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Date: Monday, 16 Apr 2012 01:00

Google attempted to introduce a new approach to computing when it first launched Chrome OS in 2010. The operating system consists of little more than a fullscreen Web browser perched atop a rigorously-hardened Linux environment. The platform makes some unusual trade-offs, eschewing conventional native applications in exchange for bulletproof security and low-maintenance stateless computing.

Although the unique approach that Google is pursuing with Chrome OS offers some intriguing benefits, the platform hasn’t inspired enthusiasm in consumers. It offers limited functionality and a poor user experience compared to more conventional alternatives. Chrome OS in its current state is simply too alien and too restrictive to appeal to a mainstream audience. But that’s about to change in a major way.

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Author: "segphault@arstechnica.com (Ryan Paul)" Tags: "Features, Reviews, Reviews, Gadgets, chr..."
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Date: Monday, 09 Apr 2012 00:30

"If robots had a religion, I think this would be it," said Lauren Pespisa, an official member of both the Pirate Party and the "church" of Kopimism.

Using a projector propped up on top of a box of plastic cutlery, the 24-year-old Web developer described the one true faith of those who take file sharing seriously—very seriously. A crowd of several dozen had gathered on March 10 in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the first ever state-level Pirate Party conference in the US, and Pespisa was one of the speakers.

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Author: "jon.brodkin@arstechnica.com (Jon Brodkin)" Tags: "Features, News, News, Tech-policy, files..."
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Date: Sunday, 08 Apr 2012 23:00

The Qt development toolkit is undergoing a major overhaul. The developers behind the project announced the availability of the Qt 5 alpha release this week. It's a key milestone on the path to the official launch of Qt 5, expected to occur later this year.

Qt is an open source toolkit designed to support cross-platform desktop and mobile application development. It provides libraries, user interface controls, and other components. Qt was originally created by Trolltech, a Norwegian software company that Nokia acquired in 2008. Nokia subsequently relicensed Qt under more permissive terms and transitioned the toolkit to a community-driven open governance model.

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Author: "segphault@arstechnica.com (Ryan Paul)" Tags: "News, Features, News, News, Business, Op..."
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Date: Thursday, 05 Apr 2012 15:30

Facebook is headquartered in Menlo Park, California at a site that used belong to Sun Microsystems. A large sign with Facebook's distinctive "like" symbol—a hand making the thumbs-up gesture—marks the entrance. When I arrived at the campus recently, a small knot of teenagers had congregated, snapping cell phone photos of one another in front of the sign.

Thanks to the film The Social Network, millions of people know the crazy story of Facebook's rise from dorm room project to second largest website in the world. But few know the equally intriguing story about the engine humming beneath the social network's hood: the sophisticated technical infrastructure that delivers an interactive Web experience to hundreds of millions of users every day.

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Author: "segphault@arstechnica.com (Ryan Paul)" Tags: "News, Features, News, Business, facebook..."
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Date: Thursday, 05 Apr 2012 14:56

Most Web browser reviews focus on one thing: speed. Speed is all well and good, but browser benchmark scores fail to answer a fundamental question: which browser is best for business?

In an enterprise environment, speed is simply one concern among many. There are bigger questions: How secure are these browsers, and how well do they keep users from getting viruses or visiting fraudulent websites? How often are they updated, and how easy is it to apply these updates to multiple managed systems? How important do the companies behind these browsers think that the enterprise is? We set out to compare Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and Opera to answer these questions and more.

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Author: "andrew.cunningham@arstechnica.com (Andrew Cunningham)" Tags: "Reviews, Features, Getting-it-done, Revi..."
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Date: Thursday, 05 Apr 2012 01:00

US consumers will be making a multimillion dollar donation to an Australian government agency in the near future, whether they like it or not. The great majority won't even know about it—the fee will be hidden within the cost of a huge array of tech products. After the resolution of a recent lawsuit, practically every wireless-enabled device sold in the US will now involve a payment to an Australian research organization called the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or CSIRO.

In the culmination of a nearly decade-long patent campaign, CSIRO has now scored a $229 million settlement from a group of nine companies that make a variety of wireless devices and chips, including Broadcom, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Lenovo. The settlement was reached last week just before the companies were scheduled to face a jury in Tyler, Texas—a location with a growing reputation for patent lawsuits.

CSIRO (commonly pronounced “si-roh”) adds this lump sum to the $205 million it received in 2009, when a settlement with 14 companies was struck midway through another East Texas trial. Soon after that, CSIRO began boasting to the Australian press that WiFi was a homegrown invention. By suing over its patents, it anticipated an additional "lazy billion" out of tech products sold in the US. Ultimately, this didn't quite happen—but CSIRO is about halfway there.

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Author: "editors@arstechnica.com (Ars Staff)" Tags: "Features, News, News, Tech-policy, csiro..."
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Date: Wednesday, 04 Apr 2012 01:00

The Nokia Lumia 900 has the weight of two big names on its shoulders. It's Nokia's big re-entry into the US market; it's also the flagship Windows Phone Mango in this country. In anticipatory articles, you can hardly find the term "Lumia 900" separated from the word "premium." The phone is as important as the Samsung Galaxy Nexus was to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and as, well, every new iPhone is to iOS. 

The phone was recently announced at the two-year contract price of $99, a tag usually applied to new mid-range or old high-end phones (even more recently, AT&T announced the Lumia 900 will be free online for new customers). But the implication is that the low price is meant to attract attention to an OS that has yet to win a significant chunk of the market. It's not a reflection of the handset's quality. Because of this, we largely compare the Lumia 900 to the two flagship phones of the other two major OSes, the iPhone 4S with iOS and the Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.0. The iPhone 4 also makes a brief appearance, since it has the same list price as the Lumia 900. 

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Author: "casey.johnston@arstechnica.com (Casey Johnston)" Tags: "Features, Reviews, Reviews, Gadgets, lum..."
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Date: Monday, 02 Apr 2012 14:45

One spring day in 2010, a hacker named Kevin Finisterre knew he had hit the jackpot. A network he had been casing finally broadcast the live video and audio feed of a police cruiser belonging to a US-based municipal government. His jaw dropped as a computer in his home office in Columbus, Ohio showed the vehicle—with flashing blue lights on and siren blaring—charging down a road of the unnamed city.

A burly 31-year-old with glasses and pork-chop sideburns, Finisterre has spent more than a decade applying his combination of street smarts and technical skills to pierce digital fortresses. For instance, he once accessed the work account of an engineer for a large utility company. Finisterre used a pilfered profile from Hotjewishgirls.com to trick the engineer into thinking he was interacting with a flirtatious 26-year-old woman, until the engineer finally coughed up enough personal information to make an attack on his corporate account successful.

It's not a bad way to earn a living.

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Author: "dan.goodin@arstechnica.com (Dan Goodin)" Tags: "Coolest-jobs-in-tech, Features, @coolest..."
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Date: Sunday, 01 Apr 2012 23:00

Version 4 of Adobe's popular Lightroom hit the streets a few weeks ago. While the feature list isn't extensive, it thankfully lacks padding (new yellow button somewhere!). The public beta took the wind out of any surprises but the release was highly anticipated for a number of new features: GPS tagging in the new Map module, book creation and export, video file support and basic clip editing.

Another big feature was the downgraded price tag: Lightroom 4 is now half the price of version 3; $149 is sweet for an application this powerful (the upgrade price is $79). The motivation for this change was clear. Apple, on a price-cutting binge of their Mac App Store professional apps, dropped the price of Aperture 3 down to $80. That's still almost half as cheap as Adobe's Lightroom but there is no longer a demo for Aperture, so you have more risk involved in making that purchase. Anyway, Apple's selling hardware, not apps, so I don't fault Adobe for failing to match Aperture's shareware-like price point.

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Author: "daveg@arstechnica.com (Dave Girard)" Tags: "Features, Reviews, Reviews, Gadgets, ado..."
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Date: Wednesday, 28 Mar 2012 01:00

A few weeks ago, Fox News breathlessly reported that the embattled WikiLeaks operation was looking to start a new life under on the sea. WikiLeaks, the article speculated, might try to escape its legal troubles by putting its servers on Sealand, a World War II anti-aircraft platform seven miles off the English coast in the North Sea, a place that calls itself an independent nation. It sounds perfect for WikiLeaks: a friendly, legally unassailable host with an anything-goes attitude.

But readers with a memory of the early 2000s might be wondering, "Didn't someone already try this? How did that work out?" Good questions. From 2000 to 2008, a company called HavenCo did indeed offer no-questions-asked colocation on Sealand—and it didn't end well.

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Author: "editors@arstechnica.com (Ars Staff)" Tags: "Features, News, News, Tech-policy, cyphe..."
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Date: Monday, 19 Mar 2012 22:02

Another year, another iPad update. For its third shot at the tablet market, Apple borrowed an approach it pioneered with its longer-running series of iPhones: no radical redesign in consecutive years, just a solid upgrade. This year, the iPad looks nearly identical to its predecessor and carries a bit more weight in the belly, all in order to provide a high-resolution display, a better rear-facing camera, and LTE wireless support.

The screen, called a "retina" display because its individual pixels are said to be invisible to the human eye at normal viewing distances, is the main selling point over the iPad 2. Indeed, the upgraded internals (A5X processor, twice the memory, larger battery) exist largely to drive the beautiful display; overall performance remains on par with last year's iPad 2 otherwise.

Maybe that's why Apple never officially gave the third-generation iPad the name "iPad 3"—It's really more like "iPad 2 Premium Edition." But if you're up for spending the extra $100 over an iPad 2, what a nice Premium Edition it is.

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Author: "jacqui@arstechnica.com (Jacqui Cheng)" Tags: "Reviews, Features, Reviews, Reviews, App..."
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Date: Wednesday, 14 Mar 2012 15:00

Around the turn of the century, the FBI was pursuing a case against a suspect—rumored to be Las Vegas strip-club tycoon Michael Galardi, though documents in the case are still sealed—when it hit upon a novel surveillance strategy.

The suspect owned a luxury car equipped with an OnStar-like system that allowed customers to "phone home" to the manufacturer for roadside assistance. The system included an eavesdropping mode designed to help the police recover the vehicle if it was stolen, but the FBI realized this same anti-theft capability could also be used to spy on the vehicle's owner.

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Author: "timothy.lee@arstechnica.com (Timothy B. Lee)" Tags: "The-networked-society, Features, News, N..."
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Date: Tuesday, 13 Mar 2012 01:00

Women are accosted everywhere by pink: pink toys when they're young, pink clothes when they're teenagers, pink beer when they're adults. That wasn't the case in tech, which for decades created a black and chrome world, but as even advanced gadgets have gone mainstream in the last decade, pink has followed. 

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Author: "casey.johnston@arstechnica.com (Casey Johnston)" Tags: "Features, News, News, Gadgets, android, ..."
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Date: Monday, 12 Mar 2012 01:00

Once merely obscure inside jokes on the image board 4chan, the "rage face" comics that now appear widely on the Internet have have been toughened by natural selection as they evolved into a dominant species of Internet meme. The amateur cartoons, made using a recurring set of expressive characters, are used by a growing international community. Far from being insignificant doodles, the faces are now an accepted and standardized form of online communication used to tell stories that can be quick and funny or serious and deeply personal.

Because they have become so ubiquitous, and because any surfer worth his salt should have a working knowledge of top Internet memes, we've created this Field Guide to Rage Faces. In any expedition, preparation is key; for Internet adventurers, the ability to tell a “Challenge Accepted” from a “Me Gusta” can make all the difference. So kick off your boots, set your pith helmet aside, and enjoy a snifter of brandy as we explore the evolution, habitat, and social characteristics of rage faces.

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Author: "editors@arstechnica.com (Ars Staff)" Tags: "Features, News, News, Tech-policy, inter..."
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Date: Saturday, 10 Mar 2012 17:45

Apple released the final piece of its iLife suite for iOS on March 7, delivering a universal version of iPhoto for iPad and iPhone (sorry, iPod touch users). We spent some quality time with the app using an iPad 2 and iPhone 4, and came away impressed with the unique user interface design, general intuitiveness, and overall power Apple managed to pack into the app.

The app has a lot more photo tweaking capability than you might expect from first blush, including fully non-destructive editing that can be selectively undone. It also improves a bit on the standard Photos app's organization, and greatly enhances sharing options. More importantly, for $4.99 you get a photo editing tool that can, in many ways, out-Photoshop Adobe's own Photoshop Touch.

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Author: "chris.foresman@arstechnica.com (Chris Foresman)" Tags: "Reviews, Features, Reviews, Apple, digit..."
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Date: Thursday, 08 Mar 2012 16:30

After engaging in a recent rash of attacks in retaliation for the takedown of file-sharing site Megaupload, the Anonymous denial of service "cannons" have been firing considerably fewer shells of late.

While Anonymous group members managed to take down Interpol's website on February 28 (largely by using a Web version of their "Low Orbit Ion Cannon" denial of service tool) and have defaced a number of vulnerable sites (including, most recently, sites belonging to Panda Security), threats to take down bigger targets have failed to materialize. What some believed to be the group's boldest plan yet—an effort to bring down the Internet's entire Domain Name System (DNS)—is now being called a "troll" by members of the group.

But this doesn't mean the threat of more targeted denial of service attacks based on DNS attacks have gone away. Disappointed with the current denial of service tools at their disposal, members of Anonymous are working to develop a next-generation attack tool that will, among other options, use DNS itself as a weapon.

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Author: "sean.gallagher@arstechnica.com (Sean Gallagher)" Tags: "News, Features, News, Business, anonymou..."
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Date: Thursday, 08 Mar 2012 02:00

You get home from work on a Tuesday evening. Sensing your arrival, your home turns on the lights in the living room and kitchen. You stop by the bathroom and step on your Internet-connected scale—it absorbs your day's activity levels from a clip-on fitness monitoring device, then logs them on a website along with your sleeping activity and health history.

After making dinner, you sit down in front of the TV and tell it you want to buy a series you heard about on the way home from work. It responds to your voice, and in a few seconds downloads the entire first season over a gigabit connection. The series automatically downloads to your tablet, too, so you'll have it available on the go tomorrow.

We've been sold on such technological visions for years, but they always seem to be "three to five years" out. The tech we do get never seems to work quite as seamlessly as the futurists suggest. And yet we're still making remarkable technical progress; networking in general, and the Internet in particular, have only begun to transform our homes. Here are five basic technologies that will soon prove crucial to our networked lives—and none are mere fantasies. The core technologies exist; shipping products exist. They just need to make it into more homes before the effects are truly felt.

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Author: "casey.johnston@arstechnica.com (Casey Johnston)" Tags: "The-networked-society, Features, News, N..."
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Date: Wednesday, 07 Mar 2012 03:47

We may be at a critical point for nuclear power in the United States. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the construction of a new nuclear plant for the first time in 30 years—just two months after approving the reactor design. On the other hand, we're also approaching the first anniversary of the disaster at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. With these seemingly opposing events fresh in mind, now is the time to evaluate the status and future of nuclear power in the United States.

Interest in nuclear power stalled in the 1980s in the United States due to the high cost of nuclear plants and public perceptions of safety issues (particularly after the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents). According to various polls, public support for nuclear energy has steadily increased in the past decade. In 2009, a majority of people in the US supported nuclear energy. After Fukushima, this dropped to 43 percent.

A recent report compiled by the Federation of American Scientists in collaboration with Washington & Lee University recognized the country's nuclear crossroads and decided to evaluate our situation. Their conclusion? The future of nuclear power in the United States is promising, but progress is likely to be slow. 

In recent years, following rising fuel prices and concerns over global climate change, nuclear power came back into the spotlight. It is, after all, a potential carbon-free alternative to coal and natural gas. But without strong government support and some sort of emissions pricing to create incentives (not to mention sufficient safety considerations), we won’t see any nuclear revolution in the US.

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Author: "kyleniemeyer.ars@gmail.com (Kyle Niemeyer)" Tags: "Features, News, News, Science, nuclear"
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Date: Wednesday, 07 Mar 2012 03:30

"Script kiddie"—no hacker worth his salt wants to hear the term used to describe him. Anyone with modest computer skills can cause modest havoc using other people's code fragments, scanners, and infiltration tools, but this is little more than knowing how to point a gun in the right direction and pull the trigger. It lacks art. True hacking requires a deep knowledge of computer and network security, an ability to navigate around obstacles, and the willingness to be careful enough to always hide one's tracks. The script kiddies, they might be easy targets for the feds, but the true hackers? Shadows are their home.

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Author: "nate@arstechnica.com (Nate Anderson)" Tags: "Features, News, News, Tech-policy, anony..."
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Date: Tuesday, 06 Mar 2012 08:00

Mass Effect 3 starts out at a disadvantage thanks to the weight of expectation larded on it by the first two games in the series. Not only does the game have to wrap up a sprawling, galaxy-spanning storyline in a satisfying way, but it has to do so while avoiding gameplay that obsessive fans will see as "more of the same" after spending dozens of hours with the first two titles.

Mass Effect 3 manages to live up to those expectations, but not without some frustrations at the seams. It's far from a perfect game, but it holds up as a well-constructed conclusion to a much-loved series.

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Author: "kyle.orland@arstechnica.com (Kyle Orland)" Tags: "Features, Reviews, Reviews, Gaming"
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