Tech News courtesy of Ars Technica
- Nadella’s “one operating system” ain’t new and won’t be one OS
- Bitcoins.com domain auction cancelled after judge’s restraining order
- NASA to examine commercializing Mars communication relays
- Researchers identify possible glitch in Antarctic ice measurements
- Multi-user beamforming is here—in $270, 1.7Gbps Asus Wi-Fi router
- Mass exploit of WordPress plugin backdoors sites running Joomla, Magento, too
- Client files mysteriously show an analog stick on mock-up Steam controller
- Old apps, new faces: More stuff that looks different in OS X Yosemite
- PSA: EA makes Sims 2 Ultimate free for all after ceasing support
- Man ejected from Southwest flight for tweeting that a gate agent was rude
While communication from Microsoft about its layoffs and reorganization lacks a certain amount of clarity, one statement made in its earnings call yesterday did appear to be straightforward: "We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes" said CEO Satya Nadella.
The immediate reaction was twofold. From some parties, there were congratulatory noises, praising Nadella for this new strategy that moved away from the Ballmer-era multiple operating system. From others, there was glee that the "confusing" line-up of Windows, Windows RT, and Windows Phone would soon be gone and that in the future users would no longer need to worry about what their devices were using. Some are even cheering the "fact" that this means that Windows RT will be killed off forever.
That Nadella's remarks provoked headlines and column inches is ever so surprising, however, because what he said isn't new, isn't really being interpreted properly, and wasn't really his idea.
Heritage Auctions, the Texas company orchestrating the Bitcoins.com sale, pulled the auction listing on Wednesday afternoon, stating: "This lot has been withdrawn from this auction. Bids are no longer accepted and previous bids are cancelled."
The move comes as the result of a federal judicial order issued on Tuesday that put an immediate halt to the sale of Bitcoins.com, the domain name owned by embattled Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles.
"The lot is being held for now so we can get this sorted out one way or the other," Noah Fleisher, a Heritage Auctions spokesman, told Ars. "I haven't heard from [Karpeles] at all."
Today, NASA announced that it's issuing a Request for Information that seeks parties, either academic or commercial, who are willing to set up a communications relay orbiting Mars. Should the agency like the information it gets, it could extend its current fee-for-service approach well beyond Earth's orbit.
Because of weight and power restrictions, the hardware that we've landed on Mars can't carry high-bandwidth communication devices that can reach Earth (it does, however, carry lower-bandwidth hardware that can establish a direct connection). Instead, missions like the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has its own science instruments, also carry communications hardware that lets them receive high volumes of data from the planet's surface and quickly send it back to Earth.
MRO is the most recent hardware that serves this purpose, but it's already nearly a decade old; Odyssey, its fellow relay, is even older. Fortunately, the MAVEN mission, which arrives this year, will also have relay capabilities, as will the ESA's ExoMars orbiter, which should arrive in 2016.
With all the attention given to every nuance of climate data, areas of research that would have never attracted much public interest sometimes find themselves in the spotlight. So it is with the process of measuring sea ice cover. People pay careful attention because it appears to be a leading indicator of climate change. In the Arctic, where the warming has been most intense, sea ice is retreating rapidly, with record lows having been set every few years over the past decades.
But at the other pole, Antarctic sea ice has been steadily expanding, creating a bit of a conundrum for scientists. They've come up with a variety of explanations for why the two poles might be behaving differently but, in the mean time, people have latched on to the difference to question our understanding of climate change.
Now, a paper has come out questioning whether the difference between the poles is as dramatic as it seemed. The reason for the potential difference? Measuring sea ice is remarkably hard.
If you've been waiting for a Wi-Fi router that supports multi-user beamforming, there's now one for sale. The Asus RT-AC87 advertises support for 1.73Gbps throughput, and it implements one of the most highly anticipated features of 802.11ac Wi-Fi: MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple-input, and multiple-output).
As we explained in the feature, "Wi-Fi networks are wasting a gigabit—but multi-user beamforming will save the day," MU-MIMO relies on multi-user beamforming to send data streams of up to 433Mbps to three or more users simultaneously. This is an improvement over single-user beamforming, which could send multiple streams of data, but only to one device at a time.
The Asus RT-AC87 uses a Quantenna MU-MIMO chipset and sends data over four streams to get up to 1.73Gbps on the 5 GHz band. It can send another 600Mbps over 2.4 GHz.
As many as 50,000 websites have been remotely commandeered by attackers exploiting a recently patched vulnerability in a popular plugin for the WordPress content management system, security researchers said Wednesday.
As Ars reported in early July, the vulnerability in MailPoet, a WordPress plugin with more than 1.7 million downloads, allows attackers to upload any file of their choice to vulnerable servers. In the three weeks since then, attackers have exploited the bug to install a backdoor on an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 websites, some that don't even run WordPress software or that don't have MailPoet enabled, according to Daniel Cid, CTO of security firm Sucuri.
"To be clear, the MailPoet vulnerability is the entry point," he wrote in a blog post. "It doesn't mean your website has to have it enabled or that you have it on the website; if it resides on the server, in a neighboring website, it can still affect your website." In an e-mail to Ars, he elaborated:
When Valve first unveiled its prototype for a handheld video game controller last September, the most striking thing about it, from a modern design perspective, was the complete lack of analog joysticks. It's an omission that remained even after Valve updated the controller prototype to include more traditional digital button placement.
So it's quite interesting that the latest version of the official Steam beta client includes the above image, showing a version of the Steam controller with an analog stick where the directional buttons used to be.
The file seems to have been first spotted by an enterprising member of the FacePunch.com forums, but we've confirmed that anyone with access to the PC version of Steam's latest beta client update should have this file on their hard drive (if you've updated the beta, it should be in [Steam directory]\tenfoot\resource\images\library\alpha_conroller_lines_d0g.png in case you want to confirm for yourself; we haven't checked the Mac and Linux clients yet). The file on our system, which appears to be an overlay for some sort of controller configuration or help menu, was created on May 19 and modified to the current analog-stick-sporting version on July 16.
In our preview of the OS X Yosemite beta today, we focused mostly on the OS-wide changes to the user interface and the new features of a few built-in apps. As happened in the transition from iOS 6 to iOS 7, though, there are plenty of other applications in Yosemite that still work like they did in Mavericks, just with a fresh coat of paint.
We've collected a few different representative examples in the photo gallery below—some of these designs completely rethink the way the original application looked (Game Center). Some of them look basically the same but compress the UI or move buttons to different places to make existing features more accessible (Maps, Preview). Still others are just the same apps with different colors (Notes).
The one class of app that remains essentially the same as before (at least of this writing) are the things in the Utilities folder, many of which even use the same "old-style" glassy icons as before. Only the Terminal and Activity Monitor get different icons at all, though the look of the apps don't change. The apps in Utilities are all, you know, utilities, so aesthetics aren't especially important there. Just know that Apple hasn't changed everything about the way Yosemite looks.
Whether you're still running a years-long instance of 2004's The Sims 2, complete with a family's dozens of generations babbling in Simlish while running into all matter of torture-inducing home spaces or haven't even played the game once, Electronic Arts has a giant, if ancient, freebie for you. Years after the game's "exchange" content website shuttered, the game's producer announced last week it would no longer post updates or patches for the decade-old game.
To ease the pain for all 50 players who'll never see their Radeon-related visual glitches fixed, EA gave all Sims 2 owners on the Origin PC games service a free upgrade to the game's "Ultimate Collection" version, which includes the game's eight expansion packs and nine "stuff" packs.
But what about players who didn't register the game on Origin (or, er, never bought The Sims 2 in the first place)? EA has them covered, too, because as of Wednesday, the company is now offering free downloads of The Sims 2: Ultimate Collection to all Origin members until July 31. Simply log in to Origin and use the redemption code "I-LOVE-THE-SIMS" to immediately jump into the "Apartment Life" expansion, the Ikea household pack, and everything else your dollhouse heart desires.
A Minnesota man was ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight for a tweet calling a gate agent rude, reported CBS Minnesota Wednesday. After tweeting, the man was removed from the plane and stated he was "forced" to delete the tweet before he could re-board.
Duff Watson is an "A-list" passenger with Southwest, which gives him priority boarding. Watson was miffed when the agent in question told him his two children couldn't board the plane as priority passengers with him, and Watson let her know that Twitter would, in fact, be hearing about this.
"Something to the effect of 'Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA,'" is how Watson summarized the tweet to CBS. The family eventually boarded the plane, but according to Watson's daughter, Lucy, the agent threatened to call the cops over the tweet. Watson relayed that the agent said her safety felt threatened.