News & Updates

Enlarge / Apple is cleaning its (app) house ahead of this fall’s big releases.

Apple is making a few small tweaks to its App Store Review Guidelines for developers ahead of the release of iOS 10 and macOS Sierra this fall. The changes, which Apple is currently telling registered developers about via e-mail, are meant to cut dead wood out of the App Store and to make it easier for users to find better apps. These are the latest in a series of App Store changes implemented since Apple worldwide marketing SVP Phil Schiller was given the reins back in December of 2015.

The biggest change is that Apple will begin to remove older, outdated apps from the App Store that no longer follow current review guidelines or that haven’t been updated to support new APIs or features. Removing old apps will also cut down on the number of apps that haven’t been updated for compatibility with newer iOS versions or iDevices.

Apple isn’t saying exactly what criteria it will use to remove apps, just that it is “implementing an ongoing process of evaluating apps for these issues, notifying their developers, and removing problematic and abandoned apps.” People who have already downloaded these apps will still be able to download them, developers will be given 30 days to issue an update before their app is removed, and if their apps are removed they will still be associated with that developer’s account and other developers won’t be able to use the names for other apps.

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Enlarge / Prepare to see less activity on Hanjin ships thanks to a bankruptcy filing this week. (credit: Josh Hallett)

TV manufacturers have moved on to another set of standards, hoping to convince us to pay up for new sets, but adoption of standards such as 4K resolution and “high dynamic range” (HDR) displays may very well live and die by finding the right price point in stores. That won’t be easier for Korean monitor makers in the coming months, however, thanks to the Tuesday bankruptcy filing by major South Korean shipping company Hanjin.

South Korean electronics company LG made a Thursday announcement confirming that it would immediately cancel all overseas shipments with Hanjin—primarily because the company’s ships, crates, and other major shipping assets have been seized at various ports across the world and are not being allowed entry at other ports out of fears that Hanjin will not be able to pay required fees. Other manufacturers of major mechanical and large-electronic products, including Samsung, have also confirmed feeling the Hanjin-related pinch. As a result, shipping rates are jumping drastically.

As Reuters reports, shipping rates have jumped “about 55 percent” on the routes normally trafficked by Hanjin ships—and companies like Hyundai, which operates its own shipping business, are enjoying the spoils. In the meantime, slowed and stranded shipments could have an immediate impact on product prices for big-ticket electronics, especially as retailers ramp up for the American holiday shopping season. Air freight is often relied upon more heavily for smaller-sized electronics like smartphones, so Hanjin’s woes shouldn’t impact prices on those products. But whether due to rarity or higher shipping prices, things probably won’t get any cheaper for any larger products made by South Korean companies this fall and winter.

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Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Andy Cross)

AT&T’s court victory over the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this week had the immediate effect of helping the carrier avoid punishment for throttling the Internet connections of customers with unlimited data plans. The judges’ decision could also have a long-term impact on the FTC’s ability to enforce consumer protection laws.

The FTC’s charter from Congress already prohibited the FTC from regulating common carriers, a designation that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has long applied to AT&T and other phone companies. But the FTC thought it could police non-common carrier activities regardless of whether another part of a company’s business falls under the FCC’s common carrier designation.

When the FTC sued AT&T in October 2014, the company was a common carrier for phone service but not for Internet access. The FTC argued that it could regulate AT&T’s non-common carrier mobile data business, but AT&T argued that it was entirely exempt from FTC jurisdiction because it was a common carrier for voice service.

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Enlarge / Marcel Lehel Lazar, 44, known online as “Guccifer,” was sentenced to 52 months in prison on Thursday. (credit: NBC News/YouTube)

The Romanian hacker who helped expose Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of private e-mail as secretary of state was sentenced Thursday to 52 months in prison in connection to an admission that he broke into about 100 Americans’ e-mail accounts. The compromised accounts included celebrities, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and family members of former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, and Sidney Blumenthal, a political advisor whom Clinton corresponded with using her private e-mail account.

Marcel Lehel Lazar, a 44-year-old cab driver known by the handle Guccifer, conducted his crimes at home and was extradited to the US this year. He pleaded guilty to identity theft and federal hacking charges.

Guccifer had claimed he hacked into Clinton’s private e-mail server at her New York residence. But he has never been charged for that, and he has never divulged the contents of the alleged hack. However, the hacker did reveal private documents from other hacks, including self portraits painted by George W. Bush. He also leaked memos Blumenthal sent Clinton to her private e-mail account. This eventually exposed the fact that Clinton used that account as secretary of state for personal and private businesses instead of using her government account for official business.

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Nintendo Direct, September 1, 2016.

Nintendo hosted another of its YouTube-only press conferences on Thursday, but if you came expecting news about the forthcoming Nintendo NX console, too bad; that’s coming later this year (possibly this month). This presentation instead focused on the Nintendo 3DS system, and its announcements of early-2017 software may mark the portable console’s last hurrah before the launch of the NX, which is rumored to be a home/portable hybrid.

Leading off the news was a still-unnamed, side-scrolling version of Pikmin. The long-running “garden strategy” series has been reimagined as a puzzle-platformer with Lemming-like elements—meaning that your main character, Olimar, will throw different-colored Pikmin to solve small puzzles and progress through linear levels. The brief demo footage looked pretty rough, with simple puzzles, low-poly characters, and a rough frame rate, so we imagine there’s a lot to be done on this game before its “spring 2017” launch. This may very well be the upcoming Pikmin game that series creator Shigeru Miyamoto has been teasing for some time—unless there’s another Pikmin coming to NX, at any rate.

Also launching in that vague “spring” window is Mario Sports Superstars, which looks like a last-gasp mash-up of other Mario-branded “action sports” games. At least it won’t be small, as the game appears set to feature full takes on the Mario Tennis, Mario Golf, and Mario Sluggers games—along with the first 11-on-11 Mario soccer mode and Mario’s first-ever horse-racing game. Sadly, this release won’t include a refresh of the three-on-three, arcade-minded Mario Strikers soccer game, but it will at least feature online multiplayer. Still, this looks mostly like a “greatest hits” bundle of older 3DS games to prolong the aging 3DS’ lifespan a few more months.

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Enlarge / Paul K. Martin, nominee for inspector general at NASA, answers questions during his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in 2009. (credit: NASA)

Lots of rumors have swirled about further delays to NASA’s commercial crew program, and now the agency’s own inspector general has confirmed these setbacks in a new, critical report on progress toward first flights of Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Dragon crew capsules.

In the new review, Inspector General Paul Martin writes, “The Commercial Crew Program continues to face multiple challenges that will likely delay the first routine flight carrying NASA astronauts to the ISS until late 2018—more than 3 years after NASA’s original 2015 goal.”

Officially, NASA has maintained that it expects to have at least one test launch of a crew vehicle from US soil by the end of 2017 and regular flights by early 2018.

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Enlarge / That single cord going down to a pocket sure looks more appealing than the thick wire usually connecting the Vive to a PC tower. (credit: Quark VR)

As much as we love the HTC Vive, we’re still annoyed by the long, thick wire required to connect the VR headset to a PC tower (backpack laptops notwithstanding). A Bulgarian VR startup is promising a fix to the problem, though, saying that an untethered, wireless solution for the HTC Vive will be ready for demonstration sometime this fall.

Quark VR says it realized the importance of taking the Vive wireless after a public demo in Sofia, Bulgaria left most players “quite disturbed by the cables in their feet or above their head.” From there, Quark met with Valve representatives during a recent stay at a Silicon Valley incubator, and the company says Valve was “more than happy to cooperate with us on the task… we’re incredibly happy the guys from Valve are so open to cooperation and improving their amazing creation.” (A Valve representative was not immediately available to comment).

Quark’s setup isn’t entirely “wireless,” if you want to get technical about it. There’s still a large wire running from the headset to a small transmitter “gadget” that sits in the user’s pocket. Quibbling over wording misses the point, though, which is that this prototype means no more worries about tripping over, twisting, or pulling the cables out of the computer as you walk and turn around your VR room.

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Enlarge (credit: SSPL/Getty Images)

BT is taking legal action in the US against games company Valve for allegedly infringing on four of the UK telecoms giant’s patents.

A BT spokesperson told Ars: “BT can confirm that it has commenced legal proceedings against Valve Corporation by filing a claim with the US District Court of Delaware for patent infringement. The patents in question relate to online computer or video gaming platforms, digital distribution services, and personalised access to online services and content.”

Ars has contacted Valve for its comment on BT’s move, but has not yet received a response.

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Enlarge / What the business end of a Falcon 9 rocket looks like during a launch. (credit: SpaceX)

10:20am ET Update: SpaceX released the following statement to Ars regarding today’s accident:

“SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today’s static fire, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload. Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries.”

It is notable that the issue appears to have been with the pad and ground systems, and not the rocket. But it is highly unfortunate that the Amos 6 satellite was lost as part of the test.

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