Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

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

May 19th, 2019

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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Posted in Biz & IT, Features | Comments (0)

Guidemaster: Ars picks the best wireless keyboards you can buy in 2019

May 17th, 2019
Guidemaster: Ars picks the best wireless keyboards you can buy in 2019

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Sometimes the default just doesn't cut it, and that's often true when it comes to keyboards. Whether you're working on a desktop or a laptop, the keyboard you were given or the keyboard built into the machine may not be the best for your working style. If that's the case, you may benefit from re-organizing your workspace to fit a wireless keyboard that connects to your machine via Bluetooth or a USB receiver.

But there are scores of wireless keyboards to choose from these days. Big PC companies as well as big accessory manufacturers all make wireless keyboards for various kinds of uses from stationary desk typing to on-the-go working. Luckily, we recently dove into the vast world of wireless keyboards head first. Maybe a modern wireless keyboard will never be as beloved as your old Model M, but there are good options out there—and here's the info you'll need to make your buying decisions easier.

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

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Posted in accessories, Features, guidemaster, key travel, Keyboards, keys, Mac, pc, Tech, Wireless keyboards | Comments (0)

The radio-navigation planes use to land safely is insecure and can be hacked

May 15th, 2019
A plane in the researchers' demonstration attack as spoofed ILS signals induce a pilot to land to the right of the runway.

Enlarge / A plane in the researchers' demonstration attack as spoofed ILS signals induce a pilot to land to the right of the runway. (credit: Sathaye et al.)

Just about every aircraft that has flown over the past 50 years—whether a single-engine Cessna or a 600-seat jumbo jet—relies on radios to safely land at airports. These instrument landing systems are considered precision approach systems, because, unlike GPS and other navigation systems, they provide crucial real-time guidance about both the plane’s horizontal alignment with a runway and its vertical rate of descent. In many settings—particularly during foggy or rainy nighttime landings—this radio-based navigation is the primary means for ensuring planes touch down at the start of a runway and on its centerline.

Like many technologies built in earlier decades, the ILS was never designed to be secure from hacking. Radio signals, for instance, aren’t encrypted or authenticated. Instead, pilots simply assume that the tones their radio-based navigation systems receive on a runway’s publicly assigned frequency are legitimate signals broadcast by the airport operator. This lack of security hasn’t been much of a concern over the years, largely because the cost and difficulty of spoofing malicious radio signals made attacks infeasible.

Now, researchers have devised a low-cost hack that raises questions about the security of ILS, which is used at virtually every civilian airport throughout the industrialized world. Using a $600 software defined radio, the researchers can spoof airport signals in a way that causes a pilot’s navigation instruments to falsely indicate a plane is off course. Normal training will call for the pilot to adjust the plane’s descent rate or alignment accordingly and create a potential accident as a result.

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Posted in aviation, Biz & IT, exploits, Features, ils, instrument landing systems, security, vulnerabilities | Comments (0)

Ubuntu 19.04: The Disco Dingo arrives and will really make your IT dept. happy

May 12th, 2019
Behold, the default desktop for the latest Canonical release: Ubuntu 19.04, gloriously nicknamed "Disco Dingo."

Enlarge / Behold, the default desktop for the latest Canonical release: Ubuntu 19.04, gloriously nicknamed "Disco Dingo." (credit: Scott Gilbertson)

Canonical recently released Ubuntu 19.04, the latest version of its flagship GNOME-based Linux desktop. But if you're a desktop user, you might be feeling a little left out.

The big points of emphasis in this latest release are on Ubuntu as a tool for infrastructure development, server deployment, and the good old Internet of Things. For the server version of Ubuntu, the OS ships with all the latest cloud computing tools. In fact, that's already available in optimized builds on the major cloud services.

Elsewhere, the latest version of the venerable Ubuntu desktop packs quite a few additional, tempting reasons to upgrade for Linux gamers. Ubuntu 19.04 makes the leap to the Linux kernel 5.x series, for instance, which offers much improved graphics support.

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Posted in Biz & IT, Features, linux, Tech, Ubuntu | Comments (0)

HP Spectre 15 x360 2019 review: Carving a niche in a crowded space

May 10th, 2019
The unusual, gemstone-inspired edges are designed to make this laptop stand out.

Enlarge / The unusual, gemstone-inspired edges are designed to make this laptop stand out. (credit: Samuel Axon)

The HP Spectre 15 x360 is a good laptop, but it seemed we always found one or two things to quibble with.

With the 2017 model, we liked some key design decisions but felt let down by the performance and battery life. We were bigger fans of the 2018 update, which amped up performance while also improving battery life and making the 4K display standard. But we felt the trackpad was awfully small and didn't like that the fingerprint reader and power button were separate.

Now we're working with the 2019 model, and it brings a whole new design along with some faster internals and extras like clever port placement and a hardware webcam kill switch. At its heart, the 2019 HP Spectre 15 x360 still seeks to accomplish the same things as its predecessors. It's an eye-catching (if a bit bulky) convertible packed with most of the features creatives and heavy consumers of media are looking for.

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Posted in convertible, Features, HP, hp spectre x360 15, laptop, Tech, USB-C, Windows | Comments (0)

VW’s record-breaking electric car takes on world’s scariest racetrack, Nürburgring

May 8th, 2019
Romain Dumas at the wheel of the VW ID R electric car on the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Enlarge / Romain Dumas at the wheel of the VW ID R electric car on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. (credit: Volkswagen Motorsport)

Although we make every effort to cover our own travel costs, in this case Volkswagen flew me to Germany and provided two nights in a hotel.

NÜRBURG, Germany—What do the race cars of Formula 1, the World Endurance Championship, NASCAR, and IndyCar all have in common? The answer is that each is built to comply with a specific set of rules. That's understandable: rules in each series exist (ideally) to create a level playing field and to prevent cars from getting too fast and too powerful for the tracks upon which they race. But what if there were no rules? What if you could throw as much power and downforce onto a car as you could to make it go around a track faster than anything else?

This ethos has been tried at least once in the past. It was called the CanAm series, and until the 1973 oil crisis killed it, it gave rise to cars the likes of which had never been seen. The effort culminated in the 1,100hp (820kW) turbocharged Porsche 917/30, which is arguably also the car that helped kill the series because it was so much faster than anything else. Today CanAm is long gone, and no competitive series has seen fit to take up its mantle. But that doesn't mean there's no room left in the world for motorsport engineers to toss out the popular rulesets and start with a clean sheet of paper.

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Posted in cars, electric car, Features, Nordschleife, Nurburgring, Volkswagen ID R | Comments (0)

Guidemaster: High-tech gift ideas for Mother’s Day

May 6th, 2019
The Apple Watch Series 4 on a wrist.

Enlarge / The Apple Watch Series 4. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

No physical item can repay your mother for all the love she's sent your way, but Mother's Day is still a good time to give Mom some token of your affection. So, as we've done in the past, we've rounded up a handful of Ars-y items that might make her life a little more pleasant.

Now, not all the gadgets, services, and books we've recommended will be great choices for your mom. Some people might enjoy a new fitness tracker, while others would prefer a trip to the spa. You know your mother better than we do. But we're all about gear and practicality here at Ars, and any of the gift ideas below should serve Mom longer than flowers and chocolates.

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, guidemaster, Mother's Day, Staff | Comments (0)

What to expect from Google I/O 2019

May 5th, 2019
Shoreline Amphitheatre, as seen at Google I/O 2017.

Enlarge / Shoreline Amphitheatre, as seen at Google I/O 2017. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Google I/O kicks off May 7 in Mountain View, California, where Google will be hosting a keynote and a million other sessions at the Shoreline Amphitheater. The keynote starts at 10am PT, and we'll be there to cover everything announced at the show. But before we hop on a plane and fly down to Google HQ, we've prepared a likely list of things we anticipate Google will announce. If you want to know where the larger Google-verse is about to go, here are the rumors, expected updates on previously announced things, and notable schedule tidbits to keep an eye on at I/O 2019.

Table of Contents

The mid-range Pixel

When it comes to entry-level smartphone pricing, Google gets the title of "Most Expensive Smartphone Lineup on Earth." Google wants to be a smartphone manufacturer, but its cheapest phone, the Pixel 3, starts at $800. Most other manufacturers have a range of smartphones starting as low as $100 and going up from there. You can even enter the iOS ecosystem for just $449, where Apple will still sell you a new iPhone 7.

At Google I/O 2019, Google will take a baby step toward offering a real smartphone lineup by launching something other than a premium smartphone: a mid-range Pixel is coming, and supposedly there will be two devices, called the "Pixel 3a" and "Pixel 3a XL," with identical designs. Hardware has been absent from Google I/O for several years, but these devices are pretty much a lock to debut at Google I/O—Google has already sent out a teaser for May 7.

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Mortal Kombat 11 review: Great gameplay, excessively packaged

May 3rd, 2019
Classic characters (klassic karacters?) Raiden and Johnny Cage face off in a nostalgic-themed arcade level.

Enlarge / Classic characters (klassic karacters?) Raiden and Johnny Cage face off in a nostalgic-themed arcade level. (credit: NetherRealm Studios)

The original Mortal Kombat arcade experience quite literally shaped my life in gaming—I've been a dedicated fighting game community member ever since. Looking back, the entire original trilogy of games feels special, and the early-year hype for Mortal Kombat 11 recently stirred up some of that nostalgia. After a long time of mostly ignoring the franchise's releases, I was genuinely looking forward to trying a new Mortal Kombat game.

As a somewhat serious fighting game player, I'm good enough to know I'm not particularly good. Fighting games are a pretty deep rabbit hole, and there is always more to dig. I'm registered to compete this August in Street Fighter V and the new (and still unreleased) Samurai Shodown at Evo, the annual global fighting game event in Vegas. I run a weekly night hosting players for a multitude of fighting games (but mostly Street Fighter titles). No matter the preferred title, though, I'm happy to nerd out and talk frame traps or fighting game theory.

I'm a fan of the Mortal Kombat series in general, but I stopped paying much attention after the third arcade title in the mid '90s. So before playing MK11, I caught up on some quick summaries of the rebooted franchise lore that came along with NetherRealm Studios' (NRS) Mortal Kombat 9 in 2011. My perspective on the game may very much be that of a lapsed fan these days, but those early titles will always hold a special place.

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Video: Slay the Spire is a friendly game of death, but it was hard to get it right

May 2nd, 2019

Video directed by Justin Wolfson, edited by John Cappello. Click here for transcript.

Normally, we devote our "War Stories" videos to established and classic games of old. So what is a 2019 video game doing here?

Anyone who asks this question about Slay the Spire, made by a three-person studio in Seattle, hasn't played this wonderful title. It's arguably the most addictive, accessible, and strategy-filled digital card game we've seen in years. So we wanted to talk to its dealers about the game's irresistible properties.

The result is the above interview, which is peppered with developer Mega Crit's insights (and at least one Easter egg). We're glad we sought out this younger team, because their answers revolved largely around the Steam Early Access system, which is still a pretty small drop in the bucket of game design history. Designers Anthony Giovannetti and Casey Yano sought a passionate community's help to solve the game's early design problems, and the community's use of Discord and Steam forums were critical not just for fixing Slay's early issues but also identifying them in the first place.

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Posted in ars technica video, Ars Technica Videos, Features, Gaming & Culture, slay the spire, video, war stories | Comments (0)