Monday, July 6, 2015

IT News Head Lines (Techradar) 7/7/2015


Opinion: Sweeping changes at Microsoft: Nadella's vision is in full effect
Opinion: Sweeping changes at Microsoft: Nadella's vision is in full effect

Introduction and possible innovations

Stephen Elop is gone and with him, arguably, goes the ideas of Nokia, a company that Microsoft spent a whopping $7.2 billion (around £4.6 billion, or AU$9.4 billion) on last year. In a company-wide memo, Satya Nadella told employees that the new direction was aimed at "aligning our engineering efforts and capabilities to deliver on our strategy and, in particular, our three core ambitions".
This new strategy is focused far more on the services that you use rather than the devices you use those services on, as Microsoft has opened up to a range of platforms. Nadella, it would seem, is sticking to his click mouse "cloud first, mobile first" mantra.

Penn out

The reorganisation also saw the departure of Mark Penn, the man responsible for the "Scroogled" ads which directly attacked Google's ethics. From a political background, Penn's influence on how Microsoft responded to other companies could broadly be seen as a reflection of just how defensive the Microsoft of only a few years ago was, choosing to attack others rather than out-innovate them. In the end, it was Microsoft that got Scroogled as Bing still sits in irrelevancy when compared to Google search and, more worryingly, Google Docs is catching up to Office, especially in terms of the cloud.
It would seem that Nadella's focus now is to move the company forward, shedding executives that would rather hold onto the past. Elop, while an effective executive, was associated with the Lumia devices of the present which have a very small footprint, selling a little over 10 million units per quarter, and this would not likely translate well to the Lumia devices of the future – indeed, if there are such things.
Many are even speculating that Microsoft will take a write-down of its Nokia acquisition, a substantial blow to the company as it tries to move forward. While this isn't strictly Nadella's fault – the deal for Nokia was made under Ballmer – it is a blow to his stewardship and ability to innovate on a product, especially as the world of smartphones is lucrative. Nokia's offerings were never below par and there is still potential for Microsoft to pull its mobile OS out of the doldrums with Windows 10, channeling the developer base of Windows onto the small screen in a way that has not previously been seen.

Saving grace?

Windows 10 could be the making of Nokia and, in turn, could be the saving grace of the $7.2 billion (around £4.6 billion, or AU$9.4 billion) acquisition. With innovations that include Continuum, the system that allows a user to turn their phone into a computer via HDMI, there could be a legitimate reason to buy a Windows-based phone especially for those who do not currently own a computer or want an alternative to a tablet.
Innovations like this are something that no other company can match, at least not publicly, and show a new vision for what Microsoft is – and that vision likely comes from the top. Whether Elop had a conflicting view, or any view at all, will likely never be known, and Nadella's statement wishes him well.

Myerson's new role

The dynamics of the reorganisation are also interesting as Nadella promoted Terry Myerson, a key lieutenant, to managing the newly created Windows and Devices group, presumably placing an ideological companion in charge of what is arguably the biggest part of Microsoft, at least currently.
What will happen to Nokia over the next few years remains to be seen but already the company has started to be consumed by Microsoft as a whole, as the Nokia brand is no longer present on the phones that the company sells. This, however, is still a moot point as there have been no new major updates to the Lumia line since the company was acquired, beyond handsets aimed at emerging markets.
Various outlets have reported that Microsoft is going to bring out a new phone alongside the release of Windows 10 for Phones, a new handset which would show off everything that the new operating system has to offer (Continuum won't work on current handsets, according to Microsoft). The success, or lack thereof, of this handset, predominantly in terms of unit sales, will likely decide what Microsoft ultimately does with the company – and it is telling that Elop didn't even make it to this day of reckoning, whether that was his choice or that of the other executives.

Google and Motorola parallel

A comparison that can be drawn is that of Google buying Motorola, a company that it then used to produce a series of handsets that were flagships for Android. The dynamics, especially in the market, are very different – Microsoft is incredibly rich, far more so than Google; Android is very popular, Windows Phone is not – but it is clear to see that with the help of a kind and loving parent, a handset manufacturer can work wonders.
The Moto X, G and E received excellent reviews with the Moto X even being rated above the iPhone, an achievement for any Android phone. Replicating this success could be a possibility for Microsoft, especially as the company has a lot more cash than Google, but it's likely that Microsoft faces a write-down of the Nokia acquisition rather than a sale like Google achieved.
Ultimately, Nadella's vision appears to be in full effect and his bold and decisive hirings and firings are just one way that this manifests itself, especially when it comes to the top level executives of a company that cost Redmond an absolute fortune. Whether he will be successful remains to be seen and there is still a propensity for Microsoft to muck up.
The confusion over who will get Windows 10 for free, for example, is classic mixed messaging from the company, just as the world saw with the announcement of the Xbox One and the fiasco over the DRM of games. Of course, if the implementation is smooth and attractive then Microsoft will be a step further on the path of utilising Nokia in a productive way, and Nadella obviously believes that this must come from the top, working its way down to the bottom of the company.

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Here's why Xbox One's big E3 reveal was nearly spoiled by Phil Spencer
Here's why Xbox One's big E3 reveal was nearly spoiled by Phil Spencer
Xbox supremo Phil Spencer has admitted he spent months wishing he could warn people not to get rid of their old Xbox 360 games as Microsoft built up to its big reveal about the Xbox One's backwards compatibility.
Speaking to gaming bible Edge, Spencer said that he's been close to spoiling the announcement on social media.
"This, for me, as a gamer and as somebody who cares so much about the brand, has been the hardest thing about not leaking it," he said. "I've wanted to tell people, 'Hold onto your 360 games!'"

Hundred times

"There were a hundred times where people had to stop me from tweeting that out over the past six months, because as I would see a game that works I wanted to tell people: 'Keep it – don't sell that! Even if you sell your 360, keep your games!'"
The backwards compatibility arriving for the Xbox One has been warmly received by gamers, allowing them to dig out the old classics for a bit of nostalgia, or at least until a next-gen replacement arrives.

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Review: Jawbone UP2
Review: Jawbone UP2

Introduction and Design

Putting the technical guts of a gadget into a newer, shinier body is a long-held tradition in the consumer technology industry.
While the UP2 looks a lot like the UP3 in terms of its newer wristband design, from a feature perspective it's almost entirely the same as the UP24 that it has replaced.
Just like the UP24, the UP2 will track your steps and sleep and display your performance on the UP app, but lacks the more advanced sensors found on Jawbone's top-of-the-line fitness tracker.
That isn't necessarily a bad thing though. As we found in our UP3 review, there's still no obvious benefit from having those extra sensors yet, which allows the UP2 to appeal to customers looking to get the fashionable fitness band, but not willing to spend the cash on the premium model.


Jawbone UP2 review
From the top down, it's hard to actually recognise that there's a difference between the UP2 and UP3, being almost identical in size and shape, and featuring the same touch sensitive interface.
In fact, just like determining the gender of some animals, you have to turn the UP2 upside down to realise it doesn't have the heart rate monitor or bioimpedance sensors of its premium sibling.
In typical Jawbone fashion, Yves Behar's design signature is all over this thing, from the contoured touch face to the same awkward side-clasp you see on the UP3.
We tested the silver version of the UP2, and it truly did feel more like wearing a shiny silver bracelet than a proper step tracker.
Of course, those similarities with the UP3's design mean there are a lot of the same problems as the premium band.
It takes a while to get used to the side-clasp mechanism,, and despite the "one-size-fits-all" approach, getting a perfect fit takes a bit of time. It's not a terrible design, by any account, but it doesn't exude the simple yet elegant design of some of the Apple Watch straps, for example.
Back on top of the device, the touch display offers three LED lights to communicate different messages depending on the combination of flashing lights. So an orange man shows you're in active mode, a crescent moon means you're in sleep mode, and if the middle message light flashes with either one, it means you either need to get up and start moving (an idle alarm) or start the process of going to bed (sleep notification).
Jawbone UP2 review
This touchscreen completely replaces the physical button of the UP24. In some ways, this is a good thing as fewer moving parts means fewer chances for the band to break.
But unfortunately it's far from perfect – you need to double tap the device to wake the screen, and then press and hold the screen to change modes. That sounds fine in theory, but the reality is that the tap-to-wake-up mechanism is temperamental at best, and almost never works first time when you're lying in bed.
On multiple occasions, we also somehow managed to switch the device from sleep tracking to active mode in our sleep, meaning our data was completely wrong on multiple occasions.
Admittedly, these are minor gripes. But compared to the Fitbit Charge HR, which automatically detects when you're in sleep mode without the need to manually switch across, the UP2 feels like it's a step behind the competition.

App and Performance


Jawbone's UP app continues to be the best way of engaging with your fitness tracker's data. While the likes of Fitbit's app give you the hard, raw stats and not much else, Jawbone's offering works hard to help you understand the data.
Dubbed smart coach, the app will analyse your data, comparing it to your ongoing performance, but also against other app users.
The insight that you're in the top 20% of UP users on any given day, or the knowledge that you're getting more sleep than most people your age, is much more useful than simply counting the number of steps you've taken or how many hours of sleep you managed overnight.
Jawbone UP2 review
Jawbone also helps keep you motivated, with regular challenges for both getting and staying active, or getting to bed at a certain time to help your energy levels the following day.
It's done in a really positive, personal way that helps challenge you to better yourself, which is ultimately the reason you're buying one of these devices, isn't it?
The app also doubles as a social network of sorts, letting you track and share your performance with other UP users.
While this has always been interesting – allowing your friends to send messages of encouragement when you hit your goals – the introduction of Duels has added a much-needed competitive element to the app.
You can throw down step challenges to anyone on your contact list for a 24 hour, three day or one week step duel.
Throughout the challenge, you are constantly updated on the battle, so you can put in the extra effort to demolish your opponent (or meekly let them claim victory). You can also keep your Duel's private, if you don't want to share your shame at losing with the world.
For those lone wolves that prefer to not compete with friends, there's still plenty of personal insights available in the app, including the ability to track your step and sleep trends over time.
The UP app also has the ability to track food and water intake, weight and moods. Unfortunately, the food databases aren't available in every region and even when they are, they can be a bit hit and miss.
Fortunately you can counter this by using a connected third party app like MyFitnessPal. In fact, the Jawbone UP app's API is one of its biggest strengths, letting you integrate things like Runkeeper, Strava, or even your Nest thermostat.
There's also IFTTT support, which opens up a huge range of possibilities for fitness and sleep based triggers. For example, we've used our UP to turn on a coffee machine when we wake up by using IFTTT and Belkin's WeMo home automation system.


Jawbone's UP bands have always been on the more reliable end of the step counting spectrum, and the data from the sleep tracking has always felt a bit more useful than competitors.
But the UP2, like the UP3, has some real challenges in terms of usability.
The touch display, as we've already mentioned, is temperamental, and quite often refuses to wake up when you want to switch it between sleep and active modes.
Jawbone UP2 review
The charger, meanwhile, is a design nightmare. Like the UP24, the included charger is a short proprietary USB cable about four inches long. But unlike the UP24's cable, which featured a 2.5mm headphone jack to charge the device, the UP2 has a magnetic attachment that lines up four pins with the underside of the wristband.
The first problem is that the cable is so short that if you connect it to a USB port on a laptop, you almost need to leave it hanging off the desk in order to fit given the band's fixed, rounded shape.
The second problem is that the magnetic attachment only goes one way, instead of connecting no matter which way you attach it to the charger. It means the act of charging the UP2 can take a few goes, countering the simplicity of the device itself with unnecessary frustration.
Jawbone UP2 review
This new charger is also significantly slower than the UP24, requiring up to an hour to give the device a full charge. For newcomers to the UP platform this may not seem like a big deal, but for upgraders from the UP24 – which would charge in the time it took to have a shower – it's a long time to go without the band on your wrist.
The battery life itself is still respectable, with "up to 10 days" battery quoted on the box, or 5-7 days in real life. That's a big step down from the two weeks or so UP24 users are getting, though. On the upside, you do get a push notification on your phone when battery life is running a little low so you should never be surprised by an inactive tracker.
Jawbone UP2 review
Another change from the UP24 that's sure to frustrate upgraders is no longer being able to launch the stopwatch function from the device itself. For anyone wanting to record an activity, you need to manually head into the app to launch the stopwatch function, instead of just holding down the button as you could on the UP24.
The app does try to counter this by automatically detecting when you've been active for a period of time and classing it as an activity. It even goes so far as to ask you whether you were going for a walk or a run, and asking you to classify how intense it was.
The only problem is that sometimes it just doesn't recognise you've been out pounding the pavement for an hour, so the specific details of your killer workout are never actively recorded if you rely on the software to do it for you.
On the sleep front, you can expect details on light sleep, deep sleep, and those times you woke up in the middle of the night.
The vibration motor inside the band's compact body also offers a nice, gentle wake up alarm (so long as you don't turn it off and go back to sleep), and can give you a gentle prompt to get up and go for a stroll when you've been idle for too long.

Compatibility, price and verdict


If you want to start shaking things up with Jawbone, you're going to need a phone with Bluetooth 4.0 for that low-energy data syncing. Of course, on the Android front, having Bluetooth 4.0 does not guarantee compatibility.
According to Jawbone's website, the UP2 requires one of the following Android phones to work: HTC One, HTC One (M8), HTC One Max, HTC Droid DNA, LG G3, LG Nexus 4, LG Nexus 5, Motorola Droid Mini, Motorola Moto X, Motorola Moto G, Motorola RAZR M, Samsung Galaxy Grans 2, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia VC, Sony Xperia Z1, Sony Xperia Z1 Ultra, and the Sony Xperia ZL.
Jawbone UP2 review
You'll notice that the list of compatible Android handsets there seems a little dated. And it is. The good news is that you might be able to get the UP2 working with more recent handsets – we managed to download the UP app to the HTC One M9 and a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, for example, but couldn't actually get the band to pair to the device.
It could be a case of more devices coming in the near future, but it's definitely a case of buyer beware for Android users – if you have a recent handset, you'll want to check it pairs before you hand over your cash.
On the iPhone front, the device works with every iPhone since the iPhone 4S, plus the 5th gen iPod Touch, 3rd gen iPad, plus the original iPad mini and iPad Air.


Jawbone has very carefully expanded its range this year to try and cater to all parts of the growing wearables market. For the price conscious they have the UP Move, and for the top-of-the-line they have the UP3.
The UP2 sits firmly in the middle, and is arguably the best option out of all three.
The UP Move, while affordable at US$49 / £39 / AU$69, lacks the same level of style and simplicity of the wrist-mounted devices. The UP3, meanwhile, features a whole heap of sensors that aren't really delivering useful information yet, and at US$180 / £150 / AU$249 seems to be somewhat too much of a premium.
The UP2 will set you back US$99 / £90 / AU$149, and feels like much better value for money than its more expensive brethren. Even compared to the Fitbit Charge, its most direct competitor, the UP2 feels like it's offering a better deal.

We Liked

There's no escaping the fact the Jawbone UP2 is a remarkable piece of engineering. More fashion bracelet than clunky fitness tracker, the UP2 looks great on the wrist while doing a respectable job at keeping tabs on your fitness levels.
The UP app continues to stand out as the best bit of software for this new category of devices, breaking down the data in a friendly, easy way so you can actually understand what it all means.
Having the social integrations – from the ability to challenge your friends to the open API integrations with other platforms – makes the UP a robust system for anyone looking to track both their activity and they sleep over time.

We disliked

Despite a more robust body than the UP24 it's replacing, the UP2 still feels like it's made a few too many sacrifices. The proprietary charging cable is abysmal, both in its length, connection mechanism and slow charging speeds.
The touch interface, while surely adding to the strength of the new design overall, is temperamental at best, and makes switching between modes a frustrating experience. Especially when rivals Fitbit automatically detect sleep mode without any user input.
There's also a real question of compatibility issues for owners of newer Android phones.

Final Verdict

If your heart is set on joining Jawbone's ecosystem, then the UP2 is almost definitely your best point of entry. With a more robust body than the UP24, yet without the unjustified price tag of the UP3, it delivers a good experience at a reasonable price.
But in this competitive new market, you can't help but feel that Jawbone has slipped up a bit with this generation of devices.
Its app is still arguably the best out there for delivering the most useful information to users, but the hardware itself, while attractive, fails to deliver a frustration-free experience.
Given that rivals Fitbit have largely achieved this with their Charge products, it puts Jawbone at a definite disadvantage.

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The future of robotics
The future of robotics

The future of robotics

The future of robotics
There's an old Walt Disney cartoon on YouTube called 'Modern Inventions', a tongue-in-cheek snapshot of how the world considered robots and what we as a society might end up doing with them, poking a little fun along the way.
When you consider it was made way back in 1937, it shows just how much – and for how long – we've been fascinated by robotics. What's even more intriguing is how its appearance in popular culture has changed very little since.
Robotics has obviously come a long way from those comical beginnings, but more often than not, it's hidden away behind factory doors, doing everything from building cars to filling your orders on websites. But that's all set to change.

225km/h with no driver

The future of robotics
While Google has captured most of the attention with its driverless car efforts over the last few years, many traditional car makers are quickly catching up and actively researching various aspects of driverless vehicles.
German carmaker Volkswagen is leading Europe's AdaptIVe (Automated Driving Applications and Technologies for Intelligent Vehicles) program, which includes a 'who's who' of engineering giants including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Bosch as well as universities from most of the major European motoring economies. The research project began in January 2014 and is expected to run over the next three-and-a-half years.
It looks like good progress is being made as well – in October 2014, Volkswagen subsidiary Audi and Stanford University teamed up to push an Audi RS 7 sports car around the famed Hockenheim track in Germany at race speeds of up to 225km/h, all with no driver, no human intervention – and no accidents.

Tech companies line up

The future of robotics
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has predicted that up to 75% of all vehicles will be autonomous by 2040, making it a growth market all major tech companies are eyeing off – and sooner rather than later.
Google's Nexus 9 Android tablet is powered by Nvidia's equally-new Tegra K1 processor, but Nvidia has its eye on a much greater prize for the Tegra K1 than just phones and tablets. The new CPU is being touted as a solution for self-driving cars, with reports it has already been mated to a LiDAR (light radar) sensor used in many driverless vehicles to map terrain and obstacles in front of the vehicle.
Also interesting is the growing affordability of the technology involved – with much of it built on the rise and rise of low-cost computer processors. Here, it's enabling faster, smarter, more capable robotic systems to be built.
There is much more CPU horsepower inside the fitness band on your wrist than what guided man to the moon in 1969 and now, companies such as Renesas Electronics, ST Microelectronics and Freescale Semiconductor (all licensees of smartphone/tablet chip designer ARM) are major players in the automotive market.

Military robots

The future of robotics
Star Wars may have brought robots to the battlefield on the big screen, but the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is making it happen in real-life. We might not quite be at 'Attack of the Clones' stage just yet, but like most things, developments in technology often have military beginnings.
Engineering firm Boston Dynamics has been spending DARPA's money developing a range of walking/running bots or 'quadrupeds' with impressive results, including the Legged Squad Support System (LS3) pack-mule now being trialed for the US military, the impressive Cheetah in 2011-12, reaching just short of 50km/h, and the most-recent untethered version called WildCat, combining the freedom of the LS3 with some of the speed of Cheetah. It's not surprising then that Boston Dynamics was purchased by Google in December 2013.

From engineering to ethics

The future of robotics
At its basic level, the science of robotics is a marriage between mechanical and electrical engineering, but it also has many relatives coming along for the ride. As the technology becomes ever more sophisticated, software development increasingly plays a dominant role, which calls on other disciplines such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
That also pushes into the realm of 'machine psychology', the idea of machines thinking and morally reasoning like humans. Further and you reach into the theoretical area of 'cyberethics', looking at the issues of technology from a legal, moral and social perspective.
While the engineering involved in getting a car to drive itself has progressed incredibly over the last ten years, that still may be an easier feat than working out some of the ethical ramifications of the technology.
For example, you're in a driverless car travelling along a narrow road and just about to enter a single-lane tunnel when a child suddenly runs in front of you and trips over. Does the car swerve, injuring you, or remain on its straight course and injure the child? This 'tunnel problem', prompted by Ph.D. student Jason Millar from Canada's Queens University, is a modified version of the classic 'trolley problem' often used to discuss consequentialism, the ethical theory described as choosing a moral option that results in the 'the greatest good for the greatest number'.
Solving this dilemma from a human perspective is hard enough – but how would programmers code a driverless car to solve this problem? And who gets to make that decision?

Who to save?

The future of robotics
Roboticists from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a joint-venture between the University of the West of England and University of Bristol, created a simple experiment of this 'who to save' style problem by programming a robot to prevent a human-simulating drone bot from falling into a hole, which it did successfully. But adding a second drone left the robot with a choice dilemma. In many of the test runs, the robot took so long to decide that both drones ended up in the hole.
The question being increasingly asked is how do you teach robotics morals? How do you embed robots with ethical theory to make decisions, sometimes based on these examples of the 'lesser of two evils'?
In fact, so crucial is the requirement for ethical thought becoming in general that the Australian Computer Society (ACS), which provides accreditation to local universities for degrees in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), has deemed it necessary that all new students undergo formal ethics training as part of their degrees – both undergraduate and postgraduate. That's to ensure future ICT professionals are adequately armed with the ability to tackle ethical and moral dilemmas an increasingly-technological society will likely face.

The end of car insurance?

The future of robotics
As the future of driverless vehicles is in the latter stages of research and early stages of implementation, cyberethics is coming to the fore as a serious and relevant question – and one that driverless car developers will have to answer to governments and society as a whole.
And it's already being grappled with - according to reports, California lawmakers wrote into the statutes allowing driverless cars that any new application will have a 180-day inspection cooling-off period before governments will allow it to be sold to the public. California isn't alone - other US states including Florida and Nevada have also enacted legislation covering driverless vehicles.
Another by-product of the impending arrival of driverless vehicles is the impact it may have on the car insurance industry. The general thinking is that 90% of all motor accidents are the result of human error – taking out the 'human error' may see claims fall by a similar amount, with some are already predicting this could spell doom for insurance companies as a result of falling premiums.

Jobs under threat

The future of robotics
It's an example of where robotics is providing opportunities for some, but looks set to take them away from others. The Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported that new figures from the Australian Department of Industry show as many as 500,000 jobs are under threat of automation.
But the Australian Industry Report 2014 surprisingly suggests that 'being low-skilled does not necessarily mean that your job will be replaced by robotics'. Further, the report says 'robots are increasingly replicating the tasks of medium and high-skilled workers'.
However, department chief economist, Mark Cully, told the AFR fears of mass-unemployment and poverty amongst middle-class employees are 'overblown', with the report declaring automation will allow new technologies to deliver higher productivity and lower-cost products.

Industrial robotics

The future of robotics
Part of that productivity increase is already coming from industrial robotics projects like Swisslog's AutoStore, which replaces human pickers and sorters with robotic ones on a major scale.
The system has already been installed by Australia's Catch Group to power the logistics of websites like 'Catch of the Day'. AutoStore isn't the only option in this area either – Amazon purchased Swisslog-competitor Kiva Systems in 2012.
If you think of the complexity of multiple bots running around picking items from thousands of bins, there's nothing easy about it. In fact, Amazon is organizing the first Amazon Picking Challenge at the 2015 International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle this year to try and promote innovation in the area. It appears to be aiming as something of a 'DARPA Grand Challenge' for the automated picking robotics industry.
You'll also start seeing autonomous industrial robots turning up in the most unusual of places – including the vege garden! Sydney University's Ladybird was designed by its Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) to provide autonomous farm 'surveillance, mapping and classification for the vegetable industry' and has been successfully trialed in Cowra, NSW.

Building your own robotics

The future of robotics
But if you're not quite ready to commit to a university degree, there are plenty of alternatives you can try out. Today, the proliferation of low-cost electronics and computer chips means building your own self-propelled, self-monitoring robotic machines is almost 'silly' affordable. Whether it rolls or walks, you can pretty much build it now.
LEGO's Mindstorms NXT and newer EV3 systems are popular entry points, particularly for lower/middle high-school students that can start them off but also grow into reasonably complex designs. If you're a school teacher, there are numerous education packs available from local LEGO distributors, although be warned – they can become quite expensive.
Beyond (and even an alternative to) Mindstorms, the next entry point is Arduino, the open-source microcontroller circuitboard system developed in Italy, but now manufactured and sold all around the world. Arduino predominantly uses low-cost 8-bit processors that you program with a simplified C++ language called Wiring.
Arduino is more 'real world' than NXT and sophisticated enough to handle everything from simple hobby robots to eight-legged octopeds and multi-prop unmanned aerial vehicles (or 'drones'). Arduino can mate with all manner of electronic and mechanical devices and is a great next-step platform – but you have to do all the design work yourself. If you have the necessary electronics and software coding skills, Arduino can be a cheaper, but also more complex alternative to LEGO's Mindstorms platform.
Beyond Arduino, you're getting into the rarified air of 32-bit CPUs of the same class used in current fitness bands and trackers. These ARM Cortex M-series chips provide a serious jump in performance and are used by industry in all manner of embedded applications – even to handle wireless broadband control in smartphones and tablets.

The future

The future of robotics
Like most areas of science, society's engineering capabilities in robotics continue to stretch the current legal framework, particularly in motoring. From insurance and employment growth to ethical theory and the military, the future of robotics is causing much thought across all sectors as we figure out the ramifications of combining computer processing and all manner of motors into self-moving objects.
We've come a long way from the early days of Walt Disney cartoons, but you also get the sense that in the grand scheme of things and the potential the future has in store, we really haven't come that far at all.

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Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise
Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise

Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise

Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise
For typical homes, the living room is the space likely to have the most technology in it, between the TV, DVD/Blu-ray player, gaming console and audio system. Depending on how old your equipment is, though, your living room tech may be ripe for replacement with newer, smarter and more integrated devices.

Wireless Network: Router

Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise
Let's start with your wireless network, as this is what ties everything together. There's a good chance you're still using the same basic Wi-Fi router that you got when you first signed up with your Internet service provider.
This is sufficient for basic web connectivity, but once you start doing things like high definition video streaming, voice-over-IP audio and video calls, and online gaming – especially if there are multiple people in the household doing these things simultaneously – you'll need to upgrade to a router that supports the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard and is better at prioritising high-bandwidth traffic.
To cut down on the number of boxes that are daisy chaining from your telephone line, you can get a device that combines an ADSL2+ modem and Wi-Fi router in one. The D-Link Viper ticks all the requisite boxes, boasting the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, 2.4GHz and 5GHz dual-band technology, and advanced QoS (quality of service) controls that efficiently dole out bandwidth to ensure stutter-free video streaming and gaming.
The Viper's easy-to-use web-based interface shows a visual diagram of all of the devices that are currently connected, and you can even drag and drop them into different 'priority tiers' based on the amount of bandwidth each device needs.
While you're setting up your wireless router, it's worth digging through the advanced settings to add some extra smarts to your wireless network. Adding the strongest level of security encryption is a no-brainer to ensure dodgy neighbours don't leech off your Internet connection, but there are other things you can do to maintain control over your network.
The D-Link Viper supports features like the ability to view the web browsing history for each client/device, share files stored on a USB drive with other devices on the network, and even monitor and manage the network when you're not at home using the mydlink web portal or mobile app.

Wireless Network: 802.11ac

Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise
Compared to the previous 802.11n standard, 802.11ac is up to three times faster, offering up to 1.3 gigabits per second. Of course, you won't actually get those Internet speeds in practice, as you'll be held back by the speed of the Internet connection, but you will see a significant boost in transfer speeds when you're moving files between computers on your network.
To take advantage of the faster 802.11ac connectivity, your devices will need to either support 802.11ac or be able to connect to the router using an intermediary device. The good news is that more and more devices now support 802.11ac out of the box – the latest Macbook Pro and MacBook Air laptops support it, as do tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S and iPad Air. Various smartphones support it as well, although the Xbox One and Playstation 4 (along with its predecessors) are limited to the slower 802.11n.

Wireless Network: USB adaptors and bridges

Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise
There are a couple of options for enabling devices using 802.11n (or older) to connect to the router at the faster 802.11ac speed. For desktop computers and laptops, you can use an 802.11ac adapter that plugs into a USB port.
You don't need to go with the same brand of USB adapter as the wireless router, as technically speaking it should be compatible with any device using the same standard. That said, setting up a wireless network can be tricky at the best of times, and if you want to minimise the chances of any issues cropping up, you may be better off going with an adapter from the same brand as your router.
Unfortunately, those same USB adapters aren't compatible with gaming consoles. If you want to get your Xbox, Playstation or Wii onto the faster 802.11ac standard – or even other living room devices, like your TV, Blu-ray player, and media players like the Apple TV and Western Digital WD TV – you'll need to connect them to an 802.11ac wireless media bridge or range extender.
The Linksys RE6500 is one such device that you can connect your slower Wi-Fi devices to using network cables. This connects wirelessly to your Wi-Fi router using 802.11ac and pipes that bandwidth through to all of the devices that are hard-wired to it.
Of course, if your Wi-Fi router is conveniently located in the living room, you can save yourself the hassle by connecting your devices directly using a network cable. It isn't as neat as the wireless approach, but it also minimises any wireless interference that can slow-down the connection.


Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise
Your next port of call will be taking a good hard look at your current TV. Televisions are one of those things that you can be perfectly happy with for years – that is, until you see a friends' TV that's bigger, brighter and more feature-packed than your one is.
Whether it's time for an upgrade will depend on what you're lacking with your current setup. If it's size and/or picture quality, then it's difficult to get around the need to buy a new TV set. Whether you need one that also has all of the latest bells and whistles (ie Smart TV functionality and UHD resolution) is another question altogether.


Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise
If it's cracking picture quality you're after, we'd recommend putting your money with OLED over UHD. Both technologies add a premium to any TV's pricetag, but OLED technology – an upgrade over LED that adds deeper black levels, faster response times, and colours that practically jump off the screen – will give you a better return on investment at this point in time.
UHD, which stands for Ultra High Definition (or four times full HD), theoretically offers a sharper picture, but that's only if you have source material that's encoded at the higher resolution. It will be another three years at least before 4K content is readily available, and even then, you'll have no problem watching that content on a Full HD TV.
For now, LG is the only vendor that's currently selling OLED TVs. Despite the stranglehold it has on the market, the 55" LG 55EC930T curved OLED TV is surprisingly affordable, offering incredibly vivid colours that LED TVs can't compete with.
It also offers the new curved screen technology, which provides a more immersive experience over the traditional flat panel. It's not so good if you want to wall mount your TV, but if it's propped up on a regular stand, the curve adds more of a cinematic, IMAX-style feel to your living room.
The LG 55EC930T is more than just a pretty face – it also offers Smart TV functionality via its Web OS interface, with a built-in digital video recording feature that lets you schedule recordings and save them to an attached external hard drive.

TV: Smart functionality

Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise
If it's mainly Smart TV functionality you're after, however, you may be better off sticking with your existing TV and adding a cheap media player to it or connecting your existing mobile devices. Made-for-TV apps like the web browser, Facebook and Twitter are vastly inferior to what you can get on your laptop, tablet or smartphone, so you're better off connecting your mobile device to your TV if you want to use those apps on a larger screen.
The easiest way to do this is using a direct HDMI connection. If you're connecting a laptop, it may have a full-sized HDMI port, in which case you can simply connect it to the TV directly using a standard HDMI cable.
Alternatively, your laptop may have a mini-HDMI or mini-DisplayPort interface, and you'll need a special adapter to connect it to an HDMI cable. In both cases, you can set your laptop up to either 'mirror' the display onto your TV (in other words, show an exact replica of what's on your laptop screen on the TV), or extend the display so that certain windows appear on the TV and other windows on your laptop.
Using an extended display setup means you can continue using your laptop for other tasks while you're playing a movie from your laptop on the TV simultaneously.

TV: Apple

Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise
For mobile devices that don't have any means of connecting to a TV using a cable, you'll need to opt for a wireless connection. The easiest and most universally compatible way to do this is by connecting an Apple TV to your TV. At AU$109 (£59, US$69), the Apple TV is a relatively affordable way to kill two birds with one stone: it adds a semblance of Smart TV functionality to your current TV, and it also gives you a way to wirelessly connect your mobile devices to your TV.
If you're an Apple user, then setting your devices up with an Apple TV is simple using the AirPlay feature. On a MacBook, you can use the AirPlay Display feature, which is accessible from the toolbar on the top of the screen, denoted as a square with a triangle at the bottom.
Assuming your Apple TV is connected and your TV is switched to the right HDMI input, click the AirPlay icon on your MacBook and select 'Apple TV'. By default, it will mirror your MacBook's display to the TV; if you want to extend the desktop instead, click on the AirPlay icon again and select 'Extend desktop'.
The process is more or less the same with an iPhone or iPad. On either device, scroll up from the bottom of the screen to bring up the iOS Control Centre and tap on the 'AirPlay' icon. Select Apple TV, switch the 'Mirroring' function to 'On' and tap 'Done' to mirror your iOS device to the TV. Given the shape of the TV, you're better off using your device in landscape mode to maximise your TV's display real estate.
The ability to wirelessly stream your mobile device to your TV isn't the only benefit of the Apple TV. It's main purpose is actually to give you an easy way to buy or rent movies and TV shows from the vast library of content in iTunes, as well as give you access to a range of Internet video channels such as YouTube, Vimeo, Vevo, and Crackle.
What you won't get on Apple TV are any of the catch-up TV channels or premium cable offerings. In that respect, Smart TVs are a better option as many of them come with those apps built-in. Gaming consoles also provide access to catchup TV, although the latest PS4 and Xbox One don't have as many catchup TV apps as the previous generation of consoles.

TV: Android

Turn your living room into a high-tech paradise
For non-Apple devices, there are various apps that will let you tap into the AirPlay functionality. While iTunes for Windows lets you play any music in your iTunes library through an AirPlay-compatible device, it doesn't let you do the same for videos.
AirParrot 2 lets you mirror your screen, extend your desktop, or just output a specific application to your TV via the Apple TV. It also supports various other devices, including the Google Chromecast and AirPlay-compatible audio devices.
Android smartphones and tablets can also tap into AirPlay using third party apps. Our favourite option is doubleTwist AirSync. While the base media player is free, adding the AirPlay component does require an IAP on the Google Play Store.
To set it up, make sure you're connected to the same wireless network as your Apple TV. Open doubleTwist and go to Settings, scroll down to 'Enable Streaming' and switch it on, and tap 'Allow' in the pop-up.
Next, find a video you want to play using doubleTwist's navigation panel, starting playing it, then tap the image to bring up the playback controls. Tap the wireless button, and turn the 'Apple TV' setting on. Your video should start playing on your TV.
The great thing about this setup is that you don't have to keep doubleTwist active on your mobile device screen – you can switch to another app and continue using your smartphone or tablet as normal.

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Steve Wozniak pleased with 'Steve Jobs' trailer, despite his phony portrayal
Steve Wozniak pleased with 'Steve Jobs' trailer, despite his phony portrayal
Last week saw the debut of the first full theatrical trailer for Steve Jobs, the new biopic from Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), doing its part to help erase Ashton Kutcher’s lacklustre portrayal of the brilliant innovator from your memory.
While the biggest talking point has been Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of the titular character, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also featured in the trailer, with funnyman actor Seth Rogen in the role.
Talking to Bloomberg, Wozniak discussed his thoughts on the trailer, saying that he quite likes it overall, despite some inaccuracies regarding how he is portrayed in the film.

Critiques and Geeks

The trailer starts with a dialogue between Wozniak (Rogen) and Jobs (Fassbender), where Rogen’s Wozniak asks “what do you do? You’re not an engineer. You’re not a designer. You can’t put a hammer to a nail. I built the circuit board. The graphical interface was stolen. So how come, 10 times in a day, I read Steve Jobs is a genius? What do you do?”
“I don’t talk that way,” Wozniak said in regards to the scene, further stating that he “would never accuse the graphical interface of being stolen. I never made comments to the effect that I had credit (genius) taken from me.”
Wozniak went on to say that he doesn’t recognise himself in the trailer, but that he expects dramatic liberties to be taken in the film, as “accuracy is second to entertainment in a movie like this.”
Though he has reservations about how he is depicted in the film, Wozniak says that he’s honored to be portrayed by an actor of Rogen’s popularity.

It’s all good in the hood

While the film does take some liberties with regards to the events it’s based on, Wozniak says that “the lines I heard spoken were not things I would say but carried the right message, at least partly.”
He also said that the trailer’s depiction of Jobs is more or less accurate, stating that he “felt a lot of the real Jobs in the trailer, although a bit exaggerated,” and that it made him “almost cry remembering it.”
Wozniak, who consulted with Sorkin before the script was written, says he looks forward to seeing the film when it is released in Australia (where he lives) on October 8 (the film comes out in the US on October 9 and the UK on October 12).

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How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers

How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers

How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
While many cars have fairly decent stereos from the factory, they seldom satisfy the discerning audio consumer. No matter if your car is 12 months or 12 years old, you'll get more sonic pleasure if you take the time to upgrade your in-car audio. Best of all, it need only cost a few hundred dollars or less.
Given the breadth of what can be covered in car audio, this article will cover upgrading your source (head unit) and speakers, and then a later one will focus on the more advanced stuff – amplifiers, subwoofers, and beyond.

Current Set Up

How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
On deciding what to upgrade, you first need to look at your current system. Many contemporary vehicles have fully integrated control units that combine the stereo with climate control, navigation, etc. These are generally better to leave installed, upgrading only the speakers.
However, there are ways to add in amplifiers to these units, too, which we'll get to in a moment, and professional installers can offer options that will work your climate control and steering wheel buttons, too.


How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
When considering budget, don't be afraid to perform your upgrades incrementally, starting with the front speakers. This way, you can save up for higher quality components, while also trialling your system to find the parts that most need upgrading.
We recommend planning a rough idea of what your ideal system would look like, and then buying parts that will support it later (for example, your new front speakers can always become rears after you buy quality component speakers).
As a rough figure for a budget system, expect about AU$150 (approx £97, US$108) for the head unit (the bit that plays the music) and AU$150 (approx £97, US$108) for the speakers.
If you're going premium, the head unit will cost between AU$200 and AU$1400 (approx £130-£909, US$144-$1008) depending on the features you want, and then about AU$200-$600 (approx £130-£390, US$144-$432) for good component speakers (Hertz, Focal, JL Audio et al.), and AU$200-$600+ (approx £130-£390, US$144-$432) for an amplifier to drive them. You can then expect another few hundred dollars or more for a subwoofer – you can see that the price quickly escalates.


How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
Regardless of how much you want to change in your current car stereo, the first place we recommend looking at is the speakers. Speakers are the biggest influencer of sound quality, and factory speakers – even the 'premium' ones – rarely compete with the quality of aftermarket components.
Thankfully, it's actually surprisingly cheap and easy to upgrade your speakers – you can drop about AU$150 (approx £97, US$108) on a pair of perfectly adequate ones, and it shouldn't take you more than an afternoon to install them.
When choosing speakers, you need to see if they will fit in the existing holes. Don't forget that the depth of the speaker, as well as how far it sits from the cone, can affect how well it will fit in the door. You may end up having to cut a larger hole, or building a mount to lift the cone out.

Speakers: Power

How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
You also need to consider the speakers' power-handling. Look at their rated RMS value, and – if you're going to purchase an amp – make sure that the speakers' max value is near or below the RMS output of the amplifier.
If you're going to attach them directly to your head unit, then pretty much all speakers will work fine (note that premium and component speakers are happier with external amps, though), and if you're going to stick with your car's factory head unit, you'll probably be best off finding high-sensitivity speakers, as factory units generally don't offer as much power as third party ones.

Speakers: Different Types

How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
You may be tempted to get some 6x9" oval-shaped speakers for the rear shelf. These can offer bigger bass than 6" speakers, without taking up as much room as larger ones. However, they're a trade off in bass quality compared to circular speakers. As such, if you see a subwoofer in your future, stick to round speakers.
If you're looking for el-supremo sound, then you should consider component – rather than full-range (aka two- or three-way) – speakers. These break the woofers/mids and tweeters into separate components, to be placed individually.
This gives you better fidelity, but is a more complicated install – expect much cutting of your interior, as well as extra wiring of cross overs and running cable to new and exciting places in your dashboard, doors, and floor. As such, you may be best leaving it to a professional.

Head Unit

How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
Now, the next most useful upgrade is your head unit. As mentioned earlier, if you have an integrated stereo, you may be better off leaving it as is and just adding new speakers or an amp (if your stereo doesn't have pre-amp outputs, you will require an amp with speaker-level inputs or a separate digital signal processor). To see what's possible, try searching for your model on car audio forums.
Most head units, however, comply with the 50mm tall 'DIN' or 100mm 'Double DIN' standard found in cars since 1984. Even if your existing stereo is a single DIN size, you may be able to remove a storage unit above or below it to fit in a double-DIN unit, which can open you up to touch screens with navigation or the ability to watch movies etc.
The head unit is actually less important a consideration than it once was, as most people use their smartphone for music and navigation, so really just need Bluetooth. However, there are still some very important considerations to make, even if its sole purpose will be to control the volume.

Head Unit: Sources

How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
First of all, you need to think about what sources you may want to use. You absolutely definitely want Bluetooth – thankfully, it's standard now. Also, while CDs are a rarity, I often stop in at op-shops on road trips to see what hidden gems lie within (last summer I found a Christmas carol album composed from cat and dog calls for the stunningly low price of 50c – let's just say that it was worth at least twice that amount) – times like this you may be grateful for the ability to spin some plastic.
Also worth considering is if you want to get use out of your old iPod (or current – we're not judging), so look for iPod connectivity.
For flexibility, I also like my head units to have a 3.5mm auxiliary jack on the front, so that I can connect anything I want – an mp3 player, my phone (if I want a higher quality connection or to save battery) or even a Walkman (cassettes are back now, didn't you know?).
Some head units even offer their own app store like the Parrot Asteroid Smart, or have Android or iOS companion apps available (the quality of which is variable). The coolest of the lot, for iPhone users at least, are head units that support CarPlay.

Head Unit: Usability

How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
When choosing a head unit, one super very important feature is often overlooked: usability. Some head units are painful to use, so it's important to go down to a retail store and play with any that you're interested in. Quite often, the cheapest brands are more hassle than they're worth, especially when it comes to playback from USB storage.
If you're planning on adding an amp or subwoofer, confirm that the head unit has pre-amp and/or subwoofer outputs. While amps exist with speaker-level inputs, these are more difficult to wire and end up with poorer sound, so – even if an amp is only a slight possibility – make sure you get pre-amp outputs.
While we're on the topic of future-proofing, you may want rear line-level inputs, just in case your music source of the future isn't Bluetooth (for instance, you may want to add a Raspberry Pi based carputer, or hard wire in a tablet).
Surprisingly, the power output of a head unit isn't as important as it seems. Of course the more expensive head units boast bigger numbers, but they're all loud enough to drive your four 6" front and rear speakers. If you're really serious about volume (or fidelity, really) you're going to fork out for a separate amp, anyway, so just get the head unit with the sources, interface, and aesthetics that you like best.

Head Unit: Additional features

How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
The rest of the features sorta just end up as extras: if you're keen for proper surround audio, you'll probably want a DVD player in there with digital output. If you're doing that, you'll probably want a decent screen/monitor, too.
And, again, if you're doing that, then you'll want to check if you can have multiple screens connected. Some even allow different videos and audio output for the front and rear, but, with the proliferation of tablets, this is less useful than it used to be.
Some head units include navigation, but so does your phone. You may also be tempted by a unit with a hard drive inside, which you can fill with music, but I find loading them up with new tunes a cumbersome act, so prefer my iPod for bulk media storage. You may also enjoy a large touchscreen, but these can treble the cost.

Wiring it up

How to upgrade your car's head unit and speakers
If you're only upgrading your speakers, the great news is that you can just connect the existing wires to the speaker terminals, just be sure to connect the wires the right way around – usually, black or striped is negative – and be consistent between speakers.
To remove your speakers, you're going to have to first remove your door trim. There are usually pop-studs around the edges of the door, and a few screws in the door jam and behind the arm rest or handle. To get specific instructions for your make and model, find either a service manual, do a Google search, or search in your preferred car audio forum.
Once you've unscrewed your old speakers, you'll probably have to cut the wires leading to them. If you're intimidated by soldering irons, you can easily hook up the new speakers by using terminal strips – just screw down the wires on either side. This means it'll be easy to replace them next time, too. Just make sure that you secure the terminal strips to the car, lest you hear them rattling against the cone or door frame on bass notes.
If you're upgrading your head unit, we recommend purchasing a wiring harness set for your particular model. These form a bridge between your car's wiring harness and the connections on the rear of the head unit. One manufacturer is Aerpro, and they are available from most car audio stores, but also from specialty online stores and eBay.
If you're frugal or can't find the right harness, you can remove the old harness and connect the wires directly. Again, just like the speakers, I recommend using terminal strips or other plugs so that the head unit is easy to remove when you sell the car or upgrade.
To identify which wires should go where, you'll need the service manual of the vehicle, or a multimeter and some sleuthing skills. A thorough yet simple methodology is available at
But first, to get the factory stereo out, you're probably going to have to remove part of dashboard. Again, consult your service manual or car specific forum for tips on how to do this – don't fret, though: it's not nearly as hard as it seems!
You should now be armed with enough knowledge to undertake a basic car stereo upgrade. Join us in a future article where we'll take your system to the next level by looking at amplifiers, subwoofers, and more.

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Evangelicals say 'amen' to holy Facebook
Evangelicals say 'amen' to holy Facebook
The internet's a pretty sinful place, brimming with saucy selfies, vulgar vines, and hardcore... er, you get the idea.
Naturally, this adult content frequently finds its way onto Facebook, Instagram and their ilk, but a group of evangelical Christians in Brazil has launched a holy war against dropping social media standards.
The group, located in Ferraz de Vasconcelos near Sao Paulo, is attempting to keep things holy by launching Facegloria, a social network with strict rules that prevent users from posting anything the Almighty might find on the nose.

Thou shalt not...

Restrictions apply to colourful language – 600 banned words and counting – sexual content, and depictions of violence. Homosexuality also gets the chop, with anything gay-related receiving a firm thumbs down.
Sticking with the holy theme, Facegloria users don't "like" posts, but say "amen" instead.
Approximately 100,000 people are said to have signed up to Facegloria within its first month, and the network has a target of 10 million users within two years.
We'll have to wait and see if the site can succeed without the filth, controversy and bickering that draws people to other forms of social media every day.

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The PC Gamer: How Batman: Arkham Knight is saving PC gaming
The PC Gamer: How Batman: Arkham Knight is saving PC gaming


Here's something to be happy about if you're a PC gamer - while everyone else now has a couple of months of gaming wasteland to look forward to, we've still got Arkham Knight!
It's not much solace after one of the worst launches since Frontier: First Encounters launched without support for the SoundBlaster and Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Draenor's uninstaller decided to take most of Windows out with it, but it's what I'm holding onto. Just think of all those poor suckers sitting bored on those long summer evenings, wishing they had a new Batman to play. Well, we will have. Once again, the PC comes through! Best gaming machine!
No, I'm not even convincing myself there. To call the PC launch shameful is to leave no word for crashing a funeral dressed as Whooping Cough the Happy Clown. From the outside, it's hard to know who to blame - Warner Brothers for publishing a game creakier than an old attic floor and/or skimping on the budget, Rocksteady for not being hands-on enough, porting house Iron Galaxy for failing so miserably, or any variation thereof.
It doesn't really matter though, there's enough shame to go around - and a bonus for whoever put a note about technical issues in the interface after an advert for the Season Pass.
How Batman: Arkham Knight is saving PC gaming
Not everyone is having problems of course. Personally though, I have an i7 with 8GB of RAM and a GeForce 970, and the first time the Batmobile showed up, I may as well have been playing a Myst game. Better, of course, because a) Batman was in it and b) it wasn't actually Myst and thus wins any fight by default, but still hardly the triumphant release I was hoping for. It's shelved now, awaiting a patch Rocksteady has promised they're helping out with, to make it both perform properly and switch back on a whole lot of effects and quality settings that so far make the PC version the world's most expensive advert for the Playstation 4.
In the long run though, we might all benefit from this. It's hard to forget for instance that when Arkham Origins, the non-Rocksteady made prequel deemed 'yeah, s'alright, I guess' landed the other year, WB Games' response was the insulting "The team is currently working hard on the upcoming story DLC and there are currently no plans for releasing another patch to address the issues that have been reported on the forums." In short - we hear your complaints, but since you're not sending them with cash, lalalalalalalalalalalalalalala!
This time though, at least one thing is different. It might not be directly connected to this specific example, but Steam offering refunds has absolutely changed the overall game. Now, players don't merely have the possibility of getting their money back, but the guarantee. Officially there are restrictions, like not having played something for more than two hours, but even then there's wiggle-room.
Compare this to most game stores, which have historically refused outright to give refunds due to believing that everyone who tries that has simply taken the game home, made a copy, and then gone back into town (in fairness, not without some cause!), or online sites declaring all sales final to the point that GOG.COM announcing a refund policy for non-functioning games back in 2013 was considered news. Even then though, it only applied to games not working or bought by accident. "I don't like it" has never been considered a good excuse for PC titles.
How Batman: Arkham Knight is saving PC gaming
To give companies some credit, it is harder to develop for the PC than for consoles - a moving target is always harder than a static one. To take it away though, the general attitude towards the PC has been pretty shameful of late, with companies like Ubisoft habitually releasing games late on it (though they're getting better) and game code not being released in time for reviews (The Witcher 3 for instance only appeared before launch in PS4 version. And while the argument was that this gave the team more time to tweak and balance, it was a shame to see what had historically been a PC franchise get its first outing elsewhere) and plenty of other issues.
Steam being by far the largest PC retailer at the moment though means that treating the PC as an afterthought is a critically bad idea. Games are now so expensive to make that short of taking a big cheque from Microsoft or Sony to actually create an exclusive for their platform (which almost never happens - even the likes of Rise of the Tomb Raider are just timed exclusives, whatever the marketing says), every platform counts. Most games don't make much money, they're only getting harder and more lost in a swelling marketplace, and even many successful developers are rarely more than one flop away from disaster.
Willingly sacrificing the might of the PC for console-shininess is increasingly commercial suicide, to say nothing of the fact that PC games have an endlessly longer tail than most console releases through events like Steam sales, bundles, re-release potential, and the likes of Kickstarter, provider of many console refugees like Shenmue, and Keiji Inafune's upcoming "Not MegaMan" and "Not MegaMan II (But Did I Mention I'm Totally The MegaMan Guy?)".
Arkham Knight's fate is hardly going to go unnoticed, and either way, we win. If the game is fixed to work properly, then great! However, it's also going to fall out of that all important marketing window when it would otherwise have had a clear run, as well as feeling like yesterday's game compared to other new releases like Fallout 4... or depending on how long it takes to fix, perhaps even Fallout 5.
It's not simply that people won't be buying it because of the reports - the game has been taken off the Steam marketplace entirely, as well as pulled from other stores like Game. This is a lot of money jangling away down the toilet every day.
How Batman: Arkham Knight is saving PC gaming
If it's not fixed? Then we don't win as heavily, but the point is made - in a rare case of players voting with their wallets/refund buttons actually having a direct impact, releasing a game in this state suddenly becomes a much bigger risk. Case in point, Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Unity last year. Take that kind of release, add a refund button that's not going anywhere any time soon, and a half-arsed port suddenly becomes less a cold business decision than a game of Russian Roulette played with an AK-47.
And the third option, that all this is a Pyrrhic victory at most, encouraging developers not to worry about the PC at all? Honestly, it's not that big of a call. Unless you're Bungie or a first-person developer or have given up all hope of actually selling games by developing for the Nintendo Wii U, you just don't have a choice. The era of the PC as a machine that could be sniffed at and dismissed and ignored is long, long gone, and either shunning or half-assing it is as self-defeating as declaring you won't sell to players with blonde hair.
So, really, this could be for the best - Arkham Knight as the first big test-case for the new era of PC gaming, when rebelling against broken ports is as easy as clicking a button and deciding what to spend the money on. It's been a long time coming, and many in the industry are scared of it, but that's not necessarily a problem. Change is scary, but the companies that do right by gamers should still find gamers doing right by them.
Even after the patch though, expect the Batmobile sections to be rubbish.

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Apple Pay tipped to arrive in the UK on 14 July
Apple Pay tipped to arrive in the UK on 14 July
Last month Apple told us its mobile payments system would launch in the UK in July, and now we can be even more precise - 9to5Mac says the 14th is the date, based on documents it's seen from retailers.
That gives Brits until a week on Tuesday to prepare themselves for the arrival of the service that will let you swipe your iPhone or Apple Watch to make a payment, much as you already can with a contactless credit card.
Apple has already said that M&S, Boots, Costa, McDonalds, Subway, Waitrose and Transport for London will all be supporting the system at launch, which accounts for around 250,000 different locations.

Hey big spender

According to the sources speaking to 9to5Mac, eager buyers will be limited to a £20 limit for transactions (again, just like a contactless credit card). Apparently that limit will be lifted in the autumn.
9to5Mac also says that staff at Apple stores are going to begin training on the 12th, ready to assist you in all your Apple Play queries and of course help you buy a new iPhone by swiping an old one... if you want to.
However, as Apple will know, getting UK shoppers to ditch cash and cards isn't easy. Samsung has its own payment system on the way too, so Apple Pay is by no means guaranteed to succeed.

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5 upcoming PC indie games you can't afford to ignore
5 upcoming PC indie games you can't afford to ignore


You don't need pick up a triple-A blockbuster to have a good time these days. Some of the most addictive games in 2014 were indies - from 2D titles Shovel Knight, Nidhogg and Towerfall: Ascension to fully-fledged 3D wonders such as Cities: Skylines, Lichdom: Battlemage and Goat Simulator.
If 2015 (and beyond) is anything to go by, indie studios are squeezing out better looking games than ever before. The ones on our list are being developed on the Unity game engine, which is often used by smaller teams that have fewer resources than the Rockstars and EAs of the world.
Even if the following titles were made on a shoestring budget, you wouldn't know it by looking at them. Click on to check out some of the upcoming Unity-powered PC indies set to make a big splash.

1. Firewatch

"Wait, you're already there? You're not in your tower?" asks the concerned voice coming from your supervisor at the other end of the radio, "then who is?" The mysterious exchange sets the tone for Brazil-based Campo Santos' upcoming adventure game, Firewatch, which puts you in the shoes of a fire lookout called Henry.
Drawn out of your tower into a bright and vibrant world, you're tasked with exploring the Wyoming wilderness to investigate a strange occurrence. Not much is known about Firewatch, but its eye popping Team Fortress 2-style visuals, original plot and witty dialogue make it one to watch.
YouTube :

2. Cuphead

Taking inspiration from 1930s-era cartoons, Cuphead bridges that gap between games and art. Seeing gameplay footage from the first time delivers one of those "is this real?" moments, a rare achievement for an indie studio in light of today's infini-budget blockbusters.
In development by Canada-based StudioMDHR, which was founded by two brothers, Cuphead's standard run-and-gun fare is elevated not only by its distinctive art style, but also by its huge screen-filling boss battles. A Disney fan's dream.
YouTube :

3. Pollen

Pollen is an upcoming space exploration game that has been optimised for the Oculus Rift. A VR experience at heart, it's deliberately slow-paced and places an emphasis on looking around to read material and pick up clues.
Most objects can be picked up, observed and interacted with. Taking a picture using an in-game camera, for example, produces a physical Polaroid image that can be picked up, look at, stored or binned. Elsewhere there are arcade games embedded into the ship's walls and giant cinema screens that tell the deserted vessels backstory using a series of reels.
Wonderfully immersive from the second you place the headset on, if Pollen turns out to be equally as entertaining then Finland-based MindField games could have the first great VR game on its hands.
YouTube :

4. P.A.M.E.L.A

If you dropped Mirrors Edge, Mass Effect and Bioshock into a blender, something like P.A.M.E.L.A would emerge. A first-person survival horror game set in the mysterious land of Eden, its colourful world (check out the video below to see its incredible graphics in action) is inhabited by something that wants to kill you at every turn. Upgrading the biological weapons system attached to your arm is crucial to stay alive - especially when the lights go out at night.
YouTube :

5. Rust

OK - so Rust isn't technically an upcoming indie game having been out of early access beta nearly two years ago, but it's changing drastically all of the time. All about surival, there are more ways to die in Rust than you have fingers. Incidentally, your 10 pinkies and toes will look different to every other player's thanks to the game's random character appearance generator.
As well as avoiding taking an axe in the face from other online gamers, you'll need to top up your health, calorie and radiation levels frequently to keep things going out in the wilderness. Think Day-Z, only without the undead.
YouTube :

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How to permanently delete your Facebook account
How to permanently delete your Facebook account
Maybe you're wasting too many precious hours looking at what your friends are up to. Perhaps you no longer like the idea of giving your personal information to a website. Or maybe you've decided Myspace wasn't so bad after all. Whatever the reason, you can delete your Facebook account - and here's how to do it.
Step 1: Have a Facebook account (obviously).
Step 2: Click on the small options arrow next to the padlock at the top of your Facebook page.
Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.24.44 pm.png
Step 3: Click Settings in the drop-down menu.
Step 4: Go to the Security tab on the left - it's the second one down under General.
Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.35.59 pm.png
At the bottom, you'll see the line 'Deactivate Your Account'. Click the edit link on the right and the deactivate information blurb will expand.
Click the 'Deactivate your account' line along the bottom.
Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.42.50 pm.png
Don't for a moment assume Facebook will make it easy for you to leave.
Step 5: You'll then be taken to a last-ditch plea page, begging you to re-consider your actions.
Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.38.53 pm.png
You'll then be shown a list of friends you never talk to anyway, but who would, Facebook insists, genuinely miss you when you're gone.
You then have to list your reason for leaving.
Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.47.35 pm.png
Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.47.50 pm.png
Useful note: If you are an admin of any pages, you will lose admin access to them and the pages themselves may stop working if you're the sole admin.
A useful new addition to the original process is an automatic re-activation feature, so if you just need a break, or need to pretend you don't have a FB account for a day, you can re-activate at a later date of your choosing.
And you're done, say hello to your new life!
But wait...what if you love your new-found digital freedom. You can make the switch-off permanent by following two more steps.
Step 7: Download a copy of all your information. Just in case you ever feel nostalgic and want to reminisce on all those selfies. You can find where to do this in your Settings area from your page menu.
Select 'Download a copy of your data' at the bottom of the main page.
Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 12.14.14 pm.png
Step 8: Are you ready? Deep breath. This is it now.
Visit this link to press the blue 'Delete my account' button
Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 12.17.41 pm.png
Once you hit delete, you're done.
Congratulations and enjoy your freedom.

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Buying guide: How to buy a laptop – finding the perfect machine for you
Buying guide: How to buy a laptop – finding the perfect machine for you


HP laptop
When it comes to buying a laptop, there are plenty of ways to proceed. You can read TechRadar's ultimate list of best laptops and choose which one you want to buy. Or you could look out for cheap laptop deals (although you probably have to move quickly on these).
Alternatively, for those who want to do the legwork and require a more bespoke solution for their needs, we've put together a list of 10 easy steps to follow in order to identify the perfect laptop for you, and the best way to buy it.
Note that this guide is crafted for a UK audience (although a lot of the advice is still valid for other territories) and deals mostly with new rather than refurbished laptops.
Moreover, this article will appeal mostly to consumer buyers rather than small and medium-sized businesses or enterprises whose needs and requirements will differ from the aforementioned group.
If you have additional questions or want some clarification about how to choose a laptop, feel free to ask these in the comments at the end of this article. So, without further ado, let's look at the considerations you need to be mulling over.

Choose how much to spend... then add 10%

Macbook air
Determining what your budget is should be at the very top of your priority list. The overwhelming majority of Windows laptops cost under £700; on the other hand, all Apple laptops cost more than £700, with the cheapest, the 11-inch MacBook Air, costing £749.
I always advise prospective buyers to add a 10% buffer to their budget in order to avoid disappointment should there be a terrific buy which is positioned just outside their buying range. Very broadly speaking, in our books, £500 will buy you a very good all-rounder laptop. Spending above that is likely to bring marginal improvements especially in terms of performance.

Decide whether you want refurbished or not

Refurb laptop
Refurbished has for long been a taboo word in the world of electronics, often associated with dodgy, used and second-hand products. Things have evolved and refurbished laptop deals are amongst the best ones on the market.
All major vendors have set up their own outlet shops and not only competitively price the laptops but also offer the same level of aftersales you would expect from a new model. As usual, just make sure you know what to expect from a refurbished notebook, and don't be afraid to ask the vendor for more details about the background story of the model.
Don't dither too much though as refurbished are end-of-line, outlet or clearance models, and as such are usually very limited in numbers and are always, always, supplied on a first come first served basis.

What operating system will you use?

Windows 8.1
The laptop market is dominated by two main operating systems: Windows and Mac. Two others, Chrome OS and Ubuntu, are on the fringes. All four have their pros and cons (as well as their staunch fans and equally determined detractors). Technically, you should be able to run any combination of operating systems on almost any laptops, either as a replacement of or running alongside the main one (usually the case for Chrome OS, Windows and Ubuntu) or over and above the running one (Mac).
The Windows market, because of its variety, legacy and popularity, is where the bulk of deals and laptop offers are. It doesn't come as a surprise therefore that Windows laptops tend to have the best value for money when it comes to sheer performance.

What will you do with your laptop?

List five applications you will use on your machine, or things you want to do with it. Writing a small paragraph is helpful as it keeps you focused on your needs and narrows down your possible laptop candidates. For example:
"I send emails, do video conferences, browse a lot, read news, write long documents and do a lot of spreadsheets. I use Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Skype, Chrome and Irfanview. I do a lot of this on my daily commute."
This works well if you want to migrate from a computer (desktop or laptop) to another – otherwise if this will be your first laptop (or if you plan to give someone a laptop), just have a quick guess. Other niche scenarios including gaming, DTR (desktop replacement) and creative work.

Do you actually need a new laptop?

Desktop PC
That sounds like a wind-up but is actually a pertinent question to ask. Maybe a desktop (as pictured) or tablet, to complement an existing laptop, would be a better investment. Desktops will always have an extra edge compared to laptops at any given price range, especially for niche markets like gaming or content creation. As for tablets, they will always be better for overall portability, as passive media consumption devices.
Also you could look to upgrade your existing laptop by increasing the memory, the hard disk drive or even the processor, or by swapping the battery. While upgrading is cheaper, the process has its own cons – you might get things wrong and end up with an expensive door stopper and the parts that you purchase might be incompatible for a number of reasons.

Decide what form factor you will settle on

Thin laptop
Laptops, whether they are Mac or Windows, are usually categorised according to their screen size, measured diagonally. There are four broad categories: Sub 12-inch, between 12.1 and 14-inch, from 14.1-inch to 17-inch, and 17.1-inch and bigger. Other than screen size, the other categories laptop form factors can be split into are binary: convertible (or hybrid, or 2-in-1) or not, thin-and-light or not.
Note that I am not using the term Ultrabook here as it is a trademark term owned by Intel and its actual specification is fairly loose. A fair few retail outlets use it as a synonym for thin-and-light laptops. The laptop's form factor will have an influence on cost and will be influenced by what you plan to do with it. For example, if you commute a lot, lugging around a laptop with an 18.4-inch display doesn't make much sense.

Do you have a brand preference?

Macbook 2015
That's actually a question that doesn't pop up often in buying guides from other computing outlets. Brand loyalty is something worth exploring when buying a laptop because more often than not, it is irrelevant.
Like smartphones and tablets, most laptops – even Apple's – are built by a handful of so-called OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) based in China and Taiwan. So the build quality of any laptop is likely to be determined by the chosen budget bracket rather than the brand.
Obviously, if you do narrow your search to a particular brand, your choices will be limited. Additionally, some of the lesser known brands deliver fantastic value for money when it comes to niche markets and they often offer more flexibility.

Do you plan to change your laptop frequently?

Asus Laptop
Laptops are increasingly becoming more and more difficult to upgrade – blame the race towards more integration and the urge to get everything squeezed in and compressed. As such, most recent laptops, especially the expensive ones, tend to have the memory (RAM) and the processor soldered on the motherboard which means you won't be able to upgrade if you wanted to.
What's more, the battery is often enclosed which makes it difficult – but not impossible – to swap. These components, which are essentially chemical cells, age badly and after 12 months or so will not hold charge as well as they did initially. Paradoxically, upgrading tends to be much easier on cheaper laptops because economies of scale demand that models at the lower-end of the spectrum need to have shared components.

How important is battery life?

Battery pack
Battery life is a tricky one. Not only does your laptop battery life depend on what you do with your notebook and how much strain you put on the battery, it involves a large number of other variables. Battery life figures quoted by manufacturers usually refer to best case scenarios (i.e. under a controlled environment) and unfortunately rarely reflect real life.
This is particularly true for resource intensive jobs – you won't get more than a couple of hours of intensive gaming time on most gaming laptops unless you opt for an extra big battery. Which brings us to our next point. Not all laptops have extensible batteries; you can improve the battery life of those with an enclosed battery by using a portable or emergency laptop battery charger (usually with capacity quoted in thousands of mAh).
For the rest, you can either buy a spare battery (which you will have to swap when needed, and also ensure you keep it charged) or go for a bigger battery altogether.

Settle your priorities and buy, buy, buy!

Lenovo Thinkpad
Once you've mulled over all the aforementioned points, define what your priorities will be, to end up with something that will read like a mission statement:
"I will buy a brand new laptop costing less than £500, that will be used for playing games mostly, one that I can carry about to university and runs Windows. I don't mind a short battery life."
There is no ideal time to buy a laptop. Sure you could wait for the sales, for a new operating system or a new processor range but embracing that frame of mind means endless procrastination. In other words, the best time to buy a laptop is ASAP.
Also do consider things like an extended warranty and accessories. The former allows you to get extra peace of mind and can usually be bought at the time of purchase. Just make sure that you read the small print and abide by the terms; note that they usually don't cover wear and tear.
Laptop accessories I thoroughly recommend investing in include things like a decent laptop bag, a docking station (to connect your peripherals and improve your productivity) and portable batteries (to increase your laptop's battery life, as we've previously discussed).

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5 essential browser add-ons for ultimate video control
5 essential browser add-ons for ultimate video control

5 essential browser add-ons for video

How to download online videos
If you're inclined to downloading media content (and if you're reading this, we assume you are), you've probably already found a few browser add-ons to help you out. There are dozens of Torrent and NewsBin search add-ons, for example, and you may already have a few that help you find what you want faster.
Our favourite add-ons, however, are the ones that really add functionality to your browser and make it a much better tool for downloading. Here we've listed some of our favourite browser add-ons for Chrome and Firefox. The first four we couldn't live without, while the last offers a certain level of convenience for people who don't like having a lot of apps installed.

Video DownloadHelper

How to download online videos
Available for: Firefox
Link: Video DownloadHelper
We've yet to find a better add-on for saving YouTube, Daily Motion and other embedded videos to your hard disk than Video DownloadHelper. It readily supports resolution selection on major services, and it can also convert videos for you, turning those .flv files into .mp4 files (for example) that your media player can natively play.
It's very easy to use. It appears as a button in Firefox, and is also accessible from the Tools menu once installed. Next to the button, a small arrow appears.
Whenever you visit a site with embedded media that Video DownloadHelper can grab and save to your disk, the icon will start spinning. Then just click on the arrow next to it and a list of embedded files will appear, with different resolution options and file formats if available. Click on one of them, and it will add the download to your browser download queue.
To convert videos as you download them, right click on the icon and select preferences. Click on the Conversion tab, enable Conversion. There will be a button to download and install an external converter application on your PC. Once that's done, you can set your conversion rules (formats and so on). Unfortunately, on the free version of the app, it will leave a watermark.


How to download online videos
Available for: Chrome (incl. Android), Firefox
Link: Hola!
One of the key reasons people purchase a VPN service is to access content in countries that normally restrict us. The thing is, a paid VPN service isn't the only way. There are a handful of free browser add-ons that can accomplish a similar feat. Admittedly, they're not as capable or reliable as a commercial VPN service, but if you're not keen on paying the freight, they're the way to go.
Probably our favourite such add-on is Hola! It's highly effective, working for sites like Hulu, Netflix and the BBC iPlayer. You just head to the site that you want to view the video on, where you'll see the obligatory "dude, not from your country" message. Then you click on the Hola! icon in the tool bar and select the country you'd like to appear to be from.
A second later the icon will change to the country flag, and you'll be effectively spoofed for that site. Then just reload the page and watch away. It even works with Google Cast, so you can beam your videos to your TV.
However, it's important to note that the company was recently found to have been selling its users idle bandwidth. Under the brand name of Luminati, Hola! was offering paying clients the ability to route data through IPs of its users all over the world. Despite this, we still see it as a useful service when it comes to downloading online videos.

Google Cast

How to download online videos
Available for: Chrome (all platforms)
Link: Google Cast
You really need a Chromecast device for this to be useful, but if you do get hold of a $50 Chromecast, this opens up a world of options.
What it does is beam an open Chrome tab to your TV screen via the Chromecast. That might not sound like much, but when combined with embedded video players it's actually very useful.
The VLC add-on that's installed along with the VLC media player, the one that lets you play video in your browser, works with it. You can watch embedded Hulu or Netflix videos, or beam BBC or ABC iPlayer videos. Of course, you can also stream YouTube videos and other embedded pages.
Operation is very simple: go to whatever tab you'd like beamed to your TV set. Click on the Google Cast icon in the toolbar, and select your target Chromecast device. Video up to 720p is supported.


How to download online videos
Available for: Firefox
Link: DownThemAll!
Although it doesn't do embedded media very well, DownThemAll! is a fantastic tool for quickly hoovering up regular linked content on a web page. Say you find a page with a bunch of links that you'd like to download; instead of clicking on them one by one as selecting Save As, you can fire up download them all and just check boxes next to all the items you want to grab. It works for any file type, and can readily sort images and videos from other types of content.
If for example, you wanted to grab all the MP3 files linked from a given page, you'd open up the DownThemAll add-on, select the Audio filter and check any items you'd like to download. You could also use the dTa OneClick button to automatically grab everything that matches your last selected filter options.
The add-on includes a download manager that lets you pause, reorder and resume downloads.

Torrent Tornado

How to download online videos
Available for: Firefox
Link: Torrent Tornado
If you don't love opening a new app to download torrents and would rather just do it all in your browser, you can try Torrent Tornado, an Add-on for Firefox that serves as a basic but capable BitTorrent client, capable of downloading at decent speeds.
Clicking on the Torrent Tornado icon opens up a new tab in Firefox, which lists currently downloading torrents and allows you to add more. Torrents and magnets links can also be associated with Torrent Tornado in the settings, so that clicking on a torrent link of any kind will automatically fire up the Torrent Tornado tab.

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Running Man of Tech: Nico Rosberg: I've given up on fitness tech
Running Man of Tech: Nico Rosberg: I've given up on fitness tech

Tips from a pro

I'll be honest: when I interviewed F1 driver Nico Rosberg, the last thing I expected was to be getting pro tips on how I can break the 40 minute barrier for a 10K race.
But when I walked in, all ready to ask questions about BlackBerry and home automation, he immediately asked: 'What watch is that?'
I was wearing the Garmin Forerunner 920 XT – it turns out that he was a triathlete and had its predecessor, the 910 – and in a few seconds he was tapping through the interface.
'It looks fake!' he exclaimed, before I - sulkily - told him that it was just the watch face I downloaded so I could have too much information on the screen.
Nico Rosberg
Then came some information I didn't expect: this top athlete has given up on fitness technology altogether:
"At one point I had all my watches and everything was documented, all the graphs etc, and I would always train according to my zones," he said.
"But for the last couple of years I've removed everything, and I do it all by feel. It works great."
I was confused. Why would someone who needs to get the absolute maximum out of their training give up on that level of information when it could give them an advantage?
"I don't know – it just came gradually," he admits when I quiz him on the switch.
"I really don't know what made me change. In the morning I'll still check my resting heart rate because that's a really good indication for me – I know exactly that if I'm over 51 [beats per minute] it means I'm tired. If I'm in the 40s I know I can hit it again. That's pretty important."
So that led me to the question that ate up valuable minutes of the interview I was supposed to be conducting about technology in the F1 team – but I had to know. How would he train to break the 40 minute barrier in a 10K race?
"I've done 38 minutes for the 10k – and that was up and down hills," he said, without smiling. I felt deflated. But at least he told me how he did it.
"With that distance it's very easy: all you need to do are intervals.
"Don't bother doing any long stuff. You build it up with intervals. Begin with half a km fast, then half a km slower. Then [the next session] you go 750m up, 750m down, just two times.
"Then do a single kilometre at a slightly faster pace then cool down, then it's up to 2km with a lot of space in between."
I tell him I'm a fan of throwing hill intervals into the mix to help strengthen my legs and really get the heart working.
Nico Rosberg
I assume that he'll be impressed at my tenacity, probably invite me to go for a run where he nods approvingly then we go to a yacht party or something.
"Hills – no, because if you don't have a hill in your 10k then there's no point in doing it. It's a different thing. It's better to just go a bit quicker on the flat."
Ego deflated, I ask the one thing that worries me about dropping the watch: how do you know how fast to run these intervals to get me under target?
"Just go until it hurts at the end – so what's that going to be? Yeah, above race pace. It will be 3m50 seconds or something.
"Eventually you need to get to the point where you're doing a kilometre, two minutes cool down, and then repeating that a few times.
"Then go to two kilometres and so on - bringing the recovery gap down in between and you're good to go. Intervals all the way. That's the solution."
I'll cancel that order for deck shoes.

The MiCoach Fusion

Now I'm back on the trail of beating my 10km target, I've been thinking about the technology that I'm going to use to get me there.
Well, I was before Nico started telling me I'm doing it all wrong, but like a good like runner I'm ignoring the advice that I don't like and just doing what I was going to anyway.
I've been using the Garmin 920 XT for a few months now – I'm in love with the accuracy and feature set, but more importantly the battery life. It just goes on for days and days.
However, the brand isn't as good at setting up plans to get me running faster. Which led me back to 'my first' – the Adidas MiCoach system. There was a time when I was religiously stuck to first the app then the MiCoach SmartRun running watch.
All my data was on there, it had an integrated heart rate monitor and the watch could wirelessly sync all my data to the servers through Wi-Fi, rather than the bulk of other options that needed a PC connection, meaning they sat there swelling with unchecked runs for months.
The key thing that brought me back was the sheer range of plans on offer here – whatever you want to do, be it running, football, tennis or myriad other sports there's a set of workouts specifically for you.
And within that there are different levels and goals – including one to shove you under 40 minutes for a 10K race.
Nico Rosberg
On top of that, the other feature I like about the system is that it'll build you a strength program too, which is precisely what I want to be adding into the mix to get me stronger and thus faster and thus more the kind of guy that guffaws and stands around talking about manly things, rather than giggling over a Bacardi Breezer.
However, that's when things started to unravel. Firstly the plan I had mapped out for me, which has a range of run types involved from long endurance sessions to interval training, seemed to lack the 'Rosberg factor' – ie, longer and longer workouts at faster than race pace speeds.
I get that each brand does things differently, with alternative ideas to get people moving, but I feel the need to get my speed on. So I'm going to fuse the MiCoach plan I've got with some elements of this one from Run Britain, which is a little harder.
And that's my undoing. I've gone in all guns blazing, doing strength sessions in the morning and running in the evening, and three days in I've already made my hamstrings more sore than they've ever been in my life.
Nico Rosberg
In fact, for the first time in ages I've had to skip a run – and it's only the first week. This is terrible. A follow up at the ParkRun this morning has proven they're in trouble... I'm going to have to scale back for the first time in my life.
What's worse: in order to keep the fitness up I was forced back into the pool for some low-impact swimming. I still hate swimming with a fiery passion.
Upshot: don't push to hard at the start. Ease into it or, before you know it, you'll be shoved into a wetsuit and made to swim down the Thames.

Say hello to Runner G

If you're an avid runner, you'll know this refrain when talking to your friends about the fun of jogging around all the time: 'I should do more running,' they'll say, usually while having a cheeky Vimto.
Then you try and entice them out onto a quick jaunt around the park, and suddenly they've got a hamster to take to the vet or buy new rubber feet for the fridge.
Except one of my friends finally caved in – she'd always wanted to do a 10K, and three weeks ago asked me to help her get ready for the race in early September, despite not having done much in the way of running before.
Being the good little tech-fiend I am, I signed her up with MiCoach (so I can track her runs and alter her pace targets accordingly – I'm in no way taking diabolical pleasure from that) and given her a FitSmart heart rate monitor to add into the mix.
It's going to be interesting to see how she gets on – will the app help or hinder? Will the structured plans be easy to follow or a confusing mess? And will the FitSmart, a band designed for the new exerciser, prove to be a useful addition?

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Updated: 20 smart new and improved features in Windows 10
Updated: 20 smart new and improved features in Windows 10


20 things
With Windows 10, Microsoft is trying to keep some of the touch and tablet features it created for Windows 8, combine them with the familiar Start menu and desktop, and run it all on top of an improved operating system with more security, a new browser, the Cortana assistant, its own version of Office for on-the-go editing and plenty of new features intended to make life simpler.
Of course, that also means it's very different to use, whether you come from Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows XP. You have to look in a new place even to turn your PC off.
On top of that, Windows 10 is more than just a PC operating system; it's also what will run on Windows phones – and on small tablets as well, because a 6-inch phone and a 7-inch tablet aren't such very different devices. Microsoft is expecting people to put Windows 10 on a billion devices (which ought to encourage more app developers to at least take a look at building their apps for Windows phones and tablets, as well as for Xbox One and HoloLens).
Here are some of the key new and reworked features you'll see in Windows 10.

The Start menu evolves

Windows start menu
The full-screen Start screen of Windows 8 is back to being a Start menu in Windows 10 that tries to combine the best of both options. You get a scrolling Start menu that's restricted to a single column, with jump lists and flyout menus for extra options, divided into frequently used and recently installed programs, with the option to switch to a scrolling view of all your applications, sorted alphabetically.
But you also get an extra pane where you can pin Windows 8-style tiles, complete with 'rotating 3D cube' animations of live tiles. You can drag the Start menu to be a larger size or even set it to be full screen.

Cortana helps you with search and control

Cortana assists and searches
Cortana, the Windows Phone assistant, shows up in Windows 10 as a search pane on the taskbar, which you can also trigger by saying 'Hey Cortana' – and when you start searching the Start menu. That gets you apps you have installed, documents you have access to, apps you could install from the Store, search results from the web and a range of other information – including from apps and services that integrate with Cortana.
You can set reminders for different times and places that appear on other Cortana devices, so you can get your Microsoft Band to remind you to take the rubbish out as you walk up to your front door.

Task switcher

Task switcher
Most Windows users don't know the Alt-Tab keyboard combination to see and switch between all running apps, so as well as having a redesigned task switcher with bigger thumbnails, Windows 10 also puts a task view icon in the taskbar to help them find it.

Taskbar gets subtle

Taskbar system
The Cortana search bar and task switcher button take up a large chunk of the taskbar, which is also rather more subtle about showing you which icons are for open programs, with just an underlined bar rather than a full highlight.
The standard tools in the system tray all get updates to the new Windows 10 look, with a new menu showing available Wi-Fi, a new volume slider and a power monitor that also lets you change screen brightness.

Snap Assist

snap improvements
Because all your apps and programs run in windows on the desktop, instead of modern apps from the Store being in their own space, you can no longer drag across the left edge of the screen to bring another app on screen and get a split view. Instead, you drag windows into the corners of the screen to get the familiar Snap view.
You can now use all four corners of your screen if you want each window to take up a quarter of the screen instead of half, and the space that isn't filled by the window you just dragged shows thumbnails of your other windows to make it easier to snap the next one into place.

Action Center

Action center
If you've used Windows Phone 8.1 (or Android and/or iOS), you're used to a notification centre you can drag down from the top of the screen. Windows 10 puts that on the right of the screen, where the charms bar was in Windows 8, with notifications from various apps at the top and your choice of various settings buttons at the bottom for quick access.

The command prompt enters the 21st century

Command prompt copy
Those of us that use the command prompt have been stuck with pretty much the same experience since the 1990s, but in Windows 10 you can finally resize the command prompt window and use familiar keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste at the command prompt. It's far from ground-breaking but it's a very welcome improvement after years of frustration.

Improvements to Windows Explorer

Explorer quick access#
The new 'Home' view in Explorer shows you a Quick Access list of useful locations and folders you visit frequently, with a list of recently opened files underneath it, which is faster than having to go to the Recent Places link in older versions of Windows. The Share tab on the ribbon gets a makeover too – if you used to use the Share charm in Windows 8, this is where you'll find it…

The new Edge browser

Edge notes
To catch up with fast-moving browsers like Chrome and Firefox, Microsoft took its browser back to basics, ripping out years of code that didn't fit with web standards and making a lean, fast browser.
It's a work in progress – it won't get support for things like ad-blocking extensions until a while after Windows 10 launches – but you can do plenty of neat things here. For example, you can scribble notes on a web page to send to a friend (if you're trying to decide what hotel to stay in on holiday, for example) and Edge has Cortana built in to pull useful information out of web pages, like the phone number of a restaurant, or the opening hours.
Sites like Medium that didn't work properly with IE should look better and have more features in Edge.

IE is still there

Use IE for plugins
Although Microsoft's new Edge browser is better than IE in lots of ways, from speed to standards, there are some things it can't do – and that's deliberate. If you need to run an ActiveX control or use a familiar plug-in to make a web page work, IE 11 is still in Windows 10. You might even find it opening automatically when you visit sites inside your company, if that's been set as a policy.

Multiple desktops

Multiple desktops
If you need to arrange a lot of windows and you don't have multiple monitors, you can put them on multiple virtual desktops. You can use Alt-Tab to move between apps as usual and then Windows-Ctrl and the left and right arrow keys to move between desktops.
This is handy if you're working on two projects and you want to group things together so you don't get them mixed up, or if you're on a conference call and you need to share your screen – but you don't want to close the apps you don't want people to see.

Schedule restarts

Schedule restarts
No more having Windows announce that you have fifteen minutes to get everything done before it restarts to apply an update. Instead of leaving Windows 10 to decide when to do that, if there's an update that will need a restart you can have Windows ask when you want to schedule that for.
You can only do that once the update has been downloaded. If you want to have certain times off-limits for restarts, you'll need the features in Windows Update for Business (for Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise) which lets you block restarts so they don't happen in working hours, or on certain dates.

Universal apps - including Office

office for Windows
Windows 10 gets a new Windows Store, where you can download desktop programs as well as modern Windows apps. Many of those apps will be universal apps that are the same code on a PC, a Windows phone, an Xbox One and even on HoloLens, with the interface changing to suit the different screen sizes. The Office for Windows apps like Word and Excel are universal apps, as are the Outlook Mail and Calendar apps.

Continuum - on phones as well as PCs

Tablet mode
You can change the look of Windows 10 on a touchscreen PC by turning on tablet mode – either as a setting or by removing or folding away the keyboard on a two-in-one or convertible PC. That takes away the normal taskbar, giving the user one with just a Windows button (which opens a full-screen Start menu that shows the tiles and hides the scrolling list of programs), a back button, Cortana and the task switcher button.
All your windows switch to full screen, although you can drag things around so you can have two windows side by side (but not three). And you get the same interface when you plug a screen and keyboard into a Windows 10 phone – the Start screen to launch apps, the back button and task switcher to navigate between them, and universal apps will use the interface they'd have if you were running on a PC.

Settings and control panel

Settings and control panel
The Windows 8 Settings app has taken over many more of the settings that used to be in Control Panel, and it has a Control Panel-style interface with icons to navigate with. But the old Control Panel interface is still there, for settings that aren't in the new Settings app (or if you're just used to finding things there).

Say Hello to your PC

Say hello
As well as the usual fingerprint scanning support, Windows 10 can use your face or your iris to log you on to your PC. Windows Hello will work with existing fingerprint readers, but it needs a new 3D infrared camera in your PC to use your face – it needs the infrared to know that you're alive and the 3D camera to get the contours of your face, so it doesn't work if someone holds up a photo or wears a mask.
So far there are only a few notebooks from Asus, HP, and Dell that have the right camera, and an all-in-one PC from Lenovo. Once you log in with Hello, Windows can do secure authentication with sites and apps that use the FIDO standard (and with Azure Active Directory) instead of you typing in a password.

DirectX 12

Directx12 demo
Windows 10 includes the latest version of Microsoft's graphics API – which has major performance improvements but will also work with many existing graphics cards. That's not just good news for gamers; it will speed up any Direct3D apps that are written to DirectX 12, which will include CAD software and other demanding graphics tools.

Phone Companion

Phone companion
Windows 10 includes a new app to help you get your phone set up to work with your PC and with any Microsoft services you use – like Cortana, Skype, Office and OneDrive. So you can plug in an iPhone and set it up to back up photos to OneDrive or get your Xbox Music tracks on an Android phone.

Support is right there

Contact support
Open the new Contact Support app in Windows 10 to find online tips or chat with Microsoft support online if you get stuck. And if you're really stumped, everyone who upgrades to Windows 10 gets a free 15 minute support phone call to Microsoft.

Windows 10 is free - but not for business

10 is free
If you get your copy of Windows through a volume licence for business, you'll carry on paying for it. If you have Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 – even the Pro versions, as long as you bought them some other way than through a volume licence – you'll get a free upgrade to Windows 10 in the first year.
And if you're prepared to always use the preview builds in the Windows Insider program you should be able to carry on using Windows 10 without paying for it – it will work but you won't have a proper product key that entitles you to upgrades and support, and stops you getting into trouble with the auditors.

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OnePlus 2 could be an all-metal affair
OnePlus 2 could be an all-metal affair
Counting down the days to that big OnePlus 2 reveal? There's more news from the grapevine this weekend with a newly leaked image that shows an ultra-thin, all-metal body.
OnePlus 2 metal leak
Of course this could just be a rendering put together by a budding designer with dreams of working at OnePlus, but the metal theme does back up hints dropped by OnePlus CEO Liu Zuohu that the new handset will indeed eschew plastic for something more substantial.
It also matches a metal rumour we heard back in March.
Would you be happy with a metal approach to the new flagship phone? Or do you think there's nothing more fantastic than plastic? In three weeks or so, we'll know for sure what OnePlus has created.

Virtual sell-out

The July 27 launch event is going to be streamed in VR, with OnePlus even offering Google Cardboard-esque headsets for free for the occasion - however, those headsets have now sold out. Bad luck if you were hoping to get your hands on one.
We know the OnePlus 2 is going to feature a fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C but there are a lot of questions still left unanswered, not least how the invitation system is going to work this time around.
The inclusion of the Snapdragon 810 is also official, but aside from some dodgy-looking photos we don't have much of a clue design-wise yet. We'd certainly be happy if the phone ended up looking like the leaked rendering above.

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Week in Gaming: Nintendo's shareholders scare me, and they should scare you too
Week in Gaming: Nintendo's shareholders scare me, and they should scare you too
Every year, Nintendo holds a shareholders meeting where anyone invested in the incredibly successful video game company gets the chance to fire off questions at its talented, interesting and hugely intelligent senior figures. These conversations are later translated and published online, and this week we got a look at the latest. Were any of us regular video game fans allowed in, we'd be asking the tough questions - when will you release the next Zelda? Why haven't you made another Super Mario Galaxy? What happened to those E3 puppets…?
Unfortunately, some of the people with enough disposable income to invest money in businesses are apparently dry, humourless suitpeople with approximately zero knowledge of what video games are, what Nintendo does exactly, and how the company makes all that money that they get a cut of. As such, we get questions like this one, a baffling request from someone who "seldom plays video games": "to [be able to] purchase, wear and own Nintendo-related products at every occasion possible", and " to place [their children's] faces onto in-game heroes or heroines".
It must be disheartening to find out that some of your investors, the elephants upon the backs of which your world rests, have absolutely no clue about your business.
You know what's not difficult at all? Finding Nintendo-branded apparel. Nintendo gear is in short supply in the same way that postcards, teatowels and mugs that tell you to Keep Calm And Do A Thing are, and as for having customisable characters - yup, that's what Miis are, and as Eurogamer points out, they're a decade-old feature of Nintendo consoles. Honestly, it's like going up to Apple and advising them to stick their logo on all their products.
However, it's not the first time that shareholders decided that their support of the company allowed them to stick their meddling fingers all up in Nintendo's business. Last year's meeting involved one of the investors whining that they didn't "understand video games" and thus felt angry, because "the shareholders always discuss things relating to video games or such childish topics as "what the future of video games should be".
Ugh, don't you just hate it when a company talks about its business? Don't you just loathe it when a company you've invested in is all childish? Why don't they just go back to making playing cards instead?

Let's talk about that cafeteria, hey?

The meetings are often infused with a strange sense of entitlement, like this investor who gave CEO Satoru Iwata the old worried mum treatment: "I see Mr. Iwata is a very conscientious person. He is so sincere that, in my view, he is trying to take on all of the things related to the company's current situation by himself and I think it might have made him ill...Mr. Miyamoto seems more resilient and is better at taking everything in his stride. I hope Mr. Iwata will take this advice and use it to make him a better president."
What is even going on there? This person has bought shares in a company, just to use that privilege to wag their finger at Iwata - who, might I add, is 55 years old, and therefore probably not a complete stranger to health issues - by telling him he's not as "resilient" as a co-worker?
Or how about the amateur businesspeople who suggested ideas like "the return of Virtual Boy" or giving away "Tingle's Balloon Fight DS" to investors? Or the one person who clearly bought a single share in the company just to complain that "I heard that the quality of the company cafeteria is not so good from one of my acquaintances"?
And lest we forget that time an investor suggested Nintendo release DLC that makes Mario more powerful: "Just think of paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump a little higher."
Just savor that quote for a moment. Really process it.
For the record, the Nintendo execs handle all this with the patience of a particularly put-upon saint. They thank all these people that turn up at their doors wanting to know why they don't sell cake, or why the toilets aren't clearly signposted, or why their return policy on dead parrots is so strict, where most other people would slam the door in their face and pour boiling oil out the window.
Maybe we should all buy shares in Nintendo, so we can start asking the real questions: did my primary school friend Janine's uncle ever really work for Nintendo? And were her whispered rumours of a real-life Pokemon petting zoo ever true??
Eh, whatever. Let's just watch the nice video where Miyamoto is revealed to be a Muppet fanboy.
YouTube :

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10 best PS4 games - this generation's must-play titles
10 best PS4 games - this generation's must-play titles


Almost two years into the Sony Playstation 4's life and its game developers are really hitting their stride now. We're seeing some fantastic games on the way, thanks to a rather spectacular showing at this year's E3.
But equally the PS4 has a lot of great games that you can play right now.
Some are pretty obvious, but there will be other that you might have missed out on. So we've got our Playstation 4 expert to curate a list of the absolute must-play games in the PS4's current catalogue.
If you haven't played some of these yet then there's no time like the present. After all, as Summer wanes we'll be moving into the big game release period.
So shut the curtains, block out the sun's radiated rays and settle down to some of the best gaming entertainment in console-land.
Let us know what you think though. Are there some blockbuster titles or hidden gems we've missed out?
Hit us up in the comments.

1. Grand Theft Auto V

Of heists and men...
Not only is it the best sandbox game on the platform, GTA V is also the best golf game, the best tennis sim, the undisputed virtual yoga champ, one of the best racers… it's even a pretty serviceable MMO.
We're used to scale and scope from Grand Theft Auto, but what Trevor, Franklin, and Michael bring us is a staggeringly well-realised city seen from three entirely different perspectives. Trevor, the maniacal rampage killer whom we discover to be in all of us when we play a Rockstar game; Franklin, the classic rags-to-riches character with street smarts and the ability to pull off a bandana; and Michael, the troubled criminal with a dysfunctional family and a beer gut to show for his life of violence.
However you play GTA V – a multiplayer muckabout, a story-driven third-person actioner, a flight sim – it reveals itself to be the best game on both this generation and the last.

2. The Last Of Us Remastered

Naughty Dog's best, made better
The Last of Us Remastered
Many games have offered us post-apocalyptic visions of the future, but none have been as brutal, as believable, or as touching as Joel and Ellie's story.
It was near-perfect on PS3, but with current-gen's increased performance ceiling Naughty Dog found ways to ramp up the visual fidelity to 'drop the controller and stare' levels. A radical tonal departure from Uncharted's jovial treasure-hunting escapades, The Last Of Us Remastered demonstrates the California studio's ability to strike a darker mood, populating the overgrown ruins of its setting with a cast characterised by murky morals but still getting you to care for them like your own bessies.

3. Bloodborne

Hope you don't have a swear jar
From Software's enigmatic and notoriously challenging Souls titles all hold critical and fan acclaim, but none are as stylistically interesting as the quasi-Industrial era Bloodborne.
It plays like an RPG set indelibly on a hidden difficulty mode with all the helpful text pop-ups removed, which is to say it requires more than a modicum of patience from the player.
But that's the point – in Bloodborne, you get out what you put into it. Victory's all the more rewarding when you've watched your enemy, memorised his attack patterns, struck at the opportune moment and prevailed via the game's impeccable melee combat.

4. Batman: Arkham Knight

Waynes, pains and Batmobiles
Batman: Arkham Knight
It's a Batman simulator. You get to be Batman.
If you want to pretend you need more reasons than that alone to play it, how about the smugness of knowing it runs better and actually has more advanced graphical features on PS4 than PC? (For now, at least.)
Or the stellar track record Rocksteady has for peerless fisticuff-based combat, empowering gadgetry and dark storytelling? Or the playable Batmobile? In short, it's the complete superhero sim package, presented impeccably and unrelenting in its delivery of show-stopping cinematic set-pieces. Even standing on top of a building watching your cape dance gently in the breeze makes you feel cool.

5. NBA 2K15

Hate basketball? Here's the game that'll change everything
NBA 2K15
It's not that an advanced understanding of the sport is irrelevant in NBA 2K – you'll appreciate its depth and ultimately get a lot more out of it if you're an aficionado of the real sport – but rather that it's so good, the uninitiated will want to learn both the game and the sport.
Other sports sims attempt to create the illusion of a wider universe beyond game day, but Visual Concepts' game goes way above and beyond. Its MyCareer mode plays out like a star-studded series of One Tree Hill, tracking your user-created baller's progress from rookie to All-Star and league MVP via a ridiculous number of celebrity cameos, dressing room dramas and tough moral decisions.
It's Mass Effect in Air Jordans, essentially.

6. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Stories don't come bigger than this
The Witcher 3
Geralt didn't have the smoothest of entries to PS4, but after some heavy patching and a lot of angry words about visual downgrades, we're left with an RPG boasting tremendous scope and storytelling.
Oh, and combat. And don't forget Gwent, the in-game card game. And there's the crafting to get stuck into. And the alchemy.
You're rarely short of things to entertain yourself with in The Witcher 3's quasi-open world, then, and all the better that you're in a universe that involves the supernatural without leaning on the same old Tolkien fantasy tropes. Invigorating stuff.

7. Battlefield Hardline

You have the right to remain violent
Battlefield Hardline
The era of military shooter over-saturation has long passed – so naturally, Battlefield's latest outing ditches the camo for riot gear and lets you joyride cars (and for a while, inexplicably, a sofa) in a well-balanced and surprisingly class-focussed take on the cops and robbers fantasy.
It has its tech grumbles – multiplayer is notably lower in visual fidelity than the solo campaign – but it remains PS4's best shooter. Weapon feedback is impeccable, the story isn't tripe, and multiplayer's been translated thoughtfully into a new context.
Killzone Shadow who now? Call of Whaaa?

8. Shovel Knight

A retro throwback? Dig a little deeper
Shovel Knight
Sharing surface level similarities with Towerfall Ascension, Shovel Knight also eschews polygons for beautifully evocative arrangements of pixels that'll make you pine for a bygone era – until you realise that it's actually a hell of a lot more fun to play than the Castlevanias et al that influence it.
A knowing and challenging RPG complete with idyllic villages, impossible boss fights and (mercifully) mid-level saves just to remind you what decade you're in, it's among the best-executed hybrids of old-school punishment and modern amusement in years.
PS4's version gets a wee pixelated Kratos cameo, too.

9. Rayman Legends

Armless fun with PlayStation's most insipid icon
Rayman Legends
Let's get this out of the way early doors: Rayman is a dial tone of a character, beloved by no one since his very first outing on PS1.
Rayman Legends though? An absolute gem.
Brought to life by the gorgeous UbiArt Framework engine (which also powered Valiant Hearts: The Great War, among others), it's a distinct treat for the eyes. But it's the limbless wonder's level design that really sets Legends apart from other PS4 platformers.
You'll tumble and leap through Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations. You'll find yourself battling a dragon in perfect sync to a wordless cover of 'Black Betty.' You'll swoop and glide through hell, the ocean floor, and… holy damn, if you don't start to like the blithely smiling Rayman a little bit along the way.
You win this round, Ray.

10. Towerfall Ascension

Every arrow points in this pixel-perfect brawler's direction
Towerfall Ascension
"I didn't spend three hundred quid on a console for this," you say, gesturing at the lack of 8 X MSAA and god rays in Towerfall Ascension's artfully drawn 16-bit era environments, presumably having just left the Tate in disgust after realising Kandinsky's 'Swinging' is well below 1080p.
Yes, there's a small but vocal backlash against games who share this couchplay multiplayer meisterwerk's retro aesthetic, but let's leave them to miss out on the best two-player local experience the console has to offer.
Ostensibly it's simple enough: armed with a bow, some retrievable arrows and the ability to Mario-jump your opponent to death, two to four of you duel to the death. However, the depth and subtlety just keep on expanding, even after weeks of play.

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In Depth: Best Fitbit: How to pick the one that's right for you
In Depth: Best Fitbit: How to pick the one that's right for you

Fitbits for all

The world of wearable technology is forever growing and that's particularly noticeable when you look at just how many different trackers Fitbit alone offers.
Fitbit is one of the most well known names in the fitness tracking world, which is why its products seem so tempting. Available in most major stores, you can easily walk in, pick a tracker up and immediately start counting every step you take.
However, with six different tracking devices available - the Zip, One, Flex, Charge, Charge HR, and Surge - it can be tough to know just which one is the ideal solution for you.
Here, we take a look at what makes each Fitbit stand out in order to decipher that conundrum.

What each one offers

Given Fitbit's original purpose, it makes sense that each device offers pedometer-based features. Each tracker will record your steps taken, calories burned, and distance covered. Each also makes it simple to sync wirelessly and automatically with a PC, Mac, most iOS devices and some Android phones.
This ties into the ability to track your progress through a customizable dashboard, as well as challenging your friends. Fitbit's strength here is in its ability to easily provide you with personalized weekly goals in order to keep you constantly motivated to do better next time. The interface is clear enough for technophobes, with a smartphone app also available that tracks your routes as well as motivates you with voice cues.

For casual users

Fitbit Zip
For the casual user who just wants to dip their toe into the world of fitness tracking, the Fitbit Zip is an easy recommendation to make, especially at $59.95 (£49.99, AU$79.95). It's not a wristband like some of the others. Instead, you attach it to your clothes like a regular pedometer. It's not very stylish, but it does its job well.
You can wear it all day, looking down at it and checking how much you've achieved so far before syncing it with your computer to get more details. As it attaches to your clothing, you can leave it as obvious or as discreet as you like.
You won't have to worry about battery life often either as the Zip comes with a replaceable watch battery ensuring it lasts up to six months. It might lack many of the features of the other, more advanced models, such as sleep tracking, but it's a good starting point that's different from traditional pedometers. The Zip is also ideal for those not able to wear something on their wrist all day.

For those on a budget

Fitbit One
Fitbit offers two different trackers at the same price: the One and the Flex. They're both $99.95 (£79.99, AU$129.95) but they each offer slightly different pros and cons. The One is a pedometer-style device, much like the Zip, clipping onto your clothing, while the Flex is a wristband.
Visually, the Flex is much more stylish, offering plenty of varied color choices, as well as a minimalistic way of viewing progress. It uses a series of flashing dots to show how your day is progressing, with each light representing 20% of your goal. It's not as informative as the other Fitbits with the bulk of the data only available through the app, but it looks a lot cooler. The One is more traditional looking, with a display highlighting steps, distance, calories, floors climbed and an all important clock feature, though that makes it look dated.
Notably, the One offers this clock facility, and tracks how many floors you've climbed via its altimeter. The Flex lacks these two features. It also has a slightly superior battery life, lasting up to seven days compared to the Flex's five days.
Fitbit Flex
But that's at the price of being something you have to remember to take with you, while the Flex can just happily live on your wrist and be forgotten about. Similarly, while both offer sleep tracking, the Flex is much more convenient to use, especially when it's already resting on your wrist at night. The One requires you to attach it to a wristband before you go to sleep.
The Flex seems more likely to enact a lifestyle change, while the One is too easily left aside and only used for specific workout sessions. Ultimately, you're going to end up occasionally forgetting and not racking up those all-important incidental steps.

More serious Fitbit business

For the fitness fanatics

Fitbit Charge
For an extra $30 (or another £20 in the UK and AU$40 in Australia), we begin treading into more serious Fitbit business. The Charge is the slightly lesser sibling of the Charge HR, but immediately offers a lot more for the price.
Besides all the features of the Flex, you also gain a clock, auto sleep detection and an altimeter for tracking floors climbed. It's the most inexpensive Fitbit that provides caller ID, too, saving you from getting your phone out of your pocket mid-run.
As a middle-of-the-range, all-round tracker, it's hard to fault the Charge. It's bulkier than the Flex but offers the right features to make it worth the extra heft. Not having to remember to tell your Fitbit that you're going to sleep is a real advantage, too.
The temptation at this price point is throwing in a little more for the Charge HR ($149.95, £119.99, AU$199.95) . Whether it's worth it depends on what you're buying a Fitbit for. If you just want a device to track everyday exercise with a few extra features mixed in, the Charge is perfect for your needs.
Fitbit Charge HR
If you regularly run or perform strenuous exercises, the Charge HR is worth the extra bucks, thanks to its inclusion of a heart rate sensor. Using Fitbit's PurePulse technology, it provides you with a continuous read of your heart, and uses that information to provide simplified heart-rate zones, so you know exactly how you're doing.

For the control freak

For those who want everything, the Fitbit Surge is the ultimate tracker. Offering everything that the Charge HR does, it also gives you text notifications, a way to control your music from your wrist, and GPS tracking without any need for a mobile device to be nearby. It'll also record multiple different sports, such as running, cycling and cross training.
Fitbit Surge
Offering a more detailed interface on your wrist, it's immensely convenient to be able to check your texts at the same time as you skip a track or monitor your heart rate, but it comes at a price. At $249.95, it's $100 more than the Charge HR, meaning it's only really going to be worth it for those who do a lot of outdoor exercising. In the UK, the Surge jumps to £199.99 and in Australia, it will set you back AU$349.95.

Which Fitbit should you buy?

While you've got a choice of six different devices, Fitbit can mostly be broken down between three options.
For the casual user who hasn't quite decided if they're going for a lifestyle change or a brief distraction, the Zip is a good budget option. You get to see how well the Fitbit dashboard works while not having to worry if you'll eventually get bored of fitness tracking.
The ideal choice for the average fitness fan is the Charge. It might lack the heart rate monitoring of the Charge HR but it's not a deal breaker for many at that price. You'll still benefit from extensive tracking, sleep monitoring and the convenience of never needing to remove it.
For the fitness fiend who wants the most effective solution, it has to be the Surge. It's the most expensive of the bunch, but its ability to offer everything you can think of, while tracking exceptionally well, means it's a no-brainer.

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