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The Falcon Heavy rocket launched early Tuesday—two cores made it back safely
  • That's the center core of the Falcon Heavy rocket just missing the drone ship. [credit: SpaceX webcast ]

2:50am ET Tuesday Update: SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket launched at 2:30am ET on Tuesday morning, sending its payload of 24 satellites into space. Less than three minutes after the launch, the rocket's two side-mounted boosters separated from the first stage's center core, and subsequently returned to make a safe landing near Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

At 3 minutes and 30 seconds into the flight, the rocket's upper stage separated from the center core and flew onward, into the first of several orbits. The center core then attempted to make the "hottest" landing of a Falcon rocket to date, more than 1,200km down range on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX founder Elon Musk had warned earlier that, because of the core's exceedingly high energy during its return to Earth, it only had about a 50 percent chance of landing on the drone ship. It didn't quite make it, making a visible explosion as it hit the water nearby.

Meanwhile, the Falcon Heavy's upper stage still had much work to do. Over the next 3 hours and 30 minutes, it was slated to drop off 24 satellites into three different orbits.

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Source: Ars Technica | 25 Jun 2019 | 2:50 am

Amazon takes on TCL’s Roku TV with low-cost HDR Fire TV television
TV with sample illustration of standard and HDR visual

Enlarge / Seeing is believing when it comes to HDR, and this mock-up comparison of the display tech hints at what awaits for Toshiba buyers. (Note: The TV pictured above is NOT the one we're writing about today.) (credit: Ars Technica)

Things are looking a lot brighter for Amazon's collection of Fire TV Edition sets. The company is introducing three new smart televisions made by Toshiba that bring HDR support to the product line for the first time. The displays are also going up for sale at an appealing price point.

The Toshiba 4K UHD Smart TV HDR is an LCD panel that promises a typical contrast ratio of 4,000:1, plus HDR in the Dolby Vision standard. The Amazon product listing doesn't give any specifics on the maximum brightness for this hardware. As the product name implies, it has a 4K resolution as well as a 60Hz refresh rate.

The largest model is 55 inches, and it is on sale now for $449.99. The other options are 50 inches for $379.99 and 43 inches for $329.99; those will be available starting June 30. All three of the new Fire TVs are exclusively available through Amazon or Best Buy thanks to the unusual alliance those sellers entered earlier this year.

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Source: Ars Technica | 24 Jun 2019 | 9:10 pm

AT&T sued over hidden fee that raises mobile prices above advertised rate
An AT&T retail store in Chicago, with the AT&T logo seen from outside the building.

Enlarge / An AT&T retail store in Chicago in 2018. (credit: Getty Images | jetcityimage)

AT&T is facing a class-action complaint over its practice of charging a $1.99-per-month "Administrative Fee" that isn't disclosed in its advertised rates.

As the complaint notes, "AT&T prominently advertises particular flat monthly rates for its post-paid wireless service plans." But after customers sign up, the telco "covertly increases the actual price" by tacking on the "bogus so-called 'Administrative Fee,'" according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in US District Court for the Northern District of California.

AT&T "hides" the fee in an easy-to-miss spot in customer bills, the complaint says, and it "misleadingly suggests that the Administrative Fee is akin to a tax or another standard government pass-through fee, when in fact it is simply a way for AT&T to advertise and promise lower rates than it actually charges."

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Source: Ars Technica | 24 Jun 2019 | 4:22 pm

Bill Gates calls failure to fight Android his “greatest mistake”
A man speaks from a sofa.

Enlarge / Bill Gates speaks to Village Global. (credit: Village Global)

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently gave a wide-ranging interview to VC firm Village Global, and at one point, the topic of mobile came up. Gates revealed his biggest regret while at Microsoft was a failure to lead Microsoft into a solid position in the smartphone wars.

In the software world—particularly for platforms—these are winner-take-all markets. So, you know, the greatest mistake ever is whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is. That is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win, and you know it really is winner-take-all. If you're there with half as many apps or 90 percent as many apps, you're on your way to complete doom. There's room for exactly one non-Apple operating system. And what's that worth? Four hundred billion? That would be transferred from Company G to Company M. And it's amazing to me having made one of the greatest mistakes of all time—and there was this antitrust lawsuit and various things—our other assets—Windows, Office—are still very strong. So we are a leading company. If we'd got that one right, we would be the leading company. But oh well.

In the interview, Gates takes full responsibility for not reacting to the new era of smartphones. But by that time, he already had a foot out the door at Microsoft to focus on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The original iPhone came out in 2007, and the first Android device was released in 2008. Gates had already announced his transition plan in June 2006.

The CEO of Microsoft at the time was Steve Ballmer, who famously laughed at the iPhone and called the $500 device "The most expensive phone in the world" while deriding its lack of a hardware keyboard. "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share," Ballmer once told USA Today. "No chance."

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Source: Ars Technica | 24 Jun 2019 | 3:06 pm

The 2019 Audi A7 might be all the car anyone ever needs
  • I apologize for the use of Audi's stock images, but it rained a lot during my time with the A7 and none of the pictures I took were good enough to use. [credit: Audi ]

High expectations can be a killer. We see this all the time—the let-down sequel to a great movie or the indulgent sophomore follow-up to a brilliant debut album. It also applies to cars; ask any fan of the Mk2 VW Golf for their opinion of the Mk3 as proof. As humans we fall in love, too easily perhaps, with inanimate objects. When a replacement shows up, and our expectations exceed its ability, the result is disappointment. Which is a long-winded way of saying I was actually a little scared when I fired up the 2019 Audi A7 for the first time.

The previous A7 was a delightful car, particularly if you had a long way to go and wanted to do it in comfort and style. Here was an Audi that looked as good on the outside as it did on the inside thanks to its fastback body style. Back in the days before we knew they were belching NOXious gases, the TDI version would happily deliver 40mpg all day long. If you wanted something less economical but a lot faster, the RS7 and its snarling twin-turbo V8 offered close to the last word in all-weather, cross-country ability.

I first saw the second-generation A7 at last year's Detroit auto show. It follows the same script as before: lighter and less loaded down the A8 flagship, sleeker and more driver -ocused than the mainstream A6, but it's still built from the same toolbox and parts bin that Audi (and the rest of Volkswagen Group) call MLB Evo. It looks a lot like the car it replaces, but with sharper creases in the panels and some funky LED matrix headlights and LED tail lights that are meant to make it easier for you to see in the dark (as well as making you easier to see). That car is even available with a US-legal version of Audi's clever laser high beam headlights.

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Source: Ars Technica | 24 Jun 2019 | 2:12 pm

DHS cyber director warns of surge in Iranian “wiper” hack attacks
An effective wiper of sorts.

Enlarge / An effective wiper of sorts. (credit: Getty Images)

With tensions between the US and Iran on the rise following the downing of a US military drone last week, the director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is warning that Iran is elevating its efforts to do damage to US interests through destructive malware attacks on industrial and government networks.

In a statement issued on Saturday, June 22, CISA Director Christopher C. Krebs said:

CISA is aware of a recent rise in malicious cyber activity directed at United States industries and government agencies by Iranian regime actors and proxies. Iranian regime actors and proxies are increasingly using destructive "wiper" attacks, looking to do much more than just steal data and money. These efforts are often enabled through common tactics like spear phishing, password spraying, and credential stuffing. What might start as an account compromise, where you think you might just lose data, can quickly become a situation where you’ve lost your whole network.

Krebs urged businesses and agencies to take steps to improve their security hygiene, including implementing multi-factor authentication for user credentials to prevent brute-force attempts to connect to exposed network and cloud applications.

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Source: Ars Technica | 24 Jun 2019 | 1:58 pm

Capuchin monkeys have a 3,000-year archaeological record
Capuchin monkeys have a 3,000-year archaeological record

Enlarge (credit: By Tiago Falótico - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60386655)

The archaeological record of human tools use dates back about 2.5 million years, and archaeologists use changes in stone tool technology to trace changes in human evolution, culture, and lifestyles. Now a team of archaeologists in Brazil has excavated capuchin monkey stone tools dating back to 3,000 years ago, and they reveal changes in behavior and diet over thousands of years—just like the early human archaeological record but on a compressed time scale.

Archaeology: Not just for humans

Bearded capuchin monkeys are more versatile tool-users than chimpanzees. They select rocks of the right sizes and shapes for a variety of tasks, from digging to cracking open a range of nuts and seeds (each has its own size and weight specifications for the perfect cracking tool). Female capuchins even flirt with potential mates by throwing rocks at them.

At Brazil’s Serra de Capivara National Park, a group of capuchins crack open cashews with round quartzite cobbles, which they choose and carry to the cashew grove from a dry streambed about 25m (82 feet) away. Capuchins have been processing their food at the same spot for at least 3,000 years—and leaving behind their distinctively banged-up tools. That’s about 450 monkey generations, and during that time, archaeologists noticed some major changes in the stone hammers and how they were used.

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Source: Ars Technica | 24 Jun 2019 | 1:52 pm

Ex-chair of FCC broadband committee gets five years in prison for fraud
A picture of handcuffs on top of a piece of paper with the word,

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | RapidEye)

The former head of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) was sentenced to five years in prison for defrauding investors.

Elizabeth Ann Pierce was CEO of Quintillion, an Alaskan telecom company, when she lied to two investment firms in New York in order to raise $270 million to build a fiber network. She also defrauded two individual investors out of $365,000 and used a large chunk of that money for personal expenses.

Pierce, 55, pleaded guilty and last week was given the five-year prison sentence in US District Court for the Southern District of New York, US Attorney Geoffrey Berman announced. Pierce was also "ordered to forfeit $896,698.00 and all of her interests in Quintillion and a property in Texas." She will also be subject to a restitution order to compensate her victims "at a later date."

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Source: Ars Technica | 24 Jun 2019 | 12:59 pm

SCOTUS: Ban on “FUCT” trademark registration violates First Amendment
SCOTUS: Ban on “FUCT” trademark registration violates First Amendment

Enlarge (credit: Fuct)

Federal law prohibits the registration of trademarks that are "immoral or scandalous." At least it did until today, when the Supreme Court held that the requirement violated the First Amendment.

The case focused on artist and entrepreneur Erik Brunetti, who sells clothing under the trademark FUCT. Brunetti claims the mark is "pronounced as four letters, one after the other: F-U-C-T." But a lot of people have interpreted it as (in the words of the government's lawyer in the case) "the profane past participle form of a well-known word of profanity."

Beyond that, the US Patent and Trademark Office looked at the products being sold under the FUCT mark. "Brunetti’s website and products contained imagery, near the mark, of 'extreme nihilism' and 'antisocial' behavior," the Supreme court noted in its Monday opinion. The trademark office concluded that the FUCT mark "communicated misogyny, depravity, and violence," and rejected the registration.

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Source: Ars Technica | 24 Jun 2019 | 12:31 pm

German regulator says it discovered new illegal software on Daimler diesels
(Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images)

Enlarge / (Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images) (credit: getty images)

Over the weekend, Germany's auto regulator told Daimler that it would have to recall 42,000 Mercedes-Benz diesel vehicles after the group discovered illegal software on the cars that would reduce the effectiveness of the emissions-control system.

Daimler said Sunday night that it would take a one-time charge of hundreds of millions of euros against the upcoming quarter's earnings to deal with the new accusations, but it disputed the government regulator's determination that the software in question was illegal. According to the Wall Street Journal, Daimler plans to formally object to the claims.

The accusation against the German automaker is similar to accusations lobbed against Volkswagen Group starting in 2015. The US Environmental Protection Agency accused VW Group of including illegal software on its diesel vehicles to ensure that the diesels would pass emissions limits imposed by the US. Ultimately, VW Group ended up spending tens of billions of dollars on regulatory fines and vehicle buybacks in the US and the EU.

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Source: Ars Technica | 24 Jun 2019 | 12:18 pm

FaceTime bug lets callers eavesdrop on you (even if you don't accept the call) - CNET
The bug affects calls to iPhones and reportedly impacts calls to Macs, potentially turning any device into a hot mic.

Source: CNET News | 29 Jan 2019 | 12:07 am

How to disable FaceTime (so no one can eavesdrop on your iPhone or Mac) - CNET
A new Apple FaceTime bug has the potential to let callers hear you and see you, even if you don't accept the call. Here's how to protect yourself until there's a fix.

Source: CNET News | 29 Jan 2019 | 12:06 am

Fortnite is back after login issues - CNET
For two and half hours on Monday, the biggest video game in the world was down.

Source: CNET News | 28 Jan 2019 | 11:42 pm

I Am the Night: Chris Pine charms in dark mystery based on true events - CNET
Review: Set in 1965, this miniseries directed by Wonder Woman's Patty Jenkins captivates with its rich imagery.

Source: CNET News | 28 Jan 2019 | 11:31 pm

Scientists say song lyrics are getting angrier over time - CNET
But which came first: the sad, angry music or the bummer cultural zeitgeist?

Source: CNET News | 28 Jan 2019 | 10:58 pm

Super Bowl 2019 ads we've seen so far - CNET
Lebowski's Dude meets Carrie Bradshaw, Amazon taps Harrison Ford and T-Mobile makes everything magenta.

Source: CNET News | 28 Jan 2019 | 8:57 pm

Lexus is considering building its first F-branded hot crossover - Roadshow
Lexus execs have hinted that it could be a breathed-upon UX with a more potent hybrid drivetrain.

Source: CNET News | 28 Jan 2019 | 8:38 pm

US hammers Huawei with 23 indictments for stolen trade secrets, fraud - CNET
The charges come amid heightened scrutiny for the world's largest telecom supplier and No. 2 smartphone maker.

Source: CNET News | 28 Jan 2019 | 8:31 pm

T-Series closes in on PewDiePie's YouTube subscriber record - CNET
Two YouTube titans are slugging it out to be No. 1, but PewDiePie continues to hold on.

Source: CNET News | 28 Jan 2019 | 8:22 pm

We found the toughest iPhone XR case - CNET
A lot of phones were broken in this drop test to find the toughest iPhone case.

Source: CNET News | 28 Jan 2019 | 8:15 pm