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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 16:58

TV-over-Internet startup Aereo was shut off following an adverse Supreme Court ruling this summer. The high court said it couldn't avoid paying for broadcast TV shows by claiming it was renting a tiny antenna to each customer.

It might get one last chance, though. The FCC is considering whether to regulate online providers of pre-scheduled programs the same way it handles cable and satellite companies, according to reports in National Journal and Multichannel News.

If true, it could be a breakthrough for Aereo. In the wake of the Supreme Court's ABC v. Aereo ruling, the company changed its strategy, embracing the idea that it should be considered a cable system. It wants to pay the same royalty fees for broadcast content that the cable companies pay.

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Author: "Joe Mullin" Tags: "Law & Disorder, Aereo, copyright, FCC"
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 16:50
Early production still (not really)

Tetris, the block-stacking game that comes in near the top of many lists of greatest games ever, is being made into a live-action, feature-length, "sci-fi epic" motion picture, The Tetris Company announced today.

Before you ask, no, this is not a joke. You'd be forgiven for asking, though, because the very idea of a movie based on Tetris has been an Internet joke countless times in the past.

The film is being developed by Threshold Entertainment, best known to gaming crossover fans as the studio behind the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie. That film, which grossed $70 million, was one of the first to take a video game license to the silver screen, and it's still critically considered one of the best examples of the based-on-the-game sub-genre (though that's really somewhat damning with faint praise).

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Author: "Kyle Orland" Tags: "Opposable Thumbs, movie, not a joke, ter..."
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 16:29
Just as Lucy pulls the ball away from Charlie Brown, the NFL takes broadcasts away from fans.
Charles M. Schulz

The Federal Communications Commission today unanimously voted to eliminate its sports blackout rules, challenging the National Football League to end its own policies that sometimes prevent fans from watching home games on TV.

"Today’s FCC action makes clear: if leagues want to mistreat fans, they will have to do so without Uncle Sam’s help," said David Goodfriend, an attorney and lobbyist who founded a group called the Sports Fans Coalition that fought against the rules.

NFL broadcasts are blacked out in local markets when games are not sold out. The NFL in 2012 relaxed the rules by letting individual teams reduce the likelihood of a blackout by only requiring that 85 percent of tickets be sold. But the policies have persisted for decades with support from the federal government.

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Author: "Jon Brodkin" Tags: "Law & Disorder, Ministry of Innovation, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 16:23

Over the past few days, Apple, Red Hat, and others have pushed out patches to vulnerabilities in the GNU Bourne Again Shell (bash). The vulnerabilities previously allowed attackers to execute commands remotely on systems that use the command parser under some conditions—including Web servers that use certain configurations of Apache. However, some of the patches made changes that broke from the functionality of the GNU bash code, so now debate continues about how to “un-fork” the patches and better secure bash.

At the same time, the urgency of applying those patches has mounted as more attacks that exploit the weaknesses in bash’s security (dubbed “Shellshock”) have appeared. In addition to the threat first spotted the day after the vulnerability was made public, a number of new attacks have emerged. While some appear to simply be vulnerability scans, there are also new exploit attempts that carry malware or attempt to give the attacker direct remote control of the targeted system.

Stormy weather

On Monday, the SANS Technology Institute’s Internet Storm Center (ISC) elevated its INFOcon threat level—a measure of the danger level of current Internet “worms” and other threats based on Internet traffic—to Yellow. This level indicates an attack that poses a minor threat to the Internet’s infrastructure as a whole with potential significant impact on some systems. Johannes Ullrich, Dean of Research at SANS, noted that six exploits based on Shellshock have been recorded by the ISC’s servers and “honeypot” systems. (A honeypot is a virtual or physical computer system set up to entice attackers and record their actions.)

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Author: "Sean Gallagher" Tags: "Risk Assessment, Technology Lab"
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 15:56
A few of a marketer's favorite things.

Facebook has officially relaunched the advertising platform Atlas in a new incarnation that will allow marketers to track users in new dimensions, according to a blog post from the company. Atlas will offer the ability to not only synthesize information about where users are seeing ads, but also to see how and whether those ad views play out into a purchase, even if it's offline.

Facebook acquired Atlas from Microsoft in 2013, and now the platform has been "rebuilt from the ground up." Atlas aims to accomplish what it calls "people-based marketing"—that is, the counterpoint to marketing based on a browser cookie or isolated social media profile.

Atlas's services purport to solve the "cross-device" problem, where marketers struggle to relate the browsing activity on a user's phone to what they do on their computer. This has become easier to an extent with Facebook profiles and logins, but Atlas also plans to add "partners" that "cross search, social, creative management and publishers" to track how ads are viewed and how successful they are on multiple "channels and platforms."

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Author: "Casey Johnston" Tags: "Ministry of Innovation, advertising, ATL..."
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 15:30

The streaming stick market is apparently heating up. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon all have entrants in this space, and if a new Kickstarter appeal succeeds, there will soon be a Firefox OS stick getting in on the action.

Inspired by the Chromecast, the Matchstick will plug into your TV using HDMI, connect to devices locally using Wi-Fi, and be used as a streaming media platform. Unlike Chromecast, however, Matchstick will use the open source Firefox OS as its base, making it readily accessible to developers who will be able to build HTML apps for Matchstick that leverage open Web technologies.

The developers hope it will deliver what they wanted Chromecast to achieve: any content on any HD screen, anywhere, any time. They've put together an SDK for both sending apps (that run on phones or PCs to transmit content to the Matchstick) and receiver apps (that run on the Matchstick itself).

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Author: "Peter Bright" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, chromecast, hdmi stick, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 15:16

A set of newly declassified documents shows definitively and explicitly that the United States intelligence community relies heavily on what is effectively unchecked presidential authority to conduct surveillance operations, as manifested through the Reagan-era Executive Order (EO) 12333.

And at a more basic level, the new documents illustrate that the government is adept at creating obscure legalistic definitions of plain language words, like "collection of information," which help obfuscate the public’s understanding of the scope and scale of such a dragnet.

The documents were first published on Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) after the group filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit with the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School.

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Author: "Cyrus Farivar" Tags: "Law & Disorder, 12333, ACLU, EFF, NSA"
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 14:55

The next version of Windows, codenamed Threshold, will get its first official unveiling later today. A mix of leaks and accidental publications have shed a little more light on what we should—and shouldn't—expect to see.

Microsoft is releasing a "Technical Preview" of Windows. As reported by Neowin, the download page was accidentally published over the weekend. The 4GB release is being clearly billed and targeted at enterprise and developers.

To that end, it should have the new hybrid Start menu—created to appease desktop-bound corporate users—a notification center, and windowed Metro apps. It isn't, however, expected to have a full visual refresh, and it won't have all the consumer bells and whistles. This means that Internet Explorer 12, believed to be getting a streamlined new look, and the Cortana personal assistant, believed to be making her desktop debut, won't be there.

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Author: "Peter Bright" Tags: "Technology Lab, microsoft, Windows 9"
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 14:00
The interior of the Axion Dark Matter eXperiment (ADMX).

Scientists are explorers by nature, and when the edges of their maps are terra incognita, researchers sometimes must give names to phenomena for which we have little knowledge. Sometimes those names linger after we know exactly what an unknown quantity is; X-rays are a classic example. The “X” initially referred to mystery, but by the time physicists determined they were simply a high-energy form of light, the name had stuck.

Dark matter, however, is still a placeholder term. Over the decades since astronomers determined that most of the mass in the cosmos is invisible, researchers have done a much better job of figuring out what dark matter isn’t than what it actually is. We know it must be electrically neutral, and it can’t be made up of ordinary matter (electrons, atomic nuclei, etc.). And while “dark matter” itself is a general term, physicists have a sort of cartography of hints: areas on the map in which various dark matter candidates reside.

The most popular of these realms contains the WIMPs: weakly interacting massive particles. Like the term “dark matter," WIMP is generic: the name describes the energy scale at which these hypothetical particles interact with ordinary matter, which in turn reveals something about their mass.

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Author: "Matthew Francis" Tags: "Features, Scientific Method, axions, Dar..."
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 13:00
Star-forming region near the center of the Milky Way. Composite image, assembled from infrared images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory in 2009.

The most complex organic molecule yet to be discovered in interstellar space has been reported. While organic molecules that are organized in a straight line have been seen previously, the new molecule—iso-propyl cyanide—is the first molecule found with a branched structure.

In the 1980s, scientists were beginning to realize that it’s possible for complex organic molecules to form on the surfaces of dust grains. As a result, some of them predicted that the interstellar medium would contain complex, branched molecules. But none were discovered until now.

The molecule in question is an important building block of amino acids, which are themselves one of the important building blocks of life. The discovery reinforces hopes of finding life elsewhere in the Universe.

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Author: "Xaq Rzetelny" Tags: "Scientific Method, astronomy, astrophysi..."
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 11:30

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor's style, and its very existence, owe a lot to Warner Bros. and its other big licensed gaming series of the past few years: the Batman: Arkham games. Rather than push a license through excessive crunch time to coincide with a new movie, the Arkham model let Warner Bros. put the time into developing a game with an original story that would stand the test of time. The game draws both the evergreen franchise fanatics and those not automatically drawn to the license's source material.

So rather than trying to retell the now well-worn tales of Bilbo or Frodo's journeys, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor switches gears entirely, telling a story that takes place between the end of The Hobbit and the start of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The game isn't designed to fully bridge the gap between those stories, though. As the title says, this is less a Lord of the Rings game and more a "Middle-earth" game, focused on expanding the continent's mythos, starting with Sauron's domain in Mordor.

Revenge of the Ranger

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Author: "Ars Staff" Tags: "Opposable Thumbs, jrr tolkien, Lord of t..."
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 23:40

On Monday the Associated Press wrote that officials in Ferguson, Missouri, have been charging exorbitant fees to turn over public records like e-mails and texts from city officials. The informational paywalls come in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, that spurred weeks of protests in the St Louis suburb.

The AP notes that charging high fees for public records is a tactic that some government agencies use to discourage journalists and activists from discovering unflattering or problematic information. Officials in Ferguson have said that forwarding certain e-mail and text messages requires expensive IT analysis, despite the fact that public records laws in Missouri maintain that public access to government records should be provided at little to no cost.

“Ferguson told the AP it wanted nearly $2,000 to pay a consulting firm for up to 16 hours of work to retrieve messages on its own e-mail system, a practice that information technology experts call unnecessary,” the AP wrote on Monday. “The firm, St. Louis-based Acumen Consulting, wouldn't comment specifically on Ferguson's contract, but said the search could be more complicated and require technicians to examine tape backups.”

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Author: "Megan Geuss" Tags: "Law & Disorder, e-mails, Ferguson, PACER..."
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 23:00
The patched Bash shell on a system running OS X 10.9.5.
Andrew Cunningham

Apple has just released the OS X Bash Update 1.0 for OS X Mavericks, Mountain Lion, and Lion, a patch that fixes the "Shellshock" bug in the Bash shell that we first reported on last week. Bash, which is the default shell for many Unix and Linux-based operating systems, has been updated two times to fix the Shellshock remote exploit bug, and many Linux distributions have already issued updates to their users.

When installed on an OS X Mavericks system, the patch upgraded the Bash shell from version 3.2.51 to version 3.2.53, something that users could already do manually if they were so inclined. The update requires the OS X 10.9.5, 10.8.5, or 10.7.5 updates to be installed on your system first. An Apple representative told Ars that the company would not be releasing an individual patch for users running the current OS X Yosemite developer or public beta builds, but the rep went on to say the bug will be fixed in future builds of the software. The company previously stated that Macs "are safe by default and not exposed to remote exploits of bash unless users configure advanced UNIX services." Non-jailbroken iOS devices shouldn't be vulnerable to the exploit at all.

Shellshock, in essence, allows attackers to issue commands to systems via malformed environment variables. In the case of Web servers, it can allow attackers to gain full control of the system. Exploits of the bug have already been spotted in the wild, and end users and server administrators are all encouraged to patch their systems as soon as possible.

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Author: "Andrew Cunningham" Tags: "Infinite Loop, Risk Assessment, bash, OS..."
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 21:37

The chief executive officer of a mobile spyware maker was arrested over the weekend, charged with allegedly illegally marketing an app that monitors calls, texts, videos, and other communications on mobile phones "without detection," federal prosecutors said.

The government said the prosecution [PDF] of Hammad Akbar, 31, of Pakistan, was the "first-ever" case surrounding advertising and the sales of mobile spyware targeting adults—in this case an app called StealthGenie.

“Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement. “Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim’s personal life—all without the victim’s knowledge."

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Author: "David Kravets" Tags: "Law & Disorder, arrested, mobile app, sp..."
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 21:27

Mars has two new satellites thanks to last week's successful orbital insertions of NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) and the Indian Space Research Organization's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Both probes have already returned their first images from orbit. MOM is responsible for the one shown above, which captures a large dust storm in the northern hemisphere of Mars. It also snapped this oblique view of the planet's surface, which manages to capture the thin atmosphere of Mars:

MOM carries a camera that captures visible wavelengths, which is why we're able to enjoy the red planet living up to its name. MAVEN is focused on studying the atmosphere in detail, specifically its interactions with space and the solar wind. Watching what escapes Mars and what stays associated with the planet will tell us a lot about how the Martian atmosphere has evolved over the history of the Solar System.

Unfortunately, that mission won't always result in dramatic photos. The one below shows how MAVEN is able to identify individual gasses and demonstrate how they either associate tightly with Mars (oxygen) or are able to spread out into space (hydrogen). That doesn't mean we won't end up with some great pictures from MAVEN; it's just that the main scientific mission isn't focused on high-resolution images of what Mars looks like.

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Author: "John Timmer" Tags: "Scientific Method, india, Mars, MAVEN, M..."
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 20:09

Don't hit the food. The Wizard needs food... badly. Elf, how could you shoot the food?!

“The food” tends to be what everyone remembers about Gauntlet, if they remember the game at all. "The food" is more important to the series' legacy than the games themselves, which have changed considerably from the top-down arcade original through third-person 3D console iterations. The food is life. The food is frustration. The food is Gauntlet.

In Arrowhead Studios' new reboot of Gauntlet (no subtitle this time), there is plenty of food. Whole, honey-baked hams and roast turkeys sit around waiting for consumption or destruction by up to four players. Amid the hordes of mummies, goblins, spiders, and their various spawning devices, these fragile, life-giving feasts tie the new game back to the original more than anything else.

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Author: "Ars Staff" Tags: "Opposable Thumbs, arrowhead games, Class..."
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 19:16
This year's melt is almost identical to last year's, and nothing like the huge loss of ice seen in 2012.

Each year in September, the sea ice at the two poles reach opposite extremes. Early in the month, the Arctic ice bottoms out, reaching its annual minimum. Off of Antarctica, the ice typically reaches its greatest extent toward the end of the month. In recent years, the Arctic sea ice has grabbed the most attention, as its dramatic loss has set records. But this year, most of the drama is occurring down south.

Arctic sea ice, which is largely contained in the closed basin surrounding the North Pole, set a record in 2012, falling well below the previous 2007 record. But last year, although the melting has remained well below the average of the satellite measurements, the loss of ice hasn't been extreme. The same could be said of this year; it's the sixth lowest amount of ice we've seen at this point of the year, but that's nowhere near the record loss we saw in 2012. The ice did shrink enough to open a passage north of Russia, but the Northeast Passage above Canada remained ice-filled.

The ice cover did remain within two standard deviations of the 1981-2010 average, but it's not clear that's all that significant, given that this period includes the second-lowest year on record. But having two years in a row of somewhat moderated melting is probably a sign that the tremendous loss of ice in 2012 has not shifted the Arctic into a trend where ice loss accelerates with each Arctic summer. It also may enable a slight regrowth of some of the thicker, multi-year ice that does not melt as readily.

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Author: "John Timmer" Tags: "Scientific Method, climate, climate chan..."
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 19:06

Last week, a Dallas-based market research firm published a report about American video-streaming habits, and its numbers told a story that we saw coming for years: Video game consoles have become the leading device category for video streaming app use.

On Tuesday, Parks Associates published its report, which surveyed 10,000 American homes in early 2014, and it found 44 percent of broadband-using respondents considered a game console their "primary connected" device for accessing non-gaming Internet content, particularly video apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Video. Out of those console owners, "roughly three quarters" log into consoles to watch video apps at least once a week, and 40 percent of them watch over 10 hours of content a week.

The report goes on to rank broadband homes' preferred devices, with game consoles beating, in order, smart TVs (20 percent), streaming media boxes (12 percent), and Blu-ray players (nine percent). "What we find is that not every device has everything somebody wants," Parks Director of Research Barbara Kraus said in an interview with Ars. Kraus clarified that respondents were asked which device they used most. "You are going to continue using multiple devices until you have a platform that has everything you want on it," she said.

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Author: "Sam Machkovech" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, Opposable Thumbs, Amazon..."
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 18:49

The New York Public Service Commission has delayed its vote on the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger from October 2 to November 13.

The delay comes as the commission reviews recommendations from the state Division of Consumer Protection's Utility Intervention Unit (UIU). In a filing on August 25 (download link), the UIU described "deficiencies associated with the Companies’ current substandard customer service" and said the merger should not be approved unless certain conditions are imposed. The UIU also said there are "deficiencies" in the companies' petition with the state, "specifically, in the areas of improving the Companies’ service to its New York customers, making universal broadband more affordable, increasing broadband speed, and investing in infrastructure, including ways to remedy those deficiencies."

Conditions proposed to remedy the problems include expanding eligibility for Comcast's low-cost Internet service for poor people, preservation of Time Warner Cable's $14.99-per-month standalone broadband service for all customers regardless of income status, expansion of broadband in rural areas, implementation of a service quality measure, preservation of customer service jobs in New York, and "the creation of two additional voting seats on the Board of Directors of the merged company to represent New York consumer interests."

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Author: "Jon Brodkin" Tags: "Law & Disorder, Ministry of Innovation, ..."
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 17:26

Chrome OS has been a fine OS for people who just consume content on the Internet, but other than writing documents, the OS hasn't offered much for content creators. If you deal with photos at all, Chrome OS has mostly been a non-starter because it has been missing one crucial piece of software: Adobe Photoshop. Today, Google and Adobe are finally fixing that situation, bringing Photoshop to Chrome OS.

And now for the list of caveats—to start, this is just a beta project. Initially it's only going to be available to "US-based Adobe education customers with a paid Creative Cloud membership." Photoshop won't be a local app; it will be a "streaming version" of Photoshop. Google doesn't say much about the streaming option, only that "this streaming version of Photoshop is designed to run straight from the cloud to your Chromebook. It’s always up-to-date and fully integrated with Google Drive, so there’s no need to download and re-upload files—just save your art directly from Photoshop to the cloud."

Adobe's site fills in some blanks, saying that the app will run in a "virtualized environment" and won't have GPU support at launch. The network requirements are listed as "5 mbps/max latency 250," so it sounds like there's no offline mode. And if you want to use the app while mobile, you'll need a pretty good LTE connection. This streaming version of Photoshop will also be accessible on a Chrome browser running on Windows.

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Author: "Ron Amadeo" Tags: "Gear & Gadgets, Adobe, Chrome OS, hallel..."
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