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11 best open world games on PC today

Latest Tech News - 4 hours 5 sec ago

These days, the best open world games are the gift that keeps on giving – and they’re not going anywhere. In 2018, it seems like even game franchises that used to be linear experiences are embracing the open world. From RPGs like The Witcher 3 to shooters like Far Cry 5, we can see why everyone seems to love the top open world games on PC.

It’s not hard to see why more and more game developers are opting to make the best open world games, abandoning more linear experiences. Just look at how they transformed franchises like Metal Gear and Final Fantasy, moving them into the modern era. They didn’t lose any of their identity, and gained everything.

In the last few years, there have been plenty of unconventional indie game that have embraced this open world style. Gems like the Long Dark, Neo Scavenger, Rust and more embrace open maps and player freedom – and are some of the top open world games 2018 has to offer.

But we've picked our favourites out of the best wide worlds gaming has to offer. Disagree? Shout at us on Twitter.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

I mean, you know what this is about. There isn't a gamer reading this today who isn't aware that Minecraft consists of; exploration and crafting in a blocky, bright 8-bit world. And when night falls or when you go deep underground, monsters come out... and that's not just on the multiplayer servers.

Though it's now on every last platform going, from iOS to Linux and even to Amiga, its fundamentals are the same - a large open world to explore, with no purpose beyond the one you which you create yourself. If you want to create a moving replica of Mark Hamill's face or the hanging gardens of Babylon or just a suburban house built exclusively of dynamite, Minecraft can do it.

If you're bored of Minecraft, you're bored of life. But if you really are bored (of Minecraft and/or life), either try the 2D Minecraft Terraria, its sci-fi sibling Starbound or wait for Subnautica. They're lifesavers.

Sure, Fallout 4 is the latest Fallout title, but New Vegas is the best of the series. It brought back the weirdness and smarts of the original titles to post-apocalyptic Las Vegas – maybe it’s because many of the team members of developer Obsidian worked on Fallout 2.

The series always drops the player in an open world wasteland, where you must fight and talk to survive, often exploring the bizarre vaults beneath the desert or battling the mutated creatures that scrape by. Its combat system called VATS is divisive (i.e most people think it's rubbish), but it introduces tactical flexibility to an otherwise brutally-hard game.

In Fallout: New Vegas, you play as an anonymous Courier. Left for dead, you roam the strange wastes around Arizona, Nevada and California, hunting for your killer, or exploring weird side quests. Turning on the hardcore game mode also means that food, water and sleep are essential, making it into a classic open world survival game, like S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

The first two titles in the Witcher trilogy were compelling and strange, but only enjoyed minor success. However, all the word of mouth about the first two games paid off when the Witcher 3 came out and absolutely blew up. It was a massive step up in quality, as well, and probably one of the best RPGs of the last decade. You step in the role of Geralt a mutated monster hunter, or witcher, searching for his adoptive daughter in a medieval world ravaged by war.

The open world setting of the game is uniquely well-realized, completely blowing something like Skyrim away. Geralt can walk, ride, or sail across the war-ravaged lands of Novigrad and Velen, or sail across the monster-riddled and frost-ridden islands of Skellige in the North. He can forage for herbs, explore under the seas or the back alleys of cities, and encounter all kinds of folk and creatures.

And the other elements of the game are spectacularly polished as well - limber, agile combat, a deep levelling system, and a storyline with some unusually-smart storylines.

Grand Theft Auto V is simply one of the best open world games to have ever existed. It’s a huge pastiche of L.A that you can drive, fly or run across. It’s an amazing achievement and the fact that it works in multiplayer is astounding.

What makes it such a success is the freedom it gives you. When you’re not running around and robbing banks during the campaign, GTA V basically lets you do whatever you want – even if it breaks the game. You can go anywhere, do anything and commit however many atrocities as your wicked heart pleases.

There are also a ton of side activities available. So, in your downtime from creating all kinds of mayhem, you can take up some tennis, yoga, or even kick your feet up and watch some TV. There’s a reason this game is so beloved.

The plot may have made less sense than a mumbling monkey with a mouthful of marbles, but Hideo Kojima's swansong was a masterpiece of layered open world mechanics.

In its twin deserts of Afghanistan and Angola, your character Big Boss has a range of objectives to achieve. He traverses these areas on foot, horseback, or in a variety of ground vehicles. You can take either lethal or non-lethal weapons, and a variety of strange AI companions.

The world itself is believably bleak, weather-torn and heavily-guarded. Uniquely, it learns from your behaviour - overuse a particular tactic, and enemies will adapt. For example, rely too much on headshots and they'll start to wear metal helmets.

Away from the frontline, you can develop Big Boss' base, by building new facilities and airlifting enemy soldiers, prisoners, resources, vehicles, animals and anything else you want to from the battlefield.

Klei's indie survival horror game takes the drawing style of Edward Gorey, the twisted monstrosities of the Binding of Isaac, and the crafting mechanics of Minecraft and creates an unholy, dark 2D world for players to explore. Suffice to say, it's a joy.

As players explore the world, they encounter (and die at the appendages of) its various flora and fauna. Eventually, the player might have enough knowledge to not die from starvation, not to be eaten by monsters, not to die of thirst… and then they might learn how to survive winter.

Beyond that, Don't Starve has tremendous replay value from unlockable characters, the Together expansion that allows for multiplayer survival, and the Shipwrecked expansion which introduces a whole new area to be eaten by monsters in.

The inaccessible indie open world game par excellence, Dwarf Fortress' world is open in space, but more importantly in time. Before you even start playing, the game's engine generates thousands of years of history for its huge fantasy world, then narrows in on a tiny slice of its history and geography.

Players can then either take control of a single adventurer, exploring this generated world or a caravan of dwarfs, setting off to found a colony in the history-saturated wastelands. Taking the latter mode, you have to establish supplies of food, beer, weaponry and a hundred other essentials for a comfortable dwarf dwelling.

Inevitably, they come under attack by hideous monsters, either wandering through the world or having been unearthed by Digging Too Deep. And then they all die or go insane.

If you're looking for a much more accessible version of the game, you could try Keeper RL - which allows players to take control of dungeon full of monsters attempting to wipe out humans, dwarves and elves.

An entirely text-based open world? In 2018? We’re crazy, right? Well, hold on – Failbetter’s Fallen London story world has been developing for years now and probably has more text in it than the Bible – and it reads better, too.

In spite of that, it was the fallen London spin-off, Sunless Sea, that has won the studio plaudits. Failbetter has taken the same choose-your-own-adventure model and built it into a game where you’re exploring an underground sea adjacent to Fallen London.

The shipping and combat is so-so, but the game is driven by its amazingly rich storyline, full of charming devils, malevolent icebergs and soul-filled great apes. There's no peace in Sunless Sea's dark waters, just endless storylines to explore – and you will.

Far Cry 5 might just be a benchmark of what the best open world games  on PC will look like in 2018. Far Cry 5 is unique in the fact that it allows you to truly go anywhere on the map – and do anything. And, it doesn’t water this freedom down by limiting the amount of space you have open to you either, it’s perhaps one of the biggest game maps we’ve ever experienced. 

You’re dropped into the middle of the Montana wilderness, and while it does feature a loosely connected plot involving cultists or something, that all falls into the background as you wander around and get lost in the massive world Ubisoft crafted here. We still haven’t ‘finished’ this game, but we don’t think you’re supposed to.

Now that a ton of Yakuza games are coming to PC, PC gamers can finally experience the insanity that is so unique to the Yakuza series. 

Yakuza 0’s map isn’t as capacious as some of the other games on this list, but it is dense with activities. Everywhere you turn either has a mini game, a side quest, or some other kind of content that you can interact with. If you’ve never played a Yakuza game, do yourself a favor and try Yakuza 0 on for size – it’s unlike anything else you’ve ever played, we promise. 

Where to begin with Assassin's Creed Origins? Have you ever wanted to explore Ancient Egypt, from Memphis, along the Nile to the steps of the Library of Alexandria? We think 'yes' is a safe assumption to make. 

This is the most truly open world game ever released in the Assassin's Creed franchise and it's stunning, rich and completely alive. There's endless amounts to see and do while you traverse a country that's been created with an incredible attention to detail by the Ubisoft team. Even better, with the game's free Discovery Mode you can purely explore this glorious open world and learn about the history behind the game. 

Categories: Tech News

StarVR One is the most powerful VR headset yet, and you can't have one

Latest Tech News - 4 hours 35 min ago

Ask around, and you’ll be told that the HTC Vive Pro is the most powerful virtual reality (VR) headset you can buy, and that’s still true even with the debut of StarVR One. The newest VR headset from Acer and Starbreeze’s eponymous joint venture is here, but it’s only for businesses.

StarVR launched the StarVR One and StarVR One XT today during the Siggraph conference in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada, but has yet to disclose exactly when the headset will be available nor how much it will cost businesses. It's no wonder considering this headset’s comparatively insane capabilities.

The StarVR One looks rather similar to previous iterations of the company’s VR headsets, but this time around is vastly more capable, with integrated eye tracking for a new kind of efficient graphics rendering technology as well as a higher resolution and viewing angle than the next best headset, the HTC Vive Pro.

Furthermore, the StarVR One features game developer Valve and hardware maker HTC’s updated device tracking solution known as SteamVR 2.0. It’s known that this new solution can support up to 10 square meters with two of HTC’s base station tracking units, but it can also track users throughout multiple setups of base stations for experiences taking place in several separate rooms.

What the StarVR One looks like from head on.

Get on with the speeds and feeds

We weren’t kidding about StarVR One being the most advanced VR headset to date. For starters, the headset produces viewing angles wider than any other at 210 degrees horizontally and 130 degrees vertically, which StarVR claims is a “nearly 100% human viewing angle.”

These nigh lifelike viewing angles can be, well, viewed through the headset’s two 4.77-inch AMOLED displays each pumping 1,830 x 1,464 pixels worth of resolution for a total resolution of 1,830 x 2,928 pixels. These displays refresh images at the industry rate of 90Hz.

The StarVR One XT shares all of these same components inside, but offers up a completely integrated device tracking system, with the headset embedded with active optical markers. This version also sports more advanced plug-ins for various other tracking systems.

While those specs are nothing to sneeze at, it’s Tobii’s eye tracking technology that stands to transform how VR games and movies are made going forward. This eye tracking follows the focus of the user’s eyes, enabling dynamic foveated graphics rendering, which concentrates high-quality visuals rendering only upon where their eyes are currently focused.

During this process, the realistic amount of peripheral image detail is also rendered, thus (hypothetically) looking more natural to the user in either case. This foveated rendering could potentially either open up entry-level VR setups to higher-end games and experiences while drawing the absolute most out of the highest end rigs.

Speaking of which, the StarVR One will require, at minimum, an Intel Core i7-7700 or AMD Ryzen 7 2700X processor paired with nothing less than an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card and at least 16GB of memory. Here’s perhaps a second reason why StarVR isn’t yet talking about price.

We can only hope that technology like this will trickle down into the consumer-grade – i.e. remotely affordable – VR headsets sooner rather than later.

Categories: Tech News

SS Great Britain: the tech bringing a 19th century wonder to life

Latest Tech News - 4 hours 44 min ago

Main image: The SS Great Britain is permanently on display on Bristol's harborside: Credit: Adam Gasson

It starts with a whiff of vomit, followed shortly by the fine aroma of horse droppings and a soupçon of sea air. These are the smells of a weeks-long voyage, across rolling seas and between continents with a cargo of livestock and a few brave humans who weren’t quite so prepared for some time on the waves as they first thought.

These odors are wafted throughout the airy confines of the SS Great Britain – a grand old ship sitting on the waterfront of Bristol in south-west England which once took people and their cargo to the New World and beyond – via ‘smell canisters’, topped up on a regular basis by a local craftsman.

“It makes the children laugh,” says Luke Holmes, Senior Interpretation Officer. “They run into a cabin and they can smell vomit, there’s a real fun element… it’s the smell of coal in the engine room, that extra layer of immersion and reality that really helps people to imagine themselves in the historic context. [Smell] is a really strong trigger to memory. Having fun and introducing humor is an important part of our exhibitions.”

A two-story interactive model of Brunel's head dominates the SS Great Britain exhibition. Credit: Adam Gasson

Now a museum open to the general public, when the SS Great Britain was first launched in 1843 she was one of the most advanced ships of her time, later becoming the first iron steamship to cross the Atlantic, in a mere 14 days.

Designed by engineer extraordinaire Isambard Kingdom Brunel, she was also the largest ship of her kind, an a technological marvel of her time. Brunel repeated such grand feats throughout his life, with other ships such as the SS Great Western, and through other projects such as the building of the Great Western Railway between London and Bristol.

Innovative solutions to problems that had long confounded others characterized Brunel's work, and it's an approach the SS Great Britain museum has adopted wholesale.

Man and engineer: Being Brunel

The exhibition ‘Being Brunel’ is the newest addition to the museum, having been launched in early 2018. It focuses on being 'inside Brunel’s head' – that space under the grand stovepipe hat – both metaphorically and literally. 

“Our CEO and one of our directors were walking to work, they thought about the film Being John Malkovich and that it would be amazing to be able to see out of the eyes of Brunel, of this famous Victorian engineer,“ says Holmes. “They took this idea literally, that’s why we have a two-story high head of Brunel that visitors can walk into.”

This is the entrance to the exhibit, and among the new displays is a relatively small section which characterizes the site’s approach to the adoption of new technology. There's a 3D-printed map, custom-made locally, onto which a projection plays, showing Brunel’s hand sketching the journey between London and Bristol. It's popular with visitors despite being relatively straightforward. 

A 3-D printed map shows the route of Brunel's London to Bristol railway line

It's something which can be felt, and viewed – it offers a kid-friendly degree of interaction which isn’t possible with a physical display cabinet, as found elsewhere in the exhibition. 

While it may be a simple form of experimentation, this out-of-the-box idea provides a simple way of putting across a story which wouldn’t be possible via another medium. According to the site, it was certainly difficult to source initially, but the payoff has proven to be worth the initial hurdles. 

Technology in museums is increasingly being divided into three categories: virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and ‘mixed’ reality. VR is an entirely software-based experience, experienced through headsets and earphones, while AR involves information being superimposed on physical objects through headsets or displays to add further context. Mixed reality, meanwhile, is what is increasingly being adopted by museums and other educational institutions, and in a particularly bespoke way by the SS Great Britain.

Multiple realities

‘Mixed’ or rather what they call ‘Immersive’ reality means using traditional displays, with text and glass display cases, supplemented by soundscapes and sensory experiences. It places the technology out of sight, but never out of mind, adding texture that would otherwise not be possible – such as with the smell canisters and the map. The principle is that the technology is more effective for not obviously being technology.

Another example of this is the culmination of a project filming rats – the footage is used in such a way that it appears the rats are running through cupboards at certain points in the ship. The visitor in the present might be horrified, but this was a fact of life on board such a vessel, and these small details help to paint a larger picture and add to it being an experience as much as anything else.

The exhibition combines new technology with more conventional exhibits and displays. Credit: Adam Gasson

“For us it is about looking at what our evidence base is, what our source base is and about how we can make that exciting and relevant,“ explains SS Great Britain's Head of Interpretation, Kate Rambridge. “Sometimes technology is a strong fit with that and can help us with what we want to achieve, other times we decide it is irrelevant.

“We never start with the technology; it’s always quite tricky to decide what new option is ready to be a commodity rather than a research project. People aren’t motivated to come and visit us because they want something high-tech.”

Perhaps the greatest testimony to this unwaveringly bespoke approach to design and implementation is the Brunel head itself. At two stories, it was a significant undertaking to plan and build; however this is no mere bust of a dead engineer.

Visitors to the exhibition can 'see through Brunel's eyes' from within his head

The idea is to ‘see’ through Brunel’s eyes, reliving key junctures of his life, and this is achieved through something which can only be accurately described as ‘communal VR’. Visitors are sat at specific intervals in limited numbers within the cosy confines of the behatted tête du Brunel. Then prepared, the experience begins – with piped in ‘steam’ and more making this an experience to remember – though it is fixed perspective.

We are taken through the extraordinary risks he undertook in order to realize his vision – it's a highly visceral means by which to explore past events and is quite unique in its ambition at the moment. An important part of this is the group element, reacting as one, while it retains a key flavor of its own. No one else at the moment is exploring Brunel’s history in this way, and it shows what a combination of ‘low’ tech and a little vision can achieve.

A community-focused future

This emphasis on bespoke solutions does present problems, mainly with availability. The SS Great Britain has attempted to circumnavigate this by working with the local community. 

“We’ve been doing a lot of research into new technologies,“ adds Holmes. “There’s really amazing stuff from local artists working on stuff like conductive ink and robotics. This is a really exciting time to be working in heritage.”

The SS Great Britain is a mature institution, with resources and time to figure out how it wishes to proceed. For smaller, and other, museums wishing to ride the tech wave to success, life is becoming easier however.

As more and more visitors carry pocket-rocket smartphones in and out of exhibits, so interaction with technology becomes more ubiquitous, with screens and more becoming ‘invisible’ rather than an attraction in themselves.

But the SS Great Britain is leading the charge in finding new ways to delight and inspire, whether through high-tech gizmos or cunningly placed vomit canisters – as long as it adds to the immersion, they'll give it a go.

TechRadar's Next Up series is brought to you in association with Honor

Categories: Tech News

Amazon Fire TV security patch stops crypto-miners from hacking your set-top box

Latest Tech News - 5 hours 15 min ago

Earlier this year, older Amazon Fire TV models were overtaken by a malicious worm that spread from between devices using the set-top box's ADB (Android Debug Bridge) connection. Today, Amazon has released a patch that will plug the hole in the vulnerability and stop the infection in its tracks.

The software update – version – is now available for Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick and Amazon Fire TV Edition televisions, and it'll disable ADB by default. It'll also prompt users every time a device wants to install a new piece of software on their device. In the past, once you approved one ADB connection, any device could then connect to your Fire TV and install some code without asking. 

The offending exploit from February helped spread a pretty vicious malware worm called ADB.miner and the unchecked vulnerability of Amazon Fire TVs was used to mine cryptocurrency. This caused massive slow downs on infected devices, leading to long install times and abrupt crashing in the middle of streamed content.

The silver lining in all this is that newer devices, like the Amazon Fire TV Cube and latest version of the Amazon Fire TV, weren’t impacted by the malware as the protocol of asking before installing any software was built in from the start. 

So why have ADB in the first place?

This all raises the question: If ADB is such a vulnerability, why even allow it to exist on Amazon Fire TV devices? 

The answer is that ADB gives users some customizability options for their Fire TV – allowing you to install apps that aren't available on Amazon's limited Fire TV store (called sideloading). 

Sideloading is most often used by the KODI/XMBC crowd to install the app on the Fire TV, creating an even more robust streaming device that can stream local video content as well as content from traditional sources like Netflix and Amazon Video. 

Now that the ADB vulnerability is fixed, you'll be prompted before any additional software is installed on the device, quashing bugs like ADB.miner in its tracks.

Source: AFTVnews

Categories: Tech News

Pandora Premium arrives on Google Home

Latest Tech News - 6 hours 45 min ago

Pandora Premium subscribers can now use their voice to control their music on any device with Google Assistant built in – including Google Home, Mini and Max, plus third-party smart speakers like Polk.

Set Pandora Premium as your default music streaming service, then simply say "Hey Google, play" followed by the name of a song, artist, playlist or station. If you want to play a song but can't remember the title, just say part of the lyrics and Pandora will find it for you. 

You can rate tracks hands-free, giving them a thumbs up or down using only your voice. It's also possible to skip or repeat a track, or even make a whole new playlist with simple spoken commands.

Sounding good

Pandora Premium is a direct challenger to the likes of Apple Music, Google Play Music and Spotify, offering custom playlists, smart search and recommendations for $9.99 per month.

Support for Google Assistant is a long anticipated feature. Users of Pandora Plus and the free ad-supported service  have been able to manage their tunes via via Google Home since September 2016, and its addition to Pandora Premium puts it more in line with its competitors.

Categories: Tech News

Buying Windows 10 PCs on Newegg gets simpler with Microsoft's new tool

Latest Tech News - 7 hours 9 min ago

Microsoft and Newegg has made buying a Windows 10 PC or laptop a little less complicated. 

The two firms have developed a new web software tool called the Windows 10 Advisorthat is designed to guide customers through the process of buying the right device for their needs, Tamebay reports.

The shopping tool is available above product listing pages for Windows 10 laptop products, and the link sends you off to a separate page that asks the user several questions about their desired laptop. 

Starting with price, the guide then narrows down options for you by how you plan to use the laptop, whether that be for personal use or work and what the primary laptop will be used for therein, e.g. web browsing and gaming.

If you select gaming, the tool even drills down into which kinds of PC games you’re into. Each of the three options you’re given per question can be selected at once, and includes additional information if you’re not sure what ‘strategy games’ or ‘Windows Hello’ are.

Once you finish answering the questions, the tool immediately spits out a recommended laptop based on your needs. The tool even includes reasons as to why it recommended the laptop based on your answers, and suggests related laptops that are a bit more expensive. And, finally, you can provide feedback based on the experience.

This is an interesting move by Microsoft in that the firm is directly involving itself in the sale of products running on its interface. Considering how this tool could be helpful for would-be laptop buyers across the internet, it’s easy to anticipate more retailers partnering up with Microsoft on this ahead of back-to-school season and the holidays.

Now, whether a move like this would see those increases in PC sales boost even higher remains to be seen entirely.

Via MSPowerUser

Categories: Tech News

Best Netflix sci-fi movies: fantastic films to stream right now

Latest Tech News - 7 hours 20 min ago

The big streaming services have wholeheartedly embraced the sci-fi genre, which means there's plenty of choice for picking out the best sci-fi movies currently sitting in the vast Netflix catalog.

With recent (and very good) titles including the likes of Annihilation and The Cloverfield Paradox, it's clear that there are plenty of sci-fi fans in the Netflix team.

Add to that other off-kilter slabs of sci-fi including Duncan Jones’ Mute and the huge fantasy/sci-fi hybrid hit that was Bright, and the Netflix sci-fi game is definitely strong.

With that in mind, we’ve culled through streams to find all of the best sci-fi movies you can summon on Netflix, and – because we know how suddenly movies can vanish off of Netflix – we will continue to update this article. Keep checking back here to see if your favorite movie is available to stream.

We have also handily split this list so that you can see all the movies available on both US and UK Netflix and the ones that are exclusive to each territory.

This is the movie that director Duncan Jones has always wanted to make. A story that he first conceived before making his debut movie Moon, it took three Hollywood movies and the freedom of a Netflix deal before he could make his labor of love. The result is a rather muted (pun intended), strange movie that never goes where you expect it to. It’s based in a Berlin of the future, starring Alexander Skarsgård as a mute bartender looking for the love of his life. It is bold, single-minded filmmaking that needs to be watched a number of times to understand quite what’s going on.

This is exactly the sort of movie that Netflix should be making. It’s uncompromising sci-fi that has a smart smattering of horror running through it. Based on the hit series of books The Southern Reach Trilogy, the movie focuses on a group of scientists who go into Area X, a quarantined section of Earth where strange things are going on. Natalie Portman is superb and refreshing in the lead role. 

It should have been so much better, but that doesn’t mean that it is all terrible. The Cloverfield Paradox had a stunning debut on Netflix. It was first revealed at the Super Bowl and then, to the surprise of the millions who were watching the halftime show, it was then released on Netflix that night. Much like 10 Cloverfield Lane, the movie has a faint line to the original Cloverfield. It’s set in space for a start and has a cast list that screams AAA - the film, however, is pure b-movie schlock that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but is still well worth a watch. 

Bong Joon Ho is one of the best directors around at the moment so when it was announced he was doing a Netflix-funded movie, excitement levels were high. The result is this sci-fi tinged story that focuses on a giant pig and its friendship with a small child. The movie is set in the near future and is a parable about animal cruelty. It's heady stuff but we'd recommend you check it out.

Noomi Rapace plays seven sisters in this high-concept, convoluted sci-fi tale. The premise is great: the world is overpopulated so there is a 'one child per couple' policy. Rapace plays sextuplets who are looking for their missing sister. It's an occasionally frustrating watch but for the most part is an entertaining sci-fi thriller. 

Another Netflix original, another movie that was savaged by critics but, whisper it, it’s not half bad. Will Smith stars as a cop who just so happens to have a partner that’s an orc. Set in a world where fairies, orcs and humans coexist, Smith and his partner must protect an elf to protect the future of, er, their future. It’s certainly not for everyone but it’s one of the biggest and boldest movies Netflix has ever made.

In classic post-apocalyptic style, The Road is all about survival. After Earth falls prey to calamity, a man and his son take the long journey across America to the ocean, fighting to hold on to their soul. All around them are bloodthirsty gangs who would see them apprehended as slaves, or much worse. 

Although there are hundreds of films in this genre and tone, execution really is everything. John Hillcoat’s vision comes across flawlessly on screen and packs an emotional punch that won’t leave you quickly. And with phenomenal performances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road is a worthy entry in the ever growing list of post-apocalyptic science fiction movies.

When it was announced that Luc Besson was getting back into driecting fully fledged sci-fi there was audible whoop in the office. This is, after all, the director that made the masterpiece that is Fifth Element. But Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets isn't quite the movie we wanted. Yes, it's visually stunning and it has the off-beat quirkiness that we have come to expect from Besson. But it's all a bit of a chaotic mess. It's definitely worthy of a watch, however, just don't go into this expecting to know exactly what is going on and when.

Most people think of Cloverfield’s brilliant marketing campaign way before they actually remember the movie, but it’s still worth watching this thrilling monster movie event directed by one of today’s brightest cinematic minds – Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes, the upcoming Batman film).

The film revolves around a group of New Yorkers that find themselves trapped as a terrifying monster falls on New York City. The survivors, with the help of a portable camera, attempt to document the atrocities that follow.

Now, while Cloverfield likely won’t go down in history as a sci-fi masterpiece, this handycam-riddled thriller has already gained quite a faithful cult following and received two distantly related sequels (essentially in name only, but still). If you’re looking to kill some time, you certainly can’t go wrong with Cloverfield. Just don’t think about it too much.

When Cloverfield came out, everyone was expecting the movie to be just another found-footage shock fest. While this is pretty much what it turned out to be, the footage may have been shaky but the mythos about a giant monster attacking New York was not. It turned out there are plenty of ways to do stories about the monster without recapping the original movie. 10 Cloverfield Lane does this - it's is a tense thriller with a nod to science fiction. For the most part it is a claustrophobic study into the human psyche, but when it finally changes gear it turns into something wholly different. 

It wasn't looking good for World War Z. Its script was given a hefty rewrite, the ending was completely reshot to make it a little more coherent and the film, essentially about zombies eating people, had to adhere to a child-safe PG-13. The result is a movie that's a bit of a mess but is still watchable thanks to the star power of Brad Pitt and some sound scripting decisions by Lost scribe Damon Lindelof. Based on the book by Max Brooks, World War Z throws out the interview format of the novel but keeps the globalisation of the story - which means it really feels like the entire world has been overrun by zombies. 

Yes, it’s a thinly veiled metaphor for the apartheid horrors South Africa faced in the ‘80s but what perfect way to showcase feeling alien in your own land by filling your movie with aliens? District 9 was the debut of visual effects artist Neill Blomkamp and it’s a riveting docudrama-styled ride through the slums of South Africa and beyond. With (naturally) superb visual effects and a brilliant central performance by Sharlto Copley as the shady government agent that’s after the alien’s advanced technology, District 9 is one of the most original sci-fi flicks to come out this century. 

Bryan Singer’s original X-Men was a breath of fresh air for the superhero genre when it was released back in 2000. He managed to show the world that you can have a film about mutants that is also, well, intelligent. He improved on the formula with X2: X-Men United, switching the story so that it was about Wolverine - easily the most interesting of the X-Men. The introduction of William Strider (a menacing Brian Cox), the person who literally made Wolverine what he is, was a fantastic move - as was the notion that even though Magneto and Professor X are rivals in battle, their ideologies and goals are actually quite similar. Fantastic stuff.

After District 9, director Neill Blomkamp had a tough ask to make a movie that would live up to the brilliance of his debut. Elysium doesn’t quite hit the same heights, unfortunately, but it is a brave attempt at trying to create a sensible sci-fi movie. Matt Damon stars as Max, a man on a mission to try and bring some balance to a world where the rich and poor are severely divided. After a promising start, things do go downhill but it’s still an impressive, great-looking watch.

Robinson Crusoe in space - that was pretty much the elevator pitch for The Martian, a self-published novel that became a huge bestseller. Drew Godard adapts the book brilliantly for the big screen, keeping much of the dry humor and breezy nature. While Ridley Scott adds a little bit of sheen to the novel's rougher edges. But it's Matt Damon that steals the show as the shipwrecked Mark Watney who has to get his ass away from Mars.

Director JJ Abrams had the hardest job in Hollywood when he took on Episode VII. He had to appease the braying breed of Star Wars fanatics, as well as coax a whole new generation of fans to the franchise. He pulls it off by steeping the movie in the nostalgia of the Original Trilogy but also introducing new and exciting characters. Yes, it's pretty much a retread of Episode IV but cut it and it will bleed Star Wars, and that's the only thing that really matters.

Nobody expected James Gunn's superb The Guardians of the Galaxy to be as good as it was. Given it was about a bunch of Marvel characters that weren't mainstream and was directed by someone best known for b-movie horror, the odds were against it. But how wrong the world was: Guardians is a refreshing, funny and jam-packed sci-fi flick that's packed with retro references and the sort of space fun that's not been seem since, well, Star Wars. 

As the first film outside of the saga and the first prequel since Jar Jar Binks, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had a lot riding on it. It had to strike a balance between originality and familiarity that could have easily backfired and been rejected by old and new fans alike. Thankfully, Rogue One was a rousing success all across the board. 

Taking place before the original Star Wars, Rogue One tells the tale of the brave band of rebel spies led by the tenacious Jyn Erso who risked everything to steal the plans to the fearsome Death Star. The forces of evil, led by Director Krennic, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Darth Vader himself meet the rebels in combat to prevent their plans from falling into the wrong hands. 

The final result of Rogue One was a gritty war film that wasn’t perfect, but stands as an excellent entry into the already expansive Star Wars universe. From a visual perspective alone, this is well worth the stream.

As Marvel’s cinematic success has expanded, so has their creative sandbox. A Doctor Strange movie would have been a fool’s dream just a decade ago, but now the master of mystic arts has his own film with top-notch special effects, a dream team cast, and a talented director to helm it. What a time to be alive! 

For those not in the know, Doctor Strange follows the story of Stephen Strange, a talented surgeon with an ego to match his skillset. After a car accident, Strange loses the use of his hands and loses his sense of purpose. On his journey to find healing, Strange stumbles into the mystic arts and finds a deeper purpose in magic, spirituality and sorcery. 

While formulaic at times, Doctor Strange is a blast from start to finish, riddled with humor and enough sci-fi and sorcery babble to make your head spin. 

Lightning doesn't quite strike twice for The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. It's great to watch and has the similar thrills and spills of the original but something is just that little bit off. 

Maybe it's because the storyline goes a bit too big, focusing on Peter Quill's true parentage, and because of this it splits the team up for most of the movie. A half-decent Guardians, though, is better than most movies so it's still well worth a watch.

The book was always seen as unfilmable, so the fact a movie of Cloud Atlas got made at all is a win. It's a movies that weaves six interconnected stories together that are as disparate as a ship's voyage in the 19th Century, a nuclear power plant conspiracy and clones in Korea. Each story has a ripple effect for the next and the really clever thing about the movie is the same actor plays myriad characters that are connected in some way - essentially joining the dots that the book alludes to. It may not always work but Cloud Atlas is bold, visually arresting storytelling.

A timey wimey tale of time travel shot through the prism of teenage angst, Donnie Darko is a deliciously dark, mopey movie that tries its hardest to be obscure and infuriating but ends up being a wonderful piece of filmmaking. It will take a few watches to figure out just what is going on but this is a movie that gets better the more you unfold its secrets. Stunning stuff.

A monster hit in the 80s and for good reason, Ghost Busters (more commonly known now as Ghostbusters) is a brilliant character comedy that sees four hapless friends go from fake ghost hunters to real ghostbusters. Blessed with a script by an alumni of Saturday Night Live greats, this is as much an adult showcase as it is a kids movie. The brilliant thing about Ghostbusters, however, is that it enjoys being both so much.

Every single sci-fi movie of the past 75 years or so owes a massive debt to Metropolis. This silent showcase is a blistering portrayal of science fiction, as seen by German director Fritz Lang in the 1920s. Using special effects that still impress today, it's a wonderfully weird watch that shows the clash between the rich and poor, workers and city planners, and what drives someone to try and create the ultimate utopia. Metropolis is a movie that isn't complete - there are many versions of the film out in the world. But that doesn't stop it from being one of the most influential films ever made.

Director Duncan Jones' debut is sharp low-budget sci-fi that may wear its influences on its sleeves, but the rest of the shirt fits so well you won't care. Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is an astronaut who has to spend three years on a moonbase. This is all fine until the isolation makes Sam start to hallucinate and start to wonder if his sidekick computer GERTY is as nice as it seems to be. With a great central performance and some superb twists, Moon is a tight, twisty sci-fi thriller.

Categories: Tech News

EA executive Patrick Söderlund announces departure

Latest Tech News - 7 hours 46 min ago

EA and DICE executive Patrick Söderlund is leaving the company after nearly two decades.

The announcement was made by EA CEO Andrew Wilson, who wrote a statement regarding Söderlund’s departure, which was shared with staff and then on the official EA website. 

According to Wilson’s announcement, Söderlund will leave the company later this year to “begin a new chapter”. However, neither Wilson nor Söderlund have revealed what this will entail. 

Who is Patrick Söderlund?

Söderlund is the Chief Design Officer of EA, meaning he’s in charge of the organization’s design initiatives. He’s served almost 20 years at the company, with roles including CEO of DICE (the studio behind the Battlefield series) and the Executive Vice President Of Worldwide Studios at EA. In addition, he oversaw development of the Frostbite Engine, which is now standard use for DICE titles.

It’s been a rocky year for Söderlund, who has taken the brunt of the loot box controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront 2, resulting in him admitting EA “got it wrong” with microtransactions and vowing that the publisher would learn from its mistakes. 

What does this mean for EA?

EA is shuffling around some of its teams, but no major changes have been announced as of yet. Announcing Söderlund’s departure, Wilson pledged that EA will “lean into the talent and expertise” of its team and work on making creativity at Electronic Arts “a central element” of the company’s strategy. 

EA hasn’t announced who will replace Söderlund but, going by the announcement it seems he’ll see out a three-month transition period before departing completely.

Categories: Tech News

DARPA is hosting an Olympic Games for bug-sized robots

Latest Tech News - 7 hours 52 min ago

DARPA is well known for big, expensive and frankly terrifying robots like Big Dog, but for its latest project it's thinking much smaller. The agency has announced a new program called SHRIMP (SHort-Range Independent Microrobotic Platforms), to create a new generation of micro-robots small enough to fit on a fingertip.

Big Dog can pick its way across uneven terrain in combat zones and disaster areas, but its size means there are some areas it simply can't pass. An insect-sized robot could scurry through rubble and obstacles unhindered – provided the technology can be made small enough.

Building a better bug

DARPA is challenging teams of researchers to create and demonstrate tiny robots capable of carrying out complex tasks in the field, striking a tricky balance of size, power and dexterity.

Each team's tiny bots will be put through an "Olympic-style evaluation" that will test maneuverability (on flat surfaces and slopes), speed, and load-carrying ability.

“While the goal of SHRIMP is develop small-scale, independent robotics platforms, we anticipate that discoveries made through our actuator and power storage research could prove beneficial to a number of fields currently constrained by these technical challenges  –  from prosthetics to optical steering," said DARPA program manager Dr Ronald Polcawich.

Via ZDNet

Categories: Tech News

Nvidia teases GeForce RTX 2080 in official promo video

Latest Tech News - 8 hours 17 min ago

Apparently Nvidia revealed a little more than Turing and the first RTX graphics cards as the company dropped several easter eggs pointing to the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 in a promotional video.

Eagle-eyed Reddit users spotted several hints toward an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 in the 'Be For The Game' video Nvidia released during Siggraph. Throughout the short trailer there are subtle usernames and text such as RoyTeX, Not_11, Mac-20, Eight-Tee and so on.

We’ve combed through the Reddit thread and the video itself for every possible teaser and here they are below:

  • RoyTeX - RTX
  • Not_11 - Not 11-series
  • Mac-20 - 20 Series
  • Eight-Tee - 80
  • AlanaT - Alan Turing
  • Zenith20 - 20 series
  • Ray - Raytracing
  • give me 20 - 20 series
  • 50.968495,7.014026 – GPS coordinates point to a location in Cologne, Germany, the city in which Nvidia is holding its GeForce Gaming Celebration event during Gamescom
  • Rolling date numbers appear in the order of 2,0,8,0

With all of that in mind we’re almost certain that Nvidia’s next graphic card will indeed be the GeForce RTX 2080. The question is whether Nvidia is trolling everyone by dropping these Easter eggs.

Curious benchmark

Coincidentally, during Turing’s announcement and everything happening at Siggraph, a new 'Nvidia  Graphics Device' appeared in Ashes of the Singularity database and blew past the Nvidia Titan V.

This mystery graphics card appears to have achieved an average frame rate of 57.4 to 75.1 frames per second (fps) while running the game at Crazy 4K settings. That’s impressive, as we were only able to achieve around 59 fps at lower Ultra 4K settings with an Intel Core i9-7980XE and Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti-powered test bench.

It also seems that this Nvidia Graphics Device ran the benchmarks paired with a fairly old Intel Core i7-5960X Haswell Extreme Edition processor, so we can only imagine what its performance would be with a modern Intel Coffee Lake or AMD Ryzen 2nd Generation processor.

While we’re hoping this Nvidia Graphics Device could be the Nvidia GTX 2080 leaked above, it could well also be any of the Quadro RTX cards Nvidia just announced. Either way, we’ll soon find out the truth as we barrel towards Gamescom and the almost inevitable reveal of the next Nvidia GeForce graphics cards.

  • Meanwhile, we haven't heard a peep about AMD Vega

Via Wccftech

Categories: Tech News

iPhone SE 2 release date, news, price and leaks

Latest Tech News - 8 hours 24 min ago

The iPhone SE 2 is one of the tech world's greats 'will it', 'won't it' stories. Rumored to be on, then off, then on and then off again, we're no clearer on when - if ever - the iPhone SE 2 release date will be.

We've been monitoring iPhone SE 2 leaks for over two years now, and the rumor mill continues to churn out small nuggets of hope, although the more recent reports suggest that perhaps we'll never see the handset launch.

Update: There's growing evidence that we might not get an iPhone SE 2 this year, with a case maker now claiming that its sources say as much.

It's not the end of the road for iPhone SE 2 hopefuls though, as Apple is tipped to launch a more affordable, new iPhone alongside two flagship variants this September.

This new iPhone, currently dubbed the iPhone 9, will likely have more in common with the iPhone X than the iPhone SE from 2016, but multiple sources suggest it'll boast an affordable (not cheap) price tag.

Whether we'll actually see an iPhone SE 2 launch, or a passing of the mantel to the iPhone 9, whatever the next 'affordable' iPhone is called the key thing is it'll be a huge spec upgrade over the iPhone SE. 

For those fixated on the SE form factor though, we're constantly on the look out for iPhone SE 2 rumors, and you'll find everything you need to know below.

iPhone SE 2 release date

We didn't get the new iPhone SE 2 at WWDC 2018, despite it perhaps making sense to turn up then, but all is not lost as there is evidence that it could arrive soon.

To start with, 11 variants of an Apple device recently crossed the Eurasian Economic Commission database. Apple's Eurasian filings have outed important products before, including the AirPods, and it usually foreshadows new gadgets one to two months ahead of time. 

Another rumor added that the iPhone SE 2 is likely to enter mass production in the first quarter of 2018, which is in the right time frame for an imminent arrival - although even now it feels like we're getting towards the end of the window for this particular SE 2 leak.

On the other hand, a 'Chinese accessory maker' reportedly stated that the iPhone SE 2 launch won't be until September, while prominent industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo doesn't believe Apple has the capacity to make an iPhone SE 2 this year.

Kuo said, "with three new models in the pipeline for the second half of 2018, we believe Apple may have used up its development resources."

We've also now heard from case maker Olixar that it doesn't believe there will be an iPhone SE 2 this year, so it's looking like there might be a long wait for the phone, if it ever arrives.

iPhone SE 2 price

In terms of pricing, if we do see an iPhone SE 2 launch, it will likely remain Apple's most affordable iPhone. 

The only iPhone SE 2 price rumor so far points to roughly $450 (which will likely translate to £450, AU$700 given how Apple prices its products worldwide), which seems believable.

The original iPhone SE started at $399 (£379, AU$679) for the 16GB variant, but now it starts at $349 (£349, AU$549) for 32GB of storage, as the 16GB model has been discontinued and the price dropped due to its aging innards.

We'd expect the iPhone SE 2 to cost at least as much, and a price rise is likely, but it should still be cheap relative to the rest of Apple's range.

The iPhone SE 2 could boast a brand new look

iPhone SE 2 design

In terms of how the new iPhone is going to look, well - we've got two theories rolling around, and both are rather believable.

The most popular theory is that the new smaller iPhone will have an iPhone X-like screen, complete with notch at the top:

Case maker Olixar also 'confirmed' the rumor, meaning the new iPhone SE 2 will have an all-screen front (although it's worth noting that case makers aren't always accurate in their new designs).

The rear of the phone will pack the same dual cameras as the iPhone X, with a video of a purportedly leaked of the new iPhone SE 2:

BGR was also sent some sketches of the phone in this configuration from a 'reliable source', so it's got some grains of truth in there, with the notch at the top, no home button and no headphone port (the latter a regular rumor).

A new screen protector has also been shown off by regular leaker Sonny Dickson, which also shows off a notch at the top for a smaller phone - all these rumors swirling together seem to hint that Apple is at least looking at bringing a smaller iPhone with the large display to market.

The notch is smaller too, which means Apple wouldn't be bringing the same large TrueDepth camera to the mix:

A screen protector apparently for the iPhone SE 2 (left) and iPhone X (right). Credit: Sonny Dickson

There's something sketchy here though. In this form, the iPhone SE 2 is more of an 'iPhone X Mini', which doesn't feel like a device that would be launched outside of the September event. 

Dual cameras and the new screen would mean it would cost a lot more, which is against the point of the iPhone SE range, for people that want a smaller, cheaper iPhone.

We also have the image below, which shows a design a lot like the original iPhone SE and with the headphone port intact, and seems far more believable.

This looks a lot like the original iPhone SE. Credit: Weibo

It's a design that another leak seems to echo, adding that the iPhone SE 2 will have a glass back and support wireless charging, so with two distinct designs doing the rounds we're not sure what's accurate at this point.

Other iPhone SE 2 rumors, news and leaks

In other news, we've heard that the iPhone SE 2 could have a quad-core A10 chipset, 2GB of RAM, a 12MP rear camera, a 5MP front-facing one, a 4-inch screen and that it could come in 32GB and 128GB sizes.

That would be an upgrade in some areas from the iPhone SE, but not much of one, putting it roughly in line with the iPhone 7, albeit with a smaller screen.

What's the most confusing about the new phone is this: how would you get into it? FaceID has been rumored to not be available, if the all-screen version is to be believed, in order to save money... so how would you open the phone?

With that in mind, the more traditional, static design with the fingerprint scanner seems to have more weight... so let's see what appears.

iPhone SE 2: what we want to see 

We’ve come up with a wish list, filled with features that we want to see in the new iPhone SE 2. 

Some of them are pleas to Apple to not remove key specs, while others dare the company to try something new. 

A headphone jack

First things first: the iPhone SE has a headphone jack and we'd very much like it if Apple kept things in place for the iPhone SE 2.

If Apple doesn't mess with the design of the next iteration, there's little reason to see it removed. However, rumors point to a new look, so fingers are crossed that the 3.5mm headphone jack doesn't get left on the cutting room floor.

A better battery

From a value perspective, the iPhone SE is high on the charts if you're looking for a phone that will last you through the day. As we discovered in our in-depth battery test, the SE swept the floor of the other popular iPhone models of the time, like the iPhone 7 and iPhone 6.

Its prowess at saving power makes sense. The screen is smaller and its boxy design doesn’t force Apple to slim down on the battery in the way that it might for a slimmer, sleeker chassis used with its core iPhone products.

While we're short on complaints about the SE's battery performance, it can only get better, right? We'd like to see Apple pushing some boundaries with its next phone with numbers that take it even higher.

Improved performance

One of the more impressive things about the SE is that it fits in a similar set of specs found in the iPhone 6S. A punchy palm-sized smartphone that could handle everything that its fancier iPhone brethren could for a more digestible price.

That's 2016 power though, and in 2018 we're hoping Apple gives the iPhone SE 2 the latest chipset and a bump in RAM.

A refreshed design

There's no arguing that reviving the iPhone 5 design for use with the iPhone SE was a good idea. After all, it's a winning design, first debuted on the iPhone 4, that set Apple far ahead of its competition in terms of build quality.

However, there comes a time when even the best design ideas need to be left to the side. And when looking toward the release of the iPhone SE 2, that time is now. 

We'd love to see something drastically different, all while sticking to the ergonomic four-inch size that SE fans are accustomed to.

A chance

That's right, we want Apple to give the iPhone SE 2 a chance. There's still a market out there for people who want an iPhone that sits comfortably in the palm, can be used one handed without inducing a drop risk, and doesn't take up every square inch of a pocket.

The iPhone SE form factor is loved by its its fans, and while the iPhone SE 2 won't be a best-seller for Apple it will show that the Cupertino firm is listening to some of its most loyal fans.

Categories: Tech News

This World of Warcraft player hit Battle for Azeroth’s level cap in under five hours

Latest Tech News - 9 hours 10 min ago

The latest expansion for World of Warcraft, Battle for Azeroth, only launched yesterday and already a player has reached the game’s new level cap – and it took them less than five hours.

According to Blizzard fansite Icy Veins, Gingi, a member of prestigious World of Warcraft guild Method, climbed 10 levels in just four hours and 17 minutes with his Troll Balance Druid Luigingi. Previously the level cap – the overall maximum strength of a character – was 110. However, the Battle for Azeroth expansion raised this to 120.

Here’s the moment Gingi hit level 120:

How did he do it?

To the average person, 10 levels may not seem like much. But, typically, climbing just one level at this position can take nearly two hours of intense playing (or grinding). 

Gingi didn’t tackle the task alone – he was accompanied by fellow Method members Deepshade and Meeres, who both reached level 120 shortly afterwards. The trio had extensively played the Battle for Azeroth beta, working out a plan of how long reaching the level cap would take when the expansion went live and what the fastest route would be – which was speedy questing. 

You can watch Gingi’s full stream on Twitch, which shows exactly how he did it.

Categories: Tech News

16-bit platformer Tanglewood is available for Sega Genesis now

Latest Tech News - 10 hours 5 min ago

British independent studio Big Evil Corporation has released its debut game, fantasy puzzle-platformer Tanglewood, for the Sega Genesis and Steam. 

No, you haven’t time-traveled back to the 90s. 16-bit side-scroller Tanglewood is a brand-new title for the Sega Genesis (also known as the Sega Mega Drive in regions outside North America), but will also be available on Steam.

The charming platformer sees you playing as Nymn, a fox lost in the dark and mysterious Tanglewood, who must find his way out of the wood and back to his pack. However, while Tanglewood is full of creatures who wish to help Nymn, there are also dangerous beasts hunting him down.

Check out the trailer below:

Tanglewood was created using original 1990s Sega development tools after being funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2016. However, unlike some older Sega Genesis titles, Tanglewood is playable on PAL, NTSC and NTSC-J consoles. 

Sega Genesis

The Sega Genesis was released in 1988 and was Sega’s most successful console, selling over 40 million units worldwide. The much-loved console is responsible for introducing the iconic video game character Sonic the Hedgehog.

“My aim for Tanglewood was to create it in the same way as my favorite games from my childhood,” says head of Big Evil Corporation Matt Phillips. “This idea has been brewing since I was nine years old – the kid in me has long wanted to see my very own Genesis box on a store shelf.”

Tanglewood is available as a physical Sega Genesis cartridge for £54.00 or on Steam for £14.95 / $17.99 / $AU20.95. Unfortunately there’s no official US or Australian price for the physical cartridge.

Categories: Tech News

Video: Huawei's nova 3 takes on the iPhone X for AI powered selfies

Latest Tech News - 10 hours 37 min ago

The HUAWEI nova3 is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and offer dual front camera (24MP+2MP) that work with AI beautification solutions to recognize age, gender and skin tone and optimize  a picture to its ultimate perfection. 

We've tested the HUAWEI nova 3's selfie cam with the iPhone X, a phone that costs twice as much. Watch the video below to see the results

Categories: Tech News

Huawei and ZTE tech banned from US government use

Latest Tech News - 11 hours 39 min ago

Communications technology manufactured by either Huawei or ZTE will not be permitted for use within the US government nor by its contractors.

Both companies have been largely frozen out of the US market due to the government’s concerns that its telecommunications equipment represents a threat to US national security, with many departments already prevented from using them.

However this practice has been formalised by the passing of the Defense Authorization Act, which prohibited the use of “Telecommunications equipment produced by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation (or any subsidiary or affiliate of such entities).”

Insert heading here

The act also covers products made by a number of other Chinese companies, most related to surveillance, as well as equipment from any firm that the FBI or the Secretary of Defense “reasonably” believes has links to a foreign government.

Huawei has always denied accusations of links to the Chinese government and is a supplier for telcos in other countries, including the UK. It is now the world’s second biggest manufacturer of smartphones with its recent P20 flagship receiving considerable critical acclaim.

As for ZTE, the Trump administration had personally intervened to stop the company from going out of business. 

ZTE was slapped with a seven-year ban from dealing with US suppliers for breaching a previous agreement for illegally shipping products to North Korea and Iran. ZTE was obliged to discipline executives involved in the scandal but failed to do so.

UK telcos have been warned not to use ZTE network equipment, mainly because this would inhibit British security agencies’ ability to monitor kit from Huawei.

Categories: Tech News

Apple’s affordable MacBook could be on sale as soon as October

Latest Tech News - 12 hours 6 min ago

Apple is planning to launch its much-rumored cheaper MacBook in the final quarter of this year, according to the latest from the notebook grapevine.

That means we could theoretically see the budget-friendly creation in October, with previous rumors suggesting this will be an affordable MacBook Air, although this latest snippet – which comes from DigiTimes – doesn’t actually clarify exactly what model of MacBook it will be.

The DigiTimes story (spotted by Mac Rumors) simply states that notebook maker Quanta will see its shipments rise sharply in the fourth quarter “thanks to orders for Apple’s new inexpensive notebooks”. So in theory we should see these laptops on the shelves before the end of the year at the latest (which is in line with previous speculation).

Sadly, no further details are provided on the notebooks, and as mentioned this report doesn’t even say that the incoming device is a new MacBook Air, meaning the fresh model could be pitched as a vanilla MacBook.

Old hat

However, on a basic level, it makes sense that it would be a MacBook Air if it’s an affordable machine, as these represent the cheaper end of the spectrum of Apple’s notebooks, starting at $999 (£949, AU$1,429). And the range is certainly due a refresh, given that it’s had essentially the same design for the best part of a decade now, and still runs with a decidedly dusty-looking 5th-generation Intel CPU.

Of course, take all this with the usual rumor-related caveats, and remember that DigiTimes isn’t always the most reliable source – although in fairness it is generally more clued-up on activity in the Asian component and notebook supply chain.

Previous speculation (again from DigiTimes) has pointed to this potential MacBook Air being a 13-inch model with a Retina screen, which if true would please a lot of folks for sure.

That said, just a cheaper MacBook of any kind will be welcome – it's almost two years since Apple ditched its 11-inch variant of the MacBook Air, which used to be the most wallet-friendly option at £749 or $899 (that’s around AU$1,240).

Categories: Tech News

Half of Brits say they don't trust blockchain

Latest Tech News - 12 hours 18 min ago

British users are not yet on board with the blockchain bandwagon, new research has claimed.

Over a third (35 percent) of Brits say they would not trust an organisation using the technology with their personal information, as they are not fully aware of what blockchain actually is.

Overall, 53 percent had never heard of blockchain before, with only 18 percent of those who have able to correctly identify what the technology actually is.

UK blockchain distrust

The research, carried out by OnePulse at the recent IP Expo Europe trade show, found that even those who know what blockchain actually is are wary of the technology. 

11 percent of those who were familiar with blockchain said they would not trust a business using it, meaning that overall nearly half of the public would avoid organisations using blockchain technology. 

28 percent said that they would not trust an organisation using any technology they don’t understand, highlighting that businesses need to be careful on what new tools and services they are pushing into the public domain.

The news comes despite blockchain being touted as the next big thing in a wide variety of industries, with the technology cited as a breakthrough in work ranging from security to healthcare.

“Blockchain is a technology that many people in the industry are still struggling to wrap their head around, so it’s of no surprise that it’s also causing plenty of confusion for the general public," said Andy Steed, director of content for IP Expo Europe.

"Businesses need to make sure they are not only deploying new technology like blockchain in a way that will have a meaningful impact, but that they are taking the time to explain what the technology is in easy to understand language to their customers instead of simply stating that they are using it.”

Categories: Tech News

FDA approves app as a form of birth control

Latest Tech News - 12 hours 34 min ago

There have never been so many choices when it comes to birth control, and now the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a ‘digital contraceptive’ for the first time. 

Natural Cycles is a fertility-tracking app for women, which uses algorithms to calculate the days of the month on which the user is most fertile, and therefore should not have unprotected sex should they wish to avoid getting pregnant. 

Using data like daily body temperature and monthly menstrual cycle tracking, the app is said to have a fail rate of nearly 2% for “perfect use”, and a fail rate of 6% for “typical use”, not unlike barrier methods and the pill. 

Unplanned pregnancies

Natural Cycles has been approved as a contraceptive method since 2017 in the European Union, but it’s taken a little longer for the US to get on board, which may be due to concerns about the app’s effectiveness as a means of avoiding unwanted pregnancies.

One Stockholm hospital launched an investigation into the app following 37 unplanned pregnancies in women who were using it. 

Despite this, the popularity of digital contraceptives has skyrocketed as women look for alternatives to hormonal methods like the pill, which often causes unpleasant side-effects like weight gain, mood swings and migraines.

The rhythm method

Although it’s not known whether our ancestors understood the link between fertility and the menstrual cycle, the rhythm method of contraception is one of the oldest, and was particularly popular amongst Catholics in the early 1900s, for whom barrier contraceptives were forbidden. 

With 600,000 active users, the popularity of Natural Cycles is part of a wider trend for digital health monitoring, with heart trackers, exercise apps and meditation apps making up some of the 3.7 billion that were downloaded in 2017

Categories: Tech News

EE named UK's best mobile network again

Latest Tech News - 13 hours 17 min ago

EE has been named the UK’s best mobile network for the fifth consecutive year by independent testers at RootMetrics, but the operator’s lead is narrowing.

The BT-owned operator won the overall, network reliability, network speed, data performance, call performance and text performance categories, helping it “win” RootMetrics’ half-yearly report for the tenth time in a row.

Its overall score was 96 out of 100, but Three was close behind on 93, Vodafone scored 90.1 and O2 reached 86.6.

UK mobile networks

Vodafone made significant improvements in data, while Three performed consistently well in most categories. O2 was last once again, but testers noted better call performance and the fact it has done consistently well in the text category over the past few years.

There are also regional variations, with Vodafone doing better in Northern Ireland and Three competing with EE in Wales.

All four operators have made significant investments in their infrastructure in order to boost speed and coverage. EE, for example, is targeting 95 per cent 4G landmass coverage by the end of the decade.

However, RootMetrics believes that as the gap between the best and worst network becomes smaller, 5G will be an increasingly important differentiator. It is expected that all four will launch 5G between 2019 and 2020.

“The first movers in 5G are going to have an advantage as consumers will see a big step change in performance of their devices across critical functions like live streaming video,” said Kevin Hasley, head of product at RootMetrics and head of testing at parent IHS Markit.

“EE’s high performance in 4G testing can lead to a seamless service transition to 5G; however it will be a brand new playing field once the technology is live. 5G will give all networks an opportunity to be a leader in performance and service provision.

“However, 5G is most likely to impact urban area performance as it will be deployed in centres of high population density. Operators will still need to prove and maintain 4G and even 3G performance across wider geographies as that’s how we use our phones. We accept that when on the move and in more rural locations that performance will be lower, but we still have expectations about minimum performance.”

A separate study from RootMetrics earlier this year suggested just 53 per cent of Brits were happy with their mobile speed, but 79 per cent would be willing to pay marginally more for a better service.

Categories: Tech News

You're going to have to wait longer for Group Facetime in iOS 12

Latest Tech News - 13 hours 45 min ago

Apple's next big software update - iOS 12 - is expected to launch in the next month or so, but the latest beta has confirmed one of the most anticipated features won't be ready to use on day one.

Group Facetime, a feature that allows you to video chat with up to 32 people at once, won't be waiting for you to use at launch and is instead delayed until a future update.

That comes direct from the iOS 12 developer beta 7 that was spotted by 9To5Mac . While it doesn't elaborate on why the feature is delayed, a statement says "Group FaceTime has been removed from the initial release of iOS 12 and will ship in a future software update later this fall."

Hanging on

That may mean you have to wait for iOS 12.1 or iOS 12.2 to be able to download the new feature, which if Apple follows its normal release patterns we'd expect both to be ready before the end of the year.

Apple delayed features in a similar way last year with iOS 11 missing out on Apple Pay Cash and CarPlay 2 at launch, but the features came to handsets later on.

If you've been desperately waiting for Group Facetime there are lots of alternatives out there for you to use like Google Hangouts and Skype, plus if you only want to talk in groups of three people you can use similar features on WhatsApp and Instagram too.

Via TechnoBuffalo

Categories: Tech News