Rick Perry talks nuclear energy research investment, Paris Agreement

Enlarge / US Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry addresses employees for the first time at the Department of Energy’s headquarters in Washington, DC, March 3, 2017. Image courtesy Ken Shipp/US Department of Energy. (credit: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Energy Secretary Rick Perry spoke briefly this afternoon to a group of reporters to address topics in energy. The Trump administration has deemed this week “Energy Week” and tasked its appointees, including Perry, to pitch what an “energy-dominant America” looks like to the American people.

Perry painted a vision of America’s energy future in broad strokes this afternoon and said that the US would become a net exporter of energy through natural gas and oil exports. The Energy Information Administration has said that the US could become a net energy exporter by 2026. Perry, who has been dismissive of climate change in the past and has close ties to the fossil fuel industry, also called on the US to “reaffirm our commitment to clean energy,” while at the same time embracing fossil fuels.

“That binary choice between pro-economy and pro-environment that has perpetuated—or, I should say, been perpetuated by the Obama administration—has set up a false argument,” Perry said. “The fact is, we can do good for both—and we will.” Under the Obama administration, solar, wind, and natural gas jobs grew, although coal jobs did fall.

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Source: Ars Technica – Rick Perry talks nuclear energy research investment, Paris Agreement

New Star Trek series will abandon Gene Roddenberry’s cardinal rule

Enlarge / Sonequa Martin-Green plays protagonist Michael Burnham, first officer of the U.S.S. Shenzhou, on new CBS All Access series Star Trek: Discovery. (credit: CBS)

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had a lot of strict rules for writers on his shows. Some, like the requirement that both female and male officers be called “sir,” were thrown out a while ago (Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Kathryn Janeway, wanted to be called “ma’am”). Now, with forthcoming series Star Trek: Discovery, we’re about to see one of Roddenberry’s most cherished rules bite the dust.

When Roddenberry first framed his ideas for the Star Trek universe, he wanted to be sure that writers would emphasize the Utopian aspects of future life in the Federation. Some of that Utopianism was hardwired into the show’s basic premise, in which money, war, and racial discrimination are things of the distant past. But Roddenberry wasn’t satisfied with that—he wanted characters whose behavior was exemplary, too.

So he made a rule, which endured long after his death, that main characters were not allowed to mistreat each other or have conflicts that weren’t quickly resolved. Writers for the various series also weren’t allowed to show characters being malevolent or cruel. Of course, there were exceptions. Aliens or non-crew members could be as awful as the writers wanted, as could protagonists whose minds were being controlled by outside forces. (This helps explain why our heroes are always being possessed or hopping over to the Mirror Universe.)

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Source: Ars Technica – New Star Trek series will abandon Gene Roddenberry’s cardinal rule

Valkyria Revolution trades in cult-classic status for wasted promise

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Source: Ars Technica – Valkyria Revolution trades in cult-classic status for wasted promise

Black-hole mergers may reveal dark past of cannibalism

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Source: Ars Technica – Black-hole mergers may reveal dark past of cannibalism

Microsoft bringing EMET back as a built-in part of Windows 10

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Source: Ars Technica – Microsoft bringing EMET back as a built-in part of Windows 10

Scientists come up with neural mechanism—and possible fix—for chronic pain

Enlarge / Ow. (credit: Getty | Paul Bradbury)

Chronic, aching pain after an injury or operation may be all in your head. Researchers now think they’ve figured out exactly how brain wiring goes haywire to cause persistent pain—and how to fix it.

In mice with peripheral nerve damage and chronic pain from a leg surgery, a broken circuit in a pain-processing region of mammalian brains caused hyperactive pain signals that persisted for more than a month. Specifically, the peripheral nerve damage seemed to deactivate a type of interconnected brain cells, called somatostatin (SOM) interneurons, which normally dampen pain signals. Without the restraints, neurons that fire off pain signals—cortical pyramidal neurons—went wild, researchers report in Nature Neuroscience.

But the circuitry could be repaired, the researchers found. Just by manually activating those pain-stifling SOM interneurons, the researchers could shut down the rodents’ chronic pain and keep the system working properly—preventing centralized, chronic pain from ever developing.

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Source: Ars Technica – Scientists come up with neural mechanism—and possible fix—for chronic pain

Ohio Gov. Kasich’s website, dozens of others defaced using year-old exploit

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The official website of Ohio Governor John Kasich and the site of Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich were defaced on June 25 by a group calling itself Team System DZ. The group is a known pro-Islamic State “hacktivist” group that has repeatedly had its social media accounts suspended for posting IS propaganda videos and other activity. Kasich’s site was but one of a number of state and local government websites that were hijacked by Team System DZ early this week, all of which had one thing in common: they were running on an outdated version of the DotNetNuke (DNN) content management platform.

DNN Platform is a popular content management system (particularly with state and local governments) based on Windows Server and the ASP.NET framework for Microsoft Internet Information Server. DNN Platform is open source and available for free—making it attractive to government agencies looking for something low cost that fits into their existing Windows Server-heavy organizations. A review of the HTML source of each of the sites attacked by Team System DZ showed that they were running a vulnerable version of the content management system DNN Platform—version 7.0, which was released in 2015.

A critical security update issued by DNN in May of 2016 warned that an attacker could exploit vulnerabilities to create new “superuser” accounts through the content management system, giving them unfettered remote access to modify websites. DNN urged customers to upgrade to the latest version of the software at the time. A May 2015 alert also warned that an attacker could use the software’s Installation Wizard page for some server configurations to create new user accounts on the Windows Server host.

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Source: Ars Technica – Ohio Gov. Kasich’s website, dozens of others defaced using year-old exploit

Walmart sued after teen steals machete and kills her Uber driver

Enlarge (credit: Mike Mozart / Flickr)

There has been a lot of media coverage about Uber driver misdeeds—drunk driving, drivers stealing from their passengers, and even cases of drivers murdering and raping customers. But Uber drivers can also be victims of their passengers.

The family of an Uber driver murdered on the job in Illinois is taking Walmart to court. In a Cook County lawsuit, (PDF) the family of driver Grant T. Nelson alleges that the retail giant was negligent when it allowed the murder suspect to steal a machete and a knife before walking past security personnel without being stopped. That was right before she hailed an Uber outside the Skokie store at 3am on May 30.

Moments after picking up the alleged thief—a 16-year-old girl named Eliza Wasni—police say the 37-year-old Nelson was stabbed to death by Wasni after exiting the Walmart parking lot.

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Source: Ars Technica – Walmart sued after teen steals machete and kills her Uber driver

Appeals court: Conviction upheld for man who aided LA Times defacement

Matthew Keys, seen here in 2016, before he was ordered to prison. (credit: Cyrus Farivar)

A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction and sentence of the California journalist who was found guilty under a federal anti-hacking law last year.

On Monday, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was not persuaded by arguments made by Matthew Keys’ defense attorneys. In a hearing earlier this month, his lawyers said that while their client may have handed over a username and password that resulted in a brief defacement of one Los Angeles Times article, this did not constitute actual “damage” as described in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

As Ars reported earlier, Keys was accused of giving out a username and password for his former employer KTXL Fox 40’s content management system (CMS) to members of Anonymous and instructing people there to “fuck some shit up.” Ultimately, that December 2010 incident resulted in someone else using those credentials to alter a headline and sub-headline on a Los Angeles Times article. (Both Fox 40 and the Times are owned by the Tribune Media Company.) The changes lasted for 40 minutes before editors reversed them.

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Source: Ars Technica – Appeals court: Conviction upheld for man who aided LA Times defacement

Meet the RapidE, Aston Martin’s first EV due in 2019

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Source: Ars Technica – Meet the RapidE, Aston Martin’s first EV due in 2019

Amazon’s latest Prime Exclusive Phones range from $79 to $199

Amazon’s “Prime Exclusive Phones” program takes mid- to low-end Android phones, loads them with ads and Amazon apps, and cuts around $50 off the price for Prime subscribers. If you can deal with the ads, it’s usually a good deal for a budget phone. Today, Amazon is adding five new phones to the Prime Exclusive Phone program, from Nokia, Motorola, and Alcatel.

First up is the freshly announced-for-the-US Nokia 6, which is HMD’s first swing at Android-powered Nokia phones. The Prime program gives you $50 off in exchange for ads, bringing the $229.99 price down to $179.99. Besides the fantastic metal body and build quality, the Nokia 6 gives you a 5.5-inch 1080p screen, Android 7.1, a Snapdragon 430, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 16MP rear camera, an 8MP front camera, and a 3000mAh battery. There’s also an SD card slot and dual speakers.

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Source: Ars Technica – Amazon’s latest Prime Exclusive Phones range from to 9

A new ransomware outbreak similar to WCry is shutting down computers worldwide

Enlarge / This is the note that’s left on computers infected by PetyaWrap. (credit: Eset)

A new ransomware attack similar to last month’s self-replicating WCry outbreak is sweeping the world with at least 80 large companies infected, reportedly including drug maker Merck, international shipping company Maersk, law firm DLA Piper, UK advertising firm WPP, and snack food maker Mondelez International. It has attacked at least 2,000 computers, according to one security company.

PetyaWrap, as some researchers are calling the ransomware, uses the same potent National Security Agency exploit that allowed WCry to paralyze hospitals, shipping companies, and train stations in a matter of hours on May 12. EternalBlue, as the exploit was code-named by its NSA developers, was published in April by a still-unknown group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. The leak gave people with only moderate technical skills a powerful vehicle for delivering virtually any kind of digital warhead. Microsoft patched the underlying vulnerability in Windows 7 and 8.1 in March, and in a rare move the company issued fixes for unsupported Windows versions 24 hours after the WCry outbreak. That meant infections were only possible on machines that were running outdated versions of the OS.

While some researchers said PetyaWrap was a new version of the long-established Petya ransomware, researchers from antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab said that preliminary findings showed it was, in fact, a new piece of malware that had never been seen before. Kaspersky said that it at least 2,000 computers that use its AV products had already been attacked by it.

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Source: Ars Technica – A new ransomware outbreak similar to WCry is shutting down computers worldwide

Fears of limited SNES Classic supply lead to 150% online resale markup

The SNES Classic Edition may officially sell for $80, but that’s much less than some are willing to pay to secure a pre-order. (credit: eBay)

It has been less than 24 hours since the Super NES Classic Edition was announced, and we’re still more than three months away from the plug-and-play system shipping to retailers. But that hasn’t stopped resellers from profiting off “guaranteed” pre-orders for the system at significant markups over retail price.

A quick search on eBay already shows 23 “sold” listings for the Super NES Classic Edition (including its international counterparts) at a median price of $199, or a 150-percent markup from the $80 MSRP Nintendo is asking for. On Ebay UK, you can find 22 more units than have sold for a median of £180 (about $230), up significantly above the £70 to £80 retail price. One seller managed to get $389.99 for his pre-order, earning more than $300 in profit for being able to click quickly on the “buy” button.

Major US retailers seemingly haven’t opened up official pre-orders for the Super NES Classic Edition yet, though some have set up landing pages to sign up for future stock alerts). Online pre-orders at British retailers including Amazon, Game, Smyths, and ShopTo sold out incredibly quickly after going up yesterday. Nintendo’s official UK store also sold out within minutes after offering the system online today.

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Source: Ars Technica – Fears of limited SNES Classic supply lead to 150% online resale markup

The original iPhone games: Favorites from the 2008 Ars staff

Enlarge / Anyone else spend an inordinate amount of time on this? (credit: Aurora Feint)

This week, we’re looking back at the original iPhone and examining its impact on the 10-year anniversary of the device’s release. Earlier today, we explored how the iPhone impacting gaming during its first decade, and as such we thought this round-up of our favorite titles from the first batch of iPhone games deserved another look. This resurfaced piece first ran on August 5, 2008.

The App Store has introduced a bevy of third-party apps in every category imaginable. Admittedly, some are of questionable quality, but others, we have discovered, are made of pure win with a sprinkle of crack cocaine. At the Ars Orbiting HQ, we find ourselves frequently chatting about which apps we can’t live without, and games are naturally at the top of everyone’s lists. Because we love our readers, we thought we might share with you a list of our favorite iPhone games that you should check out. Here we go, in no particular order.

Dizzy Bee

Price: $2.99, free version available (Free in 2017)
Developer: Igloo Games

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Source: Ars Technica – The original iPhone games: Favorites from the 2008 Ars staff

Comcast and Charter could invest in Sprint’s network, resell Sprint data

Enlarge (credit: Mike Mozart)

Comcast and Charter have reportedly started negotiating with Sprint, as the two biggest cable companies in the US explore the possibility of buying the wireless carrier or investing in its network.

Comcast and Charter last month announced an agreement to cooperate in their plans to sell mobile phone service, an agreement that also forbids each company from making wireless acquisitions and investments without the other’s consent for one year. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that “Sprint has entered into exclusive talks with Charter and as the cable companies explore a deal that could bolster their plans to offer wireless service, according to people familiar with the matter.”

There are a couple different arrangements being considered. In one, the cable companies would invest in “improving Sprint’s network in exchange for favorable terms to offer wireless service using the carrier’s network,” possibly by taking an equity stake.

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Source: Ars Technica – Comcast and Charter could invest in Sprint’s network, resell Sprint data

Nintendo New 2DS XL mini-review: The best version of the 3DS hardware yet

Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton)

While the Nintendo Switch is quickly becoming the handheld of choice—thanks in part to the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey—the 3DS still has some life left in it yet. Kirby’s Blowout Blast, Hey! PIKMIN, Metroid: Samus Returns, Fire Emblem Warriors, Layton’s Mystery Journey, and Dragon Quest XI are all due for release in 2017 alongside updated (and cheaper) hardware in the form of the £130 New 2DS XL, which goes on sale July 28 (pre-order here).

For those keeping track, the New 2DS XL (the “New” is important) is the sixth revision of the 3DS hardware, which started with the original (and smallest) 3DS. That was followed by the 3DS XL, which sported a 90 percent larger screen along with improved battery life. Following developer demand for a second analogue stick—a problem Nintendo initially solved with the bulky Circle Pad Pro add-on—Nintendo released the New 3DS and New 3DS XL, which not only integrated a second analogue stick, but also incorporated more powerful hardware.

This lead to the a confusing state of affairs where games like Xenoblade Chronicles requires the New 3DS XL hardware, and won’t play on an original 3DS or 3DS XL. Then came the 2DS, a stripped back version of the console aimed at a younger audience. It ditched the clamshell design, second analogue stick, and more powerful hardware, instead only playing games compatible with the original 3DS. The 2DS doesn’t feature the glasses-free 3D screen of the 3DS either, although given the feature ended up being more of a novelty than a necessity, it was hardly missed.

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Source: Ars Technica – Nintendo New 2DS XL mini-review: The best version of the 3DS hardware yet

iPhone at 10: How Apple changed gaming for the better and the worse

Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton)

Ten years ago this week—on June 29, 2007—many waited (in line or online) for the first iPhone’s formal release. Steve Jobs revealed what he promised would be a game-changing device months earlier, providing plenty of time for the lofty dreams, predictions, and excitement to build. The decade since has largely justified the hype. Apple’s now-signature product has made a lasting mark not only on our communications, but on many unexpected walks of life. So this week as the iPhone celebrates its 10th anniversary, we’ll be examining its impact and revisiting the device that changed it all.

In the heart of Stockholm, Sweden, mobile games developer King has built its own forest. Alongside Earth-toned carpeting and plywood trees are walls coated in Norwegian lichen. Instead of the harsh glow of a fluorescent strip, there are ambient lights that change hue with the seasons. Instead of chairs there are ceiling-hung wicker baskets and long maple desks with multicoloured stools. Along the floor is an artificial stream that scans the footsteps of employees, allowing them to interact with virtual fish and insects. In the winter, the stream freezes over, lending an audible crunch to each footstep.

Such extravagance is hardly extraordinary for the startups and venture capitalists that have spread across California’s so-called Silicon Valley (Airbnb has its own makeshift forest, complete with taxidermied raccoon). But for the companies that build their fortunes on the fickle market of mobile games, success is far from guaranteed. King is one of the lucky ones. It has, in its finer moments, raked in profits of half a billion dollars in a single year. So compelling were its profits that publishing giant Activision Blizzard swallowed it up for $5.9 billion in 2015.

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Source: Ars Technica – iPhone at 10: How Apple changed gaming for the better and the worse

Google must stop demoting competitors in search results, EU rules

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Source: Ars Technica – Google must stop demoting competitors in search results, EU rules

Report: Valve’s former augmented reality system is no more

CastAR’s first prototype. Subsequent revisions brought the glasses’ size down and fidelity up, so that its mounted projectors would better convey the feeling that virtual objects appeared on a mat (also known as “augmented reality” or “mixed reality”). However, the project’s future is now in doubt. (credit: CastAR)

The future of CastAR, an ambitious augmented reality system that began life in Valve’s hardware labs five years ago, is now in serious doubt. A bleak Monday Tweet from a former CastAR staffer was followed by Polygon’s Brian Crecente reporting a full company shutdown.

Citing unnamed “former employees,” Polygon reported that the hardware maker’s primary finance group pulled all funding last week. This was allegedly followed by a full staff layoff and an announcement that the company’s remaining assets would be liquidated.

As of press time, neither CastAR nor its affiliated developer, Eat Sleep Play, have posted any confirmation of shut downs or liquidation. Ars Technica has reached out to CastAR co-founders Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson. We will update this report with any response.

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Source: Ars Technica – Report: Valve’s former augmented reality system is no more

“McMansion Hell” used Zillow photos to mock bad design—Zillow may sue

(credit: McMansionHell)

An architecture blogger has temporarily disabled her website, McMansionHell.com, after receiving a demand letter from Zillow and posting it on Twitter.

On Monday, Zillow threatened to sue Kate Wagner, saying that that she was violating its terms of use, copyright law, and possibly the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act because she took images from the company’s website without permission. However, on each of her posts, she acknowledged that the images came from Zillow and were posted under the fair use doctrine, as she was providing (often humorous) commentary on various architectural styles. Her website was featured on the design podcast 99% Invisible in October 2016.

Confusingly, Zillow does not even own the images in question. Instead, Zillow licenses them from the rights holders. As such, it remains unclear why the company would have standing to bring a lawsuit against Wagner.

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Source: Ars Technica – “McMansion Hell” used Zillow photos to mock bad design—Zillow may sue