Back

Arstechnica

GM wants to ditch the manual controls from its test cars in 2019

2018-01-12 19:40:15

Enlarge / Notice anything wrong with this picture? It's a little disconcerting to see the interior of a Bolt EV without the driver controls. (credit: General Motors)

General Motors is getting ready to ditch the driver for good—at least in its newest R&D vehicles. In 2019, Cruise—the self-driving startup acquired a couple of years ago by GM—wants to begin testing the fourth generation of its autonomous vehicle, the Cruise AV. (This is a modified Chevrolet Bolt EV, no relation to the Chevrolet Cruze.)

The company has filed a safety petition with the US Department of Transportation requesting permission to deploy the fourth-generation Cruise AV, which will be completely driverless, without any steering wheel, pedals, or other form of manual controls.

According to The Verge, part of the request has to do with ensuring passenger safety despite the car not conforming to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard regulations. For instance, it lacks a steering wheel, therefore it lacks a steering wheel-mounted airbag. As GM President Dan Amman explained, "[w]hat we can do is put the equivalent of the passenger side airbag on that side as well. So it's to meet the standards but meet them in a way that’s different than what’s exactly prescribed, and that’s what the petition seeks to get approval for.”

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

Windows Fall Creators Update now rolling out to everyone, including businesses

2018-01-12 19:25:56

Enlarge / Oddly, Microsoft's Mixed Reality house has no windows. (credit: Microsoft)

After being out for a little under three months, Microsoft has moved the Fall Creators Update to full availability, signaling that the company believes it to be ready for corporate deployments.

Microsoft rolls out the big Windows semi-annual updates on a staggered basis, making the update available to an ever larger range of users as the company builds a clearer picture of any hardware and software incompatibilities. Once it's satisfied that any of these wrinkles have been ironed out, Microsoft offers the update to every machine that's compatible. With the Fall Creators Update on 100 million machines, Microsoft has decided that the update is ready for its full deployment.

This development process has been refined over the last few years; the 2016 Anniversary Update raised a number of problems, causing Microsoft to be more conservative subsequently. The previous update, the Creators Update, took about four months to reach this same stage. The decision to make the Fall Creators Update, version 1709, widely available in less than three months shows that the company is more confident in this release and its wider deployment.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

Microsoft opens the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update floodgates

2018-01-12 19:25:56

Enlarge / Oddly, Microsoft's Mixed Reality house has no windows. (credit: Microsoft)

After being out for a little under three months, Microsoft has moved the Fall Creators Update to full availability, signaling that the company believes it to be ready for corporate deployments.

Microsoft rolls out the big Windows semi-annual updates on a staggered basis, making the update available to an ever larger range of users as the company builds a clearer picture of any hardware and software incompatibilities. Once it's satisfied that any of these wrinkles have been ironed out, Microsoft offers the update to every machine that's compatible. With the Fall Creators Update on 100 million machines, Microsoft has decided that the update is ready for its full deployment.

This development process has been refined over the last few years; the 2016 Anniversary Update raised a number of problems, causing Microsoft to be more conservative subsequently. The previous update, the Creators Update, took about four months to reach this same stage. The decision to make the Fall Creators Update, version 1709, widely available in less than three months shows that the company is more confident in this release and its wider deployment.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

Games with pornographic ads sneak into the Play Store, get 3 million downloads

2018-01-12 19:17:07

Enlarge / AdultSwine's operation flow. (credit: Check Point Research )

Sixty games were booted off the Play Store after security firm Check Point discovered that they contained pornographic ads and malicious components. Before their removal, the games were downloaded between 3 million and 7 million times, according to the download metrics on the Play Store.

The malware is dubbed "AdultSwine," and according to Check Point Research, it had three main features:

  1. Displaying ads from the Web that are often highly inappropriate and pornographic
  2. Attempting to trick users into installing fake "security apps"
  3. Inducing users to register to premium services at the user’s expense

The 60 listings in the Play Store were generally knockoff games, like "Five Nights Survival Craft." In some cases, the creator simply stole a real IP, as in "Drawing Lessons Angry Birds." Once installed, the app would phone home, sending information about the user's phone and receiving instructions on how to operate. The app could hide its icon, making removal more difficult. Check Point says the malware could display ads from "the main ad providers" or switch to its own ad server, which provided porn ads, scareware ads, and ads that tricked the user into signing up for premium services. AdultSwine not only displayed ads while users played the game that came with the malware; it could also show pop-up ads on top of other apps.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

Netflix, Amazon, and major studios sue maker of “free TV” box

2018-01-12 17:43:48

Enlarge (credit: The Dragon Box)

Netflix, Amazon, and the major film studios have sued the makers of "The Dragon Box," a device that connects to TVs and lets users watch video without a cable TV or streaming service subscription.

Joining Netflix and Amazon as plaintiffs in the suit are Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros. The suit asks for financial damages and an injunction preventing Dragon Media from continuing the alleged copyright infringement.

"Defendants sell illegal access to Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works," the complaint says. (Hat tip to DSLReports.) "Dragon Box uses software to link its customers to infringing content on the Internet. When used as Defendants intend and instruct, Dragon Box gives Defendants' customers access to multiple sources that stream Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works without authorization. These streams are illegal public performances of Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works."

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

Researcher finds another security flaw in Intel management firmware

2018-01-12 17:28:37

Meltdown and Spectre are not the only security problems Intel is facing these days. Today, researchers at F-Secure have revealed another weakness in Intel's management firmware that could allow an attacker with brief physical access to PCs to gain persistent remote access to the system, thanks to weak security in Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT) firmware—remote "out of band" device management technology installed on 100 million systems over the last decade, according to Intel.

Intel had already found other problems with AMT, announcing last May there was a a flaw in some versions of the firmware that could "allow an unprivileged attacker to gain control of the manageability features provided by these products." Then in November of 2017, Intel pushed urgent security patches to PC vendors for additional management firmware vulnerable to such attacks—technologies embedded in most Intel-based PCs shipped since 2015.

But the latest vulnerability—discovered in July of 2017 by F-Secure security consultant Harry Sintonen and revealed by the company today in a blog post—is more of a feature than a bug. Notebook and desktop PCs with Intel AMT can be compromised in moments by someone with physical access to the computer—even bypassing BIOS passwords, Trusted Platform Module personal identification numbers, and Bitlocker disk encryption passwords—by rebooting the computer, entering its BIOS boot menu, and selecting configuration for Intel’s Management Engine BIOS Extension (MEBx).

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

Bungie promises to rebalance Destiny 2’s loot boxes, raids

2018-01-12 17:16:31

Enlarge (credit: Bungie, Inc.)

In its first development roadmap update of 2018, Destiny developer Bungie is promising to rebalance Destiny 2's microtransaction and raids systems to give players more satisfying rewards that are less dependent on luck.

In the lengthy development update posted Thursday evening, Game Director Christopher Barrett admitted up front that, currently, "the scales are tipped too far towards Tess," the owner of the game's much maligned microtransaction-fueled Eververse store. The Eververse was "never intended to be a substitute for end game content and rewards," Barrett writes.

To that end, Barrett says the game will be shifting the item balance so desirable items like Ghosts, Sparrows, and ships can be earned directly as "activity rewards" for in-game actions rather than as random drops from Bright Engrams. Barrett also promises more "direct purchase options" and adjustments that will "allow players to get the items they want more often" without relying on the luck of the draw. These changes should start rolling out February 13.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

Boeing, SpaceX have razor-thin margins to fly crew missions in 2018

2018-01-12 17:09:58

Enlarge / Commercial Crew Astronaut Eric Boe examines hardware during a tour of the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, California. (credit: NASA)

Almost since the beginning of the commercial crew program in 2010, the old and new titans of the aerospace industry have been locked in a race to the launch pad. Boeing, with five decades of aerospace contracts, represented the old guard. SpaceX, founded in 2002, offered a new, leaner way of doing things.

Through the years, as other participants in the commercial crew program fell away, Boeing and SpaceX remained on course to deliver US astronauts into space. It has not been easy for either company or for their sponsor, NASA. The space agency has only ever led the development of four spacecraft that carried humans into orbit, and three of those programs came in the 1960s, with the fourth and final vehicle in the 1970s—the space shuttle.

As both companies sought to climb this steep learning curve, they have missed deadlines. An original deadline of 2015 melted away after some key members of Congress diverted funds for the commercial crew program to other NASA programs, notably the Space Launch System rocket. But in recent years, Congress has fully funded the efforts by Boeing and SpaceX, and they were told that would yield flights in 2017.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

It looks like the Galaxy S9 is getting a variable aperture camera

2018-01-12 16:08:44

Enlarge / The Samsung Galaxy S8+. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

The latest in the never-ending string of Samsung Galaxy S9 leaks has to do with the device's box. Reddit user minhvn shared an image of what appears to be a Galaxy S9 box, and it looks pretty legit to us. With the expectation that the Galaxy S9 will look a lot like the Galaxy S8, the box shows all the specs you would expect: a 5.8-inch 1440p OLED display, an iris scanner, 64GB of memory, 4GB of RAM, and wireless charging.

The main new addition in the spec list is a 12MP rear camera that lists two camera apertures: f/1.5 and f/2.4. This sounds like the Galaxy S9 will ship with the same variable aperture camera that Samsung has already shipped in the W2018 flip phone. In non-ideal lighting conditions, the W2018 uses the f/1.5 aperture to collect as much light as possible, but in brighter lighting, it switches to f/2.4 for a wider depth of field. Samsung's $1,500 ($1,500? $1,500!) flip phone doesn't have a wide distribution, but the gif of this camera working is pretty incredible—just like a DSLR, a set of miniaturized aperture blades open and close with the changing light levels.

Another feature revealed by the spec list is a set of stereo speakers. Again, with the understanding that the Galaxy S9 will look a lot like the Galaxy S8, this most likely means that the earpiece now doubles as a second speaker, and will play along with the usual bottom-firing speaker.

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

After Logan Paul incident, Google Preferred YouTube videos will face further vetting

2018-01-12 15:28:59

Enlarge (credit: NurPhoto/Getty Images)

After punishing one of its fastest-growing creators this week, Google is reportedly planning on scrutinizing YouTube videos that are part of its most lucrative advertising program. According to a Bloomberg report, Google will begin vetting YouTube videos in the Google Preferred ad program, which Google uses to sell advertisements on the most popular YouTube channels at higher rates. In turn, creators with channels in Google Preferred get a better cut of the advertising revenue than those on Google's lower-tier advertising programs.

Google's plan isn't much different from previous plans for policing the majority of videos on YouTube. The company will use the combined forces of its 10,000 human moderators and artificial intelligence software to identify videos posted by the biggest channels that violate YouTube's guidelines and are not suitable for advertisements.

Videos that are part of Google Preferred have always been governed by YouTube's general Community Guidelines and posting rules that define offensive and unacceptable content. But a number of videos posted by popular accounts have fallen through the cracks recently, including Logan Paul's "suicide forest" video.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

The best PCs, gadgets, and wearables of CES 2018

2018-01-12 15:00:19

Enlarge / LG 32UK950. (credit: Samuel Axon)

LAS VEGAS—Each year, electronics companies big and small use the CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas to introduce their upcoming slate of products. The majority of products are niche products for a specific audience or tweaks to previous models. But a select few are exciting.

The following are the gadgets, computing devices, and wearables announced or shown at CES that most impressed the Ars team. Some were selected because they promise to bring fresh ideas to users, while others were selected because they appear at first glance to be impressively engineered and designed for quality.

Unfortunately, some of the world's most innovative tech companies don't make a big showing at CES. Instead, they choose to announce or show their products elsewhere—or they don't make an appearance at all. For that reason, Ars can't claim that this is a comprehensive list of the most promising devices of the year.

Read 39 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

Engineer says he quit Google after order to stop pro-diversity posts

2018-01-12 14:37:57

Enlarge (credit: Jimmy Baikovicius)

A former Google engineer named Cory Altheide says he left the company two years ago after managers pressured him to stop agitating for greater workplace diversity in internal company discussion forums. His memo explaining his departure was published by Gizmodo on Thursday evening.

Altheide is going public in the wake of controversy over the firing of another Google engineer, James Damore. Damore sued Google earlier this week, arguing that Google discriminates against white men. Ideologically speaking, Altheide is Damore's opposite. Where Damore had argued that Google's diversity policies went too far, Altheide argued that Google was doing too little to promote workplace diversity.

Altheide said that his efforts to raise this issue in internal Google discussion forums in 2015 earned him a reprimand from management. He was so frustrated by these interactions that he left the company months later. "I've been bullied by a senior vice president with ten thousand full time employees—arguably the most powerful SVP in the company," Altheide wrote, referring to Google executive Urs Hölzle. "I don't want to work with jerks."

Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more

See the long-lost NES prototype of SimCity

2018-01-12 13:00:23

Frank Cifaldi / VGHF

Gamers of a certain age probably remember that Nintendo worked with Maxis to port a version of the seminal SimCity to the brand new SNES in 1991. What most gamers probably don't realize is that an NES version of the game was developed at the same time and cancelled just before its planned release.

That version of the game was considered lost for decades until two prototype cartridges surfaced in the collecting community last year. One of those prototypes has now been obtained and preserved by the Video Game History Foundation's (VGHF's) Frank Cifaldi, who demonstrated the emulated ROM publicly for the first time at MAGFest last weekend.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more