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Updated: 4 min 28 sec ago

The longstanding NASA-Russian partnership in space may be unraveling

43 min 51 sec ago

Enlarge / Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin is photographed in October, 2018, after the launch failure of a Soyuz-FG rocket. (credit: Alexei Filippov/TASS via Getty Images)

After an American Apollo and Soviet Soyuz spacecraft docked in orbit during the height of the Cold War, in 1975, the two leading space powers gradually worked more and more together on civil space activities. Over time, they forged a successful and, among astronauts and engineers at least, even a comfortable bond. But of late, that bond is fraying, and long-term it may unravel entirely.

The most immediate issue involves Dmitry Rogozin, appointed to lead the Russian space corporation Roscosmos in May 2018. Overtly political, Rogozin shares Vladimir Putin's antipathy toward the West. Following the Crimean crisis in 2014, Rogozin was one of seven Russian officials sanctioned by the Obama administration. In response, he taunted NASA, which relied then (and still does) on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to reach the International Space Station.

"After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline,” Rogozin, then a deputy prime minister of Russia over defense and space, tweeted in Russian at the time.

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Star Trek: Discovery’s second season may boldly go where the first did not

52 min 42 sec ago

Enlarge / Michael Burnham is all of us. (credit: CBS)

In many ways, this season felt very much like a much-needed reset from the previous one. The Klingon war is over, and the Federation is consumed by a new scientific pursuit: mysterious red bursts of light that have appeared across 30,000 light years.

The scene that really drove home the reset was the formal roll call, where our bridge characters say their names—really, directly to the audience.

It’s still baffling that we went an entire season without knowing most of the bridge crew’s names! Yes, we sort of got to know a handful of characters, but there are regular faces that we’ve seen many times on the bridge. If like the other shows, where the bulk of each episode happens in the nerve center of the ship, it would help to know who we’re interacting with.

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Twenty legal battles that stand out across Ars’ 20 years of covering them

2 hours 28 min ago

Enlarge / The US Supreme Court is shown on the day of the investiture ceremony for new Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh on November 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. (credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

The legal system is often a confounding place, where disputes are adjudicated—it’s a world full of jargon that we journalists try to explain as best we can. And over the last two decades, legal cases have remained a fixture on Ars Technica.

We’ve brought you endless news of initial criminal or civil complaints in that time. And in the most important cases, Ars has followed them, blow by blow, through various motions. We sat in every session for the criminal trial of Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht and took a similar approach to the API patents saga of Oracle v. Google, for instance.

Just this week, Ars sat in the courtroom as Defense Distributed and the State of New Jersey argued over legal jurisdiction and matters of free speech intersecting with future technology. It echoes back to our site's legacy of watching the march of technology and innovation directly intersect with an evolving legal system—it has been nearly 20 years since we covered Microsoft’s infamous antitrust battles around the turn of the century. These literally became the subject of CNN decade documentaries since then.

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Rocket Report: Iranian booster failure, SpaceX cuts, Vulcan near final design

2 hours 57 min ago

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (credit: Aurich Lawson/SpaceX)

Welcome to Edition 1.32 of the Rocket Report! As we get deeper into the new year, the launch business is starting to heat up, especially among the smaller rockets. Companies are eyeing launch sites, securing launch contracts, and scrambling on development of their rockets. This is simply going to be a huge year for small-sat launchers, and we're going to do our best to stay on top of everything.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Relativity Space to launch from historic Florida site. The company that aspires to 3D print almost the entirety of its rockets has reached an agreement with the US Air Force to launch from historic facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Relativity Space said Thursday it has a multiyear contract to build and operate its own rocket launch facilities at Launch Complex 16, Ars reported.

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For teens, digital technology is good. Or bad. Or maybe neutral?

3 hours 27 min ago

Enlarge (credit: SimpleTexting.com)

In South Korea, people under the age of 16 can’t play online games between midnight and 6am. The UK Parliament has launched an official inquiry into “the impact of social media and screen use on young people’s health.” Meanwhile in the United States, the Wait Until 8th campaign asks parents to delay giving their children a smartphone until they’re in eighth grade. Worry about kids and technology is rampant—so have smartphones, in fact, destroyed a generation?

A paper published in Nature Human Behaviour this week answers that question, often differently, thousands and thousands of times. Researchers Amy Orben and Andrew Przybylski took three huge datasets and threw every possible meaningful question at them. In part, their analysis is an illustration of how different researchers can get wildly different answers from the same data. But cumulatively, the answers they came up with indicate that tech use correlates with a teeny-tiny dent in adolescent well-being—and that there’s a big problem with big data.

High numbers don’t necessarily mean high quality

Studying small numbers of people, or rats, or trees can be a problem for scientists. Comparisons between small groups of subjects might miss a real finding or luck out and find something that looks like a pattern but is actually just noise. And it’s always tricky to generalize from a small group to a whole population. Sometimes small is the only sort of data that’s available, but some research disciplines have had the recent(-ish) boon of gigantic, rich datasets to work with.

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Google Play malware used phones’ motion sensors to conceal itself

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 21:00

Enlarge (credit: Andri Koolme / Flickr)

Malicious apps hosted in the Google Play market are trying a clever trick to avoid detection—they monitor the motion-sensor input of an infected device before installing a powerful banking trojan to make sure it doesn’t load on emulators researchers use to detect attacks.

The thinking behind the monitoring is that sensors in real end-user devices will record motion as people use them. By contrast, emulators used by security researchers—and possibly Google employees screening apps submitted to Play—are less likely to use sensors. Two Google Play apps recently caught dropping the Anubis banking malware on infected devices would activate the payload only when motion was detected first. Otherwise, the trojan would remain dormant.

Security firm Trend Micro found the motion-activated dropper in two apps—BatterySaverMobi, which had about 5,000 downloads, and Currency Converter, which had an unknown number of downloads. Google removed them once it learned they were malicious.

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Mortal Kombat 11 gameplay as seen by a ‘90s arcade rat

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 18:03

Enlarge / Scorpion has come a long way in Mortal Kombat 11, but he's still a golden ninja with flaming powers, so it works for me.

I was 15 when Mortal Kombat first hit the arcades in 1992. It was a different era then—no social media, no modern Internet to speak of, and we didn't have year-long teaser campaigns for new games. You would just walk into the arcade one day and there was a new cabinet sitting there, maybe back in a corner, like a secret, or maybe in the center of the floor, already gathering a crowd.

Being nostalgic for your teenage years is easy, and I don't want to over-mythologize the arcade of my youth. But there was something special about getting those surprises, and we've lost that. It seems rare now to be hit with the unexpected—dodging spoilers is practically a contact sport. Here was this game like nothing else we'd seen before, and it just appeared.

We were already fighting-game players. Street Fighter II, Fatal Fury, World Heroes—we dropped our quarters into every game we could get our hands on. But Mortal Kombat was different.

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Leaked Android Q build shows off dark mode, improved privacy controls

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 17:12

Ready for a new version of Android? If you remember last year, Android P, the pre-release version of what eventually became Android 9 Pie, dropped in March. So we're probably not that far away from a preview of the next version of Android, which will is expected to be called "Android Q."

The popular news and phone modding site XDA Developers has gotten its hands on a pre-release version of Android Q and has produced an article and video detailing what's inside. Keep in mind: this is a pre-release version of a developer preview, so there are plenty of things that are subject to change. So far though, it looks like Android P's dark mode is extending to more of the system UI, and privacy and permissions controls are getting a big update.

A dark mode, maybe for real this time

It seems like every year Google teases us with a dark mode and every year, once release rolls around, Android still doesn't have a comprehensive dark mode. It started with the Android M Developer Preview, which had a dark mode in the developer preview but not in the final Android 6.0 Marshmallow release. It popped up again in the Android N Developer Preview, only to pull the same disappearing act once release time came. Android 9 Pie finally shipped with a user-selectable "dark" mode, but it didn't change a whole lot. It only changed the Quick Settings, app-drawer background, and a few tiny System UI bits like the volume and power menu. Pie didn't even change the settings to white text on a dark background, despite that change being present on earlier M and N developer previews.

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Woman sues T-Mobile after employees allegedly snoop on racy private video

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 16:39

Enlarge / A T-Mobile logo on the window of a retail store in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

A New Jersey woman has sued T-Mobile in state court last week for sexual harassment, invasion of privacy, and other counts. She claims that, when she went to trade in her iPhone 7 at a store, two male employees rifled through her photos without her consent.

The men allegedly quickly found a private naked video of the woman, referred to in the complaint as "N.E.," and played it for themselves. The woman was mortified.

Ars contacted T-Mobile, which did not respond to our questions.

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Google buys $40 million worth of smartwatch tech from Fossil Group

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 16:25

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Wearables have brought Google and the fashion-focused Fossil Group closer together. Today, Fossil announced it will sell intellectual property related to smartwatch technology to Google in a deal worth $40 million. Upon news of the deal, Fossil Group shares jumped about 8 percent today.

Along with the IP, a section of Fossil's research and development team focused on wearables will join Google. However, the announcement highlights Google and Fossil's "shared investment in the wearable industry," which likely means that this deal will not quell Fossil's wearable efforts entirely. Fossil Group—which includes Diesel, Armani, Skagen, and Michael Kors—has launched smartwatches running Wear OS and hybrid smartwatches across 14 of its brands.

Greg McKelvey, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Digital Officer at Fossil Group, said the following in a statement:

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The Motorola Razr is coming back as a smartphone

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 16:11

Enlarge / The Motorola Razr V3. (credit: Remy Overkempe / Flickr)

Lenovo, the current owner of Motorola Mobility, will release a new version of the iconic Razr cell phone, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal citing sources familiar with the matter.

Like a similar phone announced at Samsung's 2018 developers' conference, the new Razr will feature a foldable screen. A patent filed in May of 2017 describes a clamshell form factor with a flexible screen that folds inward. Also like Samsung's phone, it is expected to cost at least $1,500. Two hundred thousand units will be manufactured, according to The Wall Street Journal's sources.

The new Razr is just the latest in a series of very expensive specialty-phone announcements aimed at consumers who do not intend to upgrade frequently, reflecting the current reality of the smartphone business.

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Oil from humble saltwater plant blended with jet fuel on Etihad Airways flight

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 15:57

Enlarge / Glasswort bush (Salicornia europaea), Chenopodiaceae. (credit: De Agostini/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, an Etihad Airways Boeing 787 in Abu Dhabi embarked on a roughly seven-hour flight to Amsterdam with its tank full of a mixture of jet fuel and biofuel. The biofuel was derived from oil pressed out of Salicornia plants, which require saltwater to grow.

Gulf News reported that a full 50 percent of the jet fuel needed to take the plane to its destination was biofuel, which is an extraordinarily high ratio of biofuel to jet fuel, if this report is correct. Ars contacted Etihad Airways to confirm this number, and we will update the story when we receive a response.

Previous notable flights using biofuel have included a Qantas flight that used a 10-percent blend of mustard seed oil, a Virgin Atlantic flight that used a 5-percent blend of fuel made from industrial waste gas, an Alaska Airlines flight that used a 20-percent blend of fuel made from waste wood from Pacific Northwest timber harvests, and a series of United Airlines flights that used a 30-percent blend of biofuel from various sources.

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Ars community gives more than $20,000 in annual charity drive

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 15:33

Enlarge

A month ago, I asked readers to donate to our 2018 Charity Drive sweepstakes. All told, Ars Technica readers donated $20,210.66 to Child's Play and the EFF through the charity drive. That brings our total donations over 12 years of charity driving over the $300,000 mark! Well done, Arsians!

Thanks to everyone who gave whatever they could. We're still early in the process of selecting and notifying winners of our swag giveaway, so don't fret if you haven't heard if you're a winner yet. In the meantime, enjoy these quick stats from the 2018 drive.

  • 2018 Fundraising total: $20,210.66
    • Total given to Child's Play: $6,739.69
    • Total given to the EFF: $13,470.97
  • Number of individual donations: 305
    • Child's Play donations: 145
    • EFF donations: 160
  • Average donation: $66.26
    • Child's Play average donation: $52.37
    • EFF average donation: $84.19
  • Median donation: $25 (even)
    • Median Child's Play donation: $25
    • Median EFF donation: $37.50 (even)
  • Top single donation: $1,500 (to EFF)
  • Donations of $1,000 or more: 3
  • Donations of $100 or more: 65
  • $1 donations: 3 (every little bit helps!)
  • Total charity donations from Ars Technica drives since 2007 (approximate): $302,925.90
    • 2017: $36,012.37
    • 2016: $38,738.11
    • 2015: $38,861.06
    • 2014: $25,094.31
    • 2013: $23,570.13
    • 2012: $28,713.52
    • 2011: ~$26,000
    • 2010: ~$24,000
    • 2009: ~$17,000
    • 2008: ~$12,000
    • 2007: ~$10,000

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Lawmakers seek harsh penalties against ZTE and Huawei

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 15:20

Enlarge (credit: Getty | SOPA Images )

Washington policymakers sought to ratchet up pressure on Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE on Wednesday. A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced new legislation that would ban exports to companies caught violating US sanctions laws.

It's the latest signs of a growing technological cold war between the United States and China over telecommunications technology. Huawei has allegedly stolen trade secrets from T-Mobile and other US companies. The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Huawei could face criminal charges over the issue.

In a separate case, Canadian officials arrested Meng Wanzhou—Huawei's chief financial officer and daughter of the company's founder—at the behest of the US government over allegations that the company had violated US sanctions laws. ZTE also stands accused of violating those laws.

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Dealmaster: Get a 5-port Anker wall charger with a USB-C PD port for $35

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 15:05

Enlarge (credit: TechBargains)

Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we have another round of deals to share. Today's list is headlined by a deal on Anker's PowerPort I desktop charger, the black model of which is currently down to $35 on Amazon. Typically, it retails in the high $40 or low $50 range.

This particular charger is meant to live on a desktop and charge various devices at once. Most notably, it comes with one USB-C Power Delivery (PD) port that charges at 30 watts. That's not the most powerful USB-C PD we've seen on a charger like this, and it means that the PowerPort is only really suitable to charge thin laptops like Apple's 12-inch MacBook.

But it's strong enough to charge the latest iPhones (with the right cable) and Android handsets at max speed, and it's good for a charger that also includes four 2.4-amp USB-A ports for refilling other devices. The charger gets 60W of power altogether. The PowerPoint is USB-IF certified, too, and Anker is a known, generally trustworthy name in this market. There's no Quick Charge, but if you need USB-C PD power but also want as many secondary ports as you can get, this is a solid price.

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Here’s the action-packed first trailer for John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 14:09

Keanu Reeves is on the run with his trusty canine companion in first trailer for John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum.

Everyone's favorite reluctant assassin is on the run with a $14 million bounty on his head, and few allies, in the action-packed first trailer for John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum.

(Spoilers for first two movies below.)

For those who missed the first two movies in the trilogy, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a legendary hitman (known as "Baba Yaga") who tried to retire when he fell in love and got married. Unfortunately, he's drawn back into the dark underground world by an act of senseless violence after her death. As Wick mourns Helen's passing, Iosef Tarasov, the son of a Russian crime syndicate, breaks in, kicks him unconscious, and steals his classic 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1. On top of all that, Tarasov kills the little dog, Daisy, that Helen gave to John to comfort him. From there, there's really no hope for Iosef. Nothing will stop John Wick from seeking retribution.

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Windows 10 October 2018 Update is at last being pushed automatically

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 13:38

Enlarge / Who doesn't love some new Windows? (credit: Peter Bright / Flickr)

The ill-fated Windows 10 October 2018 Update has hitherto been offered only to those Windows users that manually sought it, either by using the dedicated upgrade and media creation tools or by manually checking for update in Windows Update. Three months after its initial release, Microsoft has at last started pushing it to Windows users automatically.

The update was originally withdrawn because of a data loss bug. A month after the initial release, the bug was fixed and the fixed update was made available. Even this release was limited, with a number of blocks in place due to known incompatibilities. As described above, it was then only offered to those taking certain manual steps to update their machines. One month ago, these blocks were largely removed.

Even with automatic deployment and installation now enabled, the beleaguered update is still rolling out in phases. Initially, it will be offered to spaces where Microsoft is most confident that the update will be trouble-free—machines with configurations already known and tested. As the tap is slowly opened more and the update is made available to a wider range of hardware, the company will use operating system telemetry to detect any lingering incompatibilities with device drivers or unusual software.

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Verizon blames school text provider in dispute over “spam” fee

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 13:12

Enlarge / A Samsung Galaxy Note 8 smartphone is displayed for sale at a Verizon store in Brea, California, on Monday, January 22, 2018. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

After being criticized for charging a new fee that could kill a free texting service for teachers and students, Verizon is trying to deflect blame over the possible shutdown.

However, Verizon has backed down from its original position slightly, and ongoing negotiations could allow the free texting service to continue.

As we reported Monday, the dispute involves Verizon and Remind, which makes a communication service used by teachers and youth sports coaches. Verizon is charging an additional fee, saying the money will be used to fund spam-blocking services.

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Anti-vaccine nonsense spurred NY’s largest outbreak in decades

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 12:23

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Mel Melcon)

Health officials in New York are cautiously optimistic that they have a large measles outbreak under control after tackling the noxious anti-vaccine myths and unfounded fears that fueled the disease’s spread.

Since last fall, New York has tallied 177 confirmed cases of measles, the largest outbreak the state has seen in decades. It began with infected travelers, arriving from parts of Israel and Europe where the highly contagious disease was spreading. In New York, that spread has largely been confined to ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

As measles rippled through those insular religious communities, health officials ran into members who were wary of outsiders as well as those who harbor harmful myths and fears about vaccines. This included the completely false-yet-pernicious belief that the measles vaccine causes autism.

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How running websites has changed in the last two decades (for an Ars IT guru)

Thu, 01/17/2019 - 12:00

The Pit, a BBS door game. In this shot, Lee Hutchinson was attacking these guys. Or, maybe they're attacking him. (credit: Lee Hutchinson)

I was a true nerd growing up in the 1980s—not in the hipster way, but in the 10-pound-issue-of-Computer-Shopper-under-my-arm way (these things were seriously huge). I was thoroughly addicted to BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems) by the time I was 10. Maybe it's no surprise I ended up as a technical director for a science and tech site.

In fact, I'd actually draw a direct line between the job of managing your own BBS (aka SysOping) to managing a modern Web infrastructure. And with everyone around Ars looking back given the site's 20th anniversary, let's make that line a bit clearer. It won't be an exhaustive history of websites, but here's how my own experiences with managing websites have evolved in the past two decades—plus how the tools and thinking have changed over time, too.

LOAD “*”, 8, 1

My first SysOp experience was powered by a Commodore 128 (in 64 mode of course) running Greg Pfountz’s Color 64 software. I sent Greg my check—well, my mom’s check—and received back a single 5.25” floppy diskette along with a hand-bound dotmatrix-printed manual. It was on.

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