Tuesday, November 10, 2015

IT News Head Lines (Techradar) 10/11/2015


Your Android phone can now help cure cancer while you sleep
Your Android phone can now help cure cancer while you sleep
Remember the Folding at Home app on the Playstation 3? The app that used your gaming console to help solve some pretty nasty diseases while you weren't playing?
Well, Australian scientists at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research a new Android app that offers a similar promise for your smartphone.
When your phone is plugged in and charged to at least 95% battery overnight, the DreamLab app will kick into gear, downloading and solving a small part of a cancer research problem without any effort on your part.
The idea is that by pooling together thousands – if not millions – of idle smartphones across the country, the Institute will be able to help solve complex tasks in cancer research significantly faster than before.

Data for science

With the ever-present fear of exceeding data allowances almost ubiquitous for Australians, the biggest hurdle the DreamLab app faces is one of confronting the data challenge.
Fortunately, the app offers users limits on how much data the app can consume each month, both on your mobile network and on WiFi.
What's more, thanks to a three-year association with the Vodafone Foundation, Vodafone has unmetered the data used by the DreamLab app, so it won't count against Vodafone customer's data allowances.
You can download the free DreamLab app here.

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Stan officially arrives alongside Netflix and Presto on Telstra TV
Stan officially arrives alongside Netflix and Presto on Telstra TV
One of the biggest selling points of the Telstra TV is that it's the first streaming box to offer all three of Australia's major SVOD services in one place, with Netflix, Presto and a Stan placeholder app pre-installed from the outset (sorry, Quickflix – we said 'major').
Well, you can scratch the placeholder app, because a proper Stan app is now available for Telstra's rebadged Roku device.
Existing Stan subscribers can simply login to their updated Stan app to instantly start watching the service's stellar content lineup, though new customers will have to sign up on Stan's website.
As an added bonus, Telstra customers who register their Telstra TV boxes before December 25 will receive three months of free Stan.
The addition of Telstra TV to its list of compatible devices is just another example of Stan's commitment to being on as many devices as possible, having recently launched its app on PlayStation consoles and Samsung Smart TVs.

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How to smarten up the kid's room
How to smarten up the kid's room

How to smarten up the kid's room

How to smarten up the kid's room
Smart home gadgets aren't just for the grown-ups. You can use these devices to benefit the kids as well, whether it's keeping tabs on them while they're in and out of the house or helping them with their homework.

Smart safety at home

Belkin Netcam
For kids that are too young to need their own privacy, installing a smart security camera like the Belkin NetCam HD+ offers multiple benefits.
Once it's in place, you can quickly check what the kids are up to from another part of the house by opening the NetCam app on your smartphone or tablet and checking out the live video feed.
The night vision mode also works a treat for checking up on sleeping babies and toddlers, switching to a high-visibility monochrome view courtesy of the 12 infrared LEDs that circle the camera lens.
The Belkin NetCam HD+ can perform a few other tricks, too. Using the built-in two-way intercom, you can tell your kids to come down for dinner or stop fighting with their siblings without having to yell up the stairs like a crazy person.
If you catch your kids doing something particularly adorable (or naughty), you can snap photos or videos from the NetCam app, which are saved to your mobile device.
Since it works over both a Wi-Fi and 3G/4G data connection, you can also set it up as a 'nanny cam' when you've got a babysitter over to check that the kids have gone to bed on time.

Location, location, location

Location sharing
But what if your kids are too old to have a video camera playing big brother in their bedroom?
You can still keep tabs on them without stepping over the line using a smartphone solution, and since this works both in and out of the house, it's actually a more complete solution than the stay-at-home IP camera.
For Apple-only households, the new location-sharing features available since iOS 8 will keep track of where your kids are at any time. To set up family sharing, go to Settings > iCloud and tap 'Set Up Family Sharing'.
You'll need to confirm that you're the family 'organiser' – which essentially means that everyone that you sign in as part of the family will be able to use your credit card to make iTunes and App Store purchases.
Once you're set up as the organiser, you'll need to invite other family members to join the group. This is done by going to Settings > iCloud > Add Family Member, however this step assumes the person already has an Apple ID. For kids that are too young to create one, you can set one up on their behalf by going to Settings > iCloud > Family, tapping the small "Create an Apple ID for a child" at the bottom of the screen, and going through the rest of the prompts.
After your kids have accepted the Family Sharing Invitation and opted to share their location, you'll be able to see their location at any time by downloading the Find My Friends app. From here, you can also set up notifications so that you get an alert whenever that family member arrives or leaves a particular location.
If you wanted to set this up for his school, for instance, tap on 'Notify me', tap 'Leaves' and tap the 'Change location' link to change the location to their school.
Google doesn't have an equivalent feature in Android, but for non-Apple households, Life360 is a decent third party alternative that works across iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

New age note taking

Livescribe 3 Smartpen
Modern kids may be used to lugging laptops and tablets around, but as convenient as these devices are, they may not be the best tools for helping with their schoolwork.
Numerous studies have found that handwriting, as slow as it is compared to typing on a keyboard, is better suited for learning, as the effort of having to summarise what the teacher is saying into written form (as opposed to speedily typing everything out) helps cement that material in their memory. Essentially, noting things down by hand engages the part of the brain that is associated with memory formation more so than typing it out on a keyboard.
Up till now, tablet manufacturers like Microsoft and its Surface Pro 4 have tried to recreate the handwriting experience on a touchscreen, but these still lag significantly behind the manual process.
The same can be said for Bluetooth styluses that are designed to work with iPads. This is where a device like the Livescribe 3 Smartpen comes in handy.
It works much like a regular pen, in that you write things down on paper (albeit specially printed Livescribe dot paper), but everything is then wirelessly transmitted to an iOS or Android device over Bluetooth, and from there, you can convert your handwriting to text (provided your scribbles are neat enough), send it on to schoolmates as a PDF, or share it with popular note-taking platforms OneNote or Evernote.
The steep up-front price of the pen isn't the only thing you'll need to factor in, though. You'll also need to buy special Livescribe notepads, as the digital recognition doesn't work when you write on regular paper.
The good news is that the notepads aren't too expensive, and if you're really skint, you can print Livescribe dot paper for free using a laser printer.

Upgrade your paperbacks

Kindle dictionary
Reading books on paper is for amateurs. Switching to a digital solution will not only save money (popular classics that are out of copyright can be downloaded for free on most e-reader platforms, such as A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Othello by William Shakespeare, and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde), but you can do more with the text while you're reading it.
Using the Kindle app (available iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows 10 and Mac), you can tap and hold on any word to see its definition in a dictionary or Wikipedia, and even translate the word to a different language.
You'll never lose your page in a book again, as it automatically opens to the last page you were reading, and you can also search for specific terms in the book, which is handy if you're studying a text and need to find a quote or theme.
Another nifty feature for studying books is X-Ray, which shows you where key people, places and terms appear throughout the book.

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How to stream videos using VLC
How to stream videos using VLC

How to stream videos using VLC

How to stream videos using VLC
VLC is pretty well known as a media player that's capable of playing just about anything.
Experienced users, however, know that there's much more to the application: including the ability to stream media from one device to another. You can even stream your desktop or the input from any capture devices you might have in your system.

Streaming videos from one device to another

We'll start by talking about VLC's most basic streaming function: streaming from one device with VLC installed to another device with VLC installed.
VLC is available for all the major platforms (including iOS and Android), and you'll need it installed on both the device you'd like stream from and any devices that you want to watch the stream on.
You'll also need to know the local IP address of the computer you're streaming from. If you don't know what it is, open up Windows search bar and type cmd, which will bring up the command prompt in Windows. In the command prompt, type ipconfig and look for your IPv4 address. We need to know this address so that we can connect to it from the client devices.

1. Choosing a video

Add item
Open up VLC on the device you'll be streaming from. Click on Media>Stream (or just press Ctrl+S). The open/stream media dialogue will open up.
Next click on the Add button, and select a video file you'd like to stream. Click on the Stream button at the bottom when you're done.

2. Output

The Stream Output window will appear, with the source already selected. Just click Next.
The Destination window will pop up. From the New Destination menu, select HTTP, then click on Add.
A new tab will open up for HTTP. Note the port number – 8080 by default.
If you go back to the first tab, you can actually add additional destinations; VLC lets you stream to multiple targets at once if you like.
You can also check the box for Display Locally, which will have VLC display the video on the source PC as it streams it.
Click Next when you're done.

3. Conversion

The transcoding options box will appear. VLC will convert the video on the fly to a new format. It does this in case the target device is not capable of playing the video being streamed.
If you're streaming VLC to VLC, that theoretically shouldn't be necessary since if this VLC can play the video then the other one should be as well – so you can uncheck the Activate Transcoding box if you like.
Whichever you choose, click Next.
There's a final confirmation window showing you the text string it will be using for streaming. You can just click Stream to start the streaming.
The file will start streaming. If you chose Display Locally, the VLC window will have the video shown in it. If not, the progress bar will move, but you won't see the video on screen.

4. Second device

Second device
Now head to the device(s) you want to watch the stream on and fire up VLC. As many devices as you processor and bandwidth can support at once can view the stream.
On a mobile, tap on the Stream option. On a PC, click on Media>Open Network Stream.
You'll be given a bar into which to type the address from which to stream. Tap or click on it and type in: http://:8080
Where is the local IP address of the device that's streaming the video.
On a mobile, VLC will actually remember previously typed addresses, so you only need to enter them once and can just tap on them in the future to resume streaming from the device.
On a PC, an added stream will appear in the playlist. Select it and press play to view the stream.
Because it's a live stream (rather than a transferred file) your play controls will be limited on the client; you can't, for example, fast forward and rewind – though you could do that on the source PC by moving the slider bar.

6. Playlist

On the source PC, you'll notice that any streams you add will be added to the live playlist (which can be saved, just like a normal playlist). You can add more streams, restart streams, control the playback position or start streaming something else by double clicking on it.
Essentially what you do on the streaming PC is reflected on the playing devices in real time. You've essentially become a live broadcaster!
Now that you've got basic streaming down, you can experiment with more complex streaming. By going to Capture Devices in your Stream dialogue, you can see that you can actually live stream from a capture source on your PC – a webcam or capture device for example.
You can also broadcast your PC's desktop (although that's a little flaky at the moment – we had continual crashes when we tried). Technically you can even broadcast the input from a TV tuner, though the implementation of that is extremely technical and not for the faint of heart.

Other apps

KODI Android
Technically you don't need VLC on the client devices (the ones you're planning to view the video on). VLC actually supports open standards for streaming including streaming over HTTP and RTSP.
In Kodi, for example, you can set up a source with the HTTP or RTSP protocol. So you could stream from your desktop PC to a device (like the OSMC Raspberry Pi we talked about last month) running Kodi alone.
You just need to add a new video source in Kodi, with HTTP or RTSP (whichever you use in VLC) as the protocol and the IP address and port number of the VLC PC as the source.

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How to use a VPN on Android
How to use a VPN on Android

How to use a VPN on Android

What with the introduction of mandatory metadata retention laws for ISPs in Australia, it's fast becoming common practice for digital citizens to employ VPNs – that is, virtual private networks – to conceal their online tracks from Big Brandis and Uncle Sam.
It's not that I or other concerned citizens have anything to hide, it's just that other people don't have the right to log, view, and make judgement on every single thing I do online.
Even if you don't think that the government will have any interest in what you're doing online, if you use your phone at internet cafes or wifi hotspots, a VPN is a great way to protect you from users on the same network that may have intentions that are less than pure.
Further, if you're connecting to an open wifi network (that is, one that you don't type in a password to initially connect to), almost all of your data is out there floating on the airwaves, ready to be snapped up by any machine nearby.
With financial incentives for unsavoury characters to run packet-sniffing apps, you'd be foolish to think that any free wifi network available to you while travelling is just as safe as your network at home.
Thankfully, setting up a VPN connection on Android is an easy task, but there are still a few considerations that you need to make when doing so, which I will guide you through now.
Before I get ahead of myself, though, I'll quickly walk you through just what a VPN is, and how it protects your privacy online.

A VP wut?

A VPN allows you to create a private connection over a public one. This sounds like nothing too special, but what it does is actually allow you to route everything you send over your network through to a trusted server via a secret, encrypted tunnel – keeping it away from prying eyes.
Additionally, you can use VPNs to access the 'net as if you're located somewhere that you're not to bypass any website blockages or other filtering mandated by your local totalitarian regime.
Not all VPN connections are the same quality, however, and when looking for providers you'll see connections available using many technologies, including PPTP, L2TP, IPsec, OpenVPN, and more.
Above all others, I recommend OpenVPN, as it has stood up to the most scrutiny, and is easier to implement than some of the others. It's also open source, which always makes me happy.

Choosing a VPN provider

So, now that I've convinced you of the merits of a VPN, you will need to choose one to connect to. You can peruse a list of VPN providers that take your privacy seriously.
I hesitate to recommend any one provider in the above list over any other, as I haven't tried them all, but I do recommend looking for one that includes either their own Android client, or that provides config files for the official OpenVPN client for Android, as it will save you a lot of fiddlin'.
Of course, you're not going to use the VPN exclusively on your Android phone, either, so make sure they have access for multiple devices, and provide clients for every platform you're interested in.
For this guide, I'll show you how to set up a VPN for your chosen service provider using the official OpenVPN client rather than the native VPN support introduced in Ice Cream Sandwich, which doesn't support OpenVPN, the gold standard for VPN connections.
You can connect to other VPN types (PPTP, L2TP, and IPSec) under Android Settings > Wireless and Networks ( > More) > VPN.

Only partly anonymous

Keep in mind that VPNs only encrypt your traffic up to their endpoint – the server that you chose in the connection process. Your internet activity can be monitored from this point onwards, so don't think that you no longer have to rely on SSL for banking or online shopping etc.
Additionally, all your online activity will be tied to the IP address assigned by this server. Most VPN providers share IP addresses, so there's no way to definitively single you out for any criminal activity undertaken by your assigned IP address, but don't think that a VPN is a free pass to Illicitown.

Setting up a VPN

So, first things first, visit the Play Store and download the official (and free) 'OpenVPN Connect' client (that's the one published by OpenVPN).
You'll next need the OpenVPN config files available from your VPN provider. If these are provided as a zip file, you'll have to extract it so that you have files with the extension '.ovpn'.
Place those files into a folder on your phone's storage, then, from the OpenVPN app's three-dot menu, choose 'Import Profile from SD card', and navigate to the folder that you placed those config files in, finally selecting the server that you wish to connect to.
So, which one should you choose? It's up to you – are you looking to access content blocked in your country? Then choose a country that does have access to that content. If you're not interested in location spoofs, then for the sake of access speed, choose the server closest to your current location.
Once you've imported a profile, you'll need to enter the username and password given to you by your VPN provider. I'd tick the 'save' box, so that the next time you connect, it will be a faster process. Connecting – both now and next time – is just a matter of tapping the 'Connect' button from the main screen, and telling Android that you trust OpenVPN to make a VPN connection for you.
If you've imported multiple OpenVPN server connections, then you can quickly choose between them from the drop-down menu up the top of the main screen, making it a breeze to switch between countries.
To make accessing the VPNs even faster, you can add shortcuts to your Android homescreen. To do so, choose 'Add Shortcut' > 'Add Connect Shortcut' from the three dot menu, then select from the drop-down menu which connection you want as a shortcut, give it a name – et voilà; you're just one press away from more secure browsing.

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5G incoming: Telstra pushes 1Gbps barrier
5G incoming: Telstra pushes 1Gbps barrier
Things are about to get a whole lot faster, with Telstra claiming it has hit the very limit of what can be considered 4G.
Giving us a tantalising glimpse of what happens when LTE is pushed, Telstra and Ericsson have collaborated to successfully test the 1Gbps capability of Telstra's commercial mobile network.
In a world first, the speed was achieved by aggregating 100MHz of Telstra's spectrum holdings across five separate 4G channels.

LTE limits

While 1Gbps is still classed as 4G, the global consensus considers it the absolute pinnacle of what 4G can be. Now that Telstra has reached this limit, anything beyond will be 5G.
To provide a sense of just how quick 1Gbps really is, Telstra currently offers customers speeds that max out at 450Mbps for mobile devices, and 600Mbps for mobile hotspots.
Mark Wright, Telstra's Group Managing Director of Networks, claims the company still has work to do, but promises "the days of commercial 1Gbps services in the market are coming."

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Visualisation for business: Seeing is innovating
Visualisation for business: Seeing is innovating

Visualisation for business

This year has seen many developments in visualisation technology – from holograms to virtual reality headsets – designed to excite the senses and usher in a new paradigm of personal entertainment. Also exciting is the potential visualisation brings to many business processes still stuck in the doldrums of plain text and voice interaction.
Visualisation can be broadly defined as technology that brings a visual dimension (2 or 3D) to information or an object that is described as non-visual data or a physical object. Visualisation allows an object to been seen without physically being there with the help of computer modelling.
As computing power advances, visualisation will become more accessible from the cloud to smartphones and wearables. In the medical industry alone, Research and Markets forecasts the global advanced visualisation market to grow at more than 10 per cent each year reaching some $2.8 Billion in value by 2020.
Here, we'll look at the technology of visualisation and how organisations are adopting it to dramatically change the way they do business – both internally and for their customers.

2015: A leap year for visualisation

Microsoft Hololens
With the Google Glass smart eyewear showcasing the potential for visualisation over the past few years its sun setting this year seemed to trigger a burst of product development from a range of tech vendors: Microsoft announced HoloLens; Samsung released its Gear VR headsets; and Sharp released an interactive whiteboard for the office meeting room.
In addition to devices for augmented and virtual reality, this year has heralded new ways to turn mind-boggling volumes of data into patterns which can be "seen" and acted upon.
Matthew Golab, legal technology manager at Gilbert + Tobin Lawyers, says with typically litigation or regulatory matters running into the hundreds of thousands of documents, the use of visual network diagrams provides an overview of the universe, or of a subset.
"We also use visual breakdowns of type of document coupled with chronological views to sample the documents," Golab says.
Augmented reality and facilities like the UTS Data Arena are excellent tools for exploring data sets, but the future of visualisation lies in the ability to select visuals which will communicate an anomaly or an interesting trend to a user, according to Premonition.io managing director Brad Lorge.
"With the advent of smart watches, Google Glass and even smartphone notifications, apps need to be able to communicate complex trends and events incredibly concisely. The ability to understand what exactly to emphasise is the key," Lorge says.

Applying imagination

The application of visualisation is only limited by imagination and practicality, and more often than not, will result in better understanding of information and more innovation.
Zip Industries, a local manufacturer of office hot water systems, has adopted 3D visualisation as a core part of its assembly and ERP processes as it is easier for people to see the volume of a component in 3D compared with a flat image.
When I met the company's CIO, Nick Mennell, he was spearheading an initiative to use 3D modelling to demonstrate products "in place" to potential customers as visualisation stretches from manufacturing and ERP to sales and marketing. An easy ROI for the company is to use 3D modelling to eliminate travel time to prospects and field photography.
While visualisation is making waves this year, it's worth noting that the Queensland Police Service has been using virtual reality for training since as far back as 2003. Education and training is another area which can benefit greatly from visual interaction.

The benefits of real time visualisation

All eyes on real-time data visualisation

Every business deals with some form of data set – from financial accounts to server monitoring – but the big challenge is turning raw data into real-time intelligence and that's where visualisation can make a huge difference.
Ben Phillips, principal research fellow at the University of Canberra's National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, says visualisation offers many advantages, not least a simpler way to understand data.
"When people have a visual interface they can quickly understand large data sets," Phillips says. "We find using a spreadsheet can be a confusing array of numbers, but a more visual approach is a lot easier and more functional. Most people find a visual interface more appealing to understand the business, more intuitive and flexible."
The centre provides clients with visual interfaces which allows people to change dimensions of tables on fly so they can do analysis themselves for real-time data visualisation. Phillips says people often discover new opportunities for improvement when performing their own analysis.
"It's fairly early days for visualisation in Australia, but it is promising a better way to understand data to uncover problems in business and government," he says.
An example of real-time data visualisation is displayed by Finnish organisation Lucify which has created an interactive data visualisation of Europe's current migration crisis based on data from the UN and other sources.
Hover over Germany and you'll see the path and number of people heading into the country represented by arrows. Lucify's self-stated mission is to foster collaboration on interactive data visualisation for journalism.
Peter Gray, director of analytics and information service at Oakton, says visualising data can allow people to easily gain insights into what is really happening.
"For example, in a shopping centre, by overlaying retail sales and foot traffic data over a map of the centre, you can clearly see the different people movements and spending patterns which then allows you to optimise store mix and rental agreements," Gray says. "By then delivering this on a geo-spatially aware mobile device, you're able to stand in a particular part of the centre and see what the returns are from the different stores, and put that information into context."
We're just at the start of a new era in visualisation for business. More readily available equipment and cloud services coupled with applications and use cases will drive a new appetite for innovation. Don't let the legacy of text and telephone hold your business back.

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Week in Gaming: A look into the dystopian future of Activision's Candy Crush acquisition
Week in Gaming: A look into the dystopian future of Activision's Candy Crush acquisition
It was this week, exactly a decade ago, that Activision Blizzard bought King, the studio behind Candy Crush. At the time, we didn't know what it meant. We made jokes - hot takes, as we called them back then - about how an Activision exec had probably left their iPad in the company of an excitable four-year old with sticky fingers and no concept of credit cards. We laughed. Remember what it felt like to laugh?
But now the windows are boarded up and every crevice has been blacked out with whatever material we had to hand: curtains, blankets, torn-up gaming manuals. We'll never use those again. We'll never want to. We can't let them see us, we know what they'll do.
A small, thin, sharp ray of light scans across the room. They're outside now. We huddle, terrified, in the corner. A knock on the door.
We freeze.
"Excuse me," the Microtransaction Officer bellows. "Is anyone in? We have a special offer on immunity. Two weeks for only 5.99! Limited time deal!"
My husband looks up. "Actually," he says, "that's pretty good, isn't it?" He starts to get to his feet. "No!" I whisper urgently. "No, please!"
He makes his way to the door as I cradle our baby in the dark. He opens it.
"Hello," beams the officer. "Very nice house you have here. How many gems did you pay for it?"
My husband is taken in by the flattery of the officer. He gets out his wallet. I want to stop him, but I can't risk them seeing me. I can't risk another payment. I stupidly let our toddler play with my phone and now I have a huge overdraft and 5,000 gold coins to show for it. I can buy as many level skips as I want - but I can't buy a get out of jail free card. Those literally exist now, and I'll need one if they find me.
My husband has paid the officer now. But he's not done yet.
"Thanks for your purchase," he says. "But I see your car has a dent. Would you like me to fix that?"
"No it doesn't," my husband replies. "It's completel-" but before he can finish, the officer kicks the car door in.
"Fifteen gems," he says, smiling. "Or you'll have to replace the windscreen, too."
My husband freezes. He knows we don't have that. We saved up all our coins back before we had little Bruce. They wouldn't have let us take him home if we hadn't paid in full. If we were short on cash, we'd have had to buy him back in pieces - 'DLC', they called it. Now we barely have enough for our weekly rations, and we certainly can't afford to buy lifelong immunity for a one-off payment of 500 gems - even if it does come with 50 bonus gold coins for this week only.
Everyone's a sucker for a deal, aren't they? We blew a chunk of month's income on the new Call of Duty emotes. Just ten gems, three chocolate(TM) bar wrapper codes and three chants of "All praise the King". Now we can't afford the month's school fees for our second eldest. Soon we might not be able to afford food.
I'm already working 40 hours a week at the Match Three factory to make ends meet. The days are long. I have callouses on my hands from all the swiping. Endless rows of coloured things in front of my eyes have started to make my sight deteriorate.
Our daughter, she wants to make movies. She got a job as a production assistant at the Activision movie studio working on the next Call of Duty Saga: Zombies Edition movie. I know it's selfish, but if she can make a success of her life then maybe she can maybe pull us out of this mess.
The officer sees my husband's reaction. He knows we can't pay. He reaches for his handcuffs.
"Terribly sorry," he says. "Have to disable you. You'll be able to continue your life again in one week." With a quick, effortless motion he injects him in the neck. Forced coma. His third this year.
The neighbours watch from their windows. One woman is stuffing her face from a bag and I can barely bring myself to say it. Any mention of the word "candy" must be immediately followed by the most uttered slogan in the land: "a trademark of the Activision-King corporation, the great and the almighty". It's a ritual that became enshrined in law when the patent was secured. And yet they still can't make a decent Tony Hawk's game.
Welcome to the future now that Activision owns King.
Or, you know, things will just carry on like normal.

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Review: Updated: MacBook
Review: Updated: MacBook

Introduction and design

Note: OS X 10.11 El Capitan is now available to download onto the new MacBook from the Mac App store. It introduces loads of new features including a split-screen view, a Spaces Bar and under-the-hood performance improvements. To find out if OS X 10.11 El Capitan is a worthy upgrade, check out our OS X 10.11 El Capitan review.
Also: Black Friday is nearly here! If you're looking to grab yourself Apple's 12-inch MacBook on the cheap, make sure you check out our cheap MacBook deals for Black Friday page.
Original article follows...
Knock it for its USB Type-C port. Bash it for its wimpy horsepower. But don't even try to deny that Apple's new MacBook is one of the most attractive, impressively-engineered laptops that the world has ever seen - there's simply nothing quite as slick out there.
Even though it combines the portability of Apple's MacBook Air with the Retina MacBook Pro's high pixel-density Retina display, the new MacBook doesn't resemble either product line – or Apple's older, polycarbonate white MacBook of the same name, for that matter.
New MacBook
Instead, it feels like an entirely new species of otherworldly laptop that has more in common with an iPad Air than a ThinkPad. Flip open the lid, and you're transported into the best-looking OS X Yosemite playground yet - one that goes wherever you go.
But it's far from perfect: the new MacBook's sole USB Type-C port and moderately-powered Intel Core M processor mean that many of this playground's games are off-limits, and while some will find its unique keyboard more fun than a revolving roundabout, it will make others sick with frustration.
Divisive and sickly sweet, the new MacBook is the notebook equivalent of Marmite. Personally, I love the stuff (and like the new MacBook a lot), but whether it's for you depends on how much you're prepared to compromise.

On the catwalk

Two qualities stand out above all else when it comes to the new MacBook: thin and lightweight. Apple has managed to squeeze its components into an incredible aluminium body that measures just 0.35cm at its thinnest point and 1.31cm at its thickest.
Its thinness is in part due to Intel's fanless Core M CPU, which is passively cooled and runs whisper quiet. There's no fan inside, which enabled Apple's engineers to make its chassis slimmer. The new MacBook is an ideal option if you're frequently sharing a room with light sleepers - particularly compared to noisier, fan-based notebooks sporting Intel's Core-series chips.
Lid Rear
Another factor that's helped Apple achieve the new MacBook's svelte dimensions is its dramatically thinner keyboard, which uses an Apple-designed butterfly mechanism instead of a traditional scissor type underneath the keys.
And while we're on the topic of thin, the new MacBook's bezel is slimmer than ones on previous MacBooks and is complemented by a matte strip along the bottom that bears the MacBook logo. It's available in three colors: Space Grey, Silver and Gold.

Cost and competition

Everything about the new MacBook's design screams premium, which is what you're shelling out for at the end of the day - you can almost forget what's housed inside.
Of course, we've been here before. The original MacBook Air, which was more portable than other notebooks at the time but came with fewer ports, cost an arm and a leg when it first came out - and history has repeated itself with the new MacBook.
Starting at £1,049 (US$1,299 or AUS$1,799), the entry-level MacBook comes with 256GB of flash storage and is powered by a 1.1GHz (Turbo Boost to 2.4GHz) dual-core Intel Core M flash storage, 8GB of RAM and Intel HD Graphics 5300. Rising to £1,299 (US$1,599 or AUS$2,199), the top-end model comes with a slightly faster 1.2GHz chip (Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz) and 512GB flash storage.
New MacBook
The nearest alternative price-wise is Apple's less portable but more capable 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina that starts at £999 (US$1,299 or AUS$1,799). That gets you a 2.7GHz (Turbo Boost to 3.1GHz) dual-core Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 128GB flash storage and Intel Iris Graphics 6100.
If you're not too bothered about a Retina display, the top-end 13-inch MacBook Air costs the same price and comes with a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 CPU (Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz), Intel HD Graphics 6000, 4GB of memory and 256GB flash storage.
If you're in the Windows camp, the number of Core M-powered alternatives are growing all the time. Of those, the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, Asus T300 Chi and Asus UX305 share the new MacBook's traits of slimness and portability. And if you wait a little longer, it's possible that there may be a new contender in the shape of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

Specifications and features

While the 13-inch MacBook Air (which weighs 2.96 pounds) never exactly felt unwieldy in the hand, being almost a pound lighter means that the new MacBook (2.03 pounds) is on a different level of portability.
The difference in weight between the 11-inch MacBook Air (2.38 pounds) is more subtle; while it's noticeable holding each device in a hand, you're unlikely to tell the difference between the two when they're slung into a backpack.
Taking a peek at the new MacBook's Windows 8.1-powered contenders, the Asus UX305 (2.64 pounds) and the Yoga 3 Pro (2.62 pounds) lie somewhere in-between the new MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Air. The UX305 wins the gong for being the model with the lowest height, measuring 12.3mm, followed by the Yoga 3 Pro's 12.8mm.
New MacBook
Although the new MacBook is a whisker taller than the Yoga 3 Pro at 13.1mm, that's when measured from the tallest point at the back. Thanks to its tapered design, it measures just 3.5mm at the front and is easy to open with one hand thanks to a cutaway at the front.
At 280 x 197 x 13.1 mm (W x D x H), the new MacBook has the smallest footprint of the three, versus the UX305 (324 x 226 x 12.3), Yoga 3 Pro (330 x 228 x 12.8) and 13-inch MacBook Air (325 x 227 x 17mm), making it the clear winner if you're a frequent traveller requiring that inch or two of extra space on the plane or train.
Here is the configuration of the review model supplied to TechRadar:

Spec sheet

  • Processor: 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M CPU (Turbo Boost up to 2.4GHz) with 4MB shared L3 cache

  • Operating System: OS X Yosemite
  • Memory: 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3

  • Display: 12-inch LED-backlit IPS display

  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5300 (video support up to 3,840 x 2,160)

  • Storage: 256GB PCIe-based onboard flash storage

  • Camera: 480p FaceTime camera

  • Networking: 1/10/1000BASE-T Gigabit Ethernet
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0

  • Audio: Stereo speakers; Dual microphones; headphone port (support for Apple iPhone headset with remote and microphone)

  • Dimensions: 28.05 cm / 0.35 - 1.31 cm / 19.65 cm (H x W x D)

  • Weight: 0.92kg (2.03 pounds)

  • Battery: Built-in 39.7-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
Wave goodbye to full-size USB 2.0 ports, and the MagSafe adapters that juiced Apple's old MacBooks, because both have been replaced with a single USB Type-C port on the new MacBook's left-hand edge. The only other port is a headphone jack on the right-hand side.
That's right: there are no other USB ports or video outputs to be found - including Apple's own Thunderbolt port. The absence of MagSafe is also disappointing. It was nice to know that you could wrap your leg around the power chord without sending your MacBook flying into the air.
New MacBook
Unlike MagSafe, which came out easily (which was the whole point), the USB Type-C connector feels uncharacteristically snug. If we're scraping the barrel to look for a positive, using the MagSafe adapter with the cord at full length meant that it had a tendency to fall out, whereas once a USB-C charger is inserted, it's rock solid. Plus, like Apple's Lightning connector it works both ways around.
Oh, forget it: let's hope a USB Type-C MagSafe adapter is invented soon.
On a practical level, the change to USB Type-C is the bigger issue as it means that you'll have to connect USB peripherals and monitors using a USB Type-C adapter, which Apple and other vendors supply. You can pick up a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter or a Multi-port adapter that lets you connect another USB-C device, a USB-A device and VGA or HDMI-equipped external monitor.
For writing this review, I used a USB Type-C Multi-port adapter with a VGA connection to hook up a 1080p monitor, inserting a USB mouse into the empty USB-A slot and hooked up the USB-C power supply to complete the adapter's trio of connections.
MacBook adapter
Did it annoy me? Well - not really. It felt tidy and practical and certainly wouldn't prove a dealbreaker to buying a new MacBook. Of course MagSafe would be better, as would more ports, but it wasn't quite the hair-tearing experience I was expecting. The obvious drawback is that the adapters aren't free.
If you're thinking about prying the new MacBook open and switching that pesky USB-Type C port for the old traditional one, well - you can't. Sorry. In fact, the whole device is incredibly difficult to upgrade, as the guys at iFixit found out in their teardown, rating the new MacBook a measly 1 out of 10 for upgradability.

Bundled software

One of the positives of buying any MacBook is that it comes with a slew of free Apple software, most of which is of an excellent quality and far from the bloatware your might run into on Windows machines - and Apple's apps look even better on the new MacBook thanks to its high-resolution display.
It currently ships with OS X Yosemite, undoubtedly the prettiest version of OS X yet - and future upgrades are bound to be free. The next version of Apple's desktop operating system, called OS X 10.11 El Capitan, has now been unveiled. The update will once again be free for existing OS X users when it's released i the fall. The update brings a number of new features and under-the-hood peformance improvements, the latter of which will be more than welcome to owners of Apple's new MacBook.
The new MacBook fits OS X Yosemite like a glove
Plus, Apple's Mac App Store has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years, proving an excellent resource with frequent recommendations on apps in multiple categories - such as Games, Productivity, Writing, Navigation and more. Here's every app you'll find upon booting up a New MacBook for the first time:
  • iPhoto

  • iMovie

  • GarageBand

  • Pages

  • Numbers

  • Keynote

  • Maps

  • iBooks

  • Safari

  • Mail

  • Facetime

  • Messages

  • Calendar

  • Contacts

  • Time Machine

  • Photo Booth

  • Mac App Store

  • iTunes

  • Game Centre

  • Preview

  • Notes

  • Reminders

Performance and benchmarks

The new MacBook's Intel Core M CPU is adequate for handling daily computing tasks - such as browsing the internet, streaming audio and 1080p video and multi-tasking with several browsers open with up to 10 to 15 tabs each. It can't quite match the power of Intel's Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, but it does allow the new MacBook to run silently. Plus, it's mostly cool with the exception of a section along the right-hand side of the base that occasionally gets hot under heavy load.
You certainly won't be able to escape the odd bit of slowdown when you start to run 10 or more apps in addition to a ton of browser tabs. After that point, I would find that tasks such as clicking on Google Drive to open its preferences pane, or moving a Firefox window to a different monitor can cause apps to fill with white or black color and freeze, motionless, before springing back into life.
New MacBook
I actually found that, when using it from day-to-day, the new MacBook felt more responsive overall than my 2014 MacBook Air, which is likely down to it having 8GB of RAM, rather than the MacBook Air's 4GB. On the other hand, tasks that required the MacBook to do any sort of heavy lifting, such as using Gimp to scale the 60MB (or so) images that I took for this review up or down, took anything from 10 to 15 seconds longer than the Air.
Given that editing images is a vital but infrequent task that I need to carry out, the longer scaling and export times were well worth the trade off to get the new MacBook's svelte build and impressive display.
Plus, when we recently tested Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan on the latest MacBook Air under the El Capitan Public Beta 3 release compared to Yosemite, we found it to perform much better. So, you should have an all-round much smoother MacBook come the availability of Apple's next operating system in October.
New MacBook


  • Xbench: Overall: 314.66; CPU: 202.72

  • Cinebench R15 (CPU) Single Core: 98cb; Multi Core: 209 cb; Open GL: 19.05 fps

  • Unigine Heaven 4.0 Medium Quality (1,680 x 1,050): Score: 219; FPS: 8.7
Unigine Heaven 4.0 Ultra Quality (1,680 x 1,050): Score: 153; FPS: 6.1

  • NovaBench: Score: 500; Graphics: 29

Batman: Arkham City: Minimum 13 , maximum 25, average 19, 1440 x900

  • Tomb Raider: Medium quality, minimum 6fps, maximum 11.7, average 8.7

  • Geekbench 3 (Single Core): 2,299; (Multi Core): 4,423
  • Battery life (looping HD video over Wi-Fi, three-quarter brightness): 7 hours and 5 minutes
But make no bones about it: the new MacBook is no powerhouse, and that's reflected in the benchmarks. With a Geekbench 3 score of 4,423 on the Multi-Core test, its CPU came out 46% slower than the dual-core 2.7GHz Core i5 chip in the early 2015 Retina MacBook Pro.
New MacBook
While that may not come as a huge shock, it was also soundly beaten by the top-end 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air models from earlier this year, which attracted an average Geekbench user score of 8,947 and 6,828, respectively. If you're looking to use a MacBook for regularly editing image files or editing or converting video, those MacBook Airs both cost less than the new MacBook and would be far more suitable while remaining plenty portable.
The new MacBook's graphical grunt was nowhere to be found due to the inclusion of Intel's integrated graphics. Both Batman: Arkham City and Tomb Raider mustered low frames per second scores that would make either game unplayable.


Here it is: the highlight of the new MacBook. The display is one of the best I've seen on a notebook, with incredibly rich colors and excellent 170-degree viewing angles.
Measured with our X-Rite colorimeter, it notched up a brightness level of 375.15cd/m2, which easily proved bright enough to see indoors and was just about good enough to read websites in bright sunlight too - even if videos were a little harder to follow.
Elsewhere, the MacBook produced decent black levels of 0.33 cd/m2 black levels, with color accuracy standing at 91.3% of the sRGB color gamut. While it's not quite high enough for media professionals, you probably won't notice the difference. The display's inky blacks and bold colours make text and images 'pop' on the impressive display - and once you've seen it, it's so, so hard to go back to a MacBook Air.
New MacBook
There's another advantage to that 2,304 x 1,440 pixel-resolution display: you can scale it up to get more desktop space and go far beyond Apple's default scaled resolutions.
By adding a custom resolution, I managed to soar all the way up to 1,920 x 1,080 in High-DPI mode using SwitchResX, which allowed me to see the same amount of spreadsheet rows and columns as a 27-inch monitor. Sure the text was tiny, but I could still make out the numbers and edit the spreadsheet without any trouble.
I might not be doing it all the time, but compared to my old setup, which was an 11-inch MacBook AIr connected to a portable USB DisplayLink monitor, I now have enough desktop real-estate to switch to see more on the screen at the same time. Sure, that's been possible on high-resolution Windows and Apple machines for some time, but having all that desktop space is even more impressive on a titchy 12.1-inch machine as thin as a pencil.
The new MacBook's stereo speakers are one the of the surprising highlights of the new MacBook. It's incredible what Apple has managed to do in that department. Located on the top of the base under the bezel, they're pleasingly punchy with good mid-range tones, even if the bass is predictably lacking. They're loud, too, for the size - and sound far better than the 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air's comparitively tinny speakers.
New MacBook
The new MacBook uses a new Force Touch trackpad that adds an extra click using haptic feedback. That means there's no mechanical construction under the trackpad, instead using haptic feedback to let you indicate where abouts on the trackpad the click takes place.
Initially I found that the larger trackpad size actually made me accidentally miss the right-click zone more often than I did on the 11-inch MacBook Air (which was never). However, after some practice I soon got used to the larger trackpad, which has tons of potential once developers get to grips with Yosemite's Force Touch Trackpad API (or application programming interface).
The new MacBook has good, but not excellent battery life, ekeing out 7 hours and 5 minutes from its 39.7Wr battery on our looping video test over Wi-Fi. That's not quite post-Haswell MacBook Air levels of battery life longevity, but it isn't far off Apple's older Ivy Bridge models. Still, that Retina display has to draw oodles of power from somewhere, and if you need the best battery life in a MacBook you can get, the new MacBook is not the way to go.

Keys to the heart

Apple has completely redesigned the new MacBook's keyboard, which now uses a new Butterfly hinge rather than the scissor switch under each key. The keys are still backlit, only now they have individual lighting zones that prevents light from bleeding between the keys - and you get fewer crumbs dropped between them, too.
The changes make the keyboard by far the most divisive feature of the new MacBook - and it took me a week to get fully used to it after using an 11-inch MacBook Air for five years.
Initially I couldn't quite type as fast as I could on the MacBook Air, but the reduced amount of pressure needed to make each key actuate makes the New MacBook's keyboard slightly more comfortable for typing on for hours at a time. Like me, once you get used to it, you'll find yourself flying.


The New MacBook is the future, but it isn't for everyone just yet. The lack of USB ports and the need to buy an adapter (if you have peripherals and a monitor) will likely be the first dealbreaker, followed by its price. If you're still onboard after those potential pitfalls, the new MacBook is one of the most luxurious, compact and fun notebooks to use today.

We liked

After witnessing the Retina MacBook Pro's display, it was always likely that the new MacBook would have a stunning display - and it doesn't disappoint. Great viewing angles and bold colors make it one of the best we've seen in a laptop. It's all part of a brilliantly portable package that's the closest a laptop has come yet to offering the portability of a tablet (well, an iPad).
The new MacBook's speakers gave surprisingly full-bodied sound that won't shake the room but make for a far more pleasant listening experience than Apple's previous MacBook Air or MacBook Pro models. While many will sit on the fence when it comes to the keyboard, my experience with it only got better in time - and I ended up preferring it to the MacBook Air's after almost two weeks.
It's a similar scenario with the Force Touch Trackpad, which felt a little alien at first but became more comfortable over time.

We disliked

fThe new MacBook is far from a monster under the hood. However, if you can get over the fact that it's designed for anything from browsing the internet to light image editing, streaming video and music to other light computing tasks, it should perform OK for what you want it to do.
Bear in mind that you will need to pay for at least one of several USB Type-C adapters out there to use your existing peripherals and monitors. Some say that's just the price to pay for being an early adopter, but it could be hard for you to stomach considering its already high starting cost.

Final verdict

The decision of whether you should buy a new MacBook is a simple one: does it play to your strengths? Perhaps you need the lightest and most portable OS X machine out there today, one with good battery life. Maybe you appreciate an incredible, vibrant display that's equally as good at rendering your crisp documents as it is displaying the same amount of a spreadsheet as a 24-inch monitor.
Maybe, just maybe, you travel a lot and play music out of your laptop's speakers. But - and it's a big but - you need to be prepared to put up with its pitfalls. Don't expect to crunch through major mulittasking without slowing down. And you may end up merely coping with its keyboard rather than falling in love with it. You'll definitely have to put up with at least one adapter if you want to use any peripherals or an external monitor.
Like in any relationship, the one between you and your MacBook will be frought with compromises. But if it's meant to be, then you will be prepared to make them. If you're not, you can always take it back to the Apple store to save yourself a messy divorce. In other words: if possible, try before you buy.

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Buying Guide: Best printer: 16 top inkjet and laser printers
Buying Guide: Best printer: 16 top inkjet and laser printers

Best printer

What's the best printer to buy? All-purpose printers are a booming market, and you're spoilt for choice, so here's our pick of the best printers on the market right now.
In choosing the best printer your first decision is whether to go for a standard printer, or a multi-function device which includes a scanner and which can also work as a standalone copier.
These aren't much larger than regular printers, but they're a whole lot more versatile, especially when you need to keep a copy of a letter, a bill or any other important document, so our first list includes the best inkjet printers and best multi-function devices.
You should also think carefully about whether to invest in an inkjet or a laser. Lasers are usually associated with office environments, where they produce sharp, smudge-free printouts quickly, quietly and economically, but this can be just as useful at home or in a home office.
And don't imagine that mono laser printers are the only option - colour laser printers are now very affordable, and you can even get get multi-function laser printers, too. So we've also come up with a list of the best laser printers, and not just for office users with budgets to burn, but home users looking for value, quality, compactness and ease of use.
So let's firstly look at the best inkjet printers around before looking at the best laser printers.

Best injet printers

Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4630 review

1. Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4630 review

Economical print costs for volume printing
Fast print speeds
Uninspiring design
The WorkForce Pro WF-4630 is a solid printer for small businesses and workgroups given its fast print speeds, solid print qualities and remote printing and scanning capabilities. Using the larger XL print cartridges, the WF-4630 delivers economical print costs that rival laser printers.
Read the full review: Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4630
Epson WorkForce WF-100

2. Epson WorkForce WF-100

A portable and easy-to-use printer
Lightweight and portable
Wi-Fi direct
Wi-Fi password input
Great for the traveling professional or someone who needs a small printer for occasional use. Not for those looking for a heavy duty printer or for someone who cares about high image quality.
Read the full review: Epson WorkForce WF-100

3. HP OfficeJet Pro 6830 e-All-in-One

Cheap colour all-in-one for the small business
Robust inkjet engine
Instant Ink service
Single paper tray
Single-sided scanning
A very quick colour all-in-one bristling with print, copy, scan and mobile printing options the Officejet Pro 6830 is also very affordable, especially if you opt for the pay-per-page Instant Ink service.
Read the full review: HP OfficeJet Pro 6830 e-All-in-One

4. Epson WorkForce WF-2660

A small investment for a feature-rich printer
many wireless connectivity options
Automatic document feeder
Single paper tray
Spotty connectivity
Though some of its mobile and wireless features don't always work as well as advertised, the Epson WF-2660 all-in-one still offers a good balance between print quality, features and price.
Read the full review: Epson WorkForce WF-2660
Canon Pixma

5. Canon Pixma MG7150

An affordable all-in-one photo printer with Wi-Fi connectivity and a touchscreen
Great print quality
Not cheap to replace inks
Android use requires app
If you're looking for a great all-round printer which doesn't skimp on print quality for your photographs, then I don't think you will be disappointed by what the MG7150 has to offer.
While it's certainly more expensive than some of the cheap two in one printers you can pick up, it's not a bad price for something which produces high quality prints, especially if you only need to print at A4 or below.
Read the full review: Canon Pixma MG7150
Brother MFC-J4620DW

6. Brother MFC-J4620DW

An impressively well-featured and user-friendly MFP
Wide range of features
Simple to install/use
Slow printing on high-quality
The Brother MFC-J4620DW packs some features missing from similarly-priced models in the company's range. They include A4 and A3 scanning, copying and faxing, in addition to the ability to connect directly to a range of cloud-based services such as OneDrive and Dropbox.
One of its bigger plus points versus rival printers is its simple operation. It has a big, tilting 9.3cm touchscreen, a range of connection options and supports double-sided scanning. With a mixture of ivory and black, the MFC-J4620DW is less bulky than some of its peers without skimping on performance: printing goes up to 6,000 x 1,200 dpi with speeds of up to 35ppm in mono and 28ppm in colour.
Read the full review: Brother MFC-J4620DW
Brother DCP-J4120DW

7. Brother DCP-J4120DW

Brother's entry-level A3 printer is a good bet for the occasional big print
A3, duplex and colour printing
Inexpensive to run
Fiddly screen
Whining noises
You might not always want to print on A3 paper, but when you do, many conventional inkjet printers aren't up to the task. Brother's DCP-J4120DW can, in addition to being able to do duplex and colour printing without breaking the bank.
Currently on sale for a fair chunk below its official £120 price tag, this printer comes with an impressive feature set. It can scan, copy, connect via Wi-Fi and print directly from SD, SDHC, SDXC, memory sticks and flash drives. Its touchscreen might not be the best, but it's a quiet, fast and consistent little performer that's well worthy of your attention.
Read the full review: Brother DCP-J4120DW
HP Envy 5540 All-in-One printer

8. HP Envy 5540 All-in-One printer

A cheap and cheerful colour inkjet for low volume printing
Smartphone support
Easy to install
A bit slow
Expensive for mono printing
We've come to expect simple setup and operation from Envy printers, and this one is no exception. It's quiet, packs in a lot of features and delivers excellent print quality, especially on photo paper. We particularly like the ability to use smartphones as well as computers, and to connect wirelessly without a router.
Read the full review: HP Envy 5540 All-in-One printer
Epson PictureMate PM-400

9. Epson PictureMate PM-400

The easiest printer to use. Ever.
Build quality
Slow print speed
Once you've got the PM-400 up and running, you'll have a ton of fun running off image after image. Although the print quality won't win any awards for print quality, you'll be proud to hang any of its prints on your wall or sit them on your desk.
The PM-400 is a delight to look at – not that this should heavily factor into which printer you should buy. It's got a pretty bone white frame that tucks away neatly, and the 4-pound printer can be easily transported wherever you go.
Read the full review: Epson PictureMate PM-400
HP DeskJet 1010 review

10. HP DeskJet 1010

This printer is as cheap as the replacement ink
Affordable price
Compact size
No scanning
No wireless
You won't get fancy features like wireless printing, duplexing or scanning, but if you don't need all the frills of an all-in-one printer, the HP DeskJet 1010 offers solid print performance and quality at an unbeatable price in a compact package.
Read the full review: HP DeskJet 1010 review

Best laser printers

HP Color LaserJet Pro

1. HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw

HP spurs a laser revolution with JetIntelligence
Fast print speeds
Cloud-connected, remote print
No duplex scanning
Expensive color prints
HP offers plenty of ways to convert digital content to paper with the M277dw, including Wi-Fi printing, HP ePrint and NFC printing from a phone or tablet. The M277dw is a versatile, compact printer that's capable of producing great prints if you can live with some of the device's limitations.
Read the full review: HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M277dw
HP Color LaserJet Enterprise M553X

2. HP Color LaserJet Enterprise M553X

HP spurs a laser revolution with JetIntelligence
Superb print quality
Fast performance
Quite expensive
HP has crammed a lot of features into a surprisingly small space. This printer connects to every conceivable device either wired or wirelessly, delivers good running costs, runs quickly and produces stunning prints even on default settings.
Read the full review: HP Color LaserJet Enterprise M553X
HP LaserJet Pro MFP

3. HP LaserJet Pro MFP M225dw

This laser-powered MFP covers most small business print, scan, copy and even fax needs without breaking the bank.
Faster laser engine
Automatix duplexer
Non-responsive touchscreen
Single-sided scanning
Small businesses looking for a print, scan and copy workhorse on a budget could do a lot worse than the LaserJet Pro MFP M225dw. It's from HP, it's got a laser engine and a duplexer, plus it looks smart and ticks most of the connectivity boxes. It does have a few rough edges but it's cheap to buy, cheap to run and it gets the job done.
Read the full review: HP LaserJet Pro MFP M225dw
Brother MFC-L2740DW

4. Brother MFC-L2740DW

This SOHO flagship can do everything but make the tea
Double-sided printing
Cheap to buy and run
Fiddly touchscreen
Not designed for high volumes
Brother has packed an awful lot into the MFC-L2740DW, and it's particularly well suited to busy offices that need to do a bit of everything on a range of different devices. Running costs are good, especially for what is ultimately a budget buy, and while we have a few niggles with the design and the touchscreen you can't fault the feature list. Brother's SOHO flagship represents very good value for money.
Read the full review: Brother MFC-L2740DW
Brother HL-L2300D

5. Brother HL-L2300D Mono Laser Printer

Affordable printer is perfect for the SOHO market
Double-sided printing
Cheap price
Low running costs
USB only
Can't print from mobile devices
The HL-2300D concentrates on the basics and does them very well. If you need a printer that's simple, reliable, produces good quality output and doesn't cost a fortune to run, then the HL-2300D comes highly recommended.
Read the full review: Brother HL-L2300D Mono Laser Printer

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Cloud control to Major Tom: NASA's space missions are going 'cloud native'
Cloud control to Major Tom: NASA's space missions are going 'cloud native'

Introduction and data science

"Hey Curiosity, be a pal and move north 10 metres to look at that big red rock, would ya?"
If the revelation that engineers at NASA's Jet Prolusion Laboratory (JPL) use Alexa to control its Mars rovers wasn't enough, consider this – its latest missions are conducted entirely using the cloud. Since adopting AWS eight years ago, data scientists at JPL and NASA have been on their own journey into the unknown, pioneering the exploration of cloud computing in all-new ways.
Curiosity's daring landing on Mars in 2012 saw 175TB of photos and video streamed back to Earth

Curiosity and the cloud

For the two live Mars rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity, NASA uses the cloud for mission-critical controls. The rovers' operations are controlled via applications that sit on the cloud, from downloading reports on yesterday's movements to uploading manoeuvres for the following day.
"One of the most common myths is that Mars rovers are operated by joysticks," said Khawaja Shams, Senior Manager, Software Development at AWS, but until recently a software engineer at JPL. Shams was delivering a talk called '‪Inspiring Innovation in the Cloud: NASA/JPL and Beyond' at AWS reInvent 2015 in Las Vegas.
"That would be super-nice, but since Earth and Mars are about 100 million miles apart, it takes seven to 20 minutes to give a rover an instruction … if you told it to go forward and waited for an acknowledgement, the rover might already be in a ditch somewhere," he says. The rover works semi-autonomously, with scientists sending commands up via cloud apps.

Low-cost missions

JPL's use of the cloud is also about saving money. "Landing on Mars (with Curiosity) was 100 times cheaper than nine years prior by using AWS," says Tom Soderstrom, ‎IT Chief Technology Officer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, about the 2012 mission, which continues to this day. "We streamed 175TB, 80,000 requests per second, it was an amazing performance," he adds. "You all saw the pictures at the same time we did."
Victoria Crater on Mars – the Opportunity rover is a tiny black dot bottom-left

Instant image sharing

How JPL's cloud works is as simple as it is streamlined. "The images go from the Mars rover out to the orbiters, back to the Deep Space Network then into the JPL data centres," explains Shams. "Data goes from JPL to S3 (AWS' Simple Storage Service), it's processed by EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud, AWS' resizable cloud hosting services) and within seconds of the data arriving on Earth it gets processed, stored on S3 in JPEG formats, and is available for everyone to consume almost instantly."
That even applies to separating stereo images taken by Curiosity (3D photos help operators give exact navigational instructions to the rover), and to the automatic stitching together of separate one megapixel images to create vast five gigapixel panoramas; it's all automated, and it needs to be.
"We often have less than four hours to react to information we've just gotten, so it's imperative we produce these panoramas as quickly as possible," says Shams about how images help the rovers' operators make snap decisions. He adds that it's all down to the elastic provisioning and workflow orchestration that the cloud now allows.
The Mars Images app for iOS gets photos direct from JPL's cloud almost as soon as they are received on Earth

Data science experiments

Thanks to an internal image search service – indexed inside of DynamoDB – JPL scientists can now search and query images more freely, but even this was opened up to developers. API requests can be crafted that build on top of the database, and can be pulled into third-party apps to reuse. Examples include the MSL Image Explorer and the Mars Images app for iOS, which deliver the very latest images from NASA's Mars rovers by interrogating that same internal image search archive.
"You can see the images the moment they hit Earth back from Mars," says Shams. "It's about building platforms and thriving ecosystems that allow others to build apps for once we've stopped working on them."

Cloud infrastructure and sharing data

Expanding cloud infrastructure

If NASA pioneered its use of the cloud for image processing and sharing, it's since extended it to all kinds of other data. First it made thermal telemetry coming off the Mars rovers, which was until recently being shared as emails and PowerPoints within JPL, more shareable and dynamic.
"We took it out of static emails and put it on the web with an elastic compute capacity behind it to provide not just a snapshot, but a restful website where you could search through several hundred Sols [a Martian day] worth of data," says Rob Witoff, an ex-JPL data scientist, and now Director of Coinable.
The next trick was to cross-reference it with images of exactly where a rover was at the time of each thermal readout. "In just under 30 minutes we were able to merge these tools together so that when you click on any data point it will use the other API and pull that image in, to help engineers to interact with multiple data sets," adds Witoff.
Now every dataset JPL has can be almost instantly linked. "It's a modern cloud infrastructure that can elastically scale and be reused from mission to mission," says Witoff. "We no longer have to start from scratch for each mission."
The SWOT satellite will push 100TB of data onto the cloud each day

The elastic cloud

Two of NASA's Earth-orbiting satellites – SWOT (Surface Water Ocean Topography) and NISAR (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) – are about to test NASA's cloud storage capabilities to the maximum. As they search for and map water and natural hazards respectively, both generate 100Gbps per second of traffic, so over 100TB per day. Over their lifetime, the data they produce amounts to 1,000 petabytes each.
"How do you get it from space into a data centre?" asks Soderstrom, adding that his team are wrestling with that right now. "We think the cloud is the only way, so all of a sudden cloud computing becomes mission-critical, both on the storage and on the network."

Sharing data, algorithms and software

JPL's use of the cloud is also allowing scientists across the globe to collaborate more easily without having to physically download and store terabytes of data. "One of the most profound implications of cloud commuting is that it's enabled us to co-locate large amounts of scientific data, with virtually limitless amounts of compute capacity that can be provisioned on-demand," says Shams. JPL is also now using the cloud to share among scientists preconfigured software complete with sample data-sets.
NASA's mission to Europa will be one of its first 'cloud native' projects

The future for NASA's cloud

JPL's goal is a 'cloud native' mission, one that starts and finishes completely in the cloud. Its first such missions – both planned for the 2020s – are to Europa (a flagship mission of NASA that will search for signs of life) and the ARM mission (an ambitious proof-of-concept project to redirect an asteroid).
"Eight years ago we knew that if we could start a mission in the cloud, we'd be there," says Soderstrom. "We can now re-provision in a weekend what used to take months," he says about increasing storage capacity for these cloud-only missions. "The future of enterprise is going to use the cloud," says Soderstrom. "We're not going to talk about data centres anymore."

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The PC Gamer: Betas are giving PC gamers headaches, but I've found the cure
The PC Gamer: Betas are giving PC gamers headaches, but I've found the cure


Closed Betas are so frustrating, especially the ones I'm not in. It's not that I particularly mind not having access to Overwatch, Blizzard's upcoming mix of MOBA and FPS, so much as seeing so many people on my Friends list who do. It's pure childish jealousy, of course, but here's the thing about childish things that I think we should take a moment to remember: waaaaaaaaaaah!
Betas in general though are weird. The basic definition of them has changed so much over the last few years, going from a trial of a basically finished project to… let me just check this here… 'absolutely any bloody thing you want it to mean'. It's a little like how the words Game Of The Year have gone from a single triumphant moment of note, like a Half-Life 2, to include everything from Skyrim - allowable - to Two Worlds - laughable.
Originally the definition was that some site somewhere had maybe, probably said it was their Game Of The Year, in much the same way that As Seen On TV doesn't *technically* promise it wasn't on Watchdog's "Things That Will Explode And Kill Your Cat" segment. Now though, even that thin veneer of crap-giving has gone to the wayside, with the new definition being "A Game Of The Year", as in "It came out in 2015."
openbeta: I'm not a fan of open betas. I prefer closed betas that I happen to be in. Much more satisfying.

Beta, not better

With betas specifically though, the slide has been gradual, beginning with Google deciding that Gmail was a work-in-progress for many years before removing the 'beta' flag, and other companies realising - oh, so we can do whatever we want then? Groovy!
From there it was a slippery but profitable slope to realising that betas could serve as amazing marketing, both by releasing them, and withholding them, to build up that good old consumer waaaaaaaah-factor, with the true nail in the coffin being the point where people started selling stuff for real money in their betas. Yes, it's unfinished, but… uh… we need to test the payment systems. Test. Yes!
There are of course many real-world uses for them too, like testing server load, and revealing the kind of problems and balance issues that can only happen when a game moves outside the hallowed halls of people willing to play it properly, and into the hands of the enemy.
The catch is that by this point it's often too late to make sweeping changes. If a combat system in an MMO sucks in beta or the graphics are terrible, well, spoiler, it's going to suck in release too, because that sucker's been baked in far deeper than beta-users' influence ever reaches.
For that reason, I think it's time to really shake things up, and break the beta hold over new games. The problem for the industry is that the updates go the wrong way. Alpha denotes an unfinished game, beta a complete one ready for that polishing stage. We need to flip that and take full advantage of the rest of the Greek alphabet. The new system will start a little like this.
Alpha: Finished game, just in need of testing.
Beta: Playable, but we're still adding content to it.
Then, we build on it with a set of new stages.
Gamma: Open, or at least not too tightly closed beta, as now.
Delta: Game is finished enough for Twitch streamers and YouTubers to help us market it, but not for anyone who might not be so excited about it that their socks routinely fly off.
Epsilon: Game not ready to be seen by human eyes, so exclusive to Hitbox.
Zeta: Game lacks a few key features like characters and music and graphics and controller input. Yet oddly, the shop is fully functional.
Eta: Game is only half-finished. Entire team dead from crunch, considering farting it onto Steam in its current form in the hope people will buy it anyway. Worked for Assassin's Creed: Unity.
Theta: Game is at that stage where everyone is desperately hoping it's fun, but all the pieces haven't come together yet and late nights are spent drinking hard spirits and praying to Chet, pagan lord of programming, that things aren't as bad as they seem.
Iota: Game only exists as a YouTube or E3 or Kickstarter demo video that everyone involved is now desperately hoping they can turn into an actual game on computers that exist.
Kappa: Game currently consists of the designer's notebook, with the art team regularly asking whether or not the scribbled boobies are there out of boredom, or character design notes.
Each of these stages is of course fully marketable by the right developer, as proven by Star Citizen. Note to the legion of humourless space captains with skins thinner than a soap bubble: That was just a joke, relax. The additional flexibility however means that any player knows exactly what they're getting into when they pay or download the beta, allowing them to get in at the right stage to influence development.
If a game catches your attention in the upsilon phase for instance, there's probably enough to get a job at the developer in QA, work your way up the ranks, take over the company, and then personally ensure it has the resources that it needs. This is also, I suspect, the only way we're ever going to see Michel Ancel's Beyond Good And Evil 2.
It might sound ridiculous, but then it wasn't that long ago that people were laughing at the idea of DLC horse armour and the idea of Worms Reloaded: Game Of The Year Edition not being forced by law to specify that said year was - at best - 1999, for the last game in the series worth giving the faintest damn about.
Now though, we're at the point where games can sell everything from in-game currency to sexy underpants (though points to Vindictus for the term 'inner armour') without anyone batting so much as an eye. You redefine the words, you change peoples' feelings. We just need to redefine Beta to something more sensible, or at the very least, give me access to all of them so that I'm too busy playing new games to continue caring about semantics.
The rest of you can come too, if you like.

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Updated: 27 best PC games: the must-play titles you can't afford to miss
Updated: 27 best PC games: the must-play titles you can't afford to miss


Best PC games
The PC is either making a comeback or never went away in the first place, depending on who you ask.
Whichever camp you're in, a deluge of triple-A titles, virtual reality and (whisper it) decent console ports make picking the PC over the Xbox One or PS4 a no-brainer. Thanks to the popularity of Valve's Steam platform, finding and downloading the best PC games is easier than ever before.
Whether you're a mouse-and-keyboard diehard who mutters "boom, headshot!" in their sleep, or a joypad-wielding adrenaline junkie, the PC has no shortage of blockbuster and indie titles to help you waste away the hours.
We've rounded up the best PC games out there today. If you don't agree, let us know in the comments below..

PC games on our radar


Following up from 2012's XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which reimagined the 1994 cult classic UFO: Enemy Unknown, XCOM 2 is shaping up to deliver everything we could want in a sequel. Bigger, deeper, faster and even easier on the eyes, the turn-based tactics game takes place 20 years after its predecessor. It pits you in control of the Avenger, a converted alien ship that serves as your mobile base of operations used to devise strategy and execute fight plans against otherworldly enemies. With a greater focus of stealth, more intelligent alien AI and deeper customization options, XCOM 2 is one to watch for the discerning tactician.
Release date: February 5, 2016
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RonqT9ZWLdk

Torment: Tides of Numanera

Best PC Games
If Pillars of Eternity (which currently sits fourth in our list of Best PC Games) whet your appetite for old-school RPGs, Torment: Tides of Numenera looks set to continue the nostalgia-fest. The spiritual successor to Planescape Tournament (it's being written by that game's designer, Colin McComb), Tides broke the then-Kickstarter record for surpassing a million dollars in funding in just seven hours. Based on the pen-and-paper game Numenera, which is set a billion years in the future, expect Tides to be heavily story-driven and terrific to look at thanks to its living and breathing environments set in the Ninth World.
Expected: 2015
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybqE8FlLrqg

Star Wars: Battlefront

Best PC games
"Next-gen Star Wars": four words that never fail to get gamers with even the vaguest interest in George Lucas's universe quivering like an excited Wookiee. That the studio behind the Star Wars: Battlefront reboot is Dice, the developer behind the Battlefield series, is even more reason for celebration. Though it's sensible to be wary of the scripted (albeit stunning) gameplay footage shown off at E3, players who dived into the recent Closed Alpha have reported a game very close in feeling to Battlefield 4 - though much faster-paced - and with lightsabers. Obviously.
Release date: November 17, 2015
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXU5k4U8x20

Fallout: 4

Best PC games
Heading to PC and consoles on November 10, Bethesda's Fallout 4 swaps Fallout 3's post-nuclear wasteland for, er, a post-nuclear Boston. Screenshots of the game from E3 featured robots, massive guns, a dodgily rendered dog, jetpacks, and what appears to be a weapon modding system. Speaking of which, PC modders are already planning ahead: Fallout 3 mod creator Zealotlee has announced his intention to import the Rail Rifle into Fallout 4. Sure, Fallout mods are coming to consoles this time around, but it's one of many areas where the PC is going to lead the way.
Release date: November 10, 2015
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2XfDggqjzk
Best PC games


Few games are unique these days, but Studio MDHR's charming run and gun title Cuphead just might be deserving of the label. Featuring a visual art style borrowed from 1930s Disney cartoons (think Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie), it's a romantic blend of old and new-era entertainment. Adorable and even a bit disturbing due to its screen-filling bosses (most of which are drawn with deranged facial expressions), Cuphead has us thirsty for more.
Expected: 2016
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TjUPXAn2Rg


Bethesda's upcoming DOOM reboot is taking id Software's classic FPS back to its frenetic roots. Shown off at E3, early gameplay footage running on id Tech 6's game engine was nothing short of gore-tactic. Enemies can be blown into chunks with the regular assortment of high-powered shotguns, rifles and laser-powered weapons, and the chainsaw has made a particularly grusome return.
Expected: 2016
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NteAPGprDJk

Unreal Tournament

One of the most celebrated arena-shooters of all time, Unreal Tournament brushed Quake 3 aside to claim the online shooter crown back in 1999. It's remained a firm favourite with FPS fans ever since, leading to a remake being announced in 2014. Developed in Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4, Unreal Tournament brings back classic weapons including the Flak Canon, Pulse Rifle and Mini-Gun. The first high-resolution map, Outpost 23, looks nothing short of stunning and is sure to give UT die-hards m-m-m-m-monster thrills.
Expected: Out now (Pre-alpha), Final TBC
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li0OCzVqjOU

1. Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines
Cities: Skylines is SimCity updated for the modern era, proving a breath of fresh air for would-be mayors. Its core gameplay lets you dig deep into the various aspects of running a sprawling virtual city - from economics to macro and micro management and land planning. But Cities: Skylines really shines when it comes to mods, which allow you to create custom maps, assets and tools to share with other online players.
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2. Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age: Inquisition places you in the heart of a huge, vibrant world on a far greater scale than its predecessors, and it does an excellent job of making you feel in command. Packing in a huge 90 hours (and the rest) of gameplay into its storyline, Inquisition's smart dialogue, compelling plot, savvy progression system and massive sandbox world will have you engrossed for months on end. Think the Elder Scrolls games meets the Diablo franchise and you're halfway there.

3. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
A card game from the makers of World of Warcraft, Hearthstone is easy to learn, but hard to master. Like Blizzard's famous MMO, Hearthstone combines classes, characters and a bit of tactical luck when throwing you into battle against computerised or online opponents. Stick with it and you'll be rewarded by its tactical, deep gameplay. Though available on iOS and Android, its low system requirements, excellent presentation and great sound effects mean it's best experienced on the PC.

4. Pillars of Eternity

Pillars of Eternity
Pillars of Eternity is a sprawling RPG in the vein of Baldaur's Gate or Icewind Dale that combines highly detailed technical combat with hundreds of hours of gameplay. It has refreshingly low system requirements on the PC but still looks incredible thanks to its simple but effective art style, which harks back to those aforementioned isometric fantasy RPGs of the 2000s. But it's not all about nostalgia: Pillars of Eternity has enough interesting characters, baddies and clever writing to make it a modern classic of its own.
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5. Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V is one of the most anticipated console ports to ever hit the PC. You probably didn't need telling twice to head back into Los Santos's hugely detailed and interactive world, but it's ten times more fun with the PC's richer graphics and smooth 60 frames per second gameplay. Once you're done with its 31-hour storyline or had your fill blazing around the city causing chaos, an ever expanding list of GTA V mods - from fine tuning cars or throwing vehicles around with a Gravity Gun - are bound to keep you entertained for some time.
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6. Alien: Isolation

Alen: Isolation
Set 15 years after the events of the first Alien film from 1979, Alien: Isolation is the suspense-packed game that fans of the franchise have been crying out for. Playing the role of Amanda Ripley, daughter of Alien protagonist Ellen Ripley, your mission is to track down and recover the flight recorder of the Nostromo spacecraft from the first Alien film which has been located aboard the Sevastopol space station. First and foremost a stealth game, Isolation ramps up the tension by providing you with minimal weaponry. Its excellent graphics shine on high-end PCs and clever AI helps ramp up the dread, leaving you to quiver when turning every corner.

7. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive remains a fantastic update to a timeless classic that continues to live on thanks to its vast online communities. A well-rounded tactical shooter that builds on the simple Terrorists vs Counter-Terrorists gameplay mechanics of Counter-Strike 1.6 and Counter-Strike: Source, CS: GO updates classic maps such as Italy and Dust while keeping adding new modes in Arms Race and Demolition. Simpler than Battlefield but more nuanced than the Call of Duty franchise, it's a shooter for those who like to run, gun and think - if only a little bit.

8. Far Cry 4

Far Cry 4
Ubisoft's latest shooter marks Far Cry's most beautiful outing yet. Its graphically-rich world is eye-popping on high-end PCs, and you'll see plenty of it thanks to a 30+ hour-long campaign. Aside from the main campaign, there are plenty of things to do in Kyrat - from hostage rescue and assassination missions to escort quests, resource collecting and, of course, avoiding being killed by bullets or rampaging animals. Whether you're tearing across the savanna in a rickety car or slinging grenades around like tennis balls, survival has never been such a blast.
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9. FTL: Faster Than Light

FTL (Faster Than Light)
FTL (Faster Than Light) puts you command of running a spaceship and looking after its crew. Featuring a complex game mechanism that involves maintaining weapons, engines, shields and other areas, in addition to tactical combat, FTL can get extremely in-depth over time. Whether you're ordering your crew to quite literally put out fires on deck in the heat of battle, or are navigating through asteroid fields, FTL is as much about long-term progression and satisfaction as it is quick fixes. Don't let its indie stylings fool you: this is game with untold depth and scary levels of addictiveness.

10. Grim Fandango Remastered

Grim Fandango Remastered
A 90s classic brought back to life (unlike its main protagonist), Grim Fandango Remastered is a successful attempt at reviving one of the PC's best adventure games of all time. Combining writing that matches the funniest dark comedies with clever puzzles and a still-impressive art style, Grim Fandango was the most entertaining work of art to take place in a Mexican setting for years until Breaking Bad came along. Now with updated graphics, sound and better controls, Manna Calavera's adventure has never looked so good.

11. Skyrim

Four years after its initial release, Skyrim is going as strong as ever thanks to a vast selection of mods and high-resolution texture packs. Even if you're only interested in playing the vanilla version of the RPG, it offers more than 100 hours of gameplay.
Throw in three action packs DLC expansion packs (Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn), and it lasts even longer. That Skyrim has been compared to graphically superior but similar RPG blockbuster The Witcher 3 is testament to its enduring popularity. Step into Skyrim and you too can be an adventurer - just try not to take an arrow in the knee.
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12. DayZ

Grim Fandango Remastered
Originally launched as an Arma II mod, DayZ is a standalone zombie shooter with a difference. Not only do you have to mind the undead when wandering around its sprawling maps, but other online players too. Armed with a lead pipe and carrying nothing but a backpack and a flashlight, you'll need wits and guile to survive.
Pretty much the opposite of adrenaline-packed zombie fests such as Left4Dead, you'll spent half of the time evading the undead and the other using a shovel to fend off any humans who are bent on trying to steal your last box of matches. And take it from us - they will try.

13. Minecraft

Grim Fandango
The phrase "build it, and they will come" quite literally rings true when it comes to Minecraft, the game that has been bought by more than 19 million people. The survival-themed sandbox RPG lets players build their own worlds or explore others, using the game's multiple block types to construct anything from small huts to extravagant castles and beyond.
Minecraft's ultimate appeal revolves around its open-ended nature. Creative types can build and destroy to their hearts' content, while solo players can concentrate on not being eaten by the zombie hordes that emerge at night. A modern-day classic that has spawned its own genre, it's not to be missed.

14. The Orange Box

The Orange Box
The Orange Box may be showing its age, but it remains a must-play collection of games - particularly for FPS fans. Half-Life 2, technically still the most recent game in Valve's franchise (excluding its Episode 1 and 2 add-ons), remains a modern masterpiece and is famed for being the first game to intelligently apply physics to its puzzles and combat set-pieces.
The collection's other titles aren't too shabby either: Portal takes gravity-based puzzles to the extreme by equipping the player with the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (also known as the Portal Gun), which places two portals for objects to pass through, while Team Fortress 2 continues to go from strength-to-strength thanks to the introduction of custom gear and well-balanced team combat.
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15. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3
Gorgeous graphics? Check. Huge explorable environments? Check. Enthralling combat? Of course. The Witcher 3 stands tall as one of the most ambitious open-world RPGs yet, combining Skyrim's unrestrained epicness with Grand Theft Auto 5's scale. While the game has been criticised for its inventory niggles, less-than-enthralling plot and not quite matching the graphics shown in its promo materials, it's so ambitious and jam-packed with detail that the package lives up to the hype. Huge, beautiful and an absolute time-sink, you'll want to scour every inch of The Witcher 3's glorious world.

16. Project CARS

Project Cars
Project CARS is a racing simulator that guns for realism without leaving excitement back in the pit stop, as some racers tend to do. Slightly Mad Studios' graphically-stunning title has enough car customisation and handling options to keep the keenest of petrol heads happy. Car types on show range from F1 to road, retro, kart, Le Mans, GT and more. Throw in realistic weather effects and driving assistance by Le Mans driver Ben Collins - formerly BBC Top Gear's Stig - and the smell of burning rubber will be floating up your nostrils in no time.
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17. Elite: Dangerous

Elite: Dangerous
Modelled after the 1984 game Elite, Elite: Dangerous is one of the most ambitious space sims around. Featuring an in-game galaxy based on the real Milky Way (how's 400 billion stars for depth?), the ultimate goal is to advance your rankings to Elite status by levelling up combat, trading and exploration.
Starting out with a rickety ship and 1,000 credits in your space suit's back pocket, you'll need to turn to piracy, trading, exploring, mining or bounty hunting to rise through the intergalactic ranks. Doing so takes time and requires serious graft, but the experience provides a level of satisfaction that few other titles can match. And then there's the Oculus Rift...

18. Frozen Cortex

Frozen Cortex
Frozen Cortex is a tactical future sports game with oodles of depth and heaps of style. Players take turns to commandeer teams of five robots across randomly generated maps, scoring points by successfully carrying or passing the ball to the end line. Tactically demanding and Chess-like in execution, it can be exhilarating to watch the action unfold as robots play out defensive or offensive runs depending on their commander's style of play.
There's more than a shade of American Football to it, with online bouts providing the biggest thrills as you bluff and double bluff your way through human opponents to earn new robots (and new abilities) as you progress. As stylish as it is clever, Frozen Cortex's art style makes it a particular delight for anyone old enough to remember the Amiga classic, Speedball 2.

19. Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest
Described as "achingly beautiful" by Unity Engine boss John Riccitiello, Ori and the Blind Forest borrows its game mechanics from old-school 2D games such as Metroid and Castlevania while adding a modern twist. If any word can describe Ori's atmospheric world, it's alive. You'll have to think fast and use new abilities gained along the way to bash, stop and manoeuvre your way through its gorgeous locations, and with no automatic saving system or easy difficulty level, it's no walk in the park. As satisfying to master as it is to look at, Ori and the Blind Forest will re-open your eyes to what 2D games still have to offer.

20. Grow Home

Grow Home
Grow Home is an experimental PC platformer that looks like an "indie" game but is in fact the latest release from Rayman developer Ubisoft. Similarly charming thanks to its distinctive 3D art style, you play as BUD, the game's robot protagonist, whose main job is harvest seeds and grow a beanstalk-like 'Star Plant' by grabbing its branches and connecting them to nearby floating islands in the sky.
There's a fair bit of trial-and-error involved, and while having to climb all the way back up again after a fall is frustrating, grabbing a passing vine at the last minute by the tips of your fingers can be equally as exhilarating. The ability to move BUD's arms and legs independently helps put you in control - just try not to get them tangled up. Because you will - a lot.

21. Sunless Sea

Sunless Sea
A 2D exploration game set on a boat can't be that creepy, right? Wrong. More gothic than a Cradle of Filth concert, Sunless Sea throws all manners of joyless themes your way: death, insanity and cannibalism to name a few. Sailing from port-to-port in the monster-filled underworld of Fallen London, you'll have to manage fuel and supplies while battling sentient icebergs, Zee-beasts and other water-dwelling nasties to remain afloat. Top-notch writing gives Sunless Sea an absorbing storyline that's up there with history's best text-based adventures.

22. Rocket League

Rocket League
Already familiar to millions before they've played a played a second of it, Rocket League turns the age old game of football (or soccer, depending) on its head. Played with rocket-propelled cars in futuristic low-gravity environments, the aim is simple: knock the ball into the opposing team's goal. Doing so is harder said than done because there could be up to three cars on the opposing team trying to steal the ball off you - or ram you into submission - at any one time. Gorgeous to look, simple to learn but difficult to master, Rocket League is the surprise smash hit of 2015 - and a wonderfully addictive one at that.
Read: 8 real-life footballers in Rocket League: which one are you?

23. Heroes of the Storm

Heroes of the Storm
As inevitable as sandals in summer, Blizzard finally launched its first MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game in June. Featuring a ton of characters from Blizzard games such as Warcraft, World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2, Heroes of the Storm sees two teams of five attempt to destroy the other's base. When not sounding out enemy units to destroy, its expansive maps give you room to take on secondary objectives such as finding skulls or unlocking special siege units to help your team.
Accessible to newcomers while packing plenty of depth, Heroes' finely balanced gameplay mechanics, shorter matches (compared to League of Legends) and ability-based levelling system make it a refreshing alternative to established MOBA titles and a fine game in its own right.

24. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid V
The new Metal Gear, which is likely Hideo Kojima's final game in the series, is a hugely ambitious title. Its massive open world setting lets you tackle missions using stealth, but it won't punish you for going in guns blazing - which is often the most tempting option.
Set nine years after the events of Ground Zeroes, The Phantom Pain's story unravels through its main missions and more than 100 Side Ops tasks. The action is interspersed with gorgeous cutscenes, and while you sometimes have to decode annoying military-babble to understand what's going on, TPP's fast pacing and gorgeous Afghanistan settings never make the game feel like a chore.

25. SOMA

A gripping horror game in the vein of Amnesia: The Dark Descent (it's from the same developer), SOMA has its fair share of "NOPE!" moments. But it's not really about jump scares; the game's most compelling aspect is its philosophical story arc, which unravels as you encounter a series of confused robots. Suffering from existential stress, the decaying machines believe they are human.
The tension builds as you venture deeper into the underwater research facility that you wake up aboard, avoiding murderous creatures, solving clever puzzles and checking voice memos to unravel the mystery. Expertly weaving elements of survival and psychological Sci-Fi horror, SOMA is a little less action packed than Alien: Isolation but engages more of the old grey matter. If that's what you're looking for in a fright-fest, SOMA doesn't disappoint.

26. Prison Architect

Prison Architect
if you think you've learnt a thing or two about prison life watching films like The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption over the years, cuff-em-up Prison Architect lets you put your knowledge to the test. Playing as wardens, you're tasked with keeping prisoners in check, preventing riots from boiling over and foiling The Great Escape-style plots. And yes: it does involve sending men to the electric chair. Gnarly. Alternatively, a second mode called Escape lets you unleash your inner Bronson by hatching a plot to lead your fellow inmates to freedom. (Until you get arrested again, anyway.)

27. Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide

Warhammer: End times
Five heroes, many Skaven rats. That's the basic premise of Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide, a hack-and-slash fest that plays - and feels - a lot like Valve's Left 4 Dead series. With a deep focus on co-operative gameplay, Vermintide's melee-focused combat, level-based progression system and random loot make for a refreshing alternative to gunning down endless hordes of zombies.
Although it's fun attempting to talk tactics over voice chat with players online, Vermintide is often too chaotic to try anything other than bashing or shooting the nearest Skaven between the eyes — and that's fine. From giant Ogre Rats to stealth Gutter Runners, there's enough variation to keep things interesting. And if you do start to get get bored, unlike the Skaven, ratcheting up the difficulty makes sure Vermintide won't get long in the tooth any time soon.

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The future of wearables
The future of wearables

The future of wearables

The future of wearables
There's always something exciting about a brand-new technology – it's raw and rarely perfected, but often loaded with seemingly limitless possibilities. Right now, that about sums up wearable technology – its part 'Apple Watch' but also part 'underwhelmed consumers'. In fact, you're as likely to read an enthusiastic review of the Apple Watch as you are reasons why you shouldn't care about wearables yet. To many, they're brilliant but baffling, powerful yet puzzling.
As with any new technology, wearables are surrounded by a busload of market hype. Even market research firm Gartner says as much. According to its latest yearly Hype Cycle of Emerging Technologies, wearable tech is right up there, having just fallen off the Peak of Inflated Expectation and begun the dive into the Trough of Disillusionment.
But that's not the end of the story – not by a long shot.

Massive money

Hype cycle of emerging technologies
At the same time, the potential for wearable technologies almost borders on the outrageous. For instance, Gartner expects some 25 million head-mounted displays will be sold by 2018. Rival analysts IDC forecasts a massive 173% jolt this year in wearable sales from 24.6 to 72.1 million. By 2019, it reckons that number will top 155 million, thanks in large part to a boom in sub-$100 fitness trackers. UK research firm, Juniper Research, sees the market for wearables tipping US$80 billion by 2020.
It's all part of what's being touted as the 'Intelligent Systems' market that includes everything from wearables to connected cars. IDC has a dollar amount it thinks this market will be worth by 2019 – a staggering US$1 trillion (US$1000 billion). No wonder you've got just about every company on the planet having a crack at something involving wireless connectivity.


Aluminium-ion battery
But peel away that hype and wearables still have plenty of work in front of them to get passed the novelty 'companion' tag. There are two key issues – one is perfecting the small-scale user interface; the other is electrical power. No-one is interested in a device that's more complicated to use than a VCR, nor do they want to carry a car battery in their pocket.
But possibly even scarier are the reports of consumers losing interest in their wearable devices – lots of consumers. Some of those reports are claiming as many as one-third of fitness tracker owners have downed tools after a few months; others fully one-half of users.
On the technology front, the reality is we haven't seen a new battery tech reach commercial maturity since the release of Lithium-polymer well over a decade ago. But there is real potential on the horizon – Stanford University's Aluminium-ion battery is one of the most promising developments this century and could turn the wearables industry on its ear. A battery that can charge in 60 seconds, recharge over 7500 times and is low-cost? Who wouldn't sign up to a boxful right now?

Seeing the future

While the Apple Watch has captured plenty of attention, the horizon is actually full of smart eyewear – and it's not all about consumers either. There's growing expectation that business could easily become the future driver of wearable technology.
For example, German logistics giant DHL carried out a pilot program in The Netherlands earlier this year in conjunction with Japanese technology maker Ricoh and German wearable tech company Ubimax. The program involved providing DHL warehouse staff with smart glasses rather than the usual hand-held product-picking devices. The result was a 25% increase in efficiency over the trial period.
And DHL's not alone – US smart glasses maker Vuzix has teamed up with enterprise software maker SAP to create two mobility apps – SAP AR Warehouse Picker and SAP AR Service Technician that work with Vuzix's M100 smart glasses.
The continued demand for efficiency savings all but assure smart glasses of becoming a corporate accessory for many industries. In fact, if you're a warehouse manager or in logistics, we'd be surprised if you weren't wearing a pair within the next five years.

Second-gen eyewear

Recon Jet
The smart glasses landscape has clearly changed in the last couple of years since the initial launch of Google Glass. While lesser-known names like Vuzix and Ubimax are kicking goals in the corporate space, some of the biggest brands are also taking positions to grab a chunk of the market.
Chip maker Intel announced in June this year it had purchased Canadian-based Recon Instruments, maker of the sports-focused Recon Jet smart glasses. According to the announcement, the Recon team will now be part of Intel's New Devices Group, developing next-generation head-mounted displays.
And then there are the (so far) unconfirmed reports of Google Glass 2 nearing completion from Google. While the Mountain View company hasn't yet said anything officially, Ray-Ban and Oakley eyewear maker Luxottica let it be known its working with Google on version 2.0, which is also rumoured to have replaced the original Texas Instruments OMAP4430 dual-core CPU with an as-yet-unspecified Intel processor chip.

Headsets heating up

Microsoft HoloLens
With Facebook flashing the corporate credit card to the tune of US$2 billion to grab hold of Oculus Rift, there's clearly no shortage of interest in the gaming headset market. And not surprisingly, old console rivals Sony and Microsoft are set to crank up the competition, although their plans go way beyond gaming itself.
Microsoft turned heads earlier this year with the unveiling of HoloLens, its untethered holographic computer headset that augments your view of the world with 3D holograms. Like its Kinect sensor, HoloLens has applications extending well outside of the gaming arena and Microsoft is keenly promoting it as the ultimate accessory to almost any application, from Minecraft to its up-coming Windows 10 operating system, even introducing it into artistic and 3D modelling applications.
Meanwhile, Japanese giant Sony demonstrated its Project Morpheus VR, now named Playstation VR headset at the recent 2015 E3 gaming and entertainment expo, with the aim of bringing Oculus-style gameplay to the PS4 console. Sony is free enough with its basic specs – a full HD (1080p) resolution OLED panel, capable of up to 120Hz refresh rate and a latency (delay) time down to 18-milliseconds. This most recent second-generation hardware is also said to have faster and more accurate head-tracking than Sony's original incarnation. At this stage, however, Sony says we'll have to wait until 2016 before Morpheus hits store shelves.
But Sony has also been busy on the smart glasses front, releasing details on the SmartEyeglass and the clever SmartEyeglass Attach, the latter able to clip onto any pair of glasses. According to Sony specs, Attach features a 0.23-inch WVGA (640x400-pixel) display, but there's no firm release date or pricing details as yet. The developer version features a display panel is green-screen, 8-bit greyscale and 419x138-pixels, while Bluetooth 3.0, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and a 3MP camera round out the major goodies on-board.

Payment wearables

The natural focus of much of the wearables market is on 'smart' devices at the moment, but they could also eventually change the way we gain entry and pay for goods and services.
One of the leaders in this market is US entertainment goliath, Disney, which has become an unlikely pioneer in wearable technology – and on a grand scale. It's using RFID (radio-frequency identification) wristbands to enable visitor entry into its resorts and theme parks, even for purchasing services (it gets linked to your credit card). The battery-powered 'MagicBand' can be purchased through the Disney Store and includes an array of customizations from bands to name-engraving. It has been said that Disney will spend US$1 billion on the whole system by its completion.
In fact, the corporate mindset in the US is turning in favour of bringing wearable technology into play. US customer management company Salesforce released a study earlier in the year on the intentions of businesses to implement wearable technology. It found that a third of the near-1500 respondents already implement wearables in the workplace and of those, 79% believe the tech either is or will be strategic to their company's future success.

Workplace wearables

Fitness bands
Many of us use our own smartphones in the workplace. Chances are if you do and you're at a major company, you're part of a corporate 'bring your own device' (BYOD) program. But as the financial benefits of wearable tech continue to attract businesses like a moth to a flame, expect to see this expand into 'bring your own wearable' (BYOW) programs as well.
There's debate about when it's likely to begin, but we think it's inevitable – and here's why.
Healthcare is fast becoming one of the major battlegrounds for wearable tech in the US, where employer-funded health insurance is often a key part of an employment contract.
Unlike in Australia where the vast majority of employees cough up for their own insurance, healthcare cover in the US isn't cheap – but companies are finding ways to reduce their premiums, including issuing fitness trackers to employees. Jiff is one of the players in this new enterprise health benefits market and according to Fortune magazine, is already available to some 300,000 US employees including from companies such as beverage maker Red Bull and games developer Activision Blizzard.

What price privacy?

It's part of a growing trend in corporate US where businesses are encouraging employees to join 'wellness' programs, which can be as specific as taking part in challenges such as agreeing to drink so much water, eat certain foods or walk so many steps a year for various incentives.
But while on the surface improved employee health outcomes and lower corporate healthcare premiums sound like a win-win, there are growing concerns about the cost to employee and consumer privacy.
In the US, a PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that 86% of respondents were concerned wearable technology would make them vulnerable to security breaches, while 82% also feared an invasion of privacy (page 41). The reports' authors make the point that 'the more we outfit ourselves with data-gathering devices, the more exposed we are'.

The real gold isn't hardware

Apple Health
For while there's an obvious market in smart glasses, watches and fitness bands, there's possibly an even larger market to consider.
In a similar way to how network access charges are potentially more valuable than the smartphone itself and how replacement inks can often cost as much as the printer, the gold isn't necessarily the wearable hardware, but in the mountains of data these devices will inevitably generate – data about your health, your activities, your buying patterns.
In signing up for social media and other online services, we all tend to fly by the end-user agreements and privacy policies in a hurry to join, but the data we leak is valuable. In fact, if we're asking what price our privacy, it turns out, quite a bit.
The UK's Financial Times in 2013 sighted what it said was 'industry pricing data' on various bits of consumer information and found that the names, age, gender and location of 1000 people was worth 50cents - in other words, next to nothing. But throw in more personal information about specific health conditions and that information sold for 26 cents per person. It still sounds like nothing, but start looking at it by population and the numbers really begin to add up. Back in 2012, business advisory firm Boston Consulting Group found the value hidden in the personal data of EU consumers - their 'digital identity' - could 'deliver a €330 billion annual economic benefit for organisations in Europe by 2020'.

Is your personal data secure?

Personal data
And because wearables are still very much a nascent technology, we should be asking questions about data security as much as privacy.
Researchers from security firm Symantec put together some home-made wireless scanning devices in 2014 using off-the-shelf components built around Raspberry Pi computers. Taking these devices out on the road to public spaces in the US, the researchers not only picked up a range of fitness trackers being used, they were able to track the individuals wearing them.
Even worse, they also found rookie data security mistakes such as unencrypted passwords transmitted in plain text.

The bumpy road ahead

There's no doubt that wearable technology can offer many benefits – from improved health and lifestyle outcomes for consumers to efficiencies and cost-savings for business. But as the wearables market now begins hitting its straps, don't under-estimate the value of data security or how much your personal data is worth.
Before you sign up to your next wearable device offering online data collection, make sure you check the brand's data-use policy and find out as much as you can about its data security. You might be signing up for more than you bargained for.

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