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Microsoft publishes first Edge for macOS preview, promises to make it truly “Mac-like”

Mon, 2019-05-20 17:40

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

One of the most important ways that Microsoft wants to make the new Chromium-based Edge different from the current EdgeHTML-based Edge is in its support for other platforms. The original Edge was, for no good reason, tied to Windows 10, meaning that Web developers on platforms such as Windows 7 or macOS had no way of testing how their pages looked, short of firing up a Windows 10 virtual machine.

The new browser is, in contrast, a cross-platform affair. The first preview builds were published for Windows 10, with versions for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 promised soon; today, these are joined by builds for macOS.

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The macOS version resembles the Windows 10 builds that we've seen so far, but it isn't identical. Microsoft wants to be a good citizen on macOS by producing not just an application that fits the platform's standards—using the right fonts, icons, spacing, and so on—but which also adapts to Apple's unique hardware. To that end, the company is working on support for the Touch Bar found on some of Apple's portable systems, using it for media control, tab switching, or access to bookmarks. Microsoft will also work to ensure that Edge's support as a Progressive Web App host properly adopts macOS behaviors with regard to interaction with the Dock, app switcher, and Spotlight.

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World of Warcraft Classic beta testers are reporting vanilla WoW features as bugs

Mon, 2019-05-20 17:17

Nostalgic World of Warcraft (WoW) fans have been calling for game publisher Activision-Blizzard to release World of Warcraft Classic for years, and they're finally getting their wishWorld of Warcraft Classic is now in beta, but some players have been surprised by what they've found when playing it.

WoW Classic seeks to recreate the "vanilla WoW" experience—that is, WoW as it existed before a series of seven game-altering major expansion packs from 2007's The Burning Crusade to 2018's Battle for Azeroth. To achieve this, Blizzard has rebuilt the game based on archived data from back in 2005 and 2006 (patch 1.12 is the goalpost—the current game is on patch 8.1.5). The company has committed to meticulously presenting the experience exactly as it was back then—warts and all—with only a small number of unavoidable or critical changes.

The argument for this is simple: what makes classic WoW great to one player might be different from what makes it great for another. And who are Blizzard's designers to say which old features were just good or bad design for each player? It's an approach that shows Blizzard believes (at least to some degree) that WoW doesn't just belong to its creators but to its fans. That struggle between authorial intent or game design orthodoxy and "the player is always right" is at the heart of many of gaming's big contemporary controversies. But so far, Blizzard seems committed to its plan with regards to WoW Classic.

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Massive 2015 natural gas leak caused by microbial corrosion, report says

Mon, 2019-05-20 17:03

Aliso Canyon methane leak 6. (credit: Earthworks / Flickr)

A massive natural gas leak at a storage facility in Southern California was caused by microbial corrosion of well equipment, according to a new independent report from analysis firm Blade Energy Partners. The report blames the storage facility owner, Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) for failing to conduct follow-up inspections of equipment, despite knowing about 60 smaller leaks at the facility that had occurred since the 1970s.

The final leak—which spewed 109,000 metric tons of methane into the air over five months between 2015 and 2016—was the biggest methane leak in US history. (A larger loss of methane occurred in 2004 in Texas, but a corresponding fire immediately combusted the methane into carbon dioxide.) But the California leak at the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage Field was particularly devastating because methane, unfortunately, is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The new report (PDF) was commissioned three years earlier to find the root cause of the leak. According to a press release from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), Blade Energy Partners found that the leak came from a seven-inch outer well casing which had corroded due to exposure to microbes from groundwater. The natural gas storage facility at Aliso Canyon is made up of dozens of vast underground caverns which were previously filled with oil before they were pumped and emptied decades ago. Since then, the caverns have been used to store natural gas to supply the Southern California area.

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Google Glass still exists: Meet Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2

Mon, 2019-05-20 15:19

Google Glass is not only a product that still exists inside Google, but today, Google is announcing a new version of Google Glass, called "Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2." It has a new design, new specs, and a $999 price tag. We can't believe it either.

Google has a blog post detailing the new product, and Google.com/glass has been resurrected with all sorts of details on the new face computer. The new Google Glass has a thicker, bulkier design, which probably helps to fit a larger 820mAh battery compared to the original's 570mAh. Given that Glass is now an enterprise-focused product, it makes sense that Google is promoting a design with built-in safety glasses, although a more traditional frameless style is still available.

Google was even nice enough to provide a mostly full spec sheet. Glass Enterprise 2 is powered by the "Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform," which contains a quad-core 1.7Ghz CPU built on a 10nm manufacturing process. Google calls this a "significantly more powerful multicore CPU (central processing unit)" than the old Intel Atom SoC in the first Enterprise Edition of Google Glass. The company says, "This enables significant power savings, enhanced performance, and support for computer vision and advanced machine-learning capabilities."

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A disillusioned Aaron Paul longs for someone “real” in Westworld S3 trailer

Mon, 2019-05-20 13:48

HBO released the first teaser for Westworld season 3 right before last night's Game of Thrones finale.

HBO took advantage of the record number of viewers tuning in to the Game of Thrones finale last night to release the first teaser for season three of Westworld. The teaser is deliberately vague on details, but it looks like we're in for a dystopian near-future scenario set not in the original theme park but in the real outside world.

(Some spoilers for first two seasons below.)

If you're new to the series, the titular Westworld is one of six immersive theme parks owned and operated by a company called Delos Inc. It's essentially Live Action Role Play (LARP-ing) combined with a choose-your-own-adventure experience. The park is populated with a "cast" of very human-looking androids, called hosts, who follow a bunch of intertwining narratives, rebooting the same narrative every day. The park's well-heeled visitors can pretty much do whatever they like to the hosts—rape, pillage, torture, murder—and they do so more often than not, because they don't see the hosts as anything more than unfeeling props in their private dramas.

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Baltimore ransomware nightmare could last weeks more, with big consequences

Mon, 2019-05-20 11:47

Enlarge / Days after Mayor "Jack" Young took over for disgraced Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, ransomware took down Baltimore City's networks. It may be weeks or months before things return to normal—and "normal" wasn't that great, either, based on the city's IT track record. (credit: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

It's been nearly two weeks since the City of Baltimore's networks were shut down in response to a ransomware attack, and there's still no end in sight to the attack's impact. It may be weeks more before the city's services return to something resembling normal—manual workarounds are being put in place to handle some services now, but the city's water billing and other payment systems remain offline, as well as most of the city's email and much of the government's phone systems.

The ransomware attack came in the midst of a major transition at City Hall. Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young assumed office officially just days before the attack, after the resignation of former mayor Catherine Pugh, who is facing an ever-expanding corruption investigation. And some of the mayor's critical staff positions remained unfilled—the mayor's deputy chief of staff for operations, Sheryl Goldstein, starts work today.

To top it off, unlike the City of Atlanta—which suffered from a Samsam ransomware attack in March of 2018—Baltimore has no insurance to cover the cost of a cyber attack. So the cost of cleaning up the RobbinHood ransomware, which will far exceed the approximately $70,000 the ransomware operators demanded, will be borne entirely by Baltimore's citizens.

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Making industrial chemicals “green” requires a lot of renewable electricity

Mon, 2019-05-20 11:32

Enlarge / Huntsman Olefins petrochemical industry, manufacturer of ethylene and propylene, Wilton, Teesside, UK. (credit: Photo by Photofusion/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

When we think about climate change, we most often think about emissions from two sectors: energy and transportation. But industry makes a big contribution to climate change, too. Industrial emissions come from a lot of different things, including the manufacture of common chemicals. Often, these chemicals are made by reforming fossil fuels using heat that's also provided by burning fossil fuels.

Overall, the chemical industry consumes about 10 percent of global final energy, according to the International Energy Agency.

In a recent PNAS paper, researchers from universities in Germany and California tried to estimate how effectively the chemical industry could decarbonize and whether such a decarbonization is likely.

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Optical neural network at 50zJ per op? Nope, but it’s still a good idea

Mon, 2019-05-20 11:02

Enlarge (credit: BeeBright/Getty Images)

Artificial intelligence (AI) has experienced a revival of pretty large proportions in the last decade. We've gone from AI being mostly useless to letting it ruin our lives in obscure and opaque ways. We’ve even given AI the task of crashing our cars for us.

AI experts will tell us that we just need bigger neural networks and the cars will probably stop crashing. You can get there by adding more graphics cards to an AI, but the power consumption becomes excessive. The ideal solution would be a neural network that can process and shovel data around at near-zero energy cost, which may be where we are headed with optical neural networks.

To give you an idea of the scale of energy we're talking about here, a good GPU uses 20 picoJoules (1pJ is 10-12J ) for each multiply and accumulate operation. A purpose-built integrated circuit can reduce that to about 1pJ. But if a team of researchers is correct, an optical neural network might reduce that number to an incredible 50 zeptoJoules (1zJ is 10-21J).

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Ajit Pai oks T-Mobile/Sprint merger, “requires” 5G rollout that’ll happen anyway

Mon, 2019-05-20 10:45

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with his oversized coffee mug in November 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

T-Mobile and Sprint are one big step closer to getting the US government's approval to merge, as Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai today announced his support for the deal combining two of the four largest US mobile carriers.

Pai's announcement virtually guarantees that the FCC will approve the deal; FCC approval would be finalized after the Republican-controlled commission votes. But T-Mobile and Sprint still need to convince the Department of Justice, which hasn't yet said whether it will sue to block the merger on antitrust grounds.

Pai's statement on the merger said he's approving it in large part because T-Mobile and Sprint "committed to deploying a 5G network that would cover 97 percent of our nation's population within three years of the closing of the merger and 99 percent of Americans within six years." They also committed to deploying 5G to 85 percent of rural Americans within three years and 90 percent within six years.

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Report: Sony employees caught off guard by Microsoft cloud partnership

Mon, 2019-05-20 10:09

Enlarge / The kinds of Azure server racks that could soon play host to Sony content under a recent cooperation deal.

Following Microsoft and Sony's surprising announcement of a cloud gaming partnership last week, Bloomberg has a bit of behind-the-scenes analysis that uses unnamed insider sources to explain how the deal came about.

Though Sony confirmed to Bloomberg that talks between the two console giants had been going on since last year, the announcement still caught rank-and-file employees at Sony off guard, according to Bloomberg's sources. "Managers had to calm workers and assure them that plans for the company’s next-generation console weren’t affected," as Bloomberg summarizes the view from inside the company.

Sony has already spun its 2012 purchase of streaming gaming company Gaikai into over 700,000 subscribers for its cloud-based PlayStation Now service, which launched in 2015. But Sony's server and network infrastructure has proven insufficient to provide the "as good as local" experience promised (but yet to be proven) by major competitors like Google's recently announced Stadia service. That led Sony to reach out to other companies with more established cloud infrastructure to expand its streaming gaming footprint.

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NASA’s full Artemis plan revealed: 37 launches and a lunar outpost

Mon, 2019-05-20 08:53

Enlarge / A Blue Moon lander, built by Blue Origin, with an ascent vehicle (built by another company) on top. (credit: Blue Origin)

In the nearly two months since Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return to the Moon by 2024, space agency engineers have been working to put together a plan that leverages existing technology, large projects nearing completion, and commercial rockets to bring this about.

Last week, an updated plan that demonstrated a human landing in 2024, annual sorties to the lunar surface thereafter, and the beginning of a Moon base by 2028, began circulating within the agency. A graphic, shown below, provides information about each of the major launches needed to construct a small Lunar Gateway, stage elements of a lunar lander there, fly crews to the Moon and back, and conduct refueling missions.

This decade-long plan, which entails 37 launches of private and NASA rockets, as well as a mix of robotic and human landers, culminates with a "Lunar Surface Asset Deployment" in 2028, likely the beginning of a surface outpost for long-duration crew stays. Developed by the agency's senior human spaceflight manager, Bill Gerstenmaier, this plan is everything Pence asked for—an urgent human return, a Moon base, a mix of existing and new contractors.

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Google reportedly ends business with Huawei, will cut it off from Play Store [Updated]

Mon, 2019-05-20 08:47

Enlarge / Huawei's latest flagship, the P30 Pro. (credit: Huawei)

Update: Statements from Google and Huawei, other companies join the ban

Huawei sent a statement to Ars Technica and others about the ban, saying "Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally. We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally."

Trade War! USA v. China

View more stories Google issued only a terse one-liner, saying "We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications." On Twitter, the company's official Android account was a bit friendlier, saying "For Huawei users' questions regarding our steps to comply w/ the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US gov't requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device."

Meanwhile, other US companies have started to cut off Huawei, with Bloomberg reporting that Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom, and Xilinx have stopped supplying chips to Huawei. Intel is a big one, as it means Huawei laptops are pretty much dead. Bloomberg also reports that Huawei apparently saw this ban coming, and has stockpiled three months worth of chips from US companies.

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Here is our super spoiler-y review of the Game of Thrones series finale

Mon, 2019-05-20 01:29

Enlarge / The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones proved to be the most polarizing and controversial yet. (credit: HBO)

The series finale of Game of Thrones defied pretty much all the predictions as to who would emerge triumphant and sit on the Iron Throne, in what has proved to be the most polarizing and controversial season yet. (More than a million fans have even signed a petition demanding that HBO re-shoot the entire final season, which—c'mon, people. That's not how any of this works. Save it for the fanfic.) Personally, I thought the series as a whole provided a gripping, trope-bashing narrative arc that was imperfectly executed in the crucial last two seasons. Showrunners David Benioff and David B. Weiss got the plane on the ground in the end—but it wasn't a pretty landing, and there's bound to be a lot of grumbling from dissatisfied customers. Ramsey Bolton did warn us: "If you were hoping for a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention."

(WARNING: It's impossible to write a meaningful wrap-up analysis of this incredibly influential series without going into specifics, so there are MAJOR spoilers below, especially for the final season and last two episodes.)

Let's get the controversial plot turn from last week out of the way up front, since it drove much of what transpired in the finale and pretty much encapsulates the best and worst aspects of this final season. In the penultimate episode, "The Bells," Daenerys and her surviving dragon Drogon make short work of Cersei's forces to conquer King's Landing. (That showy Golden Company? Not so tough after all.) As the bells ring to signal surrender, we see a flurry of conflicting emotions play across Dany's face before hardening into steely resolve. She proceeds to not just incinerate the Red Keep where Cersei has been watching the battle from afar—which is what everyone expected—but to rain down dragon fire on all the innocent civilians whom Cersei brought in to serve as human shields. Her decision lit up Twitter and launched a thousand hot takes, as disappointed fans howled in rage at seeing the Mother of Dragons break bad.

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Required gamer viewing: The history of M2’s Japanese retro-port empire

Sun, 2019-05-19 16:50

If you speak a certain language about classic video games, you probably know about M2, a Japanese game studio responsible for dozens of impressive arcade and console ports to newer home consoles. Yet even if you don't, a new hour-long documentary about the studio should still be considered required viewing for anybody who loves the best Japanese games of the '80s and '90s.

Produced by My Life In Gaming, a video channel known for a laser focus on retro gaming, the M2 Complete Works documentary (embedded below) is a sweeping, decades-long look at a game studio renowned among dedicated gaming fans. That's because M2 has produced some of the most impressive ports, emulations, and even full-blown remakes of classic series by Sega, Konami, Capcom, and SNK. (Listing them all would bury the embedded video below, but to get a sense of how impressive M2's work is, look into the Sega 3D Classics Collection. This series saw M2 deconstruct many original Sega arcade and console games, then fully rebuild them with pitch-perfect emulation and 3D depth effects for the Nintendo 3DS.)

The MLIG production duo of Coury Carlson and Marc Duddleson fill their documentary with original insights from M2 staffers, starting with the studio's college-aged efforts to build an arcade-perfect version of Gauntlet for the Sega Genesis and working up to its acquisition of dozens of '90s industry vets to keep the studio going through the '00s and '10s.

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The 2019 Lincoln Nautilus—how does American luxury stack up?

Sun, 2019-05-19 08:00

The Nautilus is new to Lincoln's lineup for the 2019 model year—sort of. Another way of looking at it is that Lincoln gave the MKX a significant makeover and renamed it the Nautilus. Both the MKX and Nautilus sit on the same Ford CD4 platform, which we previously encountered in the Ford Edge. The Nautilus is about 2 inches (50mm) longer than the Edge and sports Lincoln's new large, rectangular grille, with the badge centered inside instead of on the body between two smaller grilles. Other cosmetic tweaks include body-color trim instead of black, some really sharp-looking wheels, and more aerodynamic appearance. Perhaps the biggest exterior tweak is the location of the "Nautilus" badge—it's embossed into a metal plate overlapping the forward edge of the front doors and the quarter panels. It gives the Nautilus a more distinctive look.

Turbocharged engines are standard in the Nautilus. Gone is the 3.7-liter V6 of the MKX, replaced with either a direct-injected 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 or a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-banger. The V6 offers up 335hp (250kW) and 380lb-ft (512Nm) of torque, while the standard 2.0L model deals out 250hp (186kW) and 280lb-ft (380Nm). No matter which power plant you opt for, it will be paired with an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission—a clear upgrade from last year's six-speed transmission. Both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are available and are paired with an adaptive suspension aimed at offering a posh ride.

Lincoln offers the Nautilus in four trim levels: Standard ($41,335 base MSRP), Select ($45,540), Reserve ($49,870), and Black Label ($57,890). Lincoln makes a suite of driver-assist technology—newly bundled together as Lincoln Co-Pilot360—standard. Unfortunately, Co-Pilot360 doesn't include adaptive cruise control, lane-centering, evasive steering assist, and adaptive steering. Those are add-ons available via the Driver Assistance Package. The car we tested was the Black Label edition, with a sticker price of $67,630.

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Opera Reborn 3: No modern browser is perfect, but this may be as close as it gets

Sun, 2019-05-19 07:30

Enlarge / Both the new dark view and light view look good. (credit: Opera)

When Opera Software unveiled a new look and feel for its browser earlier this year, the company made a big deal of the impending changes. "We put Web content at center stage," the Opera team declared on its blog. And early previews of the design appeared to be quite pared down, allowing users to browse "unhindered by unnecessary distractions" as the Opera team put it.

Well Opera recently released what the company refers to as Reborn 3, the latest version of its flagship desktop browser, and it's tempting to dismiss the name as little more than marketing hype. But given the relentless and utterly unspectacular updates that the Chromium project releases every six weeks, it can also be hard to denote actual big releases of browsers based on Chromium—hence the "Reborn" moniker. After spending some time with Reborn 3, however, the name seems accurate. For Opera, this is a significant update that goes far beyond what arrived with the move to Chromium 60.

Opera Reborn 3—or Opera 60 if you want to stick with version numbers—transitions a slew of features that recently debuted in Opera's mobile browsers to the desktop. The big three in this release are support for blockchain-secured transactions, a crypto wallet to go with the mobile version, and a new overall look with light and dark themes available. So if you haven't checked out Opera lately, it's worth revisiting, especially for those older Opera fans still smarting about the switch from Opera's Presto rendering engine to Google's Blink rendering engine.

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How tech companies are shaping the rules governing AI

Sun, 2019-05-19 07:15

Enlarge (credit: Mina De La O | Getty Images)

In early April, the European Commission published guidelines intended to keep any artificial intelligence technology used on the EU’s 500 million citizens trustworthy. The bloc’s commissioner for digital economy and society, Bulgaria’s Mariya Gabriel, called them “a solid foundation based on EU values.”

One of the 52 experts who worked on the guidelines argues that foundation is flawed—thanks to the tech industry. Thomas Metzinger, a philosopher from the University of Mainz, in Germany, says too many of the experts who created the guidelines came from or were aligned with industry interests. Metzinger says he and another member of the group were asked to draft a list of AI uses that should be prohibited. That list included autonomous weapons, and government social scoring systems similar to those under development in China. But Metzinger alleges tech’s allies later convinced the broader group that it shouldn’t draw any “red lines” around uses of AI.

Metzinger says that spoiled a chance for the EU to set an influential example that—like the bloc’s GDPR privacy rules—showed technology must operate within clear limits. “Now everything is up for negotiation,” he says.

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Everyone is “gun-fu” fighting: John Wick 3 is almost as good as the original

Sat, 2019-05-18 18:31

Enlarge / "It wasn't just a puppy." Keanu Reeves is back, declaring war on the High Table in John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum. (credit: Lionsgate)

John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum is blowing up the box office this weekend with a projected $56.8 million opening in the US and $92 million globally. No sequel is likely to match the lean, mean, revenge-filled fury of the original film, but Parabellum comes close. Director Chad Stahelski knows exactly what his audience wants. This third installment advances the assassin's underworld mythology while stringing together a series of spectacularly choreographed fight sequences showcasing some of the finest stuntwork you're likely to see onscreen.

(Spoilers for first two films and mild spoilers for Chapter 3 below.)

For those who missed the first two movies, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a legendary hitman (known as the Boogeyman or "Baba Yaga") who tried to retire when he fell in love and got married. Unfortunately, he's drawn back into the dark underground world by an act of senseless violence after his wife's death. Nothing will stop John Wick from seeking retribution. The first John Wick grossed more than $88 million worldwide for a film that cost around $30 million to make, and it was praised for its brisk pace, heart-stopping action sequences, and stylish noir feel.

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Thanks Autopilot: Cops stop Tesla whose driver appears asleep and drunk

Sat, 2019-05-18 13:45

Enlarge (credit: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Police in the Netherlands on Thursday pulled over a Tesla driver who had apparently fallen asleep at the wheel while driving down the highway. A Dutch police agency reported the incident on Instagram.

A 50-year-old man was spotted driving close to the car ahead of him on the A27 road. "When we came alongside, the driver appeared to have fallen asleep," the police said.

Police signaled for the driver to pull over, but he didn't seem to notice. Eventually, the officers managed to wake the driver up using a siren, the Instagram post says. Police administered a blood alcohol test and found the driver to be under the influence of alcohol.

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Grumpy Cat’s death marks the end of the joyful Internet

Sat, 2019-05-18 12:31

Enlarge / Grumpy Cat poses on the set as she makes her broadway debut in "Cats" on Broadway at The Neil Simon Theatre on September 30, 2016 in New York City.

In 2012, America was halfway through President Obama's time in office. The first Avengers movie came out, and Hunger Games premiered. Hope was high, and Reddit—the Web's "front page"—was where anyone with a cute pet could get thousands of upvotes. Cats were the most popular, but occasionally a dog or two would slip in. Then, in September of that year, Bryan Bundesen posted a picture of his sister Tabatha's cat, Tardar Sauce, an 11-month old tabby with feline dwarfism that perpetually looked annoyed. The Internet was enraptured with Grumpy Cat.

That's how life on social media used to be. The biggest memeswere funny looking cats like Tardar and Lil Bub, or Mohawk Guy, and "Call Me Maybe." Memes weren't yet weapons of mass disruption (at least not on the scale that they came to be in 2016) and we still knew what a troll was. Now, Grumpy Cat is dead—the feline's owners announced her passing today on Twitter—and with her goes an era in which the Internet was more a place of joy than hate, uplift rather than harassment.

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