New evidence would push life back to at least 3.95 billion years ago

Labrador find is similar to hotly debated Greenland rocks that had been oldest.

Enlarge / Four billion years old? You don't look a day over 2 billion! (credit: Tashiro et al/Nature)

You could be forgiven for thinking that the remnants of the Earth’s first life don’t want to be found. Between geology and happenstance, the earliest life has certainly covered its tracks well. While paleontologists studying dinosaurs can sometimes bring an unambiguously gigantic femur home, those who study the origins of life are usually left arguing over the significance of microscopic motes of rock.

A new discovery in northernmost Labrador, made by a team led by Takayuki Tashiro of the University of Tokyo, fits into that latter category. But don’t let its abstract smallness of the evidence dull your excitement. The researchers argue they have uncovered evidence that there was life on Earth more than 3.95 billion years ago—on a planet that isn’t much more than 4.5 billion years old itself.

Counting carbon

Some of the evidence for early life is in the form of fossilized microorganisms. It can be difficult to rule out bacterium-shaped mineral bits that can form in other ways, but research published earlier this year identified microscopic structures that seem to fit the bill in 3.7 billion-year-old rocks that were once part of seafloor hydrothermal vents.

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New York voters have no 1st Amendment right to snap ballot booth selfies

“The State’s interest in the integrity of its elections is paramount,” court says.

Enlarge (credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A New York federal judge is upholding New York's ban on photographing marked ballots in polling places, saying the First Amendment is trumped by the law's stated goal to cut down on election fraud via vote buying and extortion.

US District Judge P. Kevin Castel said the statute deprives a perpetrator of election fraud the modern-day means to verify that a target voted a certain way. That verification method is a selfie of a voter holding a marked ballot at a polling place, which would then be posted to social media, he said.

"The State's interest in the integrity of its elections is paramount. The law is also narrowly tailored...," Castel wrote (PDF) Thursday. "Alternatively, the Court finds that the statute is a reasonable, viewpoint neutral restriction of speech within a non-public forum."

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PS4 Piracy Now Exists – If Gamers Want to Jump Through Hoops

Mainstream piracy on the current generation of gaming consoles is pretty much non-existent, with the PS4 and Xbox One standing firm in the face of determined hackers. Now, however, a flurry of PS4 games including GTA V and Far Cry 4 has hit the web. That being said, it’s doubtful that many gamers will jump through the hoops required to play them.

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

During the reign of the first few generations of consoles, gamers became accustomed to their machines being compromised by hacking groups and enthusiasts, to enable the execution of third-party software.

Often carried out under the banner of running “homebrew” code, so-called jailbroken consoles also brought with them the prospect of running pirate copies of officially produced games. Once the floodgates were opened, not much could hold things back.

With the advent of mass online gaming, however, things became more complex. Regular firmware updates mean that security holes could be fixed remotely whenever a user went online, rendering the jailbreaking process a cat-and-mouse game with continually moving targets.

This, coupled with massively improved overall security, has meant that the current generation of consoles has remained largely piracy free, at least on a do-it-at-home basis. Now, however, that position is set to change after the first decrypted PS4 game dumps began to hit the web this week.

Thanks to release group KOTF (Knights of the Fallen), Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 4, and Assassins Creed IV are all available for download from the usual places. As expected they are pretty meaty downloads, with GTAV weighing in via 90 x 500MB files, Far Cry4 via 54 of the same size, and ACIV sporting 84 x 250MB.

Partial NFO file for PS4 GTA V

While undoubtedly large, it’s not the filesize that will prove most prohibitive when it comes to getting these beasts to run on a PlayStation 4. Indeed, a potential pirate will need to jump through a number of hoops to enjoy any of these titles or others that may appear in the near future.

KOTF explains as much in the NFO (information) files it includes with its releases. The list of requirements is long.

First up, a gamer needs to possess a PS4 with an extremely old firmware version – v1.76 – which was released way back in August 2014. The fact this firmware is required doesn’t come as a surprise since it was successfully jailbroken back in December 2015.

The age of the firmware raises several issues, not least where people can obtain a PS4 that’s so old it still has this firmware intact. Also, newer games require later firmware, so most games released during the past two to three years won’t be compatible with v1.76. That limits the pool of games considerably.

Finally, forget going online with such an old software version. Sony will be all over it like a cheap suit, plotting to do something unpleasant to that cheeky antique code, given half a chance. And, for anyone wondering, downgrading a higher firmware version to v1.76 isn’t possible – yet.

But for gamers who want a little bit of recent PS4 nostalgia on the cheap, ‘all’ they have to do is gather the necessary tools together and follow the instructions below.

Easy – when you know how

While this is a landmark moment for PS4 piracy (which to date has mainly centered around much hocus pocus), the limitations listed above mean that it isn’t going to hit the mainstream just yet.

That being said, all things are possible when given the right people, determination, and enough time. Whether that will be anytime soon is anyone’s guess but there are rumors that firmware v4.55 has already been exploited, so you never know.

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

20th Century Fox is Looking for Anti-Piracy Interns

20th Century Fox is looking for two interns to complement its anti-piracy team. A research analytics intern will be tasked with investigating piracy forums and discovering the latest file-sharing trends, while a JD law intern will help to identify possible targets for legal action. Dream positions for those who aspire to a career in the anti-piracy workforce.

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

Piracy remains one of the key threats for most Hollywood movie studios.

Most companies have entire departments dedicated to spotting infringing content, understanding the changing landscape, and figuring out how to respond.

20th Century Fox, for example, has its own Content Protection group, headed by Ron Wheeler. The group keeps an eye on emerging piracy threats and is currently looking for fresh blood.

The company has listed two new internships. The first is for a Graduate JD Law Student, who will be tasked with analyzing fair use cases and finding new targets for lawsuits, among other things.

“Interns will participate in the monitoring of and enforcement against such piracy, including conducting detailed copyright infringement and fair use analyses; identifying and researching litigation targets, and searching the internet for infringing copies of Fox content.”

Fox notes that basic knowledge of the principles of Copyright Law is a plus, but apparently not required. Students who take this internship will learn how film and television piracy affects the media industry and consumers, preparing them for future work in this field.

“This is a great opportunity for students interested in pursuing practice in the fields of Intellectual Property, Entertainment, or Media Law,” the job application explains.

A second anti-piracy internship that was posted recently is a search and analytics position. This includes organizing online copyright infringement intelligence and compiling this in analytical piracy reports for Fox executives.

Undergraduate – Research & Analytics

The research job posting shows that Fox keeps an eye on a wide range of piracy avenues including search engines, forums, eBay and pirate sites.

“Anti-Piracy Internet Investigations and Analysis including, but not limited to, internet research, forum site investigation, eBay searches, video forensics analysis review, database entry, general internet searches for Fox video content, review and summarize pirate websites, piracy trend analysis, and more.”

Those who complete the internship will have a thorough understanding of how widespread piracy issues are. It will provide insight into how this affects the movie industry and consumers alike, Fox explains.

While the average torrenter and streaming pirate might not be very eager to work for ‘the other side,’ these internships are ideal positions for students who have aspirations of working in the anti-piracy field. If any TorrentFreak readers plan to apply and get the job, we’ll be eager to hear what you’ve learned in a few months.

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

To better grok how all 37 trillion human cells work, we need new tools

At Ars Live, bioengineering professor Aaron Streets explains new cellular science.

At Ars Technica Live, Aaron Streets discussed the ways he's using microfluidics to advance cellular biology. (video link)

In recent decades, one of the largest-scale government-funded science research projects was the Human Genome Project, an effort to map the entire genetic blueprint of our species.

Since 2016, a new version of that herculean effort is underway, known as the Human Cell Atlas.

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Another classic Nintendo console, another insane dump of instruction manuals

One year later, and now you’re playing with super instruction manuals.

Enlarge / Cranky Kong pops up a lot in the Donkey Kong Country manual to tell you how bad everything is. (credit: Nintendo)

Last year, the NES Classic's launch was met with something that I argued was more interesting and valuable in the game-preservation sense: a gigantic dump of NES and Famicom instruction manuals, all free to download in PDF format. They included a range of weird and rarely seen game-instruction books from across the world, and unlike their source product, people could actually get them.

We are passionate fans of the days when games actually included printed instruction manuals, so one of the first things we did with review units of the SNES Classic was tap through its menus to the "instructions" tab, then jot down the URL where Nintendo would eventually dump a similar motherload of SNES and Super Famicom instruction manuals.

That day has arrived.

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Congressman demands to know if DHS will collect his social media history, too

Rep. Ted Lieu, naturalized American: “Does your proposed rule apply to me?”

Enlarge / Rep. Ted Lieu holds a town hall at Santa Monica High School on April 20, 2017 in Santa Monica, California. (credit: Paul Chesne/Getty Images)

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) is a naturalized American citizen, having emigrated from Taiwan as a young child.

Earlier this month, under a new proposed policy, the Department of Homeland Security said it will begin collecting public social media information about immigrants—possibly also green card holders and naturalized citizens—and include them as part of their so-called "Alien File."

Because of this ambiguity, Rep. Lieu—who is very active on Twitter—has a basic question in a Friday letter for Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke: "Does your proposed rule apply to me?"

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Lies, infection, and shapeshifting in new The Thing board game

Even this casual cardboarder enjoyed a preview of Infection at Outpost 31.

Enlarge / Behold the glory that is Mondo's The Thing board game: Infection in Outpost 31. (credit: Nathan Mattise)

AUSTIN, Texas—"Look, I think that guy's pretty inhuman," I found myself pleading to a Mondo rep. "But I picked you as captain, which is totally a human move."

I wasn't begging for early access to some figurine or poster sale from the impeccably designed film collectibles company. I wasn't engaged in some intense round of promotional dodgeball. Instead, as I sat with seven other interested board gamers for a special preview of Mondo's first boardgame release, The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31, I got swept up. I wanted only humans to make it onto the escape helicopter, dammit.

And judging by the 45-minutes-or-so I spent navigating possibly Thing-infested rooms and begging for Petri dishes, I'm pretty confident others will feel the same once they can play this game in late October.

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Essential Phone review: Impressive for a new company but not competitive

Essential is certainly a company to watch, but its first effort lacks in too many areas.

We have a new contender in the smartphone space. "Essential" is a new OEM that came seemingly out of nowhere, announced by Andy Rubin a mere nine months ago. Rubin is the co-founder and former CEO of Android Inc., a little company that was snatched up by Google in 2005 and went on to build the world's most popular operating system. Rubin left Google, and Essential is his new startup with ambitions in the smartphone and smart home markets. Amazon, Tencent, and Foxconn have already invested in Essential, and the latest round of funding values the company at more than a billion dollars—and this was before it even shipped a product.

With the launch of the "Essential Phone," we finally have that first product: a high-end, $700 smartphone running the operating system Rubin helped create. The phone more or less leaves Android alone, and, with the backing of hardware manufacturer Foxconn, most of the innovation here is in the hardware.

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