Category Archives: Technology

NASA’s daring asteroid mission unfurls its sampling arm for the first time

By | November 16, 2018
This image, taken Wednesday, shows the OSIRIS-REx Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism sampling head extended from the spacecraft at the end of the robotic arm.

Enlarge / This image, taken Wednesday, shows the OSIRIS-REx Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism sampling head extended from the spacecraft at the end of the robotic arm. (credit: NASA)

NASA officials confirmed Friday that a test of a key component of the space agency’s mission to sample an asteroid was completed successfully. On Wednesday, for the first time in more than two years, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm and put it through a series of maneuvers to ensure its space-worthiness after being packed away for launch and a long flight to the asteroid Bennu.

The asteroid sampling mission launched in September 2016, and the spacecraft has since been traveling through space to catch up to an asteroid known as Bennu, which has a diameter of about 500 meters. The spacecraft will officially “arrive” at Bennu in about two weeks, on December 3, so mission scientists wanted to make sure the robotic arm was functional after being stowed for so long.

This arm and its sampler head, known as the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism or TAGSAM, is critical to the mission’s goal of retrieving at least 60 grams of material from the surface of Bennu and returning this sample to Earth by 2023. The collection device will act something like a reverse vacuum cleaner.

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Report: Cheaper, disc-free Xbox One option coming next year

By | November 16, 2018
Psht, who needs 'em?

Psht, who needs ’em? (credit: Squirmelia)

Microsoft is planning to release a disc-free version of the Xbox One as early as next spring, according to an unsourced report from author Brad Sams of Thurrott.com (who has been reliable with early Xbox-related information in the past).

The report suggests the disc-free version of the system would not replace the existing Xbox One hardware, and it would instead represent “the lowest possible price for the Xbox One S console.” Sams says that price could come in at $199 “or lower,” a significant reduction from the system’s current $299 starting price (but not as compelling compared to $199 deals for the Xbox One and PS4 planned for Black Friday this year). Buyers will also be able to add a subscription to the Xbox Games Pass program for as little as $1, according to Sams.

For players who already have games on disc, Sams says Microsoft will offer a “disc to digital” program in association with participating publishers. Players will be able to take their discs into participating retailers (including Microsoft Stores) and trade them in for a “digital entitlement” that can be applied to their Xbox Live account.

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Database leak exposes millions of two-factor codes and reset links sent by SMS

By | November 16, 2018
2FA via SMS happens worldwide, all.

Enlarge / 2FA via SMS happens worldwide, all. (credit: Raimond Spekking)

Millions of SMS text messages—many containing one-time passcodes, password reset links, and plaintext passwords—were exposed in an Internet-accessible database that could be read or monitored by anyone who knew where to look, TechCrunch has reported.

The discovery comes after years of rebukes from security practitioners that text messages are a woefully unsuitable medium for transmitting two-factor authentication (2FA) data. Despite those rebukes, SMS-based 2FA continues to be offered by banks such as Bank of America, cellular carriers such as T-Mobile, and a host of other businesses.

The leaky database belonged to Voxox, a service that claims to process billions of calls and text messages monthly. TechCrunch said that Berlin-based researcher Sébastien Kaul used the Shodan search engine for publicly available devices and databases to find the messages. The database stored texts that were sent through a gateway Voxox provided to businesses that wanted an automated way to send data for password resets and other types of account management by SMS. The database provided a portal that showed two-factor codes and resent links being sent in near real-time, making it potentially possible for attackers who accessed the server to obtain data that would help them hijack other people’s accounts.

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The mid-range Google Pixel appears in pictures—complete with headphone jack

By | November 16, 2018

Rozetked

Rumors of a cheaper mid-range smartphone from Google have been circulating for some time, but now it’s looking like the first pictures of this mythical device have popped up online. The Russian site Rozetked—which leaked the Pixel 3 XL earlier this year—has pictures of a device codenamed “Sargo,” which looks like a cheaper version of the Pixel 3.

The phone resembles a smaller Pixel 3, but there appear to be a lot of changes to bring the price down. The body is now plastic instead of glass. The 5.5-inch OLED display has been swapped out for an LCD with a 2220×1080 resolution. Instead of the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 835, this device reportedly has a more modest Snapdragon 670. The baseline 64GB of storage has been downgraded to 32GB. It also looks like the bottom front-facing speaker has been cut, replaced by a bottom-firing speaker. It’s unknown if the earpiece still functions as a second speaker for stereo sound.

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RIP William Goldman, creator of beloved film, The Princess Bride

By | November 16, 2018
Screenwriter William Goldman attends a special screening of <em>Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid</em> at Tribeca Film Festival in April 2009.

Enlarge / Screenwriter William Goldman attends a special screening of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at Tribeca Film Festival in April 2009. (credit: Joe Kohen/WireImages/Getty Images)

Legendary Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman has died at the age of 87 from colon cancer and pneumonia, The New York Times reports. Goldman won two screenwriting Oscars, for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and All the President’s Men (1976). But by far his most beloved (and most widely quoted) film across multiple generations is 1987’s postmodern fairytale, The Princess Bride.

The man once called “the world’s greatest and most famous living screenwriter” by the Guardian actually started out as a novelist, but his early novels got mixed reviews. Discouraged, Goldman agreed to adapt Daniel Keyes’ bestselling 1966 novel Flowers for Algernon into a screenplay. He was fired from the project, and even Goldman himself declared it was a “terrible” screenplay. But he learned from the experience and went on to sell his first original screenplay, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, for a record (at the time) $400,000.

The rest is Hollywood history. His other screenwriting credits include The Stepford Wives (the 1974 original, not the mediocre 2004 remake), A Bridge Too Far (1977), Chaplin (1992), and Misery (1990). Two of his screenplays are adaptations of his own novels: Marathon Man (1976) and The Princess Bride. Goldman was especially fond of the latter novel, first published in 1973. It was 15 years before Director Rob Reiner managed to bring the story to the silver screen after having long been a fan of the book.

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