Samidh Chakrabarti / Facebook:
Facebook lets inside and outside contributors weigh in on effect of social media on democracy, discusses people's draw to info that strengthens their narratives — Around the world, social media is making it easier for people to have a voice in government — to discuss issues, organize around causes, and hold leaders accountable.
Matthew Gault / Motherboard:
A look at VRChat, a free app for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive with over 1.5M installs on Steam, which lets users create and explore virtual worlds with other people — It was in the depths of the Mickey Mouse dungeon, the music of the Mouse's rap album coursing through my headphones, that I decided VRChat was brilliant.
Jon Russell / TechCrunch:
Asian selfie app Snow, formerly a Snapchat clone, has removed its user-to-user communication features and raised $50M from SoftBank and Sequoia China — It's been a while since we heard from Snow, the Snapchat clone app in Asia that Facebook once tried to buy, but today the company behind …
Alice Gregory / Wired:
Profile of Yondr, maker of the lockable smartphone pouches used at concerts, shows, courtrooms, churches, and more to restrict smartphone use — LATE LAST FALL, in the gleaming white lobby of Madison Square Garden, uniformed attendants were posted at security stations to make thousands of smartphones stupid.
Alexander Osipovich / Wall Street Journal:
NYSE owner ICE partners with Blockstream to launch feed with price data from 15+ cryptocurrency exchanges by March, to be delivered via ICE's network to traders — Intercontinental Exchange is jointly launching data feed pulling information from more than 15 cryptocurrency exchanges
Devin Coldewey / TechCrunch:
Tile, maker of Bluetooth trackers for physical objects, lays off 30 after holiday sales disappoint — Tile, one of the best known item-tracking gadgets out there, has laid off some 30 people and reportedly stopped the potential hires of another 10, TechCrunch has learned.
Christopher Mims / Wall Street Journal:
Instead of limiting time children spend on devices, some researchers argue for increasing it, provided children use the time for learning and creative play — New guidance on children and technology makes the distinction between passive exposure and active play and learning with screens
Brian Heater / TechCrunch:
Sphero, maker of robotic toys, lays off 45 employees after disappointing holiday season and says it's now focusing on its efforts in education — Sphero was ready to conquer the world last year. The company quintupled its product release schedule, flying high with the help of a Disney licensing deal …
Alexis C. Madrigal / The Atlantic:
Facebook should explain how it will design surveys ranking trust in news sources, whether media can contest rank, whether user ideologies will be a factor, more — Mark Zuckerberg announced Friday that Facebook will begin surveying users about which news sources they trust, in an effort to rank publications on “trustworthiness.”
Joseph Cox / The Daily Beast:
On gaming chat service Discord, some users swap revenge porn and rape videos on dedicated servers — Discord is used by millions of gamers every day to chat, relax, and coordinate while playing their game of choice. But this multimillion-dollar messaging platform has another ballooning user base: revenge-porn offenders.
Jason Del Rey / Recode:
Amazon Go, a high-tech version of a 7-Eleven, will finally open on Monday — with no checkout lines and no cashiers — Amazon Go allows customers to grab items and just walk out without stopping to pay. — Amazon's store of the future has been five years in the making. But the unveiling is just about here.
Sandra Upson / Wired:
How the developers of the Lightning Network plan to make Bitcoin transactions faster and cheaper using private payment channels — IN 2014, JOSEPH Poon and Thaddeus Dryja were bitcoin-obsessed engineers hanging out at pizza-fueled meetups in San Francisco.
Eva Yoo / TechNode:
WeChat says it now has 980M monthly active users, claims 170M daily active users for its Mini Program app platform, which now has 580,000 apps — January 9th was WeChat mini program's first birthday. Throughout the year, some startups picked it up and developed their mini program.
The Economic Times:
Indian mobile operator Reliance Jio reports first quarterly profit of ~$79M in FY Q3, 15 months after starting commercial operations, had 160M+ users as of Dec. — Within 15 months of starting commercial operations, Reliance Jio Infocomm turned profitable, posting a net profit of Rs 504 crore for the third quarter of the fiscal year.
Timothy B. Lee / Ars Technica:
The rise of cryptocurrency mining has created a global shortage of high-end graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD, driving up prices for retail gamers/buyers — “Cryptocurrency can't crash soon enough,” one gamer fumes. — The market for high-end graphics cards used to work like the market for almost any other piece of computer gear.
This is a guest post from Steve Bellovin, a professor in the Computer Science department and affiliate faculty at the law school at Columbia University. His research focuses on networks, security, and public policy. His opinions don't necessarily reflect the views of Ars Technica.
By now, most people have heard about the erroneous incoming ICBM alert in Hawaii. There's been scrutiny of the how the emergency alert system works and of how international tensions and the flight times of missiles can lead to accidental nuclear war. I'd like to focus instead on how the systems design in Hawaii led to this problem—a design that I suspect is replicated in many other states.
One possible factor, of course, is hurried design:
According to scientists, a poison arrow in the quiver may let loose a very sticky nether-region massacre.
The poison in question has spattered from the tips of African weapons for centuries, rubbing out wild beasts and halting the hearts of warriors. But, according to a study in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, a crotch shot of an ancient toxin called “ouabain” can also take out sperm. By tweaking the poison’s chemical backbone (or scaffold), it can selectively paralyze trouser troops and prevent them from storming eggs, the authors report.
The study’s authors, led by Shameem Sultana Syeda of the University of Minnesota, are optimistic that, with further aiming, the poison’s progeny could one day strike as a safe, reversible male contraceptive.
It’s been quite an unexpected decade at Tesla. In 2007, if you said that the EV company would release an all-electric sedan that became one of the fastest accelerating vehicles of all time and sold tens of thousands of units with numerous hardware and software improvements along the way, you’d have been sent to the loony bin. And if you then predicted the company would release an all-electric SUV that would do the same and develop and release (sort of) an affordable, stylish, and long-range EV... well, maybe you’d have been mistaken for a member of the Musk family.
And yet, Elon Musk and Tesla have done all those things with the Model S, Model X, and Model 3. The company has gone further with things like the Gigafactory; home, commercial, and utility battery products; and previews of the new Tesla Roadster and Tesla Semi, too. To be sure, Musk has made a lot of ambitious promises and really missed a lot of deadlines over the years—but people who have bet against Tesla have lost a lot of money. (Tesla's stock price is up almost 1700 percent since its June 2010 IPO, fyi.)
Warning: The following preview outlines general details for the premise of Counterpart, a new Starz sci-fi series debuting this weekend.
The “actor as multiple roles” genre has been done in a seemingly infinite amount of ways as of late: clones, siblings, whatever Cloud Atlas was. With Starz' new series Counterpart debuting this Sunday (8pm ET), the premise gets a slight twist. Beloved institution JK Simmons (everything from those insurance ads to Justice League and Whiplash) portrays mild-mannered office man Howard and alternate-universe spy bad-ass Howard Prime.
Confused? Luckily, audiences get the gist of this situation early in the series premiere: 30 years ago during the Cold War, scientists were experimenting when something went wrong, opening a passage between two seemingly distinct worlds. “Go through this door,” bossman Peter tells Howard. “And you’re in a world identical to ours.”
The online game-subscription model has generally waned in recent years, overtaken by the popularity (and apparent profitability) of the "free-to-play" (F2P) paradigm. One of the earliest MMORPGs to switch to a F2P model, the Trion-published Rift, announced a curious change coming to its payment model: a branch-off of one Rift server, and its entire gameplay and payment structure, to return to the flat subscription model later this year.
As reported by Kotaku, the game's developers announced plans for this new version, dubbed Rift Prime, in a Friday blog post. The plan actually began life months earlier when Trion asked fans about the idea of a "challenge server" product—meaning, a version of the game that was harder and segregated interested players into their own, higher-difficulty pool of players. Fan response to the pitch went a different direction.
The players' "strongest cues," the devs write, revolved around "how to make the business model more appealing."
Proteins are chains of amino acids, and each link in the chain can hold any one of the 20 amino acids that life relies on. If you were to pick each link at random, the number of possible proteins ends up reaching astronomical levels pretty fast.
So how does life ever end up evolving entirely new genes? One lab has been answering that question by making its own proteins from scratch.
Way back in 2016, the same lab figured out that new, random proteins can perform essential functions. And those new proteins were really new. They were generated by scientists who made amino acid sequences at random and then kept any that folded into the stable helical structures commonly found in proteins. These proteins were then screened to see if any could rescue E. coli that were missing a gene essential to survival.
DETROIT—Once upon a time, the North American International Auto Show was a mighty thing indeed. The American auto industry ruled the world, and this was their home event with all the bells and whistles that implies. But the world has changed. For one thing, people can and do use the Internet to work out what car they're going to buy. And with the LA Auto Show, CES, and NAIAS in such close proximity to each other on the calendar, there just aren't enough new things to fill all three events. The take-home impression from NAIAS this year—hot on the heels of a mediocre CES—was of a lackluster performance with little in the way to stop one in their tracks.
Ford opened the events at the Cobo Center with a trio of new models that we covered early in the week. Mercedes-Benz had a new G-Class that looks almost identical to the 1979 model, an example of which could be seen embedded in synthetic amber outside the front doors. By midweek this nearly-50 ton act of corporate whimsy was roped off, riven by cracks thanks to the sub-freezing temperatures. BMW gave the i8 hybrid a mid-life bump, and Audi showed its new A7 on this continent for the first time.
Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.
For millennia, humans have been captivated by Mars. To the ancient Romans, the “red planet” represented the god of war, presiding over conquest and glory. To the 19th-century astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, it was a world connected by vast canals, evidence of an advanced civilization. Today, our cosmic neighbor is a place to be explored, analyzed, and understood; the prospect of setting foot on Martian soil seems tantalizingly close.
But if the board game First Martians is anything to go by, we shouldn’t bother. Mars doesn’t want us.
On Friday, Twitter took an end-of-the-week opportunity to dump some better-late-than-never news onto its userbase. For anybody who followed or engaged with a Twitter account that faked like an American during the 2016 election season but was actually linked to a major Russian propaganda campaign, you're about to get an email.
Twitter announced that it would contact a massive number of users with that news: 677,775 users to be exact. This count includes those who interacted with the 3,814 accounts that Twitter has directly linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian troll farm whose election-related meddling was exposed in 2017.
That number of accounts, Twitter noted, is a jump from Twitter's prior count of 2,812 IRA-linked trolls, which it had disclosed as part of an October 2017 hearing in Congress. Twitter says that this specific pool of troll accounts generated 175,993 posts during the 2016 period of activity that Twitter has been analyzing, and the service noted that 8.4 percent of those posts were "election-related." In its Friday disclosure, Twitter did not take the opportunity to acknowledge how the remaining percentage of these posts, which included anything from "I'm a real person" idle banter to indirect and divisive messaging, may have ultimately contributed to the troll farm's impact. (For example: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey bit, and bit hard, on a known IRA account by retweeting two of its 2016 posts.)
Earlier this week, numerous reports of credit card fraud started pouring in from OnePlus users. On the company's forums, customers said that credit cards used to purchase a OnePlus smartphone recently were also seeing bogus charges, so OnePlus launched an investigation into the reports. It's now a few days later, and the company has admitted that its servers were compromised—"up to 40,000 users" may have had their credit card data stolen.
OnePlus has posted a FAQ on the incident. "One of our systems was attacked," the post reads. "A malicious script was injected into the payment page code to sniff out credit card info while it was being entered." OnePlus believes the script was functional from "mid-November 2017" to January 11, 2018, and it captured credit card numbers, expiration dates, and security codes that were typed into the site during that time. Users who paid via PayPal or previously entered credit card information are not believed to be affected.
OnePlus says it "cannot apologize enough for letting something like this happen." The company is contacting accounts it believes to have been affected via email, and OnePlus says it is "working with our current payment providers to implement a more secure credit card payment method, as well as conducting an in-depth security audit."