year of probation and 25 hours of community service. A state appeals court overturned his conviction last year.

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OPM breach included five times more stolen fingerprints

9/23/2015 1:10pm

5.2 million scans of this form, complete with fingerprints, are now in the hands of foreign intelligence. But don't worry, because the feds say there are very few ways the data can be "misused." (credit: FBI)

The Office of Personnel Management's press secretary, Sam Schumach, announced this morning that the breach of OPM background investigation data included approximately 5.6 million sets of fingerprints from federal employees, contractors, and other subjects of federal background checks. The new number, tied to the discovery of additional archived data that was stolen over the period of the breach, more than quintuples the amount of individuals whose fingerprint data was stolen. OPM's previous estimate stood at 1.1 million. However, the new findings do not increase the overall number of people affected in the background investigation data breach from 21.5 million, Schumach said in an official statement.

Those fingerprints were collected as part of the OPM's background investigations at all levels of sensitivity—ranging from the "National Agency Check with Written Inquiries" (NACI) inquiries for federal employees with "moderate, low risk and non-sensitive positions" to the full field investigations required for more sensitive positions. Based on leaked statements from the Obama administration, the fingerprint data is now, at a minimum, in the hands of the foreign intelligence services of China. Just how that fingerprint data could be used, however, is not clear.

"Federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited," Schumach said. "However, this probability could change over time as technology evolves. Therefore, an interagency working group with expertise in this area—including the FBI, DHS, DOD, and other members of the Intelligence Community—will review the potential ways adversaries could misuse fingerprint data now and in the future...[and] also seek to develop potential ways to prevent such misuse. If, in the future, new means are developed to misuse the fingerprint data, the government will provide additional information to individuals whose fingerprints may have been stolen in this breach."

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Clinton promises not to run private e-mail server if elected president

9/23/2015 11:54am

It might not have the ring of "Read my lips: No new taxes," but Hillary Clinton is promising not to set up any new private e-mail servers if she's elected president.

Clinton's use of a private e-mail system while US secretary of state was revealed this year, causing controversy for the former First Lady and US senator as she seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. In an interview with The Des Moines Register editorial board yesterday, an editor asked Clinton how she would promote transparency if elected president "in light of your private e-mail server."

"Well, you can count on me not to have a private e-mail server," Clinton said, drawing laughs from editors. In addition, Clinton said she'd like to have technology experts examine how government agencies can share more information with the public.

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Former cop gets two years in prison for teaching clients to beat polygraphs

9/23/2015 11:18am

A 69-year-old former Oklahoma police officer was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison for training clients to successfully cheat on lie detector tests.

Douglas Williams pleaded guilty in May to five counts (PDF) of obstruction of justice and mail fraud in connection to his now-defunct website and consulting business. According to an indictment, Williams instructed customers how to beat lie detector tests given during national security, federal, state, and local employment suitability assessments and for internal federal investigations.

On a YouTube video, Williams tells potential customers that "I can teach you how to pass, nervous or not, no matter what." He also says, "Remember, failing to prepare is simply preparing to fail."

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Unionized video game voice actors are considering a strike

9/23/2015 10:55am

Some major game publishers may soon have trouble finding top-end talent to voice their characters if a proposed strike by SAG-AFTRA goes through.

Since the sunset of a current contract at the end of 2014, SAG-AFTRA's Interactive Committee has been negotiating throughout the year for a new contract with publishers including EA Games, Activision, Disney, and Warner Bros. The union says those negotiations have come to a standstill in part over the proposed payout of a "backend bonus" for top-selling games. That bonus would pay residual royalties to voice actors on games that reach at least two million sales (or online subscribers) and scale up at every two million sale increment up to eight million sales.

"The truth is, back end bonuses are not uncommon in the video game industry," the union writes in an FAQ laying out its position on the negotiations. "Last year, Activision's COO took home a bonus of $3,970,862. EA paid their executive chairman a bonus of $1.5 million. We applaud their success, and we believe our talent and contributions are worth a bonus payment, too."

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The gen-two Moto 360—a beautiful, compact design without much new tech

9/23/2015 9:30am

The 2nd Generation Moto 360. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Without a "Nexus" smartwatch on the market, the Moto 360 has always felt like the flagship device for Android Wear. It was the first watch announced, the first with a (mostly) round display, and it was the best looking of the Android Wear watches for a long time.

But while on the outside it was the best Android Wear device, on the inside it was the worst one thanks to the seriously dated Texas Instruments OMAP 3 processor. The result was a good-looking, slow smartwatch that would often be dead before the end of the day.

For the second generation Moto 360, Motorola set out to right the wrongs of the past version. The crusty OMAP has been swapped out for a modern Snapdragon 400, which not only greatly improves the speed, but it bumps up the battery life, too. Motorola has also elevated the device's market-leading design; the 360 is now part of Moto Maker, meaning it has tons of customization options. Even size can vary, as the second generation brings a more compact 42mm version and even a smaller version marketed specifically toward women.

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LA man arrested for allegedly flying drone too close to police helicopter

9/23/2015 9:15am

(credit: John Jackson)

The City of Los Angeles has brought criminal charges against a man accused of flying a drone near a police helicopter. According to a Tuesday statement from the city attorney, the suspect, Martin Sheldon, was charged with "two counts of obstructing a peace officer in the lawful performance of his duties." If convicted, he could face up to one year in jail.

On August 27, Sheldon was found operating the drone from a parking lot along Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, while the helicopter was orbiting above a crime scene below. Officers on the ground were involved in a search for a suspect with a deadly weapon, and because the drone flew too close to the helicopter, it had to "make an evasive move" and "break off its search for the suspect on the ground."

"Using a drone to interfere with a police investigation places our officers and the public at serious risk," City Attorney Mike Feuer said in the statement. "My office will hold those who recklessly operate these devices accountable for their actions."

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Images of Google’s Nexus 5X and 6P packaging appear online

9/23/2015 9:03am

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What appear to be images of the retail boxes for the rumoured Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, as well as a fresh render of the latter, have appeared online, courtesy of Android Police. The boxes show stylised "X" and "P" graphics, each phone's 32GB capacity, and a silhouette of the devices themselves, which match up with earlier leaks. An official reveal for both phones is expected at Google's upcoming "tasty treats" event on September 29.

The supposed official render of the Huawei-made Nexus 6 also matches up with earlier leaks, showing what appears to be an all-metal construction with a camera bulge towards the top of the handset, and a fingerprint reader on the back. The Nexus 6P is said to be is 6.6mm thick, and 8.5mm at the top where the camera bulge is, although like all the current next-gen Nexus information, those measurements are unconfirmed.

On the wilder side of the rumour mill, a now removed listing for the 16GB LG Nexus 5X appeared on Amazon India's site, detailing some of the rumoured specs. These include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor clocked at 1.8GHz, a 5.2-inch IPS LCD Full HD display, a 2700mAh battery, and a 12.3MP shooter on the back with a 5MP camera on the front.

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Deal allowing tech companies to transfer data between US and EU is invalid

9/23/2015 9:01am

(credit: Elizabeth du Toit)

The "Safe Harbour" framework—which is supposed to ensure data transfers from the EU to the US are legal under European data privacy laws—does not satisfy the EU's Data Protection Directive as a result of the "mass, indiscriminate surveillance" carried out by the NSA. That's the opinion of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) Advocate General Yves Bot, whose views are generally followed by the CJEU when it hands down its final rulings.

The case was sent to the CJEU by the High Court of Ireland, after the Irish data protection authority rejected a complaint from Maximillian Schrems, an Austrian citizen. He had argued that in the light of Snowden's revelations about the NSA, the data he provided to Facebook that was transferred from the company's Irish subsidiary to the US under the Safe Harbour scheme was not, in fact, adequately protected. The Advocate General Bot agreed with Schrems that the EU-US Safe Harbour system did not meet the requirements of the Data Protection Directive, because of NSA access to EU personal data.

According to the CJEU statement (PDF link), "the access enjoyed by the United States intelligence services to the transferred data constitutes an interference with the right to respect for private life and the right to protection of personal data, which are guaranteed by the [Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU]." Another issue, according to the Advocate General, was "the inability of citizens of the EU to be heard on the question of the surveillance and interception of their data in the United States," which therefore amounts to "an interference with the right of EU citizens of the to an effective remedy, protected by the Charter."

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Serious Imgur bug exploited to execute worm-like attack on 8chan users

9/23/2015 8:00am

(credit: John Lodder)

A recently discovered attack on visitors of the 8chan image website went well beyond the venue's usual script-kiddie fare by combining two weaknesses on that property with a potentially catastrophic vulnerability on the wildly popular photo-sharing site

The result: the browsers of people who viewed certain Imgur-hosted images linked on one or more Reddit sections automatically executed code of the attacker's choice. That malicious JavaScript code in turn reached out to 8chan and exploited two additional but completely separate vulnerabilities on that site. From then on, every time one of these people visited an 8chan page, their browser would report to an attacker-controlled server and await instructions. In the process, the infected browser would bombard 8chan servers with hundreds of additional requests, although some researchers aren't convinced a denial-of-service on 8chan was the objective of the hack.

Worm-like properties

The hack had the potential to take on worm-like properties, in which a handful of viral images could generate an endless stream of traffic and millions and millions of new infections. It never got to that point, because Imgur fixed the Web-application bug on its site Tuesday morning, while 8chan temporarily blocked the execution of files based on Adobe's Flash media player. With the immediate threat averted, the question security researchers' asked was, why was a vulnerability so potentially powerful as the one exploited against Imgur squandered on such a limited number of people?

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Hands-on with the Sublevel Zero preview build—it’s Descent, and that’s great

9/23/2015 7:30am

Video: hands-on with Sublevel Zero. (video link)

It’s early 1995. I bring home a shareware demo of a game called Descent. The game’s premise is "Doom but in a spaceship." I am hooked.

It’s late 1995. My buddy Matt and I spend practically every evening with our computers connected via 9600bps modems, chasing each other through the mines in Descent’s head-to-head multiplayer.

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We played Magic against Wizards of the Coast… and almost won!

9/23/2015 7:05am

Building our Battle for Zendikar sealed decks.

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This coming weekend, on September 26 and 27, thousands of gaming shops around the world will host prerelease tournaments for the upcoming Magic: the Gathering expansion, Battle for Zendikar (BFZ). Today, partly for journalistic reasons and partly to satisfy my own deeply nerdy tendencies, I invited Wizards of the Coast to Ars Technica HQ to play a few rounds of BFZ. If you're uncertain about going to a prerelease event, or you just want a bit more information about what a prerelease event entails, read on for our experiences of playing prerelease Battle for Zendikar. (Spoiler: It's really, really good.)

I should preface this story by saying I'm a bit of a Magic newbie; I played quite a lot when I was a teenager, but only got back into it earlier this year after a 15-year hiatus. I'm still learning my way around many of the new Magic mechanics, and I have limited experience with non-kitchen-table formats, such as booster draft or sealed deck.

Fortunately, the Battle for Zendikar Prerelease Pack is quite newbie-friendly. In it, there are six booster packs, a spin-down life counter, and a handy little pamphlet that tells you how to build a decent deck. I've never played the sealed deck format before, so I simply followed the printed instructions. I was a little anxious about choosing the right colours, and building a deck with a somewhat sane mana curve, but apparently it was enough to just follow the instructions: after our little play session had concluded, the Wizards employee said my deck was pretty solid.

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Documentarian wipes out Warner’s $2M “Happy Birthday” copyright

9/22/2015 10:56pm

(credit: From court records in Good Morning to You v. Warner/Chappell)

More than two years after a documentary filmmaker challenged the copyright to the simple lyrics of the song "Happy Birthday," a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the copyright is invalid.

The result could undo Warner/Chappell's lucrative licensing business around the song, once estimated to be $2 million per year. The company is likely to appeal the ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

US District Judge George King held that the two sisters who authored the song, Patty and Mildred Hill, gave the melody and piano arrangements to Summy Co., which was eventually acquired by Warner/Chappell. But King wrote that there's no evidence they ever transferred a copyright on the words.

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XcodeGhost apps haunting iOS App Store more numerous than first reported

9/22/2015 8:33pm

Enlarge (credit: Appthority)

Security researchers have both good and bad news about the recently reported outbreak of XcodeGhost apps infecting Apple's App Store. The bad: the infection was bigger than previously reported and dates back to April. The good: affected apps are more akin to adware than security-invading malware.

"XCodeGhost seems to be far more widespread than initially assumed," researchers from security firm Appthority wrote in a blog post published Monday. "We were able to identify 476 affected apps for our customers from within our database–which is far more than the initial finding of around 40 apps would suggest."

As the graph at the top of this post shows, the outbreak started in April and has steadily gained momentum over the following five months. It's surprising that such a large number of apps were able to violate Apple's stringent App Store policies for such an extended period of time. Researchers from competing security firm FireEye, meanwhile, reported finding 4,000 iOS apps infected by XcodeGhost. Neither firm identified the apps or say if they focused on Chinese-speaking users as most in the earlier batch did.

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Coffee shop owners face backlash after “pick-up artist” podcast exposed

9/22/2015 6:55pm

This was among the least explicit posts found among the archives of Holistic Game's podcasts and Twitter feed.

Over the weekend, the founders of a coffee shop in West Asheville, North Carolina, found themselves caught up in a local uproar after their secret Internet identities, as hosts of a "pick-up artist" podcast and associated Twitter and blog accounts, had been exposed. The duo, Jared Rutledge and Jacob Owens, eventually posted lengthy public apologies on Saturday confirming their involvement in the now-offline "Holistic Game" podcast.

The original Friday report on the story, from local events site AshevilleBlog, cited a Facebook post (which was not linked) connecting the founders of Waking Life Espresso to the podcast, and it included archived links to the duo's audio and Twitter account, including copies of a few podcast MP3s. One of those podcasts, as mentioned by a report at Jezebel, included Owens telling a story about having sex with someone at a hospital who was drugged—to which Rutledge responded, "Could she give consent?" before the duo began laughing.

The podcast also included a lengthy text post titled "A Breakdown Of All My Lays," which included physical and sexual descriptions of nearly 50 women, along with numerical rankings for their faces, bodies, and personalities. Since the list included a start time of 2012, it may very well describe women that either of the men met while operating Waking Life Espresso, which the duo reportedly founded in 2010. (More than one woman was described as having been met "in my business.")

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Want to use Office on your new iPad Pro? Then you’ll need an Office 365 subscription

9/22/2015 6:24pm

The iPad Pro, with its optional stylus and keyboard-cover, should be a fine machine to run Microsoft's Office apps for iOS.

And it probably will be, but there's a catch. The Office apps on the current iPads offer both viewing and editing documents for free. A handful of features require Office 365 subscriptions, available as in-app purchases, but the core editing capabilities are all zero cost.

Install those same apps on the iPad Pro once it arrives in November, however, and all those editing features will go away. Office on the iPad Pro will require an Office 365 subscription for any and all editing.

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Soma will test your expectations about what horror stories can say

9/22/2015 5:10pm

Horror is built on expectation. The thought that something dark and terrible could be lurking in the shadows is much more effective than actually seeing the monster.

Frictional Games' infamous breakout hit, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, struggled a bit with this unseen expectations game. Amnesia is still one of the scariest games in recent memory, even five years on. But just like any video game, the developers had to give control to players—people who could move at their own pace, reload as often as they wanted, and drag Amnesia's polygonal stalkers out of the shadows and into the light. The suspicion of what could be gave way to the knowledge of what was.

Soma is also built on expectation. Specifically, it defies assumptions about the kind of stories horror games usually tell. It even defies Frictional's own marketing as strictly a follow-up to The Dark Descent, though the two do have a lot in common. Soma is much more than just another horror game, but not in the ways you might think.

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British startup finally begins shipping its handheld drone

9/22/2015 3:30pm

(credit: David Black)

A Cornwall man appears to be the first person to actually receive a Zano—the little drone manufactured by Torquing Group, a British startup that Ars visited earlier this year.

The customer, David Black, went to go pick it up in person late last week from the office in western Wales rather than waiting for it to be shipped, as he happened to be in the area.

Earlier this year, Torquing raised over £2.3 million ($3.4 million) in under two months, becoming the most crowdfunded Kickstarter project in Europe ever. However, since then, the company has repeatedly missed its own shipping deadlines. The longer the Zano delays, the tougher time the device will have competing against larger and more established rivals like DJI or Parrot.

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PETA wants court to grant copyright to ape that snapped famous selfie

9/22/2015 3:23pm

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is trying to turn copyright law on its head: in this instance, with the mug of a macaque monkey named Naruto, whose selfies went viral and have been seen around the world.

PETA filed suit Tuesday, asking the courts to declare Naruto the rightsholder and hence an owner of property: a copyright.

David Slater, the British nature photographer whose camera was swiped by the ape in the Indonesian jungle, said he has been granted copyright protection in the UK for the photos. He said he was "very saddened" over PETA's lawsuit (PDF) in the United States.

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Dallas Buyers Club files third lawsuit over Popcorn Time

9/22/2015 2:37pm

In recent years, no mainstream movie has resulted in more litigation than Dallas Buyers Club, starring Matthew McConaughey. Voltage Pictures, the studio that produced the Oscar-winning film, followed up awards season with lawsuit season, filing hundreds of cases since early 2014 against pirates alleged to have downloaded its film illegally via BitTorrent.

Now, Voltage's most litigious company has swung into action to follow a new trend: filing lawsuits against users of "Popcorn Time," an app that's been described as "BitTorrent for dummies," which allows viewing of movies through an easy-to-use, Netflix-like interface.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC filed a complaint (PDF) naming 10 anonymous Comcast subscribers in Oregon. The complaint was electronically filed on Sunday and reported earlier today by TorrentFreak. It was filed by Carl Crowell, the same attorney who has filed the other two Popcorn Time suits.

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