News & Updates

(credit: Cyrus Farivar)

A journalist convicted of hacking was ordered Thursday to begin serving his two-year prison sentence. Matthew Keys was scheduled to begin serving his term last month, but a federal appeals court stayed his custody to determine whether he should remain free from the federal prison camp in Atwater, California pending an appeal of his federal conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

After reviewing the conviction for a month, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals announced that there is nothing novel about his conviction and that he is likely to lose on appeal. Therefore, the court ruled (PDF), he should begin serving his time even while his appeal is pending. The court wrote:

Appellant has not shown that the appeal raises a “substantial question” of law or fact that is “fairly debatable,” and that “if that substantial question is determined favorably to defendant on appeal, that decision is likely to result in reversal or an order for a new trial of all counts on which imprisonment has been imposed,” or a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment, or a reduced sentence to a term of imprisonment less than the total of the time already served plus the expected duration of the appeal process.

Keys maintains that he did not expose login information that led to the 40-minute alteration of a Los Angeles Times headline in 2010 when he worked for a local California television station, KTXL Fox 40 in Sacramento, which was owned by the newspaper’s parent company, Tronc. Authorities said he published Tronc login credentials in a hacker forum and told forum readers to go “fuck some shit up.” On appeal, Keys maintained that there was no damage done because the defaced article was restored from a backup, and therefore the CFAA was misapplied.

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Back in March, Microsoft announced that it would allow generic cross-platform play on its Xbox Live network. The move was essentially a public challenge for Sony to similarly open up the PlayStation Network, allowing for multiplayer matches involving more than one type of console for what would essentially be the first time.

Now, some major game developers are stressing that any technical hurdles to this cross-platform play have been overcome. Sony’s walled-garden policy is the final obstacle to allowing play between Xbox and PlayStation systems, they say. “Right now, we’re literally at the point where all we need is the go-ahead on the Sony side and we can, in less than a business day, turn [cross-platform play] on and have it up and working, no problem,” Jeremy Dunham, vice president of Rocket League developer Psyonix told IGN in a recent interview. “It’d literally take a few hours to propagate throughout the whole world, so really we’re just waiting on the permission to do so… It could be tomorrow, it could be longer than that. We just don’t know—we’re anxiously awaiting that, just like the rest of our fans.”

Rocket League was one of the first games that announced cross-platform play between the Xbox One and Windows 10 (well before Microsoft’s recent Play Anywhere initiative), so it’s not that surprising that the title is ready to link in with the PS4 as well. But The Witcher maker CD Projekt says it’s also simply awaiting Sony’s go-ahead for a cross-platform version of the upcoming Gwent card game.

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(credit: Randy)

The capture of CO2 from smokestacks could make an important contribution to limiting climate change, but there are two obstacles. One is that you have to store that CO2 somewhere (like underground reservoirs). The other is that the capture process requires energy, so your power plant ends up producing less electricity per unit of fuel. That comes with a financial cost.

There are efforts afoot to overcome both of those hurdles, but there are also other possible approaches. One that sounds obvious and attractive is to turn that CO2 into something useful and valuable, rather than just reservoir filler. The sticky wicket here is chemistry. Carbon dioxide is pretty stable, and turning it into something else can require a large energy input.

Cornell University’s Wajdi AlSadat and Lynden Archer, however, are playing with one possible process that could convert CO2 into a commodity—and generate electricity while you’re at it.

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Women washing hands in white sink good suds (credit: Arlington County)

Poke around any bathroom or cleaning cabinet in the US and you’re likely to find a product spiked with an antimicrobial chemical. One of the most common of these, triclosan, has shown up in about 75 percent of antibacterial hand soaps and is easily spotted in a range of other goods, from toys to toothpaste. It has also been found in about 75 percent of Americans’ urine. Yet, despite their omnipresence, these antimicrobials go largely unregulated and scientists don’t know their health effects.

In an opinion piece published Thursday in Science, Alyson Yee and Jack Gilbert, microbiologists from the University of Chicago, call for that to change. They lay out just how little data we have on the chemicals—and some of it even conflicts. Yet, it’s clear that our exposure may begin in the womb and that the chemicals do have the potential to mess up our microbiomes—the communities of microbes in and on us that strongly influence our health. Such microbial disturbances have been linked to wide ranging conditions, from neurological disorders to arthritis, allergies, obesity, and irritable bowel disorder.

As such, scientists should prioritize figuring out if the chemicals that are already all around us, are causing harm, Yee and Gilbert argue.

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Two men who were arrested last year for making online threats and bringing guns and ammunition to a Boston Pokémon card game tournament have been sentenced to two years each in prison and two years of probation afterward. The Boston Globe reports that James Stumbo and Kevin Norton pled guilty to unlawful possession of the guns and nearly 300 rounds of ammunition found in their car outside the Hynes Convention Center event last August.

Stumbo and Norton, both well-known members of the high-level Pokémon card playing community, were arrested after driving from Iowa to Boston for the event as well as posting messages on Facebook showing off the guns and threatening to “kill the competition.” Another message stated that “my AR-15 says that you lose.” Event security was warned about the postings and notified the police before informing attendees of the issue.

Miller’s attorney, Robert LeRoy, tried to downplay the pair’s online postings as “adolescent stuff” that “wasn’t threatening in any capacity.” He also defended their actions by contrasting Iowa’s relatively lax gun laws with the stricter regulations in Massachusetts. “They basically always drive around with loaded guns in the trunk in Iowa,” he said, according to the Globe report.

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Pokémon Go heralds a new dystopian age that we should all be fretting about, film director Oliver Stone has warned.

Speaking at Comic Con on Thursday to promote his new movie about US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, Stone described the data-slurping tactics of the freakishly successful game as “a new level of invasion.”

The panel—also featuring Snowden stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, and Zachary Quinto—was asked about the surveillance potential of the game.

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Forget the GTX 1080: there’s a new slab of graphics card hotness on the way from Nvidia, and its name is, er, the GTX Titan X. Yes, Nvidia has taken its most expensive graphics card and given it a Pascal-architecture makeover. $1200—UK price TBC, but probably £1,100—buys you 11 teraflops of FP32 performance, which is a significant 24 percent jump over the 8.9 teraflops of the GTX 1080, and just over 60 percent higher than the 6.6 teraflops of the original Titan X.

The new Titan X launches on August 2 in the US and Europe. At first it’ll only be available from the Nvidia website, but it will percolate down to other retailers soon after.

The Titan X is powered by a new chip, GP102, which packs in 3584 CUDA cores. While Nvidia hasn’t revealed the amount of Streaming Multiprocessors (SMs), texture units, and the like, if the company uses a similar architecture to the GP104 chip (as used in the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070), expect a 40 percent boost in SMs over the GTX 1080 to 28. The chip runs at a 1417MHz base clock and 1531MHz boost clock.

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(credit: Getty Images | DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP)

The news earlier this week that the ambitious 54.5mpg Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency target is dead in the water was unwelcome for those worried about the ever-growing problem of climate change. But we can take some cheer from yesterday’s announcement from the White House detailing plans to boost the uptake of electric vehicles here in the United States.

The plan involves a concerted effort from the government (the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, US Air Force and US Army) as well as a number of states, utilities companies, automakers, and EV infrastructure companies that is meant to make life a lot easier for EV drivers in the coming years.

As we’ve repeatedly noted, it’s all well and good being able to buy an electric car, but widespread adoption will require the same kind of infrastructure support that already exists for fossil fueled vehicles. That’s where this plan comes in. Among the specific measures announced there is $4.5 billion in loan guarantees for companies building charging facilities, the creation of alternative fuel and zero emissions corridors, more EVs on state and federal government fleets, and a plan for hackathons to find new solutions to topping up EV batteries.

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Hacker Andrew “bunnie” Huang is EFF’s newest client. (credit: Pauline Ng via Wikimedia)

Since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) became law in 1998, it has been a federal crime to copy a DVD or do anything else that subverts digital copy-protection schemes.

Soon, government lawyers will have to show up in court to defend those rules. Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a lawsuit (PDF) claiming the parts of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that deal with copy protection and digital locks are unconstitutional.

Under the DMCA, any hacking or breaking of digital locks, often referred to as digital rights management or DRM, is a criminal act. That means modding a game console, hacking a car’s software, and copying a DVD are all acts that violate the law, no matter what the purpose. Those rules are encapsulated in Section 1201 of the DMCA, which was lobbied for by the entertainment industry and some large tech companies.

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It’s not really realistic to expect any new Moto G to live up to the first one. That phone offered decent specs and prompt Android updates for a third of the price of most flagships, and the cheap-but-usable Android phone segment wasn’t as healthy in 2013 as it is now. It was the right phone for the right price at the right time, and no subsequent upgrade has quite nailed the same combination (though the third-generation model was a nice effort).

Now Motorola is owned by Lenovo, and a lot of the stuff that made the Google-owned Motorola a darling of reviewers (namely, prompt updates and good phones that weren’t obsessed with specs and superfluous features) is gone. Bear that in mind as we evaluate the Moto G4 and G4 Plus—they retain many of the selling points that made the first Moto G so good, but not quite all of them, and they’re no longer the cheapest decent phones you can buy even if they are still decent budget options.

Look and feel

Specs at a glance: Lenovo Moto G4 and G4 Plus
Screen 1920×1080 5.5-inch IPS (400 PPI)
OS Android 6.0.1
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 (4x 1.5GHz Cortex A53 and 4x 1.2GHz Cortex A53)
RAM 2GB or 4GB
GPU Qualcomm Adreno 405
Storage 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB NAND flash, expandable via microSD
Networking Dual-band 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.2.

CDMA (850, 1900 MHz)
GSM / GPRS / EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
UMTS / HSPA+ (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz)
4G LTE (B1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 25, 26, 41)

Ports Micro-USB, headphones
Camera 13MP or 16MP rear camera, 5MP front camera
Size 5.98″ x 3.02″ x 0.31-0.39″ (152 x 76.6 x 7.9-9.8mm)
Weight 5.47oz (155g)
Battery 3,000 mAh
Starting price $200 for G4, $250 for G4 Plus, $300 fully loaded

I really like the design of both Moto G4s, which is sleeker and less chunky than Moto Gs of years past (but unlike the Moto Z, they don’t do anything dumb like removing the 3.5mm headphone jack for no reason). The bulgy back is gone, but the phone is still curved around the edges in a way that’s comfortable to hold. And the lightly textured, rubberized plastic back is nice to touch and easy to hold. It won’t go slipping out of your hands.

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