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Can the ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood Be Saved?

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The Monitor is a weekly column devoted to everything happening in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, TV to Twitter.

An arc light, or arc lamp, is a source of illumination created when electricity flows between two carbon electrodes. Use of arc lamps dwindled in the 20th century, edged out by incandescents, but for a long time they were a common light source for movie projectors. Mostly this little detail is just a fun fact—something interesting to bring up at parties. But this week, it’s a reminder that the history of cinema is long, even when our memories are short—and that the news of ArcLight Cinema shutting down can bring back a flood of recollections, even for people who may not know the theater chain’s namesake.

The bloodletting started on Monday, when Decurion Corporation announced that it would not be reopening the ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres locations it had to close during Covid-19. “This was not the outcome anyone wanted, but despite a huge effort that exhausted all potential options,” Decurion said in a statement, “the company does not have a viable way forward.” It was a huge blow, especially considering theaters in California, where the chains operate some 300 screens, were just starting to reopen. It was also a gut-punch to Los Angeles filmgoers who had spent their lives going to the ArcLight location in Hollywood, home to the legendary Cinerama Dome, a landmark on the Sunset Strip since the 1960s.

As the news spread, reactions quickly followed. The Old Guard director Gina Prince-Bythewood tweeted, “This is so painful. The ArcLight was my go-to … A true movie-going experience.” Lulu Wang, director of The Farewell, reminisced about meeting Quentin Tarantino in the lobby. Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson lamented “this sucks,” while Moonlight helmer Barry Jenkins just tweeted a very apt “FUCK.” Film Twitter was distraught. 

Once the shock wore off, many people started looking for answers. Some suggested a movie magnate—a Christopher Nolan or the like—could swoop in to save the ArcLight. Others, noting that the so-called Paramount Consent Decrees no longer prevent studios from owning theaters, suggested the Cinerama could be a crown jewel for a streamer like Amazon, Apple, or Netflix. There’s just one problem with Netflix taking over the multiplex: It just bought Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, another iconic Los Angeles theater that also happens to be about a mile from the company’s Hollywood home base. (Amazon and Apple, meanwhile, would definitely have the cash, but neither has shown interest in physical locations the way Netflix has.)

It is possible a longtime movie mogul with deep pockets could come in and save the legendary geodesic dome, and everyone is speculating about who could pull it off. Many suggested Quentin Tarantino. When he bought the New Beverly Cinema in 2010, he said, “As long as I’m alive, and as long as I’m rich, the New Beverly will be there,” so he seemed like the kind of guy who could do it. Nolan, a staunch defender of large format movie projection, also seemed like a good bet. But so far, no word has come that either of them is interested. Eventually, someone started a Change.org petition stating that “we the people (cinephiles) are calling on Amazon, Walt Disney Studios, Apple, Netflix, or someone else to save the Dome.” As of this writing, nearly 10,000 people have signed.

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A look at misconceptions about bitcoin's energy footprint, including how energy consumption does not equal carbon emissions, its use of unused resources, more (Nic Carter/HBR.org)

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Nic Carter / HBR.org:

A look at misconceptions about bitcoin’s energy footprint, including how energy consumption does not equal carbon emissions, its use of unused resources, more  —  Summary.  —  Today, Bitcoin consumes as much energy as a small country.  This certainly sounds alarming — but the reality is a little more complicated.


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Google is about to start automatically enrolling users in 2FA

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In recent months, vulnerable apps, hacked websites, and zero-day exploits have accounted for an increasing amount of the reporting that we do here at BGR. There is risk in everything we do online, but there are many ways to mitigate that risk, such as turning on two-factor authentication (2FA) for any apps, services, or accounts that offer it. Speaking of 2FA, Google decided to take matters into its own hands on that front, as the company announced Thursday that it will soon enable 2FA by default for anyone with an “appropriately configured” Google account.

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“Today we ask people who have enrolled in two-step verification (2SV) to confirm it’s really them with a simple tap via a Google prompt on their phone whenever they sign in,” Google’s Director of Product Management, Identity and User Security, Mark Risher, said in a blog post. “Soon we’ll start automatically enrolling users in 2SV if their accounts are appropriately configured. (You can check the status of your account in our Security Checkup). Using their mobile device to sign in gives people a safer and more secure authentication experience than passwords alone.”

Basically, your account is “appropriately configured” if you have provided Google with recovery information, which could be a secondary email address, a phone number, or an authenticator app. You should already be using Google’s two-step verification, but if you’re not, at least make sure to visit the Security Checkup site.

As Google notes earlier in the blog post, searches for the phrase “how strong is my password” increased by 300% in 2020. Meanwhile, millions of you are still using passwords like “123456” or “password” or “qwerty,” so the resounding answer to that search query is an unequivocal “NO.” Make your passwords strong and difficult to guess, use different passwords for all of your accounts, and take advantage of Google’s Password Manager, which not only stores all of your passwords, but also lets you know when and if they have been compromised.

Google’s dream of killing passwords once and for all is still just that — a dream — but as we slowly work our way toward that glorious day, do what you can to keep your accounts and your personal data safe.

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Jacob started covering video games and technology in college as a hobby, but it quickly became clear to him that this was what he wanted to do for a living. He currently resides in New York writing for BGR. His previously published work can be found on TechHive, VentureBeat and Game Rant.


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Finding Dark Ships Via Satellite

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It would seem that for as long as there have been ships on the ocean, there’s been smuggling. The International Maritime Organisation requires ships to have AIS, the automatic identification system which is akin to a transponder on an airplane. However, if you don’t want to be found, you often turn off your AIS. So how do governments and insurance companies track so-called dark ships? Using satellite technology. A recent post in Global Investigative Journal tells the story of how lower-cost satellites are helping track these dark ships.

Optical tracking is the obvious method, but satellites that can image ships can be expensive and have problems with things like clouds. Radar is another option, but — again — an expensive option if you aren’t a big military agency with money to spend. A company called HawkEye 360 uses smallsats to monitor ship’s RF emissions, which is much less expensive and resource-intensive than traditional methods. Although the data may still require correlation with other methods like optical sensing, it is still cost-effective compared to simply scanning the ocean for ships.

The post tells the tale of an Iranian crude oil tanker. Noting a long gap in the AIS signal from the ship, HawkEye 360 attempted to locate the ship the next time it went dark. Of course, AIS can be off for other reasons, such as equipment failure or fear of piracy. Simply not squawking AIS isn’t a definite sign of malfeasance.

Using the satellite, radio transmissions on VHF channel 16 (156.8 MHz) — the standard calling frequency — were found from the ship and it appeared they were offloading crude oil to a refinery in Syria. With a specific target in mind, commercial satellite imaging picked up 3-meter resolution images of the ships and — apparently there is a database of ships at that resolution — identified four Iranian flag tankers at the site, three of which had arrived in stealth mode.

The HawkEye 360 satellites can pick up radar, emergency beacons, satellite phones, and VHF radio signals. A map shows the difference between the number of AIS signals in the South China Sea and the number of X-band radar signals. The AIS map looks sparse, whereas the radar map shows 3-4 times the number of vessels.

In another example, uses ESA’s Sentinel 1 satellite and synthetic aperture radar to locate ships going from China to North Korea. ICEYE, another smallsat company, is tracing illegal fishing activity around Argentina and smuggling near the UAE.

It is amazing to see how much satellite tech that would have been deep secret a few years ago is now commercially available. It isn’t just useful for law enforcement, either. The resolution is a far cry from the old weather satellites people tend to eavesdrop on.

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