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Ars Technica
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Serving the Technologist for more than a decade. IT news, reviews, and analysis.
Updated: 34 min 10 sec ago

The year of Mario: A ton of classic 3D games reportedly coming to Switch in 2020

54 min 4 sec ago

Enlarge / Our own approximation of Super Mario Galaxy on a Switch. Nintendo has yet to confirm a slew of rumors that emerged on Monday morning. (credit: Nintendo / Sam Machkovech)

According to a flurry of Monday morning reports, Super Mario is coming back in 2020 in a huge way. And it's mostly about reliving the Nintendo mascot's 3D era on Nintendo Switch.

The first rumor domino to fall came from VGC, which pushed forward with a report suggesting "most of Super Mario's 35-year back catalog" would arrive on Nintendo Switch by the end of 2020, according to "multiple sources." Nintendo had originally planned to make a physical event out of the announcement during this summer's E3, VGC reported, but E3 2020 was canceled earlier this month in the wake of organizational woes and coronavirus concerns.

VGC was able to report on one specific game coming to Nintendo Switch, but it wasn't a remaster. Instead, VGC suggested that the Paper Mario action-RPG series would receive a new entry in 2020.

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OneWeb goes bankrupt, lays off staff, will sell satellite-broadband business

2 hours 47 min ago

Enlarge / Illustration of a OneWeb satellite. (credit: OneWeb)

OneWeb has filed for bankruptcy and intends to sell its business, bringing an abrupt end to the company's plan to offer high-speed satellite Internet service around the world.

OneWeb announced Friday that it "voluntarily filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the [US] Bankruptcy Code," and "intends to use these proceedings to pursue a sale of its business in order to maximize the value of the company." OneWeb made the decision "after failing to secure new funding from investors including its biggest backer SoftBank," largely because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Financial Times wrote. OneWeb also "axed most of its staff on Friday," the FT article said.

OneWeb previously raised $3 billion over multiple rounds of financing and was seeking more money to fund its deployment and commercial launch. "Our current situation is a consequence of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis," OneWeb CEO Adrián Steckel said in the bankruptcy announcement. "We remain convinced of the social and economic value of our mission to connect everyone everywhere."

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Ars Pro week: Support Ars, get gear, stay informed

3 hours 3 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

I don't often get to write for the Ars Technica front page anymore—I'm usually off pulling levers behind the scenes—but I count it a privilege every day to work with the team we've assembled here at Ars for the express purposes of serving you, the reader! As such, I hope that you will consider supporting Ars Technica by buying a subscription.

Ars launched its first subscription program in post-bubble 2001 when ad money dried up. Even then, we did not institute a "paywall." Our deep desire was (and is) that our work remains accessible to as many people as possible. This has meant living in a world where we rely on both subscriptions and advertising. Without either, we wouldn't be here.

For the next week, we are going to mount a subscription drive with the goal of convincing 5,000 more of you to join one of our membership tiers. The reason is simple: we need your financial support to weather the next several months, as advertising dollars are all drying up thanks to the current state of the economy. Each and every subscription dollar goes against our direct editorial costs. So please consider joining us!

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NASA officials outline plans for building a Lunar Gateway in the mid-2020s

3 hours 20 min ago

Enlarge / Artist's concept of initial configuration of the Lunar Gateway. (credit: NASA)

The concept of NASA's Lunar Gateway—a small outpost to be built in a halo orbit around the Moon—is about five years old.

Although a lunar space station might serve many useful purposes, the concept came about for one basic reason. Due to limitations in the upper stage of NASA's Space Launch System rocket and an under-powered propulsion system in the Orion spacecraft, these vehicles do not have enough performance to get astronauts into low-lunar orbit, and then back out of it again for a return to Earth. Thus, NASA came up with a waypoint farther from the Moon and not so deep within its gravity well.

For more than a year, as NASA has developed its Artemis plan to return humans to the Moon by 2024, the space agency has positioned Gateway as the "Command Module" where it would aggregate components of a Human Landing System and from where astronauts would descend down to the surface of the Moon.

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Court: Violating a site’s terms of service isn’t criminal hacking

3 hours 42 min ago

Enlarge (credit: Jamie Grill / Getty)

A federal court in Washington, DC, has ruled that violating a website's terms of service isn't a crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, America's primary anti-hacking law. The lawsuit was initiated by a group of academics and journalists with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The plaintiffs wanted to investigate possible racial discrimination in online job markets by creating accounts for fake employers and job seekers. Leading job sites have terms of service prohibiting users from supplying fake information, and the researchers worried that their research could expose them to criminal liability under the CFAA, which makes it a crime to "access a computer without authorization or exceed authorized access."

So in 2016 they sued the federal government, seeking a declaration that this part of the CFAA violated the First Amendment.

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WireGuard VPN makes it to 1.0.0—and into the next Linux kernel

3 hours 59 min ago

Enlarge / WireGuard will be in tree for Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (pictured), as well as the upcoming 5.6 kernel. (credit: WireGuard)

We've been anticipating WireGuard's inclusion into the mainline Linux kernel for quite some time—but as of Sunday afternoon, it's official. Linus Torvalds released the Linux 5.6 kernel, which includes (among other things) an in-tree WireGuard. Phoronix has a great short list of the most interesting new features in the 5.6 kernel, as well as a longer "everything list" for those who want to make sure they don't miss anything.

If this is the first time you're hearing about WireGuard, the TL;DR is that it's a relatively new VPN (Virtual Private Network) application that offers a leaner codebase, easier configuration, faster connect times, and the latest and most thoroughly peer-reviewed and approved encryption algorithms. You can find a more detailed introduction in our initial August 2018 coverage.

Can I use this on Windows? Mac? BSD? Android? IOS?

Although WireGuard is now version 1.0.0 in the Linux world, its Windows package is in beta at 0.1.0; it has added significant performance, stability, localization, and accessibility features since our walkthrough preview of an older version.

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Nintendo Switch sells out at retail, leading to third-party price inflation

4 hours 5 min ago

Enlarge / All of these consoles are pretty hard to find at retailers these days... (credit: Photo Illustration by Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

As citizens worldwide self-quarantine to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, major retailers are selling out of the Nintendo Switch, leading to secondhand price markups similar to those seen just after the console's successful launch.

The Switch is currently unavailable at Amazon, GameStop, Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and other major online retailers, though some local stores may still have spotty availability. When new stock does come in to these online stores, it tends to be gone in less than an hour, according to listings from retail tracker NowInStock.

"Nintendo Switch hardware is selling out at various retail locations in the US, but more systems are on the way," Nintendo said in a statement late last week. "We apologize for any inconvenience."

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Galaxy S20 Ultra Review—Overhyped and outrageously priced

4 hours 12 min ago

Samsung never changes. The company's flagship smartphone strategy has always focused on designing for marketability rather than the end-user experience, and the result is always devices with gigantic spec sheets, gimmicky new features, and questionable user benefits. If it demos well in a Verizon showroom or helps win an Internet spreadsheet comparison, toss it in! The Galaxy S20 is the latest paper tiger from the company, and this cynical approach to smartphone design oozes from every IP68-rated pore of Samsung's new flagship.

Just look—but not too closely—at all the whiz-bang features the Galaxy S20 offers. The camera has an industry-leading 100x zoom (it's actually a 4x optical zoom, and the camera autofocus is terrible). There's a 120Hz, 1440p display (you can't actually run the display at 120Hz and 1440p). And who could forget the revolutionary 5G connectivity (5G is probably not available in your area).

The Galaxy S line is bigger than ever this year, and each model comes with Samsung's biggest-ever price tags. The phones now start (start!) at $1,000, while the bigger Galaxy S20+ is $1,200, and the even bigger S20 Ultra is an astonishing $1,400.

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Resident Evil 3 Remake review: Are we ready for pandemic nostalgia?

4 hours 18 min ago

A few months ago, Resident Evil 3 Remake sounded like a slam-dunk idea for a good video game. Take everything that made last year's Resident Evil 2 Remake a gorgeous, haunting surprise, then sprinkle a dash of RE3's exclusive, terrifying "Nemesis" character into the formula.

Of course, nobody could have predicted how on the nose RE3's plot, derived from the 1998 PlayStation 1 original, would feel at the dawn of spring 2020. As in: prior games' viral zombie outbreaks, which were mostly contained inside of classic environments like mansions and police stations, explode into the streets. A city panics. A government responds.


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28 years later, a no-disc version of the Sega CD exists—and it rocks [Updated]

March 29, 2020 - 6:40pm

It's a great time to play old video games on modern TVs. Fan-favorite companies are taking emulation seriously with products like the NES Classic and the Sega Genesis Mini, while enthusiasts are filling in the gaps to either upgrade original consoles' connectors or rebuild them as "hardware-emulated" FPGA systems.

Last year, however, we saw arguably the first big product to fill in one major under-served niche: the early '90s CD add-on adapter. Specifically, the Sega CD has received new life in the form of the MegaSD. This combination flash drive and FPGA board plugs into original Genesis and Mega Drive consoles (and the newer Analogue Mega Sg). It replicates the original Sega CD's functions without requiring a laser-driven disc drive while also remaining compatible with that add-on's peculiar system-communication style.

I was originally hesitant to write up the MegaSD's announcement—especially since it comes from relatively unknown flash card manufacturer TerraOnion as opposed to Sega, and it costs a whopping €232 (roughly $261 USD). But my tune changed upon seeing its first hands-on review from YouTube channel RetroRGB (embedded at the end of this article). In short: It appears to work exactly as advertised, complete with reduced CD-based loading times, identical gameplay, nearly identical CD-based audio, and some other nice-to-have features. [Update, March 28, 2020: Now we've updated this article with our own hands-on impressions, as tested on original Genesis hardware. Long story short, it's great.]

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Insert Coin, the arcade documentary worth feeding all your quarters into 

March 29, 2020 - 2:00pm

The trailer for Insert Coin.

You may not know longtime game developer Joshua Tsui, but you know his work. Over two decades-plus in the industry, he founded Studio Gigante (makers of Wrestlemania 21 for the original Xbox) and spent time at industry stalwarts like EA. His credits include beloved franchises from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater to Fight Night.SXScreeners 2020

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Despite building that kind of resume, however, Tsui’s first passion wasn’t the gamepad—he actually went to school to study film. And in the early 2010s, well, “I don’t want to call it a midlife crisis, but I realized after all this time I hadn’t made a film,” he told Ars recently.

Tsui had done some video work—marketing for the games he worked on; a few making-of shorts here and there—just never a feature film. Luckily, when he sat down with Polygon in 2012 to talk about his past, he realized the perfect idea had been waiting for him all along. In our post-Indie Game and King of Kong reality, all he had to do was look to his professional beginning: Chicago, 1993, pushing pixels on 2D arcade games with the teams behind Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam at the soon-to-be-legendary arcade developer, Midway Games.

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Bogus coronavirus claims lead Google Play to finally give Infowars the boot

March 29, 2020 - 12:01pm

Enlarge / Alex Jones of InfoWars talks to reporters outside a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing concerning foreign influence operations' use of social media platforms, on Capitol Hill, September 5, 2018 in Washington, DC (credit: Drew Angerer | Getty Images)

On Friday, Google removed the Infowars Android app from its Play Store, extinguishing one of the last mainstream strongholds of infamous conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The takedown came on the heels of a video, posted in the Infowars app last week and viewed by Wired, in which Jones disputed the need for social distancing, shelter in place, and quarantine efforts meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Google confirmed to Wired that it removed the app on Friday. The app had more than 100,000 downloads according to Google Play's published metrics, and was rated "E10+," meaning safe for all users 10 and older. The Infowars app sold products like supplements and protein powder, broadcast The Alex Jones Show live, and posted videos and articles from Jones and others.

"Now more than ever, combating misinformation on the Play Store is a top priority for the team," a Google spokesperson told Wired. "When we find apps that violate Play policy by distributing misleading or harmful information, we remove them from the store."

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Review: Elegiac Star Trek: Picard brings all the feels in bittersweet finale

March 28, 2020 - 8:55pm

Nobody can deliver lines with Shakespearean gravitas and comforting emotional resonance like Patrick Stewart, which is why the actor—and his famous Star Trek character, Jean-Luc Picard—remain so beloved in the franchise. He gives yet another sublime performance in the new CBS All Access series, Star Trek: Picard, anchoring the larger-than-life stakes of the broader narrative with his intensely personal portrayal of a grief-stricken, disillusioned retired Starfleet admiral who feels the world he once dominated has passed him by.

(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)

As Ars' Kate Cox noted in her review of the pilot episode, the events of 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis "are the plot and emotional scaffolding over which the initial episode of Picard is draped"—most notably, Data sacrificing his life to save the rest of the Enterprise crew. Honestly, that loss drives the entire season, along with 2009's Star Trek film reboot of the franchise.

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>4,000 Android apps silently access your installed software

March 28, 2020 - 4:41pm

Enlarge (credit: Mike MacKenzie / Flickr)

More than 4,000 Google Play apps silently collect a list of all other installed apps in a data grab that allows developers and advertisers to build detailed profiles of users, a recently published research paper found.

The apps use an Android-provided programming interface that scans a phone for details about all other apps installed on the phone. The app details—which include names, dates they were first installed and most recently updated, and more than three-dozen other categories—are uploaded to remote servers without permission and no notification.

IAM what IAM

Android’s installed application methods, or IAMs, are application programming interfaces that allow apps to silently interact with other programs on a device. They use two methods to retrieve various kinds of information related to installed apps, neither of which is classified by Google as a sensitive API. The lack of such a designation allows the methods to be used in a way that’s invisible to users.

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MacBook Air 2020 review: The most boring Mac is among the best

March 28, 2020 - 3:37pm

Apple wants people to fall back in love with its latest MacBook Air.

For many users, the pre-Retina, 13-inch MacBook Air was one of the best laptops ever made. For too long, though, it fell behind the curve as Apple introduced better performance and higher-resolution screens to the rest of its lineup. Finally, Apple brought the high-res Retina display and some other improvements to the Air in 2018. Maybe the world's best laptop was back?

2018's Air was a pretty good machine, but it wasn't a candidate for world's best laptop anymore, thanks to the prone-to-fail butterfly keyboard design and a painful lack of ports. A refresh in 2019 brought some refinements, but it didn't address either of those issues. Now, finally, Apple has pulled out the butterfly keyboard and put in something we hope will be much more dependable.

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Internet Archive offers 1.4 million copyrighted books for free online

March 28, 2020 - 2:30pm

Enlarge / Hazard tape blocks the book returns slot at a London library. (credit: Richard Baker / Getty Images)

One of the casualties of coronavirus-related social distancing measures has been public libraries, which are shut down in many communities around the world. This week, the Internet Archive, an online library best known for running the Internet's Wayback Machine, announced a new initiative to expand access to digital books during the pandemic.

For almost a decade, an Internet Archive program called the Open Library has offered people the ability to "check out" digital scans of physical books held in storage by the Internet Archive. Readers can view a scanned book in a browser or download it to an e-reader. Users can only check out a limited number of books at once and are required to "return" them after a limited period of time.

Until this week, the Open Library only allowed people to "check out" as many copies as the library owned. If you wanted to read a book but all copies were already checked out by other patrons, you had to join a waiting list for that book—just like you would at a physical library.

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A Twitch streamer is exposing coronavirus scams live

March 28, 2020 - 12:15pm

Enlarge / Kitboga getting ready to out some scammers on Twitch. (credit: Twitch)

Earlier this week, live on Twitch, the streamer Kitboga attempted to place a wholesale order for an essential oil that, the woman on the phone implied to him, cured COVID-19.

There is, of course, no cure for COVID-19, the disease that has infected hundreds of thousands of people internationally since January. If there were, it wouldn’t consist of oregano oil, cinnamon, clove bud, and eucalyptus essential oils. Kitboga was on the phone with a scammer. Eleven thousand live viewers were watching him expose her.

Using a voice modulator, Kitboga assumed a persona called Barbara “Barbie” Kendal, explaining that he wanted to place a wholesale order for essential oils and distribute it to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Kitboga continued to press her for details about the product—How many people has it cured? Can I keep the cure on the countertop? Can I pour the cure into a hot bath after my bridge game?—which she readily answered, never correcting his terminology. The scammer, who said her name was Anne, took down the hospital’s address.

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Real learning in a virtual classroom is difficult

March 28, 2020 - 11:55am

Enlarge / A virtual classroom setup. (credit: Chris Lee)

"Remote teaching sucks. It's yucky, and it is not the future of education."

Thus spake my wife, a high school English teacher with many years of experience. And she's right. I teach at a university, and we have also moved to virtual lessons in the face of COVID-19. Even before the current crisis, I already made extensive use of digital tools in the classroom. However, virtual lessons are a poor substitute for actual in-person instruction. Let me take you on a tour of a future that we all should be trying to avoid. (It isn't all doom and gloom, though; we've discovered some hidden treasures as well.)

The problem is that teaching is an intimate activity: students give up a certain degree of control to the teacher and trust that person to help them master some new topic. It doesn't matter how big the class, that intimacy is unchanged for the teacher. Teaching is personal. Yes, from the student's perspective, a one-on-one lesson is more personal than a lecture delivered to 500 students. But the anonymity and safety in large classes does not mean that teachers are not seeing and modifying their approach via instantaneous feedback from their classes.

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Killing Eve S3 trailer drops; new season will debut two weeks early

March 28, 2020 - 1:00am

Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer are back for a third season of Killing Eve.

Good news for those looking for fresh TV fare while sheltering in place: the third season of Killing Eve, the Emmy Award-winning spy thriller series starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, is coming to TV two weeks early.

"We know how adored this series is and we know how keen people are for great content right now," Sarah Barnett, president of AMC Networks Entertainment Group and AMC Studios, said in a statement. "This season of Killing Eve digs deep psychologically, and with actors like Sandra Oh, Jodie Comer, and Fiona Shaw, the results are nothing short of astonishing. We literally couldn't wait for fans to see it."

(Some spoilers for first two seasons below.)

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Control Panel isn’t dead yet—but the System applet is looking nervous

March 27, 2020 - 11:24pm

Enlarge / We find Windows 10's Settings dialog difficult to love. (credit: Jim Salter)

You may have seen dark rumors around the Web that Microsoft is about to kill off the classic Control Panel. Rest assured, friend, we were as horrified as you are—but on more careful inspection, this seems not to be the case.

A new set of Feature IDs popped up in the latest build of Windows 10—HideSystemControlPanel, SystemControlPanelFileExplorerRedirect, and SystemControlPanelHotkeyRedirect. This looks grim—but fortunately, developer Rafael Rivera discovered they really only apply to the System applet.

Settings vs Control

For about eight years now, Microsoft has been trying to pry everyone loose from the Control Panel and guide them gently to the newer Settings applet instead. They've encountered strong resistance in doing so, particularly from systems administrators and support technicians. For one thing, the newer Settings applet is a single-instance interface—you can't have Settings open for, say, printers and the network at once. Pick one.

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