editorial

It’s time this car safety tech was standard

It’s time this car safety tech was standard

Some car technology is frivolous or pure luxury; other added-extras are a matter of personal taste. If you want leather seats, or a 1,300W audio system, or autonomous parking, you probably should pay extra for it. Even some safety technology, like adaptive cruise control or active lane-keeping assistance, falls into the convenience category more than a must-have essential.

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For me, Carrie Fisher’s Leia was more than just ‘one of the boys’

For me, Carrie Fisher’s Leia was more than just ‘one of the boys’

I was somewhere around age 7 when I first saw A New Hope, then just known as Star Wars, and it ignited many things in my young mind. A love for storytelling, a love for science fiction specifically, and the stubborn insistence that lightsabers must exist somewhere regardless of what everyone said. It wasn’t until I watched Return of the Jedi, though, that Star Wars — and Carrie Fisher specifically — revolutionized my understanding of life and my place in it.

Star Wars was many things to me — a classic battle between good and evil, hope that the underdog could persevere against seemingly impossible odds, and, of course, a fun look at an imagined distant future. A New Hope reflected the world I’d perceived and known up to that point: boys having fun and being important and the one token girl being, well, a princess. An admittedly badass princess, but still.

It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the Princess Leia presented in A New Hope, but I didn’t see anything outside of what I knew as normal. She was exactly what I expected the princess to be. Luke was the special Jedi who got a lightsaber and a vital role in changing the galaxy. Han had a huge ship and all these connections amongst many worlds. Princess Leia needed help.

I’d declared at a young age that I wished I was a boy because boys were important and got to have the most fun. I had this idea of what a princess was, and it involved a hefty dose of forced helplessness. Being a girl meant having a lot of pink toys and being admonished about all the things that weren’t ladylike, and while that didn't describe the Princess Leia of A New Hope, I figured she'd had to put up with all that stuff, too.

Princess Leia was okay, but I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. And so I felt like someone must have made a mistake and I was supposed to be a boy. There couldn't be any other answer, I'd figured.

Fast-forward to Return of the Jedi and the plot twist that my young self never saw coming: Luke had a sister, and that sister had the Force, and that sister was Princess Leia. To most adults it seemed like a somewhat cheesy twist, given the love interest angle of the previous movies, but to me it was something else entirely: the very first moment I realized girls could be just as special as boys. She wasn't just a princess tagging along with the boys, she was just as important as them.

Fisher's role in the Star Wars world took on a new form in Return of the Jedi, and she steered it masterfully. Princess Leia wasn't just a stereotypical princess, and at the same time she wasn't a stereotypical "one of the boys" character who tried too hard to be masculine as if the feminine aspects of her personality were shameful.

This point was driven home during the Endor battle scene in which Leia was both warrior and nurturer, being able to hold her own against Imperial forces without needing the boys' help, and at the same time being gentle and loving toward the ewoks and, later on, having no qualms about donning a dress and braiding her hair.

It may sound like such simple things, but to many girls watching those movies for the first time, Fisher presented (and still presents) a look at what could be. You didn't have to be a boy to be special. You didn't have to be saved or sit on the sidelines, and you didn't have to pretend to be a boy or act tough all the time. I stopped wanting to be a boy or be Luke, and I decided I wanted to be like Princess Leia instead: someone who could be a person instead of just a girl.

In light of Fisher's passing, many narratives about her life will no doubt arise across social media in coming days. Many can't seem to help pointing out her past drug use, and others dismiss her as just an actress. Like Leia, though, she was more than any single one thing: she was a person who lived a complex life, and she wasn't afraid to be herself. Her influence will ultimately outlive any single narrative that may arise, and she'll no doubt continue to influence young viewers for years to come.

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Snapchat could make Augmented Reality mass-market

Snapchat could make Augmented Reality mass-market

Snapchat's reported $30m buy of an Augmented Reality specialist could be the key to taking mixed-reality mainstream, as its real-world users embrace virtual products. The news earlier this week that Snapchat owner Snap paid as much as $40m for Cimagine, an AR startup focusing on making online shopping more immersive, prompted questions as to just what the ephemeral messaging app might have in mind. Certainly, with its vast cohort of Millennial users, it could be the first truly successful push of Augmented Reality into the mass market.

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The big, frustrating thing Google Wifi is missing

The big, frustrating thing Google Wifi is missing

Google Wifi may look like a shorter, squatter version of Google Home, but while the two smart home devices might share DNA, there's oddly little overlap. The mesh router, which began shipping earlier this month, doesn't stint on features to go with its boosted range. Despite that, there's still one big thing missing.

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Amazon Go may kill retail jobs but privacy is the real victim

Amazon Go may kill retail jobs but privacy is the real victim

If Amazon Go has taught anybody anything today, it's shown retail employees exactly what long-distance truckers meant by the sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach when they realized tech could make them obsolete. Just as autonomous semis could cut human drivers out of tomorrow's haulage, so Amazon's surprise announcement of an unstaffed store that replaces the checkout line with artificial intelligence could have a big impact on retail and the jobs involved in it. Even if it's not the person at the register that's made redundant, an unblinking AI could have big implications for today's stores.

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USB-C could kill Lightning, but Apple can’t afford it

USB-C could kill Lightning, but Apple can’t afford it

Apple could technically kill off Lightning on the iPhone and still maintain an iron-fisted grip over its MFi program, but the outcry over a switch to USB-C might prove too costly for it to happen today. With the arrival of the new MacBook Pro there’s been no shortage of commentary about the ports you’ll find on your Apple smartphone versus those you now get on your Apple notebook, and a fair amount of that has not been flattering. The “Made For iPhone/iPod/iPad” MFi program has been blamed by many for that disparity, but it may not be quite the culprit it's accused of being.

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A simple fix for the new MacBook Pro’s big problem

A simple fix for the new MacBook Pro’s big problem

Courage is a double-edged sword, and while consumers may have taken the death of the iPhone 7 headphone jack in their stride, professionals aren't being so generous with the new MacBook Pro. Apple's decision to ditch almost all the legacy ports on its flagship notebook was done in the name of ushering in widespread adoption of Thunderbolt 3 and enabling a thinner machine. However, while Thunderbolt 3 may undoubtedly be a better connector than the bevy of sockets along the edge of the old MacBook Pro, the Cupertino firm's decision to go slim has frustrated many who have legacy devices to plug in, and who were hoping for a more significant power upgrade.

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Apple early-adopted itself into a dongle nightmare

Apple early-adopted itself into a dongle nightmare

Apple has a dongle problem, and it only has itself to blame. The company's new MacBook Pro line-up, with as many as four Thunderbolt 3 ports, finds itself on the cutting-edge of notebook connectivity, but it's a rare owner indeed who will be quite so modern in their digital lifestyle. Just as an ethernet adapter was par for the course with the old MacBook Pro, so even more dongles and connectors are likely to feature in the laptop bag of the typical new MacBook Pro user.

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Let’s get real on iPhone 8 rumors

Let’s get real on iPhone 8 rumors

Even before the iPhone 7 came out, people were speculating on what’s next for Apple’s 2017 iPhone. Some even believe Apple will skip it’s tried-and-true tick-tock release cycle and skip ahead to the iPhone 10 to coincide with the iPhone’s 10th anniversary (2007-2017; time flies). And there’s speculation the iPhone as we know it will turn into something completely different — something less like a phone and more like a pocket projector. And it’s all nonsense.

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There are still more questions than answers about the Chevrolet Bolt EV

There are still more questions than answers about the Chevrolet Bolt EV

It was a moment of celebration for one of the American auto industry's stalwarts: the Chevrolet Bolt EV would, at 238 miles, go further than Elon Musk's upstart Tesla Model 3. Cue flag-waving in Detroit, not least because the Bolt EV is expected to arrive at dealerships later this year, versus the late 2017 promised for the "cheap" Tesla. Nonetheless, while the early feedback has been fairly glowing from drivers given previews at the electric car's wheel, there's still a lot Chevrolet has to do before the Bolt EV is anywhere near ready for primetime.

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Apple must take its iPhone 7 AirPods decision and run with it

Apple must take its iPhone 7 AirPods decision and run with it

If you're not already sick and tired of hearing arguments about Apple's iPhone 7 headphone jack decision, don't worry: give it a few days and you'll be ready to strangle yourself with your outmoded 3.5mm cable. Whether or not I agree the decision to ditch the legacy - but apparently beloved - port was as "courageous" as Apple's Phil Schiller argued on stage this week, there's one thing I'm pretty certain of, though: Apple will not reverse course.

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I was wrong about Project Ara

I was wrong about Project Ara

Google has given up on Project Ara, another of the company's more intriguing skunkworks projects shuttered without making the big waves the initial hullabaloo promised. Ara was to usher in a new generation of upgradable, wildly flexible smartphones: a platform that would both buck the trend of the relentless replacement cycle, and unlock possibilities for niche and custom gadgets that wouldn't make financial sense as a traditional device.

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