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Bogus coronavirus claims lead Google Play to finally give Infowars the boot
Alex Jones of InfoWars talks to reporters outside a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing concerning foreign influence operations' use of social media platforms, on Capitol Hill, September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC

Enlarge / Alex Jones of InfoWars talks to reporters outside a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing concerning foreign influence operations' use of social media platforms, on Capitol Hill, September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC (credit: Drew Angerer | Getty Images)

On Friday, Google removed the Infowars Android app from its Play Store, extinguishing one of the last mainstream strongholds of infamous conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The takedown came on the heels of a video, posted in the Infowars app last week and viewed by Wired, in which Jones disputed the need for social distancing, shelter in place, and quarantine efforts meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Google confirmed to Wired that it removed the app on Friday. The app had more than 100,000 downloads according to Google Play's published metrics, and was rated "E10+," meaning safe for all users 10 and older. The Infowars app sold products like supplements and protein powder, broadcast The Alex Jones Show live, and posted videos and articles from Jones and others.

"Now more than ever, combating misinformation on the Play Store is a top priority for the team," a Google spokesperson told Wired. "When we find apps that violate Play policy by distributing misleading or harmful information, we remove them from the store."

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Source: Ars Technica | 29 Mar 2020 | 7:01 am

Review: elegiac Star Trek: Picard brings all the feels in bittersweet finale
  • Just a retired admiral and his trusty Number One. [credit: YouTube/CBS All Access ]

Nobody can deliver lines with Shakespearean gravitas and comforting emotional resonance like Patrick Stewart, which is why the actor—and his famous Star Trek character, Jean-Luc Picard—remain so beloved in the franchise. He gives yet another sublime performance in the new CBS All Access series, Star Trek: Picard, anchoring the larger-than-life stakes of the broader narrative with his intensely personal portrayal of a grief-stricken, disillusioned retired Starfleet admiral who feels the world he once dominated has passed him by.

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

As Ars' Kate Cox noted in her review of the pilot episode, the events of 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis "are the plot and emotional scaffolding over which the initial episode of Picard is draped"—most notably, Data sacrificing his life to save the rest of the Enterprise crew. Honestly, that loss drives the entire season, along with 2009's Star Trek film reboot of the franchise.

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Source: Ars Technica | 28 Mar 2020 | 3:55 pm

>4,000 Android apps silently access your installed software
Closeup photograph of hands holding an Android phone.

Enlarge (credit: Mike MacKenzie / Flickr)

More than 4,000 Google Play apps silently collect a list of all other installed apps in a data grab that allows developers and advertisers to build detailed profiles of users, a recently published research paper found.

The apps use an Android-provided programming interface that scans a phone for details about all other apps installed on the phone. The app details—which include names, dates they were first installed and most recently updated, and more than three-dozen other categories—are uploaded to remote servers without permission and no notification.

IAM what IAM

Android’s installed application methods, or IAMs, are application programming interfaces that allow apps to silently interact with other programs on a device. They use two methods to retrieve various kinds of information related to installed apps, neither of which is classified by Google as a sensitive API. The lack of such a designation allows the methods to be used in a way that’s invisible to users.

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Source: Ars Technica | 28 Mar 2020 | 11:41 am

MacBook Air 2020 review: The most boring Mac is among the best
  • The 2020 Retina MacBook Air.

Apple wants people to fall back in love with its latest MacBook Air.

For many users, the pre-Retina, 13-inch MacBook Air one of the best laptops ever made. For too long, though, it fell behind the curve as Apple introduced better performance and higher-resolution screens to the rest of its lineup. Finally, Apple brought the high-res Retina display and some other improvements to the Air in 2018. Maybe the world's best laptop was back?

2018's Air was a pretty good machine, but it wasn't a candidate for world's best laptop anymore, thanks to the prone-to-fail butterfly keyboard design and a painful lack of ports. A refresh in 2019 brought some refinements, but it didn't address either of those issues. Now, finally, Apple has pulled out the butterfly keyboard and put in something we hope will be much more dependable.

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Source: Ars Technica | 28 Mar 2020 | 10:37 am

Internet Archive offers 1.4 million copyrighted books for free online
Yellow-and-black tape covers a hand-sized metal slot.

Enlarge / Hazard tape blocks the book returns slot at a London library. (credit: Richard Baker / Getty Images)

One of the casualties of coronavirus-related social distancing measures has been public libraries, which are shut down in many communities around the world. This week, the Internet Archive, an online library best known for running the Internet's Wayback Machine, announced a new initiative to expand access to digital books during the pandemic.

For almost a decade, an Internet Archive program called the Open Library has offered people the ability to "check out" digital scans of physical books held in storage by the Internet Archive. Readers can view a scanned book in a browser or download it to an e-reader. Users can only check out a limited number of books at once and are required to "return" them after a limited period of time.

Until this week, the Open Library only allowed people to "check out" as many copies as the library owned. If you wanted to read a book but all copies were already checked out by other patrons, you had to join a waiting list for that book—just like you would at a physical library.

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Source: Ars Technica | 28 Mar 2020 | 9:30 am

A Twitch streamer is exposing coronavirus scams live
Kitboga getting ready to out some scammers on Twitch.

Enlarge / Kitboga getting ready to out some scammers on Twitch. (credit: Twitch)

Earlier this week, live on Twitch, the streamer Kitboga attempted to place a wholesale order for an essential oil that, the woman on the phone implied to him, cured COVID-19.

There is, of course, no cure for COVID-19, the disease that has infected hundreds of thousands of people internationally since January. If there were, it wouldn’t consist of oregano oil, cinnamon, clove bud, and eucalyptus essential oils. Kitboga was on the phone with a scammer. Eleven thousand live viewers were watching him expose her.

Using a voice modulator, Kitboga assumed a persona called Barbara “Barbie” Kendal, explaining that he wanted to place a wholesale order for essential oils and distribute it to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Kitboga continued to press her for details about the product—How many people has it cured? Can I keep the cure on the countertop? Can I pour the cure into a hot bath after my bridge game?—which she readily answered, never correcting his terminology. The scammer, who said her name was Anne, took down the hospital’s address.

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Source: Ars Technica | 28 Mar 2020 | 7:15 am

Real learning in a virtual classroom is difficult
A virtual classroom setup.

Enlarge / A virtual classroom setup. (credit: Chris Lee)

"Remote teaching sucks. It's yucky, and it is not the future of education."

Thus spake my wife, a high school English teacher with many years of experience. And she's right. I teach at a university, and we have also moved to virtual lessons in the face of COVID-19. Even before the current crisis, I already made extensive use of digital tools in the classroom. However, virtual lessons are a poor substitute for actual in-person instruction. Let me take you on a tour of a future that we all should be trying to avoid. (It isn't all doom and gloom, though; we've discovered some hidden treasures as well.)

The problem is that teaching is an intimate activity: students give up a certain degree of control to the teacher and trust that person to help them master some new topic. It doesn't matter how big the class, that intimacy is unchanged for the teacher. Teaching is personal. Yes, from the student's perspective, a one-on-one lesson is more personal than a lecture delivered to 500 students. But the anonymity and safety in large classes does not mean that teachers are not seeing and modifying their approach via instantaneous feedback from their classes.

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Source: Ars Technica | 28 Mar 2020 | 6:55 am

Killing Eve S3 trailer drops; new season will debut two weeks early

Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer are back for a third season of Killing Eve.

Good news for those looking for fresh TV fare while sheltering in place: the third season of Killing Eve, the Emmy Award-winning spy thriller series starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, is coming to TV two weeks early.

"We know how adored this series is and we know how keen people are for great content right now," Sarah Barnett, president of AMC Networks Entertainment Group and AMC Studios, said in a statement. "This season of Killing Eve digs deep psychologically, and with actors like Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, and Fiona Shaw, the results are nothing short of astonishing. We literally couldn't wait for fans to see it."

(Some spoilers for first two seasons below.)

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Source: Ars Technica | 27 Mar 2020 | 8:00 pm

Control Panel isn’t dead yet—but the System applet is looking nervous
We find Windows 10's Settings dialog difficult to love.

Enlarge / We find Windows 10's Settings dialog difficult to love. (credit: Jim Salter)

You may have seen dark rumors around the Web that Microsoft is about to kill off the classic Control Panel. Rest assured, friend, we were as horrified as you are—but on more careful inspection, this seems not to be the case.

A new set of Feature IDs popped up in the latest build of Windows 10—HideSystemControlPanelSystemControlPanelFileExplorerRedirect, and SystemControlPanelHotkeyRedirect. This looks grim—but fortunately, developer Rafael Rivera discovered they really only apply to the System applet.

Settings vs Control

For about eight years now, Microsoft has been trying to pry everyone loose from the Control Panel and guide them gently to the newer Settings applet instead. They've encountered strong resistance in doing so, particularly from systems administrators and support technicians. For one thing, the newer Settings applet is a single-instance interface—you can't have Settings open for, say, printers and the network at once. Pick one.

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Source: Ars Technica | 27 Mar 2020 | 6:24 pm

Trump orders GM to make ventilators, claims company is “wasting time”
President Trump speaking in front of a podium at a daily briefing.

Enlarge / President Donald Trump speaks as Vice President Mike Pence looks on during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic at the White House on March 26, 2020. (credit: Getty Images | Drew Angerer )

President Donald Trump today ordered General Motors to make ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients and accused the company of "wasting time." Trump announced that he "signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators."

Hours before Trump took this step, GM said it is working with ventilator-maker Ventec Life Systems "to deliver the first ventilators next month and ramp up to a manufacturing capacity of more than 10,000 critical care ventilators per month with the infrastructure and capability to scale further."

Trump's statement did not specify how many ventilators GM should build, but he said that GM is moving too slowly:

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Source: Ars Technica | 27 Mar 2020 | 6:10 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