The pool table that levels itself in rough seas

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

Some things don’t make sense. At least to one’s eyes.

So when I saw the YouTube video I’ve embedded, I wondered whether it could possibly be real. Yet this purports to be a pool table on a cruise ship in rough water.

The poster claims that this pool table was a cruise ship called “Radiance of the Seas” on its way back from New Zealand last December.

I went to the Royal Caribbean site to check whether this might be true. And, indeed, there I found the boast that this is the first self-leveling pool table at sea.

It is, apparently, controlled by a gyroscope and what fascinates my own eyes are the way the balls don’t move at all, even as the table sways like a large uncle at a wedding.

Moreover, not being one who goes on cruises (for fear of sickness, claustrophobia, and an excess of strange people), I am amazed how the pool players also seemed stable in the midst of these rough seas.

Still, perhaps they’d had a few drinks, so any sense of level becomes a relative–and fairly emotional–concept.

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Atlantic Technology’s big-sounding little speaker takes it to the max

I admit it: I like big speakers, the bigger the better as far as I’m concerned.

Atlantic Technology AT-2 speakers

Atlantic Technology)

Big speakers sound more realistic, they play louder with lower distortion, and they have better and deeper bass than small speakers. Then again, I’m an audiophile, so I prioritize sound quality over almost everything else. I also know big speakers are out of the question for most folks, but what if there were a reasonably sized speaker that produced big-speaker sound? The Atlantic Technology AT-2 is such a speaker.

It was just last year when Atlantic’s AT-1 tower speaker ($3,000 a pair) rocked the audiophile world and garnered a slew of rave reviews, so when I heard the smaller AT-2 ($1,800 a pair) was about to be released I just had to get it for review. It did not disappoint.

How little is it? The AT-2 is 15.3×8.9×12.6 inches, and it has a 5.25-inch woofer and a 1.1-inch soft dome tweeter. The side panels are finished in a sharp-looking black metal flake paint. The rest of the speaker is matte black. The rear panel has all-metal bi-wire speaker connectors and a three-position tweeter level switch. That’s a nice touch, you can fine-tune the speakers’ treble balance to your taste.

Speaker designers use bass ports and equalization techniques to boost bass, but small speakers’ bass quality and quantity have always suffered in direct comparison with the best larger designs. The AT-2 is a game changer on that front, thanks to Atlantic’s new bass-enhancing technology called H-PAS (Hybrid Pressure Acceleration System). It’s a purely acoustic (non-electronic) approach that uses a series of tuned chambers inside the cabinet to coax an extraordinary amount of bass from the 5.25-inch woofer. The AT-2 has a large rectangular bass port on its front baffle, which is covered with a perforated metal grille.

The AT-2’s bass was very smooth down to around 45Hz in my large room (that’s very deep bass), but it was the quality of the bass and the overall sound that clinched the deal for me. Most tower speakers in the AT-2’s price class don’t go a lot deeper than that. So if you have a hankering for towers, but you need something small and manageable, the AT-2 should be on your short list.

I played Philip Glass’ “Koyaanisqatsi,” which opens with a ominously deep organ passage and the AT-2 didn’t complain. Almost every other small speaker I’ve tested has come undone with “Koyaanisqatsi,” but not this one.

Now, sure, you could add a subwoofer and have deep bass from a system with small speakers, but there’s no way the sub and speakers would blend as well as what I’m getting here with the AT-2; it really does sound like a mighty tower. The bass isn’t overblown or exaggerated; it’s tight, well-defined, and nimble.

That’s also an apt description of the overall sound of the speaker. Dynamics are strong and gutsy, again far beyond what I would expect from a small speaker. The 1.1-inch tweeter is smooth and clear, and beautifully integrated with the woofer. I cranked Tom Petty the Heartbreakers’ “The Live Anthology” CD nice and loud, and didn’t feel the AT-2s were holding anything back.

I auditioned the AT-2 in a stereo system, but it would be terrific in a home theater, matched with Atlantic’s 4400C center-channel speaker ($625); 4400SR surround-channel speakers ($1,000 a pair); and the 642eSB subwoofer ($1,250). Atlantic is readying its first H-PAS soundbar speaker, and I will definitely want to be among the first to review it here. It will be under $1,000.

It’s only February, but I think the AT-2 has a good chance of being the Audiophiliac’s Speaker of the Year for 2012, it’s that good!

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Ford making Sync standard on Fusion, Flex

Ford is making Sync a standard feature in the 2013 Fusion and Flex.

Ford is making Sync a standard feature in the 2013 Fusion and Flex.


Ford is making it easier for a lot of its drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

The auto manufacturer announced yesterday that it will make its industry-leading Sync voice-activation system standard on all trim levels of the 2013 Ford Fusion sedan and and Flex crossover. Sync is Ford’s hands-free system for making calls or accessing the audio system. When used with Sync Services, which is free for the first three years and $60 per year thereafter, drivers can use voice commands to get turn-by-turn directions or listen to news headlines, sports scores, horoscopes, and movie listings.

Having Sync in the vehicle means that Fusion and Flex owners will also be able to use Sync AppLink to integrate some smartphone apps with the hands-free system. You will be able to use voice commands to skip songs on Pandora or change stations on Stitcher when your phone is paired to the system. Other benefits of Sync include 911 Assist and Sync Destinations.

The voice-activation option previously cost $295, and enjoyed a 95 percent uptake on the Flex and 84 percent in the Fusion for 2012 models. Making a cash cow like Sync a standard feature is a curious business move, but Kia and Hyundai may be forcing Ford’s hand with their low-priced and feature-rich vehicles.

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An arcadian ode to the old arcade

Edward Moyer/CNET)

SANTA MONICA, Calif.–There was a time, not all that long ago, when the only way to play a decent (or indeed most any) “computer game” was to seek one out at a local pizza parlor or bowling alley–or, if you were lucky and your neighborhood had been blessed with such an establishment, the local arcade.

In fact, computer games weren’t computer games yet. They were video games, or arcade games.

I can remember the excitement my friends and I felt when our neighborhood suddenly witnessed the arrival of a “real” video arcade. Space Invaders had been around for a while by then (how cool was it that the Pretenders had recorded an instrumental in its honor, complete with a sampling of the game’s throbbing, threatening sound effects?). But the newly opened Louie’s brought us a startling array of bright, beeping, and then-revolutionary games with strange and thrilling names like Pac-Man and Centipede.

I recall walking the several blocks to Louie’s, my hand in pocket silently translating the feel of my allowance into a tally of the games I might enjoy that day. If I played well, I could theoretically extend the value of my allowance money forever, racking up bonus points and high scores, leaping from level to level until the end of time. (Of course I never played that well. Not even close.)

Tuesday afternoon at the arcade (photos)

I remember the brightly colored
car-lot flags that hung from the arcade’s facade. They festively flapped as I walked toward the door to be greeted by the day’s first strain of Pac-Man’s hurdy-gurdyish between-rounds theme. (It was the day’s first strain, but very far from its last–indeed, after hours spent at the arcade, I’d hear that theme in my sleep.)

And I remember well the ritual and pageantry of the world inside the arcade: the staring over shoulders to watch a friend’s gameplay; the eye-popping graphics on the machines themselves; the solidity of the machines–the heavy plastic buttons, and the joystick knobs like golf balls or stones. And, of course, I remember the most important machine of all: the one that spit out quarters (provided you had a bill or two to offer up as a sacrifice).

Of course, all that’s changed now. Home gaming consoles long ago pushed the arcade and its hulking machines far off to the periphery. And more recently, mobile gaming on smartphones has threatened to wipe out the arcade completely.

But there are still some to be found. And perhaps they’ll be around in some form or another for a while yet: the one I encountered most recently even held relics that spoke of a time long before the existence of Pac-Man, Centipede, or even Space Invaders.

The Playland Arcade on Southern California’s Santa Monica Pier is truly an arcade. It features not only beautifully battle-scarred Pac-Man machines, but also an old-school (though coin-operated) shooting gallery, a line of Skee Ball lanes, an arrangement of air hockey and foosball tables, many pinball machines, a gizmo that makes mementos of pennies, and a mechanical fortune teller or two.

Opened in 1954, it’s still owned by the same family, and it still seems to be chugging along rather healthily. Perhaps it’s the ocean air. Whatever the case, Playland feels like a living museum of sorts, a curio shop of pop culture, a last resting place for the all-but-forgotten recreational rituals of yesteryear.

iPhones or not, and Angry Birds aside, this particular arcade endures. I offer up a selection of photographs as an homage to gamers and games of years gone by, as a tribute to the possibly endangered, but not yet dead, atmosphere of the arcade itself.

And, please, share your own fond memories of visits to your local arcade. If we all had a dime for every quarter we spent…

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CNET Roadside Assistance 44: Why we’ll never see the iCarStereo (podcast)

Users want to know the best way to use their
iPhone‘s and iPads in the
car and we explain why Apple will never just build its own version of the AppRadio.

Listen now:

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iMac robot, faux Steve Jobs snapped in Tokyo

The blogosphere, as you know, is a giant echo chamber. Someone posts something and other sites parrot it like ventriloquist dummies, verbatim or nearly so. But does it matter if the original post is wrong?

Case in point: The pic below surfaced on MIC Gadget recently. It suggests this fellow in a very awesome robot costume, seemingly fashioned out of old iMac parts, appeared in Chongqing, China, along with his mutton-chopped Steve Jobs sidekick striking a Moses pose.

Apple fans in Japan, not China.

MIC Gadget)

It’s been making the rounds recently, with Gizmodo, io9, Cult of Mac, Geekosystem, and Geekologie, among others, hailing the Macbot in China.

The thing is the photo was taken in Tokyo, Japan, not China. If you’ve ever been to the Tokyo Big Sight convention center, you’ll remember its unmistakable inverted pyramids in the background of the photo.

I’ve been to Big Sight many times to cover trade shows, and figured the Apple duo attended a convention there. So I did a little digging on Japanese news and blog sites and, natch, they showed up.

As this photo from Japan’s Walker Plus magazine shows, they attended an outdoor costume party at Comiket, the world’s biggest fan-authored comics event, back in late December. So-called cosplayers dress up as their fave anime or manga characters, celebrities, monsters, or their own creations like ASCII art masked men.

Comiket, which attracts roughly half a million people over three days, is a wild event and showcases the colorful side of otaku and fanboy culture in Japan. Check out some other nutty cosplayer photos here (caution: erotic, freakish outfits abound).

The fact that these guys were photographed in Japan, and not China, is tangential to the wow factor of the
Mac cybersuit. But I think they deserve enough credit, for all the effort that went into making that costume and getting it to Comiket, to get the caption right.

I’m still looking for the names of these noble cosplayers. Meanwhile, I asked MIC Gadget why it calls the Mac man “The Most Bad-Ass Apple Fanboy in China,” but have yet to hear from them. I suspect it has something to do with the site taking its “tech knockoffs” focus to heart.

The photo has since disappeared from the post.

It all goes to show that when it comes to the blogosphere, particularly the tornado of ephemera that is tech blogging, caveat lector.

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