Wednesday, June 24, 2015

IT News Head Lines (TweakTown) 6/25/2015


Want Fallout 4 Pip-Boy edition? Check Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop
If you want to get your hands on a Fallout 4 Pip-Boy special edition, it looks like you'll have a chance throughout this week.

"Looks like having high stats in Charisma and Luck have paid off," according to the Bethesda blog post. "With so many of you looking to procure the recently announced Pip-Boy Edition for Fallout 4, we've managed to squeeze some more Pip-Boys out of the factories."

US gamers can find the special edition at GameStop, Best Buy and, while Canadian gamers can find it at Best Buy,, and EB Games. Bethesda will offer an update for European gamers sometime in the near future.

Fallout 4 is expected to launch sometime this fall for the PC, Microsoft Xbox One, and Sony PlayStation 4. The game will be limited to 1080p and 30 fps on the Xbox One and PS4, but there will be no restrictions for PC gamers.

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Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan discusses Apple Music drama
The ongoing drama involving Apple Music, which has been pitted as Taylor Swift vs. Apple Music, has given other musicians the chance to speak out. Apple Music launches on June 30, and there is a bit of drama and chaos regarding the music service already, so the streaming music market could be even more exciting.

"Apple is making the same mistake Tidal made," Corgan recently said while speaking with Squawk Alley." "I applaud her for taking a stand, but this is going to be played out by the media as 'Taylor versus Apple,' and that's not the real story."

Corgan noted that Apple's attention to just the top-tier artists is a mistake, and could make things rather interesting moving forward:

"The real story is the 10,000 other artists that Apple doesn't pay attention to past their top 12. Once artists understand the power they have in this marketplace, all heck's going to break loose. This is a big admission on Apple's part that they're afraid of the negative tide that could be beginning, so they want to nip it in the bud."

As for what lies ahead in the streaming music battle, Corgan predicted a "bloody turf war" as more artists begin to "wake up."

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Robots need realistic faces and emotions to help us feel comfortable
Just developing a robot is no longer enough, as more humans begin to interact with a variety of different models available. Recent breakthroughs allow robots to look more lifelike and provide even more tasks, such as customer service and assistance - but it's no longer enough to just have a robot look like a human.

To help with better human-robot interaction, the robots must be able to convey realistic emotions, particularly using facial expressions. It is rather disconcerting to see a robot that is smiling but its eyes cannot share the same emotion.

It remains a challenge to perfect facial expressions and emotions, so receptionists, store greeters, and other jobs held by humans will likely be safe - for now.

SoftBank's Pepper humanoid robot has the ability to develop its own personality and accurately identifh human emotions - giving it the unique ability to specialize its interactions with humans.

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Ford is showing continued interest in autonomous vehicle research
Ford announced it has created a new global team focused on researching and developing autonomous vehicles, while also creating driver-assist technologies.

Ford has shown more focus on automatic breaking, pedestrian detection and other semi-autonomous features that can be rolled out to its vehicles. Improving these technologies can be utilized towards the ultimate goal of an autonomous Ford vehicle.

"For us, autonomous vehicles are about making the technology accessible to everyone, just as Henry Ford did with the automobile a century ago," said Raj Nair, group VP of global product development at Ford, while speaking at the company's Bay Area research lab. "Our team is now working to make this technology feasible for production."

Although Ford isn't as far along as GM, Audi, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz and other companies in regards to autonomous vehicle technology, Ford hopes to make autonomous vehicles available to the masses. Some automakers said 2020 is the projected year of autonomous vehicle launches, however, Nair didn't offer a timetable.

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Xbox One in Japan hits a new low, selling just 100 units in one week
Microsoft just can't catch a break while promoting the Xbox One in Japan, selling just 100 units from June 8 to June 14, according to 4Gamer. The PlayStation 4 sold 10,822 units - and the aging PlayStation 3 managed to rack up 2,633 sales during the same hellish week for Microsoft.

It's not a surprise that Japanese gamers prefer hardware from Sony and Nintendo - and Microsoft knew it'd be a major fight to sell the Xbox One in Japan - but this is a new all-time low for Microsoft. However, the original Xbox and Xbox 360 didn't struggle this much in Japan, where a tech and gaming savvy population loves embracing new technologies.

Late last year, Xbox boss Phil Spencer noted that Japan isn't an easy market for the company's consoles, but vowed to try to "conquer Japan." Well, keep trying Microsoft...

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Qualcomm is interested in taking over AMD
Things have heated up in the AMD space hours before the launch of the Radeon R9 Fury X, with rumors circling that Qualcomm is interested in acquiring AMD, according to a report by Seeking Alpha.

Without a large amount of success in recent times there has been many claims by public and media alike of AMD beginning a struggle, without any reports pointing out a direction or solution that AMD might undergo in order to fix its 'issues'. However, in a report by investor company Seeking Alpha, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf mentioned that he is interested in taking over a larger portion of the server scene and adjacent markets - this saw AMD pointed out as the most realistic financial possibility.

There's a few assumptions made here that Qualcomm will either buy out the AMD server business solely or the complete company itself - however, it's one of the best theories put forward yet. AMD recently denied spin-off talk, which helps solidify the idea that it may sell up completely to Qualcomm, rather than pushing away parts of its business.

If Qualcomm is to take over, we can expect to see the Snapdragon processor come out in full force, something that is already included in many mobile applications and the chip that this company is most well known for in the public scene.

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Nintendo: 'Increasing our capacity' to create new video games, content
Nintendo has had great success with its Amiibo character figurines, but is still fully dedicated to creating new video games and consoles for customers. The Japanese game company is on track to release more game titles through the second half of 2015 than it did throughout all of 2014.

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime understands the challenges related to Amiibo, and says the company will continue to launch additional figures in the future.

"There's no issue with our first- and second-party development," Fils-Aime told Polygon. "In fact, I don't know if you've been to Kyoto recently, but we've got a whole new R&D building that is full of developers; whether they are software developers or hardware developers. So, we're increasing our capacity to create more content. We're focused on creating great content."

Even though the company is considering options away from just gaming consoles, Nintendo remains fully dedicated to providing a fun gaming experience. Of course, Amiibo - which has suffered continued supply issues - remains a fun challenge for the people involved in the project, Fils-Aime noted.

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Google announces free, ad-supported version of Google Play Music
Google today launched a free, ad-supported version of its Google Play Music service, in an effort to steal a bit of publicity ahead of the Apple Music launch next week. Google Play Music has been around for a couple of years with a $9.99 per month subscription, allowing music listeners to create their own custom playlists.

The new public offering won't be available offline and will not have access to some songs - and is a marketing effort to recruit new members. Although many users visit Google Play Music, they don't stick around due to the monthly subscription costs.

"We want to attract even more users, give them a taste of the service and hope they subscribe over time," said Zahavah Levine, VP of partnerships at Google Play, in a statement published by USA Today. It seems like offering a free trial - whether ad-supported or a set amount of free testing - is the ideal way to lure in new listeners.

The free, ad-supported version of Google Play Music is available on the Web today, and will roll out later this week for Google Android and Apple iOS devices.


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Microsoft getting paid millions to support Windows XP for US Navy
The US Navy was unable to upgrade from Windows XP before Microsoft pulled the plug on support, and will pay at least $9 million for additional help. Specifically, the Navy will receive critical hotfixes and additional software patches for Windows XP and other software.

The deal is expected to run until July 2016, though both sides agreed to the possibility of support until June 2017 - and would cost over $30 million. Without going into details, the Navy has "legacy applications" that must run on Windows XP - and it is taking longer than expected to make upgrades and improvements.

"Nearly all the networks and workstations afloat and ashore will benefit from the Microsoft Premier Support services and Microsoft Custom Support services for Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Server 2003,"said Steven Davis, spokesman for Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, in a statement published by ZDNET.

The agreement between the Navy and Microsoft will allow the military to "maintain enterprise-wide Microsoft capabilities to ensure Navy warfighters have connectivity to their respective networks and to the data necessary to support and accomplish their mission."

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Want to use Cortana on the Xbox One? You'll need a Kinect
If you're looking forward to using the Cortana intelligent personal assistant on the Xbox One, it looks like you'll need a Kinect unit. Cortana integration is expected with a new Xbox One dashboard update sometime in 2015, which is scheduled for some time in the fall.

At the end of this teaser trailer, the following small print is displayed: "Kinect required for Cortana speech recognition."

Even though Cortana responds to voice commands, it's curious since Microsoft didn't spend much time promoting the Kinect during E3. In addition, the Xbox One and Kinect were unbundled in 2014, which allowed Microsoft to cut Xbox One prices.

Microsoft previously said the Kinect isn't dead and that the company is "absolutely continuing to support Kinect," with support offered "where it makes sense."

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Take Your Network Engineering Career to the Next Level
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Ready to take your career to the next level with help from this bundle? Get it for $59 at TweakTown Deals.

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Samsung wants to make trucks 'transparent' for safety reasons
Samsung showed off its "Safety Truck," a customized truck that has a live-feed screen on the back of the truck that streams from a front-mounted camera. The truck is able to let drivers see a real-time view of all oncoming traffic, so you'll be able to determine if it's safe to pass the truck.

The front-mounted camera is cheap enough, but the four outdoor displays are rather pricey - and even with Samsung applying for regulatory approval, it's difficult to imagine this is an affordable effort any time soon. This is still an early prototype project, so additional testing will be required.

If rolled out on a wide scale, this would be especially ideal on single-lane highways - and Samsung has already tested out the truck in Argentina. Additional tests in other locations are currently in the works, though Samsung didn't offer additional details.


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Former Pandora exec says Taylor Swift's antics are 'mostly theater'
Apple moved fast to win over Taylor Swift and musicians, when the company announced it would pay artists while users are enjoying a three-month free trial of Apple Music. Tom Conrad, former CTO and EVP of Product at Pandora, recently took to Twitter to discuss the current drama between Apple and Swift.

Apple Music launches on June 30 and will charge $9.99 per month to subscribers, but is offering a three-month free trial. Swift said she would not allow her "1989" album to be available on the service, in an effort to make a stand for rising indie artists - saying it's not fair they wouldn't be paid by Apple.

"Spotify, YouTube, Pandora and others all pay artists for their free tiers and trials," Conrad said via Twitter. "It's the right thing to do. Swift took her new album off Spotify not because she's not paid, but because she feels their free service 'devalues music.' Swift never pulled from YouTube which is the most popular free service and certainly devalues music if Spotify does."

Conrad also spoke regarding how Swift helped build her career, and Apple's recent change of heart.

"Swift's career was built on terrestrial radio play, which is a free service and doesn't pay recording artists a dime. Apple isn't getting rid of its long free trial, but is now going to pay artists. This simply puts it at parity with all other players. Reminder: Apple uses music to make billions off hardware. Artists see nothing from this. Swift's letter and Apple's response is mostly theater. Nothing here to suggest Apple treats artists more fairly than anyone else."

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EA: Brand and quality are important for mobile game development
Electronic Arts and other major game companies are fascinated by mobile game development, even though casual gaming has been successful. It looks like the overall quality of mobile games is increasing, with more development funds and focus on creating a popular new Apple iOS or Google Android offering.

Following Take-Two transitioning Grand Theft Auto for mobile devices via premium sales, studios aren't showing as much interest in live services. However, a free-to-play live-service gaming trend could eventually draw some attention:

"Some will. It'll vary. The Grand Theft Auto game has been relatively successful over the last two or three years," said Bill Mooney, VP and GM at EA Mobile, in a statement to GamesBeat. "It would be a question of whether it's the halo or the experience itself. I'm not capable of answering that. EA believes that some of those hardcore gamer brands - you'll see us explore - in a methodical - committed fashion, stuff like sports. Some of our other brands I expect we'll do. We're actively working on it. I myself am working on brands that gamers love."

Trying to convert hardcore gamers into mobile gamers has been relatively difficult, which is why casual games tend to do extremely well on smartphones and tablets.

However, some recent successes indicate getting PC and console gamers to embrace mobile isn't impossible. For example, Bethesda Softworks created Fallout Shelter, which has turned into the No. 1 app for iOS, with the studio promising an Android version is in the works.

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Sony: On schedule to launch Project Morpheus during first half of 2016
Virtual reality proved to be extremely popular during E3, with much attention on developments for the Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus. Sony is expected to launch Morpheus sometime during the first half of 2016 for consumers, and Sony said its on schedule.

"In terms of development, it's going very well," said Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony's Worldwide Studios for Sony Computer Entertainment, in a statement to Engadget. "The hardware is near-complete."

Now that Sony says the team has hardware development locked in, there is more attention towards software development.

"Next up is the system software guys. They have to make sure the integration is seamless. We're not showing the OS side of [Morpheus]. But the team is working hard on that. That's going to come out later, before the launch. And, of course, we've been supporting the third-parties and the first-party development and everything has to align. So we are waiting for that time to come. Overall, we're on schedule."

Consumers will want reliable, developed hardware and evidence that they will have video games and other software to help them enjoy VR. It should be an exciting second half of 2015, and next year is shaping up to be even better.

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Netgear Powerline 1200 Network Adapter Review
With the launch of the latest Powerline networking technology, Netgear, like many other vendors, has launched their 1200Mbps solution. The PL1200 as Netgear has branded this latest kit carries some unique features that set it apart from the rest.

The Netgear PL1200 along with the latest Powerline technology supporting speeds up to 1200 Mbps also carries plug and play functionality and one touch security. MIMO or multiple streams are used within the Netgear platform allowing users to connect multiples of adapters to expand your network with reliability. Adding to the package, the PL1200 kit features smart technology that allows the adapters to power down when not in use saving energy over older solutions.

MSRP of the Netgear PL1200 is listed at $79.99 with a one-year warranty.

Packaging for the Netgear PL1200 carries an image of the kit to the left with marketing information to the right. The top of the packaging displays the performance at up to 1200 Mbps.

Scope of delivery includes both adapters, two Ethernet cables, and a quick start guide.

The adapters, like most, house three LEDs on the front. Each of the LEDs denote a specific function including power, connectivity, and security.

The bottom of the adapter houses the Ethernet port, reset, and security button.

Like I have stated in past reviews, Powerline 1200 technology makes use of the third prong for its increased performance.

Performance of the kit was quite good. When compared to our previous best kit, the TRENDnet TPL420, the Netgear solution is right on par with it from start to finish at 400 Mbps.

In the last month, we have seen Powerline 1200 solutions come flying through the lab. With our first being the TRENDnet that was quickly followed up with Comtrend and now Netgear. Out of all these kits, we have seen the Netgear device fits right up there as one of the better units in terms of build quality. One touch security makes setting up these adapters really simple and allows users to quickly extend their home network, without the need for an intense amount of Ethernet cabling.

Performance of the PL1200 was right with that of the TRENDnet solution as we found above in our chart. Throughout testing, we saw the Netgear kit hover around 400 Mbps, which seems to be the average for this technology so far. Adding to the functionality of the PL1200 kit is the ability for these units to shut down when not in use, saving energy and precious network bandwidth.

Overall, Netgear has done a great job in the design and functionality of this kit, and adding to it is the amazing MSRP of just $79.99.

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Available Tags:Apple , Ford , Xbox , AMD , Google , Google , Microsoft , Windows , Kinect , Samsung

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