Dealmaster: Cyber Monday brings bigger savings than Black Friday

Save $50 on a Playstation 4 Uncharted bundle from Amazon and Dell, and much more.

Greetings, Arsians! Thanks to our partners at TechBargains, we have a ton of Cyber Monday deals to share. Many retailers have upped the ante from Black Friday, including Amazon which now offers 50 percent off a one-year subscription to Playstation Plus when you purchase the Playstation 4 Uncharted: Nathan Drake bundle. That gaming bundle has also received a $50 price cut, bringing it down to $299. Anyone with a Dell credit should take a look at the company's website, as they are offering the same Playstation bundle for $299 as well.

As usual, we have a bunch of other deals on laptops, TVs, accessories, and more below.

Featured Deals

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BlackBerry says no to Pakistani backdoor gambit

Government ordered shutdown of enterprise service unless BlackBerry gave total access.

In response to a demand for backdoor access to its enterprise messaging products, BlackBerry is completely pulling out of the Pakistan market. The announcement comes as a ban on providing BlackBerry Enterprise Services over mobile networks in Pakistan was due to take effect today.

The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority's ban on BlackBerry Enterprise Services (BES) was issued this summer, and it was planned to become effective on November 30, as Ars reported in July. "Security reasons" were cited as the cause of the ban. But just before the restriction was announced, Privacy International issued a report that warned of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency's efforts to gain network surveillance capabilities within the country that rival those of the National Security Agency.

While the government has pushed back the effective date of that order to December 30, BlackBerry COO Marty Beard announced today that the company would exit the Pakistani market completely rather than meet government demands for unfettered access to the service's message traffic.

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How tech fails led to Air Force strike on MSF’s Kunduz hospital

Sensor and network failures put crosshairs on the wrong target.

On November 25, General John F. Campbell, the commander of US Forces in Afghanistan, announced the findings of an initial investigation into the air strike by an Air Force AC-130 gunship that hit a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders) trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan on October 3. The strike—in which the AC-130 attacked using its onboard cannon, killing 30 patients and members of the MSF hospital staff and injuring another 34—lasted nearly a half-hour.

Campbell called the strike "a tragic, but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error." But among the secondary factors cited in the report, he noted, there were several contributing technical failures, including a networking failure that could have provided information that would have prevented the mistaken targeting of the hospital. Furthermore, information systems available to the command responsible for the aircraft failed to alert those on duty in the operations center that the target selected by the aircraft was on a no-strike list.

Spooky action at a distance

The aircraft responsible for the errant attack on the hospital was an AC-130U "Spooky" gunship, a 20-year-old aircraft that carries a five-barreled 25 millimeter Gatling gun, a 40mm Bofors cannon, and a 105mm howitzer. The airplane is a veritable flying artillery battery that "orbits" its targets while firing upon them with high-explosive rounds. (The Air Force has also deployed the AC-130W "Stinger," a modified version of the special operations transport the MC-130W "Dragon Spear," to Afghanistan. These aircraft carry a 30mm automatic cannon and launch tubes for Griffin and Hellfire missiles and laser-guided glide bombs.)

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Hey Reader’s Digest: Your site has been attacking visitors for days

Researchers estimate the same campaign has infected thousands of other sites.

Enlarge (credit: Malwarebytes)

An active hacking campaign is forcing Reader's Digest and many other websites to host malicious code that can surreptitiously infect visitors with malware and linger for days or weeks before being cleaned up.

Reader's Digest has been infected since last week with code originating with Angler, an off-the-shelf hack-by-numbers exploit kit that saves professional criminals the hassle of developing their own attack scripts, researchers from antivirus provider Malwarebytes told Ars. People who visit the site with outdated versions of Adobe Flash, Internet Explorer, and other browsing software are silently infected with malware that gains control over their computers. Malwarebytes researchers said they sent Reader's Digest operators e-mails and social media alerts last week warning the site was infected but never got a response. The researchers estimate that thousands of other sites have been similarly attacked in recent weeks and that the number continues to grow.

"This campaign is still ongoing and we see dozens of new websites every day being leveraged to distribute malware via the Angler exploit kit," Malwarebytes Senior Security Researcher Jérôme Segura wrote in an e-mail. "This attack may have been going on for some time but we noticed a dramatic increase in infections via WordPress sites in the past couple of weeks."

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The National Security Letter spy tool has been uncloaked, and it’s bad

No warrants needed to get browsing history, online purchase records, and other data.

It took 11 years to finally unveil what the FBI demands in a National Security Letter. How it evolved over the years is shown above. (credit: ACLU)

The National Security Letter (NSL) is a potent surveillance tool that allows the government to acquire a wide swath of private information—all without a warrant. Federal investigators issue tens of thousands of them each year to banks, ISPs, car dealers, insurance companies, doctors, and you name it. The letters don't need a judge's signature and come with a gag to the recipient, forbidding the disclosure of the NSL to the public or the target.

Nicholas Merrill (credit: Wikipedia)

For the first time, as part of a First Amendment lawsuit, a federal judge ordered the release of what the FBI was seeking from a small ISP as part of an NSL. Among other things, the FBI was demanding a target's complete Web browsing history, IP addresses of everyone a person has corresponded with, and records of all online purchases, according to a court document unveiled Monday. All that's required is an agent's signature denoting that the information is relevant to an investigation.

"The FBI has interpreted its NSL authority to encompass the websites we read, the Web searches we conduct, the people we contact, and the places we go. This kind of data reveals the most intimate details of our lives, including our political activities, religious affiliations, private relationships, and even our private thoughts and beliefs," said Nicholas Merrill, who was president of Calyx Internet Access in New York when he received the NSL targeting one of his customers in 2004.

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Apple’s A9X has a 12-core GPU and is made by TSMC

A big GPU is fed by a 128-bit memory interface but not an L3 cache.

Enlarge / A die shot of the A9X. The ratio of GPU to CPU is becoming pretty insane. (credit: Chipworks via AnandTech)

Apple makes interesting chips for its mobile devices, but it doesn't talk about them much aside from extremely high-level relative performance comparisons. That means it's up to experts like the ones at Chipworks to open them up and figure it out, and they've partnered up with AnandTech to dig into the A9X in the iPad Pro.

The most significant news is about the GPU, which is a 12-core Imagination Technologies PowerVR Series 7XT design. The company doesn't generally offer a 12-core design, as shown in the chart below, but the architecture is designed to be easily scalable, and it wouldn't be the first time Apple had gotten something from a supplier that other companies couldn't get. The standard A9 in the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus uses a 6-core version of the same GPU. Apple feeds that GPU with a 128-bit memory bus, something it also included in other iPads to boost memory bandwidth and GPU performance.

Imagination's chart for the Series 7XT GPU puts a hypothetical 12-core design in the same general performance neighborhood as an Nvidia GeForce GT 730M, a low-end discrete GPU that's a bit slower than the stuff Apple is shipping in its high-end MacBook Pros. Our own graphics benchmarks place it a bit higher than that, but as some of you have pointed out, iOS may have a small advantage in some of these tests because of differences between the mobile OpenGL ES API in iOS and the standard OpenGL API used in OS X.

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MPAA ‘Softens’ Movie Theater Anti-Piracy Policy, Drops Bounty

The MPAA has issued an updated version of its best practices for the prevention of movie piracy in theaters. While much remains the same, theater managers are no longer required to call the police for every incident. In addition, the long-standing pirate hunting bounty program has disappeared.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

recillegalThe MPAA sees illegally recorded movies as one of the biggest piracy threats and goes to extremes to stop it.

During pre-release screenings and premieres, for example, employees are often equipped with night-vision goggles and other spy tech to closely monitor movie goers.

In some cases members of the public have been instructed to hand over all recording-capable devices including phones and Google glasses.

Through these measures the MPAA hopes to prevent pirates from camcording movies or recording audio in theaters. The underlying policy is drafted in cooperation with the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), and a few days ago the most recent version was released.

At first sight not much has changed. The MPAA still recommends theater owners to keep an eye on suspect movie goers while prohibiting the use of any recording devices including phones.

“Preventative measures should include asking patrons to silence and put away their phones and requiring they turn off and stow all other devices capable of recording, including wearable technology capable of recording.

“If individuals fail or refuse to put any recording device away, managers—per your theater’s policy — can ask them to leave,” the recommendation reads.

There are several subtle changed throughout the document though, especially regarding the involvement of police. Previously, theater employees were encouraged to detain suspect visitors and hand them over to the authorities.

This is explicitly stated in the following snippet taken from the 2014 version of the best practices.

“Theater managers should immediately alert law enforcement authorities whenever they have clear indications that prohibited activity is taking place—the proper authorities will determine what laws may have been violated and what enforcement action should be taken.”

In the new document, however, it’s no longer a requirement to call the police. Instead, this is now optional.

“Theater managers have the option to immediately alert law enforcement authorities whenever they have clear indications that prohibited activity is taking place or managers can the stop the activity without law enforcement assistance.”

Similar changes were made throughout the document. Even reporting incidents to the MPAA no longer appears to be mandatory, which it still was according to last year’s text.

“After your theater manager has contacted the police, your theater manager should immediately call the MPAA 24/7 Anti-Camcording Hot Line to report the incident.”

The language above has now been changed to a less urgent option of simply reporting incidents, should a theater manager deem it appropriate.

“Your theater manager can also call the MPAA 24/7 Anti-Camcording Hot Line to report the incident.”

Aside from the softer tone there’s another significant change to the best practices. The $500 “reward” movie theater employees could get for catching pirates is no longer mentioned.

The old Take Action Award mention

takeactionreward

In fact, the entire “take action award” program appears to have been discontinued. The NATO page where it was listed now returns a 404 error and the details on FightFilmTheft have been removed as well.

This stands in stark contrast to the UK where the rewards for a similar program were doubled just a few weeks ago, with officials describing it as a great success.

The question that remains unanswered is why the MPAA and NATO have implemented these changes. Could it be that there were too many false positives being reported to the police, or is there an image problem perhaps?

In recent years several questionable police referrals resulted in a media backlash. A 19-year-old girl was arrested for recording a 20 second clip from the movie “Transformers,” which she wanted to show to her brother, for example.

And just last year the FBI dragged a man from a movie theater in Columbus, Ohio, after theater staff presumed his wearing of Google Glass was a sign that he was engaged in camcorder piracy.

Meanwhile, reports of real pirates being apprehended in a similar fashion have been notable by their absence.

Best Practices to Prevent Film Theft

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Intel’s cheapest Atom x5 chip supports 4GB of RAM after all

Intel’s cheapest Atom x5 chip supports 4GB of RAM after all

Most low-cost tablets and TV boxes that feature Intel’s Atom x5-Z8300 processor have just 2GB of RAM. That makes sense since this is the cheapest, least powerful member of Intel’s Cherry Trail line of chips, so you’d expect it to show up in budget devices. It also makes sense because Intel’s spec sheet for the […]

Intel’s cheapest Atom x5 chip supports 4GB of RAM after all is a post from: Liliputing

Intel’s cheapest Atom x5 chip supports 4GB of RAM after all

Most low-cost tablets and TV boxes that feature Intel’s Atom x5-Z8300 processor have just 2GB of RAM. That makes sense since this is the cheapest, least powerful member of Intel’s Cherry Trail line of chips, so you’d expect it to show up in budget devices. It also makes sense because Intel’s spec sheet for the […]

Intel’s cheapest Atom x5 chip supports 4GB of RAM after all is a post from: Liliputing

Inside (literally) wind turbines meant to work at the South Pole—and Mars

Ars visits Northern Power Systems to learn what goes into their wind turbines.

Enlarge / Roses are red, violets are blue, turbines use magnets to generate power which can be used to make light, and without light you are likely to be eaten by a grue. (credit: Northern Power Systems)

BARRE, Vermont—It started with Mars. In 1993, NASA gave a Small Business Innovation Research grant to Vermont-based Northern Power Systems (NPS) to build a very southern wind turbine—as in, a turbine that could reliably work at the South Pole.

NASA was interested in a wind turbine that could potentially provide power for human exploration of Mars, and the National Science Foundation was interested in some electricity at its South Pole station that didn’t require flying in fuel. NPS set about tackling both challenges in one fell swoop, designing a low-maintenance turbine using components that could survive the deathly Antarctic (or Martian) cold. A few years later, a 3 kilowatt turbine was spinning away at the South Pole.

Video: Ars visits Northern Power Systems to get our wind turbine learn on. Shot and edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link)

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Amazon is apparently making a video app for the new Apple TV after all

Apple TVs were pulled from Amazon’s pages at the end of October.

Enlarge / The new Apple TV. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Over the weekend, Amazon's tech support team confirmed that Amazon is working on a Prime Video app for the new Apple TV. Amazon has become a major player in the streaming video field over the last two or three years, and the service's absence on Apple's newest streaming box is one of its biggest holes relative to competing boxes from the likes of Roku and Amazon itself. As of the end of October, Amazon officially had nothing to share about an Apple TV app, so this news is a welcome reversal.

This is notable partly because Amazon pulled the Apple TV and Google's budget-friendly Chromecast from its store back in October. Though all of those devices just happen to compete with Amazon's own hardware, the reason given at the time was that those boxes didn't mesh well with Prime Video streaming service. In addition to the Fire TV and Fire TV stick, Amazon continues to stock the Roku lineup and a bunch of minor-league players that don't support Prime Video but were apparently not important enough to delist.

Apple served as a gatekeeper for the third-generation Apple TV, so the move sort of makes sense for that box—the only way to stream Prime Video on that model is to use AirPlay from an iPhone or iPad running Amazon's app, an experience that is subpar at best. But Amazon just happened to delist Apple's boxes at the same time as Apple was releasing a new fourth-generation model with a full SDK and App Store. In other words, the only thing keeping Amazon from adding Prime Video support to the Apple TV was Amazon, since the company already offers an app for iOS and tvOS offers many of the same capabilities.

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