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Senate Judiciary committee interrogates Apple, Facebook about crypto

Enlarge / Lindsay Graham doesn't want people reading his texts. But he'll make darned sure there are backdoors for law enforcement into encrypted texts and devices, and he will pass a law if he needs to.US Senate In a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, while their counterparts in the House were busy with articles of impeachment, senators questioned New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, University of Texas Professor Matt Tait, and experts from Apple and Facebook over the issue of gaining legal access to data in encrypted devices and messages. And committee chairman Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) warned the representatives of the tech companies, "You're gonna find a way to do this or we're going to do it for you." The hearing, entitled "Encryption and Lawful Access: Evaluating Benefits and Risks to Public Safety and Privacy," was very heavy on the public safety with a few passing words about privacy. Graham said that he appreciated "the fact that pe..

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Fewer than 10% of Americans are buying $1,000 smartphones, report says

Enlarge / The Samsung Galaxy Note10. Ron Amadeo We've already seen indications that American consumers are holding onto their smartphones longer than before, posing challenges for companies like Apple and Samsung for whom mobile phone sales are important to the bottom line. A new NPD report reiterates that point but adds that fewer than 10 percent of American smartphone buyers spend more than $1,000, effectively ruling out flagship phones like the iPhone 11 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Note10 that gather most of the marketer and media attention. The main point of concern raised by the NPD report, though, is 5G adoption. 5G phones will likely be unaffordable for many consumers at first, with the first wave of mainstream 5G phones in 2020 likely to cost at least $1,000 in most cases. On the other hand, consumer awareness of the imminent rollout of 5G is high, and many consumers cited that coming change as a reason they're holding out on spending big on new phones. It could be t..

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Heatwaves on multiple continents linked by jet stream tendency

Enlarge / An example of meandering jet stream winds.NASA Summer 2018 saw some notably extreme weather in multiple locations around the Northern Hemisphere. There were heatwaves in the Western United States, Western Europe, the Caspian region through Siberia, and Japan as well. Thats not necessarily interesting on its face, as theres always weird weather going on somewhere. But this was not a coincidence, as all these events were physically linked by the physics of the jet stream. It's a linkage that could contribute to a crisis for food production. The Northern Hemisphere jet stream is a band of strong winds that marks a boundary between cold Arctic air and warmer mid-latitude air. As the jet stream slides farther north or south, it brings changes in temperatures with it, via the cold and warm fronts that can bring rain. The jet stream's path can range from a neat, east-west stripe around the planet to lazy meanders that form serpentine shapes. Large meanders tend to move s..

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How the West struggled to combat digital foreign interference

RIGA, Latvia — Jānis Sārts is a foot soldier in the war against fake news. As director of a NATO-linked military group that tracks potential foreign interference, the Latvian and his team of more than 40 analysts in the Baltic countrys capital have spent years playing cat-and-mouse with online threats. But as the United Kingdom prepares for a general election on Thursday and campaigning ramps up in the United States ahead of next years presidential election, Sārts has a sobering take on the Wests ability to combat foreign meddling. “We are not able to keep up,” he said in an Americanized accent honed over years working within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “At best, weve had modest success in combating these threats. The issue is evolving so quickly. If theres a gap, someone is going to exploit it.” Sārts downbeat analysis is echoed across capitals from Brussels to Ottawa. Inability to track domestic actors, some of which may be working on behalf of foreign governments, h..

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New YouTube policy tries to ban “implied” threats, “malicious” insults

Enlarge / Photoshopped image of YouTube logo behind a barbed-wire fence.YouTube / Getty / Aurich Lawson YouTube has for a long time been used as a platform for bad actors to launch massive campaigns of targeted harassment against individuals. After years of professing inability to act and reduce such behavior, YouTube is finally updating its policies to reflect the ways bad actors actually tend to behave, and the site is promising to increase consequences against harassers. Content that "maliciously insults" someone based on their membership in a legally protected class, such as race, gender, or sexual orientation, is now against the rules, YouTube said in a blog post today. "Veiled or implied" threats, of the sort that tend to rile up an online mob to go harass someone, are also now prohibited. "Something we've heard from our creators is that harassment sometimes takes the shape of a pattern of repeated behavior across multiple videos or comments," YouTube added, catching up t..

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E3 without the lines: System Shock, other games to get 48-hour Steam demos

EnlargeThe Game Awards In an era when traditional game-preview expos like E3 are languishing, a new contender has emerged with an idea we've been privately requesting from game publishers for years: a game expo that any fan and enthusiast can download and enjoy on their home computer. Simply titled The Game Festival, this 48-hour event will launch exclusively on Steam tomorrow, Thursday, December 12, as part of the run-up to that evening's broadcast of The Game Awards. Starting at 1pm ET (10am PT) on Thursday, log into Steam on a Windows PC to access "over a dozen" time-restricted game demos, and these will be available for play for approximately 48 hours. Users will download complete game clients, as opposed to streaming the games from the cloud, and like other time-restricted Steam games, these will require that players remain connected to the Internet to play them during their availability window. The biggest news, as of press time, is that this slate of demos includes a..

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12 years later, players somehow keep Team Fortress 2 alive on the PS3

Enlarge / Team Fortress 2 on PS3 is the only way to play the "classic" version of the team shooter, without the new guns and features that changed the game drastically. Team Fortress 2 was Lars Nilsen's favorite game. He's spent hundreds of hours running between rooftops as the scout in 2Fort and dominating points on Dustbowl as a demoman since he picked up the quirky team shooter in 2011. After playing consistently for five years, Nilsen took a break in 2016 to focus on other things. Still, the class-based charm and powerful combo of the heavy/medic uber-charge eventually convinced him to come back. He booted up the game in April of 2019, hoping to get into the habit of erecting dispensers once again. There was just one problem, though. He couldn't join a match. Thats because Nilsen had been playing the PS3 version of Team Fortress 2, a game that has been long neglected by Valve and server host EA since its 2007 launch. While the PC version receives updates from Valv..

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Political ads on Facebook disappeared ahead of UK election

Almost half of British political ads on Facebook — worth a combined £7.4 million — disappeared from the social media giants online records for more than 24 hours, only days before the United Kingdoms general election, according to analysis provided to POLITICO. The failure of the companys transparency tools is a major blow to Facebooks efforts to shine a greater spotlight on how political groups use its platform to target voters amid growing pressure from lawmakers across Europe, the United States and elsewhere over the tech giants role in elections worldwide. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebooks chief executive, had said that greater awareness of who was buying political ads — accessed by an online database provided by the company — was the best way to fight potential electoral interference. These efforts, in part, were a response to growing regulatory demands for tougher rules on how groups could buy partisan digital messages aimed at voters. Yet the failure of Facebooks system only two day..

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Can 5G replace everybodys home broadband?

Enlarge / Artist's impression of how fast your house might one day be with 5G mobile broadband.Aurich Lawson / Getty When it comes to the possibility of home broadband competition, we want to believe. And in the case of 5G mobile broadband, wireless carriers want us to believe, too. But whether or not technological and commercial realities will reward that faith remains unclear. As with 5G smartphones, the basic challenge here sits at the intersection of the electromagnetic spectrum and telecom infrastructure economics. When delivered over millimeter-wave frequencies and their copious amounts of free spectrum, 5G can match the speed and latency of fiber-optic broadband, with downloads of 1 gigabit per second and ping times under 10 milliseconds. But on those frequencies of 24GHz and up, signals struggle to reach more than a thousand feet outdoors. Carriers can fix that by building many more cell sites, each with its own fiber backhaul, but a fiber-to-the-block build-out may not b..

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Guidemaster: 10 tech gifts to improve the home office

Enlarge / It's not easy to please everyone when it comes to gifting. But trust us, everyone could use a password manager.Tara Moore / Getty Images So far, our 2019 holiday gift guide series has covered gifts for those on a budget, gifts for frequent travelers, and gifts for the home. Today, we're turning our attention to the office and general productivity needs. Below you'll find another hand-picked batch of recommendations based on a year's worth of product testing. These are thoughtful yet pragmatic gifts to help improve your friends' and family's work spaces through technology. From password managers to keyboards to business-friendly laptops, we know firsthand that each of the products below can make productive time less of a slog. Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs. 1Password Enlarge1Password Most workplaces require you to have more usernames and passwords than you'd like. Inst..

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