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Hier — 24 janvier 2021Ars Technica

A curious observer’s guide to quantum mechanics, pt. 3: Rose colored glasses 

Par Ars Contributors
A curious observer’s guide to quantum mechanics, pt. 3: Rose colored glasses 

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images / Aurich Lawson)

One of the quietest revolutions of our current century has been the entry of quantum mechanics into our everyday technology. It used to be that quantum effects were confined to physics laboratories and delicate experiments. But modern technology increasingly relies on quantum mechanics for its basic operation, and the importance of quantum effects will only grow in the decades to come. As such, physicist Miguel F. Morales has taken on the herculean task of explaining quantum mechanics to the rest of us laymen in this seven-part series (no math, we promise). Below is the third story in the series, but you can always find the starting story here.

So far, we’ve seen particles move as waves and learned that a single particle can take multiple, widely separated paths. There are a number of questions that naturally arises from this behavior—one of them being, “How big is a particle?” The answer is remarkably subtle, and over the next two weeks (and articles) we'll explore different aspects of this question.

Today, we’ll start with a seemingly simple question: “How long is a particle?”

Read 44 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Review: Lupin updates classic French gentleman thief for the 21st century

Par Jennifer Ouellette
Omar Sy stars as Assane Diop, looking every bit the contemporary version of Arsène Lupin, famed French fictional gentleman thief.

Enlarge / Omar Sy stars as Assane Diop, looking every bit the contemporary version of Arsène Lupin, famed French fictional gentleman thief. (credit: Netflix)

Netflix has kicked off 2021 with a bang, thanks to its new series, Lupin, starring French actor and comedian Omar Sy. This delightful contemporary reimagining of a classic character in French detective fiction, Arsène Lupin—a gentleman thief and master of disguise who was essentially the French equivalent of Sherlock Holmes—is a massive hit. According to Deadline Hollywood, Lupin is on track to top 70 million households in its first 28 days of release, beating out two other recent Netflix smash hits, Bridgerton (63 million households) and The Queen's Gambit (62 million households).

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

As I've written previously, Arsène Lupin is the creation of Maurice Leblanc, who based the character partly on a French burglar/anarchist. Leblanc was also familiar with the gentleman thief featured in the work of Octave Mirbeau as well as E.W. Hornung's famed gentleman thief, A.J. Raffles, and he also knew about Rocambole, a character whose adventures were recounted in a series of stories published between 1857 and 1870 by Pierre Alexis Ponson du Terrail.

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Is this a fossilized lair of the dreaded bobbit worm?

The head of a gruesome yet colorful worm projects from the seafloor.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Not to toot my own horn, but I know a thing or two about bizarre animals. And I can tell you without a hint of doubt that the bobbit worm is by far the most bizarre. Growing to 10 feet long, the worm digs a burrow in the seafloor, leaving only its bear trap of a mouth sticking out. When a fish approaches, the bobbit worm shoots out of its burrow with astonishing speed, snapping its jaws around its prey. With violent tugs, the worm then drags the victim down into its lair, where it eats the fish alive. (Oh, there's video.)

Now scientists say they've found evidence that an ancestor of the bobbit worm may have been menacing fish 20 million years ago. Writing today in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers argue that hundreds of fossilized worm burrows, found in what is now Taiwan, show telltale signs of struggle. They haven't found the worms themselves, mind you, as boneless critters like worms (known as invertebrates, because they lack spinal columns) very rarely fossilize. Instead, they discovered trace fossils, geological features that hint at the behavior of ancient animals, in sandstone that was once a seafloor.

"This is, we believe, the first time that we've actually found a trace fossil that shows how invertebrates like worms were feeding on vertebrates," says National Taiwan University sedimentologist Ludvig Löwemark, co-author of the new paper. "Because, typically, what we find in the sedimentary record is animals that are moving through the sediment." Invertebrates, for instance, might dig tunnels through the sea bottom and pump water through their burrows, filtering out particles. "But this is a record of a much more active behavior," he continues. "The worms were actually hiding in the sediment, jumping out, catching their prey, and then dragging this prey down into the sediment."

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À partir d’avant-hierArs Technica

DDoSers are abusing Microsoft RDP to make attacks more powerful

Par Dan Goodin
Stylized illustration of a hooded figure at a laptop.

Enlarge / Hacker attacking server or database. Network security, Database secure and personal data protection (credit: Getty Images)

DDoS-for-hire services are abusing the Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol to increase the firepower of distributed denial-of-service attacks that paralyze websites and other online services, a security firm said this week.

Typically abbreviated as RDP, Remote Desktop Protocol is the underpinning for a Microsoft Windows feature that allows one device to log into another device over the Internet. RDP is mostly used by businesses to save employees the cost or hassle of having to be physically present when accessing a computer.

As is typical with many authenticated systems, RDP responds to login requests with a much longer sequence of bits that establish a connection between the two parties. So-called booter/stresser services, which for a fee will bombard Internet addresses with enough data to take them offline, have recently embraced RDP as a means to amplify their attacks, security firm Netscout said.

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What’s the technology behind a five-minute charge battery?

Par John Timmer
Image of a set of battery racks.

Enlarge (credit: StoreDot)

Building a better battery requires dealing with problems in materials science, chemistry, and manufacturing. We do regular coverage of work going on in the former two categories, but we get a fair number of complaints about our inability to handle the third: figuring out how companies manage to take solutions to the science and convert them into usable products. So, it was exciting to see that a company called StoreDot that was claiming the development of a battery that would allow five-minute charging of electric vehicles was apparently willing to talk to the press.

Unfortunately, the response to our inquiries fell a bit short of our hopes. "Thank you for your interest," was the reply, "we are still in pure R&D mode and cannot share any information or answer any questions at the moment." Apparently, the company gave The Guardian an exclusive and wasn't talking to anyone else.

Undeterred, we've since pulled every bit of information we could find from StoreDot's site to figure out roughly what it was doing, and we went backwards from there to look for research we've covered previously that could be related. What follows is an attempt to piece together a picture of the technology and the challenges a company has to tackle to take research concepts and make products out of them.

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The art and science of boarding an airplane in a pandemic

Masked passengers board a passenger jet from a runway.

Enlarge / During the pandemic, several airlines have switched boarding procedures to create more distance between passengers. (credit: Nicholas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images)

Jason Steffen studies planets in other solar systems. His most famous work—OK, second-most famous work—was with NASA’s Kepler Mission, a survey of planetary systems. But you’re more likely to have heard of Steffen, a professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, in a very different context: as a student of the airplane boarding process. Years ago, after waiting in yet another line on a jam-packed jetway, the physicist thought to himself, “There has to be a better way than this.”

Airlines are invested in boarding times—and to a lesser extent, offboarding—because time equals money. Flying people around the world is a low-margin business, and the faster you can get a flight loaded, into the air, and then emptied on the ground, the faster you can get the next round of paying customers into the air.

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This site posted every face from Parler’s Capitol Hill insurrection videos

Black-and-white photographs of faces arranged in a grid.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Wired)

When hackers exploited a bug in Parler to download all of the right-wing social media platform's contents last week, they were surprised to find that many of the pictures and videos contained geolocation metadata revealing exactly how many of the site's users had taken part in the invasion of the US Capitol building just days before. But the videos uploaded to Parler also contain an equally sensitive bounty of data sitting in plain sight: thousands of images of unmasked faces, many of whom participated in the Capitol riot. Now one website has done the work of cataloging and publishing every one of those faces in a single, easy-to-browse lineup.

Late last week, a website called Faces of the Riot appeared online, showing nothing but a vast grid of more than 6,000 images of faces, each one tagged only with a string of characters associated with the Parler video in which it appeared. The site's creator tells WIRED that he used simple, open source machine-learning and facial recognition software to detect, extract, and deduplicate every face from the 827 videos that were posted to Parler from inside and outside the Capitol building on January 6, the day when radicalized Trump supporters stormed the building in a riot that resulted in five people's deaths. The creator of Faces of the Riot says his goal is to allow anyone to easily sort through the faces pulled from those videos to identify someone they may know, or recognize who took part in the mob, or even to reference the collected faces against FBI wanted posters and send a tip to law enforcement if they spot someone.

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What happens to the brain on sudden impact? Egg yolks could hold the answer

Par Jennifer Ouellette

A rotational deceleration experiment with egg yolk, using an egg scrambler and measuring the soft matter deformation, to find possible answers about concussions. (video link)

A growing number of professional football players have been diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), likely the result of suffering repeated concussions or similar repetitive brain trauma over the course of their careers. It's also common in other high-contact sports like boxing, Muay Thai, kickboxing, and ice hockey. We might find clues about the underlying physics by studying the deformation of egg yolks, according to a new paper published in The Physics of Fluids. This in turn could one day lead to better prevention of such trauma.

Egg yolk submerged in liquid egg white encased in a hard shell is an example of what physicists call "soft matter in a liquid environment." Other examples include the red blood cells that flow through our circulatory systems and our brains, surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid (CBR) inside a hard skull.  How much a type of soft matter deforms in response to external impacts is a key feature, according to Villanova University physicist Qianhong Wu and his co-authors on this latest study. They point to red blood cells as an example. It's the ability of red blood cells to change shape under stress ("erythrocyte deformability") that lets them squeeze through tiny capillaries, for instance, and also triggers the spleen to remove red blood cells whose size, shape, and overall deformability have been too greatly altered.

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Waymo CEO dismisses Tesla self-driving plan: “This is not how it works”

Par Timothy B. Lee
Waymo CEO John Krafcik speaks in 2018.

Enlarge / Waymo CEO John Krafcik speaks in 2018. (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Many Tesla fans view the electric carmaker as a world leader in self-driving technology. CEO Elon Musk himself has repeatedly claimed that the company is less than two years away from perfecting fully self-driving technology.

But in an interview with Germany's Manager magazine, Waymo CEO John Krafcik dismissed Tesla as a Waymo competitor and argued that Tesla's current strategy was unlikely to ever produce a fully self-driving system.

"For us, Tesla is not a competitor at all," Krafcik said. "We manufacture a completely autonomous driving system. Tesla is an automaker that is developing a really good driver assistance system."

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Blizzard absorbs acclaimed Activision studio as a dedicated “support” team [Updated]

Par Sam Machkovech
Blizzard absorbs acclaimed Activision studio as a dedicated “support” team [Updated]

Enlarge (credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

The corporate behemoth organism that is Blizzard Entertainment, which exists in a symbiotic state next to megaton game publisher Activision, became bigger on Friday with a surprise announcement: It has absorbed a game studio within the Activision family, effective immediately.

Vicarious Visions, a longtime game studio that was acquired by Activision in 2005, has been shuffled out of the Activision ecosystem and pumped directly into Blizzard's veins. In a statement offered to, Blizzard confirmed that the 200+ staff at Vicarious Vision has been shifted to a "long-term support" team focused entirely on "existing Blizzard games and initiatives." The news also includes a mild shuffle of leadership, sending current Vicarious studio head Jen Oneal to the Blizzard leadership board as executive vice president of development.

The statement did not clarify exactly when this arrangement began, nor which of Blizzard's "existing" projects would receive Vicarious staff support in particular. (Blizzard representatives did not immediately respond to Ars Technica's questions about the deal.) As of press time, neither Blizzard nor Vicarious have published details or terms about the deal on their respective blogs or social media channels. In fact, Vicarious Visions' website is currently offline altogether.

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SpaceX launches 143 satellites into orbit, most ever [Updated]

Par Eric Berger
  • The Transporter-1 mission lifts off on Sunday morning. [credit: Trevor Mahlmann ]

Sunday 10:15am ET Update: At the opening of its launch window, a Falcon 9 rocket took off from Florida on Sunday morning and made a flawless ascent into space. After dropping off the second stage in a parking orbit, the first stage returned to land on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. This was the 73rd time a Falcon 9 rocket first stage has been recovered.

Meanwhile, the second stage began to circularize its orbit before it was scheduled to begin a satellite deployment sequence at 59 minutes into flight. The final 10 satellites are expected to be deployed at 1 hour and 31 minutes following liftoff.

Sunday 8:30am ET Update: SpaceX has readied its Transporter-1 mission for a second launch attempt on Sunday morning, from Florida. Engineers are confident enough in weather at the opening of the launch window, at 10am ET (16:00UTC), that they have proceeded with loading the first and second stages with propellant.

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Military intelligence buys location data instead of getting warrants, memo shows

Par Kate Cox
If your phone knows where you are, the feds can, too.

Enlarge / If your phone knows where you are, the feds can, too. (credit: Luis Alvarez | Getty Images)

The Defense Intelligence Agency, which provides military intelligence to the Department of Defense, confirmed in a memo that it purchases "commercially available" smartphone location data to gather information that would otherwise require use of a search warrant.

The DIA "currently provides funding to another agency that purchases commercially available geolocation metadata aggregated from smartphones," the agency wrote in a memo (PDF) to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), first obtained by the New York Times.

The Supreme Court held in its 2018 Carpenter v. United States ruling that the government needs an actual search warrant to collect an individual's cell-site location data. "When the Government tracks the location of a cell phone it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone’s user," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in his opinion. "The retrospective quality of the data here gives police access to a category of information otherwise unknowable."

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Home alarm tech backdoored security cameras to spy on customers having sex

Par Dan Goodin
Home alarm tech backdoored security cameras to spy on customers having sex

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images / Aurich Lawson)

A home security technician has admitted he repeatedly broke into cameras he installed and viewed customers engaging in sex and other intimate acts.

Telesforo Aviles, a 35-year-old former employee of home and small office security company ADT, said that over a five-year period, he accessed the cameras of roughly 200 customer accounts on more than 9,600 occasions—all without the permission or knowledge of customers. He said he took note of homes with women he found attractive and then viewed their cameras for sexual gratification. He said he watched nude women and couples as they had sex.

Aviles made the admissions Thursday in US District Court for the District of Northern Texas, where he pleaded guilty to one count of computer fraud and one count of invasive visual recording. He faces a maximum of five years in prison.

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Google: We’ll shut down Australian search before we pay news sites for links

Par Timothy B. Lee
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, criticized the Australian proposal.

Enlarge / Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, criticized the Australian proposal. (credit: Oliver Berg/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Google says it would have "no real choice" but to shut down its search engine in Australia if Australia passes a new law requiring Google to pay news sites to link to their articles. This would "set an untenable precedent for our business and the digital economy," said Google's Mel Silva in Friday testimony before the Australian Senate.

News organizations around the world have been struggling financially over the last decade or two. Many have blamed Internet companies like Google and Facebook that—in their view—have diverted advertising revenue that once went to news organizations. Some in the news industry argue that Google benefits from including news stories in its search results and should compensate news sites for the privilege of doing so.

So last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission proposed a new mandatory arbitration process designed to correct a supposed power imbalance between tech giants and Australian news sites. Under the new framework, news sites can demand that tech platforms (initially Google and Facebook) pay them for linking to their stories. Google and Facebook are required to negotiate "in good faith" toward a payment agreement.

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Report: The MacBook Air is getting a major redesign, too

Par Samuel Axon
Report: The MacBook Air is getting a major redesign, too


There's been on onslaught of Apple leaks out of business publication Bloomberg over the past week, and the latest goes into a little more detail about an upcoming MacBook Air redesign.

Like the others, the report cites anonymous people familiar with Apple's plans. It claims a newly redesigned MacBook Air (presumably with either Apple's M1 chip for Macs or a successor to that chip) will "be released during the second half of this year at the earliest or in 2022."

But buried in this MacBook Air report is perhaps equally big news for a certain set of Mac users: it claims that Apple plans to reintroduce the SD card slot in new MacBook Pros—a detail that was left out of a story on those computers earlier this week.

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Today’s best tech deals: Apple Magic Keyboard, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and more

Par Ars Staff
Today’s best tech deals: Apple Magic Keyboard, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and more


Today's Dealmaster includes a notable discount on Apple's Magic Keyboard accessory for iPads, with the model designed for the iPad Air and 11-inch iPad Pro down to $199. That's $90 off the device's usual street price and the steepest discount we've tracked to date. We were impressed with the Magic Keyboard because of its build quality and typing experience—it's just obscenely expensive for a keyboard accessory, but this deal softens the blow somewhat.

Elsewhere, our deal roundup includes the lowest price we've seen on Assassin's Creed Valhalla, a massive action-RPG we enjoyed last year; a nice discount on Eufy's Indoor Cam 2K, an indoor security camera we recommended in our 2020 holiday gift guide; the latest iPad Air and Apple Watch; recommended gaming headsets and keyboards; and more. You can check out the full rundown below.

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

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Xbox Live price increase reversed after less than one day [Updated]

Par Kyle Orland

Update, January 23: Hours after Microsoft announced new prices for its Xbox Live Gold subscription service, the company reversed course and decided not to change the listed prices at all. Every price in the below article is now back to its lower, "previously" amount. Additionally, Microsoft went one step further and changed a long-standing service annoyance: Xbox Live Gold will soon not be required to access free-to-play games on consoles. Exactly how that will work wasn't made clear on late Friday, but from the sound of things, this change will affect online F2P fare like Fortnite. (In other words, those games will finally be "free-to-play" for any Xbox user.)

"We messed up today and you were right to let us know," the company said in its updated announcement.

Original report, January 22: Xbox users will soon have to pay at least $10/month for the baseline Xbox Live Gold subscription needed for online play on Xbox consoles. That's a significant increase from the recent floor of $5/month for an annual subscription.

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Chrome and Edge want to help with that password problem of yours

Par Dan Goodin
Please don't do this.

Enlarge / Please don't do this. (credit: Getty Images)

If you’re like a lot of people, someone has probably nagged you to use a password manager and you still haven’t heeded the advice. Now, Chrome and Edge are coming to the rescue with beefed-up password management built directly into the browsers.

Microsoft on Thursday announced a new password generator for the recently released Edge 88. People can use the generator when signing up for a new account or when changing an existing password. The generator provides a drop-down in the password field. Clicking on the candidate selects it as a password and saves it to a password manager built into the browser. Users can then have the password pushed to their other devices using the Edge password sync feature.

As I’ve explained for years, the same things that make passwords memorable and easy to use are the same things that make them easy for others to guess. Password generators are among the safest sources of strong passwords. Rather than having to think up a password that’s truly unique and hard to guess, users can instead have a generator do it properly.

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A look at all of Biden’s changes to energy and environmental regulations

Par John Timmer
Image of a man seated at a desk with a woman standing behind him.

Enlarge / US President Joe Biden signs an executive order with US Vice President Kamala Harris, left, looking on. (credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The series of executive orders signed by Joe Biden on his first evening in office included a heavy focus on environmental regulations. Some of the high-profile actions had been signaled in advance—we're back in the Paris Agreement! The Keystone pipeline's been put on indefinite hold!

But the suite of executive orders includes a long list that targets plenty of the changes Trump made in energy and environmental policies, many of which will have more subtle but significant effects of how the United States does business. Many of those make major changes, in some cases by eliminating policies adopted during the Trump years, a number of which we covered at the time. So, we've attempted to take a comprehensive look at Biden's actions and their potential impacts.

Laws, rules, and policies

Environmental and energy regulations are set through three main mechanisms. The first is by specific laws, which would require the cooperation of both houses of Congress to change. Next are also more general laws, like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. These enable regulations to be put in place via a formal rule-making process run by the agencies of the executive branch. This process involves soliciting public feedback, incorporating economic considerations, and so on, a process that typically takes anywhere from eight months to over a year. Finally, the executive branch can set policies to cover details not spelled out by the law or the rule, such as how to handle things like deadlines and enforcement details.

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Resident Evil VIII gets May release date, massive preview, playable demo

Par Sam Machkovech
  • We're suckers for classic leading women in giant hats. Unclear amounts of evil are just a bonus. Welcome to the new face of fear in Resident Evil VIII, coming May 7 to PC and consoles. [credit: Capcom ]

After receiving vague teases through last year, Resident Evil VIII: Village has finally emerged looking like a real game, thanks to a sweeping new gameplay reveal video that went live on Thursday. Its immediate resemblance to Resident Evil VII, which we granted a rare Ars Approved award to in 2017, has us quite excited—though things have clearly advanced for the series in four years.

First off, we now have confirmation that this sequel once again puts RE players into a first-person perspective and that it follows the direct chronology of RE7. The footage we've seen puts players in the shoes of Ethan Winters, RE7's protagonist, who is forced, once again, to find and explore a creepy mansion—though this one is far more palatial than the bayou-adjacent dump he previously explored. While searching for a missing family member, Ethan must contend with a new "family" of sorts: a mysterious, tall, and gorgeously attired matriarch, and her shapeshifting accomplices who seem to turn into waves of locusts and bleed through walls.

Though RE8's YouTube reveal is capped at 30 fps as of press time, Capcom sent us footage of the game running at 60 fps—presumably on PlayStation 5, the console that was shouted most loudly through the gameplay reveal presentation. RE8 will launch on May 7 on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC. All platforms will eventually receive a free-download version of its playable demo, named "Maiden," but only PlayStation 5 owners have gotten a release date for said demo: Today.

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“Complete incompetence:” Biden team slams Trump’s COVID work

Par Beth Mole
A man in a suit holds up a laminated binder while speaking at a microphone.

Enlarge / US President Joe Biden releases his strategic COVID-19 plan at the White House on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Just a day into office, President Joe Biden and his administration have unveiled a comprehensive, 200-page strategic plan and over a dozen executive orders and actions to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic currently rampaging across the country.

With the running start, the administration hopes to finally get control over the virus, which has already taken the lives of more than 408,000 Americans. The number of deaths is expected to top 500,000 next month, Biden said in an appearance Thursday to unveil his strategic plan.

"Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better," he said, calling his approach to the pandemic a "full-scale wartime effort."

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Parler’s attempt to get back on Amazon Web Services rejected by judge

Par Jon Brodkin
3D Amazon logo hangs from a convention center ceiling.

Enlarge / Amazon Web Services (AWS) logo displayed during the 4th edition of the Viva Technology show at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 17, 2019, in Paris, France. (credit: Chesnot | Getty Images)

A federal judge today rejected Parler's motion for a preliminary injunction against Amazon Web Services (AWS), scuttling the social network's attempt to quickly get back onto Amazon's Web-hosting platform.

Parler, which bills itself as a conservative alternative to Twitter, had asked for a court order requiring Amazon to reinstate its Web-hosting service pending a full trial. But "Parler has fallen far short... of demonstrating, as it must, that it has raised serious questions going to the merits of its claims," and it has failed to prove "that the balance of equities tips in its favor, let alone strongly so; or that the public interests lie in granting the injunction," said the ruling by Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein in US District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Parler could still prevail in the case, but it won't be reinstated to Amazon's service in the meantime. Parler accused Amazon of conspiracy in restraint of trade, in violation of the Sherman Act; breach of contract; and tortious interference with business expectancy.

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Facebook calls in its Oversight Board to rule on Trump ban

Par Kate Cox
Facebook logo on a street sign outside a wooded campus.

Enlarge / Facebook's Menlo Park, California, headquarters as seen in 2017. (credit: Jason Doiy | Getty Images)

Facebook's Oversight Board is getting its highest-profile case yet, as the company kicks its decision to boot former-President Donald Trump off its platforms to the largely untested "Supreme Court" of social media for review.

Facebook suspended Trump's Facebook and Instagram accounts on January 7 in the immediate aftermath of the insurrectionist riots at the US Capitol. "The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden," company CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time. "We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete."

Although that two-week period is now complete, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg confirmed to Reuters last week that the company expected to continue the bans indefinitely and had "no plans" to let Trump resume posting content to their platforms.

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Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel replaces Ajit Pai, is now acting FCC chairwoman

Par Jon Brodkin
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel speaking at a Senate committee hearing in June 2020.

Enlarge / Jessica Rosenworcel answers a question during a Senate Commerce Committee oversight hearing to examine the Federal Communications Commission on June 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Jonathan Newton)

President Joe Biden today appointed Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to be the acting chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission. Rosenworcel became an FCC commissioner in 2012 and served in a Democratic majority during the Obama years and in a Democratic minority during the Trump years.

"I am honored to be designated as the Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission by President Biden," Rosenworcel said in a statement. "I thank the President for the opportunity to lead an agency with such a vital mission and talented staff. It is a privilege to serve the American people and work on their behalf to expand the reach of communications opportunity in the digital age."

With ex-Chairman Ajit Pai having left the FCC yesterday, there is a 2-2 split between Democrats and Republicans. To form a 3-2 Democratic majority, Biden will have to nominate a new commissioner and secure confirmation from the Senate—which shouldn't be too difficult now that Democrats control the chamber. Biden's decision to promote Rosenworcel from commissioner to acting chairwoman does not require Senate approval.

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Phishing scam had all the bells and whistles—except for one

Par Dan Goodin
Extreme closeup of laptop monitor.

Enlarge / The query window for username and password on a webpage can be seen on the monitor of a laptop. (credit: Jens Büttner/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Criminals behind a recent phishing scam had assembled all the important pieces. Malware that bypassed antivirus—check. An email template that got around Microsoft Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection—check. A supply of email accounts with strong reputations from which to send scam mails—check.

It was a recipe that allowed the scammers to steal more than 1,000 corporate employee credentials. There was just one problem: the scammers stashed their hard-won passwords on public servers where anyone—including search engines—could (and did) index them.

“Interestingly, due to a simple mistake in their attack chain, the attackers behind the phishing campaign exposed the credentials they had stolen to the public Internet, across dozens of drop-zone servers used by the attackers,” researchers from security firm Check Point wrote in a post published Thursday. “With a simple Google search, anyone could have found the password to one of the compromised, stolen email addresses: a gift to every opportunistic attacker.”

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Ars online IT roundtable: What’s the future of the data center?

Par Lee Hutchinson
Ars online IT roundtable: What’s the future of the data center?


If you're in IT, you probably remember the first time you walked into a real data center—not just a server closet, but an actual raised-floor data center, where the door wooshes open in a blast of cold air and noise and you're confronted with rows and rows of racks, monolithic and gray, stuffed full of servers with cooling fans screaming and blinkenlights blinking like mad. The data center is where the cool stuff is—the pizza boxes, the blade servers, the NASes and the SANs. Some of its residents are more exotic—the Big Iron in all its massive forms, from Z-series to Superdome and all points in between.

For decades, data centers have been the beating hearts of many businesses—the fortified secret rooms where huge amounts of capital sit, busily transforming electricity into revenue. And they're sometimes a place for IT to hide, too—it's kind of a standing joke that whenever a user you don't want to see is stalking around the IT floor, your best bet to avoid contact is just to badge into the data center and wait for them to go away. (But, uh, I never did that ever. I promise.)

But the last few years have seen a massive shift in the relationship between companies and their data—and the places where that data lives. Sure, it's always convenient to own your own servers and storage, but why tie up all that capital when you don't have to? Why not just go to the cloud buffet and pay for what you want to eat and nothing more?

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Ubuntu Linux is now running on M1 Macs

Par Samuel Axon
  • The 2020, M1-equipped Mac mini. [credit: Samuel Axon ]

For the first time, users of Apple Silicon Macs using Apple's M1 chip—such as the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and MacBook Air—can now boot in to and natively run Linux.

The vintage at play here is Ubuntu, and the port was developed by Corellium, which otherwise virtualizes iOS and other ARM-based OSes to enable easier security testing. It's worth noting as well that Apple has previously sued the company over said iOS security testing tool. The lawsuit didn't go Apple's way.

Corellium Chief Technology Office Chris Wade announced the culmination of the team's work on Twitter yesterday. And in a blog post on Corellium's website, the team behind the port writes that it was developed in parallel with the group's efforts at "creating a model of the [M1] for our security research part."

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Ars Technicast special edition, part 1: The Internet of Things goes to war

Par Lee Hutchinson
This adorable robot is one data point in the connected battlespace—the web of sensors that links together all the elements in a modern engagement.

Enlarge / This adorable robot is one data point in the connected battlespace—the web of sensors that links together all the elements in a modern engagement. (credit: Leon Neal / Getty Images)

Welcome to a special edition of the Ars Technicast! Ars has partnered with Northrop Grumman to produce a two-part series looking at the evolution of connectivity on the modern battlefield—how the growing ubiquity of sensors and instrumentation at all levels of the military is changing the way we think about fighting. You can listen to part one right here. (A transcript of the podcast is available at this link.)

We all know what the Internet of Things is, even though that's always been kind of a nonsensical name—it's the idea that adding smarts and sensors to formerly "dumb" devices like refrigerators and washing machines and coffee makers creates an overlapping interconnected network of physical devices. The central concept is linking together physical objects by some kind of data stream, and as it turns out, the military has been going down a similar road of increased connectivity for many years.

But mo' connectivity, as they say, means mo' problems, and there have been many past efforts to try to get to about where we are today (some highly publicized). All have encountered issues that run the gamut from the physical to the logistical.

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GamersNexus’ Steve Burke overclocks his YouTube channel’s best comments

Par Nathan Mattise

Produced by Adam Lance Garcia, edited by Richard Trammell. Click here for transcript. (video link)

GamersNexus has been a staple of our RSS feeds for more than a decade. The site has quickly become a must-read for anyone looking to build a PC, especially a gaming PC. And in addition to running that enterprise, Editor-in-Chief Steve Burke has more recently become a staple of our weekly viewing, too, as he helms GamersNexus' equally popular YouTube channel.

It doesn't take a lot of time to realize thatGamersNexus clearly shares a lot of DNA with the Orbital HQ. In every video, Burke and his team both inform and entertain, skimping neither on technical jargon nor opportunities to create useful Reddit memes. By now, GamersNexus videos have focused on everything from putting PCs from Walmart through genuine technical paces to emptying (literally, emptying) a tube of thermal paste on a poor CPU. You'll learn useful info every time, even if it's what new parts not to covet.

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QAnon in crisis as day of reckoning fails to materialize

Par Financial Times
A demonstrator holds a "Q" sign outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

Enlarge / A demonstrator holds a "Q" sign outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images)

QAnon adherents called it “the storm.” At midday on Wednesday, there were supposed to be blackouts across the US, military tribunals led by Donald Trump, and the mass execution of Democrats in the streets.

It did not happen. Instead, Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th US president and the day of reckoning anticipated by the pro-Trump conspiracy cult failed to materialize, dismaying the faithful.

“QAnon believers invested all their remaining hopes in false beliefs that Trump would take action validating their theories before or during inauguration,” said Jared Holt, a research fellow focused on extremism at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “For some followers, watching Biden and [Vice President Kamala] Harris sworn into office was a breaking point in their beliefs.”

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Report: Apple’s VR headset will be a pricey, high-end niche standalone

Par Kyle Orland
HTC/Valve Vive VR headset, on a hairy tech journalist

Any excuse to show former Ars UK reporter Seb Anthony excited about a VR headset is a good one. (credit: Sebastian Anthony)

The last time we heard any details about Apple's long-rumored plans in the virtual/augmented reality space, the company was implementing a two-year internal delay from a previously planned 2020 launch. Today, Bloomberg cites "people with knowledge of the matter" in reporting some new supposed details for the standalone Apple VR headset, which Bloomberg suggests could launch in 2022 as a precursor to a more mass-market AR headset.

From a tech design perspective, the most notable detail in the report is that Apple's latest VR prototypes have "removed the space VR gadgets usually reserve for users who need to wear eyeglasses." That could help avoid some of the "ski goggle" bulk usually associated with the "eyebox" on most current headsets. For users with poor eyesight, the prototype apparently utilizes "custom prescription lenses" in the headset itself, according to Bloomberg's unnamed sources.

Bloomberg also reports that the Apple headset prototype currently sports a fabric exterior to reduce weight (shades of Google's defunct Daydream VR there) and a fan to help cool internal processors that reportedly "beat the performance of Apple’s M1 Mac processors." Some prototypes also reportedly including built-in hand-tracking and the ability to type on a virtual keyboard through a custom-built OS.

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One of Biden’s first climate actions looks at fuel efficiency rollback

Par Jonathan M. Gitlin
US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021.

Enlarge / US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021. (credit: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the first official actions taken by President Joe Biden after his inauguration on January 20 means the almost-certain demise of a Trump-era plan to weaken future fuel efficiency regulations. Among Biden's instructions to federal agencies was an "Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis."

This executive order tells federal agencies that environmental justice is a priority—one that will now be guided by scientific evidence. Additionally, the heads of each agency will have to review any regulations, policies, or other actions taken between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021 that are inconsistent with that goal. And there's a particular call-out about the Environmental Protection Agency's recent actions to weaken US fuel efficiency standards over the coming few years, as well as the agency's attempt to neuter California's power to regulate air pollution.

The previous administration's attack on clean air and fuel efficiency began almost immediately and culminated with a pair of actions over the past 16 months. In September 2019 the EPA announced that it was revoking a waiver that has allowed California to set and enforce its own tougher air pollution standards within the state's borders. Then, in March 2020, the EPA published a new fuel efficiency rule for passenger cars and light trucks for model years 2021-2026 that significantly weakened fleet efficiency targets mandated by the Obama administration.

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Three rows, 37mpg, and under $34,000? The 2021 Kia Sorento Hybrid

Par Jonathan M. Gitlin
  • This is definitely one of the Kia Sorento Hybrid's better angles. [credit: Kia ]

You may have noticed that Kia is on a roll recently. It won over enthusiasts with the Stinger GT. The Niro EV is one of the few electric vehicles to rival Tesla in terms of range efficiency. And its big Telluride SUV has been a runaway success, garnering awards and plaudits as it flies out of the showroom.

Now it's the turn of Kia's popular Sorento SUV to get the revamp. It's a bit smaller and a bit cheaper than the Telluride, but it's still a three-row SUV. And unlike the bigger vehicle, it's available with a 37mpg (6.4L/100km) hybrid powertrain from $33,590.

In fact, that's probably all anyone needs to read to know that the Sorento is going to be a hit. Over the two days we spent with a 2021 Sorento Hybrid EX—$36,590 plus $445 for some fetching red paint—we had no problem matching that EPA combined fuel number, as well as the 39mpg (6L/100km) city rating. If you want an efficient three-row hybrid SUV for less than $40,000, you can pick this Kia or the slightly more expensive Toyota Highlander, and that's about it. So even if the Sorento were mediocre in all other respects, its sales success seems inevitable. Happily, it's not mediocre.

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Treasury nominee Yellen is looking to curtail use of cryptocurrency

Par Timothy B. Lee
A woman in a white suit speaks at a podium.

Enlarge / Janet Yellen, Joe Biden's nominee to be Secretary of the Treasury, at a December press conference. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Cryptocurrencies could come under renewed regulatory scrutiny over the next four years if Janet Yellen, Joe Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, gets her way. During Yellen's Tuesday confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) asked Yellen about the use of cryptocurrency by terrorists and other criminals.

"Cryptocurrencies are a particular concern," Yellen responded. "I think many are used—at least in a transactions sense—mainly for illicit financing."

She said she wanted to "examine ways in which we can curtail their use and make sure that [money laundering] doesn't occur through those channels."

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New metamaterial merges magnetic memory and physical changes

Par John Timmer
Image of a polymer-based device with flexible parts.


For applications like robotics, there's usually a clear division of labor between the processors that control the robot's body and the actuators that actually control the physical changes of that body. But a new paper being released today blurs the lines between the two, using a magnetic switch in a way that both stores a bit representing the hardware's state and alters the physical conformation of the hardware. In essence, it merges memory and physical changes.

This particular implementation doesn't seem to be especially useful—it's much too big to be a practical form of memory, and the physical changes are fairly limited. But the concept is intriguing, and it's possible that someone more adept at creative thinking can find ways of modifying the concept to create a useful device.

A magnetic metamaterial?

A metamaterial is generally defined as a material that is structured so that it has properties that aren't found in bulk mixes of its raw materials. A broad reading of that definition, however, would mean that a car is a metamaterial, which makes the definition near meaningless. The researchers behind the new device, based at Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fedeŕale de Lausanne, claim their creation is a metamaterial, but it's fairly large (roughly a cube three centimeters on a side) and has a number of distinct parts. I'd tend to call that a device rather than a material and will use that terminology here.

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Twitch’s Trump ban sustained after leaving office

Par Sam Machkovech
An icon for the Twitch app displayed on a smartphone screen.

Enlarge / Photo illustration of the Twitch logo on a smartphone. (credit: Getty Images | Thomas Trutschel)

On Wednesday, an automated alert about Twitch account bans included a somewhat surprising account name: "@DonaldTrump." The surprise came because Twitch had already "indefinitely suspended" the former president's official Twitch channel on January 7 in the wake of his January 6 speech inciting a seditious riot at the US Capitol.

Following this Wednesday alert, Twitch confirmed to Ars Technica that this was no accident: Trump's account is indeed outright banned. Twitch continues to call the ban an "indefinite suspension," but it has not offered any timeline for its return or steps that its account holders (either Trump himself or any representatives) may take to reverse the decision. Wednesday's news lines up with a Tuesday claim by DW News reporter Dana Regev, who had hinted at Twitch waiting until after President Joe Biden's inauguration to make a firmer ruling on the previous ban.

The service took the rare step of outlining the exact reason for the ban, a courtesy generally not reserved to those affected. This lack of clarity emerged in particular when Twitch offered no explanation for banning Guy "DrDisrespect" Beahm in the wake of spreading COVID-19 misinformation.

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Amazon offers Biden help to speed up vaccine distribution

Par Kate Cox
The Amazon logo on the side of a multistory window.

Enlarge / An Amazon warehouse on a sunny day in Germany on April 2, 2020. (credit: Patrick Pleul | picture alliance | Getty Images)

Amazon is one of the country's largest businesses—and despite its faults and flaws, the company overall excels at logistics and distribution at scale. Therefore, Amazon suggests, the brand-new Biden administration should give the company a call to help ramp up COVID-19 distribution nationwide.

"Amazon stands ready to assist you in reaching your goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in the first 100 days of your administration," Dave Clark, the head of Amazon's consumer business, wrote in a letter (PDF) to President Joe Biden Wednesday.

Amazon's more than 800,000 employees should be in the vaccine queue as soon as possible, Clark noted, as individuals working in Amazon warehouses, AWS data centers, and Whole Foods stores are essential workers who cannot work from home. The company has inked a deal with a third-party health care firm to administer vaccines on-site at Amazon-owned facilities, Clark added—if they could just get vaccines to administer.

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PC fan port of early Sonic games lets you zoom the camera way, way out

Par Kyle Orland
  • The intertwining paths of Chemical Plant Zone are a thing of beauty at this scale. [credit: Sega ]

A group of coders has decompiled the source code for Sonic the Hedgehog and its 1992 sequel from their well-regarded 2013 smartphone remakes. That means these heavily enhanced versions of the early '90s Genesis games—developed by Christian Whitehead using the same revamped Retro/Star Engine that powers Sonic Mania—can now be easily recompiled for play on new platforms including the PlayStation Vita, the Nintendo Switch, and Windows/Mac computers.

That's an interesting-enough hacking/coding achievement on its own. But with a little tinkering, the new PC versions also let players scale the game window to any arbitrary resolution, expanding the visible playfield without scaling up the games' core pixel graphics. As you can see in the pictures and videos included in this article, this tweak effectively zooms out the standard in-game camera to show huge chunks of a stage at once, giving players an exciting new perspective on these classic titles.

But how?

Scaled up to 4096x2160, you can see a lot more of Sonic 2 at once. Be sure to extend to full screen for maximum impact.

Filling your PC screen with a playable Sonic map isn't exactly as simple as dragging the corner of the gameplay window. First, you have to take a legally obtained copy of one of the 2013 Sonic games (which are still available on Google Play and the iOS App Store) and extract the "RSDK" file to your computer (this handy video tutorial can be of assistance there). From there, you can run the precompiled Windows release and edit the settings file to extend the playfield horizontally with relative ease (you can also edit the pixel scale if you want to effectively zoom the game's camera back in on a large monitor).

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Security firm Malwarebytes was infected by same hackers who hit SolarWinds

Par Dan Goodin
Security firm Malwarebytes was infected by same hackers who hit SolarWinds

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Security firm Malwarebytes said it was breached by the same nation-state-sponsored hackers who compromised a dozen or more US government agencies and private companies.

The attackers are best known for first hacking into Austin, Texas-based SolarWinds, compromising its software-distribution system and using it to infect the networks of customers who used SolarWinds’ network management software. In an online notice, however, Malwarebytes said the attackers used a different vector.

“While Malwarebytes does not use SolarWinds, we, like many other companies were recently targeted by the same threat actor,” the notice stated. “We can confirm the existence of another intrusion vector that works by abusing applications with privileged access to Microsoft Office 365 and Azure environments.”

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3Mbps uploads still fast enough for US homes, Ajit Pai says in final report

Par Jon Brodkin
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wearing a mask at a Senate hearing.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says goodbye to members of a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee afters testifying during a hearing on June 16, 2020, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla)

In one of his last acts as Federal Communications Commission chairman, Ajit Pai decided to stick with the FCC's 6-year-old broadband standard of 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds.

The decision was announced yesterday in the FCC's annual broadband-deployment report, released one day before Pai's departure from the FCC. As in all previous years of Pai's chairmanship, the report concludes that the telecom industry is doing enough to extend broadband access to all Americans—despite FCC Democrats saying the facts don't support that conclusion.

Pai's report said:

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CBS All Access is dead, long live Paramount+: “New” streaming service launches March 4

Par Samuel Axon
<em>Star Trek: Picard</em> will be offered on the new/old streaming service.

Enlarge / Star Trek: Picard will be offered on the new/old streaming service. (credit: ViacomCBS)

It's time for yet another streaming service—sort of. ViacomCBS has announced that Paramount+ will launch on March 4, but it's more of an evolution than a wholly new service, as it replaces and expands upon the company's previous service, CBS All Access.

The move to replace CBS All Access was announced several months ago. It's in large part a result of the completion of the merger between CBS and Viacom, as CBS All Access launched before that merger, but the merger greatly increased the content library that could be put on a streaming service run by the company.

In addition to shows associated with the CBS TV network, Paramount+ will include content from properties Viacom brought to the mix, including MTV, BET, Comedy Central, VH1, and Nickelodeon, as well as theatrically released films from Paramount Pictures.

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Parler seems to be sliding back onto the Internet, but not onto mobile

Par Kate Cox
The bright screen of a notebook computer illuminates the face of the person using it.

Enlarge / A person browsing Parler in early January, back when it had content up other than vague promises to overcome being thrown off the whole Internet and return louder than ever. (credit: Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto | Getty Images)

Right-wing social media platform Parler, which has been offline since Amazon Web Services dropped it like a hot potato last week, has reappeared on the Web with a promise to return as a fully functional service "soon."

Although the platform's Android and iOS apps are still defunct, this weekend its URL once again began to resolve to an actual website instead of an error notice. The site at the moment consists solely of the homepage, which has a message from company CEO John Matze.

"Now seems like the right time to remind you all—both lovers and haters—why we started this platform," the message reads. "We believe privacy is paramount and free speech essential, especially on social media. Our aim has always been to provide a nonpartisan public square where individuals can enjoy and exercise their rights to both. We will resolve any challenge before us and plan to welcome all of you back soon. We will not let civil discourse perish!"

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Report: This year’s iPhones may have in-screen Touch ID

Par Samuel Axon
The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. The next iPhones aren't expected to change looks very much.

Enlarge / The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro. The next iPhones aren't expected to change looks very much. (credit: Samuel Axon)

This weekend, business publication Bloomberg ran a plethora of articles sharing details about various upcoming Apple products. We previously covered what Bloomberg's sources said about the Mac lineup, but another report details upcoming iPhones.

According to "a person familiar with" Apple's work, the 2021 iPhone will be a small, iterative update and may carry the "S" label, which Apple has used to denote smaller upgrades to the iPhone in the past (for example, iPhone 6S or iPhone XS). This is in part because the iPhone 12 lineup introduced last fall was particularly loaded with new features and design changes, but it was also because COVID-19 restrictions have slowed Apple's engineers down, according to the report.

While the iPhone 13 wouldn't have a radically new design, the report does describe one potential change of note that Apple is testing internally: the addition of an in-screen fingerprint reader.

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Toyota wants to win Le Mans with its new GR010 hybrid prototype

Par Jonathan M. Gitlin
  • After winning the last couple of Le Mans races with its TS050, Toyota Gazoo Racing returns in 2021 with an all-new car for an all-new category. It's called the GR010, and it will compete in the Le Mans Hypercar class. [credit: Toyota ]

The future of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is resolving into shape. On Friday, Toyota Gazoo Racing unveiled its new GR010 Hybrid, an all-wheel drive prototype that will compete in the overall win at the annual French race later this year (pandemic willing). It's the first competitor to break cover from the new Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) class, which replaces the old LMP1h category that shone so brightly for a few short years in the middle of the last decade.

LMP1h gave rise to some of the fastest and most technologically advanced racing cars the world has ever seen. But it wasn't cheap, and by 2018 Toyota was all that was left, its cars hobbled by ACO (the race organizers) to give the non-hybrid LMP1 privateer teams a fighting chance.

Car manufacturer interest in racing series waxes and wanes, and it doesn't require much imagination to see how a combination of global economic uncertainty and an expensive ruleset could negatively impact participation. The ACO's answer was a new category called the hypercar, which would open the doors to racing versions of those seven-figure slices of unobtainium-on-wheels like the Adrian Newey-designed Aston Martin Valkyrie—albeit running at much lower power levels than the unrestricted road cars.

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Lunar war brews and NASA gets militarized in For All Mankind S2 trailer

Par Jennifer Ouellette

The space race in an alternate timeline continues in the second season of For All Mankind, returning to Apple TV+ in February.

Apple TV+ has dropped the trailer for the second season of For All Mankind, its science fiction drama about an alternate history where the space race never ended. The series was the linchpin of the Apple TV+ launch in 2019 and proved popular enough with viewers to warrant a second season.

(Some spoilers for the first season below.)

Series creator Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) has made a point of trying to keep the show reasonably close to reality, despite the science fiction concept, often consulting the original NASA plans for guidance and incorporating archival footage throughout the season. Moore said the following during a 2019 panel Q&A after an IMAX screening of the first two S1 episodes at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC:

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Review: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina ends run with disappointing finale

Par Jennifer Ouellette
  • Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) is a half-human, half-witch teenager facing the coming of the Eldritch Terrors. [credit: Netflix ]

Our favorite half-human/half-witch teenager took on eight timeless menacing entities to avert the apocalypse (again) in the final season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I've championed this weirdly captivating supernatural horror show from the beginning, and for three seasons the strengths have always outshone the occasional weakness. Unfortunately, S4 turned out to be the weakest of all, despite including one of the best episodes of the entire Netflix series and what should have been a strong, unifying narrative arc. It's still pretty entertaining, but there was just a little too much pointless fan service and sloppy plotting this time around for S4 to really work.

(Spoilers for prior seasons below. Major spoilers for the series finale are below the second gallery. We'll give you a heads up before we get there.)

As we've reported previously, the show was originally intended as a companion series to the CW's Riverdale—a gleefully Gothic take on the original Archie comic books—but Sabrina ended up on Netflix instead. The show retains some of the primetime soap opera elements of Riverdale, but it incorporates more full-blown horror without bowing to the niceties imposed by network television. As I wrote last year, "Ultimately, the best thing about The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is how gleefully and unapologetically the show leans into its melting pot of the macabre. It's quite the high-wire act, exploring serious themes while never, ever taking itself too seriously—and never descending into outright camp."

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A curious observer’s guide to quantum mechanics, pt. 2: The particle melting pot

Par Ars Contributors
A curious observer’s guide to quantum mechanics, pt. 2: The particle melting pot

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

One of the quietest revolutions of our current century has been the entry of quantum mechanics into our everyday technology. It used to be that quantum effects were confined to physics laboratories and delicate experiments. But modern technology increasingly relies on quantum mechanics for its basic operation, and the importance of quantum effects will only grow in the decades to come. As such, physicist Miguel F. Morales has taken on the herculean task of explaining quantum mechanics to the rest of us laymen in this seven-part series (no math, we promise). Below is the second story in the series, but you can always find the starting story here.

Welcome back for our second guided walk into the quantum mechanical woods! Last week, we saw how particles move like waves and hit like particles and how a single particle takes multiple paths. While surprising, this is a well-explored area of quantum mechanics—it is on the paved nature path around the visitor’s center.

This week I’d like to get off the paved trail and go a bit deeper into the woods in order to talk about how particles meld and combine while in motion. This is a topic that is usually reserved for physics majors; it's rarely discussed in popular articles. But the payoff is understanding how precision lidar works and getting to see one of the great inventions making it out of the lab, the optical comb. So let's go get our (quantum) hiking boots a little dirty—it'll be worth it.

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After a decade, NASA’s big rocket fails its first real test

Par Eric Berger
  • At 4:27pm central time, the SLS rocket core stage ignited its four RS-25 engines at NASA's Stennis Space Center. The test was to last up to eight minutes. [credit: Trevor Mahlmann for Ars ]

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. — For a few moments, it seemed like the Space Launch System saga might have a happy ending. Beneath brilliant blue skies late on Saturday afternoon, NASA’s huge rocket roared to life for the very first time. As its four engines lit and thrummed, thunder rumbled across these Mississippi lowlands. A giant, beautiful plume of white exhaust billowed away from the test stand.

It was all pretty damn glorious until it stopped suddenly.

About 50 seconds into what was supposed to be an 8-minute test firing, the flight control center called out, “We did get an MCF on Engine 4.” This means there was a “major component failure” with the fourth engine on the vehicle. After a total of about 67 seconds, the hot fire test ended.

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What motivates the motivated reasoning of pro-Trump conspiracists?

Par John Timmer
A white pickup truck is decorated in pro-Trump paraphernalia.

Enlarge / January 7, 2021 - St. Paul, Minn. — Trump supporters gather at the Minnesota Governor's Residence after a "Storm The Capitol" event at the Minnesota State Capitol. (credit: Chad Davis / Flickr)

Motivated reasoning is the idea that our mental processes often cause us to filter the evidence we accept based on whether it's consistent with what we want to believe. During these past few weeks, it has been on display in the United States on a truly grand scale. People are accepting context-free videos shared on social media over investigations performed by election officials. They're rejecting obvious evidence of President Donald Trump's historic unpopularity while buying in to evidence-free conspiracies involving deceased Latin American dictators.

If the evidence for motivated reasoning is obvious, however, it's a lot harder to figure out what's providing the motivation. It's not simply Republican identity, given that Trump adopted many policies that went against previous Republican orthodoxy. The frequent appearance of Confederate flags confirms some racism is involved, but that doesn't seem to explain it all. There's a long enough list of potential motivations to raise doubts as to whether a single one could possibly suffice.

A recent paper in PNAS, however, provides a single explanation that incorporates a lot of the potential motivations. Called "hegemonic masculinity," it involves a world view that places males from the dominant cultural group as the focus of societal power. And survey data seems to back up the idea.

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The local politics of AirBNB’s ban on DC rentals

A row of DC brownstones.

Enlarge / Airbnb said it will refund guests who had booked stays in DC next week and reimburse hosts for lost income. (credit: Bonnie Jo Mount | Washington Post | Getty Images)

On January 9—three days after supporters of President Trump started a riot at the US Capitol—Sean Evans decided it was time for action. Evans had seen a post on Nextdoor about neighbors running into hostile Trump supporters the night of the riot, leading to a verbal altercation that had left residents of his corner of Northwest DC on edge. Now, rumors flew online that the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden would bring more protesters and more armed violence to the streets of his city. “I don’t want them in my neighborhood,” Evans thought to himself. In fact, he didn't want insurrectionists in the city at all.

So on Nextdoor, Evans asked his neighbors to stop renting out their properties via Airbnb and VRBO. A few hours later, another neighbor devised a hashtag: #DontRentDC.

Separately, a group called ShutDownDC gathered 500 volunteers to message DC area Airbnb hosts. The group sent messages to the managers of 3,400 properties in the region—polite ones, according to ShutDownDC organizer Alex Dodd. The messages alerted the Airbnb hosts to an upcoming threat and asked them to please refrain from booking anyone in their homes in the days surrounding the inauguration.

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