Thursday, December 31, 2015

IT News Head Lines (Techradar) 01/01/2016

Techradar



Review: Nissan Leaf
Review: Nissan Leaf

Design, interior and infotainment

Electricity-powered cars predated gasoline cars by about 50 years and even outsold gasoline cars toward the tail end of the 19th century. It's hard to imagine that electric vehicles were once a common sight (by 19th century standards) in today's gasoline-dominated market. While we're at an epoch of automotive innovation, performance and efficiency, oil is a finite resource that will eventually run out.
There are two paths to alternative fuels, and the automotive industry is split between hydrogen and electric vehicles (EV). Nissan is placing its bet on electrification and unleashed the leading environmentally-friendly, affordable family car (Leaf) to the world in 2010.
The Leaf received incremental updates with new features, a change of production to Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn. manufacturing plant, and revised battery chemistry throughout the last five years, but the battery capacity and infotainment system remained the same, until now. New for the 2016 model year Leaf SV and SL trims is a 30 kWh battery, up from the 24 kWh on the base S trim and previous years, bringing the total range rating up to 107-miles, from 84, of gasoline-free driving.
Nissan sent techradar a 2016 Leaf SV with premium package with an MSRP of $36,620 (£25,640 for the similarly equipped Acenta trim, Australia only has one trim for AU$40,000) for a week of gasoline-free driving.
Before I go on about the car, it should be known that I bought my wife a 2015 Leaf SL with premium package a year ago. We've been happy with the car and quite familiar with the public EV infrastructure in Washington State. However, EV ownership is a difference experience that required changing driving habits and greater planning, which I will no doubt elaborate on.
Styling isn't a strong point for the Leaf. The front end reminds me of a Pokemon, Bulbasaur specifically, with giant headlights and a smirky grin. Halogen headlights with reflector housings are standard on the Leaf SV, but stepping up to the SL trim gets you more energy-efficient, LED low-beams, if you want to consume less energy at night. My experience with the halogens in the SV and LED in my personal SL yield minimal lighting gains. Both headlights rely on reflector housings and are a far cry from matching the light output of projector-based halogen, high-intensity discharge (HID) or more powerful LEDs.
Nissan Leaf
Moving around back reveals giant LED tail lights that remind me of old Volvo station wagons. The sloped rear hatch theoretically helps aerodynamics, but you do lose out on cargo capacity compared to the more rectangular station wagon look, which I prefer.
The design cue I dislike the most on the Leaf is the chrome door handles. I despise chrome trim on all modern cars, especially on door handles, because it's a fingerprint magnet. Installing something prone to showing fingerprints on the most frequently touched area of a car is a pet peeve of mine. However, the door handles is the only area with a design change with the refresh – the door lock and unlock button is now black instead of chrome like previous model years.

Interior

Step inside and you'll find a spartan interior that belongs in a budget-priced subcompact more so than a car that costs north of $30,000. The dashboard is devoid of soft-touch materials and covered in cheap, hard plastic. Fortunately, the door panel and center armrests are covered with soft cloth to help comfort when cruising along.
Nissan Leaf
Look forward and you'll see a two-tier digital cluster that separates the speedometer from the vehicle information. While the cluster is digital, per se, it reminds me of the '80s digital gauge clusters instead of the modern LCD displays found in current cars.
It looks plain but very functional with a digital speedometer, clock and outside air temperature. The high placement of the speedometer keeps it within your peripheral vision while focusing on the road, which is helpful, because the distance you can travel with an EV highly varies on the speed. The left side of the digital cluster is an eco-meter that "builds trees" to show how efficient your driving is. My driving isn't very efficient, so not many trees appear during my driving.
The traditional gauge cluster directly in front of the steering wheel features a vehicle information display, battery temperature, battery capacity, range estimate and how much power is consumed relative to the accelerate pedal use, all useful information to have when driving an EV. The information display serves as a digital trip meter, but also shows the battery percentage, charging time and access to vehicle settings.
Nissan Leaf
I leave the display on the battery percentage display most of the time, so I have a more accurate idea of how much battery is left, because the estimated range displayed is extremely optimistic and should be taken lightly.
One thing you'll have to get used to in the Nissan Leaf is the shifter – it's completely different from the PRNDL layout of traditional automatic transmissions. Instead, it's a spherical shifter with a dedicated park button. Operating the shifter is easy and didn't take very long for me to get used. Nissan provides a graphic that shows how to operate it directly below.
Nissan Leaf
There are reverse, neutral and drive functions. To put the car into gear, you move the shifter to the left and up or down. When the car is in drive, you can move the shifter left and down again for more aggressive regenerative braking, which I'll talk about in the next page. Putting the car in park simply requires stopping the car and pressing the P button in the center of the shifter.
Lastly, I want to mention the seats. The Leaf doesn't have sport seats with amazing side bolster support, which I prefer in every car, but the seats are very comfortable. There isn't a lumbar adjustment, but the the lower back arch and firmness contours well to my 5'7" and 195-pound frame. They have the right amount of firmness and plushness for comfortably long drives without inducing aches, pains or fatigue.
The seats are heated and get toasty, too. Nissan even heats the steering wheel, which gets uncomfortably hot quickly. The Leaf's heated seats and steering wheel help warm up your body faster while consuming less energy than the car's already-efficient heat-pump-based climate system, which theoretically aids driving range.

Infotainment system

New for 2016 is the NissanConnect infotainment system that brings the Leaf up to date with the rest of Nissan's model lineup. Nissan kept the 7-inch screen size and buttons exactly the same as the previous model years. In fact, there are no visual interior differences between 2015 and 2016 models, when the car is off at least.
The double-din-sized infotainment system features a screen that opens and tilts to reveal a CD player and SD card slot for the navigation maps. A USB port in front of the cup holders is available for flash drives and iOS device connectivity. SiriusXM, HD Radio and NissanConnect EV telematics rounds out the complete package.
Nissan Leaf
Audio functions are straight-forward with no surprises. Music stored on flash drives can be navigated by track data or folders. The one music navigating function of all Nissan and Infiniti infotainment systems is still there – when you select a music folder, it immediately begins playing it instead of just opening the folder to let you pick a song first. SiriusXM and HD Radio functions are basic and work without time-shifting capabilities.
I tested the USB port power output capabilities using a Drok USB power meter with my Nexus 6 and iPhone 6S. Power output was 0.8-amps with the iPhone 6S and 0.5-amps with the Nexus 6. While the NissanConnect system can charge iPhone's at a decent rate, you're better off using a 12-volt USB charger or USB power bank for Android devices.
Nissan's updated user interface is more visually pleasing with better graphics that are highly customizable, but it's a clunky mess. There's simply too much customization available. The home screen lets you choose and pick what functions and widgets are displayed on three separate screens.
I prefer the simpler, split home screen in the Kia Optima, Hyundai Tucson and Toyota's since they display radio information, a small navigation map and a couple functional buttons, whereas the NissanConnect UI has a 4 x 2 grid layout. While the NissanConnect 4 x 2 grid is customizable, each information display occupies a 2 x 2 space and each button takes up one spot, so you can either have two information displays or four buttons with one information display.
Nissan Leaf
Sure, three home screens are available, but I don't like fiddling around with the infotainment system for information that I should be able to see at a single glance. Nissan deserves credit for keeping static menu functions at the bottom of the screen for audio, phone, information, map, navigation and settings functions, but everything is replicated by physical buttons on each side of the display.
As much of a fan I am of physical buttons, I'd rather see a larger 4:3 ratio screen with knobs for volume and folder navigation than having the same buttons on and off screen.
Visual nuances aside, NissanConnect includes smartphone app connectivity, but the function is extremely limited. By extremely limited, I mean it only supports Google Online Search with the NissanConnect app installed on your smartphone. There's no Pandora or other Internet radio support, unfortunately.
Bluetooth is available for hands-free voice, music streaming and text messaging. I paired my Nexus 6 and iPhone 6S without any issues. Text messaging support is quite worthless – it can read you text messages and present you with quick replies, but you're better off using Google Now or Siri for those purposes. Siri Eyes Free isn't supported, annoyingly.
Nissan Leaf
Nissan incorporates EV-friendly features with the navigation software to show nearby charging stations and an estimated radius of where you can travel with the available charge. They're nice gestures, but the charging station database is severely outdated and doesn't even list some of the dealerships that have Level 3 CHAdeMo quick-charge stations.
You're better off using the Nissan EZ-Charge app for smartphones or PlugShare to find an up to date charging station list with user reviews and check ins. The navigation maps are your standard fare flat maps, with different available route calculations that can optimize the trip for maximum battery range (slow surface streets mostly).
While mapping a route for maximum battery range is convenient, I'm not the type of person to use the navigation functions for places I frequently visit, so I'm not really open to taking alternative routes or driving mostly on the streets when the freeway is available, just to save some battery life.
Nissan Leaf
Previous Leaf owners will find the Zero Emission functions identical to the older infotainment system. Nissan essentially transplanted the same functions and interface to the new infotainment system. The Zero Emission functions provides greater energy consumption information for the electric motor, climate control and other items. It even estimates how much range you can gain by turning off climate control.
I find the information convenient to have on hot days where blasting the A/C can make the difference of making it to the next charging station or being towed there, on longer drives.

NissanConnect EV, Audio and Around View Monitor

NissanConnect EV replaces CarWings on previous model years as the telematics service in the Leaf. CarWings relied on AT&T's 2G network, which shuts down in December 2016. NissanConnect EV upgrades the telematics module to AT&T's 3G network, which doesn't have a shut off date yet, but not quite as sexy or fast as their LTE network.
Nissan Leaf
However, the functions that require cellular connectivity aren't high bandwidth tasks. NissanConnect EV enables the driver to remotely access functions of the car, such as check on the battery levels, manually start or stop a charge, set a timer for charging (to only charge at off-peak hours for cheaper rates) or climate control (to get the car warmed up on cold mornings), and driving history (distance and energy consumption only, not location). The functions are accessible via web browser or a smartphone companion application.
New to NissanConnect on 2016 Leaf's is the ability to locate your car, in case you forget where you parked it. I've personally never forgot where I parked my car that requires using such a feature, but some of my fellow editors mentioned it's happened to them.
The functions all work as intended, but it's slow as molasses – yes, I went there. Nissan's move to AT&T's 3G network did not help speed things up at all. It takes 25 seconds to login to the NissanConnect EV application and just as long to trigger any of the remote functions, while I was connected to my home Wi-Fi network with a 100/15Mbps Internet connection. Maybe I'm impatient and spoiled, but it shouldn't take that long to log in or use any of the functions.

Bose premium audio

Nissan loves Bose-branded premium audio, and offers the option on most of its new vehicles, including the Leaf. The Bose premium sound system is part of a $1,570 premium package (not available in UK or AU) that also adds the Around View Monitor 360-degree camera system.
The Leaf's Bose system features seven speakers, each with individual amplification from an energy-efficient amplifier, in a four channel configuration. The front speakers consist of 1-inch tweeters in each A-pillar and 6.5-inch speakers in the front doors. The rear doors have smaller 5.25-inch speakers while a 4.5-inch woofer is located in the trunk, in an acoustic waveguide bassbox. The door speakers all use neodymium magnets to keep the weight down.
Nissan Leaf
As with most Bose sound systems engineered for space savings, the old saying "no highs, no lows, must be Bose," definitely applies to the Leaf, and every other Bose-equipped vehicle I've listened to. The tweeters produce average sound quality with a slight hint of clarity but no detail – you won't hear crisp sound of cymbals or other high notes.
The entire mid and low range is laughably pathetic, because the system tries to trick your brain into thinking the frequencies are being produced, but it sounds dull and sloppy. It sounds like going up to a large, marching band bass drum and giving it a light tap instead of smashing the drum with a mallet – there's no depth, smoothness or warmth to the sound.

Around View Monitor

Bose premium sound aside, the premium package includes one of the best tech features available today, and that's the 360-degree camera system. Nissan calls it Around View Monitor (AVM). The system stitches together four cameras to produce a top-down view of the car, side-by-side with a second view, and feeds it to the infotainment screen.
Camera's are placed on the front, back and side mirrors. You can trigger the cameras at low-speeds or while parked. When the car is put in reverse, the rear view is the default view. The system switches to the front view if you put the car in drive after reversing first too. There's an option to pull up each individual side cameras as well.
Nissan Leaf
I can't say it enough, I love 360-degree camera systems. They make parking so much easier, especially in tights spots or the dreaded parallel park. I wish more companies would offer it in their entire vehicle ranges, but so far, Nissan is the only non-luxury brand to have it as an option on anything from the Versa (or Note for our friends across the Atlantic) to the Armada.
As much as I dislike the Bose sound system in the premium package, it's a bundle deal to get the excellent AVM, unfortunately. The AVM is also the reason I opted for the premium package for my wife's 2015 Leaf too.

Performance and living with it

The Leaf's powertrain is purely electric. The only fluid to change in the car is brake fluid, but even that can go for at least 60,000 miles. There's also wiper fluid to top off, if you need to wash your windshield and rear windows. This helps cut down on maintenance costs – there are no $60 engine oil changes, transmission fluid changes, timing belts or chains, water pumps or much maintenance at all.
There are standard disc brakes, but the car relies on regenerative braking, which uses the motor to slow the car down while charging the battery pack in the process and reduces wear on the brake pads. These are some of the reasons why my wife wanted a Leaf. (I'm great at maintaining my own car but I slack when it comes to my wife's unexciting cars.)
Nissan Leaf
The motor may sound weak, with a measly 107 horsepower (hp), but don't let the numbers deceive you, as its only part of the equation to power. Torque is what makes the Leaf feel peppy around town, and the car makes 187 pound-feet (lb-ft). Unlike an internal combustion engine that gradually makes more torque, and in result horsepower, as the engine increases the revolutions per minute (RPM), all 187 lb-ft and 107 hp is available instantly at the press of the accelerator pedal.
When you need to accelerate or pass someone on the freeway, all that power is available right away without the transmission downshifting for the optimal power band. It's always available, which is why electric motors are awesome. It doesn't pack the light-speed capabilities of a Tesla Model S, but it's definitely a better experience than an underpowered, economical hatchback.
But, if you have a lead foot like myself, it drains the battery pack faster. New to the 2016 Leaf is the larger 30 kWh battery pack, up from the 24 kWh from earlier models (base S trim still has the 24 kWh unit), that's rated for 107 miles of range, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The 24 kWh battery was rated for 84 miles.
The range rating is for the EPA's testing cycle and varies greatly depending on temperature, climate control use, speed and altitudes traveled, since energy consumption increases greatly if you're constantly going up hills or steep inclines, but regenerative braking charges the pack if you're going back down the same incline.
To test out range, I grabbed my 4-year-old daughter and drove from Graham, Wash. to Kenmore to visit a local camera shop, got lunch and stopped at the Bellevue Nissan dealership to charge. It was an average day in Washington State, which included rain and 40-degree Fahrenheit temperatures. I went easy on the accelerator pedal and drove on the freeway at a steady 60 mph and managed to drive 75 miles with 22% battery left when I reached the CHAdeMO quick-charger.
If you buy a Leaf in the US, Nissan gives you an EZ-Charge card that provides free public charging at select locations. An EZ-Charge card was not included with the Leaf Nissan sent to techradar, but I grabbed my wife's card to use. The dealership chargers were part of the Aerovironment network, which the EZ-Charge card provides free charging for the first 30-minutes, which is plenty.
Nissan Leaf
I plugged the car in, went into the dealership's warm waiting room and waited 30-minutes for the car to charge. The dealership had a TV to watch, comfortable couches to lounge in with free coffee, apples and vending machines if you wanted snacks or a soda. I sat there playing on my phone while sipping espresso until it was done.
In the 30 minutes of charging, the car gained 70% of capacity, which was plenty to get me home. I went on my way, stopped for some bubble tea and made it home with around 40% of charge left. My entire round trip was about 120 miles, which is a bit further than I usually drive, but I only had to wait 30-minutes to use a quick charger. The Leaf's 30 kWh battery has plenty of range for your typical commute or trips around town.
I'm actually quite jealous of the new battery and wish I waited a year, as the additional capacity easily solves some range anxiety. While our 2015 Leaf with the 24 kWh battery is fine for our trips to Seattle, albeit we have to charge to make it home, trips to Oregon are out of the question. The additional range would at least get us to Oregon, which is 120 miles away, with a single stop at a quick charger, instead of stopping every 40 miles (the CHAdeMo chargers are every 40-miles or so) so we don't get stranded.
In terms of handling, the Leaf feels very nose heavy when diving into turns aggressively, but it's not something a typical Leaf owner should worry about. When driving around the city, the suspension dampens bumps in the roads with comfort. Steering responds to input with precision suitable for a daily driver, but don't expect sports car road feel and precision. Overall, it does the job it was built for, and if you're not a performance-oriented driver, like myself, you'll be satisfied.

Living with the car

Living with an EV is a different experience, as you can't stop at a gas station to fill up. The car has to charge at home or in public. I personally charge my Leaf at home with a Bosch 30-amp Level 2 (240V) charger, while some people are perfectly happy with the included Level 1 (120V) charger.
Charging times are significantly longer with Level 1, which can take over a day to charge a completely depleted battery, whereas a Level 2 takes around 6 hours. If you constantly deplete the battery for your drive, I highly suggest a Level 2 charger, but if you're only running around town, the included Level 1 may be enough.
As for family-friendliness of the car, we partnered up with Diono, a car seat manufacturer, to test-fit three car seats in the back of the Leaf. Diono's USA headquarters is in Puyallup, Wash., where I conduct vehicle testing and a convenient place to stop by and test-fit car seats. With the help of Diono, I attempted to install three Radian RXT convertible car seats in the back of the Leaf.
Nissan Leaf
The Leaf features two lower LATCH anchors for the outboard seats, which is typical for most cars. Three top LATCH anchors are available on the back of the seats. I chose to install the car seats with the 3-point seat belt as the lower LATCH anchors have weight limits of up to 65 pounds. The Leaf passed the test and was able to fit two forward and one rear-facing, or three forward-facing car seats without any trouble.
Nissan made the seats plush, which made it very easy to install the seat and get it very tight, using the seat belt. Despite the small size, the Leaf is the smallest car that can fit three car seats in forward and rear-facing configurations.

Junk in the trunk

The Leaf's hatchback design gives it 23.6 cubic feet (cu-ft) of trunk space, which is a little more than the Honda HR-V we tested. Nissan equips the car with passive keyless entry, so the hatch can be opened if the key fob is in your pocket. I'll give Nissan credit for the buttons available on the hatch, two buttons are available: one rectangular button that releases the trunk hatch and one smaller circular that locks or unlocks the car. The subtle nicety is helpful if you get out of the car, take something out of the trunk and lock the car without having to walk around to the front door or taking the keyfob out of your pocket.
I keep a Sumo Gigantor and Omni from Sumo Lounge around for trunk space testing. The Gigantor is a little too big to carry in and out of my house, so I stick to using the Omni for most cars. It's a fun way I devised to show how big a trunk is.
Nissan Leaf
I dragged the Sumo Omni outside on a rainy day, which is typical for most of the year in Washington State, and shoved the bean bag into the back of the Leaf. I got the bean bag a third of the way in with the back seats up, and it should fit fine with the seats down. The sloped rear hatch of the Leaf, intended for aerodynamics, may prevent large and tall objects from fitting in the cargo area, if you must have rear passengers.
The load height is quite high and not completely flat to the trunk opening, so it's not ideal for loading or unloading heavier objects. Overall, the trunk space is adequate for a kid's stroller, but the car isn't ideal for transporting heavy and large-sized items.

Verdict

Nissan's Leaf is a car designed for those that want to break-free of oil dependence, or are simply tired of paying for gas at the pump, but at a price. The as-tested MSRP of $36,620 (£25,640 for the similarly equipped Acenta trim, Australia only has one trim for AU$40,000) is quite steep, especially if you can't maximize the $7,500 federal government tax credit.
If you do qualify for the tax credit, there's also a $3,500 rebate if the car is financed through Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation (NMAC), which knocks $11,000 off the MSRP to bring it down to a reasonable $25,620. There's also the lease option that takes the rebates into account too.
Nissan Leaf
However, unless you really want an EV, similarly-priced internal combustion engine cars at the same MSRP, or even the price after rebate, have much higher quality interior materials, driver assists and better infotainment systems.

We liked

The new 30 kWh battery is a major improvement that makes the Leaf more attractive to rural residents like myself. While the previous 24 kWh battery was adequate for a 40-50-mile round trip commute without charging, there wasn't much excess capacity for multiple detours. Having an additional 23 miles of additional rated range can be that extra distance needed to push those hesitant of EV's towards broader acceptance.
CHAdeMO quick charging technology, or any quick charging technology, is a must have nowadays for EVs. Being able to stop for 30-minutes and gain 70% battery capacity makes EVs easier to live with and take on trips with less inconvenience, just make sure your state has a good EV quick charging infrastructure.
Nissan's Around View Monitor is excellent, but I've yet to use a 360-degree camera that I didn't like. It's a simple feature that may seem archaic to self-parking systems in cars such as the VW Passat, but I prefer to park the car myself than rely on computers to steer me into place.

We disliked

NissanConnect provides a fresh face to the previous Leaf's ancient infotainment system, which was still stuck in 2010, but it's a far cry from anything I'd consider good. Just give us Android Auto or Apple CarPlay and engineer a charging station locator app that is actually up to date and compatible with the two. While I enjoy customizing the home screen on my smartphone, stop trying to transplant the same feature to the car. I want a UI that's designed for quick glances with minimal touch screen input while driving.
I'm not a fan of Bose premium sound or anything Bose, with the exception of the QuietComfort noise-cancelling headphones. The sound quality may please those that have never experienced good audio quality,, but it's not something that makes music enjoyable to my ears. Having to pay for the Bose option to get the excellent Around View Monitor is a travesty, too.
Fit and finish of the Nissan Leaf was quite bad. The gaps between the tail lights and rear fascia (bumper) were inconsistent with a tight fit on one side and a large gap on the other side. I also had to snap the interior panels in the cargo area back into place because they weren't installed securely. There's still the issue with paint matching between the metal body panels and the plastic front and rear fascias: in certain sunlight, the colors don't match.
This isn't a worn-down press car problem either, as I was the first one to receive this 2016 Leaf in the Seattle area. These are problems I've noticed with previous Leafs too, including a 2015 Leaf SL press car in which I had to reinstall the switch panel for the rear seat heater switch. My own Leaf has a rear fascia that wasn't aligned properly either.

Final verdict

The new battery pack in the 2016 Leaf may entice more buyers to embrace the electric car, but the car lacks in infotainment and driver assist technology. If you're currently leasing a Leaf that's nearing the return date and looking to pick up another one, the 2016's battery pack alone is worth trading up.
If you bought your Leaf, like I did, the hit you'd take from the terrible trade-in value isn't worth it to get 23-miles of range. Yes, I looked into this possibility. Nissan doesn't offer an upgrade to the 30 kWh battery for existing owners either, unfortunately.
Nissan Leaf
Now for everyone else, should you buy a Leaf or EV? It's a tough question – if it makes financial sense for you, once you take maintenance and fuel costs into consideration, go for it. If you care about the environment and live in an area where electricity comes primarily from eco sources such as: hydrogen, solar or wind, it's a solid, eco-conscious choice.
I made the decision to buy my wife a 2015 Leaf because we had a 2011 VW Routan (a rebadged Dodge Caravan) that required $90 synthetic oil changes, got 17 mpg for most of her driving and ate through brake rotors and rear pads every 15,000 miles. I wanted something with virtually zero maintenance. Have there been times I regretted my purchase?
Sure, when my wife complains her car won't charge in time for her next trip, I wish the car had more range, which the 30 kWh battery easily solves. But my wife loves her car, despite my subtle nudges to push her back into a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, such as the Chevy Volt.
I also kept my gasoline-powered 2014 Mazda5 Sport with a 6-speed manual transmission for longer trips, which my wife isn't too proficient at driving yet, for my driving. I'll admit the Leaf could never be a primary car for me, but I enjoy driving on windy roads and driving manual transmission, which the Leaf does not deliver.
However, if I ever had to commute to an office or spent a lot of time in traffic, the Leaf would be a fine commuting car. Just don't expect any driver assists or much technology outside of the powertrain.
If you must have an EV now, the 2016 Leaf offers fairly good range, but the competition heats up in 2017 with the upcoming Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3 and even the next-generation Leaf.











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Watch this GoPro get shot out of a homemade cannon
Watch this GoPro get shot out of a homemade cannon
GoPros have given the internet so, so much. From skydiving off a helicopter to diving with sharks to the racing scene of Tokyo, Japan, the miniature cameras bring us no shortage of visual experiences from places more fragile cameras would fear to tread.
Enter Ecletical Engineering, made up of two gents named Ryan and David, who decided that the next logical step is to shoot a GoPro Hero 4 Session out of a cannon.
The two built a pneumatic cannon from scratch, similar in design to what you see shooting t-shirts into the rambunctious crowd during a sporting event. The duo were then able to create a functional projectile out of a GoPro camera, resulting in some genuinely entertaining footage as it soars through the Bay Area sky.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLuU1MwI8GY
Not only did the team create their own cannon, but they also utilized a 3D printer to make a special casing for the GoPro that would both stabilize the footage as well as protect it upon impact.
The video also shows off breaks down the mathematics used in predicting the GoPro's trajectory, adding to the "I should have paid more attention in physics class" factor. It also ensured that the catcher, baseball glove in hand, would be in the exact right place to safely receive the GoPro/mortar hybrid.
Even the company behind the camera approved of the stunt, with the official GoPro YouTube account saying, "Nice work, boys! Keep it up!" in the comments of Eclectical Engineering's video.
For those wanting to build a camera-launching cannon of their own, Eclectical Engineering posted a guide on their webpage, ensuring anyone with an open field, some elbow grease, and access to materials can join in on this high-tech game of catch.
While this is the first, and currently only, project under Ecletical Engineering's belt, the team promises more videos to come. They are also taking suggestions for project ideas on their webpage, should any backseat engineers have a stroke of inspiration.











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VR platformer Lucky's Tale to come with the Oculus Rift
VR platformer Lucky's Tale to come with the Oculus Rift
While the release date of the Oculus Rift eludes us still, we can rest easy knowing there will be something to play as soon as the virtual reality set winds up in our hands, (or rather, on our heads.)
Made exclusively for VR, the platformer Lucky's Tale will come packaged with every Oculus Rift. Developed by Playful, Lucky's Tale dives players into a colorful cartoon world as the eponymous fox Lucky.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqEm1fXBWKg
"We always believed there was an opportunity for platformers in VR," said Oculus CEO Palmer Luckey (no relation) in an official blog post. "It wasn't until playing Lucky's Tale and working with the Playful team that we truly realized its potential to change how people view this genre of gaming."
Lucky's Tale won't be the only game to come with the Rift. Preorders of Oculus' headset will also include a copy of the spaceship dogfighting game EVE: Valkryie.
Luckey has stated that preorder details for the Rift will be announced shortly after the new year and is still on track for release in Q1 of 2016. Fingers crossed that there will be more news to come during CES!











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Best of 2015: Year in Review 2015: The best iOS games
Best of 2015: Year in Review 2015: The best iOS games

The best of 2015

Hundreds of iPhone games get released each year on the App Store, and though some are quickly forgotten, others stay with us for a long time. If you want to try some of the greatest iOS games ever made, check out our frequently updated lists of the 50 best iPhone games today (featuring both paid and free games) and the 100 best free iPhone games (for priceless gems that will cost you nothing).
But what about 2015? This year brought us plenty of hits and numerous misses, but we've cut through the clutter to showcase a handful of sensational titles that do their genres proud.
Whether you want a shooter, a puzzler, or a racer that will keep you playing it long through 2016, the games on this list are examples of the excellence that can be found on the App Store. They surprise us, touch us, make us laugh, and ultimately deserve a long-term spot on your iPhone or iPad.

Best Word Game

Alphabear (free)
Alphabear
Alphabear is an adorable word game that offers you challenging boards that require you to use the letters on your screen to spell words and meet specific requirements. What makes this word game so special is that you can take collect cuddly teddy bears and take them with you on each game to gain bonuses, extra points, and even more letters. What's more, with each board you finish, you'll get a silly ad lib featuring your bear and the words you spelled. These bears are not only cute but resourceful too.

Best Point-and-Click Adventure Game

Tales from the Borderlands (episodes 2-5) ($14.99/£10.99/AU$22.99)
Tales from the Borderlands 2-5
What truly sets Tales from the Borderlands apart from other games is its impressive writing and witty lines that make the story of a few unexpected friends come alive as they set out on a trip through the barren planet of Pandora. Familiar Borderlands characters and locations make an appearance in this point and click game, and your choices aren't simply there for comedic effect - they can really change how your story plays out. Sit back and enjoy an engaging story and enjoy a few laughs while you're at it.

Best Puzzle Game

Prune ($2.99/£2.29/AU$4.49)
Prune
The art of bonsai is a meditative experience, so if you mix in some puzzle elements and a simplistic yet elegant art style, you are bound to get a game unlike any other. Prune will relax you as you solve its puzzles that require you to trim a tree and let it grow tall enough to blossom. Growing challenges like a toxic sun or other environmental obstacles will leave you scratching your head in a good way as you attempt to help your tree flourish under adversity, perhaps even as a metaphor of life.

Best Action Game

Implosion ($9.99/ £7.99/AU$14.99)
Implosion
Never come back to Earth, he was told - but Jake, on the verge of landing on what seems to be a barren planet, didn't listen. Implosion's opening scenes set the stage to what is an impressive hack and slash title that's dynamic, visually stimulating, and easy-to-control. Your goal in each of its bite sized missions is to reach your destination, but getting there is always different and makes for a surprisingly fresh experience. Levels will leave you in awe, and however you play it, we know you'll enjoy the ride.

Best Strategy Game

Fallout Shelter (free)
Fallout Shelter
What was released as a game to appease people in anticipation for Fallout 4 has grown into a formidable strategy game that rivals others out there. What sets Fallout Shelter apart is its simplistic gameplay that doesn't monetize the experience but instead makes you think under pressure to farm the resources you need when you need them. Assign your dwellers to the right jobs, and you may never need to worry about a thing. And as any good overseer knows, the success of a vault and its residents depend on your actions.

Best Rhythm Game

Guitar Hero Live (free)
Guitar Hero Live
Rebooting the franchise in a big way, Guitar Hero Live lets you turn into a rock star right on your phone and tap the screen to the beat of many popular hits either offline or against the world. If you'd prefer, you can also go all out and use its optional guitar controller and master hundreds of tracks that are sure to put your fingers in a dizzy. Its impressive music library will keep you entertained for days and its dynamic audience is sure to let you know how you're doing. No pressure, but don't mess up or you'll get booed.

Best RPG

Chaos Rings III ($19.99/£14.99/AU$30.99)
Chaos Rings III
A good RPG should make you invested in its story and compel you to spend hours of your time exploring its world, leveling up your characters, and enjoying all its intricacies. Chaos Rings III is one such adventure that does all that and then some. Featuring a unique narrative that follows a group of mismatched heroes, this expansive game will take you to a mysterious planet where everyone hopes to travel to so that their wishes may be granted. Exciting battles, beautiful backdrops, and an alluring soundtrack are all part of that majestic journey.

Best Flight Simulator

PixWing ($3.99/£2.99/AU$5.99)
PixWing
There's a lot of nostalgia at play in the pixelated beauty that is PixWing, but even those who have never played a 16 bit game before are sure to appreciate its subtle touches that truly make this game a joy to see and experience. What's more, its gyro controls turn your whole body into a controller so you can let the game track how many calories you burn while flying. Regardless of how you play, its colorful worlds and intricate missions within each one are sure to leave you in awe of their simplistic splendor.

Best Platformer

I Am Bread ($.99/£.79/AU$.99)
I Am Bread
I Am Bread is a unique game that does an amazing job representing what it would feel like to move as a piece of bread. You don't have any limbs so you'll need to rely on throwing yourself and folding your corners in just a way that propels you forward on your quest to get toasted. Find a toaster or any item that may get you nice and toasty but be sure to avoid hitting the ground or rolling over icky areas that may tarnish your glutinous appeal. A dirty piece of bread is a no-no, but this platformer is a delicious taste of the bizarre.

Best Adventure-Puzzle Game

Lara Croft GO ($1.99/£1.49/AU$2.99)
Lara Croft GO
An elegant puzzle adventure featuring everyone's favorite tomb raider, Lara Croft GO showcases that even a seasoned star can shine in a game that's very unlike anything she's been in before. Yes, you're still exploring caves and discovering lost relics on your quest for the big treasure, but you'll also need to use logic and decide which path will lead you to success rather than your ultimate demise. Its gorgeous art style, too, provides a pleasing backdrop to a game that's quite bold, smart, and relaxing.

Best Racing Game

Horizon Chase ($2.99/£2.29/AU$4.49)
Horizon Chase
Horizon Chase is an amazing example of how a stylish racer can borrow from past games and produce an experience that's both appealing to play as it is to behold. A silky smooth soundtrack and some eye-popping visuals will accompany you as you drive around the world on sidewinding tracks and courses with enough of a difficulty curve to quench anyone's thirst for speed. Your opponents are no pushovers either, and with enough collectibles to keep you busy, this is one game you'll be racing back to every time you take a break.

Best Shooter

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions ($9.99/£7.99/AU$14.99)
Geometry Wars III: Dimensions
Just like its console counterpart, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions brings fireworks of color to your screen with each geometric shape you shoot down. This simple yet effective twin-stick shooter is sure to test your quick thinking skills with its array of levels, modes, and score requirements ensuring you do more than just gawk at its sleek visuals and get mesmerized by its catchy sounds. Keep your finger on the trigger as enemies will come at your from all sides and impressive boss battles will test your quick-thinking skills. It's fast, frenetic, and just plain fun.











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Spoilers: Star Wars: The Force Awakens review - a second opinion
Spoilers: Star Wars: The Force Awakens review - a second opinion

Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

The following is a second opinion review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The first review was written hours after a midnight screening of the movie. Be warned the following contains spoilers - you have been warned.
Still here? Then let's go back to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
Force Awakens
"This will begin to make things right."
Never has there been such a loaded first line said in a movie. Uttered by the mysterious Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow), it's a piece of dialogue that draws a line under the muted Star Wars prequels and proudly boasts that the following film will bring balance to the biggest movie saga of all time.
It's a bold move by director JJ Abrams but by the end of The Force Awakens, few will disagree that this is the Star Wars movie we have all been looking for.
30-plus years have passed since the end of the Return of the Jedi, both in the Star Wars universe and in real life.
For the film franchise, a lot has changed. George Lucas lovingly created three prequel movies that brought a younger audience to Star Wars, but managed to disenfranchise the majority of those who grew up with the Original Trilogy.
He then sold the rights to Disney for billions and walked away, passing the lightsaber on so that a new batch of storytellers could add their own imprint to a trilogy of films that forward the story of Luke Skywalker.
Disney buying Star Wars meant that there was some hefty revising of what was canon. The many comics, spin-off games and book tie-ins that continued the Star Wars legacy were revealed to play no part in the new story arc and because of this have been rebranded as Star Wars Legends.
There will also now be a new Star Wars film every year, with standalone anthology stories filling in the gaps while we all wait for Episode VIII and Episode IX.
For all of this to work, The Force Awakens had to by many things. It needed to be the high watermark for Star Wars going forward. It had to satiate the need of the elder Star Wars fan, while keeping the franchise's fire alight for those who grew up with the prequels. It also had to be the perfect introductory space opera for younglings who have yet to delve into Star Wars.
No pressure, then.

Worthy sequel

Thankfully, Star Wars: The Force Awakens manages to be all these things and more. It's a worthy sequel to the Original Trilogy. It's a rare beast of a movie that feels like something you have seen before but continues to offer up something new.
Star Wars
In the 30 years since Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker has disappeared, the Jedi have moved into myth and the rebels and Galactic Empire have rebranded as the Resistance and First Order respectively.
With this change, a new set of characters are born. Rey, brilliantly played by Daisy Ridley, is a scavenger living under the shadow of the past.
Her opening shots are perfect. We watch as she toboggans down David Lean-like landscapes on the planet Jakku, in the backdrop is a downed Star Destroyer. She scavenges through rusting debris to find spare parts to buy food and lives in the remnants of a derelict AT-AT.
She has a homemade X-Wing pilot doll and an old Imperial pilot's helmet that she wears, pretending she is in battle.
Rey is reliving the world of Star Wars much like we all do with our Lego kits and fake lightsabers, and it's beautiful.
Then there's Finn (the ever-excellent John Boyega) and Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron. Both characters' stories are intertwined as Finn turns his back on the Dark Side, abandoning his post as a Storm Trooper due to the atrocities he witnesses, only to help Resistance X-Wing fighter pilot Dameron escape from the clutches of the First Order.
And let's not forget BB-8, a droid that's loveable not annoying. While BB-8 could have been a misstep that could have seen Abrams renamed Jar Jar Abrams, it's an inspired bit of practical effects that has a heart.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens would be a solid movie, if its focus was just these characters. Abrams and Star Wars script veteran Lawrence Kasdan have instantly created a new cast of cast-offs that belong in the Star Wars universe - each multi-faceted, potential heroes that can hold their own.
But, this Star Wars movie was never just about introducing the new, but also celebrating the old. Each introduction of Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia (now General Leia), R2-D2, C3P0 and eventually Luke works so well.
There's no stumbling here, but actors fitting back into roles that made them and obviously relishing the chance to play such iconic characters again.

Superb Solo

Han and Chewie's chemistry remains perfect. Here we get a wisened as well as wise-cracking Han Solo. This is no half-hearted Harrison Ford you have seen in movies of late but the real deal and he's hilarious too. The humour that was sorely missing from the prequels is back with aplomb.
The way Han interacts with the new cast is great, how he feels protective over Rey - although he really doesn't need to be - even offering her a job, and how he sees himself in Finn, a conflicted good guy with more than a little baggage.
Star Wars
When Han meets Leia after all these years, the meeting really feels like the rekindling of a deep friendship. This isn't acting, it's real.
There is such a weight of emotion when you see the old characters on the screen, that you don't know whether to smile or cry. I did both.
Star Wars wouldn't be complete without a big bad, and Adam Driver is superb as Kylo Ren. As with all Star Wars movies, The Force Awakens feels like we first meet Ren at a mid-point in his character arc.
He's a bad guy filled with anger who has a greater grasp of The Force than many we have seen - stopping a laser mid-air is one standout moment - but he is conflicted. Still young, he has temper tantrums and his unhealthy obsession with Darth Vader means he wears a mask without the need to, other than as homage.
While it took three movies to see what was under Vader's mask, we see Rylo Ken's true face in under an hour in Force Awakens. Under the mask is a young man seething with anger but someone not yet proved himself to be worthy.
When we do ultimately see what he is capable of, this is not only another step toward darkness but a devastating disturbance in the Star Wars 'lore.
This is the character Anakin in the prequels should have been and it just shows that what can happen when you get the casting right.

Force fun

It's the Dark Side, however, where the movie slightly falters. Above Ren we have Andy Serkis' Supreme Leader Snoke. While he is menacing (and MASSIVE), this CGI character feels really out of place in a world that for the most part seamlessly blends practical effects with CG.
He would be right at home in the prequels but in The Force Awakens it just doesn't feel right. Lucky, then, there's not much else the movie gets wrong.
Star Wars
The dog fights are beautiful, as is every new world we encounter. It really is worth spending more and watching The Force Awakens on the biggest screen possible. I saw it on IMAX and the effect was both immersive and jaw-dropping.
Even though the plot is in part a remix of A New Hope, it's this familiar territory that anchors The Force Awakens. It tugs at the nostalgia strings but there's enough here to make sure that this isn't just a movie to pander to the fanboys.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the movie the prequels should have been. Visually things are simpler, while the action is superb it's not the meat to the film - the characters are the main focal point. Star Wars was always about those little moments where all the cast were quipping and sniping at each other - small exchanges in a big world.
The Force Awakens has plenty of these and because of this it's Star Wars through and through.











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Gallery: Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
Gallery: Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions

January

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
Another year dawns and the fast paced world of technology continues to wait for no man. What will transpire in 2016's 366 days? Who will change the world? What will flop? Who will fold? Whose data breaches will be the worst? Let's take a look into the crystal ball app I just installed and see.
In January, the world's technology industry descends on Nevada for another CES. The big trends are car tech and virtual reality. Robotic dogs make an unexpected comeback for some reason, and will.i.am announces the first 4G-enabled cake slice with a retail price of $899.99. It is only compatible with the iPhone. TVs are bigger, thinner and more curved than ever before. Literally hundreds of new smartwatches are launched, including one with a built in defibrillator that has to be prescribed by a doctor.
Rihanna plays the Samsung party at CES and announces that every Samsung user can listen to an exclusive garbled snippet of her new album for three hours on January 16. TIDAL one-ups Rihanna by releasing the Frank Ocean album exclusively in high resolution audio. People who don't subscribe to TIDAL or use a Samsung phone are generally quite annoyed. Daniel Ek, in particular.
Apple riles everyone at CES off by announcing an iPad event right in the middle of press day. The event is scheduled for February 3 and comes with the infuriating, grammatically questionable tagline: "Size isn't everything. Or is it?"
Later in the month, a rumour breaks that Apple is about to launch a TV-sized iPad, also known as the Apple Television.
UEFA decides that it will use goal line tech during Euro 2016.

February

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
February 3 rolls around and Apple's favoured members of the tech media arrive in San Francisco to start Instagramming their press passes. The keynote begins and after an hour of braying sales updates and news of some new Apple Stores no one cares about, Tim Cook announces the iPad Vapour, an even slimmer, even bigger iPad Air. Everyone agrees it is probably amazing except the people who think it looks like crap. Eddy Cue looks like he just rolled in after a night on the tiles, Craig Federighi's eyebrows are still amazing.
On the February 22, MWC 2016 kicks off in Barcelona, although everything of note is announced the day before. Samsung announces the Galaxy S7, which seems fine. It comes with an 8K screen, iris-scanning tech and literally 15 seconds of Rihanna's new album. LG partners with Adele to launch a bunch of Hello-themed flip phones which everyone agrees seems to be a bit of an outdated reference now.
Oculus Rift goes on sale and receives a rapturous reception from gamers. Even people's mums are interested in having a go.
February 29 causes no problems.

March

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
After a long winter of quiet, closed-door meetings, Theresa May and her Tory pals sneak the Snooper's Charter through in the UK by getting the Queen, who has only used the internet twice, to sign off on it while no one is looking. After swathes of people are arrested for what turn out to be mainly spelling errors while Googling, 84% of the population stop using the internet for anything other than the big shop. Libraries boom. Bookshops start popping up on every street corner. Internet cafes that promise anonymous web surfing become the number one place to meet hot singles in your area. It's like 1982 all over again – except, weirdly, in East London where everything remains exactly the same.
Meanwhile, Google announces that its first commercial driverless car will be available from September. The cars can only be used on certain roads in Northern California and only, if you go by pre-order demographics, by rich middle-aged white men.
The iPad Vapour goes on sale in the middle of the month. A design flaw means that it snaps completely in two if a certain part of its back panel gets knocked in a certain way. The product is recalled. It never rematerialises.

April

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
Facebook's dislike button finally launches, although setting it live on April 1 probably wasn't the company's best move. Rather than "Dislike," Facebook has gone with "Sorry" after a last-minute Justin Bieber tie-in is agreed. It is used sarcastically for almost the entire month.
News breaks that the US government has signed off on the world's first sentient drone, capable of making its own decisions without any human input whatsoever. It seems pretty bad but the overwhelming number of uninformed thinkpieces on the matter are somehow worse.

May

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
At Google IO 2016, Android Nutella is announced as the name chosen in an online poll of Android users. Everyone agrees it is even more spurious than the KitKat tie in of yore. Apple takes this opportunity to announce its WWDC 2016 dates, and we can't think why. Anyway, back at Alphabet HQ, Nutella will come with multi-window multitasking and some other things that hardcore Android users get excited about but everyone else finds quite boring. The big winner at IO is Google's first Project Jacquard garments which, against all expectation, seem quite beautiful and useful.
The year's first major hack takes place: thousands of people's Google search histories are published, allowing anyone to search for any other person and see what they've been up to. The people of the UK, of course, already know how this feels and enjoy taking part in a bit of schadenfreude over the matter. On the whole, everyone agrees that privacy is a concept that no longer applies.

June

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
WWDC kicks off with news of iOS 10 and the questionably-named OS X Alcatraz. iOS 10 gives Siri free rein over your voicemails, telling people exactly why you can't come to the phone rather than just letting them stew in mystery over what you could possibly be doing that's more important than speaking to them. A bunch of new features make use of 3D Touch and a slight update to the design has everyone wondering what the iPhone 7 will look like.
Alcatraz, meanwhile, makes Apple's computer OS even more like its mobile OS. It has some cool features but everyone is too floored by the name to talk about them. Tim Cook continues to tell everyone that Apple will never merge OS X and iOS.
London Tech Week happens. No one really notices.
Euro 2016 "kicks off" on June 10. Two days into the tournament, Iceland accuses UEFA of underhanded tactics after one of its goal line challenges went unreported. UEFA blamed the miscommunication on a dodgy connection between headsets.

July

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
It's a quiet month. There is a superhero film tie-in of some kind, resulting in a limited edition Sony phone that nobody buys.
Germany wins Euro 2016; Iceland do not make it through the group stages.
A terrible tragedy occurs. Starved of #content, some tech sites rush to find a vaguely tech-related angle for clicks.
Investors are issued with a warning about Blackberry's finances.

August

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
Image suggestions: Olympics, iPhone image, LinkedIn image
The Olympics begin and the BBC broadcasts some of its coverage in Higher Frame Rate than usual; about 10 people benefit from this.
Things begin to pick up in August as iPhone rumours and speculation about what IFA 2016 hold circulate. The iPhone 7 is said to be all manner of shapes including: teardrop, hexagonal, a rhombus and circular, and that rumour about an iRing surfaces again. Someone with knowledge of the supply chain reckons it will be thin, fast, better screened etc etc.
IFA rumours are equally as exciting. Some companies are rumoured to have new, slightly better phones, while others are rumoured to have new, slightly better washing machines.
Another major data breach takes place, this time at LinkedIn where thousands of employees are outed as they search for new jobs.

September

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
IFA 2016 kicks off on September 2nd with its official tagline: "Official partner of the future." There's a bunch of new Samsung phones on the racks, as well as a fridge that has everyone excited because it comes with a button to push for champagne and the ability to restock itself. Sony's new flagship phone is underwhelming and Motorola's new smartwatch lineup is quite similar to its 2015 stuff. Asus's press event, presided over by the inimitable Jonney Shih, is spectacular. Its new laptops look nice but they're still no Macbooks are they, let's face it.
Apple announces the date for its next iPhone event, which will take place on October 11. The tagline on the event is, "You ain't seen nothing yet."
The first major driverless car accident takes place in late September. Three people are killed when the car indicates right but turns left due to a bug in the software. The 12 remaining driverless cars are remotely powered down until the bug can be fixed.

October

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
Apple launches a new Apple Watch and the iPhone 7 at an event on October 11. The Apple Watch has a minor update and a few new straps to choose from, while the iPhone 7 is completely redesigned. It's got wireless charging as standard (if you buy the wireless charging port, on sale at £149.99) and the slimmest, flagship model comes without a 3.5mm headphone port.
BlackBerry's Q2 results are as abysmal as anticipated. Its new handset, the Blackberry Syar, has failed to capture any interest whatsoever, even among the newly security conscious public. The company sells of its last remaining patents and shuts its doors for good. RIP.

November

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
Image suggestions: iPhone, sentient drone, Elon Musk/Stephen Hawking
The iPhone 7 goes on sale on Friday November 4 and sells in record numbers according to Apple. The second iteration of the Apple Watch sells only 400 units worldwide in its first weekend. Apple does not mention this in its press release.
The American presidential election is overshadowed by the sentient drones, which begin the overthrow of the American government aided by Russia. Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking sit back and say: "We told you so."

December

Technology in 2016: some highly accurate predictions
Image suggestions: Oculus Rift, Putin, Google + tumbleweed
All private enterprise is nationalised in the US under its new president, Vladimir Putin. Google gradually becomes a toxic wasteland of government controlled spyware and falls out of use in all but government-run organisations. DuckDuckGo's founders move their entire operation to Sweden and the search engine becomes the number one in the world.
Oculus Rift is the year's must-buy Christmas present, taking on Wii-like status in living rooms all over the world. Except the US where it is now illegal.











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Microsoft storing Windows disk encryption keys: a potential security nightmare?
Microsoft storing Windows disk encryption keys: a potential security nightmare?
Microsoft is at the centre of a new dollop of controversy in the privacy and security stakes, with the revelation that the company automatically uploads a copy of the recovery key for its disk encryption on modern PCs to its own servers – apparently without informing the owner of the computer, or presenting a choice to opt out of said process.
What does this mean for the average user, exactly? If you've got a newer PC which supports TPM and you're running Windows 10 – and you've tied the OS into your Microsoft account for login – then you're automatically protected by Microsoft's device encryption, meaning the data on your disk is encrypted by default for security.
But as The Intercept reports, a copy of your encryption key is also uploaded to Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage locker, and as the article notes, this is done with no choice to opt out, and probably without the user's knowledge.
Of course, built-in disk encryption is a very commendable security feature, but there are potential issues with it – and backing a recovery key up to Microsoft's servers is an understandable step to take given the sort of problems that could occur.
For example, some sort of hardware failure on your PC could mean the data on your hard drive ends up permanently lost if there's no recovery key backup accessible.
However, as The Intercept points out, there are potential security risks to Microsoft keeping a copy of your key – such as for example if a hacker breaches your Microsoft account, and can then access your encryption key (of course they'd still need physical access to your machine to make any use of it).

Relative risks

But the truth of the matter for the average user is that the risks of any such hacking are clearly outweighed by the potential risk of catastrophic data loss if something goes wrong with their PC and a backup of the recovery key isn't accessible. Which is why Microsoft made the decision to do this…
This is really more of an issue for a minority of users who have truly sensitive data (i.e. trade secrets and the like) on their machines, and, for example, if that PC was grabbed by a government, they wouldn't want said authorities to be able to strong-arm Microsoft for the decryption key to view the data.
But the overall thrust of the anti-Microsoft argument is that Redmond simply needs to make this process more transparent, and let the user know what's happening – or indeed give them a choice when it comes to uploading a recovery key to Microsoft's servers.
Note that it is possible to delete your recovery key from your Microsoft account – The Intercept details how to do this in its report. Bear in mind, though, that you'll need to keep a note of the key somewhere in case of a disaster in the future. The article suggests jotting it down on a piece of paper and keeping that somewhere safe, but that could come with obvious risks of its own.











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Heard the one about Mike Tyson, Russell Crowe and a priest on hoverboards?
Heard the one about Mike Tyson, Russell Crowe and a priest on hoverboards?
Marty McFly and Doc Brown have a lot to answer for. Because of them, 2015 was destined to be the year of the hoverboard. It was written in the gospel that is Back To The Future Part II, so it was meant to be.
And, in 2015, we did get hoverboards but they are a long way from the awesomeness of the movie.
Our hoverboards are terrible two-wheeled contraptions that even Amazon has banned selling them, due to them being a potential fire hazard. This is the same Amazon that sells Uranium Ore.
To cap off a rollercoaster year for the hoverboard we have had three fantastic Hoverboard-related things happen over the Christmas period.
All of these should, if you actually decided to buy one, convince you to throw away your hoverboard into the nearest flame-retardant bin and rediscover your own feet for walking.

Mike drop

First up in Mike Tyson. Usually someone who is in the news for very different reasons, the former boxer has now taken up hoverboarding, which he is terrible at.
Not as terrible as his acting but he shared his hoverboard fail for us to all laugh at, from the comfort of our own home.
hoverboard
Then there's that other hard man, Mr Russell Crowe. Famed for fighting the entire Roman Empire in Gladiator while being literally stabbed in the back by a snivelling Joaquin Phoenix, Crowe was someone else who took to Twitter to slam Virgin America for not allowing him to take his kids hoverboards onto a plane. Apparently they should have told him they were banned when he booked the ticket.
Hoverboard
Finally, a Catholic priest decided to conduct Christmas Eve mass while riding a hoverboard. Even though the video shows the congregation cheering and clapping while he rolls down the aisle, according to the Guardian, his actions have gotten him suspended and forced a statement that is so bizarre it's brilliant.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGI9yRRVQm8
On his Facebook page, the diocese of San Pablo in Laguna posted the following statement:
"Last December 24, 2015, before the final blessing of the Christmas eve mass, as a way of greeting his parishioners, the priest sang a Christmas song, while going around the nave standing on a hoverboard.
"That was wrong."
Roll on 2016... Just not on a hoverboard.











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Best of techradar 2015: our articles of the year
Best of techradar 2015: our articles of the year

Page 1

2015 won't be here for much longer, so as the year comes to a close, we decided to look back at some of our favorite articles of the last 365.
Our editors combed through the pages of techradar to bring you the stuff we enjoyed writing the most in 2015. And what a year it was: we tested the latest tablets, interviewed movie directors and went to the first-ever VR film festival. We completed a triathlon (training all the way with tech), asked experts how to make the ultimate PC and discovered that, yes, you can build a real-life Death Star.
It was a huge year for us on social media as well - check out Page 4 for our highlights there.
Thanks for reading, commenting, and following us, and we look forward to hearing from you in 2016!

iPad Pro review

By Gareth Beavis

iPad Pro review
"The iPad Pro is a divisive tablet. It's just a bigger iPad, which is boring and 'so Apple' to some. To others it's a bigger iPad, and that's simply awesome.
But your affection, desire or interest is purely limited to what you use a laptop or tablet for already. If you're a hardcore laptop fiend, crouching over it at every possibility throughout the day, the iPad Pro is going to have a very different set of criteria to the person who idly uses the tablet around the house and occasionally pulls it out on the train to quickly update documents or fill out a to-do list before work."

Thank Phonebloks for Google's Project Ara

By Cameron Faulkner, April 13

Dave Hakkens
"The inspiration for the modularity project came from an unlikely source: a broken camera. The good news was his point-and-shoot was salvageable. The bad news? It would cost more to repair the camera than it would take just to buy a new one.
This dilemma presents the crux of Hakkens' argument with Phonebloks: if tech products are built in such a way so that users could easily and affordably swap out components without any technical know-how, they'd be less likely to resort to tossing them in the garbage."
More picks by Cameron:

Fallout 4: the good, the bad and the ugly of the Boston Wastelands

By Hugh Langley, November 9

Fallout 4
"Above all, Fallout 4 is still a game of exploration. In its opening moments, you'll look around the perfectly normal, pre-nuked house replete with a baby bassinet and servo droid and feel the urge to explore every inch of the gorgeous interior.
This wide-eyed wonder carries with you for much of the game as you delve into numerous caves, subterranean strongholds and derelict subway stations. You'll watch as the world around you changes when [redacted] and your family [redacted] (spoilers, spoilers)."

Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

By Patrick Goss

Star Wars
"'Chewie, we're home' says Harrison Ford's Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The character is ostensibly talking about the Millennium Falcon, but the truth is he's talking about the entire Star Wars franchise, about the original cast, the original ethos and, honestly, he's speaking for the millions of fans who have been waiting impatiently for 30 years for the next true step into a Galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a terrific film - it is reverent but not deferential to the original trilogy, genuinely funny without feeling the need to be puerile and it oozes the gritty Star Wars universe we know and love from every pore."
More picks by Patrick:

Halo 5 multiplayer is anything but spartan

By Joe Osborne, September 28

Halo 5
"Sure, it's a bummer to think that I won't be able to relive my foundational memories of the Halo series in this shiny new iteration. But after seeing it first hand, what developer 343 Industries has created in focusing on 100% online multiplayer is remarkable. Frankly, one new approach to online play made for the best time I've had playing Halo online since Invasion in Halo: Reach.
Welcome to Warzone, the brand new player-versus-player-versus-environment-versus-player game mode that can be described as Halo's response to the League of Legends craze. Whether you're (somehow) new to the Halo series or haven't dove in since, say, Halo: Combat Evolved, this is probably where you'll live online when Halo 5 lands, and that's totally OK.
In fact, I already prefer it."
More picks by Joe:

Page 2

How the voices of Siri discovered they were inside your iPhone

By James Peckham, November 7

Voice of Siri
"When Siri was introduced on the iPhone 4S back in October 2011, no one knew the people they were speaking to, yet they fast became some of the most recognised voices in the world.
The only people who knew the voices speaking back at them were the voice actors themselves, and even they weren't certain at first. Apple didn't publicly reveal the names of the Siri voices, but the company also didn't see fit to contact the actors directly either - so it was a bit of a surprise when they discovered they were inside millions of phones."

You might actually survive Dark Souls 3

By Nick Pino, August 5

Dark Souls 3
"It's this method of rewarding its most resilient fans that makes developer From Software's series so beloved by a growing niche audience. For the rest of us - the ones that run from room to room haphazardly, missing the myriad treasure chests and secret doors - however, death comes quickly and relentlessly.
Getting to play Dark Souls 3, I expected it to be as hard as its two-year-old predecessor, Dark Souls 2. I expected that I'd need to take that careful approach; for my character's maximum allowed health to deplete after every death and restorative potions to be sparse.
How wrong I was."
More picks by Nick:

The first-ever VR film festival showed me the future of movies

By Lily Prasuethsut, September 19

Virtual Reality
"Tyler Hurd, director of Butts, never thought he'd be talking to a reporter about his animated short. Originally 2D, Hurd's coworkers at Double Fine wanted to make Butts for VR. Simple, hilarious and yes, even touching, the short was one of the first virtual reality films made.
Technically, he says the conversion is tricky, because VR is still in development, "There's a lot of things that break." Creatively however, it's "been fun to explore." Examples include directing the audience's attention to little moments with certain cues to look in different places since you "can't physically turn their heads" you have to provide visual and auditory hints."

The smartphone torture tests your handset has to pass

By John McCann, February 10

Huawei phone torture chamber
"Deep underground at Huawei's Shanghai campus lies a purpose-built facility designed to put the latest smartphones through extreme tests, ensuring the device which lands in your hand is capable of taking more than just a couple of knocks.
We were invited to China to check out Huawei's facility inside the city's longest building, stretching for one kilometre and the workplace for over 10,000 employees."
More picks by John

Anyone can build a PC - here's how the experts do it

By Kane Fulton, March 26

8Pack
"Peering into the gaming PC's gargantuan case, the system's creator flicked away a spec of dust.
"When the customer said they wanted this colour," he begins, pointing to a water-cooling reservoir radiating an atomic yellow hue, 'I thought it would look awful - but it's turned out really well.'"
Talking techradar through the rig, a near £10,000 (around $14,900) dream machine called the Supernova, is Ian "8pack" Parry. A veritable T100 in a polo top sporting a thick Huddersfield, England accent, Parry is the creator of Overlockers UK's flagship 8pack gaming PC range."
More picks by Kane

How I broke the 40 minute 10K barrier with tech

By Gareth Beavis, September 13

Shoes
"If the title of this piece seems a little like I'm bragging, then, well, I can't really deny that. But this is one of those instances in life that just feel like you have to make a big deal about, else they just get lost in the current with the rest of daily life.
Regular readers will know that I've been after the sub-40 minute 10K race for a long, long time now - and on Sunday I finally did it in London's Kew Gardens, and all thanks to some subtle training tweaks that were enabled through technology.
And, more importantly, Runner G completed her first ever race - getting people on the running train is way better than cracking times."
More picks by Gareth

Page 3

This is what riding in Mercedes' self-driving car looks (and feels) like

By Michelle Fitzsimmons, March 19

Mercedes self-driving car
"Of course, while you're occupied doing anything but driving, the F 015 is hurtling through space. I had one 'oh crap moment as the F 015 accelerated on its own, no driver at the helm to brake if necessary. Even more disconcerting: there wasn't anyone looking out the front windshield to see where we were going. The driver can manually take over the F 015 at any time, but still, you have to trust it's not going to drive you straight into the San Francisco Bay.
Any passenger can technically become the driver - or 'conductor,' as Mercedes refers to whoever is controlling the car - accelerating or decelerating the F 015 by touching the door displays. This particular software wasn't working properly during my test drive, unfortunately. I wanted to give my fellow passengers a scare."
More picks by Michelle

From drones to iPhones: how George Miller recreated the mad world of Mad Max

By Marc Chacksfield, October 2

Mad Max Fury Road
"The release of Mad Max: Fury Road earlier this year pushed George Miller's name right up to the top of the action director pile. The movie, a quasi-sequel to Miller's Mad Max trilogy, is the most refreshing piece of action cinema in years.
The reason: all the sequences were shot in-camera, not in front of a green screen - something that made complete sense to the director.
'We didn't use CG because we don't defy the laws of gravity [in the movie],' says Miller. 'There's no flying people or space vehicles, no alien planets. This is a real world, it's crazy to do it CG when you can do it for real. You want the world to be authentic, to be immersive.'"
More picks by Marc

Epson PictureMate PM-400 review

By Juan Martinez

Epson printer
"I was never much of a photo-taker. Most of the snaps I took were of important moments with family and friends, or vacation landscapes that I wanted to remember later. I usually just fired off a few pics, loaded them onto Facebook and returned to them from time to time, to reminisce.
There was no real effort, no attention to detail and I didn't really think anything should happen to these images outside of their digital existence.
That all changed this past March when my wife and I had our first child - a baby girl we named Mila. Mila's birth didn't turn me into a shutterbug. I still use the automatic setting on my DSLR, and I can't tell you the difference between my aperture and ISO settings."
More picks by Juan

Yes, we can build a Death Star - and here's how

By Duncan Greene

Death Star
"Close your eyes for a moment and imagine you're the head of North Korea's space program. It's Friday afternoon, you've had a tough week, and you're just sending a last few emails before you go home when a message drops into your inbox from Kim Jong-Un. Uh-oh, better answer this. The subject line is just two words. 'Death Star'.
Turns out he's been watching some of his dad's old movies, and one of them featured a huge planet-sized space station - he wants to know if it's possible to build it. A giant megastructure floating in space that's also capable of firing planet-destroying lasers - what could be simpler? You look at the plans. You look at the email reply window. You can't say 'no.' You know what a 'no' would mean for you and your family."

This man is closer than ever to building the world's first time machine

By Hugh Langley, November 2

Ron Mallett
"It was a personal tragedy that started the timeline. After Boyd Mallett died of a sudden heart attack in 1955, his 10 year old son, Ronald, made a promise: he would find a way to travel back in time to warn his father of what was going to happen. It was a mission inspired partly by a copy of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, which Ron discovered a year after his father's passing.
The story follows the narrator's journey into the future, but one line in particular struck Ron: 'Scientific people know very well that time is just a kind of space and we can move forward and backward in time just as we can in space.' He believed that he could build a fully working time machine to go back in time and so he dedicated his future to proving it."
More picks by Hugh

Page 4

Your old smartphone could help save the Amazon rainforest

By James Peckham, November 22

Rainforest Connection
"If we ever think about the environmental impact of our upgrade addiction, it's usually to berate ourselves for the damage it does. But there is an option for your old mobile that will not only reduce waste, but actively help to preserve some of the most threatened habitats in the world.
In the last 50 years, 17% of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed - partly by climate change, but much of it through illegal logging to develop farmland. This is a terrible loss by itself, but it also deprives indigenous tribes of their homes and drives rare species of plants and animals to extinction. There are even wider-reaching effects too: because forests act as a carbon sink, the more we lose, the more CO2 is released into the atmosphere and the greater the potential for global warming."
More picks by James

Surface Book review

By Kevin Lee

Surface Book
"Now, Microsoft introduces the Surface Book as the "ultimate laptop." Like the Surface tablets before it, this laptop takes a unique spin on the notebook format that's been around for over 40 years. Between the 3:2 aspect ratio, 13.5-inch screen and its practically-trademarked "dynamic fulcrum" hinge, there isn't any machine on the planet like the Surface Book – and then, with the touch of a button and a gentle tug, it becomes a tablet.
It all sounds like an amazing idea on paper, and with the added "holy shit, Microsoft made a laptop" factor, the Surface Book sounds like a thoroughly amazing device. Let's see just how well Redmond made good on the hype."

Techradar on social media

This was also a huge year for techradar on the social media front. Our Social Editor Salwa Azar gathered up the highlights of our year in social - the posts that have set our emoticons alight, made us puke rainbows and generally made us go "Huh?".
  1. Self-aware robots - we wrote this story in July and it took social media, including Reddit, by storm.
  2. Our Star Wars clip from London Comic Con - with over 10,000 views, this was one of our most popular videos on Facebook.
  3. Chewbacca Furby - a surprise entry proving that you really do love all things Star Wars. While it was posted to Instagram and Facebook, it was on Vine that this video really went crazy with over 200,000 loops and counting!
  4. Wearable leggings - One of the more bonkers ideas we've seen in terms of content.
  5. Cat laptop - Yes, it comes with a mouse.
Our top lists on social media were:
Make sure you're with us for an exciting start to the New Year as we attend CES 2016 in Las Vegas, and things really start off with a techno-klaxon. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.











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Nothing slow about Windows 10 adoption as it blazes past 200 million installs
Nothing slow about Windows 10 adoption as it blazes past 200 million installs
Apparently the number of Windows 10 installations out there has increased far more than was previously thought in the last couple of months, at least according to the rumour mill.
Word has come from sources who spoke to WinBeta, claiming that Windows 10 has now been installed on over 200 million devices across the globe (note that this is devices, so not just desktop PCs).
Of course, this is just speculation and not an official figure, and it represents a big jump since Microsoft's last announcement of 110 million installs back in October.
Indeed, at the end of October, WinBeta's inside contacts claimed the number of Windows 10 installations had increased to 120 million – meaning an increase of around 10 million in just under a month.
That doesn't quite tally with a leap of 80 million in two further months – and neither does it match up with what bean counting firms such as StatCounter have been saying about Windows 10's pace of adoption slowing down over the past couple of months.
In other words, keep the usual pinch of salt to hand…
That said, Christmas sales of new devices certainly won't have hurt Windows 10's prospects. Hopefully we'll get some more official figures from Microsoft soon.
Meanwhile, Redmond is likely to continue to push Windows 7 and 8.1 users to upgrade, and we've seen some dubious tactics of late including presenting options in a manner skewed towards getting folks to make the leap to Windows 10 (and indeed allegedly messing with utilities which block the pop-up Windows 10 upgrade box).











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10 essential features your next business laptop should absolutely have
10 essential features your next business laptop should absolutely have

Introduction

Lenovo ThinkPad
Laptops came into being because employees wanted the ability to do work on the move away from their desks, and since then new technologies have always come to the business market first, before trickling down to consumers.
This happens for two good reasons. Firstly, new technology is expensive, which is why LCD, for example, was first introduced on a business laptop. Secondly, new technology is often tested on a small sample market because it usually takes time to scale manufacturing to millions of units, and doing so allows vendors to iron out any potential issues.
At any rate, in this article we've put our thinking caps on and shortlisted 10 features that we believe all business laptops should possess.

Higher resolution

High resolution screen
A lot of laptops are still sporting a screen resolution that has been around for, well, more than a decade now. 1366 x 768 pixels on a 15.6-inch panel – still a popular standard for most vendors – looks like an oddity in a market where consumers are accustomed to tablets or smartphones sporting pixel densities more than four times higher and costing a fraction of the price.
A good business laptop should come with at least a full HD resolution, one which allows it to display two Microsoft Word documents next to each other. Higher resolutions (QHD or 4K) would work on bigger displays (15.6-inch or 17.3-inch models), but we've found that the sweet spot is full HD on 13.3-inch panels, as this doesn't strain the eye too much.

DisplayPort connector

HP EliteBook 745 G3 DisplayPort
A video connector? Big deal some might say. Why would a DisplayPort make it onto our list? Simply because, unlike HDMI 1.4, it does 4K. And with prices of 4K monitors falling fast, it's only a matter of years before 4K becomes the norm on your desk. And without DisplayPort, there's no 4K.
There are barely any HDMI 2.0 laptops on the market and ditto for monitors. 4K matters because it allows you to replace four full HD monitors with a single one, with the added benefit of a tidier desk (no cables, no mounting stands). In a nutshell, if you want to hack your productivity, a big 4K monitor (as pictured) is the way to go. And to get 4K on your laptop, you will need a DisplayPort connector.

A removable - possibly extendable - battery

HP laptop battery check
Like high-end smartphones, a lot of the newer, trendier laptops come with non-removable batteries and since these gradually degrade over time, you can expect the average battery life of your notebook to significantly decrease within 12 months.
Now, given that the lifecycle of laptops in enterprises is usually three years, a removable battery would certainly give them a new lease of life. A removable battery also means that you can swap the default one for a much bigger power pack for added hours of productivity at any time. Laptops with embedded batteries simply do not have that option.

Viewing angle

Viewing angles
We frequently commute either locally or abroad and always yearn to be productive on the move. The last thing we need when writing features or replying to emails is the person sat in the neighbouring seat peeping at what we're doing. And that's why, in an era of privacy paranoia, a laptop with a very narrow viewing angle is probably better than a notebook with a wider one – even if that means you won't be able to entertain an audience with your latest presentation.
Now, what would be really useful is if a vendor could come up with a nifty way to change viewing angles at the flip of a switch…

Extended warranty

MacBook
Extended warranties exist for a reason – to provide peace of mind for the user and/or the laptop owner. Getting one that marries up with the laptop's estimated life expectancy is usually the best option.
Most vendors have a three-year warranty available that, in its simplest form, adds two additional years to the default warranty. Enhanced warranties include next business day replacement (or even within four hours) as well as covering hardware failures and accidents, always useful when on the move.

Legacy ports

Legacy ports
Business laptops are designed with versatility in mind given the mind-boggling array of peripherals and accessories that they're expected to connect to – from dot matrix printers to that reliable 30-year-old robotic arm.
So either get a laptop that comes with a full set of connectors (VGA or D-Sub, Ethernet and even parallel or serial ports, remember those?) or get a docking station (or a port extender) that offers them.
USB 3.1, the popularity of which is growing fast, will be able to offer higher power (up to 100W) which means that your laptops should be able to power passive port extenders without breaking a sweat.

Enhanced security

Laptop with Intel RealSense
New business notebooks are likely to be more secure than ever with fingerprint readers and an array of sensors and cameras that can visually (or otherwise) confirm the identity of the user and permissions to be granted. Intel RealSense has slowly started to percolate to enterprise products with gesture control likely to grow in importance.
Features like Wake-on-Voice will get traction and may well change the way we interact with laptops as they adopt smartphone-like capabilities such as always standby. Imagine being able to seamlessly authenticate yourself and get your computer to perform tasks without even lifting the display or touching your keyboard.

Say no to plastic!

Asus Zenbook UX305
There will always be some plastic in any laptop – after all, motherboards are made of plastic. What we're referring to are the tacky, ugly, cheap-looking plastic (polycarbonate) shells that have invaded the laptop mainland, especially for entry-level business models.
Expect metal (aluminium, as seen above, or magnesium) or carbon fibre to become more popular as enterprise customers look beyond functional devices and aspire to better overall aesthetics, especially as flexible working and BYOD become the norm. You want to use something you could take on the train or open in a coffee shop. Alternatives to plastic are also stronger and, in the case of a metal chassis, act like giant heatsinks.

Windows 10 Pro

Windows 10 Pro
Windows 10 should be the preferred operating system for your next business laptop, not Windows 7, Mac OS X or Linux. Windows 7 entered end of mainstream support in January 2015 while OS X and Linux are simply too niche at the time of writing to make sense in an enterprise setup.
With new features like Cortana or Hello – which allows for fingerprint, facial and iris recognition – and business features like Azure AD, Client Hyper-V, BitLocker and Remote Desktop, Microsoft's newest Windows is a no-brainer, especially if you get it with a new laptop that can make the most out of it.

Lose the DVD drive

Laptop DVD drive
A number of business laptops still come with an optical drive, which is most likely to be a DVD writer. While the need for such a drive may arise occasionally, these are more a vestige of a distant past where silver coasters were popular and where data was still mostly shuttled between computers on CDs or DVDs.
That's no longer the case – cheap USB drives and the internet made optical media obsolete when it comes to data storage. Removing the optical drive from a laptop makes it lighter and cheaper, improves battery life and is one less component that the operating system will have to handle. So this is another no-brainer, and indeed you can always buy an external DVD drive for a tenner if you really need one.











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