Family affairs: Everyone learns they can’t go home again in Killing Eve S3

Killing Eve burst onto the scene in 2018 to rave reviews, as viewers and critics alike were enthralled by the sexually charged cat-and-mouse game playing out between MI6 agent Eve (Sandra Oh) and expert assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Alas, while S2 had some powerful moments, overall it lacked the same taut, addictive focus. But the series came back strong for its third season, fleshing out the story in some fresh, fascinating ways. Small wonder it’s already been renewed for a fourth season.

(A couple of major spoilers below for first six episodes of S3—we’ll give you a heads-up when we get there—but no major reveals for the final two episodes.)

As S3 opened, we learned that Eve survived being shot by Villanelle in the S2 finale (duh). She keeping a low profile, working in the kitchen of a dumpling eatery in London, and living on a shocking amount of junk food in her dismal flat. Her long-suffering math teacher husband Niko (Owen McDonnell) also survived his encounter with Villanelle in S2 (although his fellow teacher, Gemma, did not). He is now an in-patient being treated for PTSD, and unreceptive to Eve’s efforts to reconnect.

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Source: Ars Technica – Family affairs: Everyone learns they can’t go home again in Killing Eve S3

Ransomware gang is auctioning off victims’ confidential data

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Source: Ars Technica – Ransomware gang is auctioning off victims’ confidential data

The Last of Us Pt. 2 hands-on: You can’t pet the dog—but you can expect terror

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Source: Ars Technica – The Last of Us Pt. 2 hands-on: You can’t pet the dog—but you can expect terror

COVID-19 privacy protection bill introduced with bipartisan support

A global pandemic is no excuse for sticking your nose in other people's private data.

Enlarge / A global pandemic is no excuse for sticking your nose in other people’s private data. (credit: Getty Images)

A group of lawmakers from both parties is putting forth legislation that aims to protect Americans’ privacy and personal data while advancing public health initiatives in the face of COVID-19.

Well over 100,000 people in the United States have died as a result of the current pandemic, which is far from over. Mitigating the further spread of the disease will require robust contact tracing, among other efforts. The scale of tracing required, however, is enormous and difficult to manage.

In the modern era, any issue of scale is met with the promise of an app, and contact tracing is no different. Apple and Google worked together on an API for contact tracing, which was recently deployed to phones. But public confidence in contact-tracing apps is already mixed at best, and recent statements by state and local governments conflating public health contact tracing with police investigation of protesters have sown further distrust.

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Source: Ars Technica – COVID-19 privacy protection bill introduced with bipartisan support

The Apple Watch Series 5 is down to its lowest price yet today

The Apple Watch Series 5 is down to its lowest price yet today

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today’s Dealmaster is headlined by a sizable discount on the Apple Watch Series 5, the most recent entry in Apple’s smartwatch lineup. Amazon currently has select 40mm models available for $300, which is $100 off Apple’s MSRP and about $85 its usual going rate online. You’ll see a notice on eligible product pages that says the full discount is visible at checkout. While we’ve seen the Series 5 hit this price before, this is tied for the largest discount we’ve seen to date.

The Apple Watch Series 5 earned the “Ars Approved” badge in our review last fall and currently sits as the top option in our guide to the best smartwatches. We like it for offering an always-on display, fall detection, NFC for Apple Pay, and several fitness tracking features like an always-on heart rate monitor and an onboard GPS, all in a comfortable and clean design with unobtrusive software.

You’ll still have to charge it every other day, it’s still mainly for iPhone owners, and you still have to be in on the idea of having a mini-smartphone on your wrist. If you own an Apple Watch Series 4 or are happy with your Apple Watch Series 3, there’s less of a reason to upgrade, especially with an inevitable Series 6 likely arriving later this year. But if you’ve been interested in taking the plunge, this is a good price for a great wearable.

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Source: Ars Technica – The Apple Watch Series 5 is down to its lowest price yet today

Rare miniature rock art found in Australia

Rare miniature rock art found in Australia

(credit: Brady et al. 2020)

Ancient artists used several techniques to paint images on rock. Sometimes they drew by hand, but other times they would place an object like a hand, a leaf, or a boomerang against the wall and spatter it with paint, leaving behind a spray of color surrounding a silhouette of the object. This may sound like a simple way to produce art, but there’s new evidence that it could be a fairly complex process. People in northern Australia seem to have used beeswax to shape miniature stencils to paint on the walls of Yilbilinji Rock Shelter in Limmen National Park.

Welcome to Marra Country

The miniature images are part of a veritable gallery of rock art on the roof and rear walls of Yilbilinji. Over thousands of years, people came here to paint people, animals, objects, tracks, dots, and geometric motifs in striking red, yellow, black, and white. There’s even a European smoking pipe in the mix, which shows that at least some of the paintings must have been created after the colonists arrived.

Out of 355 images painted on the walls, only 59 are stencils—outlines of full-sized hands and forearms surrounded by sprays of white pigment (probably made with local kaolin clay). But 17 of those stencils are too small to have been done the usual way, by spattering an actual object with paint to leave a life-sized outline on the wall. They depict people—sometimes holding boomerangs and shields or wearing headdresses—crabs, echidna, at least two species of turtle, kangaroo pawprints, and geometric shapes.

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Source: Ars Technica – Rare miniature rock art found in Australia

Google fixes Android flaws that allow code execution with high system rights

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Source: Ars Technica – Google fixes Android flaws that allow code execution with high system rights

AT&T exempts HBO Max from data caps but still limits your Netflix use

AT&T executive John Stankey speaking in front of a backdrop that says

Enlarge / AT&T executive John Stankey at a presentation for investors at Warner Bros. Studios on October 29, 2019, in Burbank, California. (credit: Getty Images | Presley Ann)

AT&T’s new HBO Max streaming service is exempt from the carrier’s mobile data caps, even though competing services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+ count against the monthly data limits. This news was reported today in an article by The Verge, which said that AT&T “confirmed to The Verge that HBO Max will be excused from the company’s traditional data caps and the soft data caps on unlimited plans.”

The traditional data caps limit customers to a certain amount of data each month before they have to pay overage fees or face extreme slowdowns for the rest of the month. “Soft data caps on unlimited plans” apparently is a reference to the 22GB or 50GB thresholds, after which unlimited-data users may be prioritized below other users when connecting to a congested cell tower.

“According to an AT&T executive familiar with the matter, HBO Max is using AT&T’s ‘sponsored data’ system, which technically allows any company to pay to excuse its services from data caps,” The Verge wrote. “But since AT&T owns HBO Max, it’s just paying itself: the data fee shows up on the HBO Max books as an expense and on the AT&T Mobility books as revenue. For AT&T as a whole, it zeroes out. Compare that to a competitor like Netflix, which could theoretically pay AT&T for sponsored data, but it would be a pure cost.”

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Source: Ars Technica – AT&T exempts HBO Max from data caps but still limits your Netflix use

Incredible fossil find is the oldest known parasite

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Source: Ars Technica – Incredible fossil find is the oldest known parasite

The Atlantic’s third storm has formed in record time, and it’s a threat

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Source: Ars Technica – The Atlantic’s third storm has formed in record time, and it’s a threat

Game companies delay events, tweet #BlackLivesMatter amid police brutality protests

Game companies delay events, tweet #BlackLivesMatter amid police brutality protests

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Activision is delaying the launch of new seasonal content in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Call of Duty: Mobile amid continuing protests over police brutality and the taped killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

“Now is not the time,” publisher Activision wrote on Twitter of the previously planned release of new Call of Duty content. “Right now it’s time for those speaking up for equality, justice, and change to be seen and heard. We stand alongside you.”

Activision’s delay came just hours after Sony delayed a planned press event to promote the PlayStation 5, saying that “we do not feel that right now is a time for celebration… For now, we want to stand back and allow more important voices to be heard.” And earlier in the day Monday, EA Sports delayed a planned online “celebration” of the upcoming Madden NFL 21, “because this is bigger than a game, bigger than sports, and needs all of us to stand together and commit to change.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Game companies delay events, tweet #BlackLivesMatter amid police brutality protests

After Crew Dragon soars, some in Congress tout benefits of commercial space

Sen. Ted Cruz, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, and US Rep. Brian Babin stand in front of a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket at Space Center Houston on Sunday.

Enlarge / Sen. Ted Cruz, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, and US Rep. Brian Babin stand in front of a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket at Space Center Houston on Sunday. (credit: Space Center Houston)

Although the saying probably originated with one of the greatest Roman historians, Tacitus, President John F. Kennedy popularized the phrase—”Success has a hundred fathers, and defeat is an orphan.” This aphorism can be applied to commercial space now that SpaceX has successfully launched two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station on a Falcon 9 rocket inside Dragonship Endeavour.

Since this flight, several congressional leaders have begun speaking more about commercial space, an approach in which private companies self-invest in their hardware, own their vehicle, and sell services to NASA. Prior to Dragon’s flight, no private spacecraft had ever flown humans into orbit before—only large government space programs in the United States, Russia, and China had done it. Now, private companies such as SpaceX are demonstrating their capabilities.

US Rep Brian Babin, a Texas Republican whose district includes Johnson Space Center, offered fulsome praise for SpaceX and its achievement after Dragon’s flight. “Congratulations to SpaceX, who have never quit, and who have really revolutionized the launch business, and bringing costs down,” he said. “These are going to be a great boon to our space program going into the future.”

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Source: Ars Technica – After Crew Dragon soars, some in Congress tout benefits of commercial space

Dell XPS 13 and XPS 13 Developer Edition—side-by-side review

On the left, we have the XPS 13 Developer Edition running Ubuntu 18.04. On the right, a regular XPS 13 running Windows 10 Pro.

Enlarge / On the left, we have the XPS 13 Developer Edition running Ubuntu 18.04. On the right, a regular XPS 13 running Windows 10 Pro. (credit: Jim Salter)

We spent this weekend going hands-on with a pair of 2020 model Dell XPS 13 laptops—one standard edition running Windows 10 Pro, and one Developer Edition running Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. The XPS 13 is among Dell’s most popular models, and for good reason—it’s a sleek, solid-feeling laptop which usually has top-of-the-line hardware and good battery life.

Unfortunately, both of the XPS 13 models we tested had driver issues—particularly the Windows laptop, which has a Killer AX1650 Wi-Fi card.

Hardware

Specs at a glance: Dell XPS 13 2020 model, as reviewed
XPS 13 XPS 13 Developer Edition
OS Windows 10 Home Ubuntu 18.04 LTS
Screen 13.4-inch FHD+ (1920×1200) touchscreen 13.4-inch UHD+ (3840×2400) touchscreen
CPU Intel Core i7-1065G7
GPU Intel Iris+
RAM 16GiB 32GiB
HDD Intel 512GB NVMe SSD Hynix 512GB NVMe SSD
Networking Killer AX1650 Wi-Fi 6 (2×2),
Bluetooth 4.2
Ports 2 x Thunderbolt 3, 1 x 3.5mm headphone jack,
1 x microSD card reader
Size 11.6×7.8×0.58 inches (296×199×15mm)
Weight 2.7 pounds (1.2kg) 2.8 pounds (1.3kg)
Battery 52Wh battery
Warranty 1 year on-site (after remote diagnosis)
Extras Fingerprint reader (in power button),
720P IR camera, backlit keyboard
Price as tested $1,617 at Dell $2,000 at Dell

The XPS 13 is a small, sleek, very solid-feeling laptop with a bright screen and very narrow bezels. It doesn’t offer much in the way of connectivity—there’s no Ethernet jack, no HDMI port, and no USB-B port either.

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Source: Ars Technica – Dell XPS 13 and XPS 13 Developer Edition—side-by-side review

Apple fixes bug that could have given hackers full access to user accounts

Photograph of multiple Apple devices lined up together.

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

Sign in with Apple—a privacy-enhancing tool that lets users log into third-party apps without revealing their email addresses—just fixed a bug that made it possible for attackers to gain unauthorized access to those same accounts.

“In the month of April, I found a zero-day in Sign in with Apple that affected third-party applications which were using it and didn’t implement their own additional security measures,” app developer Bhavuk Jain wrote on Sunday. “This bug could have resulted in a full account takeover of user accounts on that third party application irrespective of a victim having a valid Apple ID or not.”

Jain privately reported the flaw to Apple under the company’s bug bounty program and received a hefty $100,000 payout. The developer shared details after Apple updated the sign-in service to patch the vulnerability.

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Source: Ars Technica – Apple fixes bug that could have given hackers full access to user accounts

Lawsuit over online book lending could bankrupt Internet Archive

A laminated sign which reads

Enlarge / The book drop outside the Spring Township library in Pennsylvania was closed on April 6, 2020. (credit: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Four of the nation’s leading book publishers have sued the Internet Archive, the online library best known for maintaining the Internet Wayback Machine. The Internet Archive makes scanned copies of books—both public domain and under copyright—available to the public on a site called the Open Library.

“Despite the Open Library moniker, IA’s actions grossly exceed legitimate library services, do violence to the Copyright Act, and constitute willful digital piracy on an industrial scale,” write publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House in their complaint. The lawsuit was filed in New York federal court on Monday.

For almost a decade, the Open Library has offered users the ability to “borrow” scans of in-copyright books via the Internet. Until recently, the service was based on a concept called “controlled digital lending” that mimicked the constraints of a conventional library. The library would only “lend” as many digital copies of a book as it had physical copies in its warehouse. If all copies of a book were “checked out” by other patrons, you’d have to join a waiting list.

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Source: Ars Technica – Lawsuit over online book lending could bankrupt Internet Archive

SARS-CoV-2 looks like a hybrid of viruses from two different species

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Source: Ars Technica – SARS-CoV-2 looks like a hybrid of viruses from two different species

New Ebola outbreak flares up as measles, COVID-19 rage in DRC

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Source: Ars Technica – New Ebola outbreak flares up as measles, COVID-19 rage in DRC

New study challenges popular “collapse” hypothesis for Easter Island

Moai statues in a row, Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile.

Enlarge / Moai statues in a row, Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island, Chile. (credit: De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images)

In his bestselling 2005 book, Collapse, Jared Diamond offered the societal collapse of Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui), around 1600, as a cautionary tale. Diamond essentially argued that the destruction of the island’s ecological environment triggered a downward spiral of internal warfare, population decline, and cannibalism, resulting in an eventual breakdown of social and political structures. It’s a narrative that is now being challenged by a team of researchers who have been studying the island’s archaeology and cultural history for many years now.

In a new paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the researchers offer intriguing evidence that suggests the people of Rapa Nui continued to thrive well after 1600. The authors suggest this warrants a rethinking of the popular narrative that the island was destitute when Europeans arrived in 1722.

“The degree to which their cultural heritage was passed on—and is still present today through language, arts, and cultural practices—is quite notable and impressive,” co-author Robert DiNapoli, a doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Oregon, told Sapiens. “This degree of resilience has been overlooked due to the collapse narrative and deserves recognition.”

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Source: Ars Technica – New study challenges popular “collapse” hypothesis for Easter Island

One Zoom to rule them all: Lord of the Rings cast reunites to share memories

One Zoom to rule them all

For the first time in a long while, every actor who played a member of The Lord of the Rings’ fellowship reunited (along with other former cast members) to discuss their memories of shooting the hugely popular 2000s films, do line readings, and crack jokes. The 50-minute reunion was published on YouTube yesterday.

It’s part of a series hosted by actor Josh Gad, each episode of which is a reunion via Zoom meeting to raise money for a charity that is working on some aspect of COVID-19 relief. At the time of this writing, this particular video has raised just over $83,000 for No Kid Hungry.

Much of the Zoom chat is staged and heavily edited, but there are some good moments and interesting insights to be found for fans of the film trilogy.

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Source: Ars Technica – One Zoom to rule them all: Lord of the Rings cast reunites to share memories

Nest users now covered by Google’s ultra-secure Advanced Protection Program

A smart home security device displays an image of a child on a porch.

Enlarge (credit: Akram Kennis / Flickr)

Accounts for Google’s Nest line of smart home devices are now covered by the company’s Advanced Protection Program, which traditionally has provided enhanced security for journalists, politicians, elections workers, and other people who are frequently targeted by hackers.

Google rolled out APP in 2017. It requires users to have at least two physical security keys, such as those available from Yubico, Google’s Titan brand, or other providers. Typically, keys connect through USB slots or Near-field Communication or Bluetooth interfaces. Once registered, the keys provide cryptographic secrets that are unphishable and, at least theoretically, impossible to intercept through malware attacks or other types of hacking. APP also limits the apps that can connect to protected accounts, although registering Thunderbird to connect to Gmail is relatively easy.

Pulling up your account by the bootstraps

Once an account is enrolled and each device (including a phone) is authenticated through the physical-key process Google calls bootstrapping, people can use their iOS or Android devices as a security key. That’s usually easier, faster, and more convenient than using physical security keys. Typically, users must bootstrap only rarely after the bootstrapping process, such as when Google detects suspicious behavior. APP also pushes alerts to users’ devices and registered email accounts each time a new device connects.

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Source: Ars Technica – Nest users now covered by Google’s ultra-secure Advanced Protection Program