Tuesday, December 15, 2015

IT News Head Lines (Techradar) 16/12/2015


Facebook turns to the Dark (and Light) side with lightsaber profile pics
Facebook turns to the Dark (and Light) side with lightsaber profile pics
Just in case you're living under a rock, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is releasing this week, and to celebrate, Facebook will let you add a lightsaber to your profile picture.
You'll be able channel new hero Finn or new baddie Kylo Ren (or just the Light side and Dark side) to get yourself a red or blue lightsaber on the photo of your choosing.
The light saber gets superimposed right onto your picture, to make it look like one of these character posters, - though choosing the right photo might take a while.
Once you've made it your profile picture, you can then choose an expiration date for it if you want to make it a temporary profile picture, a feature that Facebook rolled out earlier this year.
It's not quite clear if Facebook will let you add lightsabers to your profile pics after Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits cinemas at the end of this week, so we suggest getting in on the fun soon!

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LG G Flex 3 may be a CES 2016 no-show
LG G Flex 3 may be a CES 2016 no-show
Over the past two years, LG has taken the stage at the annual CES show in Las Vegas to unveil the curvy G Flex and G Flex 2.
But with CES 2016 only a few weeks away, we've heard near nothing about the expected LG G Flex 3 so far - and, reportedly, we might not hear anything at all, ever.
Not only is the G Flex 3 reportedly going to be a CES no-show, but according to Korean news site Media Daum, LG might scrap the curved phone all together.
Or course, this is just a rumor at this point, but it would be a shame if LG decided to leave the G Flex 3 - or any phone - at home as there's been a dearth of smartphones at the annual show. At CES 2015, the G Flex 2 was the only new handset announced by a major firm, thus grabbing plenty of the spotlight.
While we have no word as to why LG may shelve the next G Flex, the other handsets, though novel, didn't exactly set any sales records. It could be LG wants to focus on devices that can compete directly with the likes of the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6S rather than phones with short-lived novelty appeal.

As for the LG G5

Meanwhile, the report does say the anticipated LG G5 will be be unveiled in April of next year, while a successor to the LG V10 is expect to launch in the second have of 2016.
If the new report proves true, it would mean the next LG phone to land will be the LG G5, which is expected to sport a Snapdragon 820 CPU, Adreno 530 GPU and a 5.6-inch 2K display, along with a bumped up 21MP camera.
Interestingly, more recent rumors suggest the LG G5 might also come with an iris scanner and, at the very least, an finger scanner for unlocking the handset.
Via G for Games

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Netflix is making this small change to massively improve streaming quality
Netflix is making this small change to massively improve streaming quality
It sounds like a brainteaser for the modern age: how do you make things look better on the screen with less data? To solve it, all you need is four years, a team of coders that know video inside and out and a business like Netflix that takes up about one-third of North American bandwidth during peak hours.
That concoction proved to be enough today when the company announced its plans to re-encode its entire catalog of movies and TV shows to fit a new and improved "recipe."
So just what the heck is a recipe and how did Netflix learn to do more with less?
A recipe is Netflix's word to describe how you watch its content. If you're watching on a slow DSL connection, for example, Netflix is smart enough to deliver you low-resolution video stemming from a lower bitrate. Netflix has always had a few settings that could dynamically change while watching a video. (If you've ever noticed a sudden drop in quality, it's the recipe changing to match your current available bandwidth.)
The big realization came, though, when engineers discovered that not all content is created equal. "You shouldn't allocate the same amount of bits for 'My Little Pony' as for 'The Avengers,'" explained Netflix video algorithms manager Anne Aaron to Variety.
Large patches of color, like the kind found in children's cartoons, don't actually need a very high bitrate to look really good. What Netflix will do in 2016 and beyond is create specific recipes on a per show basis that will enable some shows with less visual data to use lower bitrates but still come through at 1080p quality. That means going back through its entire backlog of shows and creating new rules for every individual show.
Using less data, it turns out, is a very good thing. Not only does that mean mobile users will have less to worry about when streaming videos over their network, but collectively a reduction of data usage will mean less strain on Netflix's servers, too.
Another side benefit of Netflix's new algorithm is that it will be able to bring the service to new developing markets that might not have as stable of connections.
But while the company has figured out how to reduce visually simple TV shows and movies, 2016 will pose new challenges in the world of 4K and HDR content, both of which have been few and far between.

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Mac Tips: How to use emoji easily on Mac
Mac Tips: How to use emoji easily on Mac
If you want to add some fun to your iMessages or social network posts, there's no better way than with emoji. Mac OS X has long featured the ability to utilize these diminutive pictures inline with other text, and in this article, we'll show you how to do it as efficiently as possible.
Whenever you want to quickly and easily add an emoji in the Messages app (or other select applications), perform these steps:
1. Place the cursor in the text field where you wish to add the emoji.
2. Press Command + Control + Spacebar.
3. Begin typing a search term for an emoji. (For instance, type "computer.")
4. Press the down arrow key to select the first item.
5. Press the return key.
Special Character Picker
When you perform these steps the first emoji matching the search term will be entered into the text field. Once you start using this flow to search for and insert emojis, you will find this method is much faster than searching manually through the hundreds of available emoji designs. (Of course, if it's an emoji you frequently use, you can forgo typing the term in step 3 and simply use the arrow keys to select the desired emoji.)
You can also utilize the special character picker to find and insert symbols like the copyright symbol and characters from other languages installed on your Mac.

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Star Wars Week: Here's what Star Wars: Battlefront looks like in 4K and 60FPS
Star Wars Week: Here's what Star Wars: Battlefront looks like in 4K and 60FPS
Regardless of how much you may like or dislike Star Wars: Battlefront, or what system you're playing it on, there is one thing you can't deny: it's a damn fine-looking game.
But a new YouTube clip from user jackfrags has us in awe of just how good looking this game can be, with a "real life" mod running Battlefront at 60 frames per second in 4K resolution.
According to the clip's description, jackfrags used a modified version of the game post-processing software SweetFX on Battlefront, which gives it a much brighter and sharpened, hyper-real feel.
You can check it out for yourself below, though you'll need a 4K monitor and a beyond-decent internet connection to see it for all it's worth.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGyaR2sSBkA&feature=youtu.be

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Google Maps on iOS now shows the best gas prices in town
Google Maps on iOS now shows the best gas prices in town
The iOS version of Google Maps has updated to bring travelers up-to-date pricing on gasoline, a boon for road trippers who love to push the gas tank to the limit in search of a good deal.
Currently available for Canada and the US, Google Maps' updated interface includes pricing when searching for gas stations, to include costs for different fuel grades from Regular to Premium to even Diesel.
While the feature is new for iOS, Android users have had access to fuel pricing for a while. Google originally announced plans to add fuel pricing to their navigation service back in October.

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Updated: 11 best indie games: top indie games on PC and consoles
Updated: 11 best indie games: top indie games on PC and consoles


Surgeon Simulator in VR mode
No-one can agree what an indie game is. Some combination of a small studio, a weird idea and no publisher is the nearest we can get to agreement - but to paraphrase Potter Stewart - you know one when you see it. We've picked out the ones we like best and a few that we're anticipating most.
We admit this is somewhat foolhardy as there are so many great indie games released each day and each game's community is so rabidly aggressive that to pick just 10 is like dipping a hand with a cut pinky into a shark tank and waiting.
So, to be clear; we don't expect that you agree with this list, and we admit it's purely subjective. If you want to evangelise your favourite, why not share your favourite in the comments?

Indie games on our radar


Format: PC
Due to the immersive nature of VR, it's likely that tons of games like Pollen get released in 2016. Pollen sees you explore an abandoned spaceship to discover its mysterious past, taking advantage of the how virtual reality allows you to observe more of the environment and interact with objects.
Developed by Finland-based indie studio MindField games, Pollen has been designed from the ground up for the Oculus Rift. It's hugely immersive and almost entirely interactive, meaning you can pick up, spin round and (probably) sniff any objects you come into contact with.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_1x_y15Pdw


Format: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360
It's unsurprising to see a game that looks like Cobalt after the success that was Towerfall: Ascension. In development by the creators of Minecraft, Cobalt employ's Ascension's run-and-gun gameplay mechanics - only with guns instead of bows and arrows.
There's no online multiplayer, but four players will be able to duke it out locally by rolling, jumping, shooting, throwing, sliding, hacking and looting their way through a number of colourful 2D environments when it lands on October 10.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/embed/sBNq7nADZWc

That Which Sleeps

That Which Sleeps
Format: PC
There's nothing that says indie like some Eldritch Horror poking its fingers up a mortal's ken - whether Five Nights At Freddy's, Amnesia or the numerous Slender games, indie gamers love a good fright.
But to play as the origin of that fear… to slowly subvert the heroes and people of a peaceful land before emerging to consume them all..? Well, we've not seen that since Cthulhu Saves The World or Barbie's Horse Adventures.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neOqkdZOhiQ

Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper Light Drifter
Format: PC / Mac / Linux / PS4 / Vita / Wii U / Ouya
A 2D action RPG based on the best 8- and 16-bit classics, Hyper Light Drifter was a big Kickstarter success, presumably because of its glorious pixel graphics and its combat that's halfway to SuperGiant's seminal Transistor.
Despite appearances, it's a combat-focused game where you explore the unknown, ruined world of Buried Time, inspired by nightmares and dreams, where your Drifter is searching for a cure for a fatal disease...
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKgLJiJYvY8

No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky
Format: PC / PS4
Previously, Hello Games was known for Joe Danger - a so-so series of games that tracked a kid-friendly stuntman.
So No Man's Sky is a big departure, as the team promise to create a huge procedurally-generated universe where you can fly to distant worlds, then land on them and walk around. Oh, and you can play with your friends. And it's probably going to be amazing in Sony's Morpheus VR headset.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmwG6Sj1Yfg


Format: PC / PS4 / Xbox One / Linux / Mac
One of the most bizarre, theatrical games ever made (alongside Ice Pick Lodge's other titles The Void and Cargo!), Pathologic was first released in 2005. Ten years later, the original developers are releasing a new version for console and PC.
You play one of three disturbed individuals investigating a strange plague in a surreal town on the steppes. We say investigating - surviving each day yourself is a challenge, let alone keeping the important members of the town alive until the plague and plot have run their courses.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gh5CB2lnZ7c

The Witness

The Witness
Format: PC / PS4
Jonathan Blow is best known for Braid and… nothing else. That's because he's been working on The Witness since Braid came out, and pouring all the money he earned into it.
It's a first-person puzzle game somewhat like Myst, but with a beautiful hand-crafted open world to explore and a deeply-strange backstory. The only problem is that, as he's such a perfectionist, we're a little worried we're not going to see it for another ten years...
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Brd0F7rlXCI

1. Braid

Jonathan Blow's masterpiece first appears to be a simple pastiche of Super Mario Bros, with a middle-aged curmudgeon replacing the titular plumber but still seeking to rescue a princess.
But as you spend time with it, it reveals more of itself, moving from a series of time-bending puzzles to quiet reflective texts - which doesn't stop it being the smartest puzzle game until SpaceChem. Blow himself has hinted that the ultimate story might be something to do with the nuclear bomb.

2. Papers Please

Papers Please
Most mainstream games are escapist power fantasies, where the player grows their capabilities until they dominate the game's universe - and then the game ends. Yet many indie games are dis-empowerment fantasies - like the IGF award winner and misery sim Cart Life.
Papers Please is similar to Cart Life - it's also an IGF winner with elements of misery about it - but it's better, being a smart, weird sim about the compromised life of a border guard under a totalitarian regime. It's ugly and desperate, but also innovative, uproariously funny and terribly smart.

3. Spelunky

Among the hardcore gamers of my acquaintance, Spelunky is the go-to drug. Even today, several years after its release, some of them still play it every day, despite having completed it many times over. That's because Spelunky, ostensibly a roguelike platformer with a definite end, is tough, varied and highly randomised.
It also has more dark secrets than a presidential candidate, meaning there are many, many ways to finish it, and its daily challenges are a sure-fire way to public humiliation.

4. The Stanley Parable

The Stanley Parable
Humour is often something absent from games, mostly being restricted to slapstick comedy or crude one-liners. The Stanley Parable, by contrast, is hilarious without dumbing down. Players follow (or don't) a very English narrative voice who changes the world around you, depending on your decision.
No decision is punished, every playthrough throws up new humour and weirdness. Being trapped in the closet in the Stanley Parable is more moving and funny than 9/10 other games.

5. Crypt of the Necrodancer

Crypt of the Necrodancer
The roguelike genre is increasingly dominant in indie games, but plunging to the 23rd level to grab the amulet of Yendor doesn't half get old. So Necrodancer changes the mix, adding in a rhythm-action element to the traditional turn-based combat, setting the combat to a series of funky soundtracks, and speeding it up as you succeed.
It can even be played with a dance-mat as a controller. There's a nice variety of characters to play as, but if you don't have rhythm you can play as The Bard who's got rhythm enough for both of you.

6. Kerbal Space Program

Kerbal Space Program
Only SpaceChem has mingled education with entertainment as successfully as The Kerbal Space Program. The game is simple - design and build spacecraft to take the cutesy Kerbals to the Mun and beyond.
Yet its focused use of real physics means that you'll find yourself following NASA in building multi-stage rockets, space stations and exploring the Kerbal's strange universe on EVAs, before bringing your discoveries back to research on the Kerbal planet - that's if you can get off the ground at all. It's a huge, complex, challenging and fun game, that's smart without being preachy.

7. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
The exact opposite of the Kerbal Space Program, The Binding of Isaac is an action roguelike par excellence. Matched only by the equally visceral Nuclear Throne for replayability, you play as a young boy attempting to kill his damned siblings, his Mom, and possibly the Devil, using only his tears. Which he shoots from his eyes, of course.
With hundreds of weird modifiers to discover, endlessly touch procedurally-generated levels, and secrets galore, Isaac is a very dark take on the exploratory model established by Spelunky.

8. Prison Architect

Prison Architect
Introversions was one of the earliest 'indie' companies, releasing games like Uplink, Defcon and Darwinia whilst Vlambeer were still in short pants. After years of struggling, they've finally hit a huge success with Prison Architect, a game where you build, staff, outfit and manage a maximum security prison.
With smart prisoners who are willing to do anything to escape, you'll struggle to keep them all inside - or keep them from rioting - and turn a profit. It's still in alpha, but it's eminently playable right now..

9. To The Moon

To The Moon
Whilst The Kerbal Space Program might actually take you (or at least those poor doomed Kerbals) to the moon, To The Moon is a game about wish fulfilment, and thrives on narrative. In terms of movies, Kerbal is Gravity and Isaac is Saw, To The Moon is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
You control two doctors who are exploring a dying man's memories to implant a false memory so he can die in peace. Which is all depicted in a classic 16-bit Zelda style. It's a rare, brave, adult game.

10. Dwarf Fortress

Dwarf Fortress
Dwarf Fortress is its own genre, its own industry. This is a game that, before you've even set foot in it, has to generate the entire geography, mythology and history of its massive world. Then it tracks every single one of the dwarfs you're managing down to the hairs on their legs and the particular horrible elephant murder that they witnessed and they're now carving on an ornamental chair.
Your task is to keep the dwarves alive as they carve out their subterranean kingdom - given that insanity, monsters, and starvation plague are thrown at them at every stage that's not easy. And dwarves, always *always* mine too deep.

11. Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy
Run. Jump. Die. Repeat. That's the basic premise of Super Meat Boy, a fiendishly addictive 2D platformer that's also bloody hard, with an emphasis on bloody. Pints of the red stuff is spilled as the game's eponymous meaty hero leap over deadly drops, spinning blades and walking chainsaws in a bid to rescue his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the evil Dr Foetus. Obviously. Boasting tight controls, plenty of humour and colour graphics, Super Meat Boy leapt onto the PS4 and Vita this year in style.

12. Limbo

Limbo is a platformer with a difference. Five years after its initial release, the game's haunting storyline still affects us. You play The Boy, a child with glowing eyes who's cast into Limbo to find his sister. Making your way through a bleak and dangerous world full of hostile silhouettes, giant spiders and deadly gravitational fields, you'll need to think on your feet and time your movements to perfection to survive.
But Limbo is much more than a simple platformer: it's an experience, and one that has you pondering the very essence of life by the time it's over. Deep, profound and absorbing, it's one indie game everybody should take time out to play.

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Google Inbox's shareable Trip Bundles make it easier to coordinate travel
Google Inbox's shareable Trip Bundles make it easier to coordinate travel
Just in time for the holiday travel season, Google announced that Inbox users can share all the details of their trips with one tap. Shareable Trip Bundles will start rolling out to iOS and Android users this week.
For business users, shareable Trip Bundles make it easy to forward all your travel information, including flight, hotel and rental car details, with anyone with an email address. This helps make it easier to plan and coordinate business trips and travel logistics.
Announced earlier this summer, Trip Bundle is an intelligent feature of Inbox that works in a similar way to Google Now. Trip Bundle pulls all your trip information into one spot in Inbox and provides you with updates, including changes to flight status. Prior to Trip Bundles, travelers had to manage separate emails for different elements of their trip. Trip Bundles aggregate your flight, hotel and rental car reservations in one location, so you have a built-in itinerary in your inbox without needing to search.

What is Trip Bundle?

"When it's time to fly, Inbox will even update your flight status so you'll know if your trip is on time or if your gate has changed," Google said at the time, in a statement. "You can open the bundle to see all your emails related to that trip, with the most important information (like flight times) right at the top."
Even if Inbox doesn't automatically recognize an email as part of a trip, you can now manually add messages to your Trip Bundle. Users can use the "Move to" feature to move individual emails to a Trip Bundle. Information within a Trip Bundle will appear at the top of your Inbox, and the emails related to your trip will be available for offline viewing.
For business users who travel frequently, the feature can save you time so that you don't have to search for specific emails related to your hotel reservations, rental car confirmation or airline ticket information.
Trip Bundle is designed to compete with existing services that scan your emails to pull all your relevant travel information into organized trips. These include Sabre's TripCase, Concur's TripIt and BlackBerry's Travel. Microsoft is also using Cortana to surface relevant travel information just before your trip.
With Inbox integration, the benefit is that you no longer need a third-party service to scan your email, and mobile users no longer need to install another app on their device.
Shareable Trip Bundle makes it easy to not only share your trips with others, but also makes it easier to coordinate trips with colleagues.

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Updated: 28 best PC games: the must-play titles you can't afford to miss
Updated: 28 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

System Shock 3

System Shock 3
There's nothing quite like a sequel to a 90s classic to really get our juices flowing. Released in 1998, System Shock 2 was one of the defining survival horror games on the PC that decade. The main antagonist from that game, the psychopathic AI SHODAN, is returning for System Shock 3. Little else is known about the third game in the series, which is being developed by Otherside Entertainment, other than it could feature VR support. As if System Shock 2 wasn't scary enough without it...
Release date: Possibly 2016


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
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. 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, random loot, level-based progression system and humanoid rat enemies 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.

28. Fallout 4

Best PC games
It's official: Fallout 4 has lived up to the hype. Despite feeling a little bit like Fallout 3 but with nicer graphics at times, its tighter shooting, in-depth crafting system and well-thought out story make it a wholly more enticing affair.
As the Sole Survivor (the first fully-voiced protagonist in the Fallout series) in Boston's post-apocalypse wasteland, you'll take on Feral Ghouls, Raiders, Syths and Bloodbugs and more with high-powered weaponry that includes the Fat Man mini nuke cannon and the fusion cell-powered Laser Musket.
PC gamers can take Fallout 4 to even greater highs through a growing number of mods. They range from the Enhanced Wasteland Preset, which makes the wasteland look more vibrant on beefy PCs, to the sensibly named Fallout 4 Configuration Tool, which makes the game run smoother on wimpier PCs.

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Pandora's latest station hits shuffle on your favorite tunes
Pandora's latest station hits shuffle on your favorite tunes
Love internet radio, but can't commit to just one artist or genre? Pandora's newly-launched Thumbprint Radio has the answer, bringing a personalized radio station based on your all-time favorite tunes.
With Thumbprint Radio, every song a user has ever liked by hitting the "thumbs-up" button in the past becomes part of Pandora's music selection algorithm. Not only does this create an online radio experience that's more likely to meet your personal tastes, but also spans across multiple genres without having to change stations.
For example, if you once gave a thumbs-up to ABBA and Dethklok, you can expect to come across more 70s' Swedish pop and death metal in the same place, or perhaps even some unholy union of both that Pandora thinks you would like based on The Music Genome Project.
Pandora also announced that Thumbprint Radio "is a living, breathing station that will continue to change as you listen," recommending that users share their custom stations with others to better show off their musical tastes.
Thumbprint Radio is available now via Pandora's web browser and mobile app, and hopes to stand out among other competitors such as Spotify and Apple Music, who offer similar internet radio offerings on top of on-demand listening. In the meantime, we'll keep an ear out for that ABBA/Dethklok hybrid.

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Musk fears World War 3 could stop us from getting to Mars
Musk fears World War 3 could stop us from getting to Mars
Head of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk is almost ready to reveal his Mars colonization plans, though he worries world politics could end hopes for a Martian colony.
"There's a window that could be opened for a long time or a short time where we have an opportunity to establish a self-sustaining base on Mars before something happens to drive the technology level on Earth below where it's possible", Musk explained in an interview with GQ.
The "something" that he is referring to is a possible World War 3 that could involve nuclear bombs which, as a result, could push "a very powerful social movement that's anti-technology."
"I don't think we can discount the possibility of a third World War," he said, adding that in 1912, people had been "proclaiming a new age of peace and prosperity, saying that it was a golden age, war was over."
Of course, World War I then began. A handful of decades after, there was World War II, after which we had the Cold War, with the constant threat of nuclear bombs.

A tech halt?

Musk believes that not only could a third World War happen, but that if "it does occur it could be far worse than anything that's happened before."
And, quite logically, he believe this could halt technological advancements.
"Most of us instinctively assume that technology relentlessly marches forward, but there have been times before now in human history - after the Egyptians built the pyramids, for instance, or after the multiple advances of the Roman Empire - when the civilizations that followed could no longer do what had been done before, and perhaps there's a complacency and arrogance in assuming that this won't happen again," he said.
And while Musk has been hoping to colonize Mars with SpaceX for a while now, with the state of the world today, he wonders: "So does the [Mars] base become self-sustaining before spaceships from Earth stop going?"
Image credit: OnInnovation Interview: Elon Musk by OnInnovation/CC BY-ND 2.0 (cropped from original)

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Star Wars Week: 7 potential doomsday scenarios and the tech that will make them possible
Star Wars Week: 7 potential doomsday scenarios and the tech that will make them possible

The tech-pocalypse

technology apocalypse
It's best not to put too much stock in doomsday theories. There are probably thousands of freak phenomena that, at any second, could literally wipe the human race off the face of the planet.
That said, a little education on how the world might come to an end, mixed in with a bit of black humor, of course, might actually prevent that unfortunate future from ever coming to fruition. Or, you know, further a self-fulfilling prophecy. (That has to be the plot of some movie, right?)
While there are hundreds (if not thousands) of ways that it could all go down, let's keep the discussion focused on only the most probable technology-fueled causes. If it can't be the topic of a Michael Bay – or, ahem, J.J. Abrams – film, you won't find it here.

Skynet (or takeover by AI robots)

Technology apocalypse
We've all joked about the vending machine revolution or how Japanese robots are secretly planning a coup-d'etat, but this is something the government and some of the smartest people on the planet, like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, are taking seriously. (Don't believe me? Check out the Future of Life Institute's open letter to autonomous weapons.)
Now, we're still a few years away from computers teaching one another to kill humans – I can't even get Siri to give me directions to the nearest McDonald's – but there are plenty of companies and individuals that have taken artificial intelligence one step closer to free thought.
How much time is left on the clock? By my expert calculations (read: a quick Google search), it looks like we have at least five years before robots are any real threat to mankind.

Grey Goo

technology apocalypse
Here's the thing: if big robots don't end up killing us, little ones will. Grey Goo is an apocalypse scenario that entails self-replicating nanobots that black out the sun, essentially covering the planet's surface in microscopic machines that have no end-goal other than to build more of themselves.
For this to happen, admittedly, scientists would really need to ditch any code of ethics. Some really smart, electrical-biomedical-computer engineer super genius would have to not only create one of these little guys and teach it how to make copies of itself, but said human being would need to figure out how to get it to replicate without the need for additional resources, too. It's a pretty tall order, even for someone who has, at minimum, three PhDs.
How much time is left on the clock? Until we start seeing companies regularly using nanotechnology to solve everyday problems, I'm not going to lose sleep over Grey Goo.

Nuclear reactions

OK, OK, I know nuclear reactions, like the kind found in weapons and power plants, isn't our number one topic here at techradar, but that doesn't make it any less of a potentially dangerous technology. As a form of clean power, I'm all for amassing uranium and performing the ol' one-two fission process on it for a sustainable future.
But, as a weapon, I'm not really down with the whole "mass expansion of kinetic energy" thing. The potential game-ending scenarios here are either someone hacks the launch of several US nuclear missiles or one severely detached world leader pulls the trigger on World War III.
How much time is left on the clock? Neither are super likely, to be honest. But, just to be sure, you should probably give your neighbor a hug and stop hating on people from countries you've never been to.

Particle acceleration gone wrong

technology apocalypse
You're probably well aware of what the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is at this point. But, just as a refresher, this super-powered particle accelerator based in Switzerland sends streams of protons and ions toward one another at almost the speed of light and records the results.
While the LHC simply can't produce Interstellar-esque black holes, there are a few extensive theories lumped together called "Physics beyond the standard model." In short, the machine is entering uncharted territory that could redefine physics altogether.
Now, we've gotten a lot of new knowledge from the LHC, but there's still a fair amount of experimentation going on in the world of dark matter and dark energy. (Not that we know what either of those are exactly.) It's pretty unlikely that the world's top scientists and engineers will run into a catastrophic collision, but one wrong turn and we could find ourselves sitting on the edge of an event horizon.
How much time is left on the clock? A few seconds? I don't know, man. Considering this thing runs 24/7 at double the strength than it did two years ago, we might be minutes away from getting sucked into a wormhole.

The Singularity

technology apocalypse
Another apocalypse scenario in the field of artificial intelligence, "the Singularity" isn't about robots destroying humanity as much as it is about robots helping humans evolve into something … more. Experts in the field include Ray Kurzweil, author of Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever and How to Create a Mind, and researchers Stuart Armstrong and Kaj Sotala.
The basic premise starts with simple augmentations, cybernetic enhancements that make us just a little faster or a little smarter. It ends with the complete integration of all human knowledge into a computer that in its infinite wisdom and immortal shell contains everyone – Neuromancer style.
How much time is left on the clock? According to Armstrong, "It's not fully formalized, but my current 80% estimate is something like five to 100 years." So, you'll either live long enough to see it or you'll leave behind children who will. Fun.

Mass infertility

technology apocalypse
Dozens of movies have broached the subject of mass infertility. And while it's easy to laugh them off with the global population rising year after year, we might have to give them some honest attention in the coming years.
So, why are we pinning the inability to procreate on your new laptop? Research suggests that having electronics so close to our family business – e.g. carrying a cellphone in your pocket or resting a poorly-ventilated laptop on your lap – might be decreasing our ability to make … ahem, genetic material.
How much time is left on the clock? Theoretically, if you only procreate once, we've got – according to math – another 32 generations in the scenario where two people can only conceive at max one child. (But, let's be real, people would find a way to procreate more.)

Super virus

technology apocalypse
At the intersection of super-powered technology and advanced biomedical research is the super virus, a genetically engineered monstrosity that could slip into our bloodstreams and wipe us out in a matter of days.
Games, movies, television and books have covered this idea nine ways to Tuesday, but that's probably because the idea of someone manufacturing a super virus scares the bejeezus out of us. Maybe it's not a one-man job. Maybe a whole military goes in on it. I guess we won't know how this one could happen until it's too late.
How much time is left on the clock? Maybe it's already happening and we just don't know it yet. Better wipe down your keyboard and sterilize your phone screen just to be safe. (Protip: this is a good idea even if you aren't living in fear of the apocalypse.)
Clearly, we're just joshin', folks. This piece is not, by any means, to be used as a source of 100% scientifically sound evidence of an impending apocalypse. Maybe 95%? OK, more like 5%.

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Star Trek Beyond trailer: your first look at J.J. Abrams' other space movie
Star Trek Beyond trailer: your first look at J.J. Abrams' other space movie
You could say that the stars are aligning, because the Star Trek Beyond trailer launched today, the same week that Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres in theaters across the globe.
It's a minute-and-half long YouTube trailer showing actors Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Zach Quinto and Zoe Saldana, among others, aboard the Enterprise - briefly.
Their space voyage is cut short when the iconic Star Trek ship is destroyed and the crew is dispersed on an alien planet. Its inhabitants don't look very friedly.
"We've got no ship, no crew. How are we going to get out of this one?" asks Captain Kirk. What they do have plenty of is the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage," which plays overtop the trailer.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRVD32rnzOw

J.J. Abrams hands off Star Trek Beyond Justin Lin

The Star Trek Beyond, at least from the debut trailer, doesn't seem to take itself as seriously as the previous movie, Star Trek Into Darkness.
That may be because Fast & Furious director Justin Lin is in the captain's seat on this one, replacing J.J. Abrams as the person behind the camera.
Abrams is still a part of the movie via a producer credit, as shown in the YouTube trailer. He's apparently busy with that other aforementioned space-based movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The Star Trek Beyond release date in theaters is July 22, 2016. That should be when the new Star Wars movie ends its run in discount movie theaters, making it the perfect time to launch us back into space.

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Review: Marshall Stockwell
Review: Marshall Stockwell

Marshall Stockwell

Last year, Marshall crashed onto the portable audio scene with the Monitor, a surprisingly good set of on-ear headphones for a company whose legacy is nested in making guitar amplifiers. Now, it's back with the Stockwell, a Bluetooth speaker. Just like the Monitor, it's a chip off the old block, bringing all of Marshall's signature touches of design to the forefront.
At $229 (£179, about AU$317), the Marshall Stockwell sits between the more affordable and expensive options out there. The Stockwell isn't the best-sounding speaker, nor does it have many of the functions that I've come to expect in today's average Bluetooth speakers.
But, if its charming attention to detail happens to win you over (and it very well could), you likely won't regret the purchase. For everyone else, Marshall comes achingly close to a speaker I could outright recommend, but loses out in a few major areas.
Marshall Stockwell


If you take one of Marshall's standard guitar amplifiers and shrink it down to a tenth of its size, you essentially have the Stockwell. Complete with the ruggedized build, familiar gold finishes and enough knobs and buttons to make you want to touch them all, this Bluetooth speaker riffs completely on Marshall's amplifier design identity – and that's a good thing. The look works just as well at a hangout with your scrappy bandmates as it does on a regal coffee table.
The design starts with an optional protective case. It's coated with a tough, leatherette material and some shiny Marshall branding. Once flipped open, the velvety underside of the cover acts as a stand to prop the speaker up at an optimal listening angle. Its looks alone are cool enough to warrant the $40 (£30, about AU$55) purchase, but what's unfortunate is that it's practically a necessity.
Marshall Stockwell
Without it, the Stockwell can fall over with a slight jolt to the surface it rests on. That said, you can save a little by purchasing the speaker and case bundled together for $249 (£199, about AU$345) through Marshall's website.
Moving on to the speaker now, the main attraction is its grille, which rocks a pattern of grouped musical notes. In its center is the white Marshall logo, loud and proud, accented with silver paint. The grille's rectangular face is wrapped by a gold-painted rim. The body of the Stockwell is comprised of smooth black plastic.
Most of the Stockwell's functions are featured on its top, which mimics the appearance of Marshall's amplifiers lovingly. From left to right, there's a 3.5mm input for wiring up your device as an alternative to Bluetooth. Next, there's a button to switch between wired and wireless settings (it doesn't do it automatically).
Marshall Stockwell
There are also a few knobs up top, a style of input you don't often see in the Bluetooth speaker scene. Each can be pushed in for a more seamless look on the top panel (and so that the case can easily wrap around it), but another push will pop them out, so that you can adjust the volume, bass and treble, respectively.
There's a button to answer and hang up phone calls, one to enable Bluetooth discovery mode and finally, a power button. It might sound like this speaker has all of the knobs and buttons one could ever ask for, but unfortunately, it doesn't.
The speaker lacks a multi-function button to play, pause and skip music. Its absence is a big misstep, and if you want to change the song, your only option is to keep your phone or tablet handy.
Marshall Stockwell
The Marshall Stockwell operates on a rechargeable battery, and the port to plug in the power source is located on the right side of the speaker. In the box, you'll find a few different plug types, so you can use it abroad as well. Topping off the list of features is a USB port on the speaker's back that lets you charge a device while listening.


As far as looks are concerned, the Stockwell has it in the bag. It packs performance, too. But, that's more of a mixed bag.
Regarding its output, the Stockwell is well-stocked to put out a room-filling sound, though it isn't the bass-heavy affair you might be hoping for. The three adjustable knobs can help to customize the sound profile to your liking.
Marshall Stockwell
At its best, the speaker offers incredibly crisp delivery with accurate bass performance. It's just that, at its best, the unit doesn't deliver the deep bass or warmth of sound that I'm hoping for from a speaker that looks this good, or frankly, one that's this pricey. That said, listeners who aren't as nitpicky as myself will probably find the Stockwell's audio capabilities to be sufficient.
Using the Marshall Stockwell requires a little more thought than your average Bluetooth speaker. This is because its controls are modeled to look just like those found on a guitar amp. Depending on your familiarity with this type of equipment, this will either be a total breeze to operate, or a nightmare.
For me, it was somewhere in the middle. I'm very familiar with both amplifiers and Bluetooth speakers, but more often than not, the amplifier-style layout hurts more than it helps. Even from a few feet away, it's hard to tell what each button does at a passing glance.
Marshall Stockwell
The Stockwell can also function as a speakerphone, though I wouldn't recommend it. Once I pick up a phone call, the person on the other end has a difficult time making out what I am saying, even when I can't get any closer to the speaker without touching my face to it.
On the bright side, battery life is a spot that the Stockwell nails. Its advertised 25 hours of battery life is no exaggeration. This speaker can endure about a week of normal use at medium volume levels before needing a charge. Just expect the longevity to decrease if you're using the USB port to charge a device. Lastly, I had no issues setting up my devices and staying connected to the Stockwell during my testing.


The Marshall Stockwell, much like the company's efforts in the headphone space, is a love letter to the guitar equipment that made the company famous. But, compared to the competition in its price range, Marshall's svelte Bluetooth speaker just doesn't offer enough.
If you're looking for a Bluetooth speaker in a similar price range that has good looks, offers better sound performance and oodles of features, then the Harman Infinity One might be a stronger investment.
That said, if Marshall's signature looks, remarkable battery life and customizable sound profiles are must-have features, you could do much worse than the Stockwell. But, for your money, you're not getting much more than a pretty facade.

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Microsoft's Office 365 Planner is now available in preview mode
Microsoft's Office 365 Planner is now available in preview mode
Microsoft has begun rolling out Planner preview to Office 365 First Release customers. Planner is Microsoft's collaboration tool, designed to allow teams to brainstorm, organize and assign tasks, among other activities. Although primarily designed for business use, Office 2016 users can also use Planner to plan vacations, creative projects and more.
Office 365 administrators who have opted into First Release will be able to install the Planner preview after receiving an initiation email from Microsoft. Emails will begin going out today and will be rolling out over the next several weeks.
In addition to task management, Planner is built to help groups share files, discuss workloads and conduct chat sessions. Think of it as a virtual boardroom for team meetings.

Visual collaboration

Planner allows managers to create a dashboard for group tasks. Managers can assign projects, track progress and rearrange responsibilities directly from the dashboard.
The best part: you don't have to keep your eyes on the dashboard all day. Whenever someone makes a strategic change, group members receive a notification. The difference between Planner and collaboration tools like Google Drive is that Planner is primarily organized based on visual cues.
Instead of your boss sending a group email telling everyone what their new assignments are, your boss can simply drag and drop a responsibility from your column to your colleague's. The cues are represented by items called "Cards," "Charts" and "Buckets," all of which feature rich image previews of due dates, financial goals or whatever success measures have been established for a given project. This enables project managers and workers to gain a quick, visual understanding of how far along a project might be and the next steps that need to be taken.
Planner is integrated within the Office 365 suite, so users can easily add and share Office documents, calendars and contacts within Planner without having to leave the tool.

The plan for Planner

Like Windows 10 and Office 2016, Office 365 and Planner are iterative applications. Microsoft will make regular updates to the tools, based in large part on user feedback.
Similar to how Windows Insiders have helped shape the Windows 10 operating system, Office 365 First Release customers will be able to share their experience with Planner prior to its worldwide, general rollout.
In order to sign up to become a First Release customer, users must log in to Office 365, go to the Office 365 admin center and then Service Settings. From there, you will be asked to choose how release updates are sent to your organization. Instead of selecting Standard, you'll want to tick First Release for your entire business or for select recipients.

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Best tech presents for kids this Christmas
Best tech presents for kids this Christmas

Top tech for kids

Buying for kids isn't always easy. Pick the sort of toys you'd have liked at their age and the best you can hope for is a half-hearted thanks and the sort of look that makes you feel even older than you are.
But this year it can be different. This year with the help of our guide you can be the cool mum or dad or uncle or 'do I really have to buy a present for their kid? I've only met him once when he was a baby' person.
Whatever your budget we've got a high-tech gadget that's sure to please, so put down that Duplo and read on for a techtastic Christmas.

M:Tech Wall Climbing Car

Price: £19.95 (around $30/AU$42)
What's better than a remote control car? A remote control car which climbs walls. That's exactly what you get with the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin M:Tech Wall Climbing Car. Oh, and it can also drive along ceilings, obviously.
These gravity-defying gizmos are small enough that they won't cause too much chaos and strong enough that they won't easily break. Most importantly they're also a lot of fun. Really, they're cars which climb walls... who wouldn't want that?

KidiZoom Smart Watch

Price: £23/$41.99/AU$63
The chunky, colourful KidiZoom Smart Watch is a bit more exciting than the watches we had as kids. Its brightly coloured touchscreen makes it fun to interact with and does a lot more than just show them it's bed time, with both built in and downloadable games and a tool to help young children learn to tell the time.
Like any good digital watch it also has a stop watch, timer and alarm and it goes above and beyond with a camera and a variety of clock faces. It's not quite the Apple Watch, but it's far more fun for young children.

Parrot MiniDrone Airborne Cargo

Price: £64.99/$99.99/AU$149
Everything's better when it flies and while a pet bird might be a good bet, a drone is a high-tech and frankly superior alternative.
You don't have to confine it to a cage and you won't have to look after it when the next shiny thing comes along (though you'll probably want to).
Make it a Parrot MiniDrone Airborne Cargo and it won't cost a fortune either, so if it crash lands one too many times it's not the end of the world. However, it's durable enough that it should be able to survive a good few rookie pilot errors.


Price: £69.99/$99.99/AU$149
If the child you're buying for is a bit old for the KidiZoom then it's worth checking out Pebble. This is a proper smartwatch and not specifically aimed at children, but with a fairly low price and a colourful design it's one of the more kid-friendly wearables around.
There are loads of downloadable watch faces, including plenty of fun ones that kids will love and it's water resistant, so it can survive an accidental dunk - and it's been updated to the new version of the OS too!
It's also got a long-lasting battery, so it won't need charging every day. The only downside is that like most smartwatches you really need a smartphone to make the most of it, so this is best suited to well-connected (or slightly older) kids.

WowWee MiP

Price: £75/$79.95/AU$149
Anyone who says they don't want a robot is probably lying and shouldn't be trusted. But where once such a desire was little more than a pipe dream they're now kid's toys.
The WowWee MiP will follow your hand movements, play games and dance to music and for extra control you can use the accompanying app on a smartphone.
We don't generally like to encourage the inevitable robot apocalypse, but the WowWee MiP is so much fun that we can live with the fact that it may one day be our robot overlord.

Fire Kids Edition

Price: £79.99/$89.99 (around AU$165)
Amazon's built up an impressive range of tablets, combining decent specs with low prices, and with the Fire Kids Edition it's even built one specifically for children.
This low-cost slate has a colourful, durable build that's designed to withstand drops and scrapes, yet it still includes a 2-year no-questions-asked replacement guarantee, to keep it worry-free.
Screen time limits, personalised profiles and a kid friendly browser keep adults in control and with one year of Fire for Kids Unlimited included your child will have access to books, TV shows, games and educational apps at no extra cost.

Sphero BB8

Price: £129.99/$149.99/AU$248
At the time of writing it's still a mystery as to whether the new Star Wars film is any good or not, but even it ends up being awful at least one great thing will have come out of it: the Sphero BB8.
It's probably the most convincing looking Star Wars toy ever and, better yet, it's a functioning robot, which can be controlled from a smartphone app. Why weren't gadgets this cool when we were kids?

Moto G 2015

Moto G
Price: £130/$179.99/AU$259
You can get a lot of smartphone for not a lot of money these days, which is especially useful when buying for a child.
The Moto G 2015 is a great option, as not only is it cheap (by smartphone standards), but it's colourful, customisable and water resistant, which are all good things, especially when kids are involved.
It's a top phone in its own right too, with a good screen and camera.

iPad mini 2

ipad mini 2
Price: £219/$269/AU$369
The Fire Kids Edition is cheap and cheerful, but the iPad mini 2 will be a real crowd pleaser if your budget can stretch to it.
Apple's slate is small enough for little hands and cheaper than most of the company's tablets, yet it still offers a great experience, with a brilliant screen and plenty of power.
Most importantly it's got access to thousands of brilliant educational (and not so educational) apps and games, thanks to the richest app ecosystem around.

PlayStation 4

Price: £269.99/$299/AU$469
You'll be hard pushed to find a better present than the PlayStation 4 for any gadget hungry child. Sony's latest console already has a large selection of games and it's powerful enough that it's not likely to feel outdated any time soon.
Throw in a PS Plus subscription and your giftee will have an ever expanding library of games for not very much extra outlay.
The only downside is you might never get to use the TV again, but then again, you've also got the most popular new console in the world in your living room and you didn't even need to pretend it wasn't for you.

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You'll need to register your drone in the US starting next week
You'll need to register your drone in the US starting next week
If you own, or are interested in purchasing a drone, you'll have to keep it grounded until you register it with the FAA. A task force made up of representatives from drone makers and government officials alike submitted a proposal a few weeks ago to the FAA, which has now congealed into a full-blown federal law that will go into effect beginning on December 21 of this year.
The law marks a big step in regulating consumer-grade drones, or small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), as the FAA refers to them, which has been a talking point surrounding the tech because of its surge in popularity and accessibility.
Registration is free until January 20, 2016, but will cost a flat fee of $5 afterward, which covers any number of UAS weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds in your possession. Renewal is required every three years and you'll also have to pay up another fiver.
Drown owners, or 'droners' as I like to call them, will need to write their unique FAA registration number on each of their drones for identification purposes. Additionally, proof of certification by either via paper print-out or digitally on a smartphone will be required, if requested.
Even with this law in place, a few things remain to be seen. First, it's unknown exactly how the law protects drone owners and their property from citizens who believe that they have the right to shoot them down. Flying an unregistered UAS subjects you to both civil and criminal penalties under US law, but I'm curious how the other side of the law will come down on those who shoot down registered UAS, those who shoot with the intent to defend their property's airspace.

But, but...what about Amazon?

With regard to commercial aircraft that will take to the skies in the coming year from the likes of Amazon and others, the law doesn't extend to those aircraft yet, but it will someday in the future. As seen on the FAA's frequently asked questions page, the administration states that "The new system does not yet support registration of small UAS used in connection with a business. It will in the future."
Though the law goes into effect on December 21st, current droners have until February 19, 2016 to register their UAS. Will this law impact how the rest of the world regulates drones in the airspace? We'll have to wait and see.

Bonus: People actually asked these questions

"Do I have to register a paper airplane, or a toy balloon or Frisbee?"
"If I'm just flying it for fun in my yard, do I have to register it?"
"How high is 400 feet?"
Via TechCrunch

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Updated: HTC One M10 release date, news and rumors
Updated: HTC One M10 release date, news and rumors

HTC One M10: what we want to see

The HTC One M9 is beautiful, powerful and (whisper it) just a little bit disappointing. With a downgraded battery, a middling camera and an overly familiar design and feature set it couldn't continue HTC's run of five star reviews.
It's clear that HTC needs to do some soul-searching before it launches the One M10. We want it to come back with a bang, much like Samsung did this year with the Galaxy S6.
Let's keep our fingers crossed it'll be good. But we just couldn't wait to find out what was in store so we've scoured through all the rumors. Here's everything we know about the HTC One M10 so far.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? HTC's next flagship smartphone
  • When is it out? Early 2016, maybe MWC 2016
  • What will it cost? You're looking at top dollar

HTC One M10 release date

There's almost nothing to go on so far, leaving the HTC One M10 a thing of mystery. We can't even be certain that it's coming. Sure, HTC will undoubtedly launch a new flagship in 2016, but whether it will be called the M10, or have much in common with the M9 is anyone's guess right now.
HTC One M10
We'd usually expect HTC to come back a year after the HTC One M9 launched - but there's no news from HTC yet. The One M9 was launched in March 2015 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona so we'd expect a similar release schedule for the M10 last year.
We're keeping our eyes peeled for news from HTC though - hopefully we get an update on a HTC press conference at the show.

HTC One M10 rivals

There's lots of competition for the HTC One M10. We're expecting the Samsung Galaxy S7 to launch just before the new phone from HTC or just after and that's bound to be some big competition for the M10.
There's also the Sony Xperia Z5 which is already out and there's the LG G4 as well, which will likely be replaced with the LG G5 very soon.
And then there's the HTC One A9, that HTC only released toward the end of 2015.
Then there's also the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus to compete with as well. It's a tough market right now, let's just hope the HTC One M10 can hold up its own against it all.

HTC One M10 design and specs

We are expecting the HTC One M10 to be quite a different phone. HTC's CEO revealed that the company plans to make significant improvements to the innovation and design of its 2016 flagship.
It's unclear what form that innovation will take, but one rumor we've heard is that the HTC One M10 will support wireless charging. That's not hugely surprising as wireless charging is growing in popularity, but it's a feature which the One M9 doesn't have.
HTC One M9
It's also a feature which could prove a challenge to incorporate without a change to the design, as metal cases don't tend to work well for it.
Does that mean the HTC One M10 will have a whole new look? It's too early to say, but it's possible and as beautiful as the One M9 is we wouldn't complain, as it's due a makeover.
However it's bound to be more powerful, perhaps sporting a Snapdragon 820 processor, as that's likely to be a major player next year.
It could also be in for a screen upgrade. Many flagships are moving to QHD displays, including the HTC One M9+, so there's a good chance the HTC One M10 will have one too.
But not all that much is known about the phone right now - rumors are pretty few and far between though.

What we want to see

We're feeling generous, so we've come up with a few suggestions of our own to help the Taiwanese company get started, as well as highlighting the few rumors we're already hearing about the HTC One M10.

1. Better battery life

HTC One M9
Sadly the M9's battery is a step down from the HTC One M8's, though it's not clear why, as the power pack is actually bigger, the screen is the same and while the processor is faster it's meant to be efficient.
Whatever the reason though it just doesn't cut it so it's absolutely essential that this is improved for the HTC One M10. We want to comfortably get at least two days of life from our phones and in this day and age that shouldn't be unreasonable.
While we're on, QuickCharge 2.0 is nice, but it would be even nicer if next year HTC put a QuickCharge enabled charger in the box.

2. A superior camera

One M9 camera
For all its attempts HTC failed to entirely convince people that UltraPixels are the way forward in smartphone photography, finally admitting defeat and ditching them from the rear camera in the One M9.
But that may have been a mistake, especially as they were replaced with an unexceptional 20MP Sony lens.
A better option might have been a middle ground, upping the megapixel count from 4 to 8, but continuing to use larger UltraPixels. That way it could have stayed speedy and adept in low light, while packing in more detail than the M8's camera.
Hopefully HTC will consider that for the HTC One M10, but it needs to do something, because the M9's snapper trails way behind the Samsung Galaxy S6's and the LG G4's.

3. A new design

HTC One M9
This one might be controversial, as the One M9 is one of the best looking phones around. The problem is we can't really see where HTC can go next with it. The company has spent the last few years perfecting its design and with the M9 it's arguably achieved that.
So next year we'll either get basically the same thing again, which would be safe but boring, or we'll get something new and different.
We have faith that HTC didn't just get lucky with the HTC One and that it can impress us all over again with a new design, so we hope that in the HTC One M10 we'll see one.
With the introduction of the One A9, HTC has already teased us with a new design direction - even if it is suspiciously iPhone-like - and we're hoping to see a fusion between the A9 and M9 on the HTC One M10.
HTC One A9

4. A fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanners are becoming increasingly common on our smartphones. Samsung has a top notch digit reader on its Galaxy S6 line of handsets, as does Apple on the more recent iPhones, Sony's side-mounted offering falls nicely under thumb, and Huawei and Google have bolted them to the rear of the Mate S, Mate 8, Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P.
With Android Marshmallow now offering built-in support for fingerprint scanners too, there's even more reason for the One M10 to sport the technology.
HTC is clearly interested in the technology, putting scanners on variants like the HTC One M9 Plus and the HTC One Max, but we want to see one on the HTC One M10. Only if it's good though, a half-baked fingerprint scanner is worse than no fingerprint scanner.

5. A 1080p screen

One M9 screen
The HTC One M9 has a 1080 x 1920 screen. As does the HTC One M8, as does the original HTC One. So you might think it's due an upgrade, especially as the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4 both have QHD displays.
But at 5.0 inches (which by the way is an ideal size in our humble opinion) the benefits of a QHD screen are negligible while the hit on battery life could be substantial.
If HTC can somehow make a QHD screen that's just as light on the battery as a 1080p one then go for it, but if not we hope the company sticks with 1080p in the M10, rather than bowing to pressure from the competition.

6. Waterproofing

If HTC continues to go heavy on the metal then making the One M10 waterproof might be a challenge, but we'd love to see it happen (along with dust proofing). It's a handy feature to have not so much because you're likely to actually want to take the phone swimming but just for the peace of mind it gives you.
It could also help HTC steal some Samsung fans, given that the Galaxy S6 ditched both water resistance and a microSD card slot. The One M9 already supports microSD cards, so keep that and add water resistance to the M10 and it's got some serious selling points.

7. Better BoomSound

The One M9 already has some of the best speakers around but there's always room for improvement. The dual front-facing BoomSound speakers are one of the standout features of HTC's phones and to keep standing out they need to keep getting better.
So we hope the HTC One M10 delivers even louder, richer sound through its built in cans than the M9 does.

8. More revolution than evolution

The HTC One M9 didn't feel like a huge improvement over the HTC One M8. It had a refined design, upgraded hardware and a new camera sure, but it largely looked and felt like the same phone and was distinctly lacking in killer new features.
HTC can't afford to do that again with the HTC One M10. We want new, we want different and we want to be excited, just like we were when the original HTC One was unveiled.

9. A redesigned power button

power button
If HTC doesn't redesign the whole phone we hope it will at least redesign the power button on the HTC One M10.
On the M9 it's on the right edge next to the volume buttons, which makes it easy to reach, but it's also roughly the same size and shape as the volume buttons, making it easy to hit the wrong thing if you're not looking.
HTC knows it's a problem too, as it's ensured the power/lock and volume keys on the One A9 feel very different under finger. It's a small issue, but one which you'll be dealing with a lot, so we hope the fix makes it to HTC One M10 as well.

10. More storage

The HTC One M9 comes in one size and one size only: 32GB. If you're going to launch a phone in just one storage size that's probably the one to choose, as it's a balance between the prohibitively small 16GB and the likely-expensive 64GB, but it would be nice to have the option for more built in storage.
There is a microSD card slot, but storing things on memory cards can negatively impact performance, so just having more storage built in might be a preferable option.

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