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Hier — 16 novembre 2019Ars Technica

Frank Miller inks deal for a Sin City TV series based on his neo-noir comics

Par Jennifer Ouellette
Mickey Rourke played tough guy Marv in the 2005 film, <em>Sin City</em>, and its 2014 sequel, <em>Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.</em>

Enlarge / Mickey Rourke played tough guy Marv in the 2005 film, Sin City, and its 2014 sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. (credit: YouTube/Miramax)

We're getting a TV adaptation of Sin City, Frank Miller's series of neo-noir comics inspired by crime pulp fiction, Deadline Hollywood reports. Miller just inked a deal with Legendary Television for the project, and apparently a similar agreement is close to completion with Robert Rodriguez, who collaborated with Miller on the film adaptions of the comic series in 2005 and 2014. The agreement comes with a first season guarantee, pending a partnership with one of the major networks or streaming platforms. Given that Miller wants the series to rate a hard "R," streaming seems the most likely option.

Miller cut his teeth in the 1980s on Marvel Comics' Daredevil series and DC Comics' The Dark Knight Returns. A longtime fan of film noir, especially the films of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, Miller wanted to bring that same tone to Sin City, an anthology of stories set in the fictional Western town of Basin City (aka Sin City). The series art was noteworthy for its unique aesthetic, drawn almost entirely in black-and-white, with occasional bright splashes of color (red, yellow, blue, or pink) to highlight certain characters. And Miller drew on classic pulp fiction for the writing as well.

Almost every inhabitant of Sin City is corrupt, from the police department to the wealthy Roark family dynasty, with different factions carving out niches in the overall hierarchy. Miller has said he wanted it to be "a world out of balance, where virtue is defined by individuals in difficult situations, not by an overwhelming sense of goodness that was somehow governed by this godlike Comics Code." So we get stories, or "yarns," about one man's brutal rampage to avenge his lover's killer; gang warfares; and the hunt for a disfigured serial killer targeting young women. The yarns aren't necessarily connected, but they all take place in the same fictional world, and various characters recur in different stories.

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Tapestry: Has the mythical “2-hour civ-building board game” arrived?

Par Ars Staff
Gettin' ready for some two-hour civ building.

Enlarge / Gettin' ready for some two-hour civ building. (credit: Dan Thurot)

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at

As a longtime player of cardboard civilization games, I’m always looking for titles that break the mold. From the moment it was revealed, Jamey Stegmaier’s Tapestry looked like it might fit the bill. With its pre-painted buildings, non-historical civilizations, and the hieroglyphic script that runs the perimeter of the board, it seemed to promise a civilization game that wasn’t quite like any other.

And, well, it certainly delivers on that front. Tapestry is indeed unlike most of its civ-game peers.

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The science of audio: How a podcast reveals the pleasant mysteries of hearing

Par Ars Staff
The science of audio: How a podcast reveals the pleasant mysteries of hearing

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images / Aurich Lawson)

The first episode of audio-obsessed podcast Reasonably Sound that made me stop and think was an early entry called "Whisper Quiet." As my introduction to Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR), and the specific auditory cues related to its reported physical reactions, I felt like someone had taken the top off my head, rummaged around in my brain, and found something overlooked inside that was suddenly useful. And not just in an ASMR sense, though the sample clips of Bob Ross hit all the right notes for that, as did host Mike Rugnetta getting into the spirit of ASMR by whispering the end credits.

Reasonably Sound is a podcast about audio and about the historical and cultural context of particular sounds and sonic experiences. In his episode about ASMR, Rugnetta not only introduces his audiences to what ASMR is, but he also contextualizes the rise of ASMR culture on YouTube within the broader history of communication technology, starting with an AT&T advertising campaign from the 1970s promoting long-distance calls as a medium for emotional intimacy. He also digs into the jargon of ASMR culture, comparing the pleasant "triggers" found in ASMR videos to the more serious triggers of trauma responses.

Research into the causes of ASMR didn't start being published in earnest until 2015, months after the release of "Whisper Quiet," so Rugnetta mentions in a later episode that he's skeptical of the phenomenon’s existence. But, real or imagined, he acknowledges ASMR's memetic status and delights in exploring the cultural context that produced it.

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Dark matter link to regular matter’s dominance fails to show up

Par John Timmer
Image of a high energy physics lab.

Enlarge / Given how messy a typical physics lab is, CERN is just as likely to lose the animator it intends to store. (credit: Maximilien Brice, Julien Ordan/CERN)

Matter, despite being omnipresent here on Earth, is a bit of a mystery. Most of the matter in the Universe comes in the form of dark matter, which doesn't seem to have significant interactions with light or other matter. Meanwhile, the more familiar form of matter shouldn't be here at all. It should have been created in equal amounts to antimatter, allowing the two to annihilate each other following the Big Bang.

Physicists have found a few ways of breaking the matter/antimatter symmetry, but they aren't sufficient to account for matter's vast predominance. So, there are lots of ideas floating around to handle it, and some of them are even testable. One of the more intriguing categories of solution links the two big problems with matter: tying the prevalence of matter to the existence of a specific dark matter particle.

Now, scientists have made some antimatter in a lab and used that to test one of these ideas. The test came up blank, putting limits on the possible link between dark matter and antimatter's absence.

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The version of Star Wars on Disney+ changes the canon once again

Who shot first?

Enlarge / Who shot first? (credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. | Disney)

Drew Stewart got the call at around 2am: They broke the universe again, you should check it out.

So Stewart did something he's done countless times before; he has no idea how many. He turned on Star Wars. But this time was different—literally. The galaxy had changed, like a glitch in the Matrix (if you'll allow a mixed cinematic metaphor). And it wasn't the first time.

As the person behind a Twitter account called Star Wars Visual Comparison, Stewart is a kind of unofficial keeper of apocrypha, of the sometimes subtle, sometimes extraordinary changes wrought by their makers upon three Star Wars movies: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi. These alterations to the canon are the stuff of many nerd debates, and Stewart has followed them closely. That's why, at 2:50am on the day Disney+ launched with the whole Star Wars catalog in 4K resolution (pretty!), he found himself watching A New Hope yet again. What he found was yet another wrinkle: an all-new, all-different shoot-out between Han Solo and the lizardish bounty hunter Greedo.

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Google search results have more human help than you think, report finds

Par Kate Cox
A large Google sign seen on a window of Google's headquarters.

Enlarge / Mountain View, Calif.—May 21, 2018: Exterior view of a Googleplex building, the corporate headquarters of Google and parent company Alphabet. (credit: Getty Images | zphotos)

Google, and its parent company Alphabet, has its metaphorical fingers in a hundred different lucrative pies. To untold millions of users, though, "to Google" something has become a synonym for "search," the company's original business—a business that is now under investigation as more details about its inner workings come to light.

A coalition of attorneys general investigating Google's practices is expanding its probe to include the company's search business, CNBC reports while citing people familiar with the matter.

Attorneys general for almost every state teamed up in September to launch a joint antitrust probe into Google. The investigation is being led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said last month that the probe would first focus on the company's advertising business, which continues to dominate the online advertising sector.

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Supreme Court agrees to review disastrous ruling on API copyrights

Par Timothy B. Lee
Signage stands at the Oracle Corp. headquarters campus in Redwood City, California, on March 14, 2016.

Enlarge / Signage stands at the Oracle Corp. headquarters campus in Redwood City, California, on March 14, 2016. (credit: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Supreme Court has agreed to review one of the decade's most significant software copyright decisions: last year's ruling by an appeals court that Google infringed Oracle's copyrights when Google created an independent implementation of the Java programming language.

The 2018 ruling by the Federal Circuit appeals court "will upend the longstanding expectation of software developers that they are free to use existing software interfaces to build new computer programs," Google wrote in its January petition to the Supreme Court.

The stakes are high both for Google and for the larger software industry. Until recently, it was widely assumed that copyright law didn't control the use of application programming interfaces (APIs)—standard function calls that allow third parties to build software compatible with an established platform like Java.

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Physicists capture first footage of quantum knots unraveling in superfluid

Par Jennifer Ouellette
Researchers captured the decay of a quantum knot (left), which untied itself after a few microseconds and eventually turned into a spin vortex (right).

Enlarge / Researchers captured the decay of a quantum knot (left), which untied itself after a few microseconds and eventually turned into a spin vortex (right). (credit: Tuomas Ollikainen/Aalto University)

The same team who tied the first "quantum knots" in a superfluid several years ago have now discovered that the knots decay, or "untie" themselves, fairly soon after forming, before turning into a vortex. The researchers also produced the first "movie" of the decay process in action, and they described their work in a recent paper in Physical Review Letters.

A mathematician likely would define a true knot as a kind of pretzel shape, or a knotted circle. A quantum knot is a little bit different. It's composed of particle-like rings or loops that connect to each other exactly once. A quantum knot is topologically stable, akin to a soliton—that is, it's a quantum object that acts like a traveling wave that keeps rolling forward at a constant speed without losing its shape.

Physicists had long thought it should be possible for such knotted structures to form in quantum fields, but it proved challenging to produce them in the laboratory. So there was considerable excitement early in 2016 when researchers at Aalto University in Finland and Amherst College in the US announced they had accomplished the feat in Nature Physics. The knots created by Aalto's Mikko Möttönen and Amherst's David Hall resembled smoke rings.

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Apple bans vaping apps from the iOS App Store

Par Timothy B. Lee
Woman smoking electronic cigarette.

Enlarge / Woman smoking electronic cigarette. (credit: BSIP/UIG/Getty)

Apple has removed all 181 vaping-related apps from the iOS App Store, Axios reported on Friday morning. The move follows rising concern about the possible health impacts of vaping.

Some of the banned apps provided news and information about vaping. Some were vaping-themed games. There were also apps that allowed users to adjust the temperature and other settings on their vaping devices.

To avoid breaking functionality for existing customers, Apple is allowing them to continue using vaping apps already on their devices—and to transfer them to new devices. But new users won't be able to download these apps, and new vaping apps can't be published on Apple's store.

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Huawei finally ships the foldable Mate X, complete with a protective pouch

Par Ron Amadeo
  • The Huawei Mate X uses one big wraparound display made by BOE. [credit: Huawei ]

Huawei's futuristic foldable smartphone, the Huawei Mate X, is finally a real product. The phone went on sale in China today for the heart-stopping price of $2,421 (16,999 yuan).

Just like that other foldable smartphone on the market, the Galaxy Fold, the Mate X had a very bumpy road on its way to market full of delays and setbacks. The phone was originally scheduled for release in "the middle of the year," but in the midst of the US' Huawei export ban and the Galaxy Fold's initial delay, Huawei opted to delay the Mate X. The new launch target was September, but when September rolled around, the phone was delayed again to today's November 15 launch date.

Not much has changed since the initial announcement. Wrapped around the body of the Mate X is a flexible OLED display made by BOE. The panel is an 8-inch 2480×2200 tablet when open. When closed, it splits into a 2480×1148, 6.6-inch display on the front and a 6.3-inch, 2480×892 display on the back. The back is a bit smaller because it also houses the component bar, which is the one section of the phone that doesn't split in half. This thicker section houses important components like the three cameras, a power button, a fingerprint reader, and a USB-C port on the bottom.

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“Dirty trickster” Roger Stone convicted on all counts in Mueller indictment

Par Sean Gallagher
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 15:  Former adviser to US President Donald Trump, Roger Stone departs the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse after being found guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election on November 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. Stone faced seven felony charges and was found guilty on all counts.

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 15: Former adviser to US President Donald Trump, Roger Stone departs the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse after being found guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election on November 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. Stone faced seven felony charges and was found guilty on all counts. (credit: Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Ten months after his arrest by a swarm of FBI agents, former Trump adviser and self-proclaimed "dirty trickster" Roger Stone was found guilty of all seven felony counts against him, including obstruction of Congress, five counts of false testimony to Congress, and witness tampering. The conviction is the eighth guilty sentence or plea resulting from grand jury indictments spawned by the investigations into Russian election interference by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

At the center of the case was Stone's quest in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election to obtain the emails from WikiLeaks stolen by Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) operatives from the Democratic National Committee and people within Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign organization. Stone frequently bragged about his connections with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, and Stone communicated with the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks' plans to release those emails “every chance he got,” said lead federal prosecutor Jonathan Kravis.

Stone was found to have concealed the nature of his communications with WikiLeaks and to have lied to Congress about who acted on his behalf in those contacts. And he attempted to dissuade one of those intermediaries, radio personality Randy Credico, from contradicting his false testimony to Congress, making Godfather II references in his messages to Credico—threatening to take away his therapy dog and to order his lawyers to "rip you to shreds." At one point, Stone allegedly even texted Credico, "Prepare to die [expletive]."

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Rare genetic condition gives man Eye of Sauron look

Par Beth Mole
Like this, except less evil lord-like.

Like this, except less evil lord-like. (credit: New Line Cinema)

Move over, Dark Lord of Mordor. There’s a new blazing peeper in town.

Doctors in Texas came face to face with a dark, spine-tingling eye that looked rimmed by flames—or, as they calmly described it in a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine: an eye with “circumferential spoke-like iris transillumination defects.”

They met this penetrating gaze during the routine eye exam of a 44-year-old man. The man had come into their Texas ophthalmology clinic simply to establish care as a new patient. He had recently moved into the area.

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The genetic basis of Peruvians’ ability to live at high altitude

Par Diana Gitig
Image of people in front of a flock of llamas.

Enlarge / Many Peruvians are well adapted to high-altitude life in the Andes. (credit: Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us)

Sherpas are physiologically adapted to breathing, working, and living in the thin air of the Himalayas, enabling them to repeatedly schlep stuff up and down Mount Everest. The Quechua, who have lived in the Andes for about 11,000 years, are also remarkably capable of functioning in their extremely high homes. New work suggests that these adaptations are the result of natural selection for particular genetic sequences in these populations.

Both populations live above 14,000 feet (4,267m), under chronic hypoxia—lack of oxygen—that can cause headaches, appetite suppression, inability to sleep, and general malaise in those not habituated to altitude. Even way back in the 16th century, the Spaniards noted that the Inca tolerated their thin air amazingly well (and then they killed them).

Metabolic adaptations give these highlanders a notably high aerobic capacity in hypoxic conditions—they get oxygenated blood to their muscles more efficiently. But the genetic basis for this adaptation has been lacking. Genome Wide Association Studies, which search the entire genome for areas linked to traits, had found tantalizing clues that one particular gene might be a site of natural selection in both Andeans and Tibetans. It encodes an oxygen sensor that helps cells regulate their response to hypoxia.

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Ford v Ferrari review: A big-budget, big-screen take on racing in the 1960s

Par Jonathan M. Gitlin
  • Matt Damon (L) as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale (R) as Ken Miles star in Ford v Ferrari, a new film about Ford's attempt to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 1960s. [credit: 20th Century Fox ]

In the early 1960s, the Ford Motor Company was in need of a little pizzazz. Its then-General Manager Lee Iacocca had some ideas on how to do that. One of them was the Ford Mustang, which invented a new class of car that looked cool but was both cheap to buy and profitable to sell, thanks to heavy use of the corporate parts bin. Another was to get FoMoCo some racing glory, this being back in the days when "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" really worked. What happened next is the topic of Ford v Ferrari, the latest attempt by Hollywood to translate motorsport to the silver screen.

As the name might suggest, the film tells the story of a Detroit auto giant taking on the tiny but extremely successful Italian sports car maker at its own game. Ford tried to buy Ferrari, you see, until Enzo Ferrari pulled the plug over concerns that his potential new master could veto his eponymous race team's participation in races like the Indianapolis 500. Incensed with having been led up the garden path, Ford president and scion Henry Ford II commissioned a full factory-backed race program with the goal of beating Enzo at his own game, specifically at marquee endurance races like the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and the most important race of the year, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. To do it, Ford would develop a purpose-built race car, one that has entered the pantheon of the greats: the GT40.

Ford vs Ferrari stars Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as Ken Miles. Shelby was a larger-than-life Texan who won Le Mans with Aston Martin in 1959 before his driving career was sidelined due to atrial fibrillation. For his next act, Shelby turned his hand to building cars, finding plenty of success when he married the lithe but underpowered AC Ace roadster with Ford V8 power, starting a relationship with the Blue Oval that carries on today. Bale takes on the role of Ken Miles, a British engineer and racing driver who relocated to California in the '50s and raced for Shelby in the early '60s.

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What the newly released Checkra1n jailbreak means for iDevice security

Par Dan Goodin
What the newly released Checkra1n jailbreak means for iDevice security

Enlarge (credit: @Checkra1n)

It has been a week since the release of Checkra1n, the world’s first jailbreak for devices running Apple’s iOS 13. Because jailbreaks are so powerful and by definition disable a host of protections built into the OS, many people have rightly been eyeing Checkra1n—and the Checkm8 exploit it relies on—cautiously. What follows is a list of pros and cons for readers to ponder, with a particular emphasis on security.

The good

First, Checkra1n is extremely reliable and robust, particularly for a tool that’s still in beta mode. It jailbreaks a variety of older iDevices quickly and reliably. It also installs an SSH server and other utilities, a bonus that makes the tool ideal for researchers and hobbyists who want to dig into the internals of their devices.

“I expected it to be a little rougher around the edges for the first release,” Ryan Stortz, an iOS security expert and principal security researcher at the firm Trail of Bits, said in an interview. “It’s really nice to be able to install a new developer beta on your development iPhone and have all your tooling work out of the box. It makes testing Apple's updates much much easier.”

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Ars To-Be-Read: Five books we’re most excited to read in 2020

Par Valentina Palladino
Stock photo of a blanket-wrapped woman reading a book.

Enlarge (credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

As "best of 2019" lists flood in, we're looking toward the future—the literary future, to be precise. After another solid year of reading in 2019, we're excited for new releases to come in the early months of 2020. Below are some of our most anticipated reads that you can get your hands on within the first three months of 2020.

Hugo-award-winner N.K. Jemisin will be releasing the first novel in a new series in March, while German author-songwriter Marc-Uwe Kling has a satirical novel about our addiction to convenience coming out in English for the first time. We know setting New Year's resolutions can be hard, but we think you'll want to put all five of these upcoming releases at the top of your TBR list.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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À partir d’avant-hierArs Technica

Jedi: Fallen Order game review: More like, the Force goes back to sleep

Par Sam Machkovech
  • If you do nothing but look at images of this game in action, you'll wonder why I have anything ho-hum to say. At its best, Jedi: Fallen Order is one of 2019's prettiest games. (All images in this article are captured from real-time PC gameplay.) [credit: EA / Respawn / Lucasfilm ]

Years after EA paid ridiculously for the rights to Star Wars's gaming universe, the game publisher has finally arrived with what fans wanted from it in the first place: a solid single-player adventure. Low as that bar might be, that's the archetype that the most beloved '80s and '90s Star Wars fare delivered on, and it's the kind of experience we haven't seen for nearly a decade.

Really, 2010's Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is an appropriate reference point as we peel back the EA-ization of Star Wars games—from MMO-related bloat to cancellations to loot boxes—and dive into Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Respawn Entertainment's new game, out now on PCs and consoles, pits you (and a suite of Force powers) against armies of AI-controlled foes. Sounds familiar, right? And is that a good thing?

After playing its 12-hour campaign, I can only muster a shoulder shrug as a response. I guess. Sure. If you want.

That's not to say Fallen Order isn't polished or, at times, quite impressive. But it's also a painfully safe game, built to check a list of "hardcore gamer" boxes instead of forging particularly new paths for the Jedi power fantasy. Respawn was given the unenviable task of winning back some of the most opinionated fans in the world, and the developer charted a tried-and-true course of doing so: a third-person adventure that combines lightsaber waving and a healthy mix of Force superpowers. (You know, like Force Unleashed II.)

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the single leading source of anti-vax ads on Facebook

Par Beth Mole
A man in a suit addresses a small crowd.

Enlarge / Anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. during a public hearing on vaccine-related bills in 2015. (credit: Getty | Portland Press Herald)

Just two organizations were responsible for the majority of anti-vaccine advertisements on Facebook before the social media giant restricted such content in March of this year, according to a November 13 study in the journal Vaccine.

Of 145 anti-vaccine Facebook advertisements that ran between May 31, 2017 and February 22, 2019, the World Mercury Project and a group called Stop Mandatory Vaccination together ran 54% of them.

The World Mercury Project, which ran the most ads of any single source, is an organization closely aligned with the anti-vaccine group Children's Health Defense. Both are spearheaded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental lawyer turned prolific peddler of dangerous anti-vaccine misinformation. He and his organizations promote conspiracy theories about vaccine safety, including the roundly debunked claim that safe, life-saving immunizations are linked to autism. More recently, Kennedy has become a prominent opponent of laws aimed at increasing vaccination rates among school children.

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Google gives up on US carriers, will roll out its own RCS chat system

Par Ron Amadeo
Promotional image of two smartphones.

Enlarge / Promotional image of two smartphones. (credit: Google)

Will RCS ever matter? The standard has been hanging around for years as an upgrade to the aging carrier SMS texting standard, but since the carriers are in charge of it, the Rich Communication Service (RCS) has been going nowhere fast. Google is apparently tired of waiting for the carriers, and after launching its own RCS service in the UK and France earlier this year, the industry giant is now bringing its own RCS implementation to the United States, carriers be damned.

Google is rolling out RCS through the Google Messages app, Google's ninth messaging app after Google Talk, Google Voice, Google Buzz, Google+ Messenger, Hangouts, Spaces, Allo, and Hangouts Chat. Users of Google's app will eventually see a notification to "Do more with Messages," and then they'll be able to "enable chat features," which is RCS. Google says it will start enabling this for US users "in the coming weeks," and the service will be "broadly available in the US by the end of year."

RCS is pretty lame as a messaging standard in 2019, but remember this is a replacement for SMS—the spec that has been driven by the carriers that are members of the GSMA. So you've got to lower your expectations. RCS upgrades carrier messaging with functionality like typing indicators, presence information, location sharing, group messages, longer messages, and better media support. These are all things you would expect from any over-the-top instant messaging app in the modern era, but as a carrier-integrated replacement for SMS, these basics are still not there yet.

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Apple plans a Prime-like subscription bundle, but that has News+ publishers worried

Par Samuel Axon
A man in business casual gives a presentation in front of a monstrous video screen.

Enlarge / Tim Cook announces Apple TV+ at an event on March 25, 2019. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

According to a report in Bloomberg, Apple may be planning to launch a bundled subscription service that would include services like Apple News+, Apple TV+, and Apple Music as soon as 2020. This strategy would be similar to that of Amazon Prime, though not as far-reaching—at least at first.

The report says that, at a minimum, Apple has left the door open for this in its contracts with Apple News+ content providers. Its sources say that there is "a provision that Apple included in deals with publishers that lets the iPhone maker bundle the News+ subscription service with other paid digital offerings."

While this would likely be appealing to consumers and could bolster Apple's services revenue, not all stakeholders in the decision are likely to be happy about it. Bloomberg's sources said they believed that publishers could see reduced revenues from Apple News+ because they'd likely be sharing a smaller piece of the subscription pie than they do under the $10/month Apple News+ service. Currently, Apple pockets 50% of the money that comes in to Apple News+, while the other 50% is split between publishers based on how much their content is read and engaged with.

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Another company is dialing back expectations for self-driving taxis

Par Timothy B. Lee
Ola Källenius of Daimler AG.

Enlarge / Ola Källenius of Daimler AG. (credit: Christoph Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Daimler is planning to "rightsize" its spending on self-driving taxis, Chairman Ola Källenius said on Thursday. Getting self-driving cars to operate safely in complex urban environments has proved more challenging than people expected a few years ago, he admitted.

"There has been a reality check setting in here," Källenius said, according to Reuters.

He is just the latest executive to acknowledge that work on self-driving taxi technology is not progressing as fast as optimists expected two or three years ago. Earlier this year, Ford CEO Jim Hackett sought to dampen expectations for Ford's own self-driving vehicles. Industry leaders Waymo and GM's Cruise missed self-imposed deadlines to launch driverless commercial taxi services in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

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Stadia what? Xbox game streaming will become part of Game Pass in 2020

Par Sam Machkovech
Sea of Thieves streaming to a smartphone with an attached Xbox One controller.

Enlarge / This controller attachment was shown in Microsoft's xCloud promo video, and Bluetooth wireless controller support is also planned. (credit: Microsoft)

At Microsoft's annual X0 fan conference in London on Thursday, Microsoft confirmed a huge piece of news for its game-streaming platform, Project xCloud. The service will launch with full compatibility for all Xbox software in "2020," meaning that it will work with "all games you own, or games you purchase in the future," according to xCloud reps.

What's more, Xbox may have just thrown the gauntlet down in the game-streaming price wars by announcing a clear tie between the Project xCloud streaming service and the paid Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

"Next year, we will bring game streaming to Xbox Game Pass, so that you are free to discover and play anywhere and everywhere," xCloud General Manager Catherine Gluckstein told the X019 crowd on Thursday.

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New 3D display combines visuals, haptic feedback, and sound

Par John Timmer

Plenty of technology development comes in areas where we've already settled on an efficient design. Wind turbines are a great example. Several decades ago, some radical ideas were floating around, touted as providing heightened efficiencies. But wind turbines have since stabilized on a standard design, and most research now goes into figuring out how to get the most out of that design. In a lot of ways, it's boring compared to the lingering potential for a complete reinvention.

Right now, 3D displays are back in the much more fun "radical ideas" phase. While various VR technologies are on the market, they're unsatisfying in various ways. A handful of technologies has been demonstrated that provide 3D images without the need for goggles or glasses. But these ideas have their own problems, including slow refresh and complicated hardware, and they lack a standardized mode of user interaction. One company has developed a 3D display that can be manipulated by hand, but without any feedback, this can be tricky.

This week, researchers are describing a new take on a recent 3D display development that mixes in a key ingredient: sound. The use of ultrasound allows the researchers to both run the display and provide haptic feedback for interactions with it. As an added bonus, the new display can allow audible sound to originate from objects within the display itself.

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NASA report finds Boeing seat prices are 60% higher than SpaceX

Par Eric Berger
People in safety gear work on a spacecraft mockup in the desert.

Enlarge / Teams from NASA, Boeing, and the White Sands Missile Range rehearse landing and crew extraction from Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (credit: NASA)

On Thursday, NASA's inspector general released a report on the space agency's commercial crew program, which seeks to pay Boeing and SpaceX to develop vehicles to transport astronauts to the International Space Station.

Although the report cites the usual technical issues that the companies are having with the development of their respective Starliner and Dragon spacecraft, far more illuminating is its discussion of costs. Notably, the report publishes estimated seat prices for the first time, and it also delves into the extent that Boeing has gone to extract more money from NASA above and beyond its fixed-price award.

Boeing's per-seat price already seemed like it would cost more than SpaceX. The company has received a total of $4.82 billion from NASA over the lifetime of the commercial crew program, compared to $3.14 billion for SpaceX. However, for the first time the government has published a per-seat price: $90 million for Starliner and $55 million for Dragon. Each capsule is expected to carry four astronauts to the space station during a nominal mission.

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FCC sued by dozens of cities after voting to kill local fees and rules

Par Jon Brodkin
A pen and book resting atop a paper copy of a lawsuit.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | eccolo74)

The Federal Communications Commission faces a legal battle against dozens of cities from across the United States, which sued the FCC to stop an order that preempts local fees and regulation of cable-broadband networks.

The cities filed lawsuits in response to the FCC's August 1 vote that limits the fees municipalities can charge cable companies and prohibits cities and towns from regulating broadband services offered over cable networks.

"At least 46 cities are asking federal appeals courts to undo an FCC order they argue will force them to raise taxes or cut spending on local media services, including channels that schools, governments, and the general public can use for programming," Bloomberg Law wrote Tuesday.

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FTC head asks Congress for real privacy laws he can enforce

Par Kate Cox
A man in a suit speaks into a microphone.

Enlarge / FTC Chairman Joseph Simons testifying about antitrust matters before a Senate committee in September 2019. (credit: Alex Edelman | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

In testimony before a House subcommittee Wednesday, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons renewed his call for Congress to pass new privacy legislation, telling representatives, essentially, he can't enforce a law that doesn't exist.

Simons was on Capitol Hill testifying in a hearing on "Online Platforms and Market Power," the probe the House Antitrust subcommittee launched in June to dig into Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

At the highest level, the FTC is responsible for basically two things: protecting competition and protecting consumers. To that end, it's one of the two bodies with antitrust oversight, sharing responsibility with the Justice Department for reviewing mergers and challenging anticompetitive behavior.

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Dealmaster: Get discounts on board games, AirPods Pro, Xbox Game Pass, and more

Par Ars Staff
Dealmaster: Get discounts on board games, AirPods Pro, Xbox Game Pass, and more

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Greetings, Arsians! The Dealmaster is back again with a new round of discounts and price drops. We'll admit, though, that we're in the calm before the Black Friday storm. With more and more retailers detailing their holiday sales plans, the number of worthwhile deals available right now has understandably shrunk. Tons of games, gear, and gadgets are still on sale, but the Dealmaster is hesitant to recommend various items that'll drop further in a couple of weeks.

That said, the deals landscape isn't totally barren for those who would rather shop before the holiday rush. Today's roundup is highlighted by a $15 discount on Apple's new AirPods Pro earbuds (albeit with a fairly sizable shipping wait as of this writing), an offer for new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate users to get three months of service for $1, and sales on a few well-regarded board games, including CatanPandemic, and 7 Wonders. Beyond that, we've also got deals on USB-C hubs and chargers, various discounts on Amazon services like Audible and Music Unlimited, a nice drop on Bose's wired SoundSport earphones, and more. Have a look at the full list for yourself below.

Dealmaster: An Ars newsletter
The Dealmaster is launching its very own newsletter! Sign up to receive a shorter, tightly curated list of the very best tech deals on the Web—no nonsense, direct to your inbox, and often before they make it to the Ars homepage.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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Impeachment hearing reveals major White House phone security fail

Par Sean Gallagher
US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland's phone conversation with President Trump in June was overheard by embassy staffers with Sondland at a Kiev restaurant (and probably by other countries' intelligence services).

Enlarge / US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland's phone conversation with President Trump in June was overheard by embassy staffers with Sondland at a Kiev restaurant (and probably by other countries' intelligence services). (credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

In testimony yesterday before the House Intelligence Committee, diplomat William Taylor said that he had recently learned of a phone call between George Sondland—the US ambassador to the European Union—and President Donald Trump. Taylor, the senior diplomat for the US in Ukraine, said that his staff overheard Trump during a call with Sondland while at dinner with the ambassador at a restaurant in Kiev.

The contents of that discussion—that Trump asked Sondland about "the investigations" Trump wanted Ukraine to conduct as an alleged condition of releasing military aid—may or may not be damaging to the president's case that he was not seeking foreign assistance for his 2020 presidential campaign. But as anyone in national or diplomatic security will attest to, an open phone call between the president and an ambassador regarding topics of diplomatic interest in a public place like a restaurant—a place where any foreign intelligence organization could be monitoring for collection purposes—would be a major breach of operational (and national) security.

This is not the first time that the administration has let issues of national security play out before a public audience. In February of 2017, President Trump consulted with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regarding a North Korean ballistic missile test and made phone calls from the restaurant of his Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, in plain view and within earshot of other diners—some of whom essentially live-streamed the situation from their cell phones. A few months later, Trump shared intelligence data with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador in an Oval Office meeting concerning an Islamic State plot to bring down passenger planes with laptops turned into bombs.

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Google Maps translate feature will speak local place-names

Par Ron Amadeo
This new speaker button in Google Maps will verbally speak the location's name and address.

Enlarge / This new speaker button in Google Maps will verbally speak the location's name and address.

Traveling the world but don't speak the local language? Google Maps should be a bit more useful soon, thanks to some new integration with Google Translate.

Typically if you're in a foreign-language country, Google Maps will show the English place-name followed by the name in the local language below it. Sometime this month, Google Maps will get a new speaker button next to the local place-name, which will fire up Google Translate's text-to-speech engine. Until now, if you needed to communicate with a driver or ask for directions, you might have handed over your smartphone and let them read the screen. Now, though, you'll be able to have your phone shout out the pronunciation in a synthesized Google Translate voice, or you can practice pronouncing the name yourself beforehand.

This all happens in a new pop-up window, which lets your phone speak the place-name or address in the local language.There's also a handy "get more translations" button at the bottom, which will kick you out to the full Google Translate app. The language selection is all based on the locale chosen in your system settings, which is then compared to the local language of the place you're looking up.

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Google Stadia will be missing many features for Monday’s launch

Par Kyle Orland
  • The hardware you get with the $129.99 Stadia "Founder's Edition." [credit: Google ]

As Google barrels forward toward streaming gaming with Monday's planned launch of Stadia, the company is talking about the many promised features that won't be available to Founder and Premier pre-order purchasers on day one.

In a wide-ranging Reddit AMA Wednesday, Google employees said that missing features will "start popping up as soon as one week after launch." Director of Product Andrey Doronichev defended this by saying that Google products "always start with nailing the key user-journey and then proceed with releasing extra features. YouTube started with 'watch video.' For Stadia it’s 'Play the Game on your biggest screen.'"

Game platforms often launch with limited feature sets that get expanded via firmware updates over multiple years. That said, the list of promised features that won't be ready when Stadia launches next week is surprising in its breadth and variety.

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Ford opens its order books for Mustang Mach-E electric crossover

Par Jonathan M. Gitlin
  • Ford sent us this faceted pony as an invite to the Mach-E reveal, which takes place on Sunday in Los Angeles. If you think you need a faceted pony in your life, it will be up for grabs in our end-of-year giveaway. [credit: Jonathan Gitlin ]

The glacial pace at which some of the world's major automakers are electrifying their product line-ups can be rather frustrating. I've been particularly critical of Ford, although there's clear evidence that the Blue Oval wants that to change. It invested $500 million in Rivian, an electric vehicle startup that has also seen big investment from Amazon. And it's going to use Volkswagen's MEB architecture to build battery EVs for European markets. But next year, before either of those efforts bears fruit, we'll get to see Ford's first in-house, long-range BEV hit the showroom. And now it's official—the new vehicle will be badged the Mustang Mach-E.

Right now there aren't really any more details to share. I've heard rumors of a 4-second 0-60 time and 300+ miles of range for the range-topping version. But I'm off to California tomorrow morning for an embargoed briefing on the new BEV, and you'll have to wait until the Mach-E is revealed to the world at 6:30pm ET on Sunday, November 17 to find out what I learned. You'll also be able to put a refundable $500 deposit down once the car is unveiled by Idris Elba via livestream, in both the US and EU.

As of now, all I have to officially share are the above photos of the plastic, faceted pony that Ford sent out as an invite and the augmented reality version taken with the event app that Ford made me download. If you're particularly taken with the stealth-horse, keep an eye out for our end-of-year charity drive, as it will be up for grabs (along with a very heavy Mustang Shelby GT500 supercharger paperweight).

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Physics holds the secret to volleyball’s highly unpredictable “float serve”

Par Jennifer Ouellette
PARIS, FRANCE - Alen Pajenk #2 of Slovenia serves the ball during the EuroVolley 2019 Final match between Serbia and Slovenia at AccorHotels Arena on September 29, 2019 in Paris, France.

Enlarge / PARIS, FRANCE - Alen Pajenk #2 of Slovenia serves the ball during the EuroVolley 2019 Final match between Serbia and Slovenia at AccorHotels Arena on September 29, 2019 in Paris, France. (credit: Catherine Steenkeste | Getty Images)

A good float serve at just the right moment in volleyball can make or break a tight game, since the ball's trajectory is so tough to predict. It's the surface panels on conventional volleyballs that give rise to these unpredictable trajectories, and modifying the surface patterns could make for a more consistent flight, according to a recent paper in Applied Sciences.

It all comes down to gravity and aerodynamics. Any moving ball leaves a wake of air that trails behind it as it flies through the air. The inevitable drag slows the ball down. The trajectories of various sports balls are affected not just by their diameter and speed but also by any tiny irregularities on their surface. Golf balls have dimples, for example, while baseballs have stitching in a figure-eight pattern—both sufficiently bumpy to affect the airflow around the ball.

It's well known that the movement of a baseball creates a whirlpool of air around it, commonly known as the Magnus effect. The raised seams churn the air around the ball, creating high-pressure zones in various locations that (depending on the type of pitch) can cause deviations in its trajectory. Golf ball dimples reduce the drag flow by creating a turbulent boundary layer of air, while the ball's spin generates lift by creating a higher air pressure area on the bottom of the ball than on the top.

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Major fish nurseries are awash in microplastics

Par Cathleen O'Grady
A scribbled filefish in a sea of plastics sampled in surface slicks off Hawai'i Island.

Enlarge / A scribbled filefish in a sea of plastics sampled in surface slicks off Hawai'i Island. (credit: David Liittschwager)

For a brief moment at the start of their lives, fish from different ocean ecosystems live side by side in gigantic fish nurseries, where surface waters converge and the prey is abundant.

Prey isn’t the only thing that’s abundant here. According to a paper published in PNAS this week, the same currents that make these regions appealing as nurseries mean that they’re awash with plastics. The consequences for commercial fisheries and the ocean's food webs are difficult to discern but could be significant.

Fish nurseries

Oceanographer Jamison Gove and his colleagues set out to understand more about how the features of the ocean affect the survival of larval fish—crucial information for the world’s fisheries. They didn’t expect to find a soup of microplastics in what looked like clear water.

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The ByteCode Alliance wants to bring binary apps into your browser

Par Jim Salter

Back in 2015, a consortium including Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, and the WebKit project announced WebAssembly. This week, Mozilla, Intel, Red hat, and Fastly announced a new consortium called the Bytecode Alliance, which aims to foster WebAssembly and other "new software foundations" that will allow secure-by-default ways to run untrusted code, either inside or outside the Web browser environment.

For many, this raises an obvious question: what is WebAssembly? WebAssembly (wasm) was and is a potentially exciting project, offering a way to run native bytecode inside the browser for potentially very large increases in performance over the Javascript engines in use both then and today.

Javascript is frequently misunderstood as a scripting language that is interpreted at runtime. Although it is generally loaded into the browser as source code, it may be either interpreted or compiled to bytecode and executed. Compilation means higher performance execution—particularly inside tight loops—but it also means a startup penalty for the time needed to do the JIT compilation itself.

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Moto Razr 2019 is official: A foldable smartphone with no display crease

Par Ron Amadeo
  • The new Moto Razr. [credit: Motorola ]

It's Moto Razr day today. The phone stopped by the FCC earlier in the day, and after sending out an event invite for November 13, Motorola just barely made it in time, with an official announcement at 11pm ET. The rumors were true: the Moto Razr is a reboot of one of the most iconic flip phones of all time, updated for 2019. Instead of a tiny screen and a physical keypad on the inside, you get a giant folding OLED display that puts the new Moto Razr in the same category as other futuristic foldables like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X. The price is also in the same stratosphere as those super-expensive devices: the new Razr is $1,500. It's also a Verizon exclusive in the US.

The hinge design of the Moto Razr is probably the most interesting thing about it. The best Samsung can currently do in the foldables space is the Galaxy Fold, which, thanks to folding the display nearly completely flat, develops a permanent crease in the display after the first fold. Motorola's display doesn't fold completely flat, though—there is a large void space around the display hinge, so when the phone folds in half, the display has room to move around. Since it's not being sandwiched between two solid plates, the display collapses into a gentle curve instead of a hard crease. Imagine bending a piece of paper in half just by pinching the top and bottom together versus pressing the fold into a crease.

Motorola described how a hinge like this could work in a 2018 patent. Instead of having the hinge mechanism behind the display, like on the Galaxy Fold, Motorola has the hinge on the left and right side of the display, giving the display room to sink into the phone body and bend into a gentle curve. For support Motorola says the hinge "includes moveable support plates that rigidly support the display when the phone is open, but collapse out of the way when the phone is closed." These two design elements allow the phone to have a "zero gap" hinge while also not smashing the display into a crease.

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Breach affecting 1 million was caught only after hacker maxed out target’s storage

Par Dan Goodin
Breach affecting 1 million was caught only after hacker maxed out target’s storage

Enlarge (credit: Ryan Adams / Flickr)

The US Federal Trade Commission has sued an IT provider for failing to detect 20 hacking intrusions over a 22-month period, allowing the hacker to access the data for 1 million consumers. The provider only discovered the breach when the hacker maxed out the provider’s storage system.

Utah-based InfoTrax Systems was first breached in May 2014, when a hacker exploited vulnerabilities in the company’s network that gave remote control over its server, FTC lawyers alleged in a complaint. According to the complaint, the hacker used that control to access the system undetected 17 times over the next 21 months. Then on March 2, 2016, the intruder accessed personal information for about 1 million consumers. The data included full names, social security numbers, physical addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, and usernames and passwords for accounts on the InfoTrax service.

The intruder accessed the site later that day and again on March 6, stealing 4,100 usernames, passwords stored in clear-text, and hundreds of names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and data for payment cards.

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How the FCC solves consumer problems—well, it doesn’t, really

Par Jon Brodkin
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at a meeting, sitting in front of the FCC seal.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The Federal Communications Commission's extremely hands-off approach to broadband-customer complaints has alarmed a member of Congress.

US Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in August after learning of a Frontier customer who was forced to pay a $10-per-month rental fee for a router despite buying his own router.

As we wrote at the time, Frontier charges customers a $10 monthly fee for routers even when the company doesn't provide one at all, saying that non-Frontier routers cause "increased complaints and more difficulty with troubleshooting." But Frontier also said it "cannot support or repair the non-Frontier equipment," so it's charging $10 a month without providing a router or providing support for non-Frontier routers.

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Google will offer checking accounts, says it won’t sell the data

Par Kate Cox
Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019.

Enlarge / Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019. (credit: Lyu Liang | VCG | Getty Images)

The Google empire is enormous and ubiquitous, covering basically the entire Internet in one way or another. There is, however, one lucrative business the company does not yet have a foothold in: banking. And now it has plans to change that.

Google is working to launch consumer checking accounts next year, The Wall Street Journal first reported this morning. The project, code-named Cache because apparently nobody can resist a pun, is expected to launch next year, sources told the Journal. CNBC, also citing "sources familiar," confirmed the WSJ's reporting.

Google: Not a bank

The accounts will be run in partnership with Citibank and a credit union based out of Stanford University. Google executive Caesar Sengupta told the WSJ that the accounts will carry branding from the banks, not from Google, which will also "leave the financial plumbing and compliance" to the banks.

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Scandal of kids posing as researchers continues to grow in South Korea

Par Beth Mole
Not one of the young alleged science-wizzes involved here.

Enlarge / Not one of the young alleged science-wizzes involved here. (credit: Getty | H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock )

More South Korean researchers are accused of fraudulently adding the names of children and teens to their published scientific manuscripts as part of an ongoing college admissions scandal, according to a report by Nature.

The kids—middle and high school students—are listed as co-authors on scientific findings that they allegedly had no hand in. Many of these claimed science-wizzes are researchers’ own children or children of their friends. The authorships, in some cases, are thought to give the children a leg-up in the country’s fiercely competitive college admissions.

As in the US, there is currently intense scrutiny in South Korea over how the country’s elite get their children into colleges.

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Stadia launch dev: Game makers are worried “Google is just going to cancel it”

Par Kyle Orland
  • Google's Phil Harrison (you may remember him from his days at Sony).

Google has a long and well-documented history of launching new services only to shut them down a few months or years later. And with the launch of Stadia imminent, one launch game developer has acknowledged the prevalence of concerns about that history among her fellow developers while also downplaying their seriousness in light of Stadia's potential.

"The biggest complaint most developers have with Stadia is the fear that Google is just going to cancel it," Gwen Frey, developer of Stadia launch puzzle game Kine, told in recently published comments. "Nobody ever says, 'Oh, it's not going to work,' or 'Streaming isn't the future.' Everyone accepts that streaming is pretty much inevitable. The biggest concern with Stadia is that it might not exist."

While concerns about Stadia working correctly aren't quite as nonexistent as Frey said, early tests show the service works well enough in ideal circumstances. As for the service's continued existence, Frey thinks such concerns among other developers are "kind of silly."

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Russian man charged with running money-back-guaranteed criminal marketplace

Par Dan Goodin
Screenshot of harmless-looking website.

Enlarge / The front page of as it appeared on August 1, 2015. (credit: Internet Archive)

A Russian man made his initial appearance in federal court on Tuesday on prosecutors' allegations he operated websites that resulted in more than $20 million in fraudulent purchases made on US credit cards.

Aleksei Burkov, 29, of Tyumen and St. Petersburg, Russia, arrived at Dulles International Airport on Monday night after he was arrested in Israel in late 2015, federal prosecutors said. His extradition came after appeals to the Israeli Supreme Court and the Israeli High Court of Justice were denied. Tuesday's appearance was before the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

According to an indictment that was unsealed on Tuesday, Burkov ran a website, called Cardplanet, that sold card data for anywhere from $2.50 to $60 apiece, depending on the card type, country of origin, and the availability of the cardholder's name, address, and other identifying information. In all, Cardplanet offered for sale more than 150,000 compromised payment cards, including "at least tens of thousands" of which had been issued to holders located in the US.

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How to spot the SpaceX Starlink satellite train overhead this week

Par Trevor Mahlmann
  • A Falcon 9 rocket launched into space on Monday morning. [credit: Trevor Mahlmann ]

At the start of the week, SpaceX launched its first 60 operational Starlink satellites—the company's 50th consecutive successful launch. And as innovative as this communication network's entire concept might be, many onlookers are curious for a much simpler reason.

You want to view—maybe even photograph—these things in the pre-dawn, post-sunset, or night sky, right? Well, you've come to the right place.

First, you'll want to be quick. Since separating from the upper stage on November 11 at about 11am Eastern Standard Time (Nov. 11, 16:00 UTC) and with each hour that passes, the satellites have been spreading out by individually raising their orbits to the correct height. And after a while, they will be on their own instead of appearing in this initially clustered formation.

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Pokémon Sword and Shield review: A big adventure with a small Pokédex

Par Andrew Cunningham
  • Making new friends in Pokemon Sword and Shield. [credit: Andrew Cunningham ]

Finally: a true Pokémon game on a flagship Nintendo console.

Last year’s Pokémon Let’s Go games were technically the Switch’s first Pokémon RPGs, but those remakes of the original Red and Blue were greatly simplified and softened up to cater to newer and younger players who got their start with Pokémon GoPokémon Sword and Shield, on the other hand, are "real" mainline Pokémon games, serving as direct sequels to 2016’s Sun and Moon and continuing the franchise that began with Red and Blue in 1998 (1996 for Japanese players).

That means Sword and Shield feature the same basic skeleton that has grown into a Pokémon tradition over the past 20+ years. You pick a starter Pokémon and then travel around the region, catching more monsters and earning eight badges so you can earn the right to challenge the region’s Champion and become the very best, like no one ever was. Along the way, you encounter and vanquish a team of bumbling low-level criminals, repeatedly battle with a rival who helps you hone your skills, and solve a regional mystery that ends with you capturing one or more ancient legendary creatures.

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This system from Garmin can land a private plane when your pilot can’t

Par Ars Staff
  • Garmin Avionics has developed an Autoland system to get a General Aviation plane back on the ground if its pilot becomes incapacitated. [credit: Garmin/Piper ]

If you've been around long enough, you've probably heard stories of passengers who successfully landed small planes after their pilots fell ill or died. It happened in Australia just a few months ago (Aug. 31) when a student on his first flight lesson in Perth was forced to land a Cessna 150 after his instructor lost consciousness.

The student had never landed anything previously, but it worked. However, it usually doesn't, and the consequences are disastrous. That's why electronics/avionics maker Garmin is launching Autoland, an emergency autopilot system that can autonomously land a private aircraft and bring it to a stop on the runway.

Push the red button

Commercial airliners have long had auto-landing systems as well as the ability to fall back on co-pilots if the pilot-in-command becomes incapacitated. Until recently, single-pilot certified general aviation (GA) airplanes haven't had autonomous landing capability. To be clear, they still don't. Garmin's Autoland system is not yet FAA certified, though the company expects certification "soon."

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Google fires staffer, suspends two others, amid rising workplace tensions

Par Timothy B. Lee
Exterior of Google office building.

Enlarge / Google's main headquarters. (credit: Cyrus Farivar)

Google has fired a staffer who allegedly leaked the names of Google employees and their personal details to the news media, Ryan Gallagher reports in a scoop for Bloomberg News. Two other Googlers have been put on leave for violating company policies, Google told Gallagher.

A Google spokeswoman told Gallagher that one of the employees "had searched for and shared confidential documents outside the scope of their job, while the other tracked the individual calendars of staff working in the community platforms, human resources, and communications teams." The tracking made affected staff uncomfortable, the spokeswoman said.

Google's move represents the latest sign of growing tensions between labor and management at Google. Until recently, Google was known for having one of Silicon Valley's most open workplace cultures. Employees could access information about projects they weren't working on. Rank-and-file employees could ask tough questions of senior management at weekly "TGIF" meetings that were broadcast throughout the company.

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Apple introduces a redesigned, thicker MacBook Pro

Par Samuel Axon
  • The 16-inch MacBook Pro with reduced bezels. [credit: Apple ]

Today, Apple begins taking orders on a new version of its largest MacBook Pro laptop. While its basic design is similar to that of the Touch Bar models the company has made since 2016, it is slightly larger and heavier, the screen is bigger thanks to reduced bezels, and it has new keyboard and speaker designs. The Pro has faster graphics and new upgrade options, such as a 64GB RAM configuration and larger default SSD sizes.

This 16-inch MacBook Pro (the inches here refer to diagonal screen size) replaces the 15-inch in Apple's lineup. Its display has a pixel density of 226 ppi at 3,072 x 1,920 resolution—that's slightly higher than the 2,880 x 1,800 resolution and 220 ppi of the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Apple says that pro video editors will now be able to adjust the refresh rate of the display to match content they're working with. Little else has changed about the screen. It's worth noting, by the way, that the prior model's screen actually measured 15.4 inches, not 15; this new model measures 16 inches.

Dimensions are 0.64 x 14.09 x 9.68 inches—up marginally across the board from its predecessor's 0.61 by 13.75 by 9.48 inches. It weighs 4.3 pounds, compared to 4.02 for the prior model. Chances are it will fit in most existing cases intended for the 15-inch model.

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How a turf war and a botched contract landed 2 pentesters in Iowa jail

Par Dan Goodin
Mug shots of Gary De Mercurio, left, and Justin Wynn.

Enlarge / Mug shots of Gary De Mercurio, left, and Justin Wynn. (credit: Dallas County Jail)

In the early hours of September 11, a dispatcher with the sheriff’s department in Dallas County, Iowa, spotted something alarming on a surveillance camera in the county courthouse. Two men who had tripped an alarm after popping open a locked door were wandering through courtrooms on the third floor, she reported over the radio as deputies raced to the scene. The intruders wore backpacks and were crouching down next to judges’ benches. When the first deputy pulled into the parking lot, the men moved to an open area outside the court rooms and concealed themselves.

“They were crouched down like turkeys peeking over the balcony,” Dallas County Sheriff Chad Leonard said in an interview. “Here we are at 12:30 in the morning confronted with this issue—on September 11, no less. We have two unknown people in our courthouse—in a government building—carrying backpacks that remind me and several other deputies of maybe the pressure cooker bombs.”

After more deputies arrived, Justin Wynn, 29 of Naples, Florida, and Gary De Mercurio, 43 of Seattle, slowly proceeded down the stairs with hands raised. They then presented the deputies with a letter that explained the intruders weren’t criminals but rather penetration testers who had been hired by Iowa’s State Court Administration to test the security of its court information system. After calling one or more of the state court officials listed in the letter, the deputies were satisfied the men were authorized to be in the building.

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Guidemaster: Ars picks its favorite tech gifts you can buy for under $50

Par Valentina Palladino
Guidemaster: Ars picks its favorite tech gifts you can buy for under $50

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Finding a gift for your most tech-savvy friends and family can be tough, especially with electronics getting more expensive as the years go by. While it may seem like the only electronics worth getting are those that exist outside of your budget, that's not actually the case. Plenty of tech gifts are available at affordable prices—the struggle is sorting through the junk to find the devices worth shelling out any amount of money for.

This is where we at Ars come in: we spend all year testing electronics, with prices spanning everything from "luxury" to "dirt-cheap." So recently, we poured through our notes to find some of the best tech gifts you can buy that are under $50. All of the devices listed below have been tested and verified for excellence or for personal use on a regular basis. Instead of shooting in the dark or overspending when it comes to tech gifts this year, consider the following devices that we know will make any recipient happy.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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Living with range anxiety: Two weeks with the Jaguar I-Pace

Par Eric Bangeman
Living with range anxiety: Two weeks with the Jaguar I-Pace

Enlarge (credit: Marlowe Bangeman)

The Jaguar I-Pace is a brilliant car. The first battery electric vehicle from Jaguar-Land Rover, the I-Pace starts at about $70,000 and goes up from there.

My colleague, Ars Automotive Editor Jonathan Gitlin, drove the I-Pace when it launched and came away raving about it—and for good reason. Not only did it win the World Green Car award, but it also won World Car of the Year.

Jonathan covered the I-Pace in great detail, so I won't spend much time talking about the driving experience. But, put simply, the I-Pace is a blast to drive. It accelerates briskly, it's incredibly comfortable, sight lines are good, handling is impeccable, it's roomy for its size, it has some modest off-road skills, and Jaguar-Land Rover's infotainment system, Touch Duo Pro, is well-thought-out, even if slightly laggy at times. Beyond that, JLR fixed one of the major complaints Jonathan had about the I-Pace as it entered production: the regenerative-braking settings are no longer buried under layers of menus.

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A “mouse-deer,” seen once in the last century, has now been caught on film

Par Cathleen O'Grady
Camera-trap photo of silver-backed chevrotain (Tragulus versicolor).

Enlarge / Camera-trap photo of silver-backed chevrotain (Tragulus versicolor). (credit: SIE/GWC/Leibniz-IZW/NCNP)

Every time field biologist An Nguyen finds a mammal in the wild that he's never seen before, he adds a line to the tally count tattoo on his left wrist.

The silver-backed chevrotain, a tiny "mouse-deer" native to Vietnam, is a sighting significant for more than just Nguyen's personal tally. There has been only one confirmed record of the elusive mammal since 1910—a specimen obtained from a hunter in 1990—until Nguyen and his team set camera traps that recorded 280 sightings within nine months.

The news, reported this week in Nature Ecology & Evolution, is more than just confirmation that the silver-backed chevrotain is not yet extinct. It means that researchers can start studying it more comprehensively, trying to get a sense of how many are left and what kinds of protections it needs. And protecting the chevrotain also means protecting the less cute, but equally essential, species that share its habitat.

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