Wednesday, December 16, 2015

IT News Head Lines (Techradar) 17/12/2015


Here's when you can watch season 4 of House of Cards
Here's when you can watch season 4 of House of Cards
If you've been hankering (Frankering?) for more of Frank Underwood's diabolical shenanigans since finishing the last season of House of Cards, you'll be happy to know that the fourth season isn't too far away – Netflix has revealed that season 4 of House of Cards will be appearing on the service in its entirety on March 4, 2016.
Netflix made the announcement just in time for tonight's U.S. Republican debate via a rather cute teaser trailer masquerading as a campaign video for Frank Underwood's run at office.
House of Cards season 4
The video was tweeted from the official House of Cards Twitter account, which features the playful #FU2016 hashtag.
Netflix has also launched a promotional website where you can upload images of yourself in support of Frank Underwood's candidacy.
You can watch the House of Cards season 4 teaser trailer below.
YouTube :

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Two for one: SBS on Demand hits Apple TV, while ABC iview lands on Xbox One
Two for one: SBS on Demand hits Apple TV, while ABC iview lands on Xbox One
After the launch of ABC iview on Telstra TV earlier this week, the expansion of catchup TV continues with Xbox One the latest platform to receive an app from the nation's public broadcaster.
From today Xbox One owners can download the ABC iview app from the console's app store.
Determined not to let the ABC hog all the glory, SBS on Demand also launched on a new platform today, releasing an app for the Apple TV.
The launch makes SBS the first free-to-air broadcaster to deliver an app specifically designed for Apple's latest set-top box – previously SBS on Demand could only be accessed on Apple TV via Airplay and a second iOS device.

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Review: UPDATED: Netflix
Review: UPDATED: Netflix

Introduction and User Experience

UPDATE: The compatible devices section of our Netflix Australia review has been updated – details below!
While Stan, Presto and Quickflix have done a good job of giving Australians a Netflix-like experience of late, we've all been waiting for the big one to arrive.
Now that Netflix Australia is here, there's one question on everyone's lips: how does it stack up to the US version of the service?

Cheapest stream around

Netflix Australia starts from $8.99 per month for the entry-level, single-stream standard definition package, all the way up to $14.99 for the deluxe, 4K quality, four-stream package.
While not everyone is going to be able to take advantage of 4K streaming quality, either due to the resolution capabilities of their TV set, or the bandwidth quality that's available to them, the package is unquestionably great value.
If you're worried about the kind of stream quality you're going to get from the service, never fear: you can try Netflix out with an obligation-free 30 day trial period.
While we can't really recommend the standard definition package to anyone who can help it, it is a nice option for those with poor-quality internet connections.
Netflix 1
Most people will want to opt for the middle range package, giving customers access to two simultaneous streams of 1080p content for $11.99 a month.
We have to applaud Netflix for keeping its pricing in line with its other territories, however, the implementation of a 'Netflix Tax' by the Federal Government will see those prices rise in the near future, as Netflix will have to charge a 10 per cent Goods and Services Tax.
Please note, If you plan to stream Netflix on an Xbox 360 or Xbox One, you'll need to have an Xbox Live account. That isn't a Netflix thing; it's a Microsoft thing, and it applies to Netflix's rivals, too.
There's also an added bonus for Optus and iiNet customers – Netflix usage is completely unmetered for those internet service providers.

Compatible devices

Though its competitors are slowly improving in terms of device compatibility, Netflix remains king, playable on just about everything.
Like Stan and Presto, Netflix can be viewed with the use of a Google Chromecast, Apple TV, iOS device, Android device, PC, Sony' PS4 and PS3 consoles, and a range of Smart TVs. Unlike those services, you can also watch Netflix on Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Nintendo's Wii U. It can also be watched on a range of set-top boxes and media players like Roku player, Fetch TV and WD TV Live.
Speaking of Roku, Netflix is now also available on the Roku 2-powered Telstra TV streaming box, which happens to be the only device that currently streams all three of Australia's major SVOD services.

Setting up Netflix

Getting Netflix up and running is remarkably straightforward, and should be easy enough for even your tech-illiterate mum and dad to set up without any problems – simply create an account and use your login details to sign in to any of the devices listed above.
The signup process involves the usual entering of your details, moving on to choosing one of the three packages Netflix offers.
Because Netflix prides itself on its recommendation algorithm, you will be asked to pick three shows or films that you'd like to watch or know that you enjoy from a range of options.
Choose carefully, because these choices will form the foundation of your Netflix recommendations experiences for the foreseeable future.
Netflix 2
While Netflix will continually tailor its recommendations for you based on what you actually watch, your initial choices will still be used to recommend you stuff years later.
Once you've created a profile, you can start adding shows and films to your Netflix 'My List'.
You can make multiple profiles, of course, so everyone in your household can get a personalised set of recommendations and keep their own queue of shows.
There's even a ready-made profile exclusively for kids, with all the inappropriate stuff filtered out.
Netflix Kids

The Netflix user experience

Those who've used an overseas Netflix service before can rest assured that Netflix Australia's interface is completely identical (aside from its content selection).
Those who are using Netflix for the first time shouldn't have any trouble navigating its user-friendly interface, which separates Netflix's content into a number of different genres and categories that you can swipe through to see what's on offer.
The shows and movies you've watched most recently are at the top of your Netflix screen, allowing you to jump right back in and continue watching, and following right after is the 'My List' category, giving you easy access to all of the shows you've queued up for later perusal.
From here, you'll get categories that show you what's currently popular on Netflix, the service's 'Top Picks' for you, and a stack of other genres that become more specific to your interests as you continue to watch different kinds of programmes and movies.
It should be noted that Netflix on Apple TV has its own method of presenting its content library that's more in line with the device's overall UI, with genres clearly listed on the right and movie poster art that you can scroll through on the left.
Netflix 3
Admittedly, it can be annoying to have to scroll through several layers of categories to get to the sections you actually want to browse.
We also wish we could just see everything that Netflix has to offer in each genre, though that's not how Netflix works – the service would rather maintain a level or mystery surrounding the size of its library, opting instead to give you a taste of what it has, and then keep springing new suggestions on you based on what you watch.
The constantly shifting nature of Netflix's suggestions gives the service the illusion of having more content than it actually does – it's like this in every territory.
Hop into a programme and either choose a specific episode from a specific season or continue from where you were last at – Netflix will always remember your spot.
Netflix 5
Unlike Stan, Netflix gives you subtitle options on pretty much every single show in its range, as well as different language tracks where available – this is a huge win for the hearing impaired and those with a language barrier.
When it comes to actually watching content however, Netflix completely outclasses its competitors.
Even on a moderate broadband connection, our streams began almost immediately after hitting the play button – we only ever experienced two or three seconds of loading before the start of a show, and within ten seconds of it starting, Netflix's variable bit rate had already cleared the image up into a pristine, high-definition presentation.
That variable bit rate is the truly what makes Netflix so special, allowing the quality of your stream to seamlessly go up and down depending on your connection, rather than stopping your show dead in its tracks in order to buffer.
While watching Netflix through a VPN and Smart DNS has always been a fast and smooth experience, local Netflix feels even faster and smoother.

Content and Verdict

Are you content with its content?

By now you've heard all about how Netflix's content library doesn't quite have the breadth of its US counterpart.
It's true that as of launch, our Netflix has roughly an eighth of the content of the US service. This will surely bother people who've been experiencing US Netflix through a VPN or Smart DNS service, but for those jumping on board now, Netflix Australia still has a better variety of content than its local competitors.
Browsing its content offerings, it becomes evident that Netflix is running fairly light on content, especially as you scroll through each category and notice that each one ends prematurely. However, this is offset by the fact that the quality of stuff on offer is genuinely high.
In terms of local content, Stan definitely has Netflix beat, with a hefty range of Australian shows and movies on offer due to the service's Channel Nine, ABC and SBS content deals, which provides Stan's customers Aussie classics like Underbelly and Rake.
However, there's still a nice selection of Aussie shows and films to choose from, as well as a range of stand up comedy specials from local comedians like Kitty Flanagan, Jimeoin and the Umbilical Brothers.
Documentaries are plentiful though, and there's a good range of overseas TV shows to choose from – we've even put together a list of the 25 best Netflix shows streaming right now in Australia.
Netflix 6
While there's still room to grow in terms of Netflix movie selection, that's not to say that it's lacking – you will find that many of the biggest blockbusters of the last few years are ready to stream, including a large range of Disney films and superhero movies.
There's also a nice selection of back catalogue films available – while the U.S. version of Netflix has more films on offer, the quality of the movies available on the Australian version is generally higher, with familiar studio movies taking up more of Netflix's virtual shelf space.
Still, there's no denying that Netflix Australia's content offering is small compared to what's available on the US version, though you can rest assured that its content library will continue to grow in the coming weeks – our Netflix content line-up feature is regularly updated with announced additions to the service's catalogue, so make sure to keep an eye on it.
Regardless, Netflix's subscription price is worth it for its original content alone – instant access to entire seasons of brilliant Netflix Originals like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Marco Polo, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, BoJack Horseman, Marvel's Daredevil, Bloodline, Between, Narcos and many others make joining the service a no-brainer.


After anticipating the arrival of Netflix to our shores for what feels like an eternity, the service has managed to deliver the flawless streaming experience we've all heard about for so long.
Where it falls down in terms of its content selection, it makes up for in terms of speed and the quality of its streaming.
While other streaming services are still trying to find their footing, Netflix Australia delivers a perfected streaming experience right out of the gate – we've not encountered a single error or buffering problem in any of our tests, and streams always began immediately and cleared up into full HD in a matter of seconds.
We liked
Netflix Australia's user experience is identical to that of its overseas counterparts, so if you've already been experiencing the service through a VPN or Smart DNS service, you'll feel right at home.
While we've never had a problem watching an overseas version of Netflix, the local version of the service is even faster and smoother, delivering high definition quality in a matter of seconds.
Our time with the local version Netflix has been completely free of bugs or buffering problems, as the service has had plenty of time to mature and iron out any problems before reaching our shores.
This might be a matter of taste, but the service's range of Netflix Originals are fantastic, even rivalling the best shows that HBO has to offer in terms of quality, and in a delivery format that is unmatched in the television industry.
Best of all, we love that we can watch Netflix on a large variety of devices, without having to be tied down limited number of devices.
We disliked
There's no denying that Netflix Australia's content line-up is well behind the US version in terms of sheer quantity, so we hope that its library continues to grow with time.
We also wish we could see everything Netflix has to offer in each of its genres, without having to take wild guesses in its search bar to see if the service has a particular show or movie.
Final Verdict
When we first published our Stan review, we claimed that it was the best streaming service that Australians had to date.
Well, consider that statement redacted – Netflix has taken Stan's crown as the best streaming service in Australia.
Featuring flawless, fast streams in high quality and without any buffering problems or errors to speak of, Netflix delivers the gold standard when it comes to its streaming experience.
While its content library is undeniably lacking compared to its US version, the Australian version is still in line with what its local competitors are offering.
We believe that Netflix Australia's content selection will only continue to grow in time, and even with its current content line-up, its range of excellent Netflix Originals shows makes signing up an absolute no-brainer.

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Google is working with Australian banks for Android Pay launch
Google is working with Australian banks for Android Pay launch
Google's announcement today that Android Pay is getting a major update brought with it the news that the mobile payment service is coming to Australia.
But in a separate post on the Google Australia blog, we know that the search giant has managed to accomplish what Apple couldn't do – work with Australian banks to launch a mobile payment service.
According to the announcement, Google is working with a number of Australian banks to launch Android Pay in Australia. The list of banks is pretty comprehensive too: ANZ, Westpac, Bank of Melbourne, Bank of South Australia, Bendigo Bank, Cuscal, ING DIRECT, Macquarie Bank, and St. George are all name-checked.
Interestingly, that means that both NAB and Commonwealth bank customers will miss out, at least initially, although Google has promised to continue working with more banks throughout the year.
To get around the Australian banks roadblock, Apple instead partnered with American Express in order to get mobile payments happening down under.

Broad access

Thanks to the advanced tap and go infrastructure already installed at retailers around the country, Android Pay will have a rather large network of supported points of sale when it does launch in the first half of 2016.
But Google has also confirmed that it is working directly with a number of retailers to ensure that Android Pay is properly implemented, including 7-Eleven, Brumby's Bakery, Coles Express, Coles Supermarkets, Crust Gourmet Pizza, Domino's Pizza Enterprises Limited, Donut King, Gloria Jean's Coffees, McDonald's, Michel's Patisserie, Pizza Capers, and Telstra.
What's more, Android Pay will also be enabled on a number of local shopping apps, enabling Android users to pay for goods with a faster checkout without having to enter payment details after every purchase. Apps that will support this at launch include Catch of the Day, EatNow, GoCatch,, Menulog, OzSale, Rewardle, and The Iconic.

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New Android Wear watch faces bring a designer look to your wrist
New Android Wear watch faces bring a designer look to your wrist
More fashion-centric designers are throwing their hats in the wearables ring, and it looks like Google wants to amp up its own offering in response.
Specifically, there are new Android Wear faces designed by major icons in the fashion biz. Ted Baker has 10 faces to choose from while others like Mango and Harajuku Kawaii have just one face you can download.
There are already tons of Android Wear styles you can choose from, in comparison to Apple Watch. Apple did add new faces during the last update, but its smartwatch face collection still has a much smaller selection.
The faces are free and available for Android Wear smartwatches today from the Google Play Store, though they'll arrive in the iOS Android Wear store a bit later.

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The 8 most entertaining Star Wars rip-offs
The 8 most entertaining Star Wars rip-offs

The 8 most entertaining Star Wars rip-offs

With every game-changing film event that has come along in the history of blockbuster cinema, whether it be Jaws, Mad Max, The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, X-Men or The Hunger Games, a legion of copycat films have followed closely behind.
When Star Wars was released in 1977, shattering every box-office record that came before it, filmmakers and studios the world over sat up and took notice. Before too long, cheap space opera clones started to appear with alarming frequency.
Though not all Star Wars rip-offs are worth watching, some of these films are just too entertaining (or hilariously terrible) to ignore.
Will we get a series of new cheapo knock-offs after the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens? If they're as fun as these 8 films, we certainly hope so. With that in mind, we present you with the most entertaining Star Wars rip-offs ever made.

1. Starcrash (1978)

Made as a quick and cheap attempt to cash in on the Star Wars craze, Starcrash transcends its obvious budgetary limitations to become a truly enjoyable piece of shlock that shows a decent amount of actual creativity from its director, Luigi Cozzi. Led by the beautiful Stella Star (Caroline Munro), a group of smugglers (including a weird droid-looking alien and a laser-sword-wielding sidekick) undertake a mission from the Emperor of the Galaxy (Christopher Plummer in cheque-cashing mode) to rescue his son (played by a young and luxuriously coifed David Hasselhoff) from the evil Count Zarth Arn (the late, great Joe Spinell). Much inexplicableness occurs, but you'll be having too much fun to care.
YouTube :

2. Message From Space (1978)

Message from Space
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale, Battles Without Honor and Humanity), this tongue-in-cheek Star Wars send-up also takes inspiration from classic Kabuki theatre. Though it features the usual assortment of space battles, laser blasters and droids, Message from Space takes Star Wars' Kurosawa influence a step further by introducing space samurai into the mix. The film's hero is played by Vic Morrow (The Bad News Bears) and Sonny Chiba (Kill Bill) plays its evil Darth Vader surrogate, Hans. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a young Chris Isaak in his first on-screen appearance.
YouTube :

3. Masters of the Universe (1987)

Masters of the Universe
Though the toys and cartoon it was based on were mostly rooted in fantasy, the producers of the live-action He-Man film, Masters of the Universe, saw fit to capitalise on the Star Wars craze (a few years too late, at that) by injecting it with an obvious space opera sensibility. Suddenly, the evil Skeletor (Frank Langella) became a Darth Vader-like figure with an army of black-clad, Vader-looking, laser-shooting storm troopers at his disposal. Still, there's plenty to like about this cheesy adaptation in which He-Man (a miscast Dolph Lundgren) and his pals are transported to Earth in the 1980s. Look out for a young Courtney Cox as the teenager tasked with helping our heroes retrieve the Cosmic Key, the McGuffin which will help them get back home.
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4. Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

Battle Beyond the Stars
Made by Roger Corman's New World Pictures on a minuscule budget, Battle Beyond the Stars is packed to the brim with droids, aliens, space battles, lasers and all the other stuff that every good Star Wars rip-off should be able to boast. Its Seven Samurai inspired plot sees a young farmer recruit mercenaries to help defend his planet from an evil tyrant's forces. Though the film was marketed to a family crowd, Corman couldn't help but fill the movie with his trademark sexual references and innuendo, including one ship which actually has boobs. Featuring buckets of adventure, spirited characters and detailed model ships created by a young James Cameron, Battle Beyond the Stars is easy to recommend.
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5. The Man Who Saves the World (1982)

Turkish Star Wars
Better known as Turkish Star Wars, The Man Who Saves the World (geez, spoiler alert) sits squarely in the 'so bad it's good' category of cinematic atrocities. Armed with a bunch of terrible costumes, a few old cameras, heaping helpings of stolen footage from Star Wars and other popular films, and the kind of completely nonsensical script that a particularly slow child would scribble down, director Çetin Inanç (Turkish Rambo) managed to achieve the kind of perversely entertaining gibberish that only those gifted with anti-talent could accidentally conjure. Any film that proclaims baffling things like "thousands of years passed, and the solar system was replaced with the galaxy system" during its opening narration is surely worthy of analysis from the world's finest film scholars (and psychologists).
YouTube :

6. Star Odyssey (1979)

Star Odyssey
Okay, so not every sci-fi epic can afford lightsaber effects, but would you settle for some cardboard swords with fluorescent paint on them? Star Odyssey is the kind of movie that is either insufferable or hilarious, depending on your mood while watching. Like Starcrash, Star Odyssey is an Italian cash-in on the Star Wars craze, only director Alfonso Brescia has neither the talent nor the enthusiasm of the former film's director, Luigi Cozzi. Apart from its flashy swords, Star Odyssey has other things in common with Star Wars – both films feature an intergalactic overlord hell-bent on ruling the galaxy, and Star Odyssey even continues the Star Wars tradition of using 'parsec' in an incorrect manner!
YouTube :

7. Space Raiders (1983)

Space Raiders
A long time ago, in a video store far, far away, long before Joss Whedon gave us the likes of Firefly and Serenity, people looking for something in the vein of a Han Solo spin-off had to settle for Space Raiders. The film, which features a familiar sounding "last-ditch hero and his alien crew," is actually quite entertaining in a B-grade sort of way, with a moderate level of scope and some enjoyable characters and effects. As a kid, it was easy to get swept up in Space Raiders' story, which sees a 10-year-old spaceship stowaway taken on a trip to the far reaches of the galaxy with a band of space pirates. This Roger Corman production is considered by many to be an unofficial sequel of sorts to Battle Beyond the Stars, so if you like enjoyable trash, you could do much worse than a double-bill of these two space flicks.
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8. Starchaser: The Legend Of Orin (1985)

Starchaser: The Legend of Orin
This animated space opera has Star Wars written all over it. Featuring gorgeous Ralph Bakshi-style rotoscoped animation, Starchaser: The Legend of Orin tells the story of a chosen one who teams up with a space pirate to free the galaxy from the tyranny of an evil warlord using a sword made of light. Sound familiar? Though it sounds very by-the-numbers, Starchaser is notable for being one of the first animated films to employ computer graphics for its many space battles, and also one of the first to be released in 3D.
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Android Pay just caught up to Apple Pay in one major way
Android Pay just caught up to Apple Pay in one major way
Android Pay is adding the ability to make purchases on smartphones without needing to switch apps. Not only will Android users be able to pay with their phone all in one place, but more apps are gaining compatibility with Android's mobile payment platform as well.
In-app mobile payments are a big catch-up move for Android Pay, as competitor Apple Pay implemented in-app purchasing from the get-go.
Android is also touting a growing list of Android Pay-compatible apps, which include services such as Lyft, JackThreads, and Jet. Several of the apps are also hosting limited-time deals and discounts for those who choose the mobile payment service.
Google also announced it plans to expand Android Pay to Australia soon, along with several other countries by the end of 2016.
Android Pay, like other mobile payment platforms, allows users to make purchases with a single tap at participating retailers. Using near-field communications, or NFC, mobile payments wirelessly enable purchases using financial information saved to a smartphone, eliminating the need to carry around credit or debit cards.

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Star Wars Week: Yes, a lightsaber pizza cutter exists, and 12 other ridiculous Star Wars products
Star Wars Week: Yes, a lightsaber pizza cutter exists, and 12 other ridiculous Star Wars products

The Force Awakens merchandise bonanza

Star Wars
The hype surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens reached a fever pitch long ago, and now with the movie releasing worldwide in a few short days, we can barely contain ourselves.
The marketing machine has been strong with the new film, and it extends far, far beyond toys, clothes and gadgets that have anything to do with the franchise. We've seen nearly every product under the sun become Star Wars-ified: an innocent trip to the store is now an adventure in discovering what else has been branded for the light or dark side.
We've gathered up some of the most ridiculous Star Wars branding and products we've seen in the slides that follow. But because I know how Star Wars crazy you really are, I've included links to purchase some of the products, too.
If you've had your own sighting of merch run amok, let us know! Even better: post a photo if you snapped one. And hey, we're not passing judgment: there's no harm in your favorite mac n' cheese looking for a slice of the Star Wars pie.

Disposable water bottles

Star Wars water bottles
I was roaming around Home Depot last weekend when something caught my eye: towers of disposable water bottles wrapped in plastic packaging adorned with C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8. The packaging was cute, but I couldn't help thinking how out of place it felt in a gritty home improvement store. I imagined some hardened contractors laden with lumber shouting, "Hey, Don, grab a case of water! Yeah, the one with the robots on it!"
Volvic has taken Star Wars-themed H2O containment to a whole new level. The company has a line of "collectible" mineral water bottles in five character designs: a Stormtrooper, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Boba Fett and C-3PO. Those in the UK may have seen the sippers at one of the over 2,000 stores where they were available. Did you collect them all?

Dog toys

Star Wars dog toys
Even Rover needs to show his Star Wars fandom. Techradar contributor Farrha Khan snapped this pic of stuffed Star Wars dog toys at Petco. While it may be a little traumatizing to see Yoda ripped to shreds, watching Darth get what's coming to him in the jaws of your pooch sounds oh-so satisfying.

Coffee creamer

Star Wars coffee creamer
Like a little Chewie in your coffee? Or a dram of R2? Nestle Coffee Mate has created a whole line of Star Wars-themed creamers designed to put a galactic kick in your cup of Joe. You can add a taste of Chewbacca (spiced latte), a smooth sip of C-3PO (hazelnut), a bright bounce of R2-D2 (French vanilla), a charming brew of Boba Fett (Italian sweet cream), or, indulge your dark side with Darth Vader (espresso chocolate).

Cereal, soup and more

Star Wars food
Nearly every major movie franchise features some branding crossover into the stuff we put in our mouths, but it feels like Star Wars: The Force Awakens has taken over the food aisle. From soup and cereal to mac n' cheese and ice cream, you can literally eat your way across the galaxy. I bet it tastes delicious.


Death Star tea infuser
You'll need items to cook up and eat all this Star Wars food with, right? Sure, you can eat out of Star Wars bowls and off of Star Wars plates, then wash it all down with a drink from a Star Wars cup. But that's the obvious stuff: how about an X-wing knife block, a talking lightsaber pizza cutter and a Death Star tea infuser?
My personal favorite is an R2-D2 measuring cup and spoon set. R2 disassembles into four measuring cups, while its arms and legs become measuring spoons. It also bleeps when your oven is preheated and is just freaking adorable.
This is only the surface of the Star Wars kitchen catalogue. You can dive even deeper to find cutting boards, shot glasses and more Death Star spatulas than you could ever use in a lifetime.

Death Star waffle maker

Death Star waffle maker
ThinkGeek, the purveyor of many of these fine Star Wars goods, is sadly sold out of the Death Star waffle maker. Supplies won't replenish until February 2016, well after the movie has come out but maybe in time for your fourth or fifth viewing.
However, you may have luck on Amazon, so I suggest heading there now before you really do end up on the Dark side because you can't find one.
The product delivers exactly what it promises, and at least you'll have it raring to go for Episode VIII.

Darth Vader and R2-D2 shower heads

Darth Vader showerhead
We can think of a thousand things more relaxing than taking a shower under Darth Vader, but to each their own. Thankfully, if you don't feel like scrubbing up under Vader, there's an R2-D2 shower head available on Amazon as well. Though that might ruin your childhood, too.

Millennium Falcon bed

Star Wars bed
Kids today definitely have way more well-crafted merch than I ever did, and this Millennium Falcon bed from Pottery Barn is about as nice as it comes. It's fully decked out to resemble Han's ship, and should provide little Timmy or Sally hours of fun (sans sleep). Fine, I admit it: If Pottery Barn made it just a few feet bigger, I'd be all over this bed.
YouTube :

R2-D2 suitcase

R2-D2 suitcase
If you're a Star Wars fan and don't care who knows it, this is the suitcase for you. You'll definitely turn heads if you're rushing through the airport with R2 trailing behind you. I can't imagine it being broken out for business trips, but if you're heading to Disneyland or another family vacay, this suitcase would fit right in.

CoverGirl makeup

Star Wars CoverGirl makeup
What do Star Wars and CoverGirl have to do with each other? Nothing. Did an entire Star Wars: The Force Awakens CoverGirl collection happen anyway? Of course it did. Stephen Colbert lampooned the makeup mashup perfectly on The Late Show, which you can view below. In the immortal words of the Jedi, "may the forced marketing integration be with you."
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Star Wars comfy throws

Chewbacca comfy throw
Lounging around your house in regular clothes is super boring, so grab one of these "comfy throws" for maximum comfort and maximum self-Star Wars-ification. The throws will … transform you into a Storm Trooper, Darth Vader and Chewbacca. We can't say this is the sexiest item in the universe, but the throws do actually look comfortable.

Darth Vader toaster

Darth Vader toaster
Darth Vader probably liked his toast as black as his soul, but you can decide how crispy you want your bread with this themed toaster. Aside from looking like the dark lord, it also burns the Star Wars logo onto your bread (or frozen waffle or hamburger bun). There's still time before Christmas to gift this to the Star Wars nut in your life.


Star Wars oranges
These Star Wars-packed oranges are so ridiculous, they deserve their own slide. I guess Vitamin C is important for rebels and imperials alike, but to have the audacity to brand these as having anything to do with Star Wars speaks to the power of the Disney marketing machine. The Sphero BB-8 droid on the packaging is at least the right shape, but this is one instance of Star Wars marketing gone way too far.

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Philips Hue shuts off third-party bulb support with DRM
Philips Hue shuts off third-party bulb support with DRM
Digital rights management has come to home appliances as Phillips announced it won't support third-party bulbs for Phillips Hue. The smart home lighting system will eventually have more options for bulbs, but anyone looking to go off the proprietary path may encounter obstacles.
Phillips announced its latest update as fixing an "interoperability issue," citing that certain third-party light bulbs wouldn't operate properly with its Hue system, either not turning off successfully or properly working with the Hue's "scene" functionality.
Up until now, owners of Phillips' light framework could use typically cheaper bulbs from other brands such as Cree or GE that were compatible with the system. However, as Hue updates its platform, several of these bulbs were unable to keep up and showed performance bugs.
Rather than working out issues with each individual product, Phillips is putting Friends Of Hue in effect, a program in which brands can undergo testing to meet Hue's standards. Products that make it into the Friends Of Hue circle will work after the update is applied, making them the only current alternative to Phillips' proprietary light bulbs.

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Facebook Professional Services helps users locate reputable businesses
Facebook Professional Services helps users locate reputable businesses
Facebook's unannounced new feature could make it even more appealing to local businesses. The social media giant is working on a recommendations and reviews section of its desktop website to take on services like Yelp, Foursquare, Google and Angie's List, providing users with recommendations to find the best local contractor or service provider in an area.
Sreedev Sharma, Social Media Manager of Acodez IT Solutions, accidentally stumbled on the Professional Services portal on Facebook's website, and discovered that the site's design and layout is similar to Facebook Places, a directory of the top-rated businesses by location.
At this point, Facebook Places is similar to Yelp and Foursquare, while Professional Services would be a direct competitor to Angie's List and Amazon Home Services. It's unclear if Facebook intends to combine Places and Professional Services into a single portal.

A destination for small businesses

Facebook's reviews and recommendations for businesses may prove to be a more valuable tool than Yelp. That's because unlike Yelp's more anonymous ratings, Facebook could build greater trust into its recommendations because the reviews come from friends in a user's network. Reputable businesses could use these ratings to attract new customers.
Additionally, the portal could serve as an alternative to a standalone website for local businesses. Social sites like Facebook and Yelp allow businesses to post their hours, promotions and menus. And unlike a static website, users can comment and provide direct feedback to the business. Businesses could also leverage social sharing for broader engagement with potential customers.
In addition to Yelp and Angie's List, Facebook will also compete with Google's efforts in the business recommendation space. Google integrates business recommendations into its services, like Google Maps, by leveraging reviews of local businesses conducted by members of the Google+ community. Facebook's larger and more active social network could give it an edge, but the popularity of Google Maps also works in Google's favor.
The discovery of Facebook's Professional Services feature comes after users noticed Facebook's unannounced Local Market service in the app. Facebook Local Market is designed as a local marketplace for users and businesses to sell goods in a local area.
Social-savvy businesses could leverage these social networks for free or low-cost advertising and marketing. Rather than traditional marketing campaigns, marketing on social networks can be more targeted and relevant.
Source: Search Engine Land

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The best tech gifts for Dad this Christmas
The best tech gifts for Dad this Christmas

Tech of the Pops

Dad tech
Dads are a notoriously tough bunch to buy for; if they haven't already got the killer gift you've spent your hard earned cash on, then they'll often have an...opinion on it that doesn't leave you in any doubt about how they feel about it.
Fortunately there is a vast array of gadget gifts out there now, and your Dad can't already have them all - and no matter how hard he tries, the thought of popping batteries in to just 'see how it works' will be enough to get him going.
We've gone to the furthest corners of the known internet in order to bring back some of the most tremendously tech-tastic presents your dad will love this Christmas. You might even get a grunt of appreciation.

Logitech Harmony Smart Home Control

Price: £60 / $133 (Around $AU125)
Whether they admit it or not, every Dad wants to have total control of the home. If you're prepared to relinquish the reins to him, then the Logitech Harmony Smart Control should be high on your list.
This universal remote can replace almost any other controller – be it for the TV, stereo or, well, pretty much else. It can also can also connect to many other home and entertainment devices such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and Philips Hue LED bulbs, giving Dad a dangerous amount of power over many other pieces of tech around the house.

Nest Cam Wireless IP Camera

Price: £159 / $184.99 (Around AU$330)
Are you home? Is the dog alright? Have the bins been collected? Are the neighbours home? These and many more questions can be answered with help from the Nest Cam, a 1080p Wi-Fi camera that can stream super-sharp video to computers, phones or tablets.
It can send your Dad alerts if it senses motion or sound, and the 8x zoom and wide-angle 130 degree lens ensure that he'll see the whole picture very clearly – just be careful to keep a careful eye on where he puts it so you don't get caught doing anything nefarious. Or just learn his login details so you can turn the tables.

Zepp Golf 3D Swing Analyser

Price: £109 /$130 (Around AU$230)
Whether you love or loathe the game of golf, Dads seem statistically more likely to appreciate this precision game of stick swinging. So what better gift to buy him for Christmas than a gadget that'll not only improve his swing, but allow him boast his best scores on social media, too?
A handy mount holds the Zepp in place on almost any design of glove, allowing Dad to track a variety of statistics related to his swing, which will also coach him and help improve his stroke with personalised tips and training exercises.

PowerLead Spow 10,000mAh Solar Battery Pack

Price: £13.89 (Around $20 / AU$30)
If your Dad can get something for nothing, it's very likely he will. With the PowerLead Spow 10,000mAh Solar Battery Pack he'll never begrudge charging his smartphones and other gadgets again – thanks to the free power of the sun.
The high capacity Lithium battery can charge a smartphone twice over, and give juice to other tech at the same time thanks to the dual USB ports. Whether on holiday, out and about or in the safety of the garden, this rubberised battery pack will keep your Dad's tech juiced-up.

Studica Da Vinci 1.0 Junior 3D Printer

3D printer
Price: £267.44 (around $400 / AU$560)
Does your Dad think of himself as the next great inventor? If he's always got a big idea to share, then maybe he'd like a chance to make it himself with his very own 3D printer.
The Studica Da Vinci 1.0 is a great value entry level desktop 3D printer that can print almost anything he can design up to 14.75cm².
The Da Vinci guarantees ease of use, automatic calibration and fine print quality. Designs can either be loaded directly from a PC or MAC, or via the SD card slot, and it uses the cheap and widely available PLA filaments.

PowerUp 3.0 Smartphone Controlled Paper Aeroplane

Paper power up
Price: £35 / (around $50 / AU$75)
Though your Dad may never admit it, there's a small part of him that won't ever let his childhood fade into distant memory.
Fire up that youthful spirit of his with the Electric Paper Airplane Conversion Kit 3.0 from PowerUp, a little kit that turns any aerodynamic paper airplane design into a powered model that'll fly for up to 10 minutes and 55 meters from the tablet or smartphone to which it is synced - considerably further than the gliding equivalent.
Included in the kit is a booklet that gives tips on how to make the perfect paper plane, as well as a spare propeller, too. But come on, if your Dad doesn't know how to make one of these then your childhood belief in him will be shattered.

Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite
Price: £109.99 / $99.99 / AU$119.99
Help to kick-start the job of replacing your Dad's bulging book collection by giving him the nudge into absorbing his literary needs in ebook form.
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite is simply one of the best value ereaders money can buy: it has a clear, bright screen with built-in light and can download books via Wi-Fi or 3G, depending which model you choose.
There's space for thousands of book on the Paperwhite, and access to over 3 million books on the Kindle store. There's also a built-in look-up feature that integrates the Oxford English Dictionary, whilst text can also be easily translated from a number of languages if needed.

iRIStag Wireless Device Finder

Price: £15.95 (around £25 / AU$35)
How many times have you witnessed the fallout after lost keys, phones or other valuables? Well, if you choose to give your Dad an iRIStag Wireless Device Finder, he will never have trouble locating his phone, keys or anything else he can think to attach the iRIStag onto.
Another handy feature is the 'Smart Park' mode, that - with assistance from an app - helps you locate your car in even the busiest of shopping centre car parks.
As if that wasn't enough, the iRIStag can also be used as a remote camera trigger – that's loads of brilliant tech abilities on offer in one tiny gadget.

FishSpy Underwater Camera

Price: £249.95 (Around US$375 / AU$525)
Does your Dad regularly bore you with tails of nearly catching the biggest fish he's ever laid his hands on? If he spends more time than most on the banks of the local lake or river waiting for that big bite, he might appreciate a helping hand from the FishSpy underwater camera.
Designed especially with fishermen in mind, this waterproof camera connects to your Dad's smartphone or tablet via Wi-Fi, and transmits or records video for up to 4 hours onto the built-in memory.
This thing promises to 'unlock the secrets of the water' for all those fisherman out there - live streaming the 'hottest fish action', which actually sounds rather disturbing.


Price: £29.99 (around $45 / AU$60)
For shopping or to-do lists, paper is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Give your Dad a modern alternative in the form of an 8.5-inch Boogie Board.
The durable plastic tablet features a unique high-contrast LCD display that can be erased up to 50,000 times with just a touch of a button.
The included pressure-sensitive stylus makes writing feel very intuitive – whether it's simply a note to leave on the fridge, or scribbling down tactics for the Sunday football, your Dad will love being part of the next generation of listing.

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In Depth: Sony PS5: what we expect to see from the PlayStation 5
In Depth: Sony PS5: what we expect to see from the PlayStation 5

PS5: what does the future hold for PlayStation 5?

It's hard to say anything with absolute certainty these days, but if there's any sure bet you can make it's that there will be a Sony PlayStation 5.Sony is nothing if not predictable in its console naming conventions...
The PlayStation 4 has now sold 30 million units worldwide and has shown no sign of slowing down. There are plenty of excellent games still to come on this generation of hardware, but the next iteration is right around the bend.
Here we'll talk about the PS5 in great length down below but first we'd be remiss if we didn't point out the new PS4 models on their way this year, and the new CUH-1200 redesign that seriously improves the sound and heat generation as well as radically drops the power draw too.
We're also hoping for an eventual PS4 update will offer HDMI 2.0 connections and an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive for 4K playback before we swap out the 4 for a 5 on the end of our system, but we're not holding our breath.
And in the world of 4K set-top boxes like the Amazon Fire TV and Roku 4, 4K playing of video content simply isn't enough for us. If Sony really wants to sell us a PS5, it will need to play games in Ultra HD.
Sony has done a fantastic job re-working and improving the PS4 over the past two years - PlayStation Now, pre-loading games, YouTube streaming and PlayStation TV to name but a few additions - but we're thinking hard about the future of black boxes under the television.
Is there even actual PlayStation 5 hardware in the works or are we just looking at Sony TVs shipping with a DualShock 4 from here on in rather than a PS5 console?
A PlayStation 5 will land in some form but what's most interesting is whether it'll be the big component packed box we've grown accustomed to heating our living rooms, a palm sized streaming device or an invisible power ever present on our televisions or even iPhones and iPads.
Gazing back 20 years to the original PlayStation and its successors – yes, you're that old – it's fascinating how little really changed until the internet explosion of the last few years.
Into each generation a whirring box under the TV was born, complete with disc support and a whole bundle of the newest components but it's only now, as we Remote Play content live to our PlayStation Vitas and play seamless online multiplayer in games like Destiny, that it really feels like the future has arrived.
When a PS5 comes a calling, this is the time for things to change. Or is it?
crash bandicoot

Discs are so 20 years ago

Now that PlayStation Now and streaming capabilities should be the norm by Christmas let alone in five years' time, shouldn't we scrap the disc drive already?
We can hear it from here. Despite the magazine dropping the legendary demo disc in the middle of last year, ex editor of Official PlayStation Magazine, Ben Wilson disagrees.
"Steam on PC has taught us that disc drives are becoming less and less necessary, but I can't see them being phased out completely for a while yet," he says.
"People love their boxed products, and 'experts' have been predicting the 'imminent' demise of the CD for more than 20 years. Remind me how that one has turned out? There will always be those who prefer special editions and sexy packaging to invisible downloads, and it's those guys and girls who'll ensure disc drives live on within gaming in some form."
Looking at the ages of the people investing in technology (that's us remember, and let's be honest, we're not getting any younger) we do still have the desire to buy physical products despite their ready availability online.
But it's not just PlayStation (and better pricing on the PlayStation Store) that needs to evolve here. Our broadband speeds largely still leave much to be desired and a solid online infrastructure will have to be implemented before we depend solely on fibre-optic wires to get our gaming fix.
Adding an extra hurdle to a disc-less world, there's yet another reason why the upcoming preloading feature will be like a gift from the PlayStation gods. Size.
"I'd argue that the ever-expanding size of games would cause significant issues for a digital-only machine," says Matt Pellett, current editor of Official PlayStation Magazine.
"Both in terms of download times and the number of games people could store on their hard drive at any one time."
With the launch of Ultra HD Blu-ray, towards the end of the year, and their 50-100GB capacity, that's the sort of media we'll need our next next-gen games to be shipped on. With such huge game sizes it would be a struggle for all but the most advanced broadband connections to cope with.
Sony is quite likely to want to keep momentum going with the new disc format too and so it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see it wanting to do that with a UHD Blu-ray drive in the next version of the PlayStation.
Whether that's in a PS5 or a 4K update to the PS4 though is still up in the air.
ps5 games

PlayStation Now is the time

In swaggers PlayStation Now to fix all these problems. Game size? No problem. It's all in the cloud.
Choice? In five years or so, Sony could have filled it with every game on their back catalogue. Is this enough? Or could this pose even more problems for the future of PlayStation?
"If we end up in a place where streaming games is the norm, like it has become in the movie/box-set rental market, then the console itself is under threat," says PC Gamer's resident tech expert Dave James. "And if there's no actual console, what do the developers target and what do they develop on and how does Sony make its money?"
So a physical console still seems the most attractive prospect here for Sony. PlayStation Now seems an excellent solution as an additional feature, especially for accessing games from previous generations, saving you blowing the dust off that enormous original PS2 you've not been able to say goodbye to.
Another matter is the thorny issue of cost. If we've shelled out for the newest console, what's the sting for the back catalogue?
"The big talking point of the PlayStation Now Beta has been the price-point," says Pellett.
"Sony needs to get this right in order to be as competitive in the streaming market as it is in the console hardware market. With Sony's library of games and the ability for people to revisit the games they can't play on PS4 – and in some cases can't buy these days – it could become a hugely important part of the PlayStation family."
The suggestion of the PlayStation family here is important. As we know, Sony will be shipping Sony Bravia TVs with PlayStation Now built in but this won't be a replacement for the PS4 or any future consoles.
Too much rests on the power from our home consoles as new tech appears on the horizon. Yes, we're looking at you Project Morpheus.
ratchet and clank

4K and the VR revolution

Project Morpheus looks like the future. No, really.
The baying for an Oculus Rift consumer version has proved that virtual reality might just have a place in our living rooms after all and Sony's Morpheus announcement came just at the right time. Is the future of PlayStation inside a headset?
"Between PS Now and Project Morpheus, PlayStation 4 is well-placed to evolve dramatically in the years ahead," considers Pellett. "In five years we may well not only be buying our games in a different way, but the types of games we'll be playing in the first place could very well be different to what we're experiencing now."
So more shark based diving experiences then.
It seems clear that, like PlayStation Now, Morpheus is a strong addition to the PlayStation brand but an add-on to the main event which still happens to be that whirring console we can't get rid of. Yet as 4K televisions raise their ugly but oh-so-pretty heads, how can the PlayStation 4 cope with the extra processing power necessary for extra pixel production?
little big planet
"Given the rapid price drops of 4K TVs, and the likelihood of increased adoption, I think Sony is going to need to produce a PS4K hardware update in the next couple of years to increase the GPU horsepower," says Dave James.
"With both latest-gen consoles battling to play native games at just 1080p there is no chance of them ever being capable of running at a native 4K resolution without a serious change in components.
"Given the processor manufacturer supplying the silicon design for both consoles is constantly iterating on that technology it should be relatively simple for Sony to upgrade the components, and as it will still be an x86-based platform it would be backwards compatible. But whether Sony would want to do that, creating a two-tier PlayStation 4 ecosystem, is tough to say."
A PlayStation 4.5, rather than a 5 almost makes sense, given Sony's clear investment in the development side of things.
"Speaking with different developers it's clear that PS4 has been designed with external studios at heart," explains Pellett.
"I've been assured it's the easiest console to develop for in PlayStation history, which is as good as an open-door invitation for teams to make games for PS4."
This strong investment in the development side of things means Sony clearly doesn't think their box is going anywhere anytime soon. Any successor is going to follow in this parallelogram's footprint.
ps5 uncharted

The evolution of PlayStation

The PS Vita's Remote Play feature already hints at the miracles of new ways we can play but can features such as PlayStation Mobile extend the console experience even further?
And can future PlayStation updates deliver that?
"The thing I most want is to see PlayStation Mobile on iOS," says Ben Wilson. "The issue, of course, is that it would require Sony and Apple to clamber into bed together, which isn't going to occur anytime soon.
"But perhaps by the time PS5 rolls around, and there's even more scope for cross-platform sharing, we will see a way in which you can start a Call Of Duty 21: Robots vs Zombies campaign on console in the morning, continue it on iPad in the afternoon, and compete it on your phone at 2am while the rest of the household snores in unison."
It appears that we can't escape this idea of a home console. As a processing hub, an independent gaming power not necessarily dependent on the internet, a unit to centre our experiences around and plug extra peripherals into and a centre of the PlayStation universe.

Why the PS5 could be the cheapest console ever

First published January 2014
The PlayStation 5, whether you like it or not, will exist in some form or another and chances are it will look less like the future and more like what we already know.
"Look at the evolution of PS3 from launch day to now, and then consider that the PS4 was designed from the ground up to evolve in the years after its release," considers Pellett. "Even with simple updates, the PS4 under my TV today is going to be unrecognisable to the PS4 under my telly in 2019 – despite being the same box."
While 4K TVs, Steam Machines and cool car tech are all well and good, by far the most exciting thing to come out of CES this week is the launch of Sony's PlayStation Now.
It's not only an exciting new gaming service, but also a mesmerising hint at the destiny of the PlayStation brand and the future of gaming in general. This is the beginning of a cosmic shift in the paradigm of gaming, and it's happening right here, right now. Be excited.
In case you missed the announcement, PlayStation Now is at first-sight a simple game-streaming service that will initially enable both the PS4 and PS3 to stream PlayStation 3 games over the internet.
You'll be able to select a game and begin streaming it immediately, meaning absolutely no delay in getting the game up and running. Instantaneous PS3 gaming, no loading times at all. Awesome!

But there's more. Lots more.

Game streaming functionality will later arrive on the PS Vita and, far more excitingly, Bravia TVs. Yep, using a DualShock 3 pad, you'll be able to play full-blown PS3 games, in HD, on your big TV, without the need to own a PlayStation console. Incredible!
But wait. There's still more.
Eventually, PS Now will offer not only PS3 games, but PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games - not only on the PS3, PS4, PS Vita and Bravia TVs, but also on third-party TVs, smartphones and tablets as well. All without needing to own a games console. Wow.
Games will be available to rent on a one-off basis, with unlimited Netflix-style monthly PSN subscriptions a payment model Sony is likely to pursue aggressively.
That's right, the future of gaming lays entirely in software, services and super-fast internet connections and not in expensive black boxes.
PlayStation Now

What it means for gaming

Play any PlayStation game on any device with a screen. All you need is an internet connection. Amazing.
What this essentially means is that the days of paying $400 for PlayStation hardware are numbered. In fact, it's very possible that the PlayStation 5 (make no mistake, there will still be a PS5) will be a cheap-as-chips $50 set-top box that will do nothing other than stream content from the great PlayStation publishing cloud in the sky.
After all, who would pay excessive prices for a console that does nothing you can't do on your existing tech? Sony has never been able to make money from PlayStation hardware anyway, in fact it generally makes a loss. Woohoo cheap gaming for everyone!
Of course, this has long been mooted as a likely solution for gamers of the future. OnLive has already been streaming games for some time, and when Sony purchased Gaikai and it's game streaming technology in the summer of 2012, the writing was on the wall. But no one really knew what the plan was. Now we do.
So here we are, at the start of 2014 walking into a world where all Sony Bravia TVs could ship with a DualShock controller by default and offer access to every PlayStation game ever made. All you need is a robust connection, and that will certainly be the biggest obstacle to this tech becoming mainstream. That and the fact that PlayStation Now is initially only launching in a closed US trial with no worldwide launch date even hinted at. But it's coming...

The future of gaming

This news might miff some who've has just splurged a wad of cash on a PS4 or Xbox One, but don't worry - this cloud-based future is a way off yet. But it means the audience for games in the near future will be far, far bigger. It means graphics in games will no longer be bottlenecked by years-old console components.
It means more and better PlayStation games. Possibly even cheaper games as developers battle for your game-hours. The possibilities of this future really are endless and they're up for discussion right now. What's certain is that it's great news for gamers like you and me.
The games console is dead. Long live PlayStation.
Tweet me your opinions or comment below!

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Facebook is making major changes to its real name policy
Facebook is making major changes to its real name policy
Facebook announced today that it will be enacting two new policies in regards to the names users go by. The changes aim to provide better context when verifying assumed names, in addition to increasing accountability and safety across the service.
The first policy change detailed in Facebook's announcement is an improved reporting process for fake names. Should a user encounter such a name, they can provide context in the report, such as specifying if the person is acting anonymously or impersonating someone with fake names or profile images.
Facebook's Justin Osofsky and Todd Gage said in the announcement that this information will better assist the review teams in understanding a reported name situation.
The second Facebook policy announced today lets users provide context for their chosen names, should they be asked to verify it. If a user changed their name due to particular special circumstances, they can add in details about their situation when verifying their name.
Some examples of these circumstances include past instances of abuse or stalking online or identifying with what Facebook specifies as "communities who are marginalized or face discrimination" such as members of the LGBTQ community or an ethnic minority.
Facebook's new naming policy is currently being tested in a small number of users in the US, but there are plans to expand globally if feedback is positive. Osofsky and Gage said to look for additional improvements to the service's real name policy to better serve users while preserving safety in the New Year.

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Review: Updated: Amazon Fire TV
Review: Updated: Amazon Fire TV

Introduction and features

Update: The Amazon Fire TV is taking a page from the home shopping channel. Starting on October 29, Amazon will enable Fire TV users to buy products from the store via ads on the home page of the Fire TV.
Original review below...
Much of the noise about the new Fire TV relates to its 4K Ultra HD playback capabilities, especially considering that the new Apple TV is set to hit the shelves (well, MDF tables) of your nearest Apple store very soon without any 4K support at all.
It's not the only media streamer boasting 4K chops though, and it definitely isn't the first either. The Nvidia SHIELD console took that honour, with its Tegra X1 processor making it the most powerful streamer around.
But the new Amazon Fire TV is far less expensive – so can this Ultra HD box deliver where the Android TV-hobbled SHIELD falls down?


The new Amazon Fire TV may look identical to the original Fire TV box, but that's no bad thing.
The sleek, shiny exterior is understated enough to fit into even the most minimalist of modern living rooms, and with the remote control featuring Wi-Fi connectivity you can happily hide the box behind your TV if you're not into the mini-monolith aesthetic, as there's no need for a direct line of sight.
Amazon Fire TV
Inside, however, things have changed considerably, with a nominally quad-core MediaTek processor sitting at the heart of the new Fire TV. It's really a pair of dual-core chips (one running at 2GHz and the other at 1.6GHz) strapped together, but that doesn't stop it from offering around 75% faster performance compared with the old model's silicon.
There's also a dedicated PowerVR GX6250 GPU inside to give the new Fire TV that gaming edge, and 2GB of system memory to keep things flowing seamlessly.
The Fire TV comes with a decent 8GB of internal capacity, with the option to expand via the microSD slot on the rear of the box, which facilitates up to 128GB of storage.
Amazon Fire TV
In terms of networking there's a Gigabit ethernet port for wiring in – probably your best bet for a consistent 4K UHD stream – or the dual-band, dual-antenna 802.11ac Wi-Fi connection.
To nail that Ultra HD playback the MediaTek chipset supports the H.265 (HEVC) codec, as well as the legacy H.264 for 1080p content. It should be noted though that it's only capable of rocking a 4K UHD stream at a maximum of 30 frames per second, while it stretches to 60fps for 720p and 1080p outputs.
To enable UHD playback you'll need a compatible display, and that doesn't just mean the obvious 3840 x 2160 panel resolution – it will also need the same HDMI 2.0 (HDCP 2.2) connection as on the rear of the Fire TV.
Without that you're not going to get the copy-protected 4K awesome of either Amazon Prime or Netflix; you can still watch 4K YouTube though if that's of any interest...
Amazon Fire TV
The Fire TV remote hasn't really changed, aside from using Wi-Fi over Bluetooth. It's still rocking the same voice search functionality which made the first Fire TV a bit of a hit, and it's also nicely responsive and feels solid in the hand despite its diminutive size.


The new Amazon Fire TV is running on a forked version of the Android operating system, and we don't mean in the colloquial use of the term; FireOS isn't totally forked, it's actually pretty responsive.
Its development was taken down a different path to the final Android OS, making FireOS a distinct operating system in its own right. That's why you won't be getting the full Play Store range of apps, and one of the reasons Amazon has its own app store ruling the roost.
Amazon Fire TV
FireOS is focused almost entirely upon helping you access content quickly and easily, with a very obvious bias towards the Amazon ecosystem.
This corporate bias is understandable – it's similar to the way Android TV's recommendations are only based on Google services and NOW TV is focused on Sky content – but it would make you feel utterly excluded if you weren't an Amazon Prime member.
The voice search software is an integral part of the Amazon setup, and it's quick, responsive and impressively accurate, no matter which bastardised version of a regional accent I tried to confuse it with.
Again though, it's utterly tied into the Amazon ecosystem. No matter if you can access Breaking Bad in 4K via your Netflix account, the search will only lead you to a place where you can pay Amazon again for the privilege; it won't even acknowledge the existence of any other content, however you vocalise it.
The touted universal search feature of the new Apple TV makes its voice search seem far more relevant than Amazon's.


The new Amazon Fire TV is an impressive little media box, and it backs up the sleek aesthetic with a slick user experience, whether you're a first-time user or an experienced techie.
The opening cartoon tutorial is smart, accessible and well-judged. It's about the right length and gives you a jargon-free rundown of the Fire TV's key features, and it's a very welcome sight the first time you boot it up.
Amazon Fire TV
It's something we'd like to see on more consumer devices – a box like the powerful SHIELD should really offer something more than simply dumping the first-time user into the Android TV screen without a word of advice.
The FireOS home screen is clean, simple and easily viewed from the distance of sofa-to-screen, with large images and a black background.
It's also impressively responsive with that Wi-Fi remote, although if you're flicking through your options quickly the 30Hz limit really does come into play on a 4K connection. It's not that movement becomes jerky, but it is noticeably non-smooth.

Media playback

Where that 30Hz speed limit isn't a huge issue, though, is in actual 4K Ultra HD playback. The new Amazon Fire TV has full access to the UHD content from both Amazon Prime and Netflix, as well as enabling you to rent or buy extra Amazon 4K content that isn't available on its Instant Video service.
Netflix was typically smooth and quick to get going on my (admittedly speedy) home connection. In general the same was true of the Amazon Prime video experience too, with the likes of Orphan Black showing ne'er a stutter.
Amazon Fire TV
I did have a slight issue with UHD Red Oaks though, where playback again felt 'non-smooth'. It wasn't jerky, or stuttering, but in motion shots especially it didn't feel particularly smooth in terms of frame rate.
I also experienced some audio de-sync issues thanks to my TV's audio running through a separate amplifier – curse those slim bezels and their rubbish speakers. On the SHIELD I was able to fix this in the system settings, but I couldn't find an equivalent setting within FireOS.
The Fire TV's high-efficiency video codec (HEVC) isn't just there to make with the 4K loveliness; it also has an impact on your 1080p playback. If the video is compatible then it halves the amount of data it needs to transmit over your network connection – if you're still on a limited connection that will be a god-send.
It also means Full HD content will start quicker, and run smoother, on slower network connections.
I did, however, experience a few codec fails when trying to play back some of the 4K demo media we use to test out Ultra HD TVs and accessories. Even with usually reliable VLC installed from the app store I struggled with some video content.
The most oft-used codecs are available, but you could find that some of your existing media library won't play back through either the Plex or VLC apps.
Amazon Fire TV


Another string to the new Amazon Fire TV's bow is its gaming performance.
For an additional £35 you can buy a dedicated Fire Controller that will give you an Xbox-a-like pad with which to play the suite of games on offer to the Fire TV, although many of the titles on offer will still work with the standard remote's buttons.
Given the mostly casual nature of the Fire TV's game catalogue that's probably going to be enough, but there are some more serious games on offer, such as Telltale's Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.
It's never going to replace your PC, PS4 or Xbox One, but the level of 3D gaming performance the new Amazon Fire TV is able to offer is rather impressive.


The Amazon Fire TV is arguably the best-value 4K Ultra HD media streamer available on the market right now. I say 'arguably' only because of the utter bias towards Amazon content in the Fire TV's OS.
With the box itself costing £80 you really need to add on the £80 a year cost of an Amazon Prime subscription, as without it the device really does feel rather hobbled.
Granted, Amazon Prime is a pretty good-value bundle, and not just for the video content; you also get a load of freely-accessible music and plenty of picture storage, as well as a host of Amazon shopping goodness. But you have little option other than to sign up if you want to get the most out of the Fire TV.
Amazon Fire TV

We liked

The performance of the speedy new box is seriously impressive. For the most part 4K playback is smooth and reliable, with only rare instances of it being less than lovely in its super-resolution.
The interface is very responsive too, with voice search being almost instantly accessible.
The fact that both Amazon Video and Netflix are on offer also means it's got the greatest scope for 4K content on the market; Android TV has to side-load Amazon if it wants to play ball with Prime.

We disliked

The total dominance of Amazon services makes an Amazon Prime account a virtual necessity if you want to get the most out of the Fire TV.
You could say the same about Android TV, with its recommendations carousel only dealing in Google services, but with the Fire TV Amazon it's not just a bias – it feels like the be-all and end-all of searched-for content.
You do have access to Netflix and iPlayer, and a host of other service providers, but their icon-only existence on the home screen makes them feel as much of an afterthought as the other video services on the NOW TV box.
I'm also not 100% sold on the 30Hz limitations of the Fire TV's Ultra HD connection. Right now it's not a huge issue, with most video running at 24fps, but there are times, when running on a 4K TV, when it feels like it's running the hardware at the ragged edge.


The new Amazon Fire TV is a pretty impressive little device. For your money you get an Ultra HD media player which also makes a decent fist of some light gaming.
4K playback is generally smooth, and the Amazon connection gives you access to the motherlode of paid-for UHD movie content.
If you've picked up a cheap, dumb 4K TV (although one that has the necessary HDCP 2.2 compatibility for DRM'd content) then the new Fire TV is a decent choice for getting some UHD Netflix or Amazon Prime viewing on your screen.
However, if you're already sitting on some Ultra HD smarts within your 4K TV, the Fire TV isn't really going to add anything else to the picture.
And where the Nvidia SHIELD has the potential to grow and change, with the power to cope with future advances, the Fire TV feels like it's already running at the limits of its hardware. That 30Hz limit isn't an issue right now, but you'll be looking for an upgrade not far down the line.
Essentially, then, the new Amazon Fire TV is fine, and for the Amazon faithful it offers easier access than the abortive web interface – but if you're just after a media streamer it's only okay.
If that's damning with faint praise, so be it.

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This free Chrome extension will help you avoid Star Wars spoilers
This free Chrome extension will help you avoid Star Wars spoilers
Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiered last night, which means that the secrets of its juicy, much-anticipated plot are officially out of the Disney vault. Fortunately, there's a Chrome extension could very well be your best friend up until the film launches later this week. Force Block is a must-download if you're a self-respecting Star Wars fan who doesn't want even the smallest detail spoiled.
Fortunately, many of those who saw the film are respecting the #nospoilers code, but there are people out there who will surely get a sick satisfaction out of ruining the film's surprises for everyone who has to wait until Friday.
Force Block
When you download the Force Block extension for the Google Chrome browser, a screen take-over will appear any time it detects something that could be a spoiler for the upcoming film. During my experience, it censored plenty of things that definitely weren't spoilers, but hey, I guess it's better to be safe than sorry during the lead-up to the film's release and until you get the chance to see it for yourself.
We don't know if or when other sites will be spilling their secret knowledge of the spoilers contained in Star Wars 7, but rest assured, we'll be keeping our feeds spoiler-free. Despite our celebratory 'techvadar' moniker, both the Dark and Light Sides can agree that spoiling this movie would be treacherous beyond what the galaxy's greatest evils are capable of.
  • Here's what we're looking forward to at CES 2016
Via Gizmodo

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Police arrest suspect in connection with VTech hack
Police arrest suspect in connection with VTech hack
A man has been arrested in connection with the recent VTech hack, which witnessed a massive theft of data relating to some 6.4 million children (VTech is a Hong Kong-based toy making company).
The man in question is 21-years-old, and was arrested in Bracknell under suspicion of offences violating the Computer Misuse Act, according to a statement from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU).
SEROCU also said that as well as the arrest being made, a number of electronic devices were also seized for further investigation by the Cyber Crime eForensics Unit.
Apparently the Cyber Crime Unit worked closely with a number of other unspecified partner agencies to bring about this arrest. Of course, as the head of the unit, Craig Jones, noted, there's still a lot of work to be done and this operation is still in its early stages.
Jones stated: "Cyber criminality is affecting more and more business around the world and we continue to work with our partners to thoroughly investigate, often very complex cases.
"We are still at the early stages of the investigation and there is still much work to be done. We will continue to work closely with our partners to identify those who commit offences and hold them to account."
He added that the unit was using the "latest technology" to pursue cybercriminals and bring them to justice.
The ICO is currently investigating the VTech data breach, and US authorities are questioning the company, too.
Via: Reuters

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Updated: LG G5 release date, news and rumors
Updated: LG G5 release date, news and rumors

LG G5 release date, news and rumors

Update: The LG G5 could be here in February, with a 5.6-inch screen and an iris scanner.
The LG G4 got a lot right, but with a couple of significant missteps and a few other minor niggles it didn't quite reach the heights of greatness we'd hoped for. But 2016 is another year, and the LG G5 is another chance for LG to deliver the handset we all know it's capable of.
As we saw with the G4, LG won't be drawn into following the norm of metal and glass bodies, happily slapping plastic and leather on its latest flagship handset – but something is going to have to give in the design department, as LG is getting left behind somewhat by Apple, Samsung, HTC and Sony.
There aren't a huge amount of rumors circulating just yet, but expect the conjecture to heat up soon. In the meantime, we've created our dream LG G5, and listed what we'd love to see in the handset.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? LG's next flagship smartphone
  • When's it out? Possibly February 2016
  • What will it cost? A lot – it's a flagship after all

The techradar LG G5 Concept

We've taken it upon ourselves to put together a concept of how the G5 should look, and we're thinking all-metal, with a curved screen above and below (rather from side to side), and that fingerprint scanner in LG's magic power button on the back.
LG G5 concept
Our design allows LG to still stand out from the crowd, while bringing it into the premium tier of design. The South Korean firm isn't afraid to throw in some curve balls here and there, so while the concept is ambitious there's always a chance for LG to surprise.

News and rumors

We've only heard a few LG G5 rumors so far, but they're pretty promising. For one thing we might finally see LG deliver a truly premium flagship, as reports that it will sport a full metal body, which would be a nice change from the plastic the company usually uses and the less said about the leather-backed LG G4 the better.
In other news a source with a solid track record has claimed that it will have a Snapdragon 820 processor, which should be a big upgrade on the Snapdragon 808 chip found in the LG G4.
The same source also claims it will have a 20MP camera with a custom Sony 1/2-inch sensor, which should also be an upgrade on the 16MP snapper that the LG G4 has.
Though another rumor suggests it will have a 21MP snapper on the back and a 5MP one on the front, as well as a 5.6-inch 2K screen.
Even more excitingly the LG G5 could supposedly have an iris scanner, allowing it to recognise you by your eyes.
We're bound to start seeing iris scanners in smartphones sooner or later and LG hasn't been afraid to innovate or be the first to do things in the past, so it's possible that the LG G5 will pack this tech, but we're a little sceptical, though that same rumor has popped up again, so you never know.
As for a release date the only rumor so far is that we could see the LG G5 in February, perhaps at MWC 2016. If so that would be a lot earlier than the April release of the LG G4.

1. An all-metal build

LG G4 back
LG moved away from plastic towards a more premium design with the LG G4. It…didn't go well. The unusual choice of leather was certainly novel, but it felt cheap, looked odd and wasn't anywhere near as visually pleasing as the metal HTC One M9 or iPhone 6.
So hopefully the LG G5 will have a more conventional all-metal design. It's hard to go wrong with metal and it should make the phone even more premium and less divisive. Thankfully early rumors suggest a metal G5 is on the way.

2. A fingerprint scanner

While many smartphones are now incorporating fingerprint scanners LG has so far resisted, and it's a shame as the prominent power button on the back of its devices is crying out for one.
Turning the button into a single touch biometric scanner seems like an obvious decision and it would give the LG G5 one more useful feature.
The company is rumoured to be going a step further and working on an iris scanner and while we wouldn't say no to that a fingerprint scanner is probably a safer choice.

3. More innovative edges

We're bored of flat phones and if the LG G Flex 2 is anything to go by so is LG. But companies are yet to crack curves and we want to see LG try something new with the G4, so how about taking a note from the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, but rather than having curved sides have the screen spill over the top and bottom edge.
That would give it an eye-catching look, but it wouldn't just be for show, the curves could also display extra notifications depending on which way the phone is held.

4. A 4K screen

LG G4 screen
The LG G4 already has a QHD screen and it's glorious, but even the LG G3 was offering QHD so it's time for LG to move things along and give the LG G5 a 4K display.
Assuming it stays at 5.5 inches a 4K (3840 x 2160) screen would have a pixel density of 801 pixels per inch, making it one of the sharpest displays around. Why? VR of course! Making this the perfect phone to strap to your head needs a really pin sharp display.
We only want this to happen if LG can avoid giving the battery life a hit in the process, but LG had a reputation for being ahead of the game on screen resolution and that's something it should try and hold onto.
Current rumors are that the screen will be growing to 5.6 inches but sticking at QHD, so we may not see LG fully embracing VR just yet.

5. Better battery life

LG G4 battery
The LG G2 had great battery life but in the last couple of years LG has struggled in this area. Perhaps it's the move to a QHD screen or perhaps it just needs to use bigger juice packs or a more efficient processor, but whatever the reason the LG G4 barely makes it through a day and that's just not good enough.
So we really want to see better battery life on the LG G5. Phones should be pushing at least two days of life as far as we're concerned, not struggling to manage one. We'd rather this than a high res screen, to be honest.

6. Slicker performance

Despite being a flagship phone the LG G4 isn't always that fast. We've mentioned that the camera can be slow to launch but flipping between running apps can take a second too and the interface sometimes occasionally even needs to rebuild itself after jumping between apps.
This could be down to the Snapdragon 808 processor powering the G4, but we'd think that coupled with 3GB of RAM it should be more than enough to deliver slick performance. So whether through a power injection or better optimised software we hope the LG G5 is a smooth operator.
Early rumors are that we'll see a Snapdragon 820 chip in the G5, in which case slicker performance is likely.

7. A faster camera

LG G4 camera
The LG G4 has a hugely impressive camera, but it's not always the fastest to launch. Tapping the camera icon should see it boot up in just 0.6 seconds, but if using a double tap of the volume button to launch it when the phone is asleep it takes more like 2 seconds.
That's still not slow but it can be long enough to miss the perfect time to get a snap, so hopefully LG will speed the process up on the G5.

8. Knock Code improvements

Being able to double tap the screen to wake it up is great and generally works well, but with Knock Code LG went one further and allowed you to unlock the phone with a series of taps too.
Sadly this doesn't work quite so well or consistently and it's enough of a problem to render it less useful than more conventional unlock options like a PIN or pattern, so hopefully LG will tighten this up for the G5. Then again if it includes a fingerprint or iris scanner it could probably just ditch Knock Code altogether.

9. A more compact design

We don't necessarily want LG to put a smaller screen on the G5, especially if it's going to keep pushing the pixels to this extent, but there's no denying that it can be a little more unwieldy than a smaller phone, so one solution would be to trim down the bezels.
There's still quite a lot of empty space, especially above and below the display, so if that goes on the LG G5 then we could see a 5.5-inch phone that doesn't require hand gymnastics to use.

10. Less bloat

LG clearly puts a lot of work into its interface and the version found on the G4 is fairly clean and colourful. It even has a few genuinely useful features, such as Smart Notice, which is hugely improved since its debut in 2014.
But there are a number of less useful features, apps and widgets which we'd just as soon see the back of. From Q Slide to LG Health there are a lot of things here that feel like they're just ticking boxes or exist purely to help the phone stand out without really having been thought through.
There are more than enough apps on Google Play already, so hopefully LG will cut out a lot of the bloat for the G5 and let buyers decide for themselves what apps they want on the phone.

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Microsoft has pulled the latest Windows 10 Mobile build
Microsoft has pulled the latest Windows 10 Mobile build
Microsoft has pulled Windows 10 Mobile Build 10586.29 due to start-up and notification issues.
If you've successfully updated your Lumia 950 or Lumia 950 XL to Build 10586.29 you don't need to worry about the build being pulled. However, if you haven't already updated, you won't be able to do so until Microsoft republishes the build.
The issues plaguing Build 10586.29 include users with applicable handsets not being offered the update, the update getting stuck at 0%, and incessant false-alarm low storage notifications.

What's to be done?

In a statement Microsoft said it was working on fixing the issues with the Build. However, it's not immediately clear when the Build will be republished, or if a new Build will replace it.
Microsoft will continue to make incremental updates to Windows 10 Mobile for 24 months, including adding new features and services. Microsoft released the faulty Windows 10 Mobile Build last week.
The build, which is live only on the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, featured a few minor bug fixes. The release appeared to be so solid in terms of lingering bugs versus improved reliability that it led many, myself included, to believe it was a near-complete release.
However, prior to the build being unpublished, we were awaiting a green light from Microsoft for all Windows devices. We originally thought Microsoft would make the OS generally available in September. However, several delays pushed the rumored release date to November.
We're now ten days from Christmas and, due to these emerging issues, it seems unlikely that all Windows Phone users will get the operating system before the year ends.
  • If you're interested in previewing the mobile operating system, check out this primer on how to download the preview today.

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