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Aujourd’hui — 20 octobre 2020Ars Technica

TrueNAS R-series hyperconverged appliances blend storage and compute

Par Jim Salter
There's a lot to unpack in this infographic, which serves as a pretty concise description of what TrueNAS SCALE is and does—or will do, when it's completely finished.

Enlarge / There's a lot to unpack in this infographic, which serves as a pretty concise description of what TrueNAS SCALE is and does—or will do, when it's completely finished. (credit: iXsystems)

Today, storage vendor iXsystems is launching a new R-series hyperconverged infrastructure appliance for its TrueNAS product line—and the first alpha release of TrueNAS SCALE, a Debian Linux-based version of the TrueNAS storage distribution.

The new R-series appliances are designed to run either traditional, FreeBSD-based TrueNAS, or the new Debian-based TrueNAS SCALE. The series launches with four models—all rack-mounted—ranging from the 1U, 16-bay TrueNAS R10 to the up to 12U, 52 bay TrueNAS R50. All four models offer Ethernet connectivity up to dual 100GbE, as well as optional dual 32Gb Fibre Channel and Intel Xeon CPUs. The three larger models are expandable via separate JBOD shelves as well.

TrueNAS itself is an OpenZFS-based storage distribution, which can be purchased preinstalled on NAS hardware or installed by users on their own generic PC equipment. It offers users the rich feature set of the ZFS filesystem—including block-level checksums and data healing, advanced storage topologies, atomic COW snapshots, rapid asymmetric replication, and more—along with a broad range of network sharing protocols, including SMB, NFS, sFTP, and iSCSI.

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For the first time, a Starship prototype roars to life with three engines

Par Eric Berger

SN8 test. Static fire occurs at 2 hours, 27 minutes.

SpaceX engineers achieved another milestone early Tuesday morning when the company's Starship vehicle roared to life for the first time with multiple Raptor engines.

At 3:13am local time in South Texas, a Starship prototype dubbed SN8, or Serial Number 8, fired three Raptor engines for several seconds during a static fire test. Although there was no immediate confirmation from the company, the test at the company's Boca Chica launch site appeared to be successful.

This was an important step toward preparing SN8 for a 15km test flight later this month, or in early November. Even as one team prepared to ignite the rocket during the wee hours on Tuesday—which tested its plumbing to handle chilled liquid oxygen and methane fuels, and the recent installation of three Raptor engines—another team assembled the nose cone that will go on top of SN8 in preparation for its flight.

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Hier — 19 octobre 2020Ars Technica

Six Russians accused of the world’s most destructive hacks indicted

Par Dan Goodin
The faces of 6 men underneath a banner that reads WANTED BY THE FBI.

Enlarge (credit: US Justice Department)

Six men accused of carrying out some of the world's most destructive hacks—including the NotPetya disk wiper and power grid attacks that knocked out electricity for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians—have been indicted in US federal court.

The indictment said that all six men are officers in a brazen hacker group best known as Sandworm, which works on behalf of Unit 74455 of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, abbreviated from Russian as GRU. The officers are behind the "most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group," prosecutors said. The alleged goal: to destabilize foreign nations, interfere with their internal politics, and cause monetary losses.

Among the hacks is NotPetya, the 2017 disk-wiping worm that shut down the operations of thousands of companies and government agencies around the world. Disguised as ransomware, NotPetya was in fact malware that permanently destroyed petabytes of data. The result, among other things, was hospitals that turned away patients, shipping companies that were paralyzed for days or weeks, and transportation infrastructure that failed to function.

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PS5 will use downloadable updates to control game-by-game fan speed

Par Kyle Orland
  • The PlayStation 5 comes with everything seen here. Some assembly required. Batteries not included. From Sony! [credit: Sony / Youtube ]

Earlier this month, Sony gave us the first peek inside the PlayStation 5 in the form of a teardown video that examined the upcoming console piece by piece. Now, Japanese specialty site 4Gamer has posted an interview with the Sony hardware design engineer featured in that video, Yasuhiro Otori.

That interview (Google Translate, ResetEra user translation) goes into a lot of nitty-gritty detail on the design decisions behind Sony's uniquely shaped console and focuses heavily on the unit's heat dissipation technology. One of the most interesting tidbits on that score is an apparent plan to "optimize" the speed of the cooling fan on a per-game basis via downloadable system updates.

"Various games will appear in the future, and APU [accelerated processing unit] behavior data for each game will be collected," Otori said. "Based on this, there is a plan to proceed with the optimization of fan control."

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1980s MTV is back, sort of: Apple launches Apple Music TV channel

Par Samuel Axon
  • Right now the channel is just an uninterrupted stream of music videos, with the name and artist of each song appearing at the beginning and end. [credit: Samuel Axon ]

Today, Apple launched a 24-hour streaming video channel called Apple Music TV that will harken back to the early days of MTV by playing mostly music videos—but in this case, it's ad-free.

Viewers will be able to watch the channel in either the TV app (on an Apple device like a Mac, iPhone, or Apple TV) or the Music app (it's found in the Browse tab). Additionally, you can find it at

There is no live chat, there aren't any interactive features, and there's no integration at all with the Apple Music app (like the ability to favorite songs), so users may find the service is barebones compared to some other music-focused streaming offerings.

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QAnon/8chan sites back online after being ousted by DDoS-protection vendor

Par Jon Brodkin
Illustration of a sideways 8 that's been broken into pieces.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

A few dozen QAnon and 8chan-related sites were knocked offline temporarily yesterday when a DDoS-protection vendor disabled their access, according to an article by security reporter Brian Krebs.

The websites—with names like,,, and—are connected to the Internet via the US-based ISP VanwaTech, which in turn "had a single point of failure on its end," Krebs wrote. "The swath of Internet addresses serving the various 8kun/QAnon sites were being protected from otherwise crippling and incessant distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks by Hillsboro, Ore. based CNServers LLC."

That changed yesterday when security researcher Ron Guilmette called CNServers, which apparently didn't realize it was providing security protection to the websites. "Within minutes of that call, CNServers told its customer—Spartan Host Ltd., which is registered in Belfast, Northern Ireland—that it would no longer be providing DDoS protection for the set of 254 Internet addresses that Spartan Host was routing on behalf of VanwaTech," Krebs wrote. Those 254 addresses included the few dozen related to QAnon and 8chan, which is now known as 8kun.

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Google shuts down Trusted Contacts, its emergency location sharing app

Par Ron Amadeo
  • If someone is sharing their location with you, you'll see a map on the main page of the app. [credit: Google ]

Google has killed yet another product. RIP to Google Trusted Contacts, 2016-2020.

Trusted Contacts was a personal safety app for Android. It let you flag certain contacts as "trusted," and those people could then request your location in an emergency situation. The base functionality was not all that different from Google Maps location sharing, but when Trusted Contacts launched in 2016—the Google+ dark ages—Google Maps did not have location sharing built in. (Google Latitude, the original Google Maps location sharing functionality, debuted in 2009, but that was killed in 2013 in favor of Google+ location sharing. Google+ was on the way out by 2016, and location sharing returned to Google Maps in 2017.) The one addition besides a proactive location sharing was for a trusted contact to declare an emergency location request, which the other user would have to deny or it would automatically share.

The app has a 3.8 rating on the Play Store and over a million downloads, which is not good enough to save it from the Google grim reaper. Google sent out emails to users saying that since location sharing was now built into Google Maps, the Trusted Contacts app was no longer need. The app will shut down in just 43 days, on December 1, 2020.

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SSC takes Bugatti’s crown with a new 316mph production car speed record

Par Jonathan M. Gitlin
  • On October 9, SSC North American took the production speed record away from Bugatti with a 331mph top speed run in the SSC Tuatara. [credit: James Lipman ]

If you want a car that can go really, really, really fast, forget about ordering that Bugatti and give the people at SSC North America a call. On October 10, racing driver Oliver Webb got behind the wheel of one of SSC's new Tuatara hypercars and, on a closed stretch of Nevada State Route 160, reached a top speed of 331.15mph (532.93km/h). When averaged with his 301.07mph (484.53km/h) run in the opposite direction, SSC North America set a new world speed record for production vehicles at 316.11mph (508.73km/h).

Until now, the record for the world's fastest production car belonged to Bugatti, which claimed it in 2019. Andy Wallace was behind the wheel for that attempt, driving a 1,578hp (1,177kW) Bugatti Chiron Super Sport to top speed of 304.77mph (490.48km/h) at Volkswagen's massive test track in Ehra-Lessien, Germany. The SSC Tuatara packs even more power than the Chiron: 1,750hp (1,305kW) of power on E85, and it all gets sent to just the rear wheels, too. The Tuatara also has a more slippery shape, with a smaller frontal area than the Chiron (1.672m2 vs 2.072m2) and a lower drag coefficient (0.279 vs 0.319).

Those were conscious decisions during the Tuatara's design—SSC's founder Jerod Shelby has had his sights on the production speed record for some years now. "My goal was always to beat this record by such a substantial amount that maybe it's going to stand in for a little while. I felt like that's what McLaren did back in the late nineties, and they held that record a long time because they just smashed the record. That was my dream in a perfect world," Shelby said.

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A giant cat picture was just discovered among the Nazca Lines

Par Kiona N. Smith
The cat is drawn from the side, with its head turned toward the viewer.

Enlarge / The cat is drawn from the side, with its head turned toward the viewer. (credit: Johny Isla via AP)

Workers at the Nazca Lines site recently found the faded, partially eroded outline of a cat stretching across a desert hillside.

The cat joins the ever-growing list of about 900 shapes and images that ancient people etched into the Nazca Desert soil. At 37 meters (121 feet) long, the cat is among the smaller geoglyphs in the desert; some of the largest shapes, down on the flat valley floor, span more than 500 meters (1,600 feet). Like other geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert, the cat’s ancient designers etched it into the ground by clearing away the dark surface sediment to form pale lines.

Geoglyph finds usually take months of trekking through the desert or poring over aerial photos, but the latest one was a happy accident. Workers were making improvements to a path leading up to a hilltop vantage point when they noticed the cat.

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With Starlink, SpaceX continues to push the bounds of reusing rockets

Par Eric Berger
A Falcon 9 rocket launches the Starlink-13 mission on October 18.

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches the Starlink-13 mission on October 18. (credit: SpaceX)

A Falcon 9 rocket ascended into the blue skies above Florida on Sunday morning, and much of the space world barely took notice.

Sure, it was fairly early on a Sunday, and many Americans were not even yet out of bed. But there's a deeper reality here: SpaceX has made launching rockets almost seem routine. The company's vice president of reliability, Hans Koenigsmann, once told me that one of his goals was to take the "magic" out of rocket launches. And the company seems to be succeeding.

SpaceX is also succeeding at reuse. Sunday morning's launch used a Falcon 9 first stage that has already flown into space five times. This is the second time SpaceX has used a first stage a total of six times, and next year it is likely to reach ten uses of its rocket. And then there is the payload fairing. For the first time, SpaceX was able use each of these fairing halves for a third time.

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The Internet is full of business cats: Dealing with the breakdown of the work/home divide

Par Sean Gallagher
A cartoon portrays a woman working at a laptop with a curious cat in her lap.

Enlarge / Artist's impression of how little your cat cares about your video call. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

The Friday "beer-thirty" Zoom conferences began for me not too long into the lockdown. A co-worker scheduled them as a form of stress release and socialization as we all prepared for what we already knew was going to be at least a year of not seeing each other in person—and for someone who had just started with the company a few weeks prior, I needed it.

Working from home has always been isolating, but it has become even more so in 2020. And for those of us who've worked from home full-time in the past—well, at least for those of us who have done that and have loud families and kids with no concept of personal space—it has also become a lot harder to maintain a division between home life and work life. Our spouses and kids (and in some cases, adult kids) are all home at the same time, working or studying or playing or just breathing too loudly in the same space as us.

Meow mix

For those of you who've never enjoyed the solitude of a home office when everyone else is out of the house, trust me: what we have right now is not what working at home has been like for the past 25 years for me. To adjust to this, organizations must figure out how to keep teams cohesive in the absence of regular social contact. They also must find a balance between being communicative and being intrusive into the home life of employees, all while still keeping some kind of coherent work environment going so people can talk to each other and get work done.

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Cadillac gives the new 2021 Escalade SUV a huge technology upgrade

Par Jonathan M. Gitlin
The Cadillac Escalade augmented reality display

Enlarge / Augmented reality is a standard feature on the new Cadillac Escalade SUV. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

I will admit it; when Cadillac asked if we wanted to spend a day with the new 2021 Escalade, I was in two minds about saying yes. A 6,000lb body-on-frame SUV is about as far from my automotive comfort zone as it's possible to get with a regular driver's license. And while there is a choice of gasoline V8 or turbodiesel inline-six, there's not a sniff of a hybrid option—not even the 48V mild kind, which feels inexcusable in the year 2020.

On the other hand, Cadillac has turned up the technology dial in an effort to regain its crown as the King of Bling. From the driver's seat you can see 38 inches of OLED screen wrapping around you. The highlight is an augmented reality mode that's cool enough to tempt you away from navigating by CarPlay or Android Auto and worthy of Ars' attention on its own.

  • This might be the Escalade's best angle. [credit: Jonathan Gitlin ]

The body-on-frame light truck is an American speciality. It's where the domestic automakers make their money, and the new Escalade is built on General Motor's latest and greatest body-on-frame platform. And I do mean greatest. Our test vehicle was a $105,995 Escalade ESV 4WD Platinum, which stretches out across 226.9 inches (5,766mm), with a 134.1-inch (3.407mm) wheelbase. More than one neighbor remarked on how large it was as it jutted out of my parking space, which luckily is slightly wider than the Escalade's 81.1 inches (2,059mm). At 76.4 inches (1,942mm) tall, I was grateful for the retractable running boards that emerge when you open a door; if you're shorter than average, it is a $1,750 option you might want.

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If recycling plastics isn’t making sense, remake the plastics

Par John Timmer
Image of a forklift surrounded by plastic bottles.

Enlarge / Workers sort plastic waste as a forklift transports plastic waste at Yongin Recycling Center in Yongin, South Korea. (credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images)

A few years back, it looked like plastic recycling was set to become a key part of a sustainable future. Then, the price of fossil fuels plunged, making it cheaper to manufacture new plastics. Then China essentially stopped importing recycled plastics for use in manufacturing. With that, the bottom dropped out of plastic recycling, and the best thing you could say for most plastics is that they sequestered the carbon they were made of.

The absence of a market for recycled plastics, however, has also inspired researchers to look at other ways of using them. Two papers this week have looked into processes that enable "upcycling," or converting the plastics into materials that can be more valuable than the freshly made plastics themselves.

Make me some nanotubes

The first paper, done by an international collaboration, actually obtained the plastics it tested from a supermarket chain, so we know it works on relevant materials. The upcycling it describes also has the advantage of working with very cheap, iron-based catalysts. Normally, to break down plastics, catalysts and the plastics are heated together. But in this case, the researchers simply mixed the catalyst and ground up plastics and heated the iron using microwaves.

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The preexisting conditions of the coronavirus pandemic

The preexisting conditions of the coronavirus pandemic

Enlarge (credit: Nancybelle Gonzaga Villarroya)

A massive new accounting of the health of humans on Earth, collating and inferring stats on hundreds of diseases and injuries across 204 nations, has mostly good news. People are healthier, and they stay that way for longer. The bad news: That’s not true if those people are poor, are people of color, live in the United States, and there’s a pandemic.

Then they’re screwed.

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À partir d’avant-hierArs Technica

Review: Don’t call it a comeback—The Boys returns better than ever in S2

Par Jennifer Ouellette

Superheroes abuse their powers rather than using them for good in The Boys, which just concluded its second season.

In my review of The Boys S1 last year, I called the Amazon Prime series "a wickedly funny, darkly irreverent adaptation" and "ideal late-summer therapy for anyone who has grown a bit weary of the constant onslaught of superhero movies." I wasn't alone in my love for the show: The Boys was a massive hit, and that success has continued with S2, which was the most-watched global launch of any Amazon series to date, pretty much doubling the show's worldwide audience. S2 is even better than its predecessor, deftly tackling timely themes and hot-button issues, while never sacrificing all the biting satire and good, gory fun that we loved about S1. And can we just give Antony Starr an Emmy already for his stunning performance as Homelander?

(Spoilers for S1 below; some spoilers for S2, but no major reveals.)

The Boys is set in a fictional universe where superheroes are real but are corrupted by corporate interests and a toxic celebrity-obsessed culture. The most elite superhero group is called the Seven, headed up by Homelander (Starr), a truly violent and unstable psychopath disguised as the All-American hero, who mostly bullies his supe team into compliance. The other members include A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), who boasts super-speed but has also become addicted to the experimental performance-enhancing substance called Compound-V. The Deep (Chace Crawford) can breathe underwater, thanks to having gills—voiced in S2 by Patton Oswalt during a hallucination sequence—and can converse with marine creatures.

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Fancy Bear imposters are on a hacking extortion spree

Fancy Bear imposters are on a hacking extortion spree


Ransomware attacks that tear through corporate networks can bring massive organizations to their knees. But even as these hacks reach new popularity highs—and new ethical lows—among attackers, it's not the only technique criminals are using to shake down corporate victims. A new wave of attacks relies instead on digital extortion—with a side of impersonation.

On Wednesday, the Web security firm Radware published extortion notes that had been sent to a variety of companies around the world. In each of them, the senders purport to be from the North Korean government hackers Lazarus Group, or APT38, and Russian state-backed hackers Fancy Bear, or APT28. The communications threaten that if the target doesn’t send a set number of bitcoin—typically equivalent to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars—the group will launch powerful distributed denial of service attacks against the victim, walloping the organization with a fire hose of junk traffic strategically directed to knock it offline.

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Cruise will soon hit San Francisco with no hands on the wheel

Cruise has been testing its self-driving cars, with safety drivers, in San Francisco for about five years.

Enlarge / Cruise has been testing its self-driving cars, with safety drivers, in San Francisco for about five years. (credit: Andrej Sokolow | Getty Images)

Last week, Waymo, the self-driving-vehicle developer owned by Alphabet, expanded a first-of-its-kind service offering rides to paying passengers around Phoenix—with no one behind the wheel. Videos shared by Waymo and others show its minivans navigating wide, sunny streets with ease.

Now rival Cruise, a General Motors subsidiary, has taken a step toward running its own self-driving-taxi service—on the hilly, winding, pedestrian-swarmed streets of San Francisco. On Thursday, Cruise said the California Department of Motor Vehicles had granted it a permit to test up to five of its modified Chevy Bolts without anyone behind the wheel. In a blog post, Cruise CEO Dan Ammann said truly driverless cars would operate in the city before the end of the year.

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A La Niña winter is on the way for the US

Par Scott K. Johnson
The global average temperature for September was a new record.

Enlarge / The global average temperature for September was a new record. (credit: NOAA)

September apparently wasn’t feeling like doing anything unusual, so it ended up being the warmest September on record for the globe. That’s been something of a trend this year, with each month landing in its respective top three. It has become increasingly clear that 2020 will likely be the second warmest year on record, if it isn’t the first.

Unlike in August, the contiguous US didn’t set a record in September, though it was still above the 20th-century average. A high-pressure ridge dominated over the West Coast again, leading to even more warm and dry weather for much of the Western US. But a trough set up over the Central US in mid-September, bringing cooler air southward.

Two more hurricanes—Sally and Beta—led to above-average rainfall in the Southeast. Total precipitation for the contiguous US was a touch above average as a result, but the average as usual masks local differences. Drought conditions have expanded and worsened over much of the West, and there has been little relief for wildfire conditions.

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Google Chat goes free in 2021, while Hangouts loses features this month

Par Ron Amadeo
A picture showing Google Hangouts turning into Google Chat.

Enlarge / This is happening whether you like it or not. (credit: Google)

It's time to talk about Google messaging again.

The company's latest blog lays out future plans for its suite of messaging services, which includes stripping features out of Google Hangouts as we head toward its eventual demise and the promotion of Google Chat to being the main messaging product.

Since it can be hard to keep track of the dozen-or-so messaging products Google has released over the years, before we get started, here's a glossary of the Google messaging apps that will be referenced in this article.

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How the Trump admin devastated the CDC—and continues to cripple it

Par Beth Mole
A serious man in a business suit grimaces.

Enlarge / CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. (credit: Getty | Alex Edelman)

The CDC has been neutered, shamed, and blamed amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and global crisis. From internal missteps that bungled the country’s rollout of diagnostic testing to blatant political interference and strong-arming on critical public health guidance, the CDC has gone from the world’s premier public health agency to a silenced, overridden, distrusted afterthought in the US response—an agency stripped of its ability to collect even basic health data from hospitals during a raging pandemic.

The heavy blows to the agency’s reputation and role have been well documented throughout the pandemic. President Trump and his administration have openly undermined the agency and, behind the scenes, attacked it while overriding expert public health advice on testing, school reopening, and the handling of outbreaks on cruise ships, among other things.

But while the broad strokes of the agency’s undoing were noted in real time, a set of new investigations and reports offer new details. In a sweeping investigative report by ProPublica, three journalists retraced a number of events, digging up emails, heated exchanges, and alarm within the agency. For instance, it provides fresh insight into how a single CDC researcher valiantly worked to develop diagnostic tests for the novel coronavirus, only to fumble, producing tests contaminated with genetic sequences of the virus. That contamination produced false positive results in public health labs around the country, rendering the tests useless and losing precious time to get ahead of the disease's spread.

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Hackers are using a severe Windows bug to backdoor unpatched servers

Par Dan Goodin
Hackers are using a severe Windows bug to backdoor unpatched servers

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

One of the most critical Windows vulnerabilities disclosed this year is under active attack by hackers who are trying to backdoor servers that store credentials for every user and administrative account on a network, a researcher said on Friday.

Zerologon, as the vulnerability has been dubbed, gained widespread attention last month when the firm that discovered it said it could give attackers instant access to active directories, which admins use to create, delete, and manage network accounts. Active directories and the domain controllers they run on are among the most coveted prizes in hacking, because once hijacked, they allow attackers to execute code in unison on all connected machines. Microsoft patched CVE-2020-1472, as the security flaw is indexed, in August.

On Friday, Kevin Beaumont, working in his capacity as an independent researcher, said in a blog post that he had detected attacks on the honeypot he uses to keep abreast of attacks hackers are using in the wild. When his lure server was unpatched, the attackers were able to use a powershell script to successfully change an admin password and backdoor the server.

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Nikola stock falls 14 percent after CEO downplays Badger truck plans

Par Timothy B. Lee
A large pickup truck gradually vanishes.

Enlarge / The front half of the Nikola Badger. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Nikola Motor Corporation)

Nikola CEO Mark Russell downplayed the company's Badger pickup truck in comments to the Financial Times on Thursday.

“The Badger was an interesting and exciting project to some shareholders, but our institutional shareholders are mostly focused on the business plan,” Russell said. “Our core business plan since before we became publicly listed always focused on heavy trucks and hydrogen infrastructure.”

Russell's comments were published after markets closed on Thursday. Nikola's stock price plunged on Friday morning and is currently down about 14 percent for the day.

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iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPad Air orders have begun

Par Samuel Axon
  • iPhone 12 Pro.

Preorders began today for three major new Apple products: the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPad Air. All these devices are available for order on Apple's website, but none is shipping right away.

The planned ship dates for all of these devices was October 23, but some are already backed up into November. In some cases, it depends on the configuration that you choose. At the time of this writing, some iPhone 12 and iPad Air configurations are shipping later, but others are still listing October 23 as the ship date. On the other hand, every iPhone 12 Pro configuration we looked at promises to ship either later in October or sometime in November.

Additionally, Apple seems to have normalized the cost of the iPhone across all carriers after an initial uproar about the phone being announced at a slightly cheaper price point on AT&T and Verizon.

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Grab leftover Prime Day deals on AirPods Pro, Roku streamers, and more

Par Ars Staff
Grab leftover Prime Day deals on AirPods Pro, Roku streamers, and more

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Amazon Prime Day may be over, but the Dealmaster never stops. Today's discount roundup includes a number of Prime Day deals that are still available despite Amazon's sales event officially ending on Wednesday.

Among the offers still kicking is Apple's AirPods Pro available for $199, which matches the best price we've seen at a major retailer. It's still a great price for what we consider one of the best pairs of fully wireless headphones on the market, particularly if you want active noise-cancellation and already use an iPhone.

Elsewhere, Roku's Streaming Stick+ remains at its Prime Day price of $37. This still isn't the absolute lowest price we've seen, but it's the cheapest the speedy streamer has been since last Black Friday. If you can't wait until this Black Friday—when similar devices like Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K are likely to go on sale— and want a dead-simple way to stream video apps in 4K and HDR, it's a solid deal. If you can live with 802.11n Wi-Fi and a simpler remote without power and mute buttons, the Roku Premiere also does 4K and HDR and is still on sale for $27.

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Red Bull could quit F1 if new engine rules don’t happen

Par Jonathan M. Gitlin
A pair of Formula 1 cars racing in close proximity

Enlarge / Pierre Gasly driving the Alpha Tauri Honda AT01 leads Alexander Albon in his Red Bull Racing RB16 during the F1 Eifel Grand Prix at Nürburgring on October 11, 2020 in Nürburg, Germany. The energy drink company Red Bull may quit the sport with both teams if it cannot find a solution to its engine supply problem. (credit: Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

At the beginning of October, Honda shocked the world of Formula 1 by announcing its decision to quit the sport at the end of 2021. Currently, it supplies a pair of teams—Red Bull Racing and Alpha Tauri—both owned by the Red Bull energy drinks company. Red Bull now has to find a replacement supplier for the fiendishly expensive, insanely complicated hybrid powertrains required by the rules. And it, too, might quit the sport in 2022 if it can't do that to its satisfaction, a warning issued this week by Red Bull's sporting director, Helmut Marko. So what the heck is going on?

F1’s hybrid era

The first F1 cars to add an electric motor to their internal combustion engine powertrains took to the track in 2009. These were 80hp (60kW) motor-generator units (MGUs) that could recover kinetic energy from the rear wheels under braking and return it to those same wheels for short bursts of additional power during a lap. However, only four teams adopted this idea—called KERS, for kinetic energy recovery system—during the year, and it was abandoned by mutual consent at the end of that season.

In 2014, the sport adopted its current technical ruleset. The old naturally aspirated 2.4L V8 engines were replaced by new 1.6L turbocharged V6s, now with two mandatory hybrid elements to the power train. In place of KERS, there was an MGU-K (for kinetic), and a new MGU-H (for heat), which captured or deployed energy to the engine's turbocharger. The new powertrains are hugely powerful, reaching around 1,000hp (746kW) in qualifying trim last year. And they use less fuel than ever: since this article was written in 2016, the V6es have actually now exceeded 50-percent thermal efficiency.

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Twitter abruptly changes hacked-materials policy after blocking Biden story

Par Jon Brodkin
A computer keyboard with the word

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Peter Dazeley)

Twitter has changed its policy on sharing hacked materials after facing criticism of its decision to block users from tweeting links to a New York Post article that contained Hunter Biden emails allegedly retrieved from a computer left at a repair shop.

On Wednesday, Twitter said it blocked links to the Post story because it included private information and violated Twitter's hacked materials policy, which prohibits sharing links to or images of hacked content. But on late Thursday night, Twitter legal executive Vijaya Gadde wrote in a thread that the company has "decided to make changes to the [hacked materials] policy and how we enforce it" after receiving "significant feedback."

Twitter enacted the policy in 2018 "to discourage and mitigate harms associated with hacks and unauthorized exposure of private information," Gadde wrote. "We tried to find the right balance between people's privacy and the right of free expression, but we can do better." Twitter will thus change its hacked materials policy to "no longer remove hacked content unless it is directly shared by hackers or those acting in concert with them." Twitter will also "label Tweets to provide context instead of blocking links from being shared on Twitter."

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Popeye would approve: Spinach could hold key to renewable fuel cell catalysts

Par Jennifer Ouellette
Popeye reaches for a can of spinach in a still from an unidentified <em>Popeye</em> film, c. 1945. Scientists at American University believe the leafy green has the potential to help power future fuel cells.

Enlarge / Popeye reaches for a can of spinach in a still from an unidentified Popeye film, c. 1945. Scientists at American University believe the leafy green has the potential to help power future fuel cells. (credit: Paramount Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Image)

When it comes to making efficient fuel cells, it's all about the catalyst. A good catalyst will result in faster, more efficient chemical reactions and, thus, increased energy output. Today's fuel cells typically rely on platinum-based catalysts. But scientists at American University believe that spinach—considered a "superfood" because it is so packed with nutrients—would make an excellent renewable carbon-rich catalyst, based on their proof-of-principle experiments described in a recent paper published in the journal ACS Omega. Popeye would definitely approve.

Spinach has a surprisingly long history in science; the notion of exploiting its photosynthetic and electrochemical properties has been around for about 40 years now. Spinach is plentiful, cheap, easy to grow, and rich in iron and nitrogen. Many (many!) years ago, as a budding young science writer, I attended a conference talk by physicist Elias Greenbaum (then with Oak Ridge National Labs) about his spinach-related research. Specifically, he was interested in the protein-based "reaction centers" in spinach leaves that are the basic mechanism for photosynthesis—the chemical process by which plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbohydrates.

There are two types of reaction centers. One type, known as photosystem 1 (PS1), converts carbon dioxide into sugar; the other, photosystem 2 (PS2), splits water to produce oxygen. There is a great deal of scientific interest in PS1, which acts like a tiny photosensitive battery, absorbing energy from sunlight and emitting electrons with nearly 100-percent efficiency. PS1s are capable of generating a light-induced flow of electricity in fractions of a second.

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PlayStation 5 UI revealed: “Activity” shortcuts, picture-in-picture

Par Sam Machkovech
  • On-screen help and tips to get through tricky levels? Pretty smooth, PlayStation...

Sony's drip-feed of PlayStation 5 information continued on Thursday with a surprise reveal of the upcoming console's "Control Center" interface. Sony has typically been bullish on updating its system menus between console generations, and the PlayStation 5 is clearly no exception.

The biggest feature revealed in this week's video is "Activities," a system-level companion to most consoles' "trophy" or "achievement" lists. In the case of PS5, when you're playing a supported game, you can tap into the Control Center to see levels, quests, or objectives that are available in your game (content you've already reached or unlocked, not spoilers). The idea is that you might have blown through a platforming level from start to finish but missed hidden items and collectibles needed to unlock a PS5 trophy.

Tap one of these Activity cards, and you'll quick-load into the relevant part of the game (thus flexing the PS5's NVMe 4.0 loading-time boosts) then be presented with a series of hints for any objectives or collectibles you've missed. At this point, if you're a paying PlayStation Plus subscriber, you can tap these hints to see pictures or video to guide your way instead of grabbing a nearby phone or laptop to search for a user-made tutorial. Then tap an additional button to leave these hints open in picture-in-picture mode.

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This is what “war in space” probably would look like in the near future

Par Eric Berger
Anti-Satellite Weapons from Mission Shakti are displayed during Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2020 in New Delhi, India.

Enlarge / Anti-Satellite Weapons from Mission Shakti are displayed during Republic Day Parade on January 26, 2020 in New Delhi, India. (credit: Ramesh Pathania/Mint via Getty Images)

The creation of the US Space Force has conjured up all manner of fanciful notions about combat in space. Will military satellites act like X-wings and Tie Fighters, zipping around and shooting at one another? Or perhaps will larger ships akin to the USS Enterprise fire photon torpedoes at enemy warbirds?

Hardly. But even those with more realistic expectations for what could happen if nations went to war in space—perhaps satellites using orbital kinetic weapons to attack other satellites?—may not fully appreciate the physics of space combat. That's the conclusion of a new report that investigates what is physically and practically possible when it comes to space combat.

Published by The Aerospace Corporation, The Physics of Space War: How Orbital Dynamics Constrain Space-to-Space Engagements lays out several basic concepts that are likely to govern any space combat for the foreseeable future. All of the physical constraints suggest battles will need to be planned far in advance.

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Gaming chairs or work from home chairs? Ars tests two under $500

Par Jim Salter
The Secretlab Omega (left) made a better first impression, but Anda Fnatic (right) won me over in the end.

Enlarge / The Secretlab Omega (left) made a better first impression, but Anda Fnatic (right) won me over in the end. (credit: Secretlab / Anda)

One of the most important accessories of every home office frequently gets overlooked: the chair. With this year's COVID-19-related social distancing and mandatory remote work, many of us are spending a lot more time behind a desk at home than before—and without the right chair, that extra time can translate into discomfort or outright back pain.

I've never had much luck with "cheap" office chairs—a $350 mid-back office chair frequently turns into a throne of pain without sufficient extended breaks to get up and move around. Trendy Aeron chairs provide somewhat better ergonomic support for extended periods of seated work—but their $1,100 and up price tag is a little hard to swallow for many of us. This leaves the home office worker's secret weapon—the gaming chair.

It has been my experience that you get more—and more comfortable—chair for your money when you shop for gaming chairs. They're designed for maximum comfort and ergonomic support for long seating periods, and they're generally designed to support larger and heavier people than office chairs are as well. And they need to do it within a reasonable budget.

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Thousands of infected IoT devices used in for-profit anonymity service

Par Dan Goodin
A stylized human skull over a wall of binary code.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Ars Technica)

Some 9,000 devices—mostly running Android, but also the Linux and Darwin operating Systems—have been corralled into the Interplanetary Storm, the name given to a botnet whose chief purpose is creating a for-profit proxy service, likely for anonymous Internet use.

The finding is based on several pieces of evidence collected by researchers from security provider Bitdefender. The core piece of evidence is a series of six specialized nodes that are part of the management infrastructure. They include a:

  • proxy backend that pings other nodes to prove its availability
  • proxy checker that connects to a bot proxy
  • manager that issues scanning and brute-forcing commands
  • backend interface responsible for hosting a Web API
  • node that uses cryptography keys to authenticate other devices and sign authorized messages
  • development node used for development purposes

Keeping it on the down-low

Together, these nodes “are responsible for checking for node availability, connecting to proxy nodes, hosting the web API service, signing authorized messages, and even testing the malware in its development phase,” Bitdefender researchers wrote in a report published on Thursday. “Along with other development choices, this leads us to believe that the botnet is used as a proxy network, potentially offered as an anonymization service.”

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Surface Duo review—Orphaned Windows hardware makes a poor Android device

Par Ron Amadeo
  • The Microsoft Surface Duo. It's very big. [credit: Ron Amadeo ]

After one of the strangest run-ups to launch in smartphone history, the Microsoft Surface Duo is here. Microsoft's first-ever Android phone (sorry, we're not counting the Nokia X) was announced and demoed an entire year before its release, hinting at what a long and winding road the Surface Duo took from inception to shipping. The hardware apparently dates back to plans to revitalize Windows for phones, but after that plan fell through, the hardware was upcycled into the most head-scratching Android phone of the year.

The Surface Duo sales pitch is that foldable display technology isn't ready yet, so try this best-we-can-do-right-now version that features two rigid, 5.6-inch OLED displays attached together with a 360 hinge. Microsoft is calling this a "productivity" device thanks to it having the side-by-side app capability of a tablet-style foldable smartphone without any of the janky display technology. Microsoft's website also says the Duo was designed to "inspire people to rethink how they want to use the device in their pocket," indicating that the company definitely sees this as a primary device.

I bring up Microsoft's sales pitch because, boy, is the Surface Duo bad at doing the things Microsoft says it's supposed to be good at. The phone feels like it was made without any respect to ergonomics, hand size, pocket-size, or anything that makes a good Android phone. It has crippling productivity problems that negate any benefit you could get from the two-screen design, it's extremely awkward in day-to-day use, and it's very buggy. The phone is missing a whole host of features you would expect for the stratospheric $1400 asking price, and even the hardware that is here seems like it's a least a year old.

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Rocket Report: Sweden invests in launch site, SLS hotfire test in a month

Par Eric Berger
The Soyuz MS-17 rocket is launched with Expedition 64 Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, on Oct. 14, 2020.

Enlarge / The Soyuz MS-17 rocket is launched with Expedition 64 Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, on Oct. 14, 2020. (credit: NASA/GCTC/Andrey Shelepin)

Welcome to Edition 3.20 of the Rocket Report! As usual, there is a lot of news this week in the world of lift. We also have the prospect of two Starlink launches in three days, beginning Sunday. Of course, we'll have to see what Scrubtober thinks about this.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

New Shepard flies again after 10 months. Blue Origin's New Shepard launch system returned to flight on Tuesday, conducting the 13th overall mission of the vehicle. The vehicle carried 12 commercial payloads to the edge of space and back, including a NASA-developed sensor suite that could enable future lunar landing craft to perform safe and precise touchdowns on the surface of the Moon, reports.

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YouTube cracks down on QAnon conspiracists

Par Financial Times
Conspiracy theorist QAnon demonstrators protest child trafficking on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, August 22, 2020.

Enlarge / Conspiracy theorist QAnon demonstrators protest child trafficking on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, August 22, 2020. (credit: Kyle Grillot | Getty Images)

Google-owned YouTube has become the latest social media platform to crack down on the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon ahead of November’s US election, but stopped short of a full ban on the rapidly spreading movement.

In a blog post on Thursday, the video platform said that it would “prohibit content that targets an individual or group with conspiracy theories that have been used to justify real-world violence,” citing QAnon and related conspiracy theory Pizzagate.

The social media group also said that it had removed “tens of thousands” of videos and “hundreds of channels” related to QAnon, whose members believe US president Donald Trump is under threat from a Satanic “deep state” cabal of Democrats and Hollywood celebrities involved in child trafficking.

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Ajit Pai says he’ll help Trump impose crackdown on Twitter and Facebook

Par Jon Brodkin
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai speaking at a press conference on October 1, 2018, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Mark Wilson )

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is backing President Donald Trump's proposal to limit legal protections for social media websites that block or modify content posted by users. Pai's views on the matter were unknown until today when he issued a statement saying that he will open a rule-making process to clarify that, despite the First Amendment, social media companies do not have "special immunity" for their content-moderation decisions.

"Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech," Pai said. "But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters."

Trump's attempt to punish social media websites like Twitter and Facebook for alleged anti-conservative bias landed at the FCC because Trump had the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) petition the FCC to issue a new interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This US law says that providers and users of interactive computer services shall not be held liable for "any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected." The law also says that no provider or user of an interactive computer service "shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

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Putin touts second dubious approval of an unproven COVID-19 vaccine

Par Beth Mole
A vaguely smug man in a suit sits in front of a flag.

Enlarge / Russia's President Vladimir Putin. (credit: Getty | Mikhail Klimentyev )

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced the second dubious approval of a COVID-19 vaccine that has not been evaluated in clinical trials.

The vaccine, dubbed EpiVacCorona, is said to be a synthetic peptide-based vaccine, which uses fragments of the pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2 to spur protective immune responses in those vaccinated. It was developed by Vector State Virology and Biotechnology Center, a former Soviet bioweapons research lab.

Like the first Russian-approved vaccine, whether EpiVacCorona is actually safe and effective is completely unknown. In a televised news conference, Putin said that early trials involving 100 people were successful. But researchers have not published any safety or efficacy data from those trials. Russian health officials have said they are still reviewing the vaccine for “safety and quality” but declined to provide any additional information on the vaccine, data, or approval process.

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Google Music shuts down smart speaker support and music store

Par Ron Amadeo
  • RIP to the Google Play Music store, which used to look like this. [credit: Ron Amadeo ]

There's not much time left for Google Play Music. We've known Google's 9-year-old music service was on the way out, but this week Google has started to actually shut down parts of its cloud music service in the hopes of pushing people to YouTube Music.

The gradual shutdown started on Monday with the death of the Google Play Music Store, which previously let you purchase music for playback and download, as opposed to the all-you-can-eat rental services that dominate the music landscape today. Google's Music store was a section of the Google Play Store, which now just shows a message saying the feature has been removed. Google is getting out of the business of selling music entirely and now only offers a rental service through YouTube Music.

The other big feature shutdown is music playback on Google Home and Nest Audio speakers. While the Google Music app still works and you can start a playback through Chromecast, you're no longer able to start music by voice through Google Assistant devices. If you dig into the Google Assistant settings (that means opening the Google app on your phone, then hitting "More," then "Settings," then "Google Assistant," "Services," and finally "Music") you'll find that the "Google Play Music" option has completely disappeared. Now the only supported services for voice commands are YouTube Music, Pandora, Deezer, and Spotify.

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Microsoft will give GameStop a share of Xbox’s digital revenues

Par Kyle Orland
Microsoft will give GameStop a share of Xbox’s digital revenues

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Microsoft / Getty Images)

In a seemingly unprecedented deal, GameStop will now share in the lifetime digital sales revenue—including for full game downloads, DLC, and subscription plans—for any Xbox console sold through its stores. How much that arrangement will impact the bottom line for the struggling retailer is still an open and heavily debated question, though.

The first sign of this new revenue-sharing arrangement actually came somewhat hidden in a press release GameStop issued last week, trumpeting a "Multi-year Strategic Partnership with Microsoft." That announcement focused heavily on GameStop agreeing to use Microsoft's cloud-based infrastructure for its back-end sales systems and a deal for store associates to start using Microsoft Surface tablets going forward.

Buried in that press release, though, was a vague sentence that could be much more important to GameStop's future: "GameStop and Microsoft will both benefit from the customer acquisition and lifetime revenue value of each gamer brought into the Xbox ecosystem."

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Verizon forced to pull ad that claimed firefighters need Verizon 5G

Par Jon Brodkin
A firefighter at the scene of a wildfire.

Enlarge / A firefighter battling the Mendocino Complex fire on August 7, 2018 near Lodoga, California. (credit: Getty Images | Justin Sullivan )

Verizon's 2018 controversy over its throttling of a fire department's "unlimited" data plan during a wildfire didn't stop the carrier from rolling out numerous ads claiming that Verizon service is a must-have for firefighters and other emergency responders. But a couple of those ads apparently went too far, and Verizon agreed to stop running them after a complaint that T-Mobile lodged with the advertising industry's self-regulatory body.

"Verizon committed to permanently discontinue its '5G Built Right for Firefighters' and '5G Built Right for First Responders' advertisements and the challenged claims made therein," the National Advertising Division (NAD) said today in an announcement of the complaint's outcome.

The NAD said it didn't actually review the firefighter and first-responder complaints on their merits because Verizon agreed to pull them before an investigation. But the NAD investigated other T-Mobile claims and recommended that Verizon discontinue or modify several other ads that made unsupported statements. Verizon agreed to comply with the NAD's findings.

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Lidar used to cost $75,000—here’s how Apple brought it to the iPhone

Par Timothy B. Lee
Lidar used to cost $75,000—here’s how Apple brought it to the iPhone


At Tuesday's unveiling of the iPhone 12, Apple touted the capabilities of its new lidar sensor. Apple says lidar will enhance the iPhone's camera by allowing more rapid focus, especially in low-light situations. And it may enable the creation of a new generation of sophisticated augmented reality apps.

Tuesday's presentation offered little detail about how the iPhone's lidar actually works, but this isn't Apple's first device with lidar. Apple first introduced the technology with the refreshed iPad in March. And while no one has done a teardown of the iPhone 12 yet, we can learn a lot from recent iPad teardowns.

Lidar works by sending out laser light and measuring how long it takes to bounce back. Because light travels at a constant speed, the round-trip time can be translated into a precise distance estimate. Repeat this process across a two-dimensional grid and the result is a three-dimensional "point cloud" showing the location of objects around a room, street, or other location.

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Pluto’s ice-capped peaks are like Earth’s—but not

Par Scott K. Johnson
“What dusts the peaks of Cthulhu?” is not an arcane riddle.

Enlarge / “What dusts the peaks of Cthulhu?” is not an arcane riddle. (credit: NASA)

We can often use our knowledge of planet Earth to explain the things we see on other worlds, although we may have to tweak the physics to account for a different temperature or a tenuous atmosphere. But planetary scientists can’t always assume that a familiar landscape feature formed in a familiar way.

When the New Horizons spacecraft gave us our first close-up look at Pluto, there were alien wonders aplenty. But there were also mountaintops dusted with something bright, looking very similar to Earth's snowcapped peaks. On Earth, these snow caps are produced by enhanced precipitation as air rises over the mountains and cools, combined with the colder temperatures at higher elevations.

On Pluto, that explanation can’t work, for several reasons. First, temperatures generally increase as you go up a few kilometers from Pluto’s surface because of gases absorbing solar energy. Winds also tend to blow downslope since the colder surface chills the air near it, making it denser. So what forms the bright dusting and how does it get there?

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FDA approves first treatment for Ebola, a Regeneron antibody cocktail

Par Beth Mole
Staff from South Sudan's Health Ministry pose with protective suits during a drill for Ebola preparedness conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Enlarge / Staff from South Sudan's Health Ministry pose with protective suits during a drill for Ebola preparedness conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO). (credit: Getty | Patrick Meinhardt)

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday issued the first-ever approval for a therapy against Ebola virus disease.

Though the Ebola vaccine, Ervebo, earned approval late last year and proved 97.5 percent effective in preliminary trials, the newly approved therapy may be useful in addressing an ongoing outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo, which began in June. The FDA’s approval may also boost the outlook for similar therapies being developed for COVID-19, which may become available before a vaccine.

The newly approved Ebola treatment, called Inmazeb (aka REGN-EB3), is a combination of three monoclonal antibodies made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. The antibodies target the only protein on the outside of Ebola virus particles, the glycoprotein. Ebola uses its glycoprotein to attach to and enter human cells, sparking infection. The cocktail of antibodies glom on to the protein, keeping it from invading cells.

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Xbox Series X unleashed: Our unrestricted preview

Par Sam Machkovech
  • Glamour shots with Xbox Series X and its accompanying gamepad. [credit: Sam Machkovech ]

If you'd like to estimate Microsoft's confidence in its upcoming Xbox Series X console, start with the fact that the company gave us a console three weeks ago... and didn't hang around to see what we'd do with it.

That's not how cutting-edge hardware previews tend to work. There are supposed to be multiday events! And corporate handlers! And finger sandwiches! But mostly, there's supposed to be control on the manufacturer's part, in terms of swapping in new hardware or addressing failures the moment something might go wrong for a prospective critic. At such events, staffers may as well wear shirts that read, "We're still working the kinks out on that."

Obviously, the massive, in-person events didn't happen this year. So what do you do as the industry's game-console underdog in order to convince people that your $500 console is better than the other $500 console? One of Microsoft's answers, apparently, was to drive a truck full of "PROTOTYPE"-labeled Xbox Series X consoles to critics' homes far earlier than we expected.

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Review: Healing and hope in Star Trek: Discovery’s third season

Par Kate Cox
"The Federation isn't just about ships. The Federation is its people."

Enlarge / "The Federation isn't just about ships. The Federation is its people." (credit: CBS | YouTube)

The most frequent complaint leveled against Star Trek: Discovery during its first two seasons was: "This doesn't feel like the Star Trek I remember." The critics did indeed have a point—from the outset, Discovery tried to lean into the modern streaming prestige-drama mold, while also retaining its Starfleet soul. Those two goals don't necessarily align, and as a result Discovery sometimes seemed like a show that simply couldn't make up its mind.

In its third season, however, Discovery has finally picked a side. The show is now all-in on venerating the optimistic, wide-eyed Federation fans want to remember from the '80s and '90s, and it's bringing back the old planet-of-the-week format to do so. Now, the show's inner conflict has taken a whole new direction: for a story all about leaping a millennium into the future to explore the strangest possible new world, Discovery for the most part plays it startlingly safe.

(Spoilers below for the first two seasons of Discovery.)

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Twitter, Facebook face blowback after stopping circulation of NY Post story

Par Kate Cox
Twitter, Facebook face blowback after stopping circulation of NY Post story

Enlarge (credit: Thomas Trutschel / Getty Images)

Facebook and Twitter today are facing criticism from all sides after taking rare action to suppress an apparent attempt at blatant disinformation being spread three weeks before the election.

Both social media platforms are deprecating or outright blocking the sharing of a link to a story the New York Post published this morning about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Although Twitter and Facebook have both acted in the past to deplatform fringe actors, today's action marks one of the extremely rare times either has taken action against a story from a relatively mainstream outlet.

The story

The story at the root of all the drama appears to be an attempt to duplicate the effect the Comey memo had on the 2016 presidential election by suggesting there's a scandal in the Biden camp. The New York Post claimed to have received copies of emails that were obtained from a laptop that Biden's son Hunter dropped off at a Delaware computer repair shop in 2019. These emails, which the Post called a "smoking gun," allegedly indicate that Hunter Biden connected his father with Ukrainian energy firm Burisma in 2014.

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Google and Intel warn of high-severity Bluetooth security bug in Linux

Par Dan Goodin
Stylized image of a floating padlock.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Google and Intel are warning of a high-severity Bluetooth flaw in all but the most recent version of the Linux Kernel. While a Google researcher said the bug allows seamless code execution by attackers within Bluetooth range, Intel is characterizing the flaw as providing an escalation of privileges or the disclosure of information.

The flaw resides in BlueZ, the software stack that by default implements all Bluetooth core protocols and layers for Linux. Besides Linux laptops, it's used in many consumer or industrial Internet-of-things devices. It works with Linux versions 2.4.6 and later.

In search of details

So far, little is known about BleedingTooth, the name given by Google engineer Andy Nguyen, who said that a blog post will be published “soon.” A Twitter thread and a YouTube video provide the most detail and give the impression that the bug provides a reliable way for nearby attackers to execute malicious code of their choice on vulnerable Linux devices that use BlueZ for Bluetooth.

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The 12 most popular Prime Day 2020 deals, as chosen by Ars readers

Par Jeff Dunn
sony wh-1000xm4

Enlarge / Sony's WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

With Amazon Prime Day comes a flood of discounts, but in truth, only a fraction of those are worth jumping on. So we've spent the last couple of days trying to pick out the deals most worth your attention from Amazon's self-manufactured shopping holiday.

With the event scheduled to end by tomorrow, though, we thought it would be fun to have our final Prime Day post share the most purchased items by readers here at Ars. To be clear: we absolutely do not (and can not) track individual buying habits, but we are able to see what's received the most attention in anonymized aggregate.

Furthermore, don't take this as a scientific set of data. We've highlighted specific products as especially noteworthy within our deal roundups, with entire articles dedicated to the best Amazon device deals and the best Apple device deals. Naturally, some of the products that got the most prominent call-outs wound up among the most popular. (We appreciate your faith in our recommendations, by the way.) Without getting too deep into the minutiae of retailer affiliate networks, we'll also note that the items below are only based on Tuesday's activity.

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The iPhone and iPad Spotify app now includes home screen widgets

Par Samuel Axon
  • The two sizes of the Spotify widget in iOS 14. [credit: Samuel Axon ]

Spotify—one of Apple's main rivals in both the latter's services strategy and in antitrust investigations—has released a new version of its iPhone app that supports home screen widgets, one of the flagship features of iOS 14.

Last month's release of iOS 14 brought home screen widgets—previously only the domain of iPads and Android phones—to iPhones. As we noted in our iOS 14 review, the value of the feature depends entirely on strong adoption and clever uses by third-party app developers.

Releases of widget-supporting apps from developers have been slow. Part of that was because Apple launched iOS 14 with less notice to developers than usual, meaning many were racing to play catch-up. But even now, a month later, the roster of widget-supporting apps has only grown a little.

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Milla Jovovich, Tony Jaa take on vicious creatures in Monster Hunter trailer

Par Jennifer Ouellette

Milla Jovovich plays Captain Artemis, who must battle monsters after being transported to a hidden world in Monster Hunter.

US soldiers must fight for their lives in a parallel world filed with gigantic, aggressive creatures in Monster Hunter, a forthcoming film adapted from the hugely successful global video game franchise of the same name. Die-hard fans of the games are already noting their displeasure with the trailer, which I get—let's be honest, the trailer looks a little cheesy. But the film also co-stars martial arts star Tony Jaa of the Ong-Bak franchise, which in my book makes up for a lot of sins. And director Paul W.S. Anderson was the driving creative force behind the wildly popular Resident Evil film franchise.

The Monster Hunter games are Capcom's second bestselling game series—behind the Resident Evil series—with more than 64 million units sold globally to date across all platforms. Anderson (Mortal Kombat) discovered Monster Hunter while visiting Japan in 2008, and adapting a film from the game world became his new passion project. With the hope of establishing another successful film franchise, he enlisted his own wife, Milla Jovovich (who starred in the Resident Evil films), for the lead role of Captain Natalie Artemis, a US solider who falls into the gaming world via a portal—Anderson's plot device for introducing cinema audiences to that universe.

In the Monster Hunter role-playing games, players choose a Hunter character, along with custom armor and weapons. The characters don't have intrinsic abilities, like traditional RPGs; rather, whatever abilities they have derive from the choice of weapons and armor. Those choices are basic at first, and players collect additional resources from their quests to conquer various monsters—including fashioning new assets from parts gleaned from the defeated creatures. In single-player mode, the Hunters are usually accompanied by a Felyne or sentient cat creatures known as Palicos for additional support.

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NASA makes a significant investment in on-orbit spacecraft refueling

Par Eric Berger
If one wants to have Starships on Mars, one first has to refuel them in Earth orbit.

Enlarge / If one wants to have Starships on Mars, one first has to refuel them in Earth orbit. (credit: SpaceX)

NASA has reached an agreement with 14 US companies to develop technologies that will enable future modes of exploration in space and on the surface of the Moon. NASA says the value of these awards for "Tipping Point" technologies is more than $370 million.

With these awards, the space agency is leaning heavily into technologies related to the collection, storage, and transfer of cryogenic propellants in space. Four of the awards, totaling more than $250 million, will go to companies specifically for "cryogenic fluid management" tech demonstrations:

  • Eta Space of Merritt Island, Florida, $27 million. Small-scale flight demonstration of a complete cryogenic oxygen fluid management system. System will be the primary payload on a Rocket Lab Photon satellite and collect critical cryogenic fluid management data in orbit for nine months.
  • Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, $89.7 million. In-space demonstration mission using liquid hydrogen to test more than a dozen cryogenic fluid management technologies, positioning them for infusion into future space systems.
  • SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, $53.2 million. Large-scale flight demonstration to transfer 10 metric tons of cryogenic propellant, specifically liquid oxygen, between tanks on a Starship vehicle.
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Centennial, Colorado, $86.2 million. Demonstration of a smart propulsion cryogenic system, using liquid oxygen and hydrogen, on a Vulcan Centaur upper stage. The system will test precise tank-pressure control, tank-to-tank transfer, and multiweek propellant storage.

These awards are notable because, for much of the last decade, the agency has been hesitant to invest in technologies that will enable the handling of cold propellant in space. The official reason given for this reluctance has been that the technology of creating propellant "depots," and transferring liquid hydrogen and oxygen to and from these depots, was deemed not ready for prime time. But there were political reasons as well.

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