Tech News courtesy of Ars Technica
- Handy lets you get handsy with YouTube recipes without making a mess
- FCC postpones spectrum auction until mid 2015 [updated]
- “I wrote this post on my Xbox One”—or, using a game console as a work machine
- Ars readers react to toll roads on the Internet fast lane
- Microsoft designs smart bra to combat emotional eating
- Review: Google’s $179 Moto G puts every single cheap Android phone to shame
- FBI surveillance malware in bomb threat case tests constitutional limits
- Riot reverses course, says pro League of Legends players can stream other games after all
- Kingpin behind large chunk of world’s malware exploits led lavish life
- Climate study: The Shire is New Zealand, Mordor is south Texas
If you've ever tried to follow a recipe online while cooking simultaneously, you'll know it can be a messy business. Handy by Flora is a new Web app that aims to change all that, letting you control recipes' videos on YouTube without even having to touch your laptop.
Using gesture-control technology, cooks can operate the video by swiping their hand in front of the webcam attached to their laptop. All you need to do is copy and paste the URL of the YouTube video you want to watch into the box on the Handy by Flora website, and the video can play almost as normal. A small box in the top left-hand corner of the screen will show you the webcam's view, and a bar running along the top of that box will show you how the webcam is responding to your gestures.
A left-to-right swipe will play the video, whereas a right-to-left one pauses it. A second right-to-left swipe will rewind the video ten seconds, allowing you to easily catch up if you've missed anything. The technology has been jointly developed by Flora and a company called Lean Mean Fighting Machine over the past six months.
In a blog post on Friday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said that he would postpone a June 2014 spectrum auction to mid-2015. In his post, Wheeler called for more extensive testing of “the operating systems and the software necessary to conduct the world’s first-of-a kind incentive auction.”
”Only when our software and systems are technically ready, user friendly, and thoroughly tested, will we start the auction,” wrote Wheeler. The chairman also said that he wanted to develop procedures for how the auction will be conducted, specifically after seeking public comment on those details in the second half of next year.
A separate auction for 10MHz of space will take place in January 2014. In 2012, Congress passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which required the FCC to auction off 65MHz of spectrum by 2015. Revenue from the auction will go toward developing FirstNet, an LTE network for first responders. Two months ago, acting FCC chair Mignon Clyburn announced that the commission would start that sell-off by placing 10MHz on the auction block in January 2014. The other 55MHz would be auctioned off at a later date, before the end of 2015.
In the run-up to the Xbox One's launch this year, one of the more amusing stories was a Microsoft blog post suggesting that users could mark the system as a tax write-off if they used things like Skype chatting and Microsoft Office online for business purposes. It seemed silly, but it got me wondering: Could the Xbox One and some Web-based apps fill in for the desktop or laptop I usually use for my day-to-day work?
After using it in just that way for the better part of a day, I was surprised to find that the Xbox One's version of Internet Explorer lets the system serve as a halfway decent work machine—though not without a good deal of headaches and missing features. It wouldn't take many tweaks for Microsoft to really unlock the Xbox One's potential for productivity, letting the company market the box in earnest as a living room computer in addition to a high-end game machine.
Getting to work
This week, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler seemed to negate the commission's 2010 Open Internet Order, saying that it would be OK if Internet Service Providers charged high-bandwidth sites like Netflix for a faster lane to consumers. Jon Brodkin brought us the facts and the analysis in FCC chair: ISPs should be able to charge Netflix for Internet fast lane.
A lot of our readers were disappointed, if not surprised. Wheeler previously worked as a lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries, and while some of his initial statements boded well for consumers, his latest comment was decidedly industry-friendly. As Brainling wrote: "The guy is a former lobbyist for the cable industry. What did people expect? He almost certainly got his job because the cable companies put him there (through other lobbying efforts), specifically to ram rod through anti-consumer/pro-cable rules. This is how America works in 2013 folks. We all better pray Google Fiber works out, because until someone breaks the Big Cable hegemony, you can expect them to go as anti-consumer as the law allows them to."
bburdge agreed: "Yup. Exactly as expected. He will make all these statements about being consumer friendly and for net neutrality, but then add small bits that slowly wear down what those things mean. So here we have 'Yes, net neutrality is great, I fully support it, really important. But you know, paying extra for premium service is not a big deal right, we do it all the time, first class on the airplane, or overnight shipping. That's not against net neutrality, it's just the market...' Sucks for us." ender2003 tried an analogy: "Let's paint a picture. Your house is connected to the city's water supply, for which you already pay a monthly fee (water bill). You "rent" a water hose to use to water your lawn, but then are told that you will have to pay more to use the hose depending on where the water is coming from. You can get water for no charge from the owner of the hose, or you can pay an extra fee to access the city's water. Does that make sense?"
Microsoft researchers have developed a bra-mounted sensor system that measures boob sweat and heart activity in order to detect emotional triggers for overeating.
The research is based on the idea that people eat not just when they are hungry but also for a host of emotional and habitual reasons. The goal was to provide a system that could intervene before the person turns to food for emotional support.
Microsoft researchers teamed up with colleagues from the University of Rochester and the University of Southampton to develop a range of interventions that go a step further than activity trackers such as FitBit and Nike's Fuelband. In their paper, the researchers mention other systems that have been developed that include heart rate monitors, earpieces to track chewing and swallowing, and augmented reality glasses to capture the food consumed.
The Moto G isn't much like the high-end handsets we spend most of our time with, but in many ways it's more interesting than Another 5-inch 1080p Android Flagship. It looks and feels a lot like a Moto X. It performs a lot like a high-end phone from a couple of years ago. But it costs only $179 off-contract, where most similar phones go for at least $400 unlocked.
This handset obviously isn't meant to compete with $600-and-up flagships, but it's trying to redefine a part of the market that's now served by years-old phones and barely-usable garbage. Look at the phones that an MVNO like Straight Talk Wireless offers for less than $400, and you'll see just how under-served this market is. With the Moto G, Google and Motorola have attempted to put together a basic smartphone that doesn't throw quality under the bus in the name of cheapness.
In giving this phone the review treatment, we'll hit all of the same stuff we usually test—benchmarks, battery life, and so on. However, we'll also spend quite a bit of time answering the biggest questions about the Moto G: where does this phone feel like it costs $179, and who is it for?
The FBI has an elite hacker team that creates customized malware to identify or monitor high-value suspects who are adept at covering their tracks online, according to a published report.
The growing sophistication of the spyware—which can report users' geographic locations and remotely activate a computer’s camera without triggering the light that lets users know it's recording—is pushing the boundaries of constitutional limits on searches and seizures, The Washington Post reported in an article published Friday. Critics compare it to a physical search that indiscriminately seizes the entire contents of a home, rather than just those items linked to a suspected crime. Former US officials said the FBI uses the technique sparingly, in part to prevent it from being widely known.
The 2,000-word article recounts an FBI hunt for "Mo," a man who made a series of threats by e-mail, video chat, and an Internet voice service to detonate bombs at universities, airports, and hotels across a wide swath of the US last year. After tracing phone numbers and checking IP addresses used to access accounts, investigators were no closer to knowing who the man was or even where in the world he was located. Then, officials tried something new.
Earlier this week, details about the contracts that participants in Riot's League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) had signed were leaked, revealing that players in the competition were prohibited from streaming a range of competing (and not-so-competing) game titles. With streaming being an important means of income for professional gamers, this restriction was met by shock and disbelief from much of the community.
In response to the backlash, Riot Games has backed down. e-sports publication onGamers, which broke the news of the original contract, now reports that while gamers and teams contracted to play in LCS cannot be sponsored by other game companies to advertise competing games, they are free to stream them as they see fit.
Explaining the original policy, the company said that competing studios had been trying to capitalize on LCS's success and use it to their own advantage, by trying to pay LCS teams and players to play competing games on stream. Riot sought to end this, but now acknowledges that banning all streaming of these games was "overreach."
An online crime kingpin arrested in October and charged with creating and distributing the Blackhole exploit kit may have had his hand in as much as 40 percent of the world's malware infections, according to information released by the security firm that helped track him down.
The 27-year-old Russian, identified only as Paunch, allegedly earned about $50,000 per month selling BlackHole subscriptions for as much as $500 per month, according to a report published Friday by security firm Group-IB. He is also alleged to be behind the much more expensive Cool Exploit Kit and a "Crypt" service used to obfuscate malware to go undetected by antivirus programs. With more than 1,000 customers, he was able to lead a lavish lifestyle that included driving a white Porsche Cayenne, Group-IB said.
Exploit kits are the do-it-yourself tools used to embed crimeware into hacked or malicious websites so they target a host of vulnerabilities found on end-user computers. People who visit the websites are exposed to "drive-by" attacks that are often able to install highly malicious software on the computers with no sign that anything is amiss. Group-IB estimated that Paunch may have supplied the code used in as much as 40 percent of the PC crimeware infections worldwide. Researchers arrived at that guess by gauging sales of BlackHole and Cool, which they said accounted for about 40 percent of world revenue for exploit kits. Even assuming that some crimeware is installed independent of exploit kits, it's hard to overstate the role these two kits played in seeding the Web with exploit code that installed malware used in bank fraud and other forms of online crime.
A climate study of Tolkien’s Middle Earth of the Lord of the Rings trilogy reveals some interesting intersections with “Modern Earth.” The places on Earth most similar in climate to the Shire include a small region in New Zealand as well as a part of Britain, while locations that are similar to Mordor fall in the southwest US and a central part of Australia.
The climatology of Middle Earth is examined in a paper released Friday by noted Middle Earth wizard and nature enthusiast Radagast the Brown (also the alias of the Cabot Institute of the University of Bristol), which draws conclusions about the various regions of Middle Earth based on descriptions in the books. For instance, Mordor and Haradwaith are very dry, while the highest precipitation occurs to the west of the Misty Mountains, where the Shire is located.
Based on a climate analysis of Middle Earth’s temperature and rainfall, Radagast maps the regions of the world with similar conditions to different parts of Middle Earth and sees where they overlap. Both New Zealand and England contain large regions with adequate rainfall and enough scattered instances of the right temperature to indicate that Lincolnshire and Leicestershire in the UK are Shire-like, as are (roughly) Gore and Alexandra in NZ.