D-Wave 2000Q hands-on: Steep learning curve for quantum computing 


This post is by Chris Lee from Ars Technica


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A child writes on a whiteboard cluttered with equations.

Enlarge / Algorithms, a complicated work in progress. (credit: Getty Images)

Editor’s note: I realize that I do not correctly calculate the Bragg transmission in either the classical or the quantum case, however, it is close enough to get an idea of the differences between programming a classical and a quantum computer.

Time: non-specific 2018. Location: a slightly decrepit Slack channel.

“You know Python?”

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It’s time to start caring about “VR cinema,” and SXSW’s stunners are proof


This post is by Sam Machkovech from Ars Technica


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AUSTIN, Texas—You may love, hate, or shrug at the idea of virtual reality, but one niche is still unequivocally devoted to the format: film festivals. The reasons aren’t all great.

Because VR usually requires one-at-a-time kiosks, it invites long lines (which film festivals love for photo-op reasons). These films also favor brief, 10-15 minute presentations, which are the bread-and-butter of the indie filmmaking world. And the concept reeks of exclusivity—of the sense that, if you wanna see experimental VR fare, you need to get to Sundance, Cannes, or SXSW to strap in and trip out.

The Ars Technica System Guide, Winter 2019: The one about the servers


This post is by Jim Salter from Ars Technica


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The Ars Technica System Guide, Winter 2019: The one about the servers

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

In the last Ars System Guide roughly one year ago, we took a slight detour from our long-running series. Rather than recommending the latest components focused on a particular niche like gaming or home entertainment PCs, we broadened our scope and focused on ideology rather than instruction and outlined what to look for when building a great desktop PC.

This time around, we’re playing the hits again. The Winter 2019 Ars System Guide has returned to its roots: showing readers three real-world system builds we like at this precise moment in time. Instead of general performance desktops, this time around we’re going to focus specifically on building some servers.

Naturally, this raises a particular question: “What’s a server for, then?” Let’s broach a bit of theory before leaving plenty of room for the actual builds.

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Dragon has docked—but the real pucker moment for SpaceX’s capsule awaits


This post is by Eric Berger from Ars Technica


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A Falcon 9 rocket launches on Saturday morning from Kennedy Space Center carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches on Saturday morning from Kennedy Space Center carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft. (credit: SpaceX)

Thus far, the flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the International Space Station has gone just about as well as one might hope.

It started when the spacecraft’s Falcon 9 rocket hit its instantaneous launch window early on Saturday morning, streaking into the black Florida sky as if it were the world’s greatest firework. Once in space, Dragon popped open its nose cone, called home, and began firing its thrusters as anticipated.

Then, on Sunday, the spacecraft aced one of its most important tests by slowly catching up to the International Space Station, carefully aligning with its docking port and smoothly latching on board. Two hours after Dragon docked, astronauts entered and found all well within.

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The Tesla Model 3, reviewed (finally)


This post is by Jonathan M. Gitlin from Ars Technica


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Tesla Model 3

Enlarge / Elon’s folly, or the best thing since sliced bread? As you might expect, the answer lies somewhere in between. (credit: Jonathan Gitlin)

Few cars have been the subject of as much intense Internet debate as the Tesla Model 3. To Muskophiles, it is quite simply the safest car ever and the best vehicle on sale today from any OEM. To the haters, it’s a four-wheel deathtrap, assembled in a tent and ready to fall apart the minute you drive it in the rain.

As usual, neither of these takes reflects much more than one’s underlying biases. After several days testing a Model 3, it was clear that there’s a lot to like about Tesla’s mass-market electric car. Equally, it was clear that the car has a real underlying design flaw, which will only be exacerbated now that the company has finally announced a $35,000 stripped-out version. For those

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Soon, hundreds of tourists will go to space. What should we call them?


This post is by Eric Berger from Ars Technica


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Excited passenger of a space capsule looks out window.

Enlarge / Virgin Galactic’s Beth Moses, chief astronaut instructor, is not a pilot. But as a member of the crew on the company’s second flight to space, she earned the “commercial astronaut” designation from the FAA. (credit: Virgin Galactic)

Perhaps within a matter of a months, a handful of customers will board a spacecraft and fly above Earth’s atmosphere to float for a few minutes, where they will presumably gawk at our planet’s graceful curvature. Shortly after this, dozens, and soon hundreds, will follow. Space enthusiasts have made such promises about space tourism for nearly a decade, but in 2019 it’s finally coming true.

In the last three months, Virgin Galactic has completed two crewed test flights above 80km. And with its flight-tested New Shepard launch system, Blue Origin remains on track to blast its own people into space later this year. Both spacecraft can carry up to six

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Deep space dial-up: How NASA speeds up its interplanetary communications


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(video link)

On November 26, 2018 at 2:52:59 ET, NASA did it again—the agency’s InSight probe successfully landed on Mars after an entry, descent, and landing maneuver later dubbed “six and a half minutes of terror.” The moniker fits because NASA engineers couldn’t know right away whether the spacecraft had made it safely down to the surface because of the current time delay (roughly 8.1 minutes) for communications between Earth and Mars. During that window of time, InSight couldn’t rely on its more modern, high-powered antennas—instead, everything depended on old-fashioned UHF communications (the same method long utilized in everything from TV antennas and walkie-talkies to Bluetooth devices).

Eventually, critical data concerning InSight’s condition was transmitted in 401.586Mhz radio waves to two CubeSats called WALL-E and EVE, which in turn relayed the data at 8Kbps back to huge 70 meter antennas on Earth. The CubeSats had been

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$100K Mario seller: “It’s probably the wrong move, long term, to sell”


This post is by Kyle Orland from Ars Technica


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Ba-ding!

Enlarge / Ba-ding! (credit: Aurich)

Last week, a copy of the first printing of Super Mario Bros. in pristine condition sold for just over $100,000. This week, the collector who sold that gem told Ars that he’s been preparing for this moment for years.

The seller—who asked to remain anonymous to protect his privacy but goes by the handle Bronty online—told Ars he didn’t even have an NES growing up. He just played games like Super Mario Bros. at a friend’s house. But around 2002, at age 27, Bronty was gripped by a desire to once again play the NES games he hadn’t thought about for well over a decade.

A quick trip to eBay got him his nostalgic gaming fix and sparked an interest in a new hobby that fewer people were paying attention to at the time. “Having already been a comic collector for many years, I had

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Anthem game review: Honestly, it’s not finished


This post is by Sam Machkovech from Ars Technica


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Anthem game review: Honestly, it’s not finished

Enlarge (credit: EA / Bioware)

BioWare, the developer responsible for Mass Effect and Dragon Age, has returned with its first new series in over a decade, Anthem. It’s a pretty big departure for the RPG-heavy studio: a jetpack-fueled, action-first online looter-shooter. And after a disastrous demo launched weeks ago, we wondered whether we’d even get a playable game.

The good news is that we did, and at its best, Anthem feels brilliant, beautiful, and thrilling. At its worst, though, this is a stuttering, confusing, heartfelt mess of an action game.

The good stuff Anthem ultimately offers—artistic design, BioWare-caliber plot, and that freakin’ Iron Man feeling—fails to coalesce. Players are expected to log in again and again for missions with friends in true “online shared shooter” style (à la Destiny and Warframe), but the game’s inherent structure makes this basic loop difficult to pull off.

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The mythos and meaning behind Pokémon’s most famous glitch


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Being the result of a glitch doesn't make MissingNo any less real to players—or researchers.

Enlarge / Being the result of a glitch doesn’t make MissingNo any less real to players—or researchers. (credit: Nintendo / Wilma Bainbridge)

In my flowery ring binder of Pokémon Red and Blue cheats, there was one set of instructions that spoke to my eight-year-old self most of all. I’d heard from friends (and many, many GeoCities pages) that ‘the MissingNo cheat’ could destroy your game—but it could also get you unlimited Rare Candy. This seemed like a fair trade to me.

The first Pokémon games for the Game Boy included 151 Pokémon (including the ultra-rare Mew, if your parents were long-suffering enough to drive you to one of the Nintendo promo events where it was distributed). But by following a seemingly random series of steps, players could encounter a 152nd Pokémon, MissingNo (Missing Number), which took the form of an L-shaped block of pixels.

The utter strangeness of MissingNo

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Google’s Waymo risks repeating Silicon Valley’s most famous blunder


This post is by Timothy B. Lee from Ars Technica


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Google’s Waymo risks repeating Silicon Valley’s most famous blunder

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images / Waymo)

Everyone in Silicon Valley knows the story of Xerox inventing the modern personal computer in the 1970s and then failing to commercialize it effectively. Yet one of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies, Google’s Alphabet, appears to be repeating Xerox’s mistake with its self-driving car program.

Xerox launched its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1970. By 1975, its researchers had invented a personal computer with a graphical user interface that was almost a decade ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the commercial version of this technology wasn’t released until 1981 and proved to be an expensive flop. Two much younger companies—Apple and Microsoft—co-opted many of Xerox’s ideas and wound up dominating the industry.

Google’s self-driving car program, created in 2009, appears to be on a similar trajectory. By October 2015, Google was confident enough in its technology to put a blind

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Metro Exodus: A beautiful, brutal single-player game—with insane RTX perks


This post is by Sam Machkovech from Ars Technica


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Four seasons of Metro await.

Enlarge / Four seasons of Metro await. (credit: Deep Silver / 4A Games)

The best thing I can say about Metro Exodus, to anybody unfamiliar with its place in a trilogy of post-nuclear, first-person monster combat games, is that this is the best Eurojank game I’ve ever seen.

“Eurojank” is an unofficial term for that class of sprawling, verbose, and oftentimes glitchy action/RPG titles originating from Eastern European nations like Russia, Poland, and the Ukraine. (At the top of that heap is The Witcher 3, whose previous two games were decidedly less even; more recent examples include Elex, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and The Technomancer.) And rarely do these games hold players’ hands, usually because they lack tutorials or because of unclear GUI elements.

Metro Exodus, like the two Metro games that 4A Studios made before it, has all of those qualities in spades—though it’s

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Video: To make 1997’s Blade Runner, Westwood first had to create the universe


This post is by Lee Hutchinson from Ars Technica


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Shot by Sean Dacanay and edited by Justin Wolfson. VFX by John Cappello. Click here for transcript. And if you want a close-up peek at the awesome Ladd-style logo Aurich cooked up for this video, you can get that right here.

Welcome back to “War Stories,” an ongoing video series where we get game designers to open up about development challenges that almost—but not quite—derailed their games. In this edition, we focus on a genre particularly near and dear to my dead, black Gen-X heart: the adventure game.

And not just any adventure game—we were lucky enough to be able to sit down with Louis Castle, co-founder of legendary game developer Westwood Studios. Castle’s hands were on some of the most famous titles of the 1990s, including Dune II, the Legend of Kyrandia series, and, most famously, the Command & Conquer franchise. But as wonderful as those

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After a remarkable resurrection, Firefly may reach space in 2019


This post is by Eric Berger from Ars Technica


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Testing a turbopump as the sun sets in Central Texas.

Enlarge / Testing a turbopump as the sun sets in Central Texas. (credit: Firefly)

CEDAR PARK, Texas—Some four centuries ago, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire wearied of his bothersome neighbors in Eastern Europe. So Mehmed the Hunter, an Islamic holy warrior who reigned for four decades, wrote to the piratical Cossacks living in what is modern Ukraine and demanded their surrender. The cretins must bow to the cultured.

Today, a large painting that dominates one wall of Tom Markusic’s office depicts the Cossack response to Mehmed. On the canvas, a dozen rough-looking, hard-drinking men have gathered around around a scribe, pointing, smoking, and laughing uproariously. The scribe is writing a ribald, disparaging response. It is a copy of the famed Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire painting, which hangs in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Markusic glances at the painting

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Our favorite two-player board games, 2019 edition


This post is by Ars Staff from Ars Technica


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If you’re anything like us, Valentine’s Day brings to mind iconic images of candlelit dinners, boxes of chocolate, roses, and, of course, board games.

“What tabletop games are best for couples?” is a question we get all the time here at Ars Cardboard, and today we’re answering (again) by reprising our 2016 two-player guide with fresh new picks for 2019. Of course, you don’t have to be romantically linked to your gaming partner to enjoy these titles; our recommendations are perfect for any time your group is running behind and you only have one other person to push some cubes with. Or maybe you don’t have a group—all you need to play these games is one other willing (or kinda-sorta willing) partner.

The games below are new-player-friendly card and board games (sorry, we’re not tackling miniatures or wargames today) that can be played in an hour or less. While most

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AMD Radeon VII: A 7nm-long step in the right direction, but is that enough?


This post is by Sam Machkovech from Ars Technica


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Specs at a glance: AMD Radeon VII
CUDA CORES 3,840
TEXTURE UNITS 240
ROPS 64
CORE CLOCK 1,400MHz
BOOST CLOCK 1,800MHz
MEMORY BUS WIDTH 4,096-bit
MEMORY BANDWIDTH 1,024GB/s
MEMORY SIZE 16GB HBM2
Outputs 3x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.0b
Release date February 7, 2019
PRICE $699 directly from AMD

In the world of computer graphics cards, AMD has been behind its only rival, Nvidia, for as long as we can remember. But a confluence of recent events finally left AMD with a sizable opportunity in the market.

Having established a serious lead with its 2016 and 2017 GTX graphics cards, Nvidia tried something completely different last year. Its RTX line of cards essentially arrived with near-equivalent power as its prior generation for the same price

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Climate change or “just the weather?” Here’s how to answer that


This post is by Scott K. Johnson from Ars Technica


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Black-and-white satellite photograph of storm clouds over land and ocean.

Enlarge / A fizzling Hurricane Sandy churns over the Northeastern US at night after making landfall in 2012. (credit: NASA/Earth Observatory)

Every once in a while, a day comes along to remind you that weather is more than a trusty source of social lubrication for awkward elevator encounters. Severe weather can threaten property, homes, and even lives. If a statistically rare weather event happens to you rather than someone else, abstract ideas about low probabilities can become concrete, like the way the phrase “broken bone” means so much more when you’re wearing a cast.

Climate is really just the probabilities of weather, so extreme weather is also the most attention-grabbing aspect of a region’s climate. Thus, climate change includes a change in the probabilities of many weather extremes. As a result, each individual disaster now triggers a natural question: did humanity’s history of greenhouse gas emissions make that disaster

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Bless the overclockers: In the data center world, liquid cooling is becoming king


This post is by Ars Staff from Ars Technica


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Look, everyone loves John Slattery. But this is relevant, promise.

In Iron Man 2, there is a moment when Tony Stark is watching a decades-old film of his deceased father, who tells him “I’m limited by the technology of my time, but one day you’ll figure this out. And when you do, you will change the world.” It’s a work of fiction but the notion expressed is legitimate. The visions and ideas of technologists are frequently well ahead of the technology of their times. Star Trek may have always had it, but it took the rest of us decades to get tablets and e-readers right.

The concept of liquid cooling sits squarely in this category as well. While the idea has been around since the 1960s, it remained a fringe concept when compared to the much cheaper and safer air cooling method. It took another 40 odd years

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How 10 leading companies are trying to make powerful, low-cost lidar


This post is by Timothy B. Lee from Ars Technica


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How 10 leading companies are trying to make powerful, low-cost lidar

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich)

Lidar, short for light radar, is a crucial enabling technology for self-driving cars. The sensors provide a three-dimensional point cloud of a car’s surroundings, and the concept helped teams win the DARPA Urban Challenge back in 2007. Lidar systems have been standard on self-driving cars ever since.

In recent years, dozens of lidar startups have been created to challenge industry leader Velodyne. They’ve all made big promises about better prices and performance. At the start of 2018, Ars covered the major trends in the lidar industry and why experts expected cheaper, better systems to arrive in the next few years. But that piece didn’t go into much detail about individual lidar companies—largely because most companies were closely guarding information about how their technology worked.

But over the last year, I’ve gotten a steady stream of pitches from lidar companies, and I’ve talked to as many

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The all-new 2019 Mazda 3 punches far above its weight for under $30,000


This post is by Jonathan M. Gitlin from Ars Technica


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LOS ANGELES—I’ll admit it, I always look forward to the launch of a new Mazda. Other brands might give you ten minutes of Cliff’s Notes on the car before throwing you the keys and pointing you at the nearest twisty ribbon of tarmac; by contrast, the Hiroshima-based OEM’s events always feel more like a grad school seminar. (I think that’s a good thing, but that’s probably why I have this job.)

In this regard, the launch of the brand-new Mazda 3 did not disappoint. The car is a clean-sheet design, the first to use the all-new Skyactiv-Vehicle architecture. And before we got to try it out in a mix of LA traffic and the Angeles Crest Highway, the engineers and designers responsible gave us plenty of insight into how they went about updating

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