Monday, December 21, 2015

IT News Head Lines (Techradar) 22/12/2015


Here's how to get a lightsaber progress bar in Spotify
Here's how to get a lightsaber progress bar in Spotify
If you haven't heard, there's a brand new Star Wars film out in cinemas, and tech firms are falling over themselves to jump on the bandwagon. The latest Star Wars-themed easter egg we've spotted: a lightsaber progress bar in Spotify.
Fire up the desktop client, have a look for the Complete Star Wars Soundtrack in Spotify's library, and start playing. You should see the progress bar change to a lightsaber - click on the hilt and you can switch between different models and colours.
The effect stays in place no matter what you're listening to until you restart Spotify. If you don't want to make a detour to the Star Wars soundtrack first, type "THX1138" into the search box to get the same result - that's a nod to the first film George Lucas directed.
It's not the first time Spotify has shown its love of that galaxy far, far away this Christmas: a few days ago it unveiled a new site for matching you with a Star Wars character based on your listening history.

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Fallout 4 Spot the Difference: the results
Fallout 4 Spot the Difference: the results
Our Fallout 4 game of spot-the-difference has a festive twist - and we've marked the answers down below.
We love how Bethesda has made the Wasteland all joyful and shiny, and given it a bit of colour and life in Diamond City. It's a shame there's no holiday crafting options that we know of, but maybe next year eh?
Did you get them all? See if your match with the actual modifications below.
Happy holidays from the techradar team!
  • Found this by accident and want to take a shot at the game?

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QUIZ: Can you spot all 24 differences at the Fallout 4 noodle bar?
QUIZ: Can you spot all 24 differences at the Fallout 4 noodle bar?
The Wasteland is usually a cheerless place, full of Ghouls, Super Mutants and chem addicts. However, on December 24, cheer comes to the great town of Diamond City as Christmas Trees and lights go up around your favourite hangout, the Power Noodles bar.
To celebrate the holidays, we've created a rather lo-fi Fallout 4 spot-the-difference quiz.
Look at the images below and try to pick out all 24 differences. The particularly enthusiastic among you might want to even print the pictures out and grab a pencil (lead 1/1, wood 2/1).
Can you find them all?
Fallout 4 Spot The Diff original image
Click on the pic below to reveal the locations of the differences:
Fallout 4 Spot The Diff 2

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Could Blockchain totally change how the internet works?
Could Blockchain totally change how the internet works?

Introduction and usage of Blockchain

The internet is just a pipe, and any attempt at real security is merely a sticking plaster that's doomed to get hacked, somehow, by someone, at some point. Cue the Blockchain, a tech that proves ownership in an indisputable way.
Said to be as powerful a catalyst for creativity as Internet Protocol, Blockchain-led innovations are likely to begin in the world of financial services, but could extend far beyond – its full potential is now only just starting to be understood.
"[It could] bring a whole new dimension of trust to the internet," says Richard Moulds, VP Strategy, Thales e-Security, "such that it can become a transactional platform between people and things, and not just the pipe that connects them."
No wonder, then, that Blockchain accounts for the largest spend on emerging technologies this year – almost $1 billion. And you thought it was just a Bitcoin enabler.
Gareth Stephens, Head of New Proposition Development at GBG

What is Blockchain?

"Blockchain is designed to make transactions fraud-proof," says Ajay Vij, Vice President and Head of Financial Services for Europe at global IT consultancy Infosys. "It takes the form of a distributed database against which anyone can verify the validity of transactions held within it."
Sometimes referred to as a shared write database or a distributed ledger, a Blockchain is technology that acts in a similar way to a digital signature. "The Blockchain is a distributed ledger that is a very secure way of passing information from one place to another," explains Gareth Stephens, Head of New Proposition Development at identity data intelligence company GBG.
Completely open source tech, nobody owns the Blockchain, there's no central arbitrator verifying that each transaction is valid, and the entire network self-regulates. "The fact this self-regulation is extremely robust is the genius of Blockchain technology," says Stephens.

A database, a protocol and an app?

"A Blockchain can be a database, a protocol and application all at once," says Micah Winkelspecht, Founder and CEO of Blockchain provider Gem. "Once the data is recorded it's practically impossible to rewrite, so by design, Blockchains create permanent historical records." The attractions of such a technology are obvious to a world that's moving every kind of commerce, financial transactions and data online, or to the cloud, but always across insecure networks.
Micah Winkelspecht, Founder and CEO of Gem

How does it work?

Each transaction creates a 64 character hash which the network owners use to build a block by combining it with a previous hash. "The blocks are produced in a chronological and linear order with each new block containing a one-time-use character string or hash drawing that refers to the block before," says Vij. "It is therefore almost impossible to create false transactions without them being spotted."
The banks' back office systems and ledgers, which are currently subject to cybercrime and fraud risk, could about to be sealed up. Blockchain's in-built ability to record and time-stamp all transactions – and cheaply, by replacing complex existing processes – hugely appeals to this heavily regulated, cost-conscious industry.

What are Blockchains used for?

So far Blockchain is known as the enabling tech behind the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which is mostly used to make international payments that swerve the expensive currency conversion process. However, its real advantage is that it is a much cheaper way to make payments. Bitcoin has exploded in value recently, but it's dwarfed by the mainstream global finance industry, which moves trillions of dollars of assets every day.
"This technology can be applied within the existing financial infrastructure to digitise every asset type like stocks, bonds, options, futures, land titles, real estate, and more," says Winkelspecht. "Exchanges of these assets can currently take days or even weeks to complete, but now, these assets will be able to change hands at the speed of the internet."

Future of Blockchain

Why is it so attractive to banks?

Financial institutions are just the kind of companies with which Blockchains will find the most success. "They can create, manage, and record entire asset lifecycles on a cryptographically secured platform that can be interoperable with the platforms of third-parties," thirdparties," says Winkelspecht, "such as clearing houses and other financial institutions."
There is an inherent danger in banks adopting Blockchains because the tech effectively removes their powerful middleman position in the currency exchange market. "The banks are currently the central arbiters of currency exchange, and with Blockchain there is no requirement for one, so it is a huge potential disruption in that sector," says Stephens, but that could be outweighed by savings on infrastructure costs.
Santander estimates that Blockchains could save banks $20 billion (around £13 billion, AU$28 billion) a year by 2022.
While Blockchain databases do have the potential to be phenomenally important, it's not just banking that will benefit. "They're a whole new kind of distributed database with high integrity guarantees, designed to run in untrusted environments," says Dave Hrycyszyn, Director of Strategy and Technology at digital agency Head. "That means they could transform any industry that deals with history, data, and trust – really important sectors like finance, medicine, supply chains and auditing."
Blockchain could make micropayments cheaper

What are some other potential uses for Blockchain tech?

Industries that rely heavily on disparate data networks are ripe for disruption by Blockchains, which create an authenticated online digital identity. This is the end of 'analogue' trust and the start of digital certainty.
"Once this digital identity has been created, each ongoing re-authentication can be done via the Blockchain," explains Stephens. "This makes this a 'trust-less' system by the fact that no one company or individual has enough information to defraud the system – we all require the Blockchain to agree before passing an authentication request." GBG is looking to replace the requirement of trust, and using Blockchain to decentralise the process.
Another use could be the medical sector, where the handling of patient medical records is a thorny issue. "With shared ledger technology, patients can maintain control over their own tamperproof medical history," says Winkelspecht, who thinks that Blockchains would allow patients to share their medical data selectively with hospitals, doctors and clinics in real-time. As well as massively reducing privacy risks, using Blockchains could also reduce data management costs.
Governments are interested, too. "The UK government is already working towards exploring the use of Blockchain technology in a bid to improve accuracy in record keeping," says Vij. However, Blockchains could also make fraud-proof electronic or internet-based voting possible.
Blockchain could challenge copyright infringement

Could Blockchain prevent illegal music/movie downloading?

"It can certainly challenge copyright infringement, and it may be able to help law enforcement," says Winkelspecht. "By using a shared ledger or shared write Blockchain for digital rights management, a Blockchain could be used as proof of ownership, and serve as a common rights repository for content owners." Blockchains could also be used to transfer rights between users.
Others aren't so sure about the extent of Blockchain's skills in this area. "Illegal movie downloading will still continue regardless of Blockchain," says Stephens, though he thinks it has the potential to allow musicians to have a platform to distribute the undisputed 'original' version of a track so fans know they are buying from the source. "It does not stop someone buying the original, copying it and then putting their own version onto the Blockchain," says Stephens.

A compelling future?

Blockchain technology isn't going to change the internet overnight. "There's a lack of useful information that connects this technology to real problems," says Winkelspecht. "People understand that it's transformative, but they are unsure how it can help their business."
Blockchain is exciting, but it's a tech that needs proving, it needs quality apps, and it needs regulation. "The world has been gifted a potentially great piece of technology," says Stephens, "but now it is up to us to build something compelling that people want to use."

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The iPhone leads the Flickr charts for 2015
The iPhone leads the Flickr charts for 2015
One of the reasons so many people love the iPhone is its impressive photo-taking capabilities, and that's borne out in Flickr's data-driven review of 2015 - almost one in three pictures uploaded to the site this year were taken on an Apple handset.
Flickr camera chart
Flickr uses the metadata stored with user images to build up an overview of the camera manufacturers and models that are most popular. You can see these stats for yourself at any time from the Flickr Camera Finder page.
Now the Yahoo-owned portal has crunched the numbers for the whole year and declared the iPhone the camera of choice amongst its community. Apple took pole position from Canon at the start of the year and never looked back.

Snap happy smartphone users

What's more, various iPhone models take up eight of the top 20 slots in the chart of the most popular individual cameras. Last year's iPhone 6 is in first place, responsible for 5 percent of the pictures uploaded this year.
Samsung's growth has stalled, Flickr reports, while Sony and Fujifilm stayed at a steady level, and Canon and Nikon's popularity took a dive over the course of the last 12 months. Of course this only represents photos uploaded to Flickr during 2015 - not the market as a whole - but it's still an interesting snapshot of the state of smartphone photography.
"Looking at the trends over the past 5 years, we can see that point-and-shoot cameras are continuing their steady decline, losing their popularity to cameraphones," writes Flickr data scientist Bhautik Joshi. "After a peak in 2012, SLRs are being replaced by mirrorless cameras, which show a steady one-percent-per-year growth."

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Star Wars Week: 15 best Star Wars themed gadgets to buy right now
Star Wars Week: 15 best Star Wars themed gadgets to buy right now

Best Star Wars themed gadgets

Star Wars gadgets
Disney has been rather busy creating new merchandise that celebrates the launch of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Mouse House has branded everything from socks to oranges. Yes, oranges. It has gotten a little out of hand but one area where Star Wars merchandise feels valid is gadgets.
From Millennium Falcon drones to R2-D2 fridges, we have gathered up the best Star Wars gadgets you can buy right now. There is something for every budget and, don't panic, this list is Jar Jar Binks free. Although we did look long and hard for a self-destructing doll but to no avail.
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1. Sphero BB-8 Droid

Star Wars gadgets
There's been no shortage of Star Wars toys but Sphero's BB-8 is the (impressive) most impressive Force Awakens tie-in. The link up with Sphero is a match made in heaven. The company's app-connected ball-rolling gadgets are great fun, but refurbishing them as the latest Star Wars 'bot was a stroke of genius. This is the droid you are looking for and you can read our BB-8 review to find out more.
Where to find it:
US: From $499 on
UK: From £129 on Amazon UK

2. Star Wars Mood Lights

Star Wars gadgets
If you are the sort of person whose mood flits between the Light and Dark side, depending on what day of the week it is, then these Star Wars mood lights are for you. You can choose from either the glowing red of Darth Vader's helmet or StormTrooper calming light. The best bit about them is there's no switch, so you turn them on by touching them while pretending you are using the Force.
Where to find it:
US: From $50 on Amazon US
UK: From £29 on Amazon UK

3. Star Wars Lightsaber Portable Charger

Star Wars gadgets
Is the Force not strong with your phone's battery? Then get yourself a portable battery charger that is a small-scale replica of Vader's weapon in Episode IV. If that doesn't entice you, then this will: it also doubles up as a torch. A TORCH! Perfect for those looking to head into the Light side. Sorry.
Where to find it:
US: From $50 at Brando
UK: From £49 at The Foundry

4. Turtle Beach Star Wars X-Wing Pilot Headset

Star Wars gadgets
Turtle Beach is up there with the best when it comes to movie and game tie-ins and its Star Wars range of headsets are no different. Our favourite is the X-Wing pilot variant which is a new style for its Ear Force Recon 50 range. Pair these up with a game like Star Wars: Battlefront and we bet you will be making X-Wing flying noises within seconds.
Where to find it:
US: From $64 at Amazon US
UK: From £39 at Amazon UK

5. HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook

Star Wars gadgets
HP has decided to launch a Star Wars inspired notebook that has been modelled on the look of Rylo Ken, one of the big bads in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Well, when we say modelled, it's had a funky red backlight added to the keyboard and the mapping system that helps Luke blow up the Death Star in The New Hope is etched on to the trackpad. It's also been given a lovely roughed up look and has images from the films carved into it.
Where to find it:
US: From $680 at Amazon US
UK: From £599 at Amazon UK

6. Star Wars Old Republic gaming mouse

Star Wars gadgets
Razer hasn't got any Force Awaken tie-ins but its Old Republic range of accessories is inspired, if rather hard to get hold of. The first on our list is an Old Republic-styled gaming mouse. On it are 17 buttons to help with all your gaming needs and such a low latency that Razer reckons you can wield the device as smoothly as you would a lightsaber. You also get given the choice of Sith or Old Republic emblems which look great when backlit.
Where to find it:
US: From $149 at Amazon US
UK: From £129 at Game UK

7. Star Wars Old Republic keyboard

Star Wars gadgets
Razer's Old Republic keyboard is a masterclass in Star Wars tie-ins but is ultra rare to find. Each key has been given an Old Republic flourish, there's some great-looking tactile keys and the LCD panel has been given interchangeable symbols, so you can swap sides during battle if you really want to.
Where to find it:
Learn more at

8. Sky Star Wars remote

Star Wars gadgets
Given that UK broadcaster Sky currently has a whole channel dedicated to Star Wars, it was inevitable that some sort of Star Wars related tie-in would happen. And it has in the form of a number of rebranded remote controls. Our favourite is the R2-D2 one, but you can also press the buttons of C3P0 and others.
Where to find it:
UK: Get it from Sky's store for £24.99

9. Star Wars PS4 bundle

Star Wars gadgets
The PlayStation 4 was always destined for the Dark Side. The hulking, blocky look of the thing meant it was never going to be a rebel machine. This special edition is a great gift for any Star Wars fan - the side is embossed with Darth Vader's profile and the controller is tinged with black and red, colours any Sith lord would approve of. Alongside this you also get Star Wars: Battlefront. Impressive. Most Impressive.
Where to find it:
US: Get it from $350 at Amazon US
UK: Get it from £250 at Amazon UK

10. The Force Awakens Millennium Falcon Quad

Star Wars gadgets
Han Solo's ship is as much a character in Star Wars as the rest of the franchise's motley crew. And now you can have one of your very own that flies, albeit with the little help of a remote control - one that looks just like the ship you are piloting! This drone comes equipped with four propellers to help with stability, although we all know the Falcon has never really had a smooth ride.
Where to find it:
US: Get a similar drone from $100 at Amazon US
UK: Get it from £134 at Amazon UK

11. Star Wars: Complete Blu-ray Collection

Star Wars gadgets
The Star Wars Blu-ray was one of the most anticipated releases for the format when it was released back in 2011. You can read about how it was made in our behind-the-scenes look, but they aren't perfect. The transfer of all six movies is pristine but the versions on the disc are of the special editions, complete with George Lucas' CGI tinkerings. The package is at least extensive and houses some fantastic archive footage.
Where to find it:
US: From $80 at Amazon US
UK: From £70 at Amazon UK

12. Disney Infinity 3.0: Star Wars Pack

Star Wars gadgets
Disney Infinity is the sort of game that appeals to both the collector and gamer in you. The game is a sandbox adventure that brings toys to life: you get both a playset and action figures with this starter pack. For more adventures, you do need to buy more figures and playsets, so this could end up being a costly way to play a Star Wars game, but it's a lot of fun.
Where to find it:
US: Get it from $50 at Amazon US
UK: Get it from £22 at Amazon UK

13. R2-D2 Interactive Remote Control Robotic Droid

Star Wars gadgets
Ah, R2. BB-8 may try and give Luke's droid a run for its money, but our heart will always be with R2-D2. When it is not being a bit of a dick and pretending that it can't fly, it's housing secret messages that can bring a galactic empire to its knees and has some audacious lock-picking skills. This interactive droid has over 1,000 programmable combinations and is controlled by remote. Lovely stuff.
Where to find it:
US: Get it from $240 at Amazon US
UK: Get it from £150 at Amazon UK

14. R2-D2 Moving Refrigerator

Star Wars gadgets
Unfortunately this R2-D2 fridge is available in Japan only but it's too good not to be included on this list. It's a fridge styled as Luke's faithful 'bot that you can move by the Force - well, remote control. R2-D2 proved himself to be adept in the Star Wars movies time and time again. But, handing Han an ice-cold one after a space battle would have made R2 that little bit more awesome.
Where to find it:

15. Google Cardboard: Star Wars Edition

Star Wars gadgets
Google Cardboard is a genius idea by Page and Co. It's a low-budget way to get VR to the masses - exactly what the technology needs to enter the mainstream. And, because it's made of cardboard, it can be rebranded and remodelled on the cheap. The Star Wars versions of Cardboard look decent and the Force Awakens VR app will immerse yourself in a Galaxy Far, Far Away in just 12 Parsecs.
Where to find it: Get it from the Google Store
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Running Man of Tech: Could you run 10k every other day in 2016?
Running Man of Tech: Could you run 10k every other day in 2016?
If you're a runner then I wonder if you're feeling like me at the moment. A bit listless and directionless - not sure of the point of running at all other than a vague notion that you should be doing it.
If you regularly run races then you'll have a sense of what I'm talking about. It's the 'Runner's blues' on a larger scale: all the effort done, the event over and the realisation you've got no reason to run anymore.
I know it's just because I'm at the end of the year, and looking back at what I've achieved over the last 12 months, I'm pretty chirpy. I finally broke the 40 minute 10k barrier, competed in my first (well, technically second) triathlon without dying and finally joined my local running club.
So that's good. But any runner will tell you that achievement is a fickle beast: on the one hand, she gives you the warm, fuzzy memory to enjoy and on the other, she makes you wonder, well... what's next?
I started to think. Could 2016 be the year I finally take on the ultra distance? Do a proper marathon? (I don't really think one on a treadmill will really count).
But those were the same goals I idly had for 2015, which doesn't feel very progressive. Then a few days late I got an email from Smashrun, the service I use to track all my running stats, letting me know there was a bevy of new badges on offer.
For those that don't know, Smashrun tracks your progress with every run by sucking in the data from your running watch / app to pore over, and gives you badges for all different kinds of achievements: running harder, longer, earlier, more regularly with ever-increasing difficulty.
Man, the new list was horrendous. Running further month on month, doing it around the world and strapping the trainers on every day to name but a few - it was a massive list.
It seemed insane - impossible, even - and I wondered if I'd ever get around to completing them all.
Then came the stupid thought. The one that usually precursors a decision that risks friendships, tests relationships, pushes the boundaries of injury and is just, well, totally dumb:
What if I could get EVERY badge in 2016, do it all in 12 months?
I looked at the list of badges left to achieve again and had another wobble. You'll see what I mean if I lay out the main highlights of what I'd have to do:
  1. Run every day.
  2. Run 10k every OTHER day
  3. Run in 10 countries and four corners of the globe
  4. Complete my first ultra marathon
  5. Run a marathon in under 2:55
  6. Do a run that packed in over 2,500 metres of ascent
  7. Run 300 miles in a single month
And those are just a few of the challenges. There are LOADS more* and, frankly they terrify the life out of me - even the first point above (and especially the second one) presents logistical difficulties that I don't think I could iron out.
And that's without thinking about injury, illness and a million other reasons that would mean I couldn't run a single day and ruin the whole thing. I also have no idea how I'll get to all those countries and their locations (or how I'd ever afford it).
But... but.... but. There's that little flicker that refuses to die, the thought of how amazing it would be to hit them all. How it would give me a new focus each day and teach me new things about running that would be impossible to achieve normally.
That's why I've written this column. I need your help to know if this is a stupid idea that could ruin everything and make me resent running for the rest of my life, or whether it's the very definition of what running is all about: finding an obstacle that's brilliantly stupid and just running right over it for no reason other than I just can.
You're probably wondering where technology fits into all this, as that's probably why you've come here in the first place.
The structure of this makes that part easy: I'll do a monthly group test of tech from the newest watches to apps to tech-enabled socks, where I'll wear / use four gadgets and try each out for a week, giving you the insights that you can't get with an average review.
I won't lie - the idea excites the hell out of me. And scares me too the bone - even the daily planning alone will be horrendous, and that's before I even work out the logistical nightmares present.
But... maybe. Just maybe.
*You can check out the full list here.

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