AT&T Raises DirecTV Prices Again Amid Customer Losses and Possible Sale
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
AT&T has announced another round of price hikes for DirecTV satellite and U-verse TV services, with monthly prices set to rise up to $9 starting January 17, 2021. "Due to increased programming costs, we're adjusting the price of our video packages," AT&T said in a notice on its website. "Periodically, TV network owners increase the fees they charge DirecTV for the right to broadcast their movies, shows, and sporting events." Of course, AT&T itself determines some of these programming prices because it owns Time Warner.
A $5 monthly increase is coming to DirecTV's 160-channel "Entertainment" package, which currently has a standard rate of $97 a month. A $7 monthly increase is coming to the 185-channel Choice package, currently at $115 a month. A $9 increase is coming to both the 250-channel Ultimate package (currently $142) and the 330-channel Premier package (currently $197). New customers can get those packages for $64.99 to $134.99 under promotional pricing that expires after 12 months. "If you currently have a DirecTV TV promotion, you'll keep that discount until it expires," AT&T said. "Once your promo period ends, you'll pay the new price for your package."
There are also $1 and $3 increases for DirecTV's Basic and Preferred Choice packages for international customers, $6 increases for certain Spanish-language packages, and $8 increases for "Xtra" packages. Only the Minimum service, Family, and ChineseDirect Plus plans are not getting increases. AT&T is raising U-verse TV prices by $5 to $9 a month depending on the package, while keeping the price of the most basic U-verse package the same. U-verse provides TV over AT&T's wired network. As with DirecTV, customers on U-verse promotional pricing won't see the increase until the promotional period ends. DirecTV is also adding a "Federal Cost Recovery Fee of $0.19 per month," similar to a fee that used to be charged once per year. Despite the name, the fee is not mandated by the government. AT&T said the fee covers "expenses that DirecTV pays to the Federal Communications Commission." Ars Technica notes that AT&T did not include any increases for the Regional Sports Network and Broadcast TV fees. It's also decreasing the price of some premium channels. "That includes $3 decreases for Starz, Cinemax, and Showtime," the report says. "There are also decreases of up to $3 for certain add-on bundles that include sports channels. But even with premium channels, there are some price increases, including a $2.96 boost to an add-on bundle that includes HBO Max, Starz, Showtime, Cinemax, and a sports-channel pack."
The full list of price changes can be found
Google Stadia Is Coming To iOS Officially As a Web App
Google's Stadia game-streaming service, which has been limited to Android phones, computers and TVs,
will launch for the iPhone in the coming weeks. The Verge reports:
Google on Thursday announced iOS support for its Stadia cloud gaming service, following in the footsteps of Microsoft in turning to the mobile web to circumvent Apple's App Store restrictions. Google says it has been building a progressive web app version of Stadia that will run in the mobile version of Apple's Safari browser, similar to how Microsoft intends to deliver its competing xCloud service on iOS sometime next year. But Google intends to beat Microsoft to the punch with public testing of its version in the coming weeks. Nvidia also announced today that it a beta web app version of its GeForce Now cloud gaming service on iOS is available today.
Apple in late August clarified its rules around cloud gaming, telling providers like Google and Microsoft that their apps were not allowed on the App Store due to restrictions Apple imposes on software that streams games to the iPhone and iPad. Apple eventually loosened its restrictions after public criticism from Microsoft and others, but the App Store still requires companies to submit individual games for App Store review. Microsoft called the compromise a "bad experience for consumers" before deciding it would develop a web app version of xCloud for iOS instead. Now, Google is doing the same.
Messaging App Go SMS Pro Exposed Millions of Users' Private Photos and Files
Go SMS Pro, one of the most popular messaging apps for Android, is
exposing photos, videos and other files sent privately by its users. Worse, the app maker has done nothing to fix the bug. TechCrunch reports:
Security researchers at Trustwave discovered the flaw in August and contacted the app maker with a 90-day deadline to fix the issue, as is standard practice in vulnerability disclosure to allow enough time for a fix. But after the deadline elapsed without hearing back, the researchers went public. Trustwave shared its findings with TechCrunch this week.
When a Go SMS Pro user sends a photo, video or other file to someone who doesn't have the app installed, the app uploads the file to its servers, and lets the user share a web address by text message so the recipient can see the file without installing the app. But the researchers found that these web addresses were sequential. In fact, any time a file was shared -- even between app users -- a web address would be generated regardless. That meant anyone who knew about the predictable web address could have cycled through millions of different web addresses to users' files. Go SMS Pro has more than 100 million installs, according to its listing in Google Play.
Facebook Antitrust Probes Will Target Acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram
A group of state attorneys general, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, is on track to
file antitrust charges against Facebook in early December, according to a report Thursday from the Washington Post. CNET:
The move comes as the US Federal Trade Commission is also reportedly finalizing its antitrust probe into the social media giant. State and federal investigators plan to bring antitrust charges against Facebook over its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, alleging that the deals "helped create an anti-competitive social networking juggernaut," according to the Post. Investigators may also reportedly argue that Facebook weaponized its vast trove of user data to help quash rivals.
LidarPhone Attack Converts Smart Vacuums Into Microphones
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet:
A team of academics has detailed this week novel research that converted a smart vacuum cleaner into a microphone capable of recording nearby conversations. Named LidarPhone, the technique works by taking the vacuum's built-in LiDAR laser-based navigational component and converting it into a laser microphone. [...] They tested the LidarPhone attack with various objects, by varying the distance between the robot and the object, and the distance between the sound origin and the object. Tests focused on recovering numerical values, which the research team said they managed to recover with a 90% accuracy. But academics said the technique could also be used to identify speakers based on gender or even determine their political orientation from the music played during news shows, captured by the vacuum's LiDAR.
But while the LidarPhone attack sounds like a gross invasion of privacy, users need not panic for the time being. This type of attack revolves around many prerequisites that most attacks won't bother. There are far easier ways of spying on users than overwriting a vacuum's firmware to control its laser navigation system, such as tricking the user on installing malware on their phone. The LidarPhone attack is merely novel academic research that can be used to bolster the security and design of future smart vacuum robots. In fact, the research team's main recommended countermeasure for smart vacuum cleaning robot makers is to shut down the LiDAR component if it's not rotating. Additional details about the research are available in a research paper titled "Spying with Your Robot Vacuum Cleaner: Eavesdropping via Lidar Sensors."
YouTube Will Run Ads On Smaller Creators' Videos Without Paying Them
YouTube has updated its Terms of Service to include a new section that
gives it the right to monetize videos from channels not big enough to be part of its Partner Program. Engadget reports:
That doesn't mean new creators can start earning from their videos right away, though -- YouTube said in a forum post explaining the changes to its ToS that non-YPP members won't be getting a cut from those ads. To become eligible for the YouTube Partner Program, a creator has to be living in a country where it's active, has to have 4,000 public watch hours in the last 12 months and has to have over 1,000 subscribers. YouTube only used to run ads on videos from channels that don't meet those criteria under special circumstances, such as if the channel was previously a YPP member. Going forward, though, the website can monetize any video, so long as it meets its ad-friendly guidelines.
In addition to this change to its Right to Monetize section, YouTube has also added "faces" to the kinds of information people aren't allowed to collect from its service. It explained that the website never allowed the collection of personally identifiable information, but it altered its language in the ToS "to be extremely explicit about what kind of data users" can't collect. YouTube is rolling out these changes in the US first, but they will be effective worldwide by the end 2021.
Star Wars Legend Alan Dean Foster Says Disney Is Withholding Book Royalties
Disney has developed a radical new theory of copyright. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and Fox, they acquired the copyright licenses that enabled them to sell Alan Dean Foster's books -- but not the liability, the legal obligation to actually pay him for those books. They have apparently also done this to numerous other authors.
The statement from the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) is here, and also a Twitter thread from Cory Doctorow. Foster's complaints go beyond Star Wars. His letter also states that Disney failed to pay royalties entirely for his
Alien novelizations. "He noted that he and his agent have tried to negotiate with Disney to resolve it all -- mainly because he and his wife have ongoing medical issues and the royalties would help with bills --
only for Disney to ask Foster to sign an NDA before talks could even commence," reports Gizmodo.
Here's part of his letter sent to the company: "When you purchased Lucasfilm you acquired the rights to some books I wrote. Star Wars, the novelization of the very first film. Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the first sequel novel. You owe me royalties on these books. You stopped paying them. When you purchased 20th Century Fox, you eventually acquired the rights to other books I had written. The novelizations of Alien, Aliens, and Alien 3. You've never paid royalties on any of these, or even issued royalty statements for them. All these books are all still very much in print. They still earn money. For you. When one company buys another, they acquire its liabilities as well as its assets. You're certainly reaping the benefits of the assets. I'd very much like my minuscule (though it's not small to me) share."
SFWA president Mary Robinette Kowal said: "The larger problem has the potential to affect every writer. Disney's argument is that they have purchased the rights but not the obligations of the contract. In other words, they believe they have the right to publish work, but are not obligated to pay the writer no matter what the contract says. If we let this stand, it could set precedent to fundamentally alter the way copyright and contracts operate in the United States. All a publisher would have to do to break a contract would be to sell it to a sibling company." The group is asking Disney to either pay Foster foor back and future royalties or cease publication -- either permanently or until new contracts can be signed. They're also asking any other writers who may have had the same experience with Disney to come forward.
Facebook Estimates Hate Speech Seen In 1 Out of 1,000 Views On Its Platform
Facebook for the first time on Thursday
disclosed numbers on the prevalence of hate speech on its platform, saying that out of every 10,000 content views in the third quarter, 10 to 11 included hate speech. Reuters reports:
The world's largest social media company, under scrutiny over its policing of abuses, particularly around November's U.S. presidential election, released the estimate in its quarterly content moderation report. On a call with reporters, Facebook's head of safety and integrity Guy Rosen said that from March 1 to the Nov. 3 election, the company removed more than 265,000 pieces of content from Facebook and Instagram in the United States for violating its voter interference policies.
Facebook also said it took action on 22.1 million pieces of hate speech content in the third quarter, about 95% of which was proactively identified. It took action on 22.5 million in the previous quarter. The company defines 'taking action' as removing content, covering it with a warning, disabling accounts, or escalating it to external agencies. Facebook's photo-sharing site Instagram took action on 6.5 million pieces of hate speech content, up from 3.2 million in Q2. About 95% of this was proactively identified, a 10% increase from the previous quarter. Facebook said it took action on 19.2 million pieces of violent and graphic content in the third quarter, up from 15 million in the second. On Instagram, it took action on 4.1 million pieces of violent and graphic content, up from 3.1 million in the second quarter. Rosen said the company expected to have an independent audit of its content enforcement numbers "over the course of 2021."
BuzzFeed Strikes Deal To Buy HuffPost From Verizon Media
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider:
BuzzFeed is set to acquire HuffPost in a stock deal with Verizon Media, The Wall Street Journal's Benjamin Mullin and Keach Hagey first reported Thursday. Verizon will get a noncontrolling stake in BuzzFeed in return. In addition to the all-stock deal, Verizon is investing cash in BuzzFeed, according to The Journal. As a result of the deal, the two newsrooms will be able to syndicate each other's content and team up for advertising deals. Jonah Peretti, the BuzzFeed founder and CEO and a cofounder of The Huffington Post, will be in charge of the expanded media giant. The two newsrooms will continue to operate as separate entities, the companies said in a press release.
"Verizon Media's strategy has evolved over the past two years to focus on our core strengths -- ads, commerce, content and subscriptions," Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan said in the release. "We've created a powerhouse ecosystem, built on a trusted network, that delivers an end-to-end experience for consumers and advertisers. The partnership with BuzzFeed complements our roadmap while also accelerating our transformation and growth."
Peretti said in the statement: "We're excited about our partnership with Verizon Media, and mutual benefits that will come from syndicating content across each other's properties, collaborating on innovative ad products and the future of commerce, and tapping into the strength and creativity of Verizon Media Immersive. I have vivid memories of growing HuffPost into a major news outlet in its early years, but BuzzFeed is making this acquisition because we believe in the future of HuffPost and the potential it has to continue to define the media landscape for years to come," Peretti said. "With the addition of HuffPost, our media network will have more users, spending significantly more time with our content than any of our peers." Arianna Huffington, the HuffPost founder,
tweeted: "So happy to see HuffPost and Buzzfeed coming together 15 years after Jonah Peretti started HuffPost with Kenny Lerer and me. Such exciting news and looking forward to all that's to come!"
Election Misinformation Often Evaded YouTube's Efforts To Stop It.
YouTube videos endorsing the false idea that there was widespread election fraud were
viewed more than 138 million times on the week of Nov. 3, according to a report from an independent research project that has been studying misinformation trends on the video site. From a report:
The report by the project, called Transparency.tube, looked at videos on YouTube that supported claims of voter fraud during the November elections, as well as videos that disputed such claims. Over all, the researchers identified 4,865 videos, viewed a combined 409 million times, that mentioned voter fraud. The YouTube videos supporting claims of voter fraud accounted for 34 percent of all views in the data set studied, while those disputing the voter fraud claims or remaining neutral accounted for 66 percent of views among the videos the research project identified. YouTube does not release data about the total number of videos uploaded to the site weekly. The company has said that 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
Many of the largest YouTube channels can rack up millions of views each day. For example, CNN, which has over 11 million subscribers to its YouTube channel, uploaded 51 videos during the week of Nov. 3. Those videos were viewed 69 million times, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Some of the most-watched videos disputing the results of the election include two videos by the right-wing news outlet BlazeTV, which were viewed 1.3 million times. Videos by the right-wing news outlets Newsmax and OANN that spread claims of widespread voter fraud were also viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
Famed Arecibo Telescope, On the Brink of Collapse, Will Be Dismantled
The Arecibo telescope's long and productive life has
come to an end. From a report:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced today it will decommission the iconic radio telescope in Puerto Rico following two cable breaks in recent months that have brought the structure to near collapse. The 57-year-old observatory, a survivor of numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, is now in such a fragile state that attempting repairs would put staff and workers in danger. "This decision was not an easy one to make," Sean Jones, NSF's assistant director for mathematical and physical sciences, said at a news briefing today. "We understand how much Arecibo means to [the research] community and to Puerto Rico." Ralph Gaume, director of NSF's astronomy division, said at the briefing the agency wants to preserve other instruments at the site, as well as the visitor and outreach center. But they are under threat if the telescope structure collapses. That would bring the 900-ton instrument platform, suspended 137 meters above the 305-meter-wide dish, crashing down. Flailing cables could damage other buildings on the site, as could the three support towers if they fell, too. "There is a serious risk of an unexpected and uncontrolled collapse," Gaume said. "A controlled decommissioning gives us the opportunity to preserve valuable assets that the observatory has." Over the next few weeks, engineering firms will develop a plan for a controlled dismantling. It may involve releasing the platform from its cables explosively and letting it fall.
OpenStreetMap is Having a Moment
The first time I spoke with Jennings Anderson, I couldn't believe what he was telling me. I mean that genuinely -- I did not believe him. He was a little incredulous about it himself. I felt like he was sharing an important secret with me that the world didn't yet know. The open secret Jennings filled me in on is that OpenStreetMap (OSM) is now at the center of an unholy alliance of the world's largest and wealthiest technology companies. The most valuable companies in the world are treating OSM as critical infrastructure for some of the most-used software ever written. The four companies in the inner circle -- Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft -- have a combined market capitalization of over six trillion dollars. In almost every other setting, they are mortal enemies fighting expensive digital wars of attrition. Yet they now find themselves eagerly investing in and collaborating on OSM at an unprecedented scale (more on the scale later). What likely started as a conversation in a British pub between grad students in 2004 has spiraled out of control into an invaluable, strategic, voluntarily-maintained data asset the wealthiest companies in the world can't afford to replicate.
I will admit that I used to think of OSM as little more than a virtuous hobby for over-educated Europeans living abroad -- a cutesy internet collectivist experiment somewhere on the spectrum between eBird and Linux. It's most commonly summarized with a variant of this analogy: OSM is to an atlas as Wikipedia is to an encyclopedia. OSM acolytes hate this comparison in the much same way baseball players resent when people describe the sport as "cricket for fat people." While vaguely truthful, it doesn't quite get to the spirit of the thing. OSM is incomparable. Over 1.5M individuals have contributed data to it. It averages 4.5M changes per day. The stats page on the OSM Wiki is a collection of hockey sticks. [...]
As Antitrust Pressure Mounts, Google To Pull Back Benefit to News Sites That Adopted Its Preferred MobileTechnology
Four years after offering special placement in a "top stories carousel" in search results to entice publishers to use a format it created for mobile pages, called AMP, Google announced last week that it will
end that preferential treatment in the spring. "We will prioritize pages with great page experience, whether implemented using AMP or any other web technology, as we rank the results," Google said in a blog post. From a report:
The company had indicated in 2018 that it would drop the preference eventually. Last week's announcement of a concrete timeline comes less than a month after the Department of Justice called Google a "monopoly gatekeeper to the internet" in a lawsuit alleging antitrust violations and as pressure mounts on officials in the European Union, which has already fined Google more than $9 billion for antitrust violations. "I did always think AMP posed antitrust concerns," said Sally Hubbard, author of the book "Monopolies Suck" and an antitrust expert with the Open Markets Institute. "It's, 'If you want to show up on the top of the search results, you have to play by our rules, you have to use AMP.'" Google spokesperson Meghann Farnsworth did not address the timing of the change but said AMP is not dead, saying the company is "fully committed to AMP as a technology." She said AMP continues to be required for certain features that "are not technically possible" without it, such as "swipe to visit" in Google Images, and that it's "preferred" in the "for you" feed in Google's news reading app, Google Discover.
'Wonder Woman 1984' is Coming To HBO Max (and Some US Theaters) on Dec. 25
Although COVID-19 is surging in the United States and around the world, Warner Bros. still plans to release "Wonder Woman 1984" on Christmas Day -- but its plans are are no longer limited to a theatrical release. From a report:
Director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot both posted tweets last night announcing that in in the United States, the film will be released simultaneously in theaters and on WarnerMedia's streaming service HBO Max. "THE TIME HAS COME," Jenkins wrote. "At some point you have to choose to share any love you have to give over everything else. We love our movie as we love our fans, so we truly hope that our film brings a little bit of joy and reprieve to all of you this holiday season." A press release from HBO Max offers a few more details: The film will debut in theaters internationally on December 16, then launch in U.S. theaters and on HBO Max on December 25. It will be available to the streaming service's U.S. subscribers for one month at no additional cost.
Fearing Drama, Mozilla Opens Public Consultation Before Worldwide Firefox DoH Rollout
Mozilla has opened today a public comment and consultation period about the ways it could enable support for the controversial privacy-centric DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) protocol inside Firefox. From a report:
The browser maker's decision to open a rare public consultation period comes after the organization faced criticism last year in the UK for its plans to support DoH inside Firefox. UK government officials, law enforcement agencies, and local internet service providers criticized Mozilla for developing and wanting to roll out DoH, a feature they said could have helped suspects bypass enterprise firewalls and parental controls blocklists -- even earning the browser maker a nomination for an "Internet Villain" award from a local ISP. All last year's hoopla was caused by DoH, a web protocol developed as an alternative to the classic DNS (Domain Name System). DoH works by encrypting DNS queries (which are normally sent out in clear text) and hiding them inside normal-looking HTTPS web traffic.
Japan To Begin Experiments Issuing Digital Yen
More than 30 major Japanese firms will begin experiments next year towards
issuing a common, private digital currency to promote digitalisation in one of the world's most cash-loving countries, the group's organising body said on Thursday. From a report:
The move follows the Bank of Japan's recently announced plan to experiment with issuing a digital yen, underscoring a growing awareness of the need for Japan to catch up to rapid global advances in financial technology. The group, consisting of Japan's three biggest banks as well as brokerages, telecommunication firms, utilities and retailers, will conduct experiments for issuing a digital currency that will use a common settlement platform. "Japan has many digital platforms, none of which are big enough to beat cash payments," Hiromi Yamaoka, a former BOJ executive who chairs the group, told an online briefing. "We don't want to create another silo-type platform. What we want to do is to create a framework that can make various platforms mutually compatible," Yamaoka said.
China's Xi Jinping Warns Against Protectionism in Apparent Swipe at US
President Xi Jinping has pegged China as the pivot point for global free trade, vowing to keep his "super-sized" economy open and
warning against protectionism in a global economy eviscerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. From a report:
Buoyed by the signing of the world's largest trade pact over the weekend, Xi said the Asia-Pacific is the âoeforerunner driving global growth" in a world hit by "multiple challenges," including coronavirus. He vowed "openness" to trade and rejected any possibility of the "decoupling" of China's economy -- in his only comments nodding to the hostile trade policy of Donald Trump's US administration, which has battered China with tariffs and tech restrictions. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum, at which Xi delivered his comments, was held online this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. It brings together 21 Pacific rim countries including the world's two biggest economies of China and the US, accounting for about 60% of global GDP.
Google is Rolling Out End-To-End Encryption for RCS in Android Messages Beta
After two long, complicated years, every Android user worldwide (outside China) now has access to the next-gen texting standard that is replacing SMS. Google is
directly offering RCS chat services through its Android Messages app to anybody who installs it and uses it as their default texting app, which partly bypasses a carrier rollout that, at times, has ranged from sluggish to incoherent to broken. From a report
Just as importantly, Google has announced that it's finally beginning to enable a key privacy feature: end-to-end encryption. For Android users who use Android Messages, one-on-one chats will eventually be end-to-end encrypted by default, meaning neither carriers nor Google will be able to read the content of those messages. Even though encryption is only beginning to roll out to people who sign up for the public beta for Android Messages, turning on encryption for RCS is a very big deal. It's a massive privacy win, as it could mean that the de facto replacement for SMS will, by default, be private on the smartphone platform used by the vast majority of people worldwide.
As for the people who use that other smartphone platform -- the iPhone -- we have no word on whether Apple intends to adopt the RCS standard. But as every carrier worldwide gets on board, and now that there is a clearer path to ensuring private communication with RCS, the pressure on Apple to participate is likely to build. Unfortunately, SMS becoming fully deprecated and replaced by RCS will only happen if all goes to plan for Google. Since initially announcing plans to transition to RCS as the primary texting platform for Android, the standard's rollout has been mired in confusion. In attempting to be neutral and make Android's texting a standard shared by carriers worldwide, Google set itself up with the job of herding multibillion-dollar cats -- with sadly predictable results.
Oxford Study Confirms Astra Covid Shot's Response in Elderly
The University of Oxford confirmed that the Covid-19 vaccine it's developing with AstraZeneca
produced strong immune responses in older adults in an early study, with key findings from the last phase of tests expected in the coming weeks. From a report:
The results, published Thursday in The Lancet medical journal, shed more light on preliminary data released in recent months showing the experimental shot generated an immune response in the elderly, who are at highest risk of severe illness. "This is a very important step, because the big worry with any vaccine is that it doesn't work so well in older people," Richard Horton, The Lancet's editor-in-chief, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. The data is "another brick in the house that we're trying to build for this vaccine." Researchers still await late-stage trial results that will show whether the vaccine can meet the high bar set by front-runners Pfizer and Moderna. The Astra-Oxford data readout will come after there have been 53 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the trial, Andrew Pollard, Oxford's chief trial investigator, said at a press briefing.
GeForce NOW Games Available on iOS Devices Through Safari, Fortnite Coming Soon
GeForce NOW, NVIDIA's streaming gaming service, today
announced the launch of Safari integration, which will bring Fortnite and other games to Apple's iOS devices through the Safari browser. From a report:
The new Safari integration is available in a beta capacity, and NVIDIA says that many games in the GeForce NOW library can be played on iOS devices. Using GeForce NOW on an iOS device requires a gamepad, and keyboard and mouse-only games are not available. NVIDIA has a list of recommended gamepads. NVIDIA is working alongside Epic Games on a touch-friendly version of Fortnite that will run on iOS devices through Safari, so Fortnite is not launching today, but it will be coming soon. Rumors earlier this month suggested that Fortnite would return to Apple's devices through a partnership with NVIDIA, and when the game launches on the GeForce NOW service, it will be the first time Fortnite has been accessible on iOS devices since the Apple vs. âOEEpic GamesâOE dispute kicked off in August.
Human Error Blamed For European Vega Rocket Failure
"A quick analysis of Monday night's
Arianespace Vega rocket failure has been
root caused to 'a series of human errors,'" writes an anonymous Slashdot reader. STAT reports:
In a call with reporters, Roland Lagier, chief technical officer of Arianespace, said the first three stages of the Vega rocket performed normally after liftoff from Kourou, French Guiana, at 8:52 p.m. Eastern Nov. 16. The Avum upper stage then separated and ignited its engine. However, "straightaway after ignition" of the upper stage, he said, the vehicle started to tumble out of control. "This loss of control was permanent, inducing significant tumbling behavior, and then the trajectory started to deviate rapidly from the nominal one, leading to the loss of the mission."
Analysis of the telemetry from the mission, along with data from the production of the vehicle, led them to conclude that cables to two thrust vector control actuators were inverted. Commands intended to go to one actuator went instead to the other, triggering the loss of control. "This was clearly a production and quality issue, a series of human errors, and not a design one," Lagier said.
Charlie Brown Holiday Specials To Air On TV, After All, In PBS Deal
Last month, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"
wasn't aired on TV, marking the first time since 1965 that the Peanuts special wasn't broadcasted. Instead, it was streamed on Apple+. Now, according to The Associated Press, the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and Christmas specials
will return to the air. From the report:
On Wednesday, Apple bowed to the backlash, announcing it had teamed up with PBS for ad-free broadcasts of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" (on Nov. 22) and "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (on Dec. 13). Both specials will also be available for free during three-day windows on Apple TV+ (Nov. 25-27 for "Thanksgiving" and Dec. 11-13 for "Christmas.") For subscribers, the specials will be available beginning Nov. 18 and Dec. 4, respectively.
Scientists Discover Outer Space Isn't Pitch Black After All
Researchers with NASA's New Horizons say they've
finally been able to determine if space is truly black. The group has
posted their work online, and it will soon appear ini the Astrophysical Journal. NPR reports:
New Horizons was originally designed to explore Pluto, but after whizzing past the dwarf planet in 2015, the intrepid spacecraft just kept going. It's now more than four billion miles from home -- nearly 50 times farther away from the Sun than the Earth is. That's important because it means the spacecraft is far from major sources of light contamination that make it impossible to detect any tiny light signal from the universe itself. Around Earth and the inner solar system, for example, space is filled with dust particles that get lit up by the Sun, creating a diffuse glow over the entire sky. But that dust isn't a problem out where New Horizons is. Plus, out there, the sunlight is much weaker.
To try to detect the faint glow of the universe, researchers went through images taken by the spacecraft's simple telescope and camera and looked for ones that were incredibly boring. Then they processed these images to remove all known sources of visible light. Once they'd subtracted out the light from stars, plus scattered light from the Milky Way and any stray light that might be a result of camera quirks, they were left with light coming in from beyond our own galaxy. They then went a step further still, subtracting out light that they could attribute to all the galaxies thought to be out there. And it turns out, once that was done, there was still plenty of unexplained light.
In fact, the amount of light coming from mysterious sources was about equal to all the light coming in from the known galaxies, says Marc Postman, an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. So maybe there are unrecognized galaxies out there, he says, "or some other source of light that we don't yet know what it is." [...] So where does the light come from? Perhaps, he says, there are far more small, faint dwarf galaxies and other faint regions on the outskirts of galaxies that instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope can't detect and so scientists just aren't aware of them. Or, maybe there's more dust out there interfering with the measurements than scientists expected. Or perhaps there's a more exotic explanation -- some unknown phenomenon out in the universe that creates visible light. It's even possible it's something associated with dark matter, a mysterious form of matter that exerts a gravitational pull on visible matter but has never been seen directly.