N64 collection goes live on Nintendo Switch, and it’s-a me, disappointment

Videogame character Mario's face on a handheld gaming system.

Enlarge / We wish we had better news to report about Nintendo’s first easy-to-access N64 collection in a long time. Alas. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Nintendo)

On Monday, Nintendo released its latest collection of emulated N64 games—and its first since the Wii U’s Virtual Console—as a package of games exclusively available on its Switch consoles. Unfortunately, the result isn’t exactly the Super Mario 64-styled “wa-hoo!” we’d been hoping for.

After years of “N64 mini” rumors (which have yet to come to fruition), Nintendo announced plans to honor its first fully 3D gaming system late last month in the form of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. Pay a bit extra, the company said, and you’d get a select library of N64 classics, emulated by the company that made them, on Switch consoles as part of an active NSO subscription.

One month later, however, Nintendo’s sales proposition grew more sour. That “bit extra” ballooned to $30 more per year, on top of the existing $20/year fee—a 150 percent jump in annual price. Never mind that the price also included an Animal Crossing expansion pack (which retro gaming fans may not want) and Sega Genesis games (which have been mostly released ad nauseam on every gaming system of the past decade). For many interested fans, that price jump was about the N64 collection.

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Source: Ars Technica – N64 collection goes live on Nintendo Switch, and it’s-a me, disappointment

Promising-looking SETI signal turns out to be of human origin

Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth aside from the Sun.

Enlarge / Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth aside from the Sun. (credit: ESA, Hubble, and NASA)

Modern human society has been making it ever more challenging for astronomers to get their job done. While we’ve designated radio-quiet areas and dark skies initiatives, tensions have been heightened recently by the launch of broadband-Internet satellites, which are present in rapidly growing numbers.

Recent weeks have seen the reasons for these concerns come to the fore. In early October, researchers published papers suggesting that an observation assigned to one of the most distant galaxies known was actually the product of space junk orbiting Earth. And on Monday, the Breakthrough Listen project described just how hard it worked to determine that a promising-looking SETI signal was actually the product of Earth-bound electronics.

Junk or not?

The first observation at issue was potentially the most distant supernova ever observed. The paper describing it observed a flash in the near-infrared that coincided with the location of one of the Universe’s first galaxies. If the flash originated there, the red shift caused by the intervening distance would mean that the original burst was in the UV range, suggesting it was the product of a supernova. That would mean we had observed the death of one of the first stars formed in the Universe, a potentially significant finding.

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Source: Ars Technica – Promising-looking SETI signal turns out to be of human origin

Kid COVID-19 vaccines get green light from FDA advisors

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Source: Ars Technica – Kid COVID-19 vaccines get green light from FDA advisors

Blizzard cancels 2022 BlizzCon amid harrassment scandal fallout

A <em>Warcraft</em>-themed statue sits in front of the Blizzard employee campus.

Enlarge / A Warcraft-themed statue sits in front of the Blizzard employee campus. (credit: Flickr / gordontarpley)

Following an online-only BlizzCon earlier this year, Blizzard announced in May that its annual, announcement-packed convention for 2022 would be “combining an online show along the lines of our recent BlizzConline with smaller in-person gatherings.” Today, though, the company says it is “tak[ing] a step back and paus[ing] the planning” for that event.

In a post titled Reimagining BlizzCon, the company says that the all-hands-on-deck focus needed to pull off a show on the magnitude of BlizzCon just wasn’t the right fit for it at this point:

Any BlizzCon event takes every single one of us to make happen, an entire-company effort, fueled by our desire to share what we create with the community we care about so much. At this time, we feel the energy it would take to put on a show like this is best directed towards supporting our teams and progressing development of our games and experiences.

Unaddressed in the announcement (but a heavy subtext throughout) are the multiple lawsuits Activision Blizzard is facing in the wake of a California investigation into allegations of widespread workplace harassment and sexual misconduct at the company going back years. That still-roiling scandal comes after a flurry of high-profile departures in recent years, including Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan in April.

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Source: Ars Technica – Blizzard cancels 2022 BlizzCon amid harrassment scandal fallout

FCC kicks China Telecom Americas out of US, cites Chinese government control

Illustration of the US and Chinese flags next to each other on a wall with a crack separating the two flags.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | MicroStockHub)

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to block China Telecom Americas from the US market, saying that the “US subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned enterprise” is “subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government.” The telco “is highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government requests without sufficient legal procedures subject to independent judicial oversight,” the FCC said.

The vote was 4-0 with both Democrats and both Republicans approving the order to revoke and terminate China Telecom’s Section 214 authority to operate in the US. The FCC said its order “directs China Telecom Americas to discontinue any domestic or international services that it provides pursuant to its Section 214 authority within sixty days following the release of the order.”

The FCC pointed to a “changed national security environment with respect to China since the commission authorized China Telecom Americas to provide telecommunications services in the United States almost two decades ago.” The company’s “ownership and control by the Chinese government raise significant national security and law enforcement risks by providing opportunities for China Telecom Americas, its parent entities, and the Chinese government to access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications, which in turn allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States,” the FCC said.

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Source: Ars Technica – FCC kicks China Telecom Americas out of US, cites Chinese government control

Adobe brings new Creative Cloud apps to M1 Macs and the web

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Source: Ars Technica – Adobe brings new Creative Cloud apps to M1 Macs and the web

Homebuilder hopes 3D printing will solve worker shortages, tests tech in 100 homes

Icon's Vulcan construction system 3D-prints walls layer by layer using specially formulated concrete.

Enlarge / Icon’s Vulcan construction system 3D-prints walls layer by layer using specially formulated concrete. (credit: ICON Technology, Inc.)

Construction companies have been experimenting with 3D printing for years, but next year, a major homebuilder is going to break ground in Austin, Texas, on what will be the largest such development to date.

The new community will consist of 100 homes built with first floors made from 3D-printed concrete and finished using traditional wood-frame construction techniques. Construction technology startup Icon will be handling the 3D-printing portion, and Lennar, a large homebuilding firm, will finish them off. Bjarke Ingles Group, known for its creative and whimsical buildings, is assisting with the design.

Icon had previously built four homes in Austin using its 3D-printing technology. “We’re sort of graduating from singles and dozens of homes to hundreds of homes,” CEO Jason Ballard told The Wall Street Journal.

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Source: Ars Technica – Homebuilder hopes 3D printing will solve worker shortages, tests tech in 100 homes

More zombie-brand Motorola smartwatches are launching soon

More zombie-brand Motorola smartwatches are launching soon

Enlarge

Somehow, Motorola smartwatches are still happening, though they won’t be from Motorola Mobility’s current owner, Lenovo. There’s a long and complicated story about how a company you’ve never heard of is manufacturing “Motorola” smartwatches, but as Android Police has been tracking, the group, called CE Brands, is indeed planning to release three new watches soon.

Ever since Motorola stopped being an independent company in 2011 and sold itself to Google, the “Motorola” brand has been fragmented across the electronics landscape. The brand is so abused today the word “Motorola” is truly a zombie brand that means basically nothing in terms of a device’s lineage. It could represent a product from three different companies.

In the run-up to the Google sale, Motorola Inc. split into two companies, Motorola Mobility, for consumer electronics like smartphones and watches, and Motorola Solutions, for things like first-responder radios and other critical communication tools. Google bought Moto Mobility for $12 billion, then sold the cable modem business to Arris and started making Motorola smartphones. Google threw in the towel on Motorola in 2014 and sold the division to Lenovo, but one well-received product line that landed just before and after the transition was the Moto 360 smartwatch, which, with two generations, brought a stylish round design to early Android Wear devices.

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Source: Ars Technica – More zombie-brand Motorola smartwatches are launching soon

You only live once: Epidemiologists analyze health risks in all the James Bond films

Epidemiologists analyzed all 25 James Bond films to assess 007's health risks while traveling around the world.

Enlarge / Epidemiologists analyzed all 25 James Bond films to assess 007’s health risks while traveling around the world. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

A graduate student in epidemiology working in the field leads a perilous life, as Wouter Graumans discovered when he came down with a serious case of food poisoning while visiting Burkina Faso to study infectious disease. He may have also had a touch of delirium, as his experience prompted him to wonder how James Bond, Britain’s most famous secret agent, managed to travel all around the world without picking up so much as a case of the sniffles.

Graumans, who is working on his PhD at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, decided to undertake an epidemiological analysis of all 25 Bond films between 1962 and 2021. He found willing accomplices in Teun Bousema, an epidemiologist, and Will Stone, who studies malaria, both affiliated with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in England.

The result is a highly entertaining, tongue-in-cheek short paper in the journal Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease. The paper details 007’s exposure risk to infectious agents during his global travels, covering everything from foodborne pathogens to ticks and mites, hangovers and dehydration from all those martinis, parasites, and unsafe sex. (The authors’ emails requesting funding from EON Productions sadly went unanswered.)

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Source: Ars Technica – You only live once: Epidemiologists analyze health risks in all the James Bond films

Report: Microsoft is working on a low-cost Surface Laptop and “Windows 11 SE”

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

Enlarge / The Surface Laptop Go. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Microsoft may have another Surface announcement to make before the end of the year, according to a rumor from Windows Central. The report claims that Microsoft is working on a low-cost, education-focused device, codenamed “Tenjin,” designed to compete with Chromebooks in schools. The laptop could be “announced before the end of this year if plans don’t change,” the report says. It would also run a new variant of Windows 11, dubbed “Windows 11 SE.”

The laptop would come with a low-end quad-core Intel Celeron N4120 processor, “up to” 8 GB of memory, an 11.6-inch 1366×768 display, and an all-plastic body. It would eschew the normal Surface Connect port in favor of a single USB-A port, a USB-C port, and a “barrel-style AC port.” Presumably, the laptop could charge through either the AC port or the USB-C port, as current Surface devices do.

Such a laptop would slot in below the $549 12.4-inch Surface Laptop Go in Microsoft’s lineup, and accomplishing that in today’s supply-crunched, chip-shortage-afflicted PC market would definitely require some cost-cutting. That would explain the device’s use of a two-year-old underpowered Celeron processor and a low-resolution 16:9 display, breaking with the Surface lineup’s longstanding tradition of using screens with a taller 3:2 aspect ratio. The laptop may not even be available through typical retail channels, mirroring a strategy Microsoft already uses with certain business-focused Surface configurations and specific models like the Surface Pro 7+. Only offering the machine in bulk to educational institutions could further reduce the price.

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Source: Ars Technica – Report: Microsoft is working on a low-cost Surface Laptop and “Windows 11 SE”

New Yubico security keys let you log in with a tap to your USB-C port

New Yubico security keys let you log in with a tap to your USB-C port

Enlarge (credit: Yubico)

Because of its power delivery, high transfer rates, and Thunderbolt capabilities, USB-C has become ubiquitous on modern devices. The European Union even wants to force the use of USB-C. So security keys that serve as a form of multi-factor authentication or passwordless login need to play well with the port. Hardware authentication company Yubico is addressing that need with an inexpensive security key that allows logins via USB-C—or with just a tap of the key to a PC or phone.

A cheaper USB-C security key

The Security C NFC costs five dollars more than the USB-A option ($29 versus $24). That’s still cheaper than Google’s Titan USB-C/Security Key, which is $35—if you can find it in stock.

No matter how you connect it to your PC, the Security Key NFC supports the FIDO U2F and FIDO2/WebAuthn authentication standards, which isn’t surprising, as Yubico contributes to both. The key lets you log in to many well-known websites and apps, including Gmail, YouTube, Twitter, Dropbox, Office 365, and Xbox Live.

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Source: Ars Technica – New Yubico security keys let you log in with a tap to your USB-C port

Biden finally makes FCC picks: Rosenworcel as chair, Gigi Sohn as commissioner

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel smiling as she testifies in front of Congress during a 2019 hearing.

Enlarge / FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee on December 05, 2019, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla)

President Biden finally made his picks for the Federal Communications Commission today, ending a baffling delay that forced Democrats to operate in a 2-2 deadlock with Republicans instead of the 3-2 majority that the president’s party typically enjoys.

The names themselves are familiar. Jessica Rosenworcel, who has been acting FCC chairwoman since January, was today designated the permanent chair. Biden will also fill the empty Democratic slot on the commission by nominating Gigi Sohn, a longtime consumer advocate who was an FCC official during the Obama years. Then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler chose Sohn in 2013 to serve as his counselor, a role in which she advocated for strong net neutrality rules and Title II common-carrier regulation of Internet service providers.

Biden was able to promote Rosenworcel from acting to permanent chair immediately because the president can choose any sitting commissioner as chair. But Rosenworcel’s current five-year term already expired, and she would have to leave the FCC entirely in January if she doesn’t get a new term. That means Biden has to submit nominations to the Senate for both Rosenworcel and Sohn, and the Senate has to confirm them to avoid giving Republicans a 2-1 majority at the beginning of 2022.

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Source: Ars Technica – Biden finally makes FCC picks: Rosenworcel as chair, Gigi Sohn as commissioner

Samsung adds Windows 11, 5G, and more OLED to Galaxy Book laptop lineup

Samsung Galaxy Pro 360 5G.

Enlarge / Samsung Galaxy Pro 360 5G. (credit: Samsung)

With Windows 11 out, PC makers have an excuse to update their lineups, and Samsung is hoping that consumers pick up one of its three new Galaxy laptops announced this week to try out the latest operating system. The company is offering a few buzzy features to help entice customers.

The Samsung Galaxy Pro 360 5G and Samsung Galaxy Book Odyssey will release on November 11, with identical starting price tags of $1,400. The Samsung Galaxy Book is out now and starts at $750.

The 5G tax

Samsung already makes a Galaxy Pro 360 two-in-1 with an AMOLED screen, and you can even get it preloaded with Windows 11. But the upcoming Galaxy Pro 360 5G adds—you guessed it—5G.

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Source: Ars Technica – Samsung adds Windows 11, 5G, and more OLED to Galaxy Book laptop lineup

This camera system is better than lidar for depth perception

Light's depth perception relies on trigonometry and allows it to measure the distance to each pixel out to 1,000 m.

Enlarge / Light’s depth perception relies on trigonometry and allows it to measure the distance to each pixel out to 1,000 m. (credit: Light)

So far, almost every autonomous vehicle we’ve encountered uses lidar to determine how far away things are, just as the winners of the DARPA Grand Challenges did back in the early 2000s. But not every AV will use lidar in the future; there are other sensors reaching maturity, some of which may even do a better job. One sensor that recently caught my eye is developed from smartphone camera tech by a company called Light.

Light pivoted from its original position as a provider of cameras for smartphones to become a company that uses imaging technology for automotive applications like advanced driver assistance systems (aka ADAS) and AVs.

Specifically, Light developed an optical camera system, called Clarity, that can also calculate the distance to every pixel it sees. Knowing the exact distance to objects means there is no need for a separate lidar sensor, and it also means more accurate data for machine-learning algorithms (a billboard of a face wouldn’t be recognized as an actual human by Clarity, for example).

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Source: Ars Technica – This camera system is better than lidar for depth perception

Critical tests for NASA’s large rocket remain as launch day edges closer

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Source: Ars Technica – Critical tests for NASA’s large rocket remain as launch day edges closer

iOS 15.1 brings delayed SharePlay feature to iPhones and iPads

A blue smartphone with two cameras.

Enlarge / The back of the iPhone 13. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Timed with the launch of macOS Monterey, Apple today pushed out new versions of iOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

iOS 15.1 and iPadOS 15.1 most notably add SharePlay, a flagship feature intended for iOS 15 that didn’t make the annual release’s launch last month.

SharePlay is Apple’s word for a suite of features that allows consumption of content with other callers inside a FaceTime call, like watching synchronized streams of Apple TV+ shows and Apple Fitness+ workouts. There’s also an API to allow third-party applications to offer the same features.

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Source: Ars Technica – iOS 15.1 brings delayed SharePlay feature to iPhones and iPads

Tesla pulls Full Self-Driving update after sudden braking spooks drivers

Photograph of a high-end red sports car.

Enlarge / The front view of Tesla’s new Model 3 car on display is seen on Friday, January 26, 2018, at the Tesla store in Washington, DC. (credit: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software lived up to its “beta” label this weekend.

On Saturday morning, CEO Elon Musk announced a delay for the 10.3 update after internal quality-assurance testers discovered that the new version performed worse at left turns at traffic lights than previous versions. Then, on Sunday afternoon, Musk said that Tesla would be “rolling back to 10.2 temporarily” after reports of sudden braking, false warnings, and other issues.

Several owners reported that their vehicles braked suddenly when the software mistakenly reported an imminent collision. Known as automatic emergency braking (or AEB), neither the feature nor its bugs are limited to Tesla—Mazda recalled some of its cars in 2019 for similar problems.

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Source: Ars Technica – Tesla pulls Full Self-Driving update after sudden braking spooks drivers

Viewing website HTML code is not illegal or “hacking,” prof. tells Missouri gov.

Cybersecurity professor Shaji Khan sitting in a chair.

Enlarge / Cybersecurity professor Shaji Khan of University of Missouri–St. Louis. (credit: University of Missouri–St. Louis)

The cybersecurity professor who helped uncover the Missouri government’s failure to protect teachers’ Social Security numbers has demanded that the state cease its investigation into him and stop making “baseless accusations” that he committed a crime.

As we reported on October 14, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson threatened to prosecute and seek civil damages from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalist who identified a security flaw that exposed the Social Security numbers of teachers and other school employees. The state is also investigating Shaji Khan, a cybersecurity professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who helped the Post-Dispatch journalist verify the security vulnerability.

This is all happening despite the fact that the state government made teachers’ Social Security numbers available in an unencrypted form in the HTML source code of a publicly accessible website. The governor’s strategy of blaming those who discovered the flaw earned him widespread mockery on social media from people who are familiar with the standard “view source” function present in major web browsers.

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Source: Ars Technica – Viewing website HTML code is not illegal or “hacking,” prof. tells Missouri gov.

Resident Evil 4 VR analysis: Use Sidequest to access what Facebook denies you

This faked perspective of <em>Resident Evil 4</em>'s monsters coming at you implies that playing the new VR version will make your VR lenses crack. Ars Technica can verify that this is not actually the case—and even better, after applying some manual, "developer mode" toggles, the game is quite good.

Enlarge / This faked perspective of Resident Evil 4‘s monsters coming at you implies that playing the new VR version will make your VR lenses crack. Ars Technica can verify that this is not actually the case—and even better, after applying some manual, “developer mode” toggles, the game is quite good. (credit: Capcom / Facebook)

After testing Thursday’s virtual reality launch of Resident Evil 4 (RE4VR), which is currently an Oculus Quest exclusive, I found myself equally impressed and puzzled. As the roughly 4,000th port of RE4 since the game’s original 2005 launch, this new version manages to establish itself as the action-horror classic’s best version. It’s absolutely the one new and old players should gravitate toward—even if it’s missing a few crucial elements.

But as of press time, our recommendation comes with some asterisks, so this is both a review and a technical guide. Facebook may sell the Oculus Quest as a simple, “set-and-forget” path to VR, but in the case of RE4VR, I recommend going through some complicated steps to make the game far more playable on its target platform of the Quest 2—and explain the iffy method to unlock the game’s compatibility with the Quest 1. It’s not clear why Facebook, Capcom, and porting studio Armature didn’t straighten all this out for average customers in the first place.

Investigating the Quest 1 restriction

For now, this version of Resident Evil 4 only works on Oculus Quest hardware and not on Windows PCs or PlayStation 4’s VR mode. Capcom seems to love locking VR versions of its horror games to specific platforms, as the groundbreaking VR mode in 2017’s Resident Evil 7 remains exclusive to PlayStation VR. (Seriously, Capcom? Five years later, and you still haven’t ported that wonderful game to a more powerful VR system?)

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Source: Ars Technica – Resident Evil 4 VR analysis: Use Sidequest to access what Facebook denies you

Four revelations from the Facebook Papers

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Source: Ars Technica – Four revelations from the Facebook Papers