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Warning: plot points of We Steal Secrets: the Story of WikiLeaks are discussed in this Q&A.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney doesn't shy away from controversy. In fact, he may gravitate towards it. His previous works cover the fall of Enron (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), the Elliot Spitzer saga (Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer), and torture during the war in Afghanistan (Taxi to the Dark Side).
For his latest documentary, Gibney focused on the story of WikiLeaks—from its successful beginnings in Iceland all the way through Julian Assange embracing Ecuador. The film itself is an extremely thorough look at a complicated tale that still hasn't finished, with both Assange and Bradley Manning currently existing in a sort of legal limbo. It challenged Gibney to craft an ever evolving narrative and inspired him to consider doing a dramatic film about Manning in the future ("We're working on it, I wouldn't say more than that," he told Ars).
Warning: potential spoilers in this film review.
Alex Gibney's new documentary hits select theaters on May 24.
All movies have heroes and villains, and Alex Gibney's documentary, We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, felt like vintage silver screen. Two-thirds of the way through, the film established clear roles. Our protagonist is Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder and underdog hacker hero. His evil nemesis is actually information-silencing bureaucracy, but the US government largely plays this role (voiced often by Michael Hayden, former director of both the NSA and CIA). It's a classic conflict: a battle waged over censorship and the public's right to know.
We Steal Secrets begins with point-of-view shots from above the Earth, which could loosely be seen as the start of a hero's journey. The satellite Galileo is orbiting as Bryant Gumbel, Ted Brokaw, and other talking heads read news of the WANK digital attack on NASA. The film unofficially ties Assange to this Melbourne hacker collective, which penetrated 300,000 NASA computers during the incident. (WANK's slogan, "You talk of peace for all and then prepare for war," is a lyric from one of Assange's favorite songs.) So here is the talented but misguided young hacker, shown being charged in his home country for actions under his past Mendax moniker. WikiLeaks represents the realization of Assange's potential. One talking head comments that the hack is something he would have screwed up 20 years ago, but now the timing is perfect.
A website that accepts payment in exchange for knocking other sites offline is perfectly legal, the proprietor of the DDoS-for-hire service says. Oh, it also contains a backdoor that's actively monitored by the FBI.
Ragebooter.net is one of several sites that openly accepts requests to flood sites with huge amounts of junk traffic, KrebsonSecurity reporter Brian Krebs said in a recent profile of the service. The site, which accepts payment by PayPal, uses so-called DNS reflection attacks to amplify the torrents of junk traffic. The technique requires the attacker to spoof the IP address of lookup requests and bounce them off open domain name system servers. This can generate data floods directed at a target that are 50 times bigger than the original request.
Krebs did some sleuthing and discovered the site was operated by Justin Poland of Memphis, Tennessee. The reporter eventually got an interview and found Poland was unapologetic.
Invasive species have become a problem on nearly every continent. Native species that may have had millions of years to adapt to their environment are somehow trivially displaced by a species that originated somewhere else. How is it that the invaders can be so phenomenally successful against what should be well-entrenched competition?
A new study shows that in at least one case, some insect invaders engage in a bit of biological warfare, carrying a fungus that kills their competitors but which the host can tolerate. The fungus spreads because of a nasty habit the insects have—namely that they tend to eat each others' eggs. Somewhat ironically, all of this goes on in a species that tends to have a friendly reputation: the ladybug (or ladybird, for the anglophiles among us).
The invasive species in question is an Asian ladybug, the harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis. Because of its fondness for agricultural pests (fondness in the same sense that I have a fondness for lobster), Harmonia has been introduced to some countries where it wasn't native. When the invaders were introduced, the native ladybug species dropped like flies (pun intended) and was easily displaced by the new arrivals.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Earlier this week, Ars showed up at a demo day for the painful-to-read HAXLR8R (pronounced hack-celerator), a startup accelerator program that takes ten teams of entrepreneurs, gives them $25,000, and flies them between San Francisco and Shenzhen to work on a hardware-based product of their design.
Most of the products were still in progress, so many teams spent demo day courting VC funders or imploring the crowd to visit their Kickstarter campaign. But Foc.us, a company founded by mechanical engineers Michael Oxley and Martin Skinner, actually had its product launch that day. Its Foc.us headset is a device that is meant to shock your brain with electricity—and make you a better gamer because of it.
The headset is a red or black band that goes around the back of your head, with four disks that are placed on your forehead, just above your eyebrows. The disks contain electrodes beneath small circular sponges soaked in saline solution. When the headset turns on (via a physical button in the back or a companion iOS app), you get a shock to the prefrontal cortex that can range from 0.8 to 2.0 mA. For context, a hearing aid usually runs on about 0.7 mA—but you’re not directing that electricity into your head.
Without a doubt, Activision's original Pitfall! stands out as an icon of the early console gaming era. I devoted countless hours to it both on my Atari and on my best friend's Intellivision. This game suggested that there was always something new up ahead—if you just hung in long enough.
Sadly, over the years I've learned that sometimes hanging on does not pay off.
Continuing with the spate of Acer announcements from today, next up we have the Iconia A1 Tablet. Details on the SoC are a bit scarce, but it’s listed as a quad-core 1.2GHz 28nm MT8389W MediaTek chip (with MT6167 for 3G); MediaTek has used PowerVR SGX 544 previously, but it’s not clear which GPU is in the MT8389W. Regardless, the 1024x768 LCD resolution doesn’t need a ton of graphics power for moderate gaming, so hopefully the GPU will prove sufficient.
Acer makes a point of calling the A1 a “one-handed” tablet, suggesting that the smaller size than traditional tablets makes it more usable with a single hand. Dimensions of the A1 measure 208.7mm x 145.7mm x 11.1mm and with a weight of 410g (WiFi only; 430g for 3G) it’s reasonably light, but we’ve seen other 7” tablets so this is nothing really new.
Other features of note are the IPS XGA LCD, 1GB DDR3L RAM, 8GB/16GB eMMC storage, 0.3MP (640x480) front-facing camera, 5MP rear-facing camera (with 1080p30 video support), microSD slot with support for up to 32GB, Micro USB 2.0, Micro HDMI, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11b/g/n, and an 18.6Wh battery with up to eight hours of battery life. The A1 ships with Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean).
The Iconia A1-810 with 16GB will be available in June with an MSRP of $200.
Gallery: Acer Iconia A1 7.9” Tablet
In contrast to the Aspire R7, the P3 is basically a reworking of the Iconia W700 tablet from last year, only with a shell that makes the result very similar to Microsoft’s Surface Pro with its own variant of the Type Cover. There are a few immediately notable differences, however, like the standard 1366x768 resolution instead of 1080p—but thankfully the panel technology is still IPS. The Aspire P3 comes with either a Core i3 or i5 processor, 2GB or 4GB RAM, and a 60GB or 120GB SSD.
The weight of the tablet is 790g (1.74 lbs.) while the keyboard cover nearly doubles the total weight with an additional 600g (1.32 lbs.), so the whole tablet/Ultrabook ends up being somewhat heavy at 1.39kg (3.06 lbs.) The tablet portion measures 295.4mm x 190.7mm x 9.95mm (11.63” x 7.51” x 0.39”), and the keyboard cover is slightly wider and taller and adds another 9.8mm to the thickness. Other aspects include a 40Wh battery that’s good for up to six hours of battery life, 720p front-facing camera, 5MP rear-facing camera, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, micro HDMI, and a single full-size USB 3.0 port.
The base model P3 is available immediately with an MSRP of $800, so again this is very much a Surface Pro alternative. I would assume the $800 model comes with a 60GB SSD, 2GB RAM, and a Core i3 CPU. Acer doesn’t list an MSRP for the higher spec model, but $1000+ would seem likely.
Gallery: Acer Aspire P3 Ultrabook Launched
At today’s Bay Area Maker Fair, Arduino announced its newest board—the Arduino Yún. The board is an Arduino Leonardo running Linino, a Linux fork based on OpenWRT. The board is Wi-Fi capable, which Arduino hopes will encourage people to use the boards to make cloud-ready projects.
In an official statement the company explained: “Historically, interfacing Arduino with complex Web services has been quite a challenge due to the limited memory available. Web services tend to use verbose text-based formats like XML that require quite a lot or ram to parse. On the Arduino Yún we have created the Bridge library which delegates all network connections and processing of HTTP transactions to the Linux machine.”
Earlier this week, another company called Spark Devices launched a similar idea on Kickstarter called Spark Core. That initiative puts forward a Wi-Fi capable board for Arduino projects that permits wireless programming and the ability to interface with Web services. The company originally asked for $10,000 and has since raised more than $300,000. (The campaign ends June 1.)
This is the second in our series of reboots that need the boot. We looked first at Alien vs. Predator. The third installment releases Sunday on Ars Technica.
There is a small handful of game series that I've sunk thousands of hours of my life into. The most enduring of them all is SimCity, the city simulator. A considerable chunk of my gaming career has been spent building large, sprawling metropolises: zoning land, redesigning transport infrastructure, balancing budgets, building public amenities, and occasionally burning the entire thing to the ground.
As much as I loved the series, it was long in the tooth. SimCity 4 was released a decade ago and though it remains to this day an enjoyable game (especially with third-party modifications) its age is readily apparent. The graphics look a little stale, there are performance and compatibility issues, and it lacks features that people want, such as co-operative multiplayer city-building.
We spent the week at I/O sitting in sessions, walking around the show floor, and congregating with developers. After the keynote, things got quieter on the news front but there was still plenty to learn about. This conference is about community, bringing together developers of all types, and connecting people with similar interests and backgrounds. It's also about adorable little Androids, which absolutely overwhelmed downtown San Francisco's convention center, the Moscone Center.The Google Store
A Google Store employee models the Android Superhero costume, available for a mere $32.80. There was no word on compatibility with the YouTube Socks.
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Imagine a future where solar panels speed off the presses like newspaper. Australian scientists have brought us one step closer to that reality.
Researchers from the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium (VICOSC) developed a printer that can print 10 meters (about 33 feet) of flexible solar cells a minute. Unlike traditional silicon solar cells, printed solar cells are made using organic semi-conducting polymers. These can be dissolved in a solvent and used like an ink, allowing solar cells to be printed.
Not only can the VICOSC machine print flexible A3 solar cells, the machine can print directly on to steel. It opens up the possibility for solar cells to be embedded directly into building materials.