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    My quest to re-create Street Fighter’s long-lost pneumatic controls / ArsTechnica · 2 days ago - 11:00 · 1 minute

Slam that bash pad!

Enlarge / Slam that bash pad!

A blurry picture of the SF1 Deluxe Arcade Cabinet. This is the stock photo from KLOV/VAPS and was one of the few images of the pneumatic machine available during my initial research.

A blurry picture of the SF1 Deluxe Arcade Cabinet. This is the stock photo from KLOV/VAPS and was one of the few images of the pneumatic machine available during my initial research. (credit: KLOV )

Rumor had it that there was this fighting video game, like Karate Champ , except the harder you hit the buttons, the stronger your attacks were. It was also said that if you hit a button hard enough, you could knock out your opponent with one hit! Certain people were supposedly seen climbing on and jumping up and down on the buttons of the machine in the hope of making a killing strike.

As a child of the '80s who loved video games, this game intrigued me.

I soon discovered that the game was called Street Fighter ( SF1 ), and it was made by a company called Capcom. In my local arcade, it consisted of a large, curvy cabinet with two sets of controls to accommodate two players at once. Each player had a start button, an eight-way joystick, and two large pressure-sensitive rubber buttons. This cabinet is now often called the "deluxe" or "crescent" cab, and the pressure-sensitive buttons are often called "bash pads" or "pneumatic buttons." It looked totally rad.

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    With Amazon Alexa’s future in peril, Fire TVs offer a glimmer of hope / ArsTechnica · 3 days ago - 11:00

Amazon Fire TV mounted in a living room

Enlarge / Fire TVs give Alexa hope, but the future still feels grim. (credit: Amazon )

Alexa, how can you continue to be relevant and stop sucking money from Amazon?

That's not an easy question to answer, and the future of Amazon Alexa has never felt so uncertain. In November, Business Insider reported that Alexa “and other devices” were expected to lose Amazon $10 billion in 2022. Such large losses spotlight an enduring question: How are voice assistants supposed to make money? It’s a dilemma other voice assistants are struggling with, too.

In the case of Alexa, which has been integrated into various Amazon-branded products, from speakers and smart displays to a home robot and microwave, its best shot at survival has been under our noses—or in our living rooms—all along.

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    Would building a Dyson sphere be worth it? We ran the numbers. / ArsTechnica · 5 days ago - 11:40 · 1 minute

Would building a Dyson sphere be worth it? We ran the numbers.

Enlarge (credit: Kevin Gill (CC BY 2.0) )

In 1960, visionary physicist Freeman Dyson proposed that an advanced alien civilization would someday quit fooling around with kindergarten-level stuff like wind turbines and nuclear reactors and finally go big, completely enclosing their home star to capture as much solar energy as they possibly could. They would then go on to use that enormous amount of energy to mine bitcoin, make funny videos on social media, delve into the deepest mysteries of the Universe, and enjoy the bounties of their energy-rich civilization.

But what if the alien civilization was… us? What if we decided to build a Dyson sphere around our sun? Could we do it? How much energy would it cost us to rearrange our solar system, and how long would it take to get our investment back? Before we put too much thought into whether humanity is capable of this amazing feat, even theoretically, we should decide if it’s worth the effort. Can we actually achieve a net gain in energy by building a Dyson sphere?

Spherical Dyson cows

I’ll state from the outset that I'm a theoretical cosmologist, not an engineer. I have absolutely no idea how to go about building a bridge, let alone a structure that reshapes the very face of our Solar System. But I’m willing to bet that nobody knows how to engage in these kinds of mega-engineering challenges. We can’t say for certain what kind of advances in which technologies would be necessary to build a structure that even partially encloses the sun. To speculate on that would be science fiction—fun, but not very meaty.

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    Garmin’s Forerunner 955 review: Still king for runners and cyclists / ArsTechnica · 7 days ago - 11:00 · 1 minute

Garmin’s Forerunner 955 review: Still king for runners and cyclists

Enlarge (credit: Corey Gaskin)

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs .)
If you're at all familiar with Garmin's wearables, you know that GPS-equipped running watches have always been the company's primary strength. Garmin's fitness watches have been a staple among athletes due to their features that aren't found on Fitbits and Apple Watches. The Forerunner series is still where the company introduces some of its most innovative tracking and training features.

The Forerunner 955 continues that tradition. It sits atop the Forerunner series as the most feature-packed watch in the bunch, and this year it gains some modern touches like a touchscreen and daily exercise readiness assessments (à la Fitbit's Daily Readiness feature, but free to users), while introducing new features not present on any other Garmin watch. That includes the higher-end Fenix series of watches, from which the Forerunner 955 is also starting to steal some cues, like solar-charging options and multi-band GPS.

We trained with the Forerunner 955 for a few weeks to see how its newest features improve on a platform we already love and to determine just how afraid Garmin should be about Apple or Fitbit catching up.

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    Egad! 7 key British PCs of the 1980s Americans might have missed / ArsTechnica · Friday, 24 March - 11:00

A modified Sinclair ZX81 advertisement with color added in the background.


If you grew up in America, the early history of home computers in the UK might not be familiar to you. But Great Britain produced innovative personal computers that were as equally successful and influential as their counterparts from Atari, Commodore, and Radio Shack in the United States.

To gain insight into the 1980s British PC landscape, we consulted veteran British game developer Kevin Edwards , who helped us identify the top seven most significant platforms.

Having worked on over 40 games released between 1983 and 2022, Edwards developed titles such as Wolverine for the NES, Ken Griffy Jr. Baseball for the Super Nintendo, and many games in the Lego Star Wars series. In fact, his first game, Atomic Protector , debuted for the BBC Micro 40 years ago.

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    Making faces: How to train an AI on your face to create silly portraits / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 22 March - 11:30 · 1 minute

Ever want to be a superhero? We'll show you how.

Enlarge / Ever want to be a superhero? We'll show you how. (credit: Shaun Hutchinson | Aurich Lawson | Stable Diffusion)

By now, you've read a lot about generative AI technologies such as Midjourney and Stable Diffusion , which translate text input into images in seconds. If you're anything like me, you immediately wondered how you could use that technology to slap your face onto the Mona Lisa or Captain America. After all, who doesn’t want to be America’s ass?

I have a long history of putting my face on things. Previously, doing so was a painstaking process of finding or taking a picture with the right angle and expression and then using Photoshop to graft my face onto the original. While I considered the results demented yet worthwhile, the process required a lot of time. But with Stable Diffusion and Dreambooth , I’m now able to train a model on my face and then paste it onto anything my strange heart desires.

In this walkthrough, I'll show you how to install Stable Diffusion locally on your computer, train Dreambooth on your face, and generate so many pictures of yourself that your friends and family will eventually block you to stop the deluge of silly photos. The entire process will take about two hours from start to finish, with the bulk of the time spent babysitting a Google Colab notebook while it trains on your images.

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    Fighting VPN criminalization should be Big Tech’s top priority, activists say / ArsTechnica · Monday, 20 March - 11:00 · 1 minute

Fighting VPN criminalization should be Big Tech’s top priority, activists say

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

“Women, life, freedom” became the protest chant of a revolution still raging in Iran months after a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died while in custody of morality police. Amini was arrested last September for “improperly” wearing a hijab and violating the Islamic Republic's mandatory dress code laws. Since then, her name has become a viral hashtag invoked by millions of online activists protesting authoritarian regimes around the globe.

In response to Iran's ongoing protests—mostly led by women and young people—Iranian authorities have increasingly restricted Internet access. First, they temporarily blocked popular app stores and indefinitely blocked social media apps like WhatsApp and Instagram. They then implemented sporadic mobile shutdowns wherever protests flared up. Perhaps most extreme, authorities responded to protests in southeast Iran in February by blocking the Internet outright, Al Arabiya reported . Digital and human rights experts say motivations include controlling information, keeping protestors offline, and forcing protestors to use state services where their online activities can be more easily tracked—and sometimes trigger arrests.

As getting online has become increasingly challenging for everyone in Iran—not just protestors—millions have learned to rely on virtual private networks (VPNs) to hide Internet activity, circumvent blocks, and access accurate information beyond state propaganda. Simply put, VPNs work by masking a user's IP address so that governments have a much more difficult time monitoring activity or detecting a user's location. They do this by routing the user's data to the VPN provider's remote servers, making it much harder for an ISP (or a government) to correlate the Internet activity of the VPN provider's servers with the individual users actually engaging in that activity.

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    PLATO: How an educational computer system from the ’60s shaped the future / ArsTechnica · Friday, 17 March - 11:30 · 1 minute

PLATO IV Terminal, ca. 1972-74.

Enlarge / PLATO IV Terminal, ca. 1972-74. (credit: University of Illinois Archives)

Bright graphics, a touchscreen, a speech synthesizer, messaging apps, games, and educational software—no, it's not your kid's iPad. This is the mid-1970s, and you're using PLATO.

Far from its comparatively primitive contemporaries of teletypes and punch cards, PLATO was something else entirely. If you were fortunate enough to be near the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) around a half-century ago, you just might have gotten a chance to build the future. Many of the computing innovations we treat as commonplace started with this system, and even today, some of PLATO's capabilities have never been precisely duplicated. Today, we'll look back on this influential technological testbed and see how you can experience it now.

From space race to Spacewar

Don Bitzer was a PhD student in electrical engineering at UIUC in 1959, but his eye was on bigger things than circuitry. “I'd been reading projections that said that 50 percent of the students coming out of our high schools were functionally illiterate,” he later told a Wired interviewer. “There was a physicist in our lab, Chalmers Sherwin, who wasn't afraid to ask big questions. One day, he asked, 'Why can't we use computers for education?'”

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