News & Updates

Remember the Moto Z? The Lenovo-controlled redesign of Motorola’s flagship smartphone bet the farm on a modular phone idea, and the modular system kind of sucked. The modules were expensive, only worked with brand-new Motorola smartphones, and didn’t offer anything useful over a non-modular version of the same accessory. To limit the effect the bulky modules would have on the phone, Motorola slimmed the phone down as much as possible, resulting in the removal of the headphone jack. Motorola sacrificed a lot to make the modular phone idea work, but at the end of the day the modular system never delivered a compelling use case.

Motorola committed to the modular “Moto Mod” system for at least “two more generations” after the Moto Z, which doesn’t leave the company much room to course correct. The “backpack” modular design demands an identical back shape to the Moto Z, with the same size camera bump and massive modular connector in the same place. So say hello to the Moto Z2 Force, the 2017 flagship for Motorola. It looks a lot like the Moto Z(1).

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Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock)

General Motors has announced plans to offer over-the-air (OTA) software updates “before 2020.” The company’s CEO, Mary Barra, announced the plan on an analyst call on Tuesday. The capability will require the deployment of a new electric vehicle architecture and a new infotainment system. OTA updates are high on the tech-savvy car buyer’s wishlist, but here in the US, most new cars are locked out of receiving them thanks to a legal and contractual landscape between the OEMs and their dealer networks that is highly beneficial to the latter.

It’s not a technical issue; companies like Harman and others have the right systems to push out OTA updates to vehicles; the OEMs just aren’t allowed to deploy them.

Boiled down to its essence, OEMs can’t offer existing customers new features for their vehicles without the car dealerships getting their cut. This is in contrast to Tesla, which has done much to highlight the utility of OTA updates.

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Enlarge / Child with a classic four-day rash from measles. (credit: CDC)

With firm vaccination campaigns, the US eliminated measles in 2000. The highly infectious virus was no longer constantly present in the country—no longer endemic. Since then, measles has only popped up when travelers carried it in, spurring mostly small outbreaks—ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred cases each year—that then fizzle out.

But all that may be about to change. With the rise of non-medical vaccine exemptions and delays, the country is backsliding toward endemic measles, Stanford and Baylor College of Medicine researchers warn this week. With extensive disease modeling, the researchers make clear just how close we are to seeing explosive, perhaps unshakeable, outbreaks.

According to results the researchers published in JAMA Pediatrics, a mere five-percent slip in measles-mumps-and-rubella (MMR) vaccination rates among kids aged two to 11 would triple measles cases in this age group and cost $2.1 million in public healthcare costs. And that’s just a small slice of the disease transmission outlook. Kids two to 11 years old only make up about 30 percent of the measles cases in current outbreaks. The number of cases would be much larger if the researchers had sufficient data to model the social mixing and immunization status of adults, teens, and infants under two.

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Seems like the most appropriate use of this modified meme ever. (credit: Know Your Meme)

We don’t often get buzzy about a new Netflix series announcement, especially one without any teaser footage, but Tuesday’s Netflix news shook up the perfect jar of nerd bees.

Simpsons/Futurama co-creator Matt Groening is the latest showrunner to join the online streaming platform, and he’s bringing a substantial number of Futurama staffers and voice actors to a new project: Disenchantment, set to premiere in “2018.” From what we’re hearing, this will put the Groening-series spin on fantasy series like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings—meaning, equal parts mockery and reverence. Twenty episodes have been ordered, and they will premiere in 10-episode chunks.

A ton of Futurama voice actors are participating, including Billy West, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, and Tress MacNeille. The show as announced will revolve around a “hard-drinking young princess” named Bean, voiced by Broad City star Abbi Jacobson, and her primary companions will include a personal demon voiced by Adult Swim super-weirdo Eric Andre and an elf voiced by comedian Nat Faxon. Longtime Simpsons showrunner Josh Weinstein will join Groening as an executive producer, while Futurama animation company Rough Draft Studios is currently working on the new series. (That series’ final episode aired on Comedy Central in 2013.)

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ThinkGeek

Update: The three bundles that cost $150 and under have sold out as of 3:37 pm Eastern time, roughly 12 minutes after they were first posted. Three other bundles priced at $169, $170, and $220 are still available.

Further update: All six bundles are out of stock as of 3:47 pm, just over 20 minutes after going up.

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Enlarge (credit: Getty Images/Ulrich Baumgartgen)

Google is taking legal action in the US to stop Canada’s Supreme Court from controlling its search results worldwide.

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered Google to remove links to webpages owned by a company called Datalink Technologies on all of its search websites, worldwide. Canadian courts had previously found that Datalink was illegally re-labeling products and infringing the intellectual property of a Vancouver tech firm called Equustek.

Yesterday, Google filed a lawsuit (PDF) in California, asking a judge to rule that the Canadian order is unenforceable in the US. Google lawyers argue that the order violates both the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents online platforms from being held responsible for most user behavior.

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Greetings, Arsians! Courtesy of our friends at TechBargains, we’re back with a big new list of deals to share. Of note is a the Lenovo Y700 gaming notebook, complete with a Core i5 processor, a 14-inch 1080p display, 4GB AMD R9 M375 GPU, 128GB SSD, and 1TB HDD, for just $569 (over $200 off its original price). Apple’s AirPods are also back in stock, so now’s your chance to get your hands on the popular wireless earbuds before the sell out again.

Check out the full list of deals below.

Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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Enlarge / A power cable sits in the charge point of a Toyota Motor Corp. FT- EV III concept electric vehicle on display during the China (Guangzhou) International Automobile Exhibition in Guangzhou, China, on Saturday, November 21, 2015. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

According to reports in The Wall Street Journal and Japan’s Chunichi Shimbun, Toyota is in the “production engineering” stage of building an electric vehicle (EV) battery with a solid electrolyte. Reports suggest the new battery will debut in Japan in a model 2022 car with an all-new platform.

So-called “solid state” batteries have both solid electrodes and solid electrolytes. Solid-state batteries can be made smaller and lighter than the lithium-ion batteries that currently power electric vehicles, but engineering such a battery at an attractive price point for mass production has been a challenge. The Chunichi Shimbun reported that Toyota’s battery will be able to charge in a few minutes and have a long range, but the article did not list specifics.

A solid-state battery would also reduce the fire risk that comes with lithium-ion batteries that use a liquid electrolyte. And, because the electrolyte wouldn’t be in danger of freezing, it could withstand a wider range of temperatures.

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Security researchers have discovered a new, massive cyber espionage campaign that mainly targets people working in government, defence and academic organisations in various countries.

The campaign is being conducted by an Iran-linked threat group, whose activities, attack methods, and targets have been released in a joint, detailed report published by researchers at Trend Micro and Israeli


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The Making of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, The Santa Fe Opera (YouTube)

Steve Jobs has been the subject of all kinds of art over the years, and now scenes from his life will play out on stage with powerful vocals in a new opera. The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs highlights the “complicated and messy” life of the Apple cofounder and is the product of a partnership between composer Mason Bates and librettist/Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Campbell.

Pairing something as contemporary as the story of Steve Jobs and Apple with a classical medium such as opera may seem like a mismatch. However, Bates was convinced he and Campbell could produce a compelling opera focusing on a big theme of Jobs’ life—his need to control everything and make a perfect product, in contrast with the inherent uncontrollable nature of life.

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs isn’t a simple story, and that’s not just due to Jobs’ complexities. The stage production is nonlinear, recreating 18 scenes that occurred at various times during Jobs’ life and career. It features important characters that made Jobs’ who he was by the time he passed away in 2011, including business partner Steve Wozniak, his wife Laurene Powell, and Japanese priest Kobun Chino Otogawa, who helped guide Jobs’ conversion to Buddhism.

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