Tuesday, December 29, 2015

IT News Head Lines (Techradar) 30/12/2015


BMW to show gesture-based controls at CES
BMW to show gesture-based controls at CES
BMW announced today that it will be showing off a new gesture-based interface at CES next week that will allow drivers to control certain features of their vehicle with a simple swipe of their hand.
This technology, dubbed AirTouch, allows functions such as music playback, navigation, and phone communication to be controlled with hand gestures.
AirTouch uses a group of sensors located between the car console and interior mirror to ensure hand motions can be read without the need to take eyes off the road to fumble with a smartphone or a built-in touchscreen.
A special button located on the steering wheel helps speed up inputs when using AirTouch. While one hand makes the gestures to navigate though menus, the other hand confirms selections with the button, ensuring that the "touchless" system works quickly without having to take a hand off the wheel.
"AirTouch allows the display in a vehicle to be operated like a touchscreen without actually having to make contact with the surface," said BMW in an official release. "This allows the driver to focus all their concentration on the road ahead."
No stranger to gesture controls, AirTouch greatly expands on BMW's announcement at last year's CES, where the company showed off simpler, finger-based gestures for commands such as changing volume and taking calls.
While the finger-based control scheme ultimately became a feature on the BMW 7 Series, BMW claims that AirTouch takes "another big leap forward" by offering 3D controls and a wide, panoramic display.
While it remains unseen exactly how AirTouch will work in practice, we can't wait for CES to get here so we can get behind the wheel and pretend to be in Minority Report.

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Record players and instant film were Amazon best-sellers this holiday
Record players and instant film were Amazon best-sellers this holiday
'Tis the season to be retro, as a turntable and instant film became among Amazon's best-selling products this holiday.
Specifically, the Jensen JTA-230 3-Speed Stereo Turntable was the best-selling piece of home audio tech this Christmas, according to Amazon's post-holiday debriefing, while Fujifilm's INSTAX Mini Instant Film two-pack reigned supreme in the camera department.
The semi-recent resurgence of vinyl records may have played a role in the Jensen turntable's success, with the record player standing out among Amazon's other top-selling (though far less analog) sound systems, which included the Yamaha V677 Receiver and the SONOS Play:1 smart speaker set.
High sales of instant film were equally anachronistic, sharing the spotlight with high-tech offerings like the GoPro HERO4 Silver as Amazon's best-selling item in its camera department.
This holiday was also a watershed year for Amazon's own products, with massive growth reported for both Amazon's premium membership service, Amazon Prime, and sales for Amazon's line of tablets, particularly the Fire, Fire Kids Edition, and Fire HD 6.
"This was another great holiday season to be a Prime member," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in the official press release. "We welcomed three million new members [to Amazon Prime] in the third week of December alone."
The expedited shipping that comes with an Amazon Prime subscription must have come in handy for several customers making last-minute holiday purchases, with the service reaching a record number of packages shipped worldwide this holiday, reaching to 185 different countries.

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The biggest space moments and discoveries of 2015
The biggest space moments and discoveries of 2015


Mars solar wind
Much of the world's attention right now might be focused on the goings-on of a galaxy far, far away, but a lot happened in our own humble galaxy this year that's worthy of celebration as well.
Following setbacks like the end of the Space Shuttle program, space exploration has awakened with renewed force. Summer in particular grabbed headlines, as startling images came in from a demoted planet, a huge earth-like world was discovered many light years-away, and we learned that one of our planetary neighbors isn't quite as hostile to life as we thought.
We've compiled a list of the most noteworthy discoveries here, but big news from the cosmos was still coming in as recently as last week. At the rate things have been going, there's still plenty of time for another celestial shocker before 2016 arrives.

SpaceX rocket does the impossible

With only a handful of days left in the year, a new era in space exploration began last week when Elon Musk's SpaceX firm completed a vertical landing of the 15-story first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket upon its return from around 200 kilometers up in space. All previous attempts by SpaceX occurred on barges in the ocean with no success, but December 21's landing took place on a landing pad at Florida's Cape Canaveral without a hitch. You can watch the jubilant footage here.
The rocket also successfully deployed 11 communications satellites into orbit.
Why is this such a big deal? Rocket stages and engines usually burn up upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere. With reusable rockets, though, the cost of space travel goes down significantly. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin company also managed to land one of its shorter New Shepard rockets in West Texas last month, but the stakes were considerably different since the New Shepard only reaches a maximum height of around 102 kilometers and travels about half as fast as the Falcon 9.
YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCBE8ocOkAQ

Pluto is endlessly fascinating, planet or not

Years after being demoted as a planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), Pluto got its revenge of sorts when 2006's New Horizon probe arrived in July and revealed that the far-flung sphere and its largest moon Charon were much more than barren, forgettable rocks.
The resulting photos show a surprisingly active planet, crowned with polar caps made of nitrogen and methane gas and stamped with a heart-shaped plain that's mysteriously free of craters. We now know that Charon is relatively smooth as well, and dominated by a large red splotch that's informally known as "Mordor." Until recently, the news from NASA focused on "big picture" images from the probe, but far more detailed photos have started to pour in over the last few weeks.

We learned a lot about comets - by riding one

The European Space Agency's Philae probe made headlines last year when it became the first probe to make a soft landing on a comet's nucleus, but the fanfare fell flat after a botched landing and weak batteries sent Philae into Safe Mode soon after. It awoke again on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in June, though, shooting off several transmissions to its orbiting companion spacecraft Rosetta before going silent again in July.
That and other data gathered by the two crafts change our perception of comets. The discovery that water found on the comet has more mass than that found on Earth, for instance, appears to disprove a theory that comet bombardment originally brought water to our home planet. New findings suggest that comets may have helped spark life, though, as Philae discovered 16 organic compounds on its host - enough to create a "primordial soup" in the right conditions.

There's flowing water on Mars, sometimes

Water on Mars
Observers have been imagining that water exists on Mars ever since Percival Lowell mapped out supposed "canals" on our ruddy neighbou's surface in the 1890s. Decades of bleak photos of the planet's harsh surface dampened such hopes, but NASA revealed in September that liquid water does, in fact, still flow down Mars' valleys and craters in the summer months.
No one really knows where the water comes from or if there's any life associated with it, but infrared data from spectrometers and numerous photos depicting "slope linea" attest that surface water exists beyond a doubt. It's also in the air, and the European Space Agency and Russia's Roscomos recently revealed that they'll use a 2018 mission to experiment with a way to pull water from the atmosphere for greenhouses and future human consumption.

We found a huge Earth-like planet

Most of the 1,000+ worlds found in the recent surge of planetary discovery have been either looming gas giants or situated in spots that would make living on them more than a little uncomfortable. In June, though, NASA announced the discovery of Kepler-452b, and it says it's the most Earth-like planet found to date.
Mind you, that doesn't necessarily mean it's carpeted with lush forests and vacation-worthy beaches. It could easily be as dead as disco, and its slightly larger size than Earth leads some scientists to doubt that it's even rocky. Everything else checks out, though, whether it's its cozy spot in the star's "habitable zone" or its pleasantly familiar 385-day year. Alas, Kepler-452b is 1,400 light years away, so don't expect a follow-up probe for more concrete data anytime soon.

There's probably a worldwide ocean under Enceladus

When it comes to the solar system, it seems as though there's water, water everywhere if we can only figure out how to look for it. Scientists have known for a while that Jupiter's moons Europa and Ganymede have subsurface oceans, but new data from the aging Cassini probe helps prove that one of Saturn's moons is a veritable waterworld of its own.
NASA already knew that over 100 polar geysers on Enceladus spew icy jets into space, but the new data show the moon wobbles in its orbit, which is almost certainly the effect of heavy tidal forces acting on a liquid global ocean below the icy surface. It gets better: recent samples from the plumes suggest that this relatively unknown corner of the solar system might be one of the best places to look for life aside from Earth.

Two guys are spending a full year in space

Years of science fiction and the relative frequency of modern space missions have accustomed many of us to the idea of long-term life on a spacecraft, but the truth is that until now almost all visits to space have lasted only a few weeks or months. But this year, American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko were sent up to see what happens when we stick around longer.
They're both spending a full year on the International Space Station in order to study the effects such long-term exposure to space has on the human body, and they're already a little more than eight months into the trip. Kelly in particular has become something of a Twitter celebrity on account of his frequent photo posts. As fun as it sounds, the danger is high - NASA claims that you'd need to fly from Los Angeles to New York 5,250 times to get the same radiation exposure Kelly and Kornienko are living through.

We got one of our best views of Titan to date

Saturn's Titan is the only moon in the solar system to have a thick atmosphere like we find on Earth, but it's usually smothered in an impenetrable toxic haze (sort of like what you'll sometimes find hovering above Beijing). We got one of our best views of Titan ever, though, when the Cassini probe shot by on November 13 to check out its surface in near-infrared wavelengths that allow better glimpses of the surface than straight visual images. The result? We now have our best photos to date of the dunes, rivers, and lakes that cover its surface.
Indeed, the new photos make it look almost habitable, but the catch is that the surface temperature hovers at around −179 °C and all those lakes and rivers contain methane instead of water. It's not exactly the closest imagery we've seen from Titan, though. Back in 2005, the Huygens spacecraft beamed back images of the surface for 90 minutes before winking out into oblivion.

Trusty probe meets fiery death - on purpose

The MESSENGER probe spent four years hiding behind a heat shield while it studied the planet Mercury a mere 48 million kilometers or so from the sun, so it's only appropriate that it went out in a blaze of glory. Late in April, NASA willingly sent the probe to crash on a relatively smooth area of the surface at 14,000 kilometers per hour in the hopes that a scheduled 2024 probe from the European Space Agency and Japan will be able to study the visible effects of a relatively recent impact crater. The probe was responsible for almost everything we know about the closest planet to the sun, and it transmitted data until just 10 to 15 minutes before the end. As a farewell gift, it sent back a final set of colorful spectrometer images that yielded some insights into the planet's atmosphere and surface composition.

The bright spots of Ceres were demystified

When the Dawn space probe settled into orbit last March around Ceres (the largest body in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars), it sent back photos of mysterious bright spots pocking the dwarf planet's surface. Astronomers had known about a bright spot on Ceres ever since the Hubble Space Telescope captured blurry images of it back in 2003, but the mystery only intensified after Dawn revealed multiple such spots.
Humanity being humanity, some commentators insisted we were seeing the lights from alien cities. The truth, it seems, is a tad more mundane. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research claimed earlier this month that the spots largely originate from deposits of salty hexahydrite, a form of magnesium sulfate that's apparently mixing with briny frozen water on Ceres. Asteroid impacts bring the strange mix to the surface, and it ends up reflecting around 50% of the sunlight that hits it.

First 'supermoon' lunar eclipse in 33 years

Not all of the big events from space this year required fancy probes worth millions of dollars to enjoy directly: one, at least, was visible almost everywhere (apart from Asia and Australia) just by walking outside. September saw the most recent appearance of a "supermoon" lunar eclipse, which is a sensationalist-friendly nickname for a perigree full moon eclipse. Lunar eclipses themselves aren't terribly uncommon - there will be another one next March - but September's eclipse occurred when the moon was at or near its closest point to Earth, rendering the moon itself abnormally bright, large and red. Until this fall, we hadn't seen a supermoon lunar eclipse since 1982, and we won't see another until 2033. In other news, a solar eclipse occurred near Iceland in March, resulting in some fantastic photo opportunities.

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Mac Tips: How to fix Bluetooth problems on Mac
Mac Tips: How to fix Bluetooth problems on Mac
Got an Apple, Mac or iOS tech question? We have the answer.
There are few technologies in recent years that have become as prominent as Bluetooth. Our headphones, keyboards, even the mouse on our computer - many of them now rely on Bluetooth connectivity. This time we have a reader whose Bluetooth connection on his Mac is giving him trouble, however. We'll offer some advice to get it running again.


I have a late 2008 MacBook and recently bought a wireless trackpad for it. The problem is my Mac's Bluetooth has a squiggly line through it. I tried an SMC and PRAM reset to no avail. Any ideas how to restore Bluetooth functionality on my Mac?


Whenever there is a squiggly line through the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar, it means that Bluetooth is currently unavailable. This can be caused by any number of issues, including the hardware just not being reachable. Occasionally these issues can crop up with any wireless hardware, and the Mac is certainly no exception.
Bluetooth preferences
Typically whenever you experience this issue, you simply need to reboot the computer to fix the Bluetooth unavailable issue; there's no need to reset SMC or PRAM - only a simple restart. If, however, you continue to experience this issue, you can trash the Bluetooth preference files and let OS X reconfigure it:
1. Close System Preferences if opened.
2. Open the Finder and press Command + Shift + G.
3. Enter /Library/Preferences/ in the text field and press Go.
4. Find com.apple.Bluetooth.plist (and also com.apple.Bluetooth.plist.lock, if available) in the opened directory.
5. Delete those file(s).
6. Shut down your Mac, waiting a few seconds before turning it back on.
7. Navigate back to the System Preferences > Bluetooth section and ensure Bluetooth is turned on, and re-pair all of your Bluetooth devices.
Got an Apple tech question? Email ask@maclife.com.

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Another leak reckons the Samsung Galaxy S7 will arrive in two sizes
Another leak reckons the Samsung Galaxy S7 will arrive in two sizes
Not even the Christmas break can stop Samsung phones rumours, with a new report reckoning that we won't see just one Samsung Galaxy S7 but two, when the phone range is released in 2016.
This isn't the first time we have heard rumours about two different sizes. Back in September Asia Today reported that we would see two versions of the phone, one with a 5.2-inch screen and one with a larger 5.8-inch screen.
Now South Korea's Electronic Times reckons that there are indeed two versions: one will have a 5.2-inch screen and the other will have a 5.5-inch Edge screen.
To compare, the current Samsung Galaxy S6 has a 5.1-inch screen and the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ has a 5.7-inch screen.

On the Edge

In all, according to the report, 5 million S7 units will be made: 3.3 million of the smaller screened version and the rest of the production line dedicated to the curved version.
ET goes on to note that the Samsung Galaxy S7 will go into mass production in February, which tallies up with the release date details we have been hearing about the device.
As with all rumours, you need to pinch the salt here. It would be strange if Samsung decided to slim down the Edge range to just one larger phone, given its popularity.
But just offering two versions of the S7, The Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, will certainly cut down any confusion with the range.

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How to take manual control of your camera
How to take manual control of your camera


How to take control of your camera
You can get some great shots with your camera left on fully automatic mode, and sometimes automatic settings can be real time-savers that let you concentrate properly on the picture.
But your camera is only a machine. It can calculate what it thinks is the right exposure, the best white balance setting and even what to focus on, but it doesn't really know what you want and it can easily get it wrong.
So by taking over some or all of the control yourself, you can get much better pictures. Not every camera offers all the manual controls in our list, but you don't need them all for every shot. Often, you can dramatically improve a picture with just one of them.
We've used a DSLR for our examples, and while lesser cameras might not offer the same manual control over shutter speed and aperture, say, you'll still be able to adjust the exposure, focus point and more, and this applies to point and compact cameras and even smartphones
You'll also find out some of the things your camera is doing behind the scenes, and why it's worth upgrading to one that offers more control if you decide to get serious about your photography.
How to take control of your camera

Step 1: Image size and quality

How to take control of your camera
This is the first and most important thing to get right, and you'll find these settings on the camera's main shooting menu.
The first choice is only available on higher-end cameras like this Nikon DSLR – it's the choice between shooting raw (unprocessed) images you're going to process later on your computer, or regular JPEG images you can use and share straight away.
If you shoot JPEGs you need to pay attention to 1) the image size and 2) the image quality
1.The image size is the resolution of the final picture in pixels. Unless you definitely need only a small picture for Facebook or a web page, for example, you should always use the camera's maximum resolution. Otherwise, why did you pay all that money for a camera with all those megapixels?
2.The image quality setting changes the amount of compression applied to your pictures. If you really do need to reduce the size of your pictures to fit more on to your memory card, you could consider swapping from 'Fine' to 'Standard', but don't drop the quality to 'Basic' because it will start to show.
But really, don't start juggling the image size and quality settings to save space – please just go out and get a bigger memory card.

Step 2: The mode dial

How to take control of your camera
Almost all cameras have a mode dial for choosing the camera's basic operating mode. A simple point and shoot camera will typically have a green 'full auto' mode, often with a little green camera icon. In this mode the camera takes care of everything.
Usually there will also be a 'P', or 'program' mode. This gives much more control over the settings, but the camera still chooses what combination of shutter speed and lens aperture to use to get the right exposure.
On more advanced compact cameras, mirrorless cameras and DSLRs, you'll also get 'A', 'S' and 'M' modes. In 'A' mode you get to choose the lens aperture, then the camera sets a shutter speed automatically go give you the right exposure. In 'S' mode you choose the shutter speed and the camera automatically sets the lens aperture for correct exposure. In 'M' mode, you choose both the lens aperture and shutter speed and it's up to you to get the exposure right – though the camera will still advise you.
Simple point and shoot cameras don't have these advanced manual settings, but they do have 'scene' modes designed for specific subjects like action shots, landscapes and portraits. It's still just like shooting on full auto, but with the camera settings adjusted to better suit the subject.

Step 3: Shutter speed

How to take control of your camera
The shutter speed is one of the most important camera settings because it controls or prevents blur in the picture. The first and most important thing is to stop camera shake, and this means making sure the shutter speed doesn't fall too low. Even with an image stabilized lens, a shutter speed of 1/30 sec is marginal, and you need higher shutter speeds than this with telephotos.
You'll also need the right shutter speed to 'freeze' fast moving objects like racing cars or athletes – often 1/1000 sec or faster. At other times, you may want some deliberate 'creative blur'. For example, you'd use a slower shutter speed and 'pan' with your subject to keep a racing car sharp but blur the background.
You can control the shutter speed by setting the camera to 'S', or 'shutter priority' mode, if available, or by using 'M' (manual).
The camera will always tell you the current shutter speed as you line up a shot, either on a top-mounted LCD (on this camera), in the viewfinder or on the rear LCD display.

Step 4: ISO (sensitivity)

How to take control of your camera
If you're shooting in dim light, the camera will need to use slower shutter speeds, which increases the risk of camera shake or subject blur. You can compensate by opening up the lens aperture to a wider setting, but you quickly reach a point where the shutter speed is too slow, even with the lens 'wide open'.
This is where you need a higher ISO, or sensitivity setting. This is like 'turning up the volume' to compensate for the low light level. The image quality starts to suffer – you lose some fine detail and get more digital 'noise' – but it's worth it to get sharp pictures.
You'll notice that we haven't talked about flash, and that's for two reasons:
1.Built-in flash is weak, harsh and produces horrible looking pictures. With today's high-sensitivity sensors you're better off leaving the flash switched off and increasing the ISO setting for more natural results. Many point and shoot cameras now have a dedicated 'flash off' mode on the mode dial.
2.Flash can be a very effective and creative tool, provided you use a powerful external flash fixed to the camera's hotshoe or fired remotely, but this is a tricky and technical topic that needs a how-to article of its own.

Step 5: Lens aperture

How to take control of your camera
The lens aperture, or 'f-stop', is important for two reasons. On a simple level you can use it to balance up the exposure if you want a particular shutter speed. Let's say your camera indicates an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/8, but you actually want to shoot at 1/250 sec instead. This would reduce the exposure by 1EV (1 'stop' in old-fashioned terms), so you'd need to increase the aperture setting by 1EV to compensate – you'd need f/5.6 instead of f/8. In shutter-priority mode, the camera will make this adjustment automatically; in manual mode you'd have to do it yourself.
But the lens aperture also affects the depth of field, or near-to-far sharpness in your pictures. A wide aperture setting like f/2.8, for example, is great for portraits because your subject is sharp but the background goes out of focus. But for landscapes you need a small lens aperture, like f/11, so that objects near to the camera and the distant horizon are both sharp, even though they're far apart.
So if getting the depth of field right is more important than the shutter speed, you can set the camera to 'A' or aperture priority mode – it will automatically choose the right shutter speed to go with the lens aperture you've chosen.

Step 6: EV compensation

How to take control of your camera
Not every camera offers a manual exposure mode, but every camera will let you override the exposure chosen by the camera. You do this with the EV compensation control, increasing the compensation to make a picture lighter, or reduce it to make the picture darker.
You need this more often than you think. First, there are those times when the camera's metering system has interpreted a brightly lit scene wrongly, so that you got a silhouette when you were expecting a backlight portrait, for example.
Second, and surprisingly common, are situations when you're photographing subjects which are intrinsically light or dark, like a wedding dress or a black cat. Your camera has no idea what it's looking at and just hopes everything is a kind of average grey tone, so this is where you need to take over to make white subjects look properly white, and black ones properly black.
The details vary from one camera to another, but there's a universal +/- icon used by practically all of them. On this Nikon DSLR you hold down the EV compensation button on the top of the camera and turn a control dial on the back.
Our Nikon shows the compensation applied on its top-mounted LCD, but you can also see it displayed on the rear screen. Here, we've applied a setting of +1EV to make the picture come out lighter.
How to take control of your camera

Step 7: White balance

How to take control of your camera
The camera uses white balance adjustments to counteract the color shifts you see under artificial lighting and sometimes in shady conditions outdoors. The physical camera settings don't change, but the way the image data is processed does. The camera uses the white balance setting to discard color data it doesn't need and modify the rest, so it's important to get it right.
Auto white balance works pretty well in mixed artificial light and daylight, but there are two particular situations where it can give the wrong effect.
1.If you're shooting landscapes, the color of the lighting is often an important part of the scene, not something you want the camera to correct, so use the 'Daylight' or 'Direct sun' white balance preset to force the camera into a fixed, neutral color rendition.
2.If you're shooting under fluorescent or tungsten lighting, the camera's auto white balance setting often won't apply a big enough correction and your shots will still look yellow. In these situations, use one of the camera's artificial light white balance presets.

Step 8: Drive mode

How to take control of your camera
On a simple level, the camera's drive mode setting is there so that you can choose between single-shot photography or continuous shooting (burst mode), but makers usually include the self-timer option here and, in the case of this Nikon DSLR, a Quiet (Q) mode and a mirror-up (MUP) mode to reduce vibrations in macro photography.
Some cameras (like this one) offer a choice of continuous shooting speeds (CL – continuous low speed, CH – continuous high speed).
The self-timer, by the way, is useful for more than just selfies! If the camera's on a tripod to keep it still and steady, you don't want to jog it by pressing the shutter release button, and you may not have a remote release to fire it with. Instead, you can use the self-timer for shake free shots – you press the shutter button to start the timer, then step away and wait. Any shake introduced by pressing the button will have died down by the time the shutter fires.

Step 9: Focus mode

How to take control of your camera
Autofocus modes on cameras can be very confusing! That's because there are actually two settings you need to be aware of, not one.
The first thing to check is WHEN the camera will focus. In single-shot AF mode, often labelled 'AF-S', the camera will focus when you half-press the shutter button and then wait for you to take the picture by pressing it the rest of the way. This is what you want for regular stills photography.
But in continuous AF mode, often labelled 'AF-C', the camera starts focusing when you half-press the shutter button, but carries on focusing all the time you keep it pressed, regardless of when or not you press it the rest of the way to take a picture. You use AF-C mode in the camera's continuous shooting mode, because it's designed to keep moving objects in focus while you shoot.
Some cameras offer an 'AF-A' mode which will try to choose the AF-S or AF-C modes automatically, depending on whether they detect movement in the subject – the trouble is that you're never quite sure what the camera is going to do, so we don't recommend it. The focus options on more advanced cameras will include an 'M' mode for manual focus.
Some cameras offer these options on an external dial or switch, some offer them in the menus. On this Nikon, there's an Auto/Manual focus switch by the lens and you press the centre button and turn a command dial to choose AF-S, AF-C or AF-A focus mode.
How to take control of your camera

Step 10: Focus point

How to take control of your camera
The last thing to check is WHAT the camera will focus on, and there's a choice here too. There will usually be an auto area AF option (or similar) where the camera chooses the focus point automatically. It will usually pick the object nearest the camera, and that's often the best choice, so it's handy if you're in a hurry.
But if you want more control you'll need the single-point AF mode (again, the terms vary from one camera to another). Here, you see a single autofocus point illuminated in the viewfinder or shown on the rear screen, and you can use the navigational thumbpad to change its position for shooting off-centre subjects.
Many cameras also offer a subject-tracking mode where they try to track moving subjects by moving the focus point. These are usually used in conjunction with the continuous autofocus mode and continuous shooting, or 'burst' mode.
As a rule of thumb, use auto area AF or single-point AF for single shots, and subject-tracking AF for continuous shooting.

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Updated: 18 best PS4 games - this generation's must-play titles
Updated: 18 best PS4 games - this generation's must-play titles


Almost two years into the Sony Playstation 4's life and its game developers are really hitting their stride now. We're seeing some fantastic games on the way, thanks to a rather spectacular showing at this year's E3.
But equally the PS4 has a lot of great games that you can play right now.
Some are pretty obvious, but there will be other that you might have missed out on. So we've got our Playstation 4 experts to curate a list of the absolute must-play games in the PS4's current catalog.
If you haven't played some of these yet then there's no time like the present. After all, the winter months are some of the best in terms of game releases and finding some time to finally catch up on that growing backlog.
So shut the curtains, block out the sun's radiated rays and settle down to some of the best gaming entertainment in console-land.
Let us know what you think though. Are there some blockbuster titles or hidden gems we've missed out?
Hit us up in the comments.

1. Grand Theft Auto V

Of heists and men...
Not only is it the best sandbox game on the platform, GTA V is also the best golf game, the best tennis sim, the undisputed virtual yoga champ, one of the best racers… it's even a pretty serviceable MMO.
We're used to scale and scope from Grand Theft Auto, but what Trevor, Franklin, and Michael bring us is a staggeringly well-realised city seen from three entirely different perspectives. Trevor, the maniacal rampage killer whom we discover to be in all of us when we play a Rockstar game; Franklin, the classic rags-to-riches character with street smarts and the ability to pull off a bandana; and Michael, the troubled criminal with a dysfunctional family and a beer gut to show for his life of violence.
However you play GTA V – a multiplayer muckabout, a story-driven third-person actioner, a flight sim – it reveals itself to be the best game on both this generation and the last.
See the best GTA V (PS4) deals

2. The Last Of Us Remastered

Naughty Dog's best, made better
The Last of Us Remastered
Many games have offered us post-apocalyptic visions of the future, but none have been as brutal, as believable, or as touching as Joel and Ellie's story.
It was near-perfect on PS3, but with current-gen's increased performance ceiling Naughty Dog found ways to ramp up the visual fidelity to 'drop the controller and stare' levels. A radical tonal departure from Uncharted's jovial treasure-hunting escapades, The Last Of Us Remastered demonstrates the California studio's ability to strike a darker mood, populating the overgrown ruins of its setting with a cast characterised by murky morals but still getting you to care for them like your own bessies.
See the best The Last of Us Remastered (PS4) deals

3. Bloodborne

Hope you don't have a swear jar
From Software's enigmatic and notoriously challenging Souls titles all hold critical and fan acclaim, but none are as stylistically interesting as the quasi-Industrial era Bloodborne.
It plays like an RPG set indelibly on a hidden difficulty mode with all the helpful text pop-ups removed, which is to say it requires more than a modicum of patience from the player.
But that's the point – in Bloodborne, you get out what you put into it. Victory's all the more rewarding when you've watched your enemy, memorised his attack patterns, struck at the opportune moment and prevailed via the game's impeccable melee combat.
See the best Bloodborne (PS4) deals

4. Batman: Arkham Knight

Waynes, pains and Batmobiles
Batman: Arkham Knight
It's a Batman simulator. You get to be Batman.
If you want to pretend you need more reasons than that alone to play it, how about the smugness of knowing it runs better and actually has more advanced graphical features on PS4 than PC? (For now, at least.)
Or the stellar track record Rocksteady has for peerless fisticuff-based combat, empowering gadgetry and dark storytelling? Or the playable Batmobile? In short, it's the complete superhero sim package, presented impeccably and unrelenting in its delivery of show-stopping cinematic set-pieces. Even standing on top of a building watching your cape dance gently in the breeze makes you feel cool.
See the best Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4) deals

5. Destiny

Out of this world online multiplayer
Best PS4 games
Calling Destiny ambitious is a disservice to the game. It's an ambient world (er, galaxy) that operates in real time. It combines single- and multiplayer into a single campaign, seamlessly transitioning between the two. It's from the team that made Halo, so while Destiny may not have the iconic face of Master Chief plastered on the box, it will have the same creative minds doing what they do best: sci-fi.
So what do you do? Imagine a first-person shooter-inspired World of Warcraft. You'll create a character and build him/her from a rookie enforcer to earth's savior by unlocking abilities and improving your expertise with one of the four main types of weapons. Before long you'll be haunting the same locales for a rare weapon drop and partying up with friends to take down some of the toughest space brutes this side of a Sith Temple.
See the best Destiny (PS4) deals

6. Guitar Hero: Live

Come for the career, stay for the online multiplayer
Best PS4 games
The Guitar Hero franchise needed a break. Like a band that's been touring for too long, the act had gotten stale, repetitive and quite frankly, expensive, to keep up with. Guitar Hero Live is the return to form for the series, hitting all the right notes while still forging its own path.
One of my biggest criticisms of past entries is that they relied on pricey DLC to keep the show going after the story mode ended. Guitar Hero Live bucks that trend by offering new songs for free on its MTV-esque music video channel called GHTV. You'll still have to shell out to unlock every song Activision's ever put out, but the solid mix of tunes will forever end the never-ending scrolling through setlists that pervades parties.
See the best Guitar Hero: Live (PS4) deals

7. Fallout 4

The homecoming we've waited seven years for
Best PS4 games
All things considered, this is one of the best games Bethesda has made. It ticks all the boxes: a massive, detail-oriented open-world; still-fantastic tenets of looting and shooting; a story filled with intriguing side quests and subplots that feel like they matter; and of course a classic soundtrack that brings it all to life. In many ways it's the game we've been waiting for since Fallout 3 steered the series away from its top-down role-playing roots. Not only is the world itself wider, but the plot is better, and more digestible, than any of the games before it. There's still a sense of mystery about what's happening but you no longer have to dig forever and a day through terminals to piece it together.
Welcome home, stranger.
See the best Fallout 4 (PS4) deals

8. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3

Multiplayer doesn't get any better than this
Best games on PS4
We do a lot of whining about Call of Duty. We roll our eyes and joke how there's a new one every year and how there's, like, no difference. We say all these things and yet every year we know how we're going to spend the month of November: fragging friends and family in the latest Call of Duty game.
Black Ops 3 deserves a spot in your gaming armory for two reasons: it has awesome multiplayer - and there's almost no better way to blow off steam than going 10 kills in a row and calling in an airstrike on a team of people you've never met before but suddenly want to beat in the worst way imaginable - plus, it has one of the greatest game modes ever conceived, zombies.
If shooting zombies straight in the face doesn't you feel like it's money well spent then nothing will.
See the best Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 deals

9. NBA 2K15

Hate basketball? Here's the game that'll change everything
NBA 2K15
It's not that an advanced understanding of the sport is irrelevant in NBA 2K – you'll appreciate its depth and ultimately get a lot more out of it if you're an aficionado of the real sport – but rather that it's so good, the uninitiated will want to learn both the game and the sport.
Other sports sims attempt to create the illusion of a wider universe beyond game day, but Visual Concepts' game goes way above and beyond. Its MyCareer mode plays out like a star-studded series of One Tree Hill, tracking your user-created baller's progress from rookie to All-Star and league MVP via a ridiculous number of celebrity cameos, dressing room dramas and tough moral decisions.
It's Mass Effect in Air Jordans, essentially.
See the best NBA 2K15 (PS4) deals

10. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Stories don't come bigger than this
The Witcher 3
Geralt didn't have the smoothest of entries to PS4, but after some heavy patching and a lot of angry words about visual downgrades, we're left with an RPG boasting tremendous scope and storytelling.
Oh, and combat. And don't forget Gwent, the in-game card game. And there's the crafting to get stuck into. And the alchemy.
You're rarely short of things to entertain yourself with in The Witcher 3's quasi-open world, then, and all the better that you're in a universe that involves the supernatural without leaning on the same old Tolkien fantasy tropes. Invigorating stuff.
See the best The Witcher 3 (PS4) deals

11. Battlefield Hardline

You have the right to remain violent
Battlefield Hardline
The era of military shooter over-saturation has long passed – so naturally, Battlefield's latest outing ditches the camo for riot gear and lets you joyride cars (and for a while, inexplicably, a sofa) in a well-balanced and surprisingly class-focussed take on the cops and robbers fantasy.
It has its tech grumbles – multiplayer is notably lower in visual fidelity than the solo campaign – but it remains PS4's best shooter. Weapon feedback is impeccable, the story isn't tripe, and multiplayer's been translated thoughtfully into a new context.
Killzone Shadow who now? Call of Whaaa?
See the best Battlefield Hardline (PS4) deals

12. Shovel Knight

A retro throwback? Dig a little deeper
Shovel Knight
Sharing surface level similarities with Towerfall Ascension, Shovel Knight also eschews polygons for beautifully evocative arrangements of pixels that'll make you pine for a bygone era – until you realise that it's actually a hell of a lot more fun to play than the Castlevanias et al that influence it.
A knowing and challenging RPG complete with idyllic villages, impossible boss fights and (mercifully) mid-level saves just to remind you what decade you're in, it's among the best-executed hybrids of old-school punishment and modern amusement in years.
PS4's version gets a wee pixelated Kratos cameo, too.
See the best Shovel Knight (PS4) deals

13. Rayman Legends

Armless fun with PlayStation's most insipid icon
Rayman Legends
Let's get this out of the way early doors: Rayman is a dial tone of a character, beloved by no one since his very first outing on PS1.
Rayman Legends though? An absolute gem.
Brought to life by the gorgeous UbiArt Framework engine (which also powered Valiant Hearts: The Great War, among others), it's a distinct treat for the eyes. But it's the limbless wonder's level design that really sets Legends apart from other PS4 platformers.
You'll tumble and leap through Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations. You'll find yourself battling a dragon in perfect sync to a wordless cover of 'Black Betty.' You'll swoop and glide through hell, the ocean floor, and… holy damn, if you don't start to like the blithely smiling Rayman a little bit along the way.
You win this round, Ray.
See the best Rayman Legends (PS4) deals

14. Towerfall Ascension

Every arrow points in this pixel-perfect brawler's direction
Towerfall Ascension
"I didn't spend three hundred quid on a console for this," you say, gesturing at the lack of 8 X MSAA and god rays in Towerfall Ascension's artfully drawn 16-bit era environments, presumably having just left the Tate in disgust after realising Kandinsky's 'Swinging' is well below 1080p.
Yes, there's a small but vocal backlash against games who share this couchplay multiplayer meisterwerk's retro aesthetic, but let's leave them to miss out on the best two-player local experience the console has to offer.
Ostensibly it's simple enough: armed with a bow, some retrievable arrows and the ability to Mario-jump your opponent to death, two to four of you duel to the death. However, the depth and subtlety just keep on expanding, even after weeks of play.

15. Until Dawn

Every horror fan's fantasy
Until Dawn
If you've ever sat through a 90s horror movie shouting directions to the mindless idiots on-screen who are about to get eviscerated because they've all made such obviously stupid moves, then Until Dawn is the game for you.
To be fair the group of teenagers at the centre of the story have made their first mistake going up into an isolated, snowbound cabin with no phone reception, but from there on it's up to you how they interact, where they go and, essentially, who dies.
It's an experience not to be missed.
See the best Until Dawn (PS4) deals

16. Assassin's Creed Syndicate

London calling
Assassin's Creed Syndicate
The pains of the previous games have meant a good few gamers have steered clear of the latest round of Templar / Assassins tomfoolery. Which is a damned shame because Syndicate is one of the best Assassin's Creed games to be released in the last few years.
With a pair of protagonists to choose from, either Jacob or Evie Frye, you steadily take over a beautifully realised version of Victorian London with a light touch of GTA-style chase-action thrown in for good measure.
Even if you've grown weary of the convoluted plot, Syndicate is still well worth a bash.
See the best Assassin's Creed: Syndicate (PS4) deals

17. Life is Strange

There's always time for a little game...
Life is Strange
Life is Strange is emblematic of episodic gaming, beautifully crafted. Sure, Telltale's games have been great examples too, but the writing and themes of Dontnod Entertainment's tale of teenage angst and temporal superpowers is something else.
With a story where your actions have real, and far-reaching, consequences it can be rather tense when it comes to making your choice. And trying to figure out all the possible consequences given the time-shifting fun makes them all the more tricky.
See the best Life is Strange (PS4) deals

18. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

How many Snakes does it take to change a lightbulb?
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Okay, so Hideo Kojima's last game for Konami - and his last ever Metal Gear game - might be a little tough for the MGS n00b to get to grips with, but it's still one of the best stealth-action games ever crafted. The open-world shenanigans will satisfy all your behind-enemy-lines / Rambo fantasies and probably confuse you with crazy plot twists and a million characters all with the same gravel-toned voices.
But hey, that's all part of its charm, right?
See the best Metal Gear Solid V (PS4) deals

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How Microsoft beat Google at understanding images with machine learning
How Microsoft beat Google at understanding images with machine learning

Introduction and skipping layers

Elon Musk is only the latest investor in artificial intelligence, helping to fund a big-name roster of researchers who promise to change the field. Meanwhile, Microsoft Research is actually doing it, by combining the popular deep networks that everyone from Google to Facebook is also using for machine learning with other mathematical techniques, and beating them all in the latest round of the annual ImageNet image recognition competition.
ImageNet tests how well computers can recognise which of 1,000 different categories the 100,000 test images belong in, and where in the photo the object being recognised is.
Microsoft's new neural network is as good as the other networks at spotting what's in the photo (which is often better than an untrained human at telling the difference between two very similar breeds of dog, which is one of the tests), but it's twice as good at working out where in the photo it needs to look.

Deeper still

Everyone is trying to make image recognition more accurate by using deeper networks – last year, the team was working with neural networks that had 20 layers but this year they used a network with 152 layers.
"We call this extremely deep neural network 'ultra-deep learning'," Microsoft researcher Jian Sun told techradar pro. All 152 layers of the network are in a single computer, with an eight-GPU Nvidia graphics card. "The network has 152 layers because of the limitations of current GPU resources," Sun told us, adding that "we're very optimistic about advances in GPUs so that we can have an even deeper network".
The problem is, it's hard to train very deep networks because the feedback (telling the system when it's right or wrong) gets lost as it goes through the layers.
"The way these things learn is you feed data into the lowest layers of the network, the signals propagate to the top layer and then you provide feedback as to whether the learning was good or not," Peter Lee, head of Microsoft Research explained to us.
"It's very much like rote learning in school. You try to solve a problem and you're told by the teacher if your answer was good or bad and if it was good, there's reinforcement on that answer. The reinforcement signal is sent back down through the layers. The problems has been, those signals would get exceedingly weak after just a few layers, so you don't get any correction into the lower layers. It's been a huge limiting factor."
Ideally, says Lee, instead of just going up and down the layers one at a time, you'd have connections between all of them to propagate the training signal back into the deeper layers of the network. "Imagine, instead of having a 152-layer cake, every one of these neural networks could tightly interconnect with all the others, so the back-propagation signal could flow to every layer."
That's not feasible, unfortunately – as Lee explains: "We don't know how to organise that kind of interconnected network in a small number of GPUs."
Jian Sun shows how the award-winning ultra-deep network his team designed skips layers to make sure feedback gets through

Skipping several layers

Instead, the idea the team came up with was "to organise the layers so that instead of flowing through every layer, the signals can skip several layers to get to the lower layers in the network – so if you're at layer 150, the back-propagation can skip directly to layer 147."
By skipping two or three layers of data a time, "we managed to have more signals connecting to more layers, but still fit into a small number of GPUs," Lee told us.
It took two weeks to train the 152-layer network. That might seem slow, but "philosophically, teaching a system to be able to see at human-quality levels in a few weeks still feels pretty fast," Lee enthuses.
He's also excited by how generic the lower layers of the network turned out to be – after they'd been trained to recognise what was in the image, the lower layers of the network could already find where in the photo the object was. The next step is to see if they can also work for other computer vision tasks like face recognition without retraining, which would make the system even more powerful.

Beyond image recognition

152 layers isn't the limit, says Lee. "We now believe we can get to not just hundreds of layers but thousands of layers, and I'm confident with such extremely deep networks that we can get very high accuracy not just for vision but for speech, for deep text understanding problems – really for anything!"
He's hoping these sorts of very deep networks could help with "a much deeper nuanced understanding of human discourse and of text" – perhaps reading papers or listening to conversations "to understand the meanings and context". Microsoft is already analysing internal emails to try and understand what they're about. "They're proving to be very interesting and valuable," he says.
Peter Lee, head of Microsoft Research, believes ultra-deep networks could help machines understand not just images but text and speech
Sun agrees. "These kinds of designs are not limited to computer vision. The general ideas are applicable to other AI problems such as speech recognition, natural understanding of text, understanding medical images, data mining…"
But for Sun, the important thing isn't just how well the deep residual learning network performs, but the possibilities the technique opens up for other ways of improving deep networks. "This opens the door to explore network designs. Going deeper is just one way [to get better results].
"Now we're looking for more diverse network architecture designs. Another direction we're working on is parallel training, so we train the whole system across the machine, where each machine might have four or eight GPUs, so we can train even deeper networks in parallel."

Prize possessions

ImageNet isn't the only prize Microsoft has been winning with unconventional machine learning techniques – Antonio Criminisi of Microsoft's UK research lab in Cambridge was just awarded the prestigious Marr prize for using not the currently popular deep neural networks but an older (and les resource-intensive) approach called decision forests to get equally good image recognition. Not sticking with the fashionable approaches to machine learning seems to be paying off for Microsoft.
Just as exciting is the fact that anyone will be able to use these ultra-deep networks soon. "One reason why this is so exciting for us is that it's not just a scientific issue but it has serious commercial value," says Lee. "The thing that's cool is that you present the paper at the conference one week, and the next month this is shipping."
Ultra-deep networks will soon be behind new APIs that developers can use for free through the Project Oxford system or pay for as part of Cortana Analytics, and they'll be used inside Microsoft projects too, he says. "We expect that very soon we will have hardened these technologies and made them restful APIs for developers."
And the more machine learning systems are used, the better they get, Lee points out. "There's a virtuous cycle there. The lift you get from even unsupervised training can be significant; these things just improve the more they're used and the more varied the data is. This is one of the rare moments where pure science and commercial deployments like Project Oxford are happening step-by-step together. That seems to really make it a very special time for the field."

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Amazon brings out the big Prime numbers after record Christmas
Amazon brings out the big Prime numbers after record Christmas
Amazon's premium Prime membership was given a big subscriber boost in the run up to Christmas, with 3 million new members signing up to the service.
Prime is Amazon's multi-faceted membership scheme, which offers next-day delivery, the Amazon Prime Instant Video streaming service, music and photo storage.
Not only did Amazon see its Prime membership balloon, but this also meant that views of Prime Instant Video doubled compared to the same time last year, with Man In The High Castle being the number-one television show to watch - the Amazon exclusive was almost five times as popular as anything else on the service.
Interstellar was the most popular Prime movie on Christmas day but Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 was the most popular over the entire holiday period.

Amazon's on Fire

Amazon's devices also proved popular, with double the amount sold compared to last year. Given that Amazon has released a bumper crop of new devices - including the Fire TV Stick, Fire TV 4K and some extremely cut-price tablets - this number does make sense.
Oh, and there was one lucky person who managed to sneak in a very last minute Prime Now order that arrived at their door at 11:59 on Christmas Eve.
Given the package contained Blue Buffalo Dog Treats and Fruitables Dog Treats, we are glad that the family's dog managed to have a very merry Christmas.

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How to create a tilt-shift effect
How to create a tilt-shift effect

How to create a tilt-shift effect

How to create a tilt-shift effect
When shooting a small subject with a macro lens you produce a shallow depth of field that creates a narrow band of focus. As a result, foreground and background details outside of this band of focus will blur quite severely.
When shooting a full-size location you're further away from the subject, so all of the scene will be in focus.
Photographers can make a scene look like a miniature by using a tilt-shift lens. This specialist lens creates the narrow band of focus that you get when shooting toys or miniatures with a macro lens. Tilt-shift lenses can be expensive and are fiddly to set up, so it's much cheaper and easier to recreate the appropriate selective blur effect using Photoshop Elements 12 (and these tips can be used with other image editors).
In our walkthrough we'll demonstrate how to selectively blur any part of a scene with complete control and turn full-sized objects into toys!

1. Add a selective blur

How to create a tilt-shift effect
To sell the toy or model illusion it helps if you shoot your full-size subject from a high-angle, as you would when shooting a toy. Open a suitable starting scene. Click the Guided Edit tab and then click the Tilt-Shift Photo Effect. Click the Add Tilt-Shift button.

2. Fine-tune the blur

How to create a tilt-shift effect
Click the Modify Focus Area button. You can now drag the cursor across the area that you want to keep sharp. Feel free to draw the focus line at an angle to suit the shot's composition.
Re-draw the focus line as many times as you like until you're happy with the selective blur results.

3. Apply the effect

How to create a tilt-shift effect
Click the Refine Effect button. This enables you to make the blur effect stronger or weaker. Drag the Blur slider right to a value of 13 to increase the blur amount. Push the Saturation slider to 17 to add more colour to the blurred areas. Click Done to apply the Tilt-Shift Photo Effect.

4. Look under the hood

How to create a tilt-shift effect
Click the Expert editing tab. The Guided Edit mode has created two new layers. Background copy is a blurred version of the image. The top layer is a sharp version.
The top layer's mask has a gradient that reveals a narrow band of focus that blends with the blurred background.

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