Monthly Archives: November 2013

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[The workers of Willets Point, the post-apocalyptic-looking neighborhood of auto repair shops in Que

[The workers of Willets Point, the post-apocalyptic-looking neighborhood of auto repair shops in Queens, NY, faces a deadline today to move out or be forced out. The businesses of the 62-acre area are fighting back in the courts. Photo credit Michael Ballaban.]

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Off Siberia’s Arctic coast, the seafloor belches methane

Omulyakhskaya and Khromskaya Bays on Siberia’s Arctic coast.

If you can’t find the hole in a leaky bike tire, one thing you can do is stick it underwater. The line of rising bubbles will lead you right to the damaged patch of rubber. You can use a similar trick if you’re trying to work out how methane is being released from thawing permafrost—you just have to look in the shallow Arctic waters off the Siberian coast.

The continental shelf here is broad, and much of it was exposed during the last ice age when sea levels were about 130 meters (nearly 430 feet) lower. As a result, the area was permafrost before it was inundated over 5,000 years ago. The Arctic Ocean is cold, to be sure, but it’s not frozen solid. That means it’s warmer than the frigid air temperatures on land, and the inundated permafrost has slowly been thawing—very slowly.

Within and below that thick layer of permafrost, there’s organic matter and methane. Some of that methane—particularly the deeper stuff—is in the form of methane hydrates, which are made of molecular cages of ice that hold onto methane. As the permafrost melts, the frozen organic matter can start to rot, generating carbon dioxide and methane. If the thaw were to reach down to the depths where methane hydrates are present, they could release their molecular prisoners too.

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A Few Words on Communist Cars

You paid your advance to the official national dealer. You even slipped extra bills in there to get you a bit more forward on the waiting list and to make sure you are getting the make, type and colour of car you asked for. All you have to do now is to wait for five years.

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Slide Launcher is a Lightweight, Fast, Pretty Way to Start Any App

Slide Launcher is a Lightweight, Fast, Pretty Way to Start Any App

Android: When you need to quickly start any app, Slide Launcher can be your best friend. It’s fast, it’s pretty and it’s really light on the resources, claiming no RAM and battery usage while running in the background.

To activate Slide Launcher, you need to slide upwards from the Home button. The launcher is a pattern of circles called ‘targets’ with one-tap access to apps, contacts (cards, direct calls or direct messages) and system actions, which you can set up. It’s very customizable, letting you choose the layout, the space between targets, background settings, icon themes, tooltips, frames, haptic feedback, floating window (where supported) and cache. It’s similar to SwipePad, but way lighter on your system resources.

The only hindrance right now is that it requires a phone that has a virtual home button, which means Samsung handsets are out of the question. But the developer suggests that you use a third-party app like Swipe Home Button and set it to start Slide Launcher with the same action. I tried it out and it works flawlessly, so give it a go.

Slide Launcher (Free) | Google Play Store via XDA Developers Forum

A guide to street photography: Matt Stuart, manners and human autofocus

Matt Stuart looks for lightness and humor on the street

Street photography is the purest, most spontaneous way to create art with a camera. No studios, no props, no poses; all you need is the right equipment and a street with people on it. In this original series for Engadget, we’ll follow three seasoned street fighters and try to glean some practical wisdom about what engages their eyes, brains and fingers in the moments before they shoot.

We learned about manual exposure in the last installment. Now we’re going all in with a look at manual focusing. Our guide is Matt Stuart, a London-based photographer who’s made his name with funny and quirky shots of humanity going about its business; shots that often materialize and then disappear so quickly that even the fastest autofocus system would fail to keep up. Since Stuart’s style often involves stepping right up to people, almost to the point of invading their personal space, we’ll also try to figure out how he manages to avoid confrontation.

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What Cheap Car Makes The Best Noise?

This illustrious extended weekend contains what is probably the most American of American holidays. No, not Labor Day, that’s for Pinko Commies. We’ve had Black Friday, which is now also Black Thursday, and we’re about to have Cyber Monday, which is like Black Friday, except Cyber. So what’s the best vroom for your buck?

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Five Fun Affordable Mid-Engine Rear-Drive Cars

Five Fun Affordable Mid-Engine Rear-Drive Cars

Being a millennial, there’s nothing that I miss from the 1980s, mainly because I wasn’t born yet. However, ever since I discovered Buzzfeed, I developed a nostalgia for that decade. This involved watching Cosby Show reruns and any John Hughes movie, as well as hoping that Eastern European geography would be simpler. But the decade of Reagan, Walkmans, and Eddie Murphy starring in watchable movies had its good moments when it comes to cars.

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Ars’ resident racer takes a second look at Forza Motorsport 5

After months of waiting, a little time with some prerelease builds, and a slight panic over whether I’d actually get an Xbox One before January, last Friday saw the nice UPS man drop off the new console and a copy of Forza Motorsport 5. You may have already read our review of the game last week, but I’m Ars Technica’s resident racer, so Gaming Editor Kyle Orland asked me to share my thoughts on Turn 10′s latest racing opus.

In doing so, I’ve gone back to look at the glowing review I gave the previous installment, Forza Motorsport 4, just over two years ago. I was blown away by the previous game, unhesitatingly crowning it the king of the console racers. But that was then and this is now, and we’re looking at a completely new console and a somewhat different marketplace mindset. Has Turn 10 managed to keep its crown, or are the hordes of Internet forum haters right to give the game a bad reception?

In short, FM5 is not as good as FM4 was at launch, but the previous game wasn’t perfect on day one either. And no, FM5 is not as bad as GT5 was when it came out. There are several reasons why, and I think they’re unfortunately indicative of a number of trends affecting the industry. We may have to start getting used to them.

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The Mayflower Could Be Stuck In The Middle Of England

The Mayflower Could Be Stuck In The Middle Of England

America is the Land Of The Free And The Home Of The Brave (TM), and as such it is built on a number of Great Founding Myths (TM). One of the myths that gets re-told to hapless schoolchildren this time of year is the story of the Pilgrims, who came on their boat, the Mayflower. But what happened to the boat?

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Recommended Reading: Stuxnet’s more dangerous precursor, fake memories and more

Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology in print and on the web. Some weeks, you’ll also find short reviews of books dealing with the subject of technology that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

Recommended Reading

Stuxnet’s Secret Twin (4,176 words)
by Ralph Langner, Foreign Policy

Stuxnet is a pretty nasty nasty customer, especially if you happen to be a centrifuge used in the enrichment of uranium. Amazingly, the story of the first publicly acknowledged cyber weapon keeps getting more and more interesting. Ralph Langner has spent the last several years pouring over code and other details of Stuxnet’s history and discovered there was an earlier version of the virus, that was even more destructive than the one unleashed on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Instead of putting the centrifuge’s motors in overdrive, it over pressurized them by closing valves designed to allow gas out. It sounds like a perfectly logical avenue of attack, until you realize that the potential for truly catastrophic failure would have quickly blown Stuxnet’s cover.

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