Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Long on tradition, Japan grapples with a rapidly changing rocket industry

November 15th, 2018
An H-2B rocket is moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 2 at the Tanegashima facility in southern Japan.

Enlarge / An H-2B rocket is moved from the Vehicle Assembly Building to Launch Pad 2 at the Tanegashima facility in southern Japan. (credit: JAXA)

TOKYO—In early September, the island nation of Japan was doing Japan things. One day, Typhoon Jebi roared ashore near Osaka and Kobe, breaking historical wind records. Early the next morning in Tokyo, as thick clouds from Jebi’s outer bands raced overhead, an offshore earthquake rattled softly but perceptibly through the city.

The capital city’s skies remained a bleak gray a few hours later as we entered the headquarters of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in the city’s bustling Shinagawa area. Men in suits gestured us forward, bowing as we passed, down a corridor to an elevator. After riding up 27 floors to the top of the building, more men in suits ushered our group into a long, formal meeting room. Along one wall, a bank of windows looked to the southwest. From here, on a clear day, the iconic Mount Fuji dominates the distant horizon. But not this day.

A handful of reporters had been invited here to meet with the MHI's chief executive, Shunichi Miyanaga, or Miyanaga-san as he is known throughout this building and beyond. The firm had paid our not-inconsiderable travel expenses so that we might learn more about the industrial conglomerate’s various businesses and its long-range plans to remain globally competitive.

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The Ars Holiday Gift Guide 2018—tech and gear for travel that we’d buy

November 13th, 2018
A handful of gadgets we'd like to have with us on the road this year.

Enlarge / A handful of gadgets we'd like to have with us on the road this year. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

The holiday season is fast approaching, which means it's once again time for the world to come together in a spirited embrace of consumerism. Or, perhaps in a more cheerful alternative, it's time to again think about what gifts your loved ones might like. Thankfully, your friends at Ars are back with recommendations that won't disappoint, since they're based on months of testing and toying with the many things that have hit our desks around the Orbiting HQ.

Today, Ars has put together the first in a series of holiday gift guides we'll roll out in the coming weeks. For 2018, we're covering everything from board games to office gifts to things for the fellow Ars reader (or at least Ars reader type) in your life. But with holiday travel planning already in full swing, we're starting with portable gear: gift ideas for things you can easily carry on your person and take on the go if need be. Here's hoping something below can serve your loved ones well on their next road trip.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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Posted in Features, gift guide, Holiday Gift Guide 2018, Tech | Comments (0)

Tetris Effect review: The puzzle game of my dreams—literally

November 9th, 2018
It's here, and it's beautiful.

Enlarge / It's here, and it's beautiful. (credit: Enhance Games / Aurich)

Before I began playing this week's new game, Tetris Effect, I found myself tempted to compare it to other versions of the puzzle series. That's an easy trap to fall into—a bullet-point sorting of tweaks, features, and differences—and one that gets pretty unwieldy with decades of Tetris games to compare to.

But shortly after I dove into Tetris Effect, with a PlayStation VR headset firmly strapped to my head, my thinking about this game drifted somewhere surprising: not to another game or sequel, but to an event. Specifically, I thought of the latest Classic Tetris World Championship, held in Portland, Oregon, in October.

There, a 16-year-old named Joseph Saelee rocked the gaming world by besting seasoned veterans of the game's 1989 NES version and winning it all. You've seen Tetris before, but never like this—with a multi-camera rig showing pros' gamer faces as they pound through ultra-fast sessions in incredible fashion (aided in no small part by a "hyper-tapping" technique used to keep sessions going beyond that version's "kill screen"). I'll never forget what I saw. What unfolded was not revolutionary, but its presentation, drama, and feeling of an oldie born anew made the competition particularly thrilling to watch.

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Posted in Features, Gaming & Culture, Lumines, Rez, Tetris, tetris effect | Comments (0)

Apple walks Ars through the iPad Pro’s A12X system on a chip

November 7th, 2018
The 2018, 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Enlarge / The 2018, 12.9-inch iPad Pro. (credit: Samuel Axon)

BROOKLYN—Apple's new iPad Pro sports several new features of note, including the most dramatic aesthetic redesign in years, Face ID, new Pencil features, and the very welcome move to USB-C. But the star of the show is the new A12X system on a chip (SoC).

Apple made some big claims about the A12X during its presentation announcing the product: that it has twice the graphics performance of the A10X; that it has 90 percent faster multi-core performance than its predecessor; that it matches the GPU power of the Xbox One S game console with no fan and at a fraction of the size; that it has 1,000 times faster graphics performance than the original iPad released eight years ago; that it's faster than 92 percent of all portable PCs.

If you've read our iPad Pro review, you know most of those claims hold up. Apple’s latest iOS devices aren’t perfect, but even the platform’s biggest detractors recognize that the company is leading the market when it comes to mobile CPU and GPU performance—not by a little, but by a lot. It's all done on custom silicon designed within Apple—a different approach than that taken by any mainstream Android or Windows device.

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Posted in A12X, Anand Lal Shimpi, apple, ar, CPU, Features, GPU, Interview, ipad, ipad pro, ISP, machine learning, Neural Engine, Phil Schiller, silicon, Tech | Comments (0)

2018 iPad Pro review: “What’s a computer?”

November 7th, 2018

Samuel Axon

Early this year, Apple ran an ad that featured a young girl using an iPad as her primary computing device. An older woman asked the girl a question about her computer, and she responded, "What's a computer?"

The ad was widely mocked. For starters, an iPad is a computer. But also, the hypothetical future when kids don't even know what a desktop or laptop are seems very distant at best. Yes, tablets and smartphones have replaced laptops and desktops among large numbers of young people for personal uses like social media, Web browsing, and games. But despite some high school students who sometimes write their college papers on their smartphones, mobile devices are still not where the real work gets done. Real work is done on a laptop or desktop.

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Posted in 2018 iPad Pro, A12X, apple, apple pencil, Apple Smart Keyboard Folio, Features, Gadgetology, iOS, ipad pro, Tech | Comments (0)

Feature erosion watch: Xbox One loses broadcast TV streaming

November 5th, 2018
This little-used Xbox One accessory will get a little less useful in the next 30 days.

This little-used Xbox One accessory will get a little less useful in the next 30 days. (credit: Hauppauge)

Microsoft is removing an Xbox One feature that let users stream over-the-air TV broadcasts from a USB antenna to the Xbox app on iOS or Android.

Reddit user icecreamman37 was among the users to receive the following message from Microsoft on the Xbox One:

You may have streamed TV content using a USB TV tuner from your Xbox console to the Xbox app. In 30 days, the Xbox app on iOS and Android will no longer support this functionality. You will still be able to watch TV content on your Xbox One console and via streaming to the Xbox app on Windows 10.

Microsoft first introduced the streaming feature in late 2015, shortly after the release of Hauppauge's $80 WinTV-HVR stick, which let the Xbox One (or a PC) easily receive over-the-air antenna TV signals. In Europe, Microsoft went so far as to release its own branded Digital TV Tuner in 2014.

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Posted in Features, Gaming & Culture, media, streaming, TV, Xbox One | Comments (0)

iPhone XR review: Keeping compromises to a minimum

November 5th, 2018

Samuel Axon

Steve Jobs famously believed the devices his company produced would bring technology to the masses, but he was rarely willing to make the compromises necessary to bring that vision to fruition. Apple has only sometimes released products that were priced for everyone.

That trend continued in late September with the release of the flagship iPhone XS, a compelling, envelope-pushing product that is nonetheless priced out of range for many consumers. Enter the iPhone XR, a close sibling to the XS that trades the latter’s expensive OLED display for an LCD and a dual-camera system for a single camera among other things—all to bring the price down just enough so more people can buy it.

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Posted in apple, Features, Gadgetology, iOS, iOS 12, iphone, iPhone XR, Liquid Retina, Smart HDR, Tech | Comments (0)

Essen 2018: The best board games from the biggest board game con

November 3rd, 2018

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at

This past weekend, tens of thousands of tabletop gaming fanatics made a pilgrimage to the German city of Essen for the annual Internationale Spieltage fair—better known to board gaming fans simply as Spiel (or Essen). It’s the most important event in the board gaming calendar, where major publishers unveil their new releases, indie designers clamor to draw attention to their passion projects, and players scramble to try the hottest new games before they hit store shelves.

It’s a heaving, sprawling, noisy celebration of analogue gaming, and with thousands of new products on show, it’s impossible to do more than scratch the surface of what’s on offer. Once you set foot in the cavernous Messe Essen venue, you quickly realize that no matter how meticulously you’ve planned your visit, it all counts for nothing; it’s all about spotting empty spaces at demo tables and leaping at them before anyone else.

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Posted in Features, Gaming & Culture | Comments (0)

Lenovo Yoga Book 2018 review: The keyless keyboard returns, now in E Ink

November 2nd, 2018
Lenovo Yoga Book 2018 review: The keyless keyboard returns, now in E Ink

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Lenovo's quirky Yoga Book is back with some significant updates for 2018. The original Yoga Book was a unique hybrid of a tablet sporting a "halo" keyboard panel with no actual keys and a real paper drawing pad. Part netbook and part convertible, this year's edition remains quirky but seems more practical and less cumbersome than the original.

For 2018, Lenovo ditched the halo keyboard and paper pad and opted for an E Ink panel that can switch between keyboard, note, and e-reader modes. There's also a new embedded fingerprint sensor, new precision pen, and bumped-up specs. All together, those features also bump up the Yoga Book's price to $999.

Do the changes add up to a more competent companion device? After spending some time with the new model, it seems like a lot of the hardware issues with the original Yoga Book may be resolved by Lenovo's updates. In fact, the Yoga Book may even have some more mainstream appeal thanks to these improvements. Still, this doesn't seem like a device made to replace most people's all-purpose convertibles.

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Posted in 2-in-1, convertible, e-ink, Features, Lenovo, Tech, yoga book, yoga book c930 | Comments (0)

The ex-SolarCity employee who sued Tesla has quite a litigious past

October 31st, 2018
Workers secure solar panels to a rooftop during a SolarCity Corp. residential installation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Monday, February 8, 2016.

Enlarge / Workers secure solar panels to a rooftop during a SolarCity Corp. residential installation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Monday, February 8, 2016. (credit: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In July 2018, Andrew Staples and two other former employees at the Tesla-owned SolarCity, sued the solar power company, alleging age discrimination, sexual harassment, and anti-LGBT slurs. The charges were dramatic—and Staples is seeking serious compensation. (The case was moved to private arbitration in late August.)

An Ars investigation revealed that Staples has been involved in numerous lawsuits. In addition, his former company and his long-faded non-profit collectively owe more than $660,000 across 13 outstanding wage claims filed in California by people who used to work for him.

One of Staples' accusers is Margie Palmer, who worked for Staples' non-profit in 2011. She told Ars she was only paid a couple of times during her employment. In 2012, she won a wage claim and a civil judgement against the foundation for $9,309.09—but she hasn't collected on that judgment yet. In fact, Palmer says she's lost all hope of ever collecting a penny.

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Posted in a. latham staples, andrew latham staples, andrew staples, Features, latham staples, Policy, SolarCity, Tesla | Comments (0)