Back

Arstechnica

Texas lawmaker wants to ban mobile throttling in disaster areas 2019-02-11 22:38:50

The Texas state flag.

Enlarge / Texas' state flag. (credit: Getty Images | CGinspiration)

A Texas lawmaker is proposing a state law that would prohibit wireless carriers from throttling mobile Internet service in disaster areas.

Bobby Guerra, a Democratic member of the Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives, filed the bill last week. "A mobile Internet service provider may not impair or degrade lawful mobile Internet service access in an area subject to a declared state of disaster," the bill says. If passed, it would take effect on September 1, 2019.

The bill, reported by NPR affiliate KUT, appears to be a response to Verizon's throttling of an "unlimited" data plan used by Santa Clara County firefighters during a wildfire response in California last year. But Guerra's bill would prohibit throttling in disaster areas of any customer, not just public safety officials.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


To almost no one’s surprise, Mars One is done 2019-02-11 22:00:32

Hand-drawn schematics of a Martian base.

Enlarge / Mars One had some drawings. But that is about it. (credit: Mars One)

To the surprise of almost no one, Mars One appears to be dead. This project, founded in 2013, said it would raise funds from fees and marketing rights in order to send humans on a one-way mission to settle the Red Planet.

Now, thanks to a user on Reddit, we know that the effort has come to an apparent end. Mars One consists of two entities: the Dutch not-for-profit Mars One Foundation and the publicly traded, Swiss-based Mars One Ventures. A civil court based in Basel, Switzerland, opened bankruptcy proceedings on the latter company in mid-January. Efforts on Monday to contact officials with Mars One were not successful.

To say this site was skeptical of Mars One would be putting it mildly. In May 2013—after more than 30,000 people around the world applied to become "astronauts" for Mars One—Ars' Lee Hutchinson scoffed at the venture, writing an article about some of the technical challenges it would face.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


Anti-vaxxers plan to subvert changes to vaccination laws 2019-02-11 21:30:20

Lawmakers in Oregon and Washington state are scrambling to pass new vaccination laws as a swiftly spreading measles outbreak rages in Washington’s Clark County, a hotbed of anti-vaccine sentiment just north of Portland, Oregon.

New bills aim to eliminate personal and philosophical exemptions for standard life-saving vaccines in schoolchildren—exemptions that have fueled such outbreaks and allowed once-bygone infectious diseases to come roaring back in the United States. But as the lawmakers work to craft their new bills, they may do well to keep a close eye on their counterparts in California, who are now realizing the pitfalls of such laws—and debating how to avoid them.

Since California banned non-medical vaccine waivers three years ago, the number of children with medical exemptions in the state has tripled. The medical exemption rate rose from 0.2 percent to 0.7 percent statewide. While California’s overall vaccination level increased two percent, there are still small pockets where vaccination rates are low. The boom in medical exemptions has left some counties’ vaccinations rates below the threshold necessary to keep diseases, such as measles, from spreading.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


Marvel’s “Offenders” will bring comic baddies, weirdos to 4 new Hulu series 2019-02-11 19:35:04

This single teaser image of characters Dazzler, Tigra, Hit-Monkey, Howard the Duck, and M.O.D.O.K. (L-R) seems to indicate the art style of each upcoming Hulu series, as we didn't immediately recognize these drawings from existing comics issues.

Enlarge / This single teaser image of characters Dazzler, Tigra, Hit-Monkey, Howard the Duck, and M.O.D.O.K. (L-R) seems to indicate the art style of each upcoming Hulu series, as we didn't immediately recognize these drawings from existing comics issues. (credit: Marvel)

Marvel Entertainment's shift away from Netflix became clearer on Monday with the announcement of a massive new multi-series initiative, dubbed The Offenders. Announced as part of a Television Critics Association press tour, this collection of four animated series revolves around a few Marvel Universe misfit characters—and it will land exclusively on Hulu.

That streaming-service destination makes some sense, as Marvel Entertainment is already two seasons into its Runaways series as a Hulu exclusive. But the news also emerges days after Marvel's corporate parent Disney talked up sweeping content plans for its own upcoming video-streaming service, Disney Plus.

Marvel didn't clarify exactly why Hulu was chosen, though the four series' combination of lesser heroes and boundary-pushing writers could have made Hulu a better fit than a family-friendlier Disney service. (Maybe the corporate lords of Disney didn't like the idea of kids clicking on a cartoon duck with no pants, only to wind up very, very surprised by what they got.) The series has yet to have any announced release dates or voice actors, but they are as follows, with their respective writers listed:

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


SpaceX seeks FCC OK for 1 million satellite broadband Earth stations 2019-02-11 19:10:10

An illustration of the Earth, with lines circling the globe to represent a telecommunications network.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Olena_T)

SpaceX is seeking US approval to deploy up to 1 million Earth stations to receive transmissions from its planned satellite broadband constellation.

The Federal Communications Commission last year gave SpaceX permission to deploy 11,943 low-Earth orbit satellites for the planned Starlink system. A new application from SpaceX Services, a sister company, asks the FCC for "a blanket license authorizing operation of up to 1,000,000 Earth stations that end-user customers will utilize to communicate with SpaceX's NGSO [non-geostationary orbit] constellation."

The application was published by FCC.report, a third-party site that tracks FCC filings. GeekWire reported the news on Friday. An FCC spokesperson confirmed to Ars today that SpaceX filed the application on February 1, 2019.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


Augmented Reality Google Maps is coming, starts testing in private 2019-02-11 19:00:22

If you remember, in May 2018, Google showed off an augmented reality version of Google Maps during the Google I/O 2018 keynote. The feature was only described as a "what if" experiment and "How [augmented reality] could look in Google Maps"—it wasn't given a firm release date. Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal got to try a real working version of this concept, and, while there still isn't a release date, it sounds like Augmented Reality Google Maps is moving from "What if?" to an actual product.

The Journal was given a Google Pixel 3 XL with an "alpha" version of Google Maps to test. Just like what was shown at Google I/O, the new feature augmented the 2D, GPS-and-compass-powered map system with a 3D, augmented reality camera overlay and a camera-based positioning system. Basically, you hold your phone up, and it displays a camera feed with directions overlaid over it.

The feature seemed aimed at solving a lot of pain points that pop up when using Google Maps in a big city. The densely packed points-of-interest means GPS isn't really accurate enough for getting around, especially when you consider GPS doesn't work well indoors, or underground, or when you're surrounded by tall buildings, and it can take several minutes to reach full accuracy when stepping outside. Smartphone compasses are also, generally, terrible when you are standing still and need to figure out which direction to start walking.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


Following lawsuit, Activision starts refund program for Guitar Hero Live 2019-02-11 18:30:33

You could get paid for your now-crippled version of <em>Guitar Hero Live</em>.

Enlarge / You could get paid for your now-crippled version of Guitar Hero Live.

American players who purchased Guitar Hero Live recently may be eligible for a refund being offered by Activision. The move comes after a lawsuit over the December shutdown of the game's streaming "Guitar Hero Live" mode, which included more than 90 percent of the game's available song library.

Activision's support page was updated recently to announce what it is calling a "voluntary refund program" for anyone who purchased Guitar Hero Live between December 1, 2017 and January 1, 2019. Those players have until May 1 to fill out a claim form and submit proof of purchase (a receipt or credit card statement) for a refund up to the purchase price.

Activision announced last June that it would be shutting down the Guitar Hero TV servers in December, more than three years after the game's late 2015 launch. That move cut off in-game access to more than 480 in-game songs that were only playable via live streaming channels or microtransaction rentals through the server. Console versions of the game still have access to 42 songs included on the game disc, but the iOS and Apple TV versions of the game are now completely unplayable.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


After glitch grants access, Bethesda says locked Fallout 76 vault will open 2019-02-11 17:25:29

You can't legitimately access this <em>Fallout 76</em> vault yet, but you can take a peek inside.

Enlarge / You can't legitimately access this Fallout 76 vault yet, but you can take a peek inside. (credit: McStaken / Reddit)

Bethesda has confirmed that a locked vault in Fallout 76 will eventually open, but the admission came only after a player was briefly trapped in the locked area due to an in-game glitch.

The saga started this weekend when Reddit user McStaken posted pictures from inside the mysterious vault, which appears on the Fallout 76 map but can't be entered through normal gameplay. McStaken said he "didn't intend to end up" in the vault and entered accidentally while participating in another event.

That makes their situation different from previous players who have been able to force their way into Vault 63 and other locked in-game locations using a Power Armor glitch. Once inside, these players found a spacious, partially furnished vault, complete with overseer's office, wrecked kitchen, and even a terminal reading "Nice Work Assholes" (a possible hidden message for potential hackers?).

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


Shipwreck reveals ancient market for knock-off consumer goods 2019-02-11 17:20:25

Photo of portable x-ray fluorescence detector

Enlarge / Archaeologists use a portable X-ray fluorescence detector to analyze 900-year-old artifacts. (credit: Xu et al. 2019)

Sometime in the late 12th century CE, a merchant ship laden with trade goods sank off the coast of Java. The 100,000 ceramic vessels, 200 tons of iron, and smaller amounts of ivory, resin, and tin ingots offer a narrow window onto a much broader world of global trade and political change. The merchant vessel that sank in the Java Sea was the pointy tip of a very long spear, and a new study sheds some light on the trade networks and manufacturing industry hidden behind its cargo—all thanks to a little help from a cool X-ray gun.

Sailing ancient trade routes

There was a network of trade routes that crisscrossed the Indian Ocean and South China Sea by the late 12th century, linking Song Dynasty China to far-flung ports in Japan and Southeast Asia to the east, Indonesia to the south, and the Middle East and eastern Africa to the west. Merchant ships carried crops, raw materials like metals and resin, and manufactured goods like ceramics along these routes. Today, ceramics are a common sight in shipwrecks in these waters, partly because the material outlasts most other things on the seafloor, and partly because of the sheer volumes that could be packed into the holds of merchant ships from around 800 CE to 1300 CE.

Archaeologists have found Chinese ceramics at sites stretching from Japan to the east coast of Africa. And excavations in Southeast China have unearthed several kiln complexes, each with hundreds of dragon kilns—long tunnels dug into hillsides, which could fire up to 30,000 ceramic pieces at a time—clustered into a few square kilometers. All that production was aimed at exporting ceramic bowls, boxes, and other containers to overseas markets. “Most ceramics from this region are seldom recovered from domestic settings in China and are almost exclusively found along the maritime trading routes,” Field Museum archaeologist Lisa Niziolek, a co-author on the study, told Ars Technica.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


Driverless delivery startup Nuro raises almost $1 billion 2019-02-11 16:17:50

Nuro Founders Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu.

Enlarge / Nuro Founders Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu. (credit: Nuro/Greylock)

The autonomous delivery startup Nuro has raised $940 million from The Softbank Vision Fund, making it one of the most lavishly funded startups in the driverless car sector. The news comes after Nuro became one of the first startups in the world to begin operating a fully driverless commercial service on public roads.

Under a deal announced last year, a Kroger-owned Fry's Foods store in the Phoenix area is using Nuro's technology to deliver groceries to nearby customers. Initially, the deliveries were conducted by modified Toyota Priuses. But in December, Nuro added two custom-designed robots to its fleet. These robots are smaller than a conventional car and are fully driverless—they don't even have space inside for a human driver to sit.

"Our goal this year is to really scale to an entire city worth of operation," CEO Dave Ferguson told Ars last week.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


NASA has taken a significant step toward human landings on the Moon 2019-02-11 15:18:35

  • NASA has new plans for how it will land humans on the Moon. [credit: NASA ]

For two years, the Trump administration has made various noises about returning humans to the Moon. There have been bill signings with Apollo astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin and Harrison Schmitt. Vice President Mike Pence has traveled to NASA facilities around the country to make speeches. And the president himself has mused about the Moon and Mars.

However, beyond talk of returning humans to the Moon, much of the country's civil space policy and budgeting priorities really hadn't changed much until late last week. On Thursday, NASA released a broad agency announcement asking the US aerospace industry for its help to develop large landers that, as early as 2028, would carry astronauts to the surface of the Moon.

The new documents contain a trove of details about how the agency expects to send people back to the Moon with what it calls a "Human Landing System." This activity, the documents state, "will once again establish US preeminence around and on the Moon. NASA is planning to develop a series of progressively more complex missions to the lunar surface, utilizing commercial participation to enhance US leadership."

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


Firefly returns from the dead—with a larger rocket and lunar aspirations 2019-02-11 13:45:53

Testing a turbopump as the sun sets in Central Texas.

Enlarge / Testing a turbopump as the sun sets in Central Texas. (credit: Firefly)

CEDAR PARK, Texas—Some four centuries ago, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire wearied of his bothersome neighbors in Eastern Europe. So Mehmed the Hunter, an Islamic holy warrior who reigned for four decades, wrote to the piratical Cossacks living in what is modern Ukraine and demanded their surrender. The cretins must bow to the cultured.

Today, a large painting that dominates one wall of Tom Markusic's office depicts the Cossack response to Mehmed. On the canvas, a dozen rough-looking, hard-drinking men have gathered around around a scribe, pointing, smoking, and laughing uproariously. The scribe is writing a ribald, disparaging response. It is a copy of the famed Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire painting, which hangs in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Markusic glances at the painting and explains, "Basically, they're saying, 'Don't worry about coming to get us—we're coming to get you.'"

Read 49 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more


Bay Area: Join us 2/13 to discuss a new hope for tech activism 2019-02-11 13:16:57

Leigh Honeywell is the founder of Tall Poppy and an activist. She's worked on security and privacy with major tech companies as well as the ACLU.

Enlarge / Leigh Honeywell is the founder of Tall Poppy and an activist. She's worked on security and privacy with major tech companies as well as the ACLU. (credit: Leigh Honeywell)

Over the past couple of years, we've seen a huge upsurge in activism within the technology community. From the walkouts at Google to labor organizing at Amazon, tech workers are starting to see a connection between their work and social issues. Engineer and entrepreneur Leigh Honeywell has been at the forefront of tech activism for many years, and at this month's Ars Technica Live on Wednesday, February 13, we'll be talking to her about activism in today's world and the politics of a life lived online.

Honeywell founded two hackerspaces (HackLabTO in Toronto, and the Seattle Attic Community Workshop in Seattle), created the widely circulated the Never Again pledge, and now heads Tall Poppy, where she helps companies protect their employees from online harassment. The thread that runs throughout her work is the use of technology to create greater privacy and safety for people online. She'll discuss the growing resistance to the practices of corporations that profile users, or sell their users' data, along with the rise of services that protect people from digital harassment.

Honeywell was previously a Technology Fellow at the ACLU’s Project on Speech, Privacy, and Technology, and also worked at Slack, Salesforce, Microsoft, and Symantec. Leigh has a Bachelors of Science from the University of Toronto where she majored in Computer Science and Equity Studies.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Read more