Today’s best deals: Amazon Fire HD tablets, Google Pixel 6 phones, and more

Today’s best deals: Amazon Fire HD tablets, Google Pixel 6 phones, and more

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time for another Dealmaster. Our latest roundup of the best tech deals from around the web includes another round of discounts on Amazon’s Fire HD tablets, with both the 10.1-inch Fire HD 10 and the 8-inch Fire HD 8 on sale for $100 and $50, respectively. While neither deal marks an all-time low—these two slates were available for $75 and $45 during Amazon’s latest Prime Day sale, for instance—they’re still a good ways below the usual street prices we’ve seen.

In general, the song remains the same with Amazon’s tablet offerings: they can’t touch any iPad when it comes to build quality, app support, or future-proofed performance, and they’re all pretty aggressive about steering their users toward Amazon content and services. But if you can live with that and just need a tablet on the cheap, they still have their uses.

The Fire HD 10 in particular offers good value at this deal price, with a serviceable 1080p display and enough in the performance and battery life departments to make casual video watching, ebook reading, and web browsing not too frustrating. The Fire HD 8 is a drop-off across the board, but at $50, it’s inexpensive enough to be justifiable if price is all that matters. Both models here come with lock-screen ads and 32GB of storage, though you can remove the former for an extra $15 and upgrade the latter with a microSD card if needed.

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Source: Ars Technica – Today’s best deals: Amazon Fire HD tablets, Google Pixel 6 phones, and more

Linking to news doesn’t make Google liable for defamation, Australia court rules

At Google headquarters, the company's logo is seen on the glass exterior of a building.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Justin Sullivan )

Google cannot be held liable for defamation simply for providing hyperlinks to other webpages, Australia’s highest court ruled today. By itself, providing a URL is not “participation in the communication of defamatory matter which happens to be at that address… In reality, a hyperlink is merely a tool which enables a person to navigate to another webpage,” the High Court of Australia ruling said.

The case relates to a Google search result that linked to a 2004 article published by The Age with the title, “Underworld loses valued friend at court.” The article described Melbourne-based lawyer George Defteros, who was charged with conspiracy to murder and incitement to murder the day before it was published. The charge was withdrawn in 2005.

Defteros sued Google after becoming aware that a Google search of his name produced a link to the article and a snippet. Google refused to remove the article from search results despite a request from Defteros in 2016.

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Source: Ars Technica – Linking to news doesn’t make Google liable for defamation, Australia court rules

Review: We Are OFK is stylish, subversive TV disguised as an indie game

The stylish leads of <em>We Are OFK</em>—and yes, that includes the cartoony cat, though I'll leave its involvement in the series vague for now.

Enlarge / The stylish leads of We Are OFK—and yes, that includes the cartoony cat, though I’ll leave its involvement in the series vague for now. (credit: Team OFK)

Imagine versions of The Monkees TV series or Beatles films like Hard Day’s Night for the modern era. What might those look like? I don’t just mean aesthetically—even though any “songs within the show” would certainly differ from the jangly ’60s likes of “Daydream Believer.” What kind of story would it tell? Where would the series air? How would it be presented?

I returned to this thought often while enjoying this week’s We Are OFK, which is as close to an answer to my question as I’ve seen in a modern, hyper-connected era. This format-blurring experience may be marketed as a video game, out Thursday on PlayStation consoles, Switch, and PC, but it’s somewhere between an interactive experience, a passive TV series, and a visual novel. And its production values and brave storytelling choices benefit wildly from this platform-agnostic approach.

A “video game” that leaves exes on read

The six-hour experience, broken up into five “episodes,” follows four restless and disaffected Los Angelenos in a fictional, slightly modified version of our own world. Certain brand names are changed (Twitter is now “Twibber,” Tinder is “Phoenix,” etc.), but its characters otherwise order ride-share cars, leave messages on read, and doomscroll like modern-day twenty-somethings. Each of the four lead characters came to LA to escape their old lives—an issue each reckons with in different ways—and, at the outset of this series’ episodes, find themselves drawn to each other as a “band” while chasing their own respective artistic and romantic dreams.

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Source: Ars Technica – Review: We Are OFK is stylish, subversive TV disguised as an indie game

New macOS 12.5.1 and iOS 15.6.1 updates patch “actively exploited” vulnerabilities

Psychedelic illustration of two hills.

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

Apple has released a trio of operating system updates to patch security vulnerabilities that it says “may have been actively exploited.” The macOS 12.5.1, iOS 15.6.1, and iPadOS 15.6.1 updates are available for download now and should be installed as soon as possible.

The three updates all fix the same pair of bugs. One, labeled CVE-2022-32894, is a kernel vulnerability that can allow apps “to execute arbitrary code with kernel privileges. The other, CVE-2022-32893, is a WebKit bug that allows for arbitrary code execution via “maliciously crafted web content.” Both discoveries are attributed to an anonymous security researcher. WebKit is used in the Safari browser as well as in apps like Mail that use Apple’s WebViews to render and display content.

Apple didn’t release equivalent security patches for macOS Catalina or Big Sur, two older versions of macOS that are still receiving regular security updates. We’ve contacted Apple to see whether it plans to release these patches for these older OSes, or if they aren’t affected by the bugs and don’t need to be patched.

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Source: Ars Technica – New macOS 12.5.1 and iOS 15.6.1 updates patch “actively exploited” vulnerabilities

First official teaser for Wednesday is deliciously “Burtonesque”

Tim Burton directed Netflix’s new eight-episode original series, Wednesday.

Netflix has dropped the first official teaser for Wednesday on the heels of yesterday’s exclusive first-look images for the Tim Burton-directed series in Vanity Fair. All in all, it looks deliciously Burtonesque, and we’re keen to give it a chance.

As I’ve written previously, American cartoonist Charles Addams created the characters in 1938, originally as a series of single-panel cartoons published in The New Yorker. They were his satirical sendup of American “family values,” turning the entire social framework upside-down. The characters proved so popular that ABC created a 1964 live-action sitcom, The Addams Family, based on them. (Not everyone was pleased by the development. William Shawn was editor of The New Yorker at the time, and his refined sensibilities were allegedly so offended by the TV series that he actually banned Addams Family cartoons from the magazine; the characters didn’t return to its pages until he retired in 1987.)

Animated versions of the family have appeared regularly in film and TV since the 1970s, and Fox unsuccessfully attempted to revive the original TV series in 1998 with The New Addams Family. But it was two live-action feature films in 1991 and 1993, respectively, that defined their canonical representation in popular culture: The Addams Family and Addams Family Values.

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Source: Ars Technica – First official teaser for Wednesday is deliciously “Burtonesque”

CDC to restructure after COVID failure, “confusing and overwhelming” guidance

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Source: Ars Technica – CDC to restructure after COVID failure, “confusing and overwhelming” guidance

Google might give the Pixel tablet a 64-bit-only build of Android

An official picture of the Pixel tablet, due out early next year.

Enlarge / An official picture of the Pixel tablet, due out early next year. (credit: Google)

Android 13 hit AOSP the other day, and included in the code source dump is an interesting commit spotted by Esper’s Mishaal Rahman. It sounds like Google is planning to—or at least experimenting with—moving the upcoming Pixel tablet to a 64-bit-only build of Android. The commit doesn’t beat around the bush, saying: “Move tangor to 64-bit only.” “Tangor” is the codename for the already-announced Pixel tablet.

iOS, with its single hardware manufacturer, has been 64-bit only since 2017. Android has a million moving parts split across a bunch of different companies, so getting to 64-bit only is going to be a long road. Getting there is worth the effort, though, with a promise of increased performance and additional security features.

The Google Play app ecosystem is probably furthest along in supporting 64 bit. Any apps written entirely in Java or Kotlin already get automatic 64-bit compatibility from the system. Google mandated that Google Play apps using native code (usually these are games) needed to provide 64-bit versions back in 2019. There were exceptions for a few popular SDKs like Adobe Air and Unity, but these exceptions were ended in August 2021, when all apps were required to have 64-bit versions.

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Source: Ars Technica – Google might give the Pixel tablet a 64-bit-only build of Android

AMD will announce Ryzen 7000 CPUs August 29. Here’s everything we know about them

AMD's Ryzen 7000 chips will be unveiled in late August.

Enlarge / AMD’s Ryzen 7000 chips will be unveiled in late August. (credit: AMD)

The final phase of AMD’s Ryzen 7000 CPU rollout is approaching, nearly nine months after initially teasing them at CES. The company will livestream their formal unveiling at 7 pm Eastern on Monday, August 29, alongside more details about the AM5 processor socket and 600-series chipsets. Expect to hear more specific news about performance, plus pricing and availability, for the first of what will presumably be many Zen 4-based processors.

AMD has been releasing a steady drip of details about the new CPUs since January, and various leaks and rumors have filled in some of our other knowledge gaps. Let’s briefly summarize what we know (and what we think we know).

Faster CPUs, same number of cores

Compared to the nearly 2-year-old Ryzen 5000 processors and the Zen 3 architecture, AMD says that we can expect at least a 15 percent improvement in single-threaded performance, thanks to both clock speed increases and an 8-10 percent increase in instructions-per-clock (IPC). The company also promises performance-per-watt improvements, in part thanks to a new 5 nm manufacturing process (Zen 3 CPUs are 7 nm parts).

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Source: Ars Technica – AMD will announce Ryzen 7000 CPUs August 29. Here’s everything we know about them

No more deadly ragers at Airbnb rentals—or so the company hopes

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Source: Ars Technica – No more deadly ragers at Airbnb rentals—or so the company hopes

iOS VPNs have leaked traffic for more than 2 years, researcher claims

iOS VPNs have leaked traffic for more than 2 years, researcher claims

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

A security researcher says that Apple’s iOS devices don’t fully route all network traffic through VPNs, a potential security issue the device maker has known about for years.

Michael Horowitz, a longtime computer security blogger and researcher, puts it plainly—if contentiously—in a continually updated blog post. “VPNs on iOS are broken,” he says.

Any third-party VPN seems to work at first, giving the device a new IP address, DNS servers, and a tunnel for new traffic, Horowitz writes. But sessions and connections established before a VPN is activated do not terminate and, in Horowitz’s findings with advanced router logging, can still send data outside the VPN tunnel while it’s active.

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Source: Ars Technica – iOS VPNs have leaked traffic for more than 2 years, researcher claims

US chipmakers hit by sudden downturn after pandemic boom

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Source: Ars Technica – US chipmakers hit by sudden downturn after pandemic boom

Rimac Nevera first drive: An entirely new level of hypercar performance

A white Rimac Nevera with the sun bursting over a mountain in the background

Enlarge / Rimac Automobili brought the Nevera over to the US, allowing us to try out the car on familiar California roads. (credit: Rimac)

The performance benefits of electric powertrains are now well understood. Thanks to near-instantaneous torque delivery and continuous advances in everything from software to motor design, cars like the Tesla Model S Plaid have rewritten the production car hierarchy when it comes to acceleration.

Yet many traditionalists have been slow to come around on electric vehicles, complaining that the driving experience is too clinical and performance is too circumstantial. They say that EVs lack emotion. Well, the Rimac Nevera is about to change all of that.

Rimac may not be a household name today, but over the past decade, the Croatian startup has been hard at work quietly establishing itself as a key player in high-performance EV development. What began in 2010 with a handful of employees in a converted warehouse has expanded into a 1,700-employee operation with a 200,000 m² campus in Kerestinec, Croatia. The site, which is currently under construction, will house the company’s research and development centers and production facilities when it opens in 2023. The company’s rapid growth has been aided by its various EV development projects for automakers like Porsche, Hyundai, Aston Martin, Pininfarina, and Koenigsegg, leading Rimac to split the company into two distinct entities (Rimac Automobili and Rimac Technology) last year. (Rimac Group also now owns Bugatti, with Porsche.)

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Source: Ars Technica – Rimac Nevera first drive: An entirely new level of hypercar performance

Rocket Lab will self-fund a mission to search for life in the clouds of Venus

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Source: Ars Technica – Rocket Lab will self-fund a mission to search for life in the clouds of Venus

Solving the rock-hard problem of nuclear waste disposal

A tunnel in Finland’s nuclear waste repository.

Enlarge / A tunnel in Finland’s nuclear waste repository. (credit: Posiva)

Even if all nuclear power plants were shut down today, there’s a mountain of radioactive waste waiting to be disposed of. Yet only Finland has an approved solution for nuclear waste disposal, while projects in the US, UK, and Germany have failed for decades, and progress is also slow in other countries. With growing calls to extend the life of existing nuclear power stations and build new ones, that mountain of radioactive waste sitting in temporary, vulnerable, and expensive storage will keep growing.

The challenge is daunting. “High-level” nuclear waste, which includes spent nuclear fuel, stays radioactive for hundreds of millennia, so a waste facility must keep it safely away from aquifers, violent weather, war, plane crashes, sea level rise, future ice sheets, volcanic activity, and even curious future humans for a time span that dwarfs all of previous human history.

Ultimately, it’s the geology of a proposed disposal site that determines if it’s a safe place to entrust nuclear waste for millennia. We talked to people involved in the Finnish, US, and UK programs about what investigations of the rock and groundwater at those sites revealed about their suitability—or lack thereof.

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Source: Ars Technica – Solving the rock-hard problem of nuclear waste disposal

Anti-vaccine activists giddily celebrate as poliovirus spreads in NY

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., heads up to a meeting at Trump Tower on January 10, 2017 in New York City.

Enlarge / Robert F. Kennedy Jr., heads up to a meeting at Trump Tower on January 10, 2017 in New York City. (credit: Spencer Platt | Getty Images)

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to ramp up efforts to halt the spread of poliovirus in New York, anti-vaccine activists are celebrating dips in childhood vaccination rates, calling them a “COVID silver lining.”

On Tuesday, the CDC published new details on the case of paralytic polio in New York’s Rockland county that was first announced in mid-July. The case, which occurred in an unvaccinated, immune-competent young adult male, began in June. Among the report’s revelations is that the infection left the man with ongoing flaccid weakness in both legs.

As of August 10, officials had tested 260 wastewater samples in Rockland and nearby Orange county. Twenty-one of those 260 samples—8 percent—tested positive, with positive detections spanning samples collected in May, June, and July, the report notes. Separately, New York officials announced last Friday, August 12, that sewage samples in New York City had also tested positive.

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Source: Ars Technica – Anti-vaccine activists giddily celebrate as poliovirus spreads in NY

Chrome “Feed” is tantalizing, but it’s not the return of Google Reader

Digging into bleeding-edge Chrome code has made some bloggers hopeful, but Google has been focused on its own feeds for a while now.

Enlarge / Digging into bleeding-edge Chrome code has made some bloggers hopeful, but Google has been focused on its own feeds for a while now. (credit: Getty Images)

Does Google enjoy teasing and sometimes outright torturing some of its products’ most devoted fans? It can seem that way.

Tucked away inside a recent bleeding-edge Chrome build is a “Following feed” that has some bloggers dreaming of the return of Google Reader. It’s unlikely, but never say never when it comes to Google product decisions.

Chrome added a sidebar for browsing bookmarks and Reading List articles back in March. Over the weekend, the Chrome Story blog noticed a new flag in Gerrit, the unstable testing build of Chrome’s open source counterpart Chromium. Enabling that flag (now also available in Chrome’s testing build, Canary) adds another option to the sidebar: Feed.

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Source: Ars Technica – Chrome “Feed” is tantalizing, but it’s not the return of Google Reader

When context is key: “Hunger stones” go viral, but news first broke in 2018

A hunger stone in the Elbe River in Děčín, Czech Republic. The oldest readable carving is from 1616, with older carvings (1417 and 1473) having been wiped out by anchoring ships over the years.

Enlarge / A hunger stone in the Elbe River in Děčín, Czech Republic. The oldest readable carving is from 1616, with older carvings (1417 and 1473) having been wiped out by anchoring ships over the years. (credit: Dr. Bernd Gross/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Stories have been circling around the Internet this past week about the re-emergence in certain Czech and German rivers of so-called “hunger stones“—rocks embedded in rivers during droughts to mark the water level and warn future generations of the likely famine and hardship to come whenever the stones became visible again. The coverage has been fueled largely by an August 11 tweet noting one stone in particular, inscribed with a dire warning: “If you see me, weep.”

Hunger stones (hungerstein) are very much a real thing with a long and fascinating history. And Europe is in the midst of a historically severe drought—severe enough that water levels may indeed be sufficiently low for the stones to re-emerge once more. But that August 11 tweet and the related coverage are actually rehashing a series of news stories from 2018, when the re-emergence of the hunger stones in the midst of that year’s extreme drought in Europe made headlines.

It’s hardly an egregious case of misinformation, but it does provide an illustrative example of why including context is so important in the digital age—even in a relatively simple tweet enthusing about newly acquired knowledge.

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Source: Ars Technica – When context is key: “Hunger stones” go viral, but news first broke in 2018

Sweeping report alleges inequity, sexual harassment at Nintendo’s American HQ

Sweeping report alleges inequity, sexual harassment at Nintendo’s American HQ

Enlarge (credit: Nintendo)

Through the first half of 2022, Nintendo of America has been in the crosshairs of critics and the US National Labor Relations Board thanks to reports and formal complaints about working conditions for its contracted employees, all brought into the spotlight after a reported layoff allegedly involved pro-union sentiment. In the months since that story broke out publicly, Kotaku reporter Sisi Jiang has tracked down even more allegations about the famed game publisher’s American headquarters—and the allegations land squarely in the domain of sexual harassment and gender inequity.

A sweeping report published at Kotaku on Tuesday recounts roughly one decade of internal incidents among NoA’s pool of temporary employees, dating back to “the early Wii U era,” backed by a number of on-the-record allegations from former Nintendo staffers along with anonymous reports. The report includes attempts to reach out to Nintendo of America’s leadership, an associated temp agency, and individual staffers who were named as workplace sexual harassers, but Kotaku says it never received answers to its questions.

Many of the reported issues revolve around a divide between full-time employees, colloquially known as “red badges,” and the rest of the company’s American workforce, which was managed by temp hiring agency Aerotek before that company was absorbed into another company during a recent reorganization. The women who spoke to Kotaku both on and off the record collectively suggest that their hopes for turning part-time status into a full-time Nintendo career were strained by being women. One anonymous source said, “your chance was probably worse as a girl,” while another who spoke on the record suggested women weren’t given work-related goals or metrics to grow their careers, instead being told to essentially increase “face time” with male colleagues.

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Source: Ars Technica – Sweeping report alleges inequity, sexual harassment at Nintendo’s American HQ

Deadly swatting increasing on Twitch; alarmed streamers press for change

Deadly swatting increasing on Twitch; alarmed streamers press for change

Enlarge (credit: Vesnaandjic | E+)

A lot of scrutiny has been placed on how Twitch handles users’ reports after being targeted by extreme hate campaigns. Last year, the livestreaming service started suing users conducting “hate raids” that rely on bots to spew a continual barrage of hate speech, “targeting black and LGBTQIA+ streamers with racist, homophobic, sexist, and other harassing content.” Now, vulnerable users are hoping that Twitch will use its industry heft to help effect more change and stop some of the deadliest attacks affecting marginalized users on the platform: swatting that has reportedly been increasing since 2015 and now happens multiple times a week.

These swatting attacks are conducted by anonymous persons making prank calls to police, falsely reporting emergency circumstances (like an armed potential mass shooter or hostage situation that doesn’t exist) in order to get SWAT teams to descend, with guns out, on a Twitch streamer’s location. The Washington Post reported this week that these swattings are seemingly intensifying and traumatizing for any Twitch streamers targeted, who are aware that swattings can be deadly. One trans Twitch streamer told the Post that police in London aimed an assault rifle at her face.

Official attempts to prevent swatting

Back in 2017, a Twitch user died after a swatting. The Twitch user who set up the swatting, Casey Viner, was sentenced to 15 months in prison, while the man whom Viner hired to place the prank call, Tyler Barriss, was sentenced to 20 years.

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Source: Ars Technica – Deadly swatting increasing on Twitch; alarmed streamers press for change

Will the Nintendo Switch ever see a price drop?

Will the Nintendo Switch ever see a price drop?

Enlarge (credit: Mark Walton)

In a recent interview with Nikkei Asia, Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa said the company has no plans “at this point” to increase the price of the Switch. Despite “rising production and shipping costs” for the system, Furukawa said Nintendo wants to “avoid pricing people out” of its console ecosystem (a worry apparently not shared by Meta, which recently raised the asking price of its Quest 2 VR headset).

While some are overreading the “at this point” phrasing as suggestive of a future Switch price increase, all this talk has us focused on some different questions. Namely, why haven’t we seen a price drop for the Nintendo Switch in the last five-plus years? And can we ever expect Nintendo to offer the system for less than its launch price?

A historical anomaly

When it comes to consistent console pricing, the Switch is truly in a class by itself. As of this writing, the Switch has been available in North America for over five years—nearly 2,000 days—yet it’s still being sold in the US for the same $299.99 you would have paid when the system launched in March, 2017.

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Source: Ars Technica – Will the Nintendo Switch ever see a price drop?