Nvidia RTX 2080 Super hands-on: The result when AMD is out of striking distance

Earlier this month, Nvidia kicked a stool out from under AMD’s feet, just as the graphics-card sector began heating up anew. AMD was set to land a serious blow with new RX 5700 cards in the “pricey but reasonable” range—a range that Nvidia had failed to capture with its “entry-level” RTX cards, the 2060 and 2070. Nvidia responded to AMD’s news by unveiling and launching a surprise pair of solid “Super” cards. AMD responded with its own price cut (and a claim that this price-war dance was its plan all along).

As these similarly specced cards jostled for the “$400ish” crown, the winner was ultimately consumers. At every price point, new GPU buyers can expect a solid bang-for-buck quotient between the $349 AMD Radeon RX 5700 and the $499 Nvidia RTX 2070 Super.

Weeks later, we have Nvidia’s third Super-branded launch, the RTX 2080 Super. And it’s a good reminder of what happens when AMD is not in striking distance of a particular price sector.

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Source: Ars Technica – Nvidia RTX 2080 Super hands-on: The result when AMD is out of striking distance

Formula E five years on: Cars Technica grades the electric racing series

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Source: Ars Technica – Formula E five years on: Cars Technica grades the electric racing series

Ford shows off electric F-150 truck by towing a million pounds of train

Even if you’re not a truck fan, the prospect of a battery electric Ford F-150 is appealing. The F-150 is the nation’s best-selling light vehicle with more than 1.1 million sold in 2018, so it would be a good thing if some of those future sales were variants that didn’t need to pump out buckets of CO2 every day. To do that, Ford not only needs a competent electric powertrain, it also has to convince some of its customers that dropping the internal combustion engine isn’t a downgrade.

Which is probably why the company just released video of a prototype BEV F-150 towing more than a million pounds (453,592kg). Linda Zhang, chief engineer for the electric F-150, used one of the prototypes to pull 10 double-decker train cars carrying 42 2019 F-150s over a distance of more than 1,000 feet (300m). Until now, the heaviest thing pulled by a BEV for a publicity stunt was probably a Qantas Boeing 787 weighing 286,600lbs (130,000kg), which was pulled by a Tesla Model X in 2018.

In less welcome F-150 news, on Monday a class action lawsuit was filed against Ford for overstating the fuel efficiency of the 2018 and 2019 F-150 as well as the 2019 Ford Ranger trucks. The suit alleges that Ford “deliberately miscalculated and misrepresented factors used in vehicle certification testing in order to report that its vehicles used less fuel and emitted less pollution than they actually did. The certification test related cheating centers on the “Coast Down” testing and “Road Load” calculations.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Ford shows off electric F-150 truck by towing a million pounds of train

Apple releases iOS 12.4, watchOS 5.3, macOS 10.14.6, and more

The Apple Watch Series 4 on a wooden table.

Enlarge / The Apple Watch series 4 running watchOS 5. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

As it often does, Apple has released updates for all of its device operating systems at once. iOS 12.4, watchOS 5.3, macOS 10.14.6, and tvOS 12.4 all arrive on supporting devices today.

iOS 12.4’s tentpole feature is the ability to directly and wirelessly transfer all your data from one iPhone to another when setting the latter up. Onlookers are also speculating that it includes yet-to-be-activated support for the Apple Card credit card. This Goldman Sachs-driven consumer credit card will have a number of smart features and iPhone tie-ins, and, per Apple’s announcement earlier this year, is due to launch by the end of the summer.

There are also some quality-of-life and UX improvements for Apple News+. These are Apple’s iOS 12.4 release notes:

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Source: Ars Technica – Apple releases iOS 12.4, watchOS 5.3, macOS 10.14.6, and more

Chances of destructive BlueKeep exploit rise with new explainer posted online

Chances of destructive BlueKeep exploit rise with new explainer posted online

Enlarge (credit: One of the slides posted to Github)

A security researcher has published a detailed guide that shows how to execute malicious code on Windows computers still vulnerable to the critical BlueKeep vulnerability. The move significantly lowers the bar for writing exploits that wreak the kinds of destructive attacks not seen since the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks of 2017, researchers said.

As of three weeks ago, more than 800,000 computers exposed to the Internet were vulnerable to the exploit, researchers from security firm BitSight said last week. Microsoft and a chorus of security professionals have warned of the potential for exploits to sow worldwide disruptions. The risk of the bug, found in Microsoft’s implementation of the remote desktop protocol, stems from the ability for attacks to spread from one vulnerable computer to another with no interaction required of end users.

“A pretty big deal”

One of the only things standing in the way of real-world attacks is the expertise required to write exploits that remotely execute code without crashing the computer first. Several highly skilled whitehat hackers have done so with varying levels of success, but they have kept the techniques that make this possible secret. Much of that changed overnight, when a security researcher published this slide deck to Github.

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Source: Ars Technica – Chances of destructive BlueKeep exploit rise with new explainer posted online

Christopher Columbus Kraft, NASA’s legendary flight director, has died

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Source: Ars Technica – Christopher Columbus Kraft, NASA’s legendary flight director, has died

Asus’ ROG Phone II features a 120Hz display, a new SoC, and a giant battery

Asus is still trying to make gaming phones a thing with the release of the Asus ROG (Republic of Gamers) Phone II. Just like last year, this is a high-end smartphone with a hyper-aggressive “gamer” design and a light-up back logo, but there are also genuinely impressive specs here that you won’t find on any other smartphone right now.

The Asus Republic of Gamers Phone II is the first device to launch with Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 855 Plus SoC. This 855 “Plus” is a mid-cycle upgrade for the Snapdragon 855 with higher clock speeds for the CPU and GPU. The SoC’s single “Prime” CPU core gets bumped from 2.84GHz to 2.96GHz, while the GPU gets a 15% boost from 585MHz to 672MHz.

You’re going to need that extra horsepower since the ROG Phone II has a 6.59-inch, 2340×1080 OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate, which is up from 90Hz last year. This is one of the fastest displays you can get on a smartphone, alongside the 120Hz display on the Razer Phone 2, though that is an LCD. The 90Hz display on the OnePlus 7 Pro turned out to be one of the phone’s best features even when you weren’t gaming, thanks to the faster, smoother UI animations it enabled. I expect faster displays to show up in a ton more smartphones phones next year.

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Source: Ars Technica – Asus’ ROG Phone II features a 120Hz display, a new SoC, and a giant battery

With a launch and a hop coming up, SpaceX has a big week ahead

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Source: Ars Technica – With a launch and a hop coming up, SpaceX has a big week ahead

AMD exec: Nvidia fell for our double bluff

AMD's Scott Herkelman explains to HotHardware how he "jebaited" Nvidia.

Enlarge / AMD’s Scott Herkelman explains to HotHardware how he “jebaited” Nvidia. (credit: 2.5 Geeks)

Earlier this month, AMD Radeon VP Scott Herkelman tweeted a single, cryptic word: jebaited. If you’re not a big Twitch person, that probably doesn’t mean much to you. Thankfully, Herkelman made it clear for the rest of us a week later, when he appeared on HotHardware‘s 2.5 Geeks podcast to talk about the Radeon 5700 launch.

The first half of the 45 minute interview goes by with Herkelman propping up his gamer cred, then he walks through AMD’s usual talking points about contrast-adaptive sharpening and doing the usual “we love the reviewer community” routine. But about 26 minutes later, HotHardware’s Dave Altavilla asked Herkelman about the tweet—which referenced AMD’s Radeon pricing strategy—and things got more interesting.

Ever seen a T-shirted division vice president of a $35B company crow about “jebaiting” a corporate opponent by “double bluffing the Super strategy?” No? Well, today’s your day.

AMD first unveiled its new Navi cards in June, with Nvidia’s forthcoming “Super” line of upclocked refreshes waiting in the wings. While the RX5700 line promised a better performance-per-dollar ratio than competing Nvidia cards—a promise that has been borne out by third-party reviews—Nvidia still had the possibility of muting AMD’s thunder with a well-timed Super release, which might bring that price:performance ratio back into line. Herkelman’s cryptic tweet dropped when Nvidia acted—and the next day, AMD slashed prices on the new cards enough to bring the entire line under the new RTX 2070 Super’s $499 asking price.

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Source: Ars Technica – AMD exec: Nvidia fell for our double bluff

Silicon LED created by buzzing surface with high-speed electrons 

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Source: Ars Technica – Silicon LED created by buzzing surface with high-speed electrons 

The Lincoln Aviator uses cameras to read the road, smooth out big potholes

When Lincoln’s new three-row Aviator SUV goes on sale later this summer, its engineers hope it’ll be one of the smoothest-riding vehicles in its class. The key to that is a clever new adaptive suspension system with a feature called Road Preview. As you may have just gathered from the name, it looks at the road ahead and uses that information along with the more normal sensor input to constantly adjust the stiffness of the dampers in anticipation of big bumps or potholes.

A vehicle’s suspension is often required to please more than one master. On the one hand, its job is to keep the contact patch of each tire as close to optimum as possible to ensure good handling and road-holding. But it also has to soak up all the bumps and filter out all the jolts of the road in the name of ride comfort. For decades, that meant plenty of compromise when setting up springs, dampers, and the rest of the bits that attach the wheels to the car. Enthusiasts could buy adjustable dampers, although the adjustment usually meant parking up, popping the hood, and breaking out a wrench.

The idea of a suspension system that could react to different driving conditions while driving dates back at least as far as the hydropneumatic Citroens of the 1950s, but it was really the advent of electronic control that made the technology possible. Toyota started playing with the idea in the early 1980s with the Soarer, a domestic-market coupé. More will know it from its use in Formula 1, where it was introduced by Lotus’ Colin Chapman, who was looking for a new unfair advantage. By 1992, the Williams F1 team refined the concept to such good effect that its FW14B was nigh unbeatable, causing the sport to ban the technology thereafter.

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Source: Ars Technica – The Lincoln Aviator uses cameras to read the road, smooth out big potholes

Google pays $11 million to settle 227 age discrimination claims

Google's Mountain View campus in 2019.

Enlarge / Google’s Mountain View campus in 2019. (credit: Michael Short/Getty Images)

Google will pay $11 million to settle the claims of 227 people who say they were unfairly denied jobs because of their age, according to Friday court filings. The settlement must still be approved by the judge in the case.

The original lead plaintiff in the case, first filed in 2015, was a 60-something man named Robert Heath who says he was deemed a “great candidate” by a Google recruiter. The lawsuit said that in 2013, the median age of Google employees was 29, whereas the typical computer programmer in the US is over 40, according to several different measures.

During the interview process, Heath received a technical phone interview with a Google engineer. Heath alleged that the engineer had a heavy accent, a problem made worse by the engineer’s insistence on using a speakerphone. When Heath was working through a technical problem, he asked if he could share his code using a Google Doc. The interviewer refused, Heath alleged. Instead, Heath had to read code snippets over the phone—an inherently error-prone process. Heath argued that the interview process “reflected a complete disregard for older workers who are undeniably more susceptible to hearing loss.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Google pays million to settle 227 age discrimination claims

Equifax to pay $575M for data breach, promises to protect data next time

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Source: Ars Technica – Equifax to pay 5M for data breach, promises to protect data next time

India has launched an ambitious mission to the Moon

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Source: Ars Technica – India has launched an ambitious mission to the Moon

You can’t copyright a cocktail, so what’s a creative bartender to do?

Welcome to the conference, this is the 10am panel. Can we interest you in a Dark 'n' Stormy®?

Enlarge / Welcome to the conference, this is the 10am panel. Can we interest you in a Dark ‘n’ Stormy®? (credit: Nathan Mattise)

NEW ORLEANS—Anyone who fancies themselves a fan of cocktails knows the names: the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Martini, Margarita, on and on and on. In the drinks world, such recipes have stood the test of time and grown into industry icons over decades. But unlike similar cultural colossuses elsewhere—from Mickey Mouse on screen or “Hey Jude” in the stereo—you can find the Negroni being deployed freely at virtually every bar in America. What gives?

“Can you copyright and own a recipe? A recipe in the eyes of the law doesn’t have that creative spark,” says attorney Andrea Mealey, an intellectual property expert who’s done legal work for beverage companies like Gosling’s Rum. During a panel on IP in the bar industry at the 2019 Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC) conference, she next points at the ceiling in this conference room. “The design of that chandelier—someone had to come up with it. It’s creative, and you can own copyright on that design. I can do a slightly different design and own that as well. But a recipe is like a phone book in the eyes of the law—you can’t own something so factual.”

In the modern drinks world, Mealey not-so-subtly implies copyright may be the most useless legal tool for enterprising bartenders. (You could at least patent some amazing new tool, in theory.) It’s a not-so-dirty secret that many have increasingly become aware of in this modern cocktail renaissance, where a killer recipe at an influential bar can suddenly show up on menus worldwide with little more than a written credit. The US Copyright Office puts it plainly: “A mere listing of ingredients or contents, or a simple set of directions, is uncopyrightable.”

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Source: Ars Technica – You can’t copyright a cocktail, so what’s a creative bartender to do?

Amazon warns customers: Those supplements might be fake

Amazon warns customers: Those supplements might be fake

Enlarge (credit: Getty | John Greim)

On the second evening of Prime Day, Amazon’s annual sales bonanza, Anne Marie Bressler received an email from Amazon that had nothing to do with the latest deals. The message, sent from an automated email address Tuesday, informed her that the Align nutritional supplements she ordered two weeks earlier were probably counterfeit. “If you still have this product, we recommend that you stop using it immediately and dispose of the item,” the email reads, adding that she would be receiving a full refund. It’s not clear how many other customers may have purchased the fake supplements. Amazon confirmed that it sent out the email but declined to specify the number of customers impacted.

For years, Amazon has battled third-party sellers who list knockoffs of everything from iPhone charging cables to soccer jerseys on its site. Nutritional supplements are another popular target for fakes, as it’s a largely unregulated industry. The US Food and Drug Administration has been criticized—including by former staff—for declining to test dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness the same way it does pharmaceuticals. In this instance, the problems came together: An Amazon merchant sold dupes of genuine probiotics made by Align, a Procter & Gamble brand.

“We are aware that some counterfeit Align product was sold on Amazon via third parties,” Mollie Wheeler, a spokes­person for Procter & Gamble, said in an email. “Amazon has confirmed they have stopped third party sales of the Align products in question and Amazon is only selling Align product received directly from P&G manufacturing facilities.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Amazon warns customers: Those supplements might be fake

Can Disney’s Circle really deliver a porn-free Internet?

Can the Mouse keep your house safe from the sketchy parts of the Internet?

Enlarge / Can the Mouse keep your house safe from the sketchy parts of the Internet? (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

Filtering out the bits of human knowledge you don’t like and leaving all the bits you do is a deceptively difficult task; it’s one of the classic “I may not know art, but I know what I (don’t) like” problems. If you have a family with small children and absolutely any adult member of that family is not a complete libertine, though, it’s a problem you’ll need to address. The latest edition of the Disney-backed Circle filtering platform aims to help, via either a standalone IoT gadget ($35) or a service embedded in higher-end Netgear routers and mesh kits, such as Orbi RBK50 ($300) or Nighthawk R7000P ($160).

Twenty years ago, the problem was trying to keep an up-to-date database of everything on the Internet and whether it was naughty or not. In 2019, we’ve got the Big Data chops for that, but a larger problem has cropped up—end-to-end encryption. The HTTPS standard treats everything in between the website itself and the device you’re viewing it on as potentially hostile. It keeps those potential hostiles from seeing or altering what you’re doing. So while your router (or any other device in the middle) might be able to tell—or at least effectively guess—what website you’re visiting, it has no idea what you’re actually doing there.

That means filtering based on the actual content you’re looking at isn’t possible, and family filtering is a semi-blind guessing game. Many companies and devices claim to do it, but Circle is the first one I’ve seen that does it even tolerably well.

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Source: Ars Technica – Can Disney’s Circle really deliver a porn-free Internet?

Watch this paper doll do sit-ups thanks to new kind of “artificial muscle”

A new twist on a special kind of polymer is what enables this paper doll to do calisthenics.

A new twist on lightweight organic materials shows promise for artificial-muscle applications. Chinese scientists spiked a crystalline organic material with a polymer to make it more flexible. They reported their findings in a new paper in ACS Central Science, demonstrating proof of concept by using their material to make an aluminum foil paper doll do sit-ups.

There’s a lot of active research on developing better artificial muscles—manmade materials, actuators, or similar devices that mimic the contraction, expansion, and rotation (torque) characteristic of the movement of natural muscle. And small wonder, since they could be useful in a dizzying range of potential applications: robots, prosthetic limbs, powered exoskeletons, toys, wearable electronics, haptic interfaces, vehicles, and miniature medical devices, to name just a few. Most artificial muscles are designed to respond to electric fields, (such as electroactive polymers), changes in temperature (such as shape-memory alloys and fishing line), and changes in air pressure via pneumatics.

Yet artificial muscles typically weigh more than scientists would like and don’t respond as quickly as needed for key applications. So scientists are keen to develop new types of artificial muscle that are lightweight and highly responsive. Just this past week, Science featured three papers from different research groups (at MIT, University of Texas at Dallas, and University of Bordeaux) describing three artificial-muscle technologies based on tiny twisted fibers that can store and release energy.

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Source: Ars Technica – Watch this paper doll do sit-ups thanks to new kind of “artificial muscle”

Game of Thrones Goes on a Victory Lap—and an Apology Tour

You know nothing, Jon Snow—like, maybe wear a hat when conditions are freezing in the North. Even if it musses up your luscious locks.

Enlarge / You know nothing, Jon Snow—like, maybe wear a hat when conditions are freezing in the North. Even if it musses up your luscious locks. (credit: HBO)

Hey. So, um, remember the end of Game of Thrones? If you were a fan of the show, you probably do. And there’s a good chance it still stings. Daenerys Targaryen turned into a totalitarian dictator (if that can, indeed, be a thing). Then she died. Then Bran Stark—of all people!—was picked to rule Westeros. His sister Sansa became Queen in the North. And those are just the major plot points, the top of the crap-heap. It was, well, not beloved.

And the people who made that final season know it. To be clear, they don’t entirely agree with the criticisms of the HBO show, they just know there was some blowback. A murderer’s row of fan favorites from Game of Thrones—Isaac Hempstead Wright (Bran Stark), Conleth Hill (Varys), John Bradley (Samwell Tarly), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Jacob Anderson (Greyworm), Liam Cunningham (Davos), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister)—showed up at Comic-Con International to both take a victory lap and go on a quick apology tour. (Showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, who were originally slated to appear, canceled two days ago.)

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Source: Ars Technica – Game of Thrones Goes on a Victory Lap—and an Apology Tour

Once again, engage: Picard trailer feels like the next Next Generation

All eyes were on San Diego Comic Con’s Star Trek panel this year, as anticipation continues to build for Star Trek: Picard, the first Trek entry to feature Sir Patrick Stewart since the 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis. And on Saturday, the series’ handlers at CBS didn’t disappoint.

A whopping two-minute trailer went well past “teaser” status with a smorgasbord of story, action, and detail for this CBS All-Access exclusive, all clarifying what little we knew from the first teaser in May. Picard’s retirement to a vineyard was further clarified: it came, in part, because “Commander Data sacrificed his life for me.” (This plot point is emphasized in the new trailer by Picard examining Data’s body parts, all spread out and disconnected in a storage facility.)

Roughly two decades after that calamity, however, a mysterious, unnamed woman (Isa Briones) finds Picard on his retirement grounds and pleads with him: “Everything inside of me says that I’m safe with you.” The woman’s shapeshifting powers and athletic prowess are put on display before Picard returns to an apparent Starfleet outpost. That’s where he declares his hunch to an admiral: “If she is who I think she is, she is in serious danger.”

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Source: Ars Technica – Once again, engage: Picard trailer feels like the next Next Generation