Supreme Court surveillance opinion nudges us to think nationally, act locally

Enlarge / The Supreme Court of the United States, as seen in 2017. (credit: Phil Roeder / Flickr)

Christmas came on Friday, June 22 this year—that is, if you’re a privacy and surveillance law nerd.

After deliberating the decision for months, the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Carpenter v. United States, a case in which the court was asked to answer the question: is it OK for police to obtain 127-days worth of someone’s cell-site location information (CSLI) without a warrant?

In a 5-4 decision, the court found that the answer was “no.” This is clearly a landmark step toward stronger privacy protections, and the opinion builds on two other related cases that the court unanimously decided in 2012 (Jones v. United States) and 2014 (Riley v. California).

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Source: Ars Technica – Supreme Court surveillance opinion nudges us to think nationally, act locally

India eyeing a new monster 100GW solar-capacity goal

Enlarge / Solar panels in Bangalore, India. (credit: Getty Images)

Earlier this week, India’s energy minister R.K. Singh suggested that the country is considering issuing a tender for 100 gigawatts of solar energy. PV Tech confirmed the report, which added that the tender could be tied to solar panel-manufacturing buildout. In 2015, India set a goal to reach 100GW of solar capacity as part of its larger aim of 175GW of renewable energy in general by 2022. This latest 100GW tender would be for a 2030 or 2035 target.

The existing goal is ambitious, so a stretch goal further into the future is even more so. The country’s current total solar capacity is just 24.4GW, according to The Economic Times. (For context, as of this month the US has about 55.9GW of installed solar capacity total.) But although the solar sector there is still small compared to the US, it’s growing quickly. Utility-scale solar capacity grew by 72 percent in the previous year, The Economic Times noted.

Johannes Urpelainen, an India-based fellow at the Columbia University Center on Global Energy Policy, said that the 100GW tender wouldn’t be for one massive plant but would represent financing for small projects.

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Source: Ars Technica – India eyeing a new monster 100GW solar-capacity goal

Acer Chromebook Tab 10 review: Chrome OS revives Google’s tablet future

Enlarge / Hellllloooooo Chrome OS tablets. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Chrome OS took over schools with clamshells, but now Google is shaking things up with slabs. After a spring announcement, Acer has built the first Chrome OS tablet, the $329 Chromebook Tab 10, to give teachers and students a more flexible device to use for schoolwork both in and out of the classroom.

Some might perk up at the idea of a lightweight yet durable tablet with a 2048×1536 display and a built-in Wacom stylus running Chrome OS, but this device (like many other Chrome OS devices) will only be sold in the education market. While regular consumers may not be able to get their hands on the Chromebook Tab 10, however, there will be more Chrome OS tablets to come that will be sold to the general public.

After spending some time with this inaugural Chrome OS tablet, it would be remiss to think that it’s essentially the same thing as an Android tablet—devices that are largely unsupported at this point. We may not be traditional educators or students at this point, but Ars tested the Chromebook Tab 10 with a few things in mind: how does the Chrome OS experience translate on a tablet sans-keyboard? And, perhaps more importantly, can Chrome OS bring Google’s tablet category back from the dead?

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Source: Ars Technica – Acer Chromebook Tab 10 review: Chrome OS revives Google’s tablet future

How American Vandal expertly crafted a doc (that just happened to be fiction)

The American Vandal creative team chats with Ars at ATX TV Festival 2018. (video link)

Among the reasons Netflix’s American Vandal worked: dedication, not just to the bit but to the DNA. The creative team had an obsession with true crime documentaries, obviously. But they didn’t set out to make an homage, showrunner Dan Lagana and co-creators Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda told Ars at this summer’s ATX TV Festival. Instead, they wanted to approach their fictional, scripted high school drama the exact same way Sarah Koenig (Serial) or Andrew Jarecki (The Jinx) would—like they were creating the most important documentary in the world.

“We didn’t want to do a parody. We love that stuff,” Yacenda later told the crowd during the show’s panel. “Sarah Koenig is a genius, what she did bringing us in as an unreliable narrator told a story in a way journalists wouldn’t before. We thought maybe we can do this for fictional narrative… if we use the tools our favorite documentarians use to get the audience to care, could we get people to care about dicks?”

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Source: Ars Technica – How American Vandal expertly crafted a doc (that just happened to be fiction)

Tesla fires back against alleged whistleblower: “he is nothing of the sort”

Enlarge / Tesla CEO Elon Musk, seen here in April 2018. (credit: VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

Tesla is now wholly refuting the claims made by an ex-employee and self-proclaimed whistleblower who previously leaked information to the press.

In a lengthy statement provided Friday to Ars via a Tesla spokesperson, the company flatly denied that Martin Tripp, the man that the company sued earlier this week for alleged trade secrets violations, had any noble motivations.

“He is nothing of the sort,” the company wrote. “He is someone who stole Tesla data through highly pernicious means and transferred that data to unknown amounts of third parties, all while making easily disprovable claims about the company in order to try to harm it.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Tesla fires back against alleged whistleblower: “he is nothing of the sort”

Buzz Aldrin returns to Twitter, sues his son and former manager

Enlarge / NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, meets backstage with former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin, prior to giving the keynote speech at the Humans to Mars Summit in May, 2018, at George Washington University in Washington. (credit: NASA)

All is not well in the otherworldly world of the second human to walk on the Moon.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin has sued his family, including his son Andy Aldrin, former business manager Christina Korp, and several foundations. The suit alleges that the family has taken advantage of the 88-year-old through a de facto guardianship.

Filed on June 7 in a Florida judicial circuit court, and obtained Friday evening by Ars, the lawsuit alleges that Andy Aldrin and Korp used the former astronaut’s personal credit cards, trust accounts, artifacts, and social media accounts for their own purposes. It additionally alleges the following: that the family prevented Aldrin, who has been married three times, from marrying for a fourth time; that the family has “bullied” his romantic interests; and that the family has slandered the astronaut by saying he has dementia or Alzheimer’s.

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Source: Ars Technica – Buzz Aldrin returns to Twitter, sues his son and former manager

Apple launches service program to address MacBook keyboard woes

Enlarge / The keyboard on the 2016 Touch Bar MacBook Pro. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Apple has publicly acknowledged that the butterfly switch keyboards in some MacBook and MacBook Pro computers have given consumers some trouble, and it has launched a new repair service program that promises to fix problems with those keyboards for free, regardless of whether the consumer purchased AppleCare.

Apple says in its public documentation on the program that certain models of MacBook and MacBook Pro “may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors”:

  • Letters or characters repeat unexpectedly
  • Letters or characters do not appear
  • Key(s) feel “sticky” or do not respond in a consistent manner

When they do, “Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will service eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, free of charge.” Apple also says that consumers who previously paid for a repair can contact the company to request a refund.

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Source: Ars Technica – Apple launches service program to address MacBook keyboard woes

Selfies show worm slithered through woman’s face for 2 weeks

Enlarge / Doctors were able to extract the worm, a D. repens. (credit: Kartashev and Simon)

A 32-year-old woman who visited a rural area outside of Moscow returned home with a surprising stowaway—in her face. And it was a restless one at that, according to a short report published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

After her trip, she noticed an unusual lump on her cheek, below her left eye. Five days later it was gone, but another had formed just above her left eye. Ten days after that, a lump resurfaced on her upper lip, causing massive swelling.

To track the progress of her roving blemish, she took selfies. In reports to doctors, she said that the nodules caused some burning and itchiness but no other symptoms or problems. She also noted her recent trip and recalled being frequently bitten by mosquitoes.

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Source: Ars Technica – Selfies show worm slithered through woman’s face for 2 weeks

More details leak on “Snapdragon 1000,” Qualcomm’s chip for Windows 10 laptops

Enlarge (credit: Qualcomm)

Details of the SDM1000, tentatively named Snapdragon 1000, a new Qualcomm chip built for Windows 10 laptops, have started to trickle out.

Microsoft’s development of Windows 10 for ARM has seen the company partner with chip company Qualcomm. The first Windows 10 on ARM machines use the Snapdragon 835 processor, with designs based on the Snapdragon 850 (a higher clocked Snapdragon 845 intended for laptops) expected later this year. Snapdragon 1000 will be the follow-up to the 850.

The Snapdragon 1000 is believed to be an even more powerful laptop chip intended to go head to head with Intel’s Y- and U-series Core processors. These have a 4.5W and 15W power envelope, respectively, and are used in a wide range of tablets and Ultrabook-type laptops. The Snapdragon 1000 is reported to have a 6.5W power draw for the CPU itself, with a total power draw of 12W for the entire SoC. The Snapdragon 1000 test platform has 16GB of LPDDR4X RAM and two 128GB UFS flash drives. It also has 802.11ad gigabit Wi-Fi, gigabit LTE, and a new power management controller.

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Source: Ars Technica – More details leak on “Snapdragon 1000,” Qualcomm’s chip for Windows 10 laptops

Tesla to cut nearly 20 percent of its SolarCity installation locations

Enlarge / Close-up of logo for Tesla Solar, a home solar power generation solution offered by Tesla Motors, San Ramon, California, March 28, 2018. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

Tesla is planning to close 13 or 14 solar installation locations that were set up by SolarCity before Tesla purchased the company in 2016. Tesla will also end its partnership with Home Depot at the end of the year.

The new information was first reported by Reuters, which obtained internal emails and documents detailing the closures. A Tesla spokesperson told Ars that the closures are part of the layoffs it announced in early June.

An official statement from the company contended that Tesla’s solar business is better served in its existing Tesla stores. “Tesla stores have some of the highest foot traffic of any retail space in the country, so this presents a unique benefit that is demonstrated by the growing number of Tesla vehicle customers who are also purchasing energy products through our stores,” the statement said.

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Source: Ars Technica – Tesla to cut nearly 20 percent of its SolarCity installation locations

Valve revamps its next controller, should make using hands in VR feel way cooler

Valve’s march toward launching new virtual reality video games—perhaps up to three of them—got more interesting on Thursday with the announcement of an update to the company’s next official piece of VR hardware. After a quiet 2016 unveil, the “Knuckles” controller is back with a major revision.

Dubbed Knuckles EV2, the mold-to-your-hand controller is still a developer-only prototype, but a huge dump of official information reveals how far Valve has gone to craft what might be the ultimate VR controller: a smart twist on how hands work in virtual space and a bonus slew of buttons for older legacy games.

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Source: Ars Technica – Valve revamps its next controller, should make using hands in VR feel way cooler

Switch-hacking trolls reportedly loading pornographic profile pictures

Enlarge / A shot of the leaked DevMenu tool that lets users upload custom profile pictures on the Switch. (credit: Mizumi / Twitter)

Nintendo only lets users choose from a limited number of preset profile pictures (or custom-made Miis) for their online avatar on the Switch network. So at least one Reddit user was quite surprised to see pornographic profile pictures showing up on the user-placed balloons in Super Mario Odyssey‘s online “Balloon World” mode.

“The picture was changed several times over the course of my time patrolling, each picture being pornographic content,” Redditor ewaison writes, including links to (censored) screenshots of the offending profile pictures in their post. “There are multiple [sic] of these balloons all being made by the same user. This is obviously intentional, and made to upset children.”

The reported imagery seems to trace its source back to the recent leak of an internal Switch developer menu online. We’ve seen pictures and reports of that previously dev-kit-exclusive system menu in the past, but users are now able to make use of an unpatchable Switch exploit to install the leaked menu on standard retail Switch hardware (as seen in his video).

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Source: Ars Technica – Switch-hacking trolls reportedly loading pornographic profile pictures

Dealmaster: Get an Ecovacs Deebot N79 robot vacuum for $160

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today’s list is led by a deal on the popular Ecovacs Deebot N79 robot vacuum, which can be had for $160 with a discount code on Amazon. That’s a good chunk off its usual price of $200.

To be clear, the Deebot N79 is on the lower end of the botvac scale: pricier devices like iRobot’s Roombas are generally more thorough at cleaning, more durable, and easier to fix with replacement parts if something goes wrong. But for a budget model, the Deebot N79 performs the basics competently. It’s best used in smaller areas and shorter carpets, but it’s a decent cleaner that runs quietly and does a good job of avoiding getting stuck on obstacles around the house. It also works with a smartphone app if you’d like to keep some control over it.

If you don’t want a robot to invade your home, though, we also have deals on the Xbox One S, Samsung SSDs, 4K TVs, and gaming laptops. Have a look for yourself below.

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Source: Ars Technica – Dealmaster: Get an Ecovacs Deebot N79 robot vacuum for 0

Extinct gibbon in ancient Chinese tomb hints at other lost primate species

Enlarge (credit: Turvey et al. 2018)

Primates, especially gibbons and other apes, are rare finds in the Asian fossil record. Fossils from the Pleistocene and Holocene are most often preserved in caves, where live gibbons almost never spend time. But humans preserved the remains of at least one gibbon for posterity by burying it in the tomb of a Chinese noblewoman 2,300 years ago during China’s Warring States Period.

The unfortunate ape was buried with a noblewoman believed to be Lady Xia, the grandmother of Qin Shi Huang, the first Chinese emperor, who ruled from 259 to 210 BCE. Lady Xia also took a leopard, a lynx, an Asiatic black bear, a crane, and several domestic animals with her to her very ornate grave in Chang’an, now the city of Shenheyuan in Shaanxi Province. Morbid menageries are a hallmark of high-status burials from this period, but primatologist Samuel Turvey of the Zoological Society of London says archaeologists have never before seen a gibbon interred this way.

That’s interesting in its own right. By Lady Xia’s day, gibbons had become popular among the nobility as pets and symbols of the class of scholars and officials called Junzi. Thanks to the graceful way they swing through the trees, gibbons were considered noble in ancient Chinese culture. So it’s culturally significant to find a gibbon, presumably a pet, buried with the grandmother of China’s first emperor. But this particular gibbon, besides its proximity to power, may also represent a previously undiscovered—and now extinct—species.

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Source: Ars Technica – Extinct gibbon in ancient Chinese tomb hints at other lost primate species

Huge wave in Venus’ clouds changes the length of a day

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Source: Ars Technica – Huge wave in Venus’ clouds changes the length of a day

Mario Tennis Aces review: Turning tennis into a fighting game

Enlarge / BEHOLD YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE!

Batting a ball back and forth is one of the oldest concepts in video games, dating back to the days of William Higinbotham’s Tennis for Two oscilloscope experiments in the ‘50s. In the decades since, countless games have refined the idea of what virtual tennis can be, from as-faithful-as-possible recreations of the real sport to ultra-accessible, over-the-top arcade-inspired battles of reflex and positioning.

Like previous Mario Tennis games, Mario Tennis Aces sits far on the side of the over-the-top accessibility side of the equation. Simple controls and an ultra-forgiving hit positioning system make it easy enough for even complete gaming neophytes to get into a quick game. But Aces also adds a bit more depth to the series, introducing a new power meter system that adds a new layer of psychological brinksmanship to the proceedings.

At its most heated moments, Aces starts to resemble a fighting game more than a tennis game, and it’s all the better for it—especially when you’re playing against another human.

The best defense…

The basics here will be familiar to anyone who has played a Mario Tennis game before. As the ball comes over the net, you run to where it’s going to land, hit a button to prepare your shot and use the analog stick to aim that shot to one side of the court or the other. The opponent does the same in a battle of relative positioning that ends when someone fails to return the ball.

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Source: Ars Technica – Mario Tennis Aces review: Turning tennis into a fighting game

Google’s AR “Measure” app comes to all ARCore Android phones

Back when I tested Google’s first augmented reality product, Project Tango, one of my favorite use cases was the Google Measure app. This would turn Tango’s bevy of extra sensors into a virtual tape measure, allowing you to roughly pick any two points in the world and get the distance between them. When Project Tango died, I figured the Measure app was done for too, but Google has resurrected the app for ARCore, its new, post-Tango augmented reality framework that works on many high-end Android phones.

Tango used a time-of-flight camera, an IR projector, and a fish-eye motion camera to measure things, but now with an ARCore-compatible Android device, you can run the exact same app with normal smartphone hardware. Just point the phone at something, drag out either the “length” or “height” measurement tools onto the camera feed, and adjust the end points to measure something. When you first open the app, you have to move the phone around so it can scan the surrounding area. This isn’t a fast process and can be a bit of a pain when you just want to measure something.

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Source: Ars Technica – Google’s AR “Measure” app comes to all ARCore Android phones

After being pulled from a spaceflight in January, Jeanette Epps speaks up

Enlarge / Jeanette Epps, left, is shown as an Expedition 54-55 backup crewmember on December 5, 2017. She was pulled from Expedition 56 at about this time. (credit: NASA)

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps was supposed to be in space right now, as the first African-American crew member living on the International Space Station. But instead she’s on the ground doing all of the things astronauts do when they’re not in space—training, monitoring programs, working as a capcom in Mission Control, and more.

Since being pulled from her flight in January, a mission that launched about two weeks ago for a six-month tour on the space station, Epps has remained quiet in public. NASA did not specify the reasons for her removal from Expedition 56 to the space station, saying only that, “These decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information.”

However, Epps did finally speak publicly this week, appearing at the Tech Open Air technology festival in Berlin on June 21, where she was interviewed by journalist Megan Gannon. The website CollectSPACE provided a transcript of the discussion.

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Source: Ars Technica – After being pulled from a spaceflight in January, Jeanette Epps speaks up

Ars on your lunch break, part three: Those darn robot overlords

Enlarge / HAVE YOU HEARD THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT OUR LORD AND SAVIOR SKYNET (credit: Carolco Pictures)

Today we present the third and final installment of my interview with the world-renowned roboticist and AI pioneer Rodney Brooks. Please check out parts one and two if you missed them.

We start today’s installment with the very cliffhanger sentence yesterday’s installment ended with: Rodney saying “Yeah, let’s talk about deep learning.” We proceed to do just that. For anyone giddy about the glittering newness of neural networks and the deep learning systems they power, Rodney points out that this work began in 1943.

This leads to an argument similar to yesterday’s point about self-driving cars regarding the importance of knowing a technology’s full history before handicapping its future. Rodney’s basic point is that deep learning is an overnight success that required 70 years to percolate. So the next giant breakthrough could be further off than we think.

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Source: Ars Technica – Ars on your lunch break, part three: Those darn robot overlords

Study: US oil and gas methane emissions have been dramatically underestimated

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Source: Ars Technica – Study: US oil and gas methane emissions have been dramatically underestimated