Technology

Pornhub branches out into interactive sex toys

Before the sex robots take over, we still have time to get our rocks off with one another (and ourselves). And Pornhub is here to lend a hand, or an interactive sex toy, or three, to be precise. The largest pornography site on the net has been syncin…

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Google hires former Xbox, PlayStation exec Phil Harrison

Phil Harrison followed up almost two decades as an executive for both Sony and Microsoft as an investor in computer and video game companies. But he's moving back to the tech world with a new role as Vice President and GM of Google, Harrison announce…

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The first 512GB microSD card arrives in February

It didn't take long for someone to topple 2017's microSD storage record. The UK's Integral Memory has unveiled what it says it the first shipping 512GB microSD card. So long as your device can handle microSDXC (most Android phones and tablets, as w…

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Analysis shows majority of anti-net neutrality comments came from bots

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with his oversized coffee mug in November 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

WASHINGTON, DC—If Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai actually allowed the weight of public comments on the FCC’s proposed changes to network neutrality regulations to sway (or confirm) his position, he seems to have given more credence to the “opinions” of spam-generating software “bots” than actual citizens, researchers have found.

At the Shmoocon information security conference on Saturday, Leah Figueroa, lead data engineer at the data analytics software company Gravwell, presented a detailed analysis of the public comments submitted to the FCC regarding network neutrality. Applying filters to the over 22 million comments submitted to the FCC, Figueroa and her team attempted to identify which comments were submitted by real US citizens—and which were generated by bulk-uploading bots

At the end of September, Figueroa said, she and her team pulled in all of the submitted comments from the FCC site and applied a series of analytical steps to separate “organic” comments—those most likely to have been submitted by actual human beings—from comments submitted by automated systems (“bots”) using faked personal data.

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Video demonstrates the marvel of CRT displays at 380,000 frames per second

Enlarge (credit: The Slow Mo Guys)

We spend a lot of time reading about the differences between display technologies like LCD and OLED, which, like all display technologies, are built to fool our eyes into seeing things that are only simulated, not real, like colors, or realistic movement. But it helps to see it in action.

A video from YouTube channel The Slow Mo Guys (originally reported on by Motherboard) vividly illustrates how CRT, LCD, and OLED displays work by either zooming in very close or by recording in insane frame rates at ultra slow motion.

You’ll still find enthusiasts who insist that it’s all been downhill since CRT monitors and TVs went sunset for most of the market. While this video doesn’t make much of a case for CRT’s relative quality, it does show that they were engineering marvels for their time.

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Android Oreo now shows WiFi network speeds before you connect

Ever hop on a WiFi hotspot to save mobile data or boost speed, only to find out that it's so slow that you might as well have stayed on cellular access? If you're using Android 8.1 Oreo, that shouldn't be a problem going forward. After several week…

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Trump puts 30% tariff on imported solar cells and modules

Enlarge / Long Island solar farm. (credit: Brookhaven National Lab)

On Monday afternoon, the Trump administration released a fact sheet (PDF) detailing new tariffs on imports, including a tariff schedule for solar cells and modules starting at 30 percent.

The solar tariff determination had been tensely anticipated by the US solar industry, with manufacturers arguing that cheap imports from Asia have harmed their businesses. Solar installers, financiers, and sales people, however, argue that cheap imports have created a bigger boom in employment than manufacturing ever could.

The news is likely a blow to the wider solar industry, although it’s not entirely unexpected. Trump has been vocal about his preference for tariffs and has shown little desire to extend a hand out to the solar industry, which is often seen as a competitor with fossil fuels. When the International Trade Commission (ITC) voted in favor of imposing tariffs on solar imports in September, the trade association Solar Energy Industries of America (SEIA) prepared for the worst.

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Netflix to spotlight up-and-coming comedians with 15-minute specials

Netflix has been streaming comedy specials for a while now. Seinfeld got his first show on the streaming platform last September and released a couple more events starring Patton Oswalt and Dave Chappelle before the New Year. Now, according to Deadli…

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Making tools gives crows a big food boost

Enlarge / A crow gets to work manufacturing a tool. (credit: Jolyon Troscianko)

Tool use among animals isn’t common, but it is spread widely across our evolutionary tree. Critters from sea otters to cephalopods have been observed using tools in the wild. In most of these instances, however, the animal is simply using something that’s found in its environment, rather than crafting a tool specifically for a task. Tool crafting has mostly been seen among primates.

Mostly, but not entirely. One major exception is the New Caledonian crow. To extract food from holes and crevices, these birds use twigs or stems that are found in their environment without modification. In other environments, however, they’ll remove branches from plants and carefully strip parts of the plant to leave behind a hooked stick. The behavior takes over a minute, and the crows will typically carry the tool with them when they explore new sites, and they will sometimes store it for future use.

Understanding how this complex behavior came about in crows requires us to understand the evolutionary advantages that might be had from a good tool. A group of researchers, mostly from the University of St. Andrews, has now done just that: the researchers have quantified how tool manufacture influences food harvesting. The results show that the use of bird-crafted tools can increase food extraction by up to 12 times the rate the crows could achieve by using unmodified sticks.

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Google is building an AI research team in France

Google announced today that it's expanding its AI research efforts, setting up a new research team in France that will work with the country's AI research community on issues ranging from health to the environment. Google says the team's work will be…

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SpaceX gets good news from the Air Force on the Zuma mission

Enlarge / The launch of Zuma was pretty, but the aftermath has been anything but. (credit: SpaceX)

A little more than two weeks have passed since the apparent loss of the highly classified Zuma mission. Since then, SpaceX has publicly and privately stated that its Falcon 9 rocket performed nominally throughout the flight—with both its first and second stages firing as anticipated.

Now, the US Air Force seems to be backing the rocket company up. “Based on the data available, our team did not identify any information that would change SpaceX’s Falcon 9 certification status,” Lieutenant General John Thompson, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, told Bloomberg News. This qualified conclusion came after a preliminary review of data from the Zuma launch. That’s according to Thompson, who said the Air Force will continue to review data from all launches.

However tentative, this statement buttresses the efforts by SpaceX to say that, from its perspective, the mission was a success. The statement also adds to the concerns of Northrop Grumman, which built the Zuma payload and the adapter that connected it to the Falcon 9 rocket. Northrop Grumman was also responsible for separating after the second stage of the Zuma rocket reached space. The aerospace veteran has yet to publicly comment on specifics of the Zuma mission since the launch.

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Montana Governor Takes First Steps To Protect State Net Neutrality

The Governor of Montana has taken the first steps to help preserve net neutrality in his state.

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Sorry, FCC: Montana is enforcing net neutrality with new executive order

Enlarge / Montana Governor Steve Bullock. (credit: Getty Images | William Campbell )

Montana will require Internet service providers to follow net neutrality principles in order to receive state government contracts.

Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, today signed an executive order imposing that requirement beginning July 1, 2018.

“There has been a lot of talk around the country about how to respond to the recent decision by Federal Communications Commission to repeal net neutrality rules, which keep the Internet free and open,” Bullock said. “It’s time to actually do something about it. This is a simple step states can take to preserve and protect net neutrality. We can’t wait for folks in Washington, DC, to come to their senses and reinstate these rules.”

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Netflix added 8.3 million customers in Q4, its biggest growth ever

While Netflix is facing more competition than ever, its growth isn't slowing. The company just announced its four quarter earnings results, and revealed that worldwide it added 8.3 million customers, "the highest quarter in our history and up 18 perc…

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Windows VR headsets now available with deep discounts

Enlarge / An array of Windows Mixed Reality headsets. (credit: Microsoft)

With its Windows VR headsets, Microsoft wanted to make it simpler and cheaper to get into PC-based virtual reality.

But perhaps not quite this cheap: most of the Windows VR headsets on the market are now available on Amazon in the US for around 50 percent off: for as little as $200, you can get a headset complete with a pair of motion controllers that’ll run Windows Mixed Reality software and which has beta quality support for SteamVR titles too.

When first announced, Microsoft promised its headsets would be around $300-500, compared with the $600 or more for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Since then, both the Rift and the Vive have some big price cuts of their own, and while the Windows VR devices do still retain the pricing edge, the difference is much less pronounced than it once was. For the moment, the Windows hardware retains one advantage—it doesn’t need base stations to track movement because all the tracking is handled in the headset itself, which makes installation and setup substantially easier. But this benefit, too, is set to disappear in the near term, as this style of tracking is going to become the norm.

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AI-powered robot finds common soap ingredient may combat malaria

Around half of the world's population is at risk of contracting malaria and it causes around half a million deaths each year. However, the parasites that cause malaria are becoming more resistant to the drugs we currently use to combat them, meaning…

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A Comcast net neutrality commitment from the NBC merger just expired

(credit: https://arstechnica.com/author/aurich-lawson/)

A commitment made by Comcast to follow net neutrality rules expired on Saturday, seven years after the cable company agreed to the requirements in order to purchase NBCUniversal.

When Comcast bought NBC in 2011, it pledged to follow the net neutrality rules the Federal Communications Commission had passed in 2010 even if those rules were later overturned in court. Comcast thus continued to face rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization even after a federal appeals court struck down that version of net neutrality rules in January 2014. Comcast (but not other ISPs) faced net neutrality requirements for more than a year until June 2015, which is when a new set of net neutrality rules took effect.

But Comcast’s merger agreement with the FCC expired, as per schedule, on January 20. The expiration, combined with the FCC’s decision last month to repeal the industry-wide net neutrality rules implemented in 2015, will free Comcast of FCC oversight when it comes to net neutrality. Comcast will still face some merger-related oversight from the Department of Justice until September, though.

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Montana is the first state to enact its own net neutrality rules

Most of the states fighting the FCC's net neutrality repeal are counting on lawsuits or legislative measures that could take years to process, but Montana Governor Steve Bullock isn't willing to wait. He just signed an executive order requiring that…

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Hackers are stealing millions in cryptocurrency during ICOs

A new report from Ernst & Young details just how big of a problem security is when it comes to cryptocurrencies. Researchers collected data on 372 initial coin offerings (ICOs) that took place between 2015 and 2017 and found that over 10 percent…

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Intel’s Latest On Spectre Fix Reboot Issue: Updated Fix Being Tested

Intel announced that it has made progress in correcting the issue causing random reboots in the fix for the Spectre vulnerability that it issued to hardware partners earlier.

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