posted 8 days ago on ars technica
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit wiped out (PDF) a sizable chunk of Apple's biggest legal win today, overturning parts of a 2012 jury verdict against Samsung that entitled the iPhone maker to $930 million in damages. Apple won that trial on both patent claims and claims related to "trade dress," an amorphous part of trademark law. The Federal Circuit, which considers all patent appeals, said the trade dress claims weren't legally justified and threw them out. The Federal Circuit is leaving it to the lower court to issue a final judgment, but since those claims accounted for $382 million of Apple's big win, that's how much Apple is expected to lose. It's more than 40 percent of the verdict winnings, leaving $548 million on the table for Apple to collect. In the view of the appeals judges, the iPhone's trade dress isn't protectable at all, because it's more functional than decorative. While Apple witnesses focused on the phone's "beauty," Samsung cited "extensive evidence in the record that showed the usability function of every single element in the unregistered trade dress." Things like rounded corners improve "pocketability" and "durability." The court also considered Apple's icons, packed 16 to a screen on iPhone 3 and iPhone 4, and found them not protectable as trade dress. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
North Carolina has sued the Federal Communications Commission so it can continue enforcing a state law that prevents municipal broadband networks from expanding. Three months ago, the FCC preempted such laws in both North Carolina and Tennessee. Tennessee filed a lawsuit to save its municipal broadband restrictions in March, and North Carolina has now done the same in a petition filed last week to the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. "Despite recognition that the State of North Carolina creates and retains control over municipal governments, the FCC unlawfully inserted itself between the State and the State’s political subdivisions," North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper wrote to the court. Cooper claimed the FCC's action violates the US Constitution; exceeds the commission's authority; "is arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act; and is otherwise contrary to law." Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
For years PC hardware enthusiasts the world over puzzled over motherboards, CPUs, RAM, and whether it was better to go with an SLI or Crossfire setup, just to answer that age old question: "Can it play Crysis?" Turns out, you'll soon be able to answer that question without resorting to spending thousands of dollars on hardcore pixel-pushing hardware. Yes, of all the things that might lend themselves well to being recreated in board game form, Crytek's first-person graphical showpony Crysis isn't the first that springs to mind. But German company Frame6 (with the blessing of Crytek) is skirting around the series' sometimes flimsy gameplay to bring Crysis Analogue Edition - The Board Game to life—or at least try to, by asking for €85,000 over on Kickstarter. So, how does a first-person shooter translate into board game? Crysis Analogue Edition turns the shooter into an eight-player strategy game with two types of game: Instant Action and Capture the Relay. Instant Action is a form of team deathmatch, with every frag scoring one point. Capture the Relay is a little more involved, but the basic premise is that you need to nab a relay token from the board and take it to an extraction point, with the opposing team doing the same. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Scott K. Johnson The steel pipe is a stand-in for a lava tube— the conduits that form within large lava flows as the outer skin solidifies. The banana is a stand-in for a banana. 47 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true}]);Back in 2012, we pointed you to an awesome project at Syracuse University that creates artificial lava flows for science, art, and outreach. They don’t use some mild, room-temperature stand-in for lava, they do it the artisanal way:  melting small batches of basalt in a serious furnace and pouring out the incandescent results. I’ve been hoping to see it for myself ever since, and recently I got the chance to tag along with a group of volcanology students from Colgate University, who were designing and running their own lava experiments for class. The furnace is surprisingly well-insulated, disguising the fact that it holds molten rock heated to over 1,200 degrees Celsius. It does emit a low, ominous roar, however, as it consumes natural gas to feed its fire. Once poured out, the lava quickly loses heat—it solidifies in just a minute or so, though it still remains incredibly hot long after. Because it solidifies so quickly, it forms amber-black volcanic glass riddled with bubbles of gas that were unable to escape. The lava pours are as mesmerizing and beautiful as they are geologically exciting. And they’ve probably shocked many a bus rider staring dully out the window while passing the art building. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
The 2015 Apex tournament finals for Super Smash Bros. Melee. Underneath a bakery in Chinatown, hundreds of fingers work rubber off joysticks. The hard clacking of plastic on plastic fills the plain hallways, audible above rowdy voices and aggressive chiptune. Some 50 people, a few scratching beards, some dragging along chaperones, have gathered in a Chinese community center to punish each other’s digits with brightly colored characters from Nintendo’s glory days. Harried organizers shout match ups over the chaos of huddled bodies and working controllers. For the next 12 hours, the new location of gaming store Nebulous NYC transforms the whitewashed basement into a coliseum. Here, Super Smash Bros. is pure, vicious sport. The crowd calls for blood. “Usually we’ve been getting a good 70 kids here,” says organizer Anthony King as he runs between tables sagging under the weight of tube televisions. Read 57 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Who knew that George Lucas and constitutional law had so much in common? Evidently Cass R. Sunstein did. The Harvard Law School constitutional scholar and former administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for President Obama makes such an argument in his forthcoming Michigan Law Review article titled How Star Wars Illuminates Constitutional Law. (PDF) Cass Sunstein Harvard Law Record The paper's abstract (and, trust us, this paper is abstract) sums up Sunstein's thinking on the topic: Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Cyrus Farivar MegaBots unveiled its first fully functional robot: " The giant robots from science fiction are coming." 18 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true}]);SAN MATEO, Calif.—Now in its tenth year, Maker Faire has grown to a huge, weekend-long event. While there are projects and companies of all shapes and sizes, MegaBots' demo of its giant fighting robot was clearly the highlight. The organizers had it fire huge paintballs at a car to demonstrate its capabilities. They added that within a few years, they would like to organize full-scale battles between these MechWarrior-style machines in real stadiums, complete with human pilots and spectators. (See some of them in action below.) There were a few other neat examples of robots and related startups on display this weekend, and the gallery above contains some highlights like an old Apple IIe and Raspberry Pi game consoles. If interested and near the Bay Area, the event continues today. The MegaBots in action. (video link) Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
A Belgian watchdog has urged all Internet users to download privacy software specifically to shield themselves from Facebook's grasp. The social network has been under fire for the ways in which it tracks user and non-user behaviour online, without consent, most recently becoming the target of a Europe-wide lawsuit headed up by activist Max Schrems. It was revealed in April that 25,000 people had already signed up to be a part of that lawsuit, which argues Facebook has been breaching EU data protection law. Individual regulators have been investigating whether or not this is the case for years, and in April Facebook confessed to tracking non-users using cookies (something for which consent must be sought if related to advertising, according to EU law). The social network blamed it on a bug. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
The UK government has quietly passed new legislation that exempts GCHQ, police, and other intelligence officers from prosecution for hacking into computers and mobile phones. While major or controversial legislative changes usually go through normal parliamentary process (i.e. democratic debate) before being passed into law, in this case an amendment to the Computer Misuse Act was snuck in under the radar as secondary legislation. According to Privacy International, "It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner's Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes... There was no public debate." Privacy International also suggests that the change to the law was in direct response to a complaint that it filed last year. In May 2014, Privacy International and seven communications providers filed a complaint with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), asserting that GCHQ's hacking activities were unlawful under the Computer Misuse Act. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Tiffany Kelly Of course, an astronaut walked on the runway. 19 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true}]);When Marty McFly traveled to 2015 in Back to the Future Part II, one of the most enviable aspects of a 1980s-envisioned future was the high-tech clothing. He slipped on a jacket that auto adjusted to his body and dried in seconds after being emerged in water. His shoelaces automatically tied. It all seemed very novel and exciting. Who wants boring clothes made out of cotton when you can have clothing that talks to you and has a function besides covering your skin? Well, Back to the Future’s prediction of our current day fashion wasn’t too far off from reality—at least that's reality in San Francisco. Silicon Valley Fashion Week?, a three-day event held this week in the city’s Mission District, showcased some of the latest futuristic apparel. There was a fiber optic dress. There were 3D-printed jewelry and hats. There were turn signal gloves. There was a hydration pack “reimagined for desert dancing” (really). Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
A newly-published search warrant application shows that an aviation computer security researcher told the FBI that he briefly took control of at least one commercial airliner. The warrant, which was filed in a federal court in New York state, was first published Friday by APTN, a Canadian news site. According to the affidavit for the warrant application, the researcher, Chris Roberts, told the FBI that he: connected to other systems on the airplane network after he exploited/gained access to, or "hacked" the [in-flight entertainment] system. He stated that he then overwrote code on the airplane’s Thrust Management Computer while aboard a flight. He stated that he successfully commanded the system he had accessed to issue the or climb command. He stated that he thereby caused one of the airplane engines to climb resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane during one of these flights. He also stated that he used Vortex software after compromising/exploiting or "hacking" the airplane’s networks. He used the software to monitor traffic from the cockpit system. Roberts did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment, but he told Wired on Friday that this paragraph was taken out of context. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Elle Cayabyab Gitlin Volvo's XC90 SUV is handsome, in a square-chinned kind of way. 15 more images in gallery .related-stories { display: none !important; } ars.AD.queue.push(["xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:[], collapse: true}]);Isn’t it always the way? You plan a vacation and yet somehow work finds you. But it turns out this isn't such a bad thing. Cars Technica happens to be in Santa Monica for a few days, but as luck would have it, Volvo is also in town. The company is getting ready to demo its new XC90 SUV to the press early next week. Although we aren’t able to stay long enough to take part, Jim Nichols at Volvo was kind enough to spend an hour with us, showing off some of the vehicle’s new features including the latest version of Volvo’s infotainment system, Sensus Connect. The XC90 is Volvo’s new range-topping SUV, and we got a brief drive in both the T6 and T8 models. The T6 features a turbo- and supercharged 4 cylinder engine (316 horsepower, 295 lb-ft); the T8 is a twin-engined plug-in hybrid good for 400 horsepower (313 hp from the 4 cylinder gas engine and another 87 hp from the electric motor). As one would expect from a Volvo, the XC90s are packed full of the latest and greatest safety equipment, in line with the company’s ambitious "Vision 2020" plan. Th idea is that by the year 2020, no-one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo. Even with only a brief stint behind the wheel, it was long enough to put Volvo’s lane assist technology to the test on the slow-moving I-10 freeway (the system only works up to 30 mph currently). It’s rather unnerving to take one’s hands off the wheel on a busy freeway, but as you can see from the video, it works. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is a little less than a month away, which means in just a few weeks we’ll see what Apple has planned for the next versions of iOS and OS X. iOS has had a busy couple of years—it got a comprehensive visual overhaul in iOS 7, and a nearly as comprehensive under-the-hood overhaul in iOS 8. The only thing we think we know about iOS 9 at this point is that it will focus on stability and performance. It’s not going to be a “no new features” Snow Leopard-style release, but for the first time since 2012 or so the focus is going to be on spit-and-polish and not on radical changes. We've assembled a small wishlist of features for iOS 9, with a focus on the smaller tweaks we hope Apple can focus on now that it’s not pulling up all the carpets and replacing all the fixtures. Some of these are more likely to be incorporated than others. Some have been on our wishlist for literally years. But all of them would be welcome improvements. Read 30 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Last weekend, I ran a 5K in about a half hour. After four months of training, I'll be the first to admit that's decidedly average. There's a catch of course. This run followed 18+ miles of cycling and a half-mile open water swim at the 2015 Louisiana Triathlon. It's not an every-finisher-gets-a-medal race, but the pint glass pictured felt like prize and proof enough. Yet if you ask the fitness tracker I used during and leading up to the event—the Microsoft Band—I simply went on a really, really long bike ride, one that never ended because some racer's sweaty fingers couldn't properly interact with a small touch interface. In an instant, this describes the shortcomings of the Microsoft Band. It can help a beginner (or someone close to it) improve their fitness to competitive levels, but it can't take a competitor (even a low-level one) to new heights. And that assessment doesn't even factor in the device's shortcomings outside the Microsoft ecosystem or in the context of the burgeoning wearables market. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
The trap-jaw ant has a won notorious reputation in the insect kingdom for its super-strong, spring-loaded mandibles, which it uses to crush prey with ease and defend its nests. However, a new study, reported in PLOS ONE, has revealed a whole new use for its impressive jaws: flinging itself out of "death traps" set by predators. Research carried out by Fredrick Larabee and Andrew Suarez, entomologists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, compounds earlier findings from 2006, which showed that trap-jaw ants could use their lightning-fast mouths for "ballistic jaw propulsion"—in short, opening their jaws to 180 degrees before snapping them shut at 140 miles per hour. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
New programming languages come and go. Most of them remain nothing more than academic toys or niche novelties. Rust, development of which is sponsored by Mozilla, might be one of the exceptions. The new language reached the 1.0 milestone today, marking the point at which its feature set is stabilized and developers can start to use it without having to worry too much about their code getting broken by a major change. Rust is an attempt to offer the performance and control of a language like C or C++, while making it much harder to write the kind of security-compromising bugs that are abundant in those languages. Key to this is the language's handling of memory and memory management. Some of the biggest problems with C come from mishandling memory; predominantly reading or writing more data to a block of memory than the block of memory contains, reading or writing from blocks of memory that have been deallocated. Environments such as Java, .NET, and JavaScript handle these through a combination of bounds checking—ensuring that every attempt to read and write memory is constrained to the memory that has been allocated—and garbage collection—ensuring that memory is deallocated only once all the references to the memory (through which reads and writes are performed) are destroyed. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Multiple mobile operators in Europe plan to block advertising on their networks, with one of them planning to target Google's ad network to force the company to give up a cut of its ad revenue, according to a report yesterday in the Financial Times."An executive at a European carrier confirmed that it and several of its peers are planning to start blocking adverts this year," the newspaper reported. "The executive said that the carrier will initially launch an advertising-free service for customers on an opt-in basis. But it is also considering a more radical idea that it calls 'the bomb', which would apply across its entire network of millions of subscribers at once. The idea is to specifically target Google, blocking advertising on its websites in an attempt to force the company into giving up a cut of its revenues." Blocking ads "just for an hour or a day" might be enough to bring Google to the negotiating table, the executive told the newspaper. While such a scheme might violate net neutrality rules in the United States, Europe doesn't have anything comprehensive on the books despite years of discussion. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Penn State's College of Engineering has been disconnected from the Internet so it can recover from two serious computer intrusions that exposed personal information for at least 18,000 people and possibly other sensitive data, officials said Friday. The group responsible for one of the attacks appears to be based in China, a country many security analysts have said actively hacks and trawls the computer networks of western nations for a wide range of technical data. University officials said there's no evidence that the intruders obtained research data, but they didn't rule the possibility out. Officials have known of the breach since November 21, when the FBI reported an attack on the engineering college network by an outside entity. In a letter to students and faculty issued Friday, Penn State President Eric J. Barron wrote: In order to protect the college’s network infrastructure as well as critical research data from a malicious attack, it was important that the attackers remained unaware of our efforts to investigate and prepare for a full-scale remediation. Any abnormal action by individual users could have induced additional unwelcome activity, potentially making the situation even worse. This is an incredibly serious situation, and we are devoting all necessary resources to help the college recover as quickly as possible; minimize the disruption and inconvenience to engineering faculty, staff and students; and to harden Penn State’s networks against this constantly evolving threat. Barron said he expected Internet connectivity for the engineering school network to be restored in several days. While the intrusions affected only a small set of people, all College of Engineering faculty and staff at the University Park campus, as well as students at all Penn State campuses who recently have taken at least one engineering course, will be required to choose new passwords for their Penn State access accounts. Faculty and staff who want to access college resources remotely over a virtual private network connection will be required to use two-factor authentication. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Netflix's ambition to stream video all over the world gained a little more legitimacy on Friday with news that the company had joined forces with an entrenched Chinese video-streaming company. A Bloomberg report citing multiple unnamed sources said that Netflix was in talks with Chinese media company Wasu Media Holding Co., along with other firms. Wasu is a significant part of the story because airing any content in China is a regulatory pain. Chinese regulations require a company to obtain a number of licenses to air or stream media content; one of those is a root-level license for the company (which must be a Chinese one) to do so at all, let alone the licenses required on a per-video basis that were instituted in April of this year. Wasu has that root-level license, as do six other Chinese media companies. Rather than dampen excitement over the report, Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos spoke directly about his China-streaming aspirations during a Cannes Film Festival interview on Friday. "China is too big to have an asterisk next to it," Sarandos said, according to the Bloomberg report. He also admitted that his company had no experience akin to working with a Chinese media company and hinted at the regulatory and business-alliance hurdles he may face. “If that’s the cost of doing business in China, we will figure that out," he said. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
A federal drug case in Massachusetts has shed new light on how the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) law enforcement unit uses something as simple as IP logs on the postal tracking website to investigate crimes. According to a December 2013 affidavit of an ongoing federal criminal case in Rockland, Massachusetts (20 miles southeast of Boston), one alleged drug dealer named Harold Bates was found out simply by the digital trail he left on the USPS' Track n’ Confirm website. The affidavit was added to the court docket in January 2015, and the case was first reported by Motherboard. Bates was charged back in March 2014 with conspiracy to import methylone (also known as "molly"), importation of methylone, and possession with intent to distribute methylone, among other crimes. Last month, the judge in the case ruled against Bates in his attempt to supress evidence seized in those packages. Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 10 days ago on ars technica
Sports fans who sued baseball and hockey leagues for limiting access to live games through exclusive contracts and regional blackouts will be able to make their case in a class action. US District Court of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin yesterday granted the fans' request for class-action certification, allowing them to continue their case collectively instead of as individuals. In addition to the National Hockey League (NHL) and the Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner's office, defendants include Comcast, DirecTV, and several teams. The complaint, filed in 2012, centers on contracts between the leagues and TV providers, which include territorial restrictions that reduce the choices fans have for watching their favorite teams. Fans within a home team's geographic region must buy a traditional TV package with a regional sports network (RSN) to watch the team's games, because leaguewide packages available through TV providers or over the Internet only show out-of-market games. Fans outside their favorite team's territory can only watch the games by buying out-of-market packages, since the RSNs are restricted to local territories. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
A federal appeals court won't force the US to disclose its clandestine plan to disable cell service during emergencies. That was the decision from the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concerning Standard Operating Procedure 303. The court had taken the same position in February and agreed with the government's contention that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows the Department of Homeland Security to withhold documents if their exposure could "endanger" public safety. After the decision, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which brought the FOIA suit, had asked the court to revisit the issue in what is known as an en banc review. The appeals court declined (PDF) in a one-sentence order Wednesday. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Vulnerabilities in the Google App Engine cloud platform make it possible for attackers to break out of a first-level security sandbox and execute malicious code in restricted areas of Google servers, a security researcher said Friday. Adam Gowdiak, CEO of Poland-based Security Explorations, said there are seven separate vulnerabilities in the Google service, most of which he privately reported to Google three weeks ago. So far, he said, the flaws have gone unfixed, and he has yet to receive confirmation from Google officials. To exploit the flaws, attackers could use the freely available cloud platform to run a malicious Java application. That malicious Java app would then break out of the first sandboxing layer and execute code in the highly restricted native environment. Malicious hackers could use the restricted environment as a beachhead to attack lower-level assets and to retrieve sensitive information from Google servers and from the Java runtime environment. Technical details about the bugs, noted as issues 35 through 41, are available here, here, here, and here. In an e-mail to Ars, Gowdiak wrote: Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Songwriters' group Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) has beaten online radio provider Pandora after a two-year legal battle, winning a substantially larger copyright royalty rate of 2.5 percent. That's a large increase from the 1.75 percent Pandora was paying before. It's also a stark contrast to Pandora's win in a similar case against BMI's rival, the American Society of Composers Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP. It was just last week that a federal appeals court upheld Pandora's win in that case, finding that the royalty rate should rise to only 1.85 percent. The judge's decision in BMI v. Pandora isn't yet public, but both sides have put out statements about the results. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 11 days ago on ars technica
Through years of dev kits, prototypes, and trade show demos of the Oculus Rift, we've been stuck guessing at just how much hardware power the eventual consumer version of the device would require. Now, with that consumer launch officially slated for early 2016, Oculus has announced what PC hardware it recommends for a quality VR experience. According to Oculus, those recommended hardware specs are: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater 8GB+ RAM Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output 2x USB 3.0 ports Windows 7 SP1 or newer That's a relatively beefy system, all things considered. A quick price check on Newegg suggests that the listed CPU, RAM, and video card would add up to just over $600. Add in a barebones tower, motherboard, and 250GB solid state hard drive, and you're looking at a nearly $900 system to run the Rift, all told. That's before you account for the (still unannounced) price of the headset itself. Upgrading from an existing gaming rig will obviously be cheaper, and component costs will come down by the Rift's early 2016 launch, but a lot of potential VR users are still going to be staring down some significant upgrade costs. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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