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Enlarge / The policy was announced last week by nuclear physicist and DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz, who will be replaced by former Texas Governor Rick Perry if he is confirmed by the Senate. (credit: Thomas Kelsey/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon) When President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team sent a questionnaire to the Department of Energy asking, among other things, for the names of employees who had worked on anything that touched climate policy, it raised concerns about whether those employees would be targeted. (The transition team later said the questionnaire was “not authorized.") Thanks to a new Department of Energy policy announced last week, that sort of political interference should be (at least a little) harder to do going forward. The new policy has its roots in a 2009 President Barack Obama memo directing agencies to craft “scientific integrity” policies that protect research staff from having their work censored or altered or prevent researchers being muzzled themselves. Twenty-four departments and agencies have followed through with such policies, but the Department of Energy’s version was a little vague and weak. The newly finalized policy is stronger, earning praise from the Union of Concerned Scientists. The policy now clearly covers all staff at the Department of Energy's 17 national laboratories around the country, including employees of contractors and university researchers funded by DOE grants. They are free to share research findings with the public and other scientists and “are free to discuss their personal opinions on scientific and technical related policies, provided these views are not represented as those of the US Government or DOE.” There are explicit exceptions for classified information given the department’s nuclear work. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Texas Tribune kicked off its weekend symposium by interviewing activist DeRay Mckesson. (credit: Texas Tribune) AUSTIN, Texas—“We aren't born woke, something wakes us up." By now, everyone's experienced a newsfeed full of #NoDAPL or long Twitter threads explaining some proposed legislation that threatens a certain cause. With years of social media experience behind us, it's easy for this stuff to feel like white noise. But the next time someone shrugs off any of these posts in the name of social justice as useless, tell them DeRay Mckesson begs to differ. All of it has the ability to help others get "woke," to newly realize there's a problem and a need to combat it. So during his keynote Q&A at the Texas Tribune's weekend symposium on race and policy, the Black Lives Matter activist encouraged everyone to fight toward “equity, justice, and fairness” in the way that works best for them... even if starts as small as a tweet. For Mckesson, in fact, social media initially proved to be the way of getting involved. Back in August 2014 after the tragic murder of Michael Brown, he wanted to go to Ferguson, Missouri, and merely participate in the peaceful response for a weekend. He had no grand plans of country-wide organizing at the time; then the protests spanned 300 days: “I drove nine hours for a weekend, but I guess it's been a long weekend,” Mckesson said of his work since. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Wisconsin.gov) With the Paris climate agreement, participating nations have made a commitment to curb greenhouse gas emissions caused by burning of coal, oil, and gas. Removing subsidies for fossil fuels is thought to be one of the most-cost-effective methods of progressing towards that goal. Implementing taxes on these energy sources would go further, but for now, it would be progress if we could just stop making it artificially inexpensive to use fossil fuels. Unfortunately, it is unclear if these recommendations are being followed, since government self-reporting has been incomplete and unreliable. Without a consistent way to measure these taxes and subsidies, it is difficult to determine whether any progress has been made towards fossil fuel price reform. Get gas In a new investigation, a team of researchers used monthly data on retail gasoline prices in countries across the world to determine the net tax or subsidy placed on a liter of gasoline by their governments. Since gasoline is sold directly to consumers in all countries, retail prices provide an indication of underlying costs. And the cost of gasoline is relatively constant; country-to-country differences in gasoline quality are minimal and the price of oil acts as what's effectively a single world reference price. So it's possible to use the data to understand the influence of policy changes on gasoline consumption. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Nearly two decade old photos of a suspected child molester matched a 2007 passport photo via a biometrics analysis by the FBI, leading to Charles Hollin's arrest in Oregon. (credit: FBI / Aurich Lawson) A fugitive suspected of molesting a 10-year-old Indiana girl 17 years ago has been arrested after the Federal Bureau of Investigation employed facial recognition technology, according to court documents. The bureau said the suspect's US passport photo in December was run though a Facial Analysis, Comparison, and Evaluation (FACE) test, and it matched photos taken before he disappeared nearly two decades ago. Charles Hollin, 61, was arrested in Salem, Oregon, last week, at a Wal-Mart where he works. He had a Minnesota and a Oregon driver's license with his picture on it. The agency said it did not perform a biometrics analysis with those databases because they have not opened up their DMV roles for the bureau to search. The bureau noted in a court filing that the government maintains "top secret" databases containing biometric profiles. "The Department of Motor Vehicles for Minnesota and Oregon were not searched due to the fact it was prohibited by law. Additional searches were conducted in various federal secret and top secret databases. All of these searches were negative," Todd Prewitt, an FBI agent, wrote in court documents. (PDF) Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Raspberry Pi's upgraded Compute Module. (credit: Raspberry Pi Foundation) The Raspberry Pi Compute Module is getting a big upgrade, with the same processor used in the recently released Raspberry Pi 3. The Compute Module, which is intended for industrial applications, was first released in April 2014 with the same CPU as the first-generation Raspberry Pi. The upgrade announced today has 1GB of RAM and a Broadcom BCM2837 processor that can run at up to 1.2HGz. "This means it provides twice the RAM and roughly ten times the CPU performance of the original Compute Module," the Raspberry Pi Foundation announcement said. This is the second major version of the Compute Module, but it's being called the "Compute Module 3" to match the last flagship Pi's version number. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: Neilson Barnard / Getty Images) Lee Jae-yong, the vice chairman of Samsung Group and acting head of the company, could soon be facing formal corruption charges. South Korean prosecutors are currently seeking the arrest of the Samsung heir, accusing him of bribery, embezzlement, and perjury. The warrant must first be approved by a court, which will convene Wednesday. The accusation sucks Samsung into the ongoing corruption scandal that has rocked South Korea, where impeachment hearings for President Park Geun-hye have already started. Lee is accused of paying bribes to a nonprofit connected to the South Korean president in exchange for approval of a merger of two Samsung Group affiliates—Cheil Industries and Samsung C&T—in 2015. Once merged, the two companies became one of the largest investors in Samsung Electronics, solidifying the Lee family's control over the crown jewel of the Samsung empire. The prosecutor's office estimated that the total size of the alleged bribes was ₩43 billion ($36 million). The possible arrest of Lee comes at a time when Samsung is still sorting through the Note 7 recall debacle, and it could interrupt Lee Jae-yong's massive ongoing reorganization of Samsung Group. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / A Switch Joy-Con sits alongside a 3DS XL, just as Nintendo says the Switch will sit alongside the 3DS in the marketplace. (credit: Kotaku) With the Nintendo Switch acting as both a fully portable system and a TV-based console, you might think that the hardware is intended to serve as a replacement for both the Wii U and the 3DS. But while the Wii U has already been discontinued, Nintendo insists that the 3DS will continue to be supported well into the Switch's lifespan. "In our view, the Nintendo 3DS and the Nintendo Switch are going to live side-by-side," Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime told Wired in a recent interview. "They’re going to coexist just fine. We’ve done this before, managing two different systems." While it's definitely true that Nintendo has managed two (or more) systems at the same time in the past, the company does not usually maintain two portable systems concurrently for very long. Back in 2004, for instance, Nintendo revealed the Nintendo DS as a "third pillar" in its hardware line up, alongside the existing Game Boy Advance and GameCube platforms. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Jonathan Gitlin DETROIT—The North American International Auto Show in Detroit has a bit of a problem. You see, CES takes place in the days directly before it, and in recent years automakers have started making big announcements in Las Vegas. This also affects the annual Los Angeles Auto Show (which takes place in November), but the effect is more pronounced at Detroit. The result—in my view at least—is three underwhelming events in a row. That's not to say there weren't big announcements in Detroit. It doesn't get much bigger than Toyota's eighth-generation Camry or BMW's seventh-generation 5 Series, for example. We've covered the headliners already, so the gallery here represents all the little wonders we stumbled across in Cobo Hall. There was a face-lifted Ford F-150, the cabin of which was more Range Rover-like than ever. The venerable F-150 is Ford's top seller, and the refreshed 2018 model gets a full complement of advanced driver assists. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Vivaldi) Working in tight niches occupied by the behemoths of the Internet world is hard; doing it as a startup without external funding is even harder. The 35-strong team of Vivaldi, the spiritual successor to Opera, is doing exactly that: two years after the first public beta and eight months after the release of version 1.0, the Web browser has about 1 million users—but it still isn't turning a profit. Vivaldi, which was envisioned by the Opera Software co-founder and former CEO Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner, is catering first of all to power users and the tech-savvy lot. The team, however, has high expectations for their product and hopes it will have a broader appeal over time in order to start actually making money. More is more In case you haven't heard about Vivaldi before, it's a Chromium-based “non-conformist” desktop Web browser that goes in the opposite direction to the mainstream. While the major players like Chrome or Firefox are stripping the browser to its bare essentials, Vivaldi offers more and more integrated features and customisation options. Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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JAXA This weekend Japan tried to launch a 3kg cubesat into orbit aboard its multi-stage, SS-520 rocket. Were it to have succeeded, the SS-520 would have become the smallest rocket to ever deliver a payload into orbit. Alas, the rocket did not make it. According to the Japanese Exploration Agency, or JAXA, the sounding rocket launched on Sunday morning from the Uchinoura Space Center on the country's southernmost main island, Kyushu. Although the first stage fired normally, a preplanned check between first-stage separation and the ignition of the second ignition did not show consistent telemetry data. This prevented the firing of the second stage, and the rocket fell into the Pacific Ocean, southeast of the spaceport. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Nissan) Driverless cars could imminently be operating on London's streets, after Nissan announced it had been cleared by the UK government to commence limited trials. While Google has been testing its own autonomous vehicles on public roads near its Californian headquarters, Nissan claimed that its driverless cars will be the first to hit public roads in Europe—if, that is, the Japanese manufacturer receives final approval from an undisclosed local authority in the UK's capital. Nissan's round of secretive tests will apparently see passengers escorted across a route in a single borough, a spokesperson told Ars, once clearance is confirmed. However, the trials won't be open to all-comers—instead, politicians, regulators, and safety experts will have access to "real-world demonstrations," with backup drivers present in the cars at all times. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Science Advances The electrochemical masterminds at Stanford University have created a lithium-ion battery with built-in flame suppression. When the battery reaches a critical temperature (160 degrees Celsius in this case), an integrated flame retardant is released, extinguishing any flames within 0.4 seconds. Importantly, the addition of an integrated flame retardant doesn't reduce the performance of the battery. As you may have surmised from the recent exploding Galaxy Note 7 fracas, one of the few weaknesses of lithium-ion batteries is that they contain a highly flammable electrolyte. If a Li-ion battery undergoes thermal runaway—due to physical damage, or perhaps a fault in the charging/discharging circuit—the result is usually a very big fire, sometimes followed by an explosion. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Thinkstock / Aurich) When Cathy Corman bought a house in 1998, she didn’t mind that it had no cable service. Corman was finishing a dissertation, her husband was starting a new job, and they were raising five-year-old triplets—they didn’t spend much time watching TV. And to get on the Web, all they needed was a phone line and a dial-up Internet subscription. But years passed and dial-up Internet became a quaint memory for most Americans. The cable industry that gained its dominance by offering TV service became the top provider of high-speed broadband. For most of 2016, Corman’s house still didn’t have cable, fiber, or any access to reliable, high-speed Internet service despite its location outside of Boston in densely populated and affluent Brookline, Massachusetts. Corman, a university lecturer and journalist, needed fast Internet service, and the local cable companies, RCN and Comcast, were offering it to nearly all of their neighbors. But for reasons that weren’t totally clear, her family’s house had never been hooked up, and the cable companies wouldn’t wire up the house unless the couple paid for all of the necessary construction and permitting. Read 50 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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This report contains possible spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Lucasfilm says that you're more likely to see this baby portray Leia in a future Star Wars film, show, or game than a CGI-ized version of Carrie Fisher. (credit: The Community - Pop Culture Geek) In the wake of actor and writer Carrie Fisher’s tragic passing in December, reports about the current Star Wars trilogy have been full of questions and guesses. What exactly should we expect from the popular character of Princess Leia in the remaining two episodes, and how will the film's producers deal with her original actor not being able to complete Leia's plot arc? Lucasfilm took the unusual step of confirming one major detail about the series’ future on Friday, announcing that the company does not intend to recreate the actor’s persona using digital means. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Tim Cook (right) looks engaged and enthusiastic sitting next to President-elect Donald Trump and Peter Thiel at Trump's tech summit in New York City last month. (credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images) Apple has a busy 2017 ahead of it. Most credible rumors say the company is launching a revamped iPad lineup in the early part of the year, as well as long-anticipated desktop Mac refreshes. We can always expect a new iPhone in September, and you can bet that Apple will continue making the case for newer platforms like the Apple Watch and the Apple TV, too. Most importantly, the company needs to return to year-over-year financial growth after a disappointing 2016. Last year, revenue fell for the first time since 2001, and Apple missed some of its own internal sales goals. Ordinarily, Apple’s success hinges mostly on the products it announced and those products’ quality. But 2017 has a new and unforeseen variable: President-elect Donald J. Trump. Trump’s journey from dark horse candidate in a crowded Republican field to unlikely nominee to president-elect was powered by unending media coverage and harsh rhetoric. And much of his rhetoric was about American companies and jobs—chiefly, the desire that they bring manufacturing jobs into America and stop outsourcing them to other countries. Apple was a frequent target of Trump’s criticism on the campaign trail. This was the candidate, remember, who encouraged supporters to boycott Apple because of its encryption policies while also condemning the company for building its products overseas. Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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If you missed it live, watch TASBot's AGDQ 2017 run then read about it below. Can you really, playably emulate games like Super Mario 64 and Portal on a stock standard SNES only by hacking in through the controller ports? The answer is still no, but for a brief moment at this week's Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) speedrunning marathon, it certainly looked like the impossible finally became possible. For years now, AGDQ has featured a block where TASBot (the Tool-Assisted Speedrun Robot) performs literally superhuman feats on classic consoles simply by sending data through the controller ports thousands of times per second. This year's block (viewable above) started off simply enough, with some show-offy perfect play of Galaga and Gradius on the new NES Classic hardware (a system that TASbot organizer Allan Cecil says is "absolutely horrible" when it comes to automation). After that, TASBot moved on to a few "total control runs," exploiting known glitches in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Mega Man to insert arbitrary code on the NES. This is nothing new for the computer-driven TASBot—the basics of the tricks vary by game, but they generally involve using buffer overflows to get into memory, then bootstrapping a loader that starts reading and executing a stream of controller inputs as raw assembly level opcodes. The method was taken to ridiculous extremes last year, when TASbot managed to "beat" Super Mario Bros. 3 in less than a second with a very specific total control glitch. Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino) Misfit hasn't changed much since joining the Fossil family. Its Phase hybrid smartwatch came out late last year and represents the most collaboration with Fossil the company has had. Around the same time as the Phase's launch, Fossil announced that most of its brands will come out with "hybrid" smartwatches, or fashionable timepieces that have some connected features. The Phase is Misfit's hybrid. It combines smart features like activity tracking with a design that fits in with the rest of its device family and that will (hopefully) appeal to Misfit fans. Starting at $175, the Phase hopes to prove that the right mix of crucial smart features and minimalist style is worth the same amount of money as a device that focuses on only one of those aspects. Design: More watch than smartwatch Misfit has always masked its wearables with stylish shells, but the Phase is its first attempt to make a true smartwatch. As far as design goes, the company succeeded: the 41mm case has an analog face with thin dashes instead of numbers or Roman numerals for each hour. There are just two buttons on its right side, and the two parts of its band can be easily detached using their button-like closures. Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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SpaceX On Saturday SpaceX triumphantly returned to flight after an accident last September, launching 10 Iridium satellites into an orbit 625km above the Earth's surface. As a bonus, the company also demonstrated its increasing mastery of rocket landings by bringing the first stage booster back to a drone ship off the California coast. SpaceX has now successfully landed seven rockets back on Earth. This flight was essential for SpaceX because the Falcon 9 rocket lies at the core of every aspect of SpaceX's business. Mission success means that the company can now move forward with its lofty ambitions for the year 2017, which include a long list of tasks to ensure a bright future for the rocket company in Hawthorne, California. Here's a look at the company's to-do list: Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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DETROIT—One of the home team, Ford had a few things to announce at this year's North American International Auto Show. Its best-seller, the F-150 truck, got a mid-life refresh, and the company announced that it's finally reintroducing the smaller Ranger truck to the US in a couple of years. The Bronco SUV will be reborn, too, a year after that. But some of the more interesting developments at the Blue Oval have been underway for a while now, as the company grows beyond car making into that ever-present buzzword, "mobility." Ford is working on self-driving technology, a range of plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles, and ride-hailing services. It's even found time to make a Le Mans-winning supercar. We sat down with Raj Nair, Ford's Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President, Product Development, to find out a bit more about those different programs and how Ford's business is changing: We sit down with Ford's Raj Nair at NAIAS. (video link) Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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(credit: European Southern Observatory (ESO)) A new paper in the journal Nature challenges the leading explanation for the Moon’s formation. The predominant idea is that the Moon was created after a planetary body roughly the size of Mars collided with the early Earth. The debris it sent up later coalesced into the Moon. But researchers are now revisiting the largely discarded idea that a series of smaller impacts with the Earth may have collectively built the Moon. Moon history The giant impact hypothesis was first proposed in the 1970s. When computers became powerful enough, we found that it worked in simulations. A glancing blow from a Mars-sized planetesimal leads to a disc of material around the young Earth that, over time, coalesces into the Moon. And planetesimals were readily available in the early Solar System, flying around on weird orbits which made collisions with planets very probable. In terms of its mass, angular momentum, and iron content, the Moon formed in these simulations was very similar to the real one we observe. But over the years, researchers kept running into difficulties with this model. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / A Toronto man made this cyber-samurai whip his hair... at my heart. (credit: HAL Laboratory, Inc) The industry of people watching other people play video games is serious bucks—and for many people, it's still seriously confusing. Game-streaming has become a pop-culture line dividing one generation from the next. It separates kids who subscribe to PewDiePie's YouTube channel from people who have no idea what a "poo-dee-pie" is. I think of myself somewhere in the middle—a young-ish man who is savvy about game-streaming services like Twitch and Beam but rarely logs into them. Typically, I'd rather play games than watch them being played, but my major exception is classic gaming. Sometimes, I like to load an old, known game being played by a whiz kid, perhaps as background noise while cooking or getting ready for bed. I like the quick-hit fix of digital nostalgia without having to re-learn the tough classics. More and more over the past few years, I have watched a particular niche of Twitch and YouTube streamers dedicated to these games: speedrunners. Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Z-Man) Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games. Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com—and let us know what you think. Have we reached "peak Cthulhu"? The Etsy crafting marketplace's 5,381 Cthulhu-themed items suggest that we have. (If you don't believe me, consider this "May Cthulhu devour this house last" bit of framed embroidery.) Even if we confine ourselves to the narrower world of board games, we can choose from titles like: Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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NES Launch: Donkey Kong (1983) This port of the arcade original, one of three titles to launch alongside the Famicom in 1983, was far from a perfect recreation, but it still represented a huge leap from the competing versions on systems from Atari and Coleco. In 2014, the US announced a new effort to understand the brain. Soon, we would map every single connection within the brain, track the activity of individual neurons, and start to piece together some of the fundamental units of biological cognition. The program was named BRAIN (for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), and it posited that we were on the verge of these breakthroughs because both imaging and analysis hardware were finally powerful enough to produce the necessary data, and we had the software and processing power to make sense of it. But this week, PLoS Computational Biology published a cautionary note that suggests we may be getting ahead of ourselves. Part experiment, part polemic, a computer scientist got together with a biologist to apply the latest neurobiology approaches to a system we understand far more completely than the brain: a processor booting up the games Donkey Kong and Space Invaders. The results were about as awkward as you might expect, and they helped the researchers make their larger point: we may not understand the brain well enough to understand the brain. On the surface, this may sound a bit ludicrous. But it gets at something fundamental to the nature of science. Science works on the basis of having models that can be used to make predictions. You can test those models and use the results to refine them. And you have to understand a system on at least some level to build those models in the first place. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A look at some of the highlights of the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Video shot and edited by Jennifer Hahn. (video link) DETROIT—Once the crown jewel of the US auto industry, the annual North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) has lacked a bit of its usual luster in recent years. Like November's Los Angeles Auto Show, Detroit has felt the effect of many OEMs instead choosing to annually exhibit their work at the wider-reaching Consumer Electronics Show. That said, there was still plenty to see in Detroit this year. We encountered replacements for best sellers like the Toyota Camry, BMW 5 Series, and Ford F-150. Kia grabbed plenty of attention on the eve of the show with its sporty Stinger GT. And, of course, there were concept cars. Whether outlandish or almost production-ready, these event staples lurked almost everywhere we looked. Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / What are these Joy-Cons I see before me? (credit: Mark Walton + Sebastian's hands) The Nintendo Switch is trying to be all things to all gamers. This can be a strength in some ways, but it's starting to come off as more of a confused weakness. This is the conclusion I've come to after watching Nintendo's jarringly disjointed presentation out of Tokyo Thursday night, and then spending the bulk of Friday trying out the system in person. Nintendo is presenting the Switch as the ultimate evolution of its portable line and a high-end TV console at the same time. Switch is supposed to be a casual, socially focused system with motion and touch-screen controls, and a "hardcore" system with complex single-player epics like Zelda, Skyrim and Xenoblade. It's a lower-powered alternative to the "top end" consoles, but also a "1080p" TV gaming machine that practically matches the competition in price. It's a floor wax and a dessert topping. In trying to be a jack of all trades, the Switch seems to be mastering some of those trades better than others. Your initial impressions of the system will depend largely on which of those roles you most expect it to fulfill. Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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