Angry Robot

Is It Time to Break Up Google?

Are tech giants like Google and Facebook monopolies?

‘Museum of Failure’ celebrates legendary product flops

Sources: Russia tried to use Trump advisers to infiltrate campaign

The FBI gathered intelligence last summer that suggests Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers, including Carter Page, to infiltrate the Trump campaign, according to US officials.

I’d say they were quite successful.

The Nintendo Switch

Is there a nerd who hasn’t felt the sweet breath of obsessive-compulsive disorder whisper in her ear as she is forced by the cruel demands of life to quit her gaming den to sleep and/or go to work: I wish I could keep playing in bed and/or on the subway. That voice does not encourage you to just play a different game on your phone on the subway, it wants you to keep playing this game on the subway, which of course is never possible.

Nintendo understands this more than most companies, having for decades produced both portable and home consoles, yet only now producing one that is both at the same time.

The Switch feels like a remix of everything Nintendo’s ever made. It’s physically similar to the failed Wii U GamePad, as it’s a games-specific tablet. The slide-off “Joy-Con” controllers are motion-sensitive like the Wii Remote, yet physically evoke the tiny NES gamepads. The tablet screen is touch-sensitive, like that of the DS and 3DS.

From the pictures before the launch, I couldn’t really place the size of the thing. I knew it had a 6.1” screen which didn’t sound that big… my phone’s is 5.5”. Yet in hand, it’s much larger. It’s more the size of an iPad Mini, except thicker and more squat. Compared to Apple engineering, it feels clumsy, or amateurish: too thick, too heavy, too much bezel, too much plastic. Yet of course your hands are given space away from the screen, making the viewable area bigger compared to using a phone.

I’ve had it only a couple weeks, and already I am in love. The convenience of this thing is unparalleled. Let alone taking it out of the house, it’s really handy in the house as well. We don’t have a TV in our tiny living room; it’s in the rec room in the basement. I love playing down there, but there are times where it doesn’t make a certain kind of sense to go down there (killing ten minutes while cooking, waiting to make sure the kid has settled), let alone those times when someone else is using the TV.

The Switch is by nature a compromise device, sitting somewhere between portability and immersion. That it never feels like it is remarkable. That compromise is instead its very essence, cleverly captured by its name and brand identity.

It feels fetishistic to discuss a console without talking about the actual games, and the only one I have so far is Zelda, so I will move on to that in the next couple days. But a quick word first! Nintendo’s historical weakness is third-party software. They come up with quirky, underpowered hardware, so unlike their competitors’ machines that third party publishers either dial in low-quality ports (Wii), or ignore the platform altogether (Wii U). Traditionally, they make up for it with stellar first party titles (Mario, Mario Kart, Zelda, Metroid, Fire Emblem, Pokemon, etc. etc.). I’m sure that will continue to be the case, but the really encouraging thing is the developing slate of indies. Sounds like the Switch is easier to develop for, and Nintendo is doing a better job of talking to independents, so if this keeps up it could be a pretty good situation.

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So how do we feel about flying cars?

They’re happening, for rich people.

All these years after the Jetsons went off the air, we’re right on the verge of having access to robots that drive and fly us around while we sit and play Scrabble on our phones.

‘Fargo’: A Guide to the Show’s Coen Brothers’ References

From White Russian drink specials to “Friendo” namedropping – a complete guide (so far) to ‘Fargo’ TV series’ Coen brother movie references.

#Vanlife, the Bohemian Social-Media Movement

This paragraph is particularly great:

On the first day, the van slid backward down an icy hill and had to be towed. They drove through winds so strong that they worried that [the van] was thrown out of alignment. Progress was slow; even in optimal conditions, the van couldn’t go faster than sixty miles per hour. King and Smith spent Valentine’s Day at a truck stop in Albuquerque, where a security guard accused them of being prostitutes. The uncertainty of life on the road was a constant low-level drain at first, particularly for King, who discovered that she was afraid of the dark.

Update: Ok this passage is perhaps even greater:

They are sponsored by several companies whose products they use every day, including TruthPaste, which makes clay-based toothpaste, and Four Sigmatic, a “superfood company” that sells instant coffee enhanced with mushroom elixirs.

Report: SNES Classic Edition is on the way

Would explain (partially? Unsatisfactorily?) The discontinuation of the NES version

On Fearless Girl, women & public art; or, no, seriously, the guy does not have a point.

Counterpoint to the previous link about the girl vs bull statuary war

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Racism motivated Trump voters more than authoritarianism

Where does Canada’s accent come from?

via

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The girl vs. the bull statue: not what you think

Note it’s not She makes a difference, it’s SHE makes a difference. It’s not referring to the girl; it’s referring to the NASDAQ symbol. It’s not a work of guerrilla art; it’s an extremely clever advertising scheme.

It’s time for Scotland to find a new home – in Canada

Love this.

Even if somebody can give you a reasonable-sounding explanation [for his or her actions], it probably is incomplete, and the same could very well be true for AI. It might just be part of the nature of intelligence that only part of it is exposed to rational explanation. Some of it is just instinctual, or subconscious, or inscrutable.

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The iPad These Days

So the iPad has issues. After exploding out of the gate in 2010, with sales growth greater even than the iPhone, sales have decreased over the past few years, as Horace Dediu discusses in iPad Optics:

The iPad is considered to be failing, with a presumption of an end of life in the near future. The evidence of this failure the year-on-year decline in units sold… The iPad decline is paired with a steady increase in the Mac. The iPad exhibits a four year decrease in overall volumes. This has, as they say, bad optics.

Neil Cybart notes:

A quick look at overall iPad sales reveals an ominous trend. Sales have declined for 12 consecutive quarters. After topping out 74M units in 1Q14, the annualized iPad sales rate has declined by 42% to 43M units.

Yeowch! Except it’s not all gloom. As Dediu notes,

the iPad is still a much loved and much used product. … Tablet ownership among US adults increased from 45% in April 2015 to 48% in April 2016 and 51% in November 2016. The rise has been steady. Although this counts tablets, the iPad had 85% share of the U.S. market for tablets priced above $200 so it’s a fair assumption that the iPad audience is growing.

Furthermore, iPads are still growing in “non-consuming” markets. iPad posted double-digit growth in both Mainland China and India, it continues to attract a very high percentage of first-time tablet buyers.

His explanation for the odd numbers is that “iPads remain in use far longer than phones, and perhaps even longer than some computers.”

Interestingly, Cybart blames iPad’s troubles on something else: its little brother.

People aren’t buying as many iPad mini devices these days. Excluding 7.9-inch iPad mini sales from overall iPad sales results in a completely different sales picture… iPad mini unit sales have declined 70% after peaking in 4Q13 and 1Q14. The product’s value proposition has been permanently reduced due to larger iPhones. Apple has clearly experienced Peak iPad Mini.

Whatever the reasons for the “bad optics” are, Apple is suddenly pushing iPad really hard, as Cybart notes. And they’re pushing it in two different directions, as indicated by the two main model lines. The Pro is more expensive than a normal iPad and has added hardware features, mainly the pencil and the keyboard. The iPad Pros are the subject of a new ad campaign, which Apple is clearly targeting at people who want a PC replacement.

Going the other direction, the regular ol’ iPad has just been refreshed. The biggest change is that they dropped the starting price to $329 US. That’s a big deal! The cheap new iPad will compete with Chromebooks in education, it will entice owners of ancient iPads, and it has at least a chance of competing against cheap Android tabs.

There’s a lot interesting about Apple’s strategy on both fronts: they think iPads are their best chance in education, and they think iPads are their best chance at switchers. It wasn’t so long ago it was to the Mac they were encouraging PC users to switch. We’ve known for some time that the iPad was Apple’s “vision for the future of personal computing”. But its latest moves indicate it’s their vision for the present.

FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page

“This confirms all of my suspicions about unjustified, politically motivated government surveillance,” Page said in an interview Tuesday. “I have nothing to hide.” He compared surveillance of him to the eavesdropping that the FBI and Justice Department conducted against civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Good luck with that comparison, Carter.

How the Story of “Moana” and Maui Holds Up Against Cultural Truths

How Ants Figured Out Farming Millions of Years Before Humans

So when we’re all toiling for our ant overlords in their underground fungus farms, let’s remember they beat us fair and square

Report: Chechnya Opens ‘Concentration Camp for Homosexuals’

(via y)

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