Elon Musk Says Hyperloop “Is Really Going to happen”

SpaceX just staged a 3-day event at the Texas A&M University, where the pioneering space company brought together teams of engineering students from around the world to compete for a chance to have their pod designs built and tested on SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s proposed Hyperloop transportation system. Musk himself even made a surprise appearance on stage during the event, where he was met with whoops, cheers and clapping from the crowd who may not have been expecting the chance to meet their inspirational icon.

“I’m starting to think that this is really going to happen,” said Musk as he took the stage, with many of the teams in attendance holding their hands up in groups in the hopes of drawing the SpaceX founder’s attention during his Q&A session. Musk going on to say, “the work that you guys are doing is going to blow people’s minds.”

The rest of the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition Design weekend went on to pit over 1000 student teams from 120 colleges and 3 high-schools worldwide against each other in the design competition. This stage of the competition intended to create a shortlist of at least 22 teams, which may be invited to the Californian headquarters of SpaceX this summer to build and test their designs. Judges from Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla companies as well as university professors were in attendance to judge the teams’ 20-minute pitches and grill them with 10 minutes of questions on their designs. The contest challenged the students, not just as engineers, but also their business and marketing skills with many presenting business cards, prototype models and high-quality marketing videos, making the contest a good chance for enterprising engineers to network with their peers.

By the end of the weekend, the team from Massachusets Institute of Technology were deemed the winners, with the Delft University of Technology from the Netherlands finishing second and University of Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and the University of California filling the rest of the top 5.

It is always great to see Elon Musk continuing to engage with rising engineering stars and his positive effects on the field. It really pays off too, with both Tesla and SpaceX already performing feats beyond many of their rivals and with the Hyperloop on the horizon, Musk’s legacy will only continue to grow.

China Releases True Colour HD Photos of the Moon

The China National Space Administration has released a series of beautiful images from its recent moon mission. The photos – all true colour and high definition, taken by the Chang’e 3 lunar lander and Yutu rover in 2013 – are available for download from the Chinese Science and Application Center for Moon and Deepspace Exploration website. While the Chinese site is a tad unstable, thankfully Senior Editor and planetary evangelist Emily Lakdawalla grabbed some of the highlights and is hosting them on the Lunar Society blog.

China’s Chang’e 3 mission – named for the Goddess of the Moon in Chinese mythology – was the first soft moon landing for 37 years, the first since Russia’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. The Yutu rover, nicknamed the “Jade Rabbit” then explored and photographed the lunar surface with its HD camera, radar, x-ray, and infrared spectrometers.

The results from the Chang’e 3 mission suggested that lunar surface is more diverse than previously thought.

After a year of exposure to lunar conditions, Yutu was left frozen, unable to fully mobilise, and yet was still able to collect data and images, and beam them back to China, until March 2015.

An image from NASA (courtesy of TechCrunch) shows where the Chang’e 3 lunar lander touched down on the surface of the moon:

 

Fake Hack gets Over 3,000 CS:GO Players VAC Banned

A mischievous gamer got over 3,000 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive players VAC banned by releasing a series of fake multihacks. Reddit user AndroidL posted his antics to the Global Offensive subreddit, revealing that his fake hacks garnered over 5,500 downloads, with more than 3,000 offending users subjected to Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) bans.

“Over the course of two weeks I’ve released three different fake “multihacks”,” AndroidL wrote. “Essentially they edit your view angles to those that should be impossible to get and constantly gives infinite ammo/health. The hacks also do a few other things that ensure a VAC ban would be received.”

“The first two releases had a “timer” in them which meant the features that instantly VAC banned them would only be activated after a certain time (e.g. 10 PM on the day after the release)… the final hack (with over 3.5k downloads) just instantly VAC bans them as soon as they open the hack and join a game.”

“In total, my fake hacks received 26,000+ views and 5,500+ downloads!” he boasted.

AndroidL then posted a graph to show how his fake hacks affected ban statistics:

Hopefully, the removal of so many cheaters from CS:GO will protect the integrity of what is regarded to be the best online multiplayer first-person shooters ever made.

18TB of Hacked Data from Largest US Police Union Leaked

A massive cache of private files belonging to the largest police union in America was leaked online following a breach of its website. The Fraternal Order of Police, which represents around 330,000 US police officers, admitted on Friday that its servers had been hacked after around 18TB-worth of data from the organisation was distributed online.

According to The Guardian, the leaked files contain names and addresses of members, controversial city authority contracts, and private forum posts critical of President Barack Obama.

When the hack was traced back to a UK IP address, a British citizen, operating under the pseudonym Cthulhu, admitted responsibility for leaking the data in a post on his website.

“Today I released some files from the Fraternal Order of Police,” Cthulhu wrote, “allegedly the largest union-type body in the US representing sworn-in police officers. Since then, many groups have shared it over social media and other means, for which I thank all who have donated their bandwidth to seed the files over the torrent.”

While Cthulhu refused to reveal how he obtained the data he subsequently leaked, he clarifies that he did not commit the breach himself, saying, “I will not speak on behalf of the source, who has asked to remain anonymous. As this is the wishes of the source, I cannot provide “exclusive” information or a behind the scenes to anyone, no matter how respected you are in the industry or the promises made.”

“My word is my bond, and so I owe the source a degree of protection from the media, as was his/her wishes. If the source wishes to discuss his/her identity, they shall come forth in their own time,” he added.

The FOP has used the attack as evidence of a pervasive “anti-police” sentiment, but Alex Vitale, Associate Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College, argues that it provides a level of transparency into police operations that the public should be entitled to.

““No one really knows what is going on inside police unions,” Vitale told The Guardian. “The most troubling thing is that they have been able to work out disciplinary procedures that shield them from oversight, as in what steps that the employer has to go to discipline or terminate someone.”

Xfinity User Creates Bot to Tweet Comcast Whenever His Internet Speed Drops

An industrious Comcast Xfinity customer, disgruntled over poor internet speeds, has created a bot that auto-Tweets Comcast whenever his broadband drops below advertised speeds. Redditer AlekseyP used a Raspberry Pi to monitor his internet speed, checking every hour, which sends a Tweet to the official Comcast Twitter account every time it drops below 50mbps.

“I pay for 150mbps down and 10mbps up,” AleskeyP wrote on reddit. “The raspberry pi runs a series of speedtests every hour and stores the data. Whenever the downspeed is below 50mbps the Pi uses a twitter API to send an automatic tweet to Comcast listing the speeds.”

“I know some people might say I should not be complaining about 50mpbs down,” he added, “but when they advertise 150 and I get 10-30 I am unsatisfied. I am aware that the Pi that I have is limited to ~100mbps on its Ethernet port (but seems to top out at 90) so when I get 90 I assume it is also higher and possibly up to 150.”

After some redditors accused AleskeyP of recording skewed results, he responded: “We do not torrent in our house; we use the network to mainly stream TV services and play PC and Xbone live games. I set the speedtest and graph portion of this up (without the tweeting part) earlier last year when the service was so constatly bad that Netflix wouldn’t go above 480p and I would have >500ms latencies in CSGO. I service was constantly below 10mbps down. I only added the Twitter portion of it recently and yes, admittedly the service has been better.”

While adding that he is no “fancy programmer”, AleskeyP has made his Raspberry Pi speedtest Tweetbot code available on Pastebin.

Fable Legends DX12 Engine Offers up to 40% Performance Gains

Fable Legends is an upcoming free-to-play cooperative action RPG developed by Lionhead Studios. This is a major departure from the traditional Fable formula which focuses on providing an enthralling single player experience via humorous characters and a thrilling story. Sadly, the series has progressively got worse and I really didn’t care for Fable III at all. This is a crying shame because Fable: The Lost Chapters is so charming and one of my favourite RPGs of all time. While Fable Legends is an interesting concept, many users simply want to see a brand new Fable game based on a standard business model. The advent of microtransactions makes the core gaming demographic quite concerned about a game’s value and ability to continue without having to grind for hours.

Currently, Fable Legends is accessible to a small number of users in the closed beta. I am one of the lucky ones and able to play the game, but an embargo agreement means I cannot publicly discuss it. As a Windows 10 exclusive, Fable Legends is opting for a DirectX 12 engine and offers significant performance gains compared to the older DirectX 11 API. Lionhead Studios’ director, Stuart Whyte said in a recent interview with BidnessETC that the performance enhancements on PC could be as much as 40%. This obviously depends on the hardware in question and I’d like to see a more detailed analysis of which configurations showcase the biggest gains.

Also, Whyte went onto discuss the effect on DirectX 12 on the Xbox One and said advanced features including asynchronous compute and efficient multi-threaded rendering would help “push the visual bar higher than would otherwise be possible.” Please note, this doesn’t mean DirectX 12 will be able to leverage extra frames-per-second, unlike the implementation on PC. Perhaps, it will help to improve texture quality or allow for a higher rendering resolution.

Counter-Strike Players Unhappy about Valve’s New Mod Restrictions

Counter-Strike is definitely one of the most versatile and popular games in the world right now, but it looks like its creators want to change things up a bit as far as modding support is concerned. To be more specific, Valve has recently decided to restrict all server mods that would allow players to access custom items such as skins and weapons. This is being regarded as a harsh measure by many Counter-Strike players, as it dramatically limits the game’s potential to deliver more outlandish experiences. It’s true that the title benefits from a Steam Workshop, but since it only works for maps, players are severely limited in their modding choices right now.

Valve’s decision is particularly strange because Counter-Strike itself actually started out as a mod for Half-Life. Moreover, Counter-Strike 1.6 and Counter-Strike: Source were both used to create overhauls such as the Zombie Mod, which is still greatly appreciated to this day. By comparison, Valve’s other hit, DOTA 2, enjoys extensive modding support, but comparing the two games is not exactly fair as they are fundamentally different. Below you will find a complete list of rules that Valve has implemented for Counter-Strike.

“We’re aware that some server operators are offering to their players false inventories and/or profiles as a free or paid service via mods on their servers. These mods inaccurately report the contents of a player’s inventory and/or matchmaking status, devaluing both and potentially creating a confusing experience for players.

Therefore, we are asking server operators to remove any mods and plugins that falsify the contents of a player’s profile or inventory.

To be clear, the services that should not be offered on a community server include (but are not limited to):

– Allowing players to claim temporary ownership of CS:GO items that are not in their inventory (Weapon skins, knives, etc.).

– Providing a falsified competitive skill group and/or profile rank status or scoreboard coin (e.g., Operation Challenge Coins).

– Interfering with systems that allow players to correctly access their own CS:GO inventories, items, or profile.”

Are you a Counter-Strike player, and if so, what do you think about these new restrictions?

Google’s SkyBender Drones Could Provide Super Fast Internet

Google is actively trying to bring internet access to some of the world’s most remote areas, and of course it would have every reason to do so as increased internet coverage would dramatically increase the company’s reach and revenue. Apart from Project Loon, which aims to provide internet access using a fleet of hot-air balloons, the company is also working on a project called SkyBender, which could potentially be even more impressive. SkyBender relies on large solar-powered drones, which are reportedly being tested at a New Mexico-based facility named Spaceport America. Google’s experts are currently testing a series of prototype transceivers and drones that make use of something called millimetre wave radio transmissions.

On paper, this technology could support transfers of multiple Gigabits of data per second, which means that it could deliver speeds of up to 40 times greater when compared to regular 4G, LTE communications systems. Obviously, implementing the tech on a large solar-powered drone is going to be quite challenging, but Google is confident that it will be able to overcome the main obstacles soon enough. One potential fix would be to implement a high-tech antenna that would make use of phased array technology. The Federal Communications Commission has allowed the company to conduct further testing until July, and we will keep you updated on its progress.

The Witness is on Track to Sell More in a Week Than Braid Sold in Its First Year

Jonathan Blow is one of the most well-known figures in the independent development scene and created the hit puzzle game, Braid. Arguably, Braid showcased the kind of creativity and visual flair many indie studios had the potential to create. Prior to the release of Braid, it was still quite uncommon for consumers to financially support indie titles as they were a fairly new concept. Braid was a huge success, and managed to receive superb critical acclaim from professional reviewers and the gaming community. Moving forward to 2016, it’s clear to see how revolutionary the indie movement has been and Steam is awash with a massive selection of obscure, innovative titles. Eventually, Jonathan Blow began to work on a brand new puzzle game entitled, The Witness.

The Witness adopts an absolutely gorgeous art style and features of over 500 tricky puzzles. As a result, the experience is quite long and bound to keep your interest over time. Despite receiving absolutely fantastic reviews, the game has come under some criticism for its $39.99/£29.99 price point. Even though releases from huge publishers like Ubisoft and EA can cost £44.99/$59.99, it seems some consumers are unwilling to spend so much on an indie puzzler. When compared to other indie titles, it is a costly endeavour. However, value always depends on the individual in question and their wage.

On another note, The Witness has been heavily pirated and already attained the most downloaded title on a very popular torrent site. Perhaps, this is down to the price point, or simply people wanting to play the game for free. Whatever the case, it’s disappointing to see someone’s hard work being pirated on such a large-scale. Despite this, The Witness is doing remarkably well and according to Jonathan Blow, on track to sell more in a week than Braid managed in a year:

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Blow/status/693668210499977216

I’m not sure if this refers to units sold, or gross profit. However, I do find this astonishing because the indie scene is very competitive these days, and Braid’s enormous success seemed so difficult to beat.

Processor Design Expert from AMD and Apple Hired by Tesla

The race to develop self-driving cars is very competitive, with a growing number of companies doing their utmost to beat out the competition to develop the technology. One company, in particular, is taking self-driving car technology very seriously, Tesla, who have already rolled out a very limited form of the technology to their popular Model S. Now according to Electrek, Elon Musk’s car company have recently hired a veteran of processor design, Jim Keller to assume the lead of their Autopilot hardware engineering team.

Exactly what Keller will be working on a Tesla is currently undisclosed, with there being no implications that Tesla will be developing in-house microprocessors to use in their vehicles’ systems. Self-driving systems like Tesla’s Autopilot certainly require a lot of processing power in a tight space, however, and Tesla intends to make full use of Keller’s hardware engineering experience and especially his low-power design expertise.

Keller himself is a renowned and respected figure in his field, having worked on a number of AMD’s flagship processors over the years, including their upcoming Zen architecture. Not only that, but he has held a high-profile engineering role at Apple where he played a crucial role in the development of their A4 and A5 processors, which went on to power most of Apple’s mobile devices and Apple TVs from 2010 to 2012.

Could Keller’s expertise be just what Tesla needs to transform their Autopilot technology from a limited option to a fully fledged driving assist or self-driving system? The right hardware could allow the company to solve the tough computational problems that come with such systems.

RollerCoaster Tycoon is Making a Comeback in 2016!

The PC platform is home to a huge array of iconic simulation games including Theme Hospital and RollerCoaster Tycoon. During my childhood, the ability to open a hospital, and try to manage the budget while offering good healthcare was a fairly enticing proposition. Admittedly, I preferred it to the theme park titles, because I’ve never been overly fond of rollercoasters. Nevertheless, the formula for any simulation game is really enjoyable and recent examples like Cities: Skylines illustrates their popularity. Clearly, one of the most fondly remembered simulation games is RollerCoaster Tycoon which allows you to build thrilling rides, and create other amenities.

RollerCoaster Tycoon was originally released on March, 31st 1999, and starting to show its age. Thankfully, a sequel entitled, RollerCoaster Tycoon World is in production and scheduled for a 2016 release. Furthermore, the development studio has promised the latest instalment will be a completely different experience from the mobile version and without any microtransactions. According to Mashable, RollerCoaster Tycoon World adopts a similar focus which properly honours the previous game. Additionally, there’s endless potential for replayability as players can share custom created content and upload them directly to the Steam Community.

Sadly, it seems the current build isn’t a graphical masterpiece and doesn’t evoke the same kind of fidelity seen in Cities: Skylines. Atari also demoed the game on an Alienware laptop which just about hovered over the minimum requirements. This resulted in severe frame drops, slow loading times and various crashes to the desktop. Hopefully, this is an isolated incident and the final version will have a greater level of polish. Perhaps, the performance is improved on better hardware as the engine might not be well suited to mobile chipsets.

Even though rollercoaster simulators aren’t to my taste, it’s fantastic to see a classic being revived. Hopefully it lives up to people’s expectations and provides a fantastic experience.

Tomb Raider 2013 Heading to Linux and SteamOS?

Are you a fan of gaming on SteamOS or Linux? Although admittedly the two operating systems aren’t mutually exclusive anyway. Well, it looks like the 2013 release of Tomb Raider may be heading to the platform in the not too distant future, as the game was recently discovered in the SteamDB. We’ve heard of a lot of games being leaked via SteamDB, so there’s certainly some credibility to the rumour.

It’s a great game and one that I’m sure a lot of gamers on Linux would be eager to enjoy. There’s still a lot of work to be done to make SteamOS and/or Linux a more establish gaming platform, but it’s nice to see bigger titles, albeit a few years old, heading that way at a steady pace. With the new Tomb Raider game having just launched on PC, it’s a shame the new one isn’t already available to the open source part of the gaming community, but perhaps if the 2013 release does well, we could see Rise of the Tomb Raider ported over as well.

Not a lot is known about the port to Linux at this time, only that it has cropped up on the SteamDB, so for all we know, it may never see the light of day. We don’t know who’s doing the port either, so it could either be an in-house project or something that has been leased out to another studio, but hopefully we’ll find out soon enough. With SteamOS seemingly falling into obscurity this last few months, it may be too little too late to start moving more games to the platform, but Linux is still growing in popularity, slowly but surely.

Do you play games on SteamOS or on Linux? Are you looking forward to hopefully being able to play Tomb Raider (2013) on these platforms? Let us know in the comments section below.

How Much Did Google Pay The Guy Who Bought Google.com?

If there’s one that that is integral to the operation of Google.com it is their domain name. Sure, they have .co.uk and a whole host of others from around the world, but owning their own .com is a vital part of their search engine and the hub for the US version of the world’s most popular search engine. So you would think they would keep it paid for and up to date right? Well, last October saw ex-Google employee Sanmay Ved managing to purchase the domain when Google forgot to renew it; I think whoops would be an understatement!

Fortunately for Google, Sanmay isn’t a bad guy and actually did them a bit of a favour, as anyone with darker intentions could have really caused them a bit of a headache, albeit for a short-lived time. When it was realised what had happened, Google reversed the transaction and Sanmay shared his endeavours via LinkedIn. Shortly afterwards, he was contacted by the team at Google Security to offer him a reward for snapping it up, but they didn’t reveal how much he was paid, only commenting that it was offered “in a very Googley way.”

Now it seems that vague comment makes a lot more sense, as it was revealed that Google Security not only paid out a nice sum of money for his reward, but it was about as “Googly” a number as you could come up with. They paid him $6,006.13, which was you can see looks a bit like $G,OOG,LE.

That’s a pretty sweet reward for a minutes work, but as I said before, Ved is a nice guy and donated the money he received to charity, at which point Google immediately doubled the total for him to donate. So it seems a lot of good came out of this little security blunder after all.

Check Out These Gorgeous ENBSeries Grand Theft Auto V Screenshots

Grand Theft Auto V was already an impressive looking game when it launched on PC, but that hasn’t stopped the GTA V modding community from breaking it down into tiny pieces and building it all back up again. The latest screenshots from ‘dpeasaant’ and ‘Ryuken’ have been shared on the ENBSeries forums and they’re absolutely breathtaking.

ENB series mods are nothing new, but the mod has continued to be developed and improved by a very passionate modding community. Just when you think the mod can’t possibly get any better, a new wave of screenshots is released to catch us off guard.

Now, before people start crying in the comments about “what mod is this” and “what settings do I need to get these graphics,” there’s a little more to it than that. First of all, dial up the graphics options pretty darn high in the games settings, that would be a good start. Now install graphics mods and plenty of them, although remember to backup your game install folder first should anything goes wrong.

A great place to start grabbing mods for your game would Nexus Mods, and to make things even easier, their Top Files section has a lot of great mods and installation guides for each. You’ll also want some SweetFX or ENB series mods and profiles, of which there are many, but a good start would be here.

It’s not easy to get these results, but it’s certainly possible. Just take it slowly and test one mod at a time and you could have one of the best looking PC games or today looking like one of the best PC games of tomorrow.

If you want to see more awesome screenshots by the ENBSeries community, head on over to the official page, as there are some truly incredible examples to be found.

Noctua NH-D15S CPU Cooler Review

Introduction


Noctua is one of the leading cooling manufacturers in the world. Time and time again they’ve proven that they can deliver the highest quality products, with class leading and award winning cooling and acoustic performance. Of course, more often than not, this premium performance and quality come with an equally premium price tag, but as the saying goes “you get what you pay for.”

Today, we’ll be taking a look at one of their flagship coolers, the Noctua NH-D15S. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the latest variant of their ever popular NH-D15. The key difference here, however, is that the “S” variant is designed to be extremely compatible, allowing fantastic support for motherboards with large VRM cooling, larger RAM modules and more, without sacrificing performance.

“Tailored to provide superior RAM and PCIe compatibility, the NH-D15S is an asymmetrical single fan version of Noctua’s award-winning flagship model, the NH-D15. Thanks to its asymmetrical design, the NH-D15S clears the top PCIe slot on most µATX and ATX motherboards. At the same time, the single fan setup and recessed lower fins guarantee 100% RAM compatibility with memory modules of up to 65mm height. Users who have sufficient room can also upgrade the cooler with either a 120mm or round 140mm fan on the front fin stack for further improved performance in dual fan mode. Topped off with the trusted, pro-grade SecuFirm2 multi-socket mounting system, Noctua’s proven NT-H1 thermal compound and full 6 years manufacturer’s warranty, the NH-D15S forms a complete premium quality solution that combines dual tower efficiency with excellent compatibility and flexible upgrade options.”

Let’s take a quick look at the product video from Noctua for a closer look at some of the cool features on offer.

Equipped with support for all major socket types, as well as the ability to mount 120 or 140mm fans, an included low-noise adaptor, the award-winning NT-H1 thermal paste and more, it’s certainly ticking all the right boxes. The cooler also comes with a fantastic 6-year warranty, so Noctua clearly has confidence in the build quality.

The packaging is typical Noctua, nicely laid out and plenty of technical information on the sides.

The cooler is very well protected with some durable card and thick foam around all major components.

There’s a small component box separate from the cooler too, which contains everything you need to get it installed.

A good size tube of thermal paste, additional fan clips, AMD and Intel kits, a universal backplate and even a special screw driver!

Microsoft Pre-Loading TripAdvisor App into Windows 10

As Windows 10 continues to roll up and get updated and patched, it seems like Microsoft is getting more and more crazy. According to a PR statement released by TripAdvisor and partially collaborated by Microsoft’s own statement, the TripAdivsor Windows app will come pre-loaded (i.e. bundled) with Windows 10 devices. This means users may have no choice whether or not the TripAdvisor app is installed or not, making it bloatware.

Microsoft has long bundled applications with their Windows OS. These, however, have been useful things like Windows Media Player, Calculator and Word Pad. When Windows 10 first launched, Candy Crush Saga came pre-loaded but that was slightly tolerable. Now that another app is set to join that list, it seems like Microsoft may be going to far. After all, Windows has long known to be clean and Microsoft even makes a point about selling Signature Edition PCs without the much-dreaded OEM bloatware.

TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, today announced the launch of a new Windows 10 app across desktop, tablet and mobile. The TripAdvisor app for Windows 10 will be available in 47 markets and will be pre-loaded on millions of Windows 10 compatible devices in 2016.

At this point there is nothing to suggest the TripAdvisor won’t be uninstallable and it should be removable by those who don;t use it. While some may find the pre-loading useful, Microsoft is starting down a worrying trend, hopefully, one that doesn’t continue.

EA Confirms Battlefield 5 Release Window

Battlefield fans will be happy to know that EA has plans for the installment of the franchise. According to a statement given out by EA, the next Battlefield title from DICE will launch in time to be sold during the holiday season later this year. Following up Battlefield 5 will be Titanfall 2 from Respawn and Mass Effect: Andromeda from BioWare either in late 2016 or early 2017. In the interim, Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and a number of EA Sports titles will fill in the year.

Unfortunately for those looking for a new Battlefield title set during either World War 2 or the Cold War, Battlefield 5 will once again be a modern shooter. This is the latest in a long line of titles since Battlefield: Bad Company 2 in 2010 which have focused on modern warfare. Honestly, the modern warfare setting has gotten a bit stale and repetitive so hopefully, the next installment will show a return to their roots.

The full EA statement follows:

“In Q1, we’ll begin with the creative and innovative Mirror’s Edge Catalyst from DICE launching in May. A great line-up of EA Sports titles are in development for next year, and we look forward to sharing more about these new experiences in the months ahead. An all-new Battlefield game from DICE will arrive in time for the holidays, we’re excited to have a new Titanfall experience coming from our friends at Respawn – and of course, Mass Effect Andromeda from the team at BioWare will launch later in the fiscal year.”

Google to Add Home Phone Service to Fiber Customers

Google’s super fast internet offering, Google Fiber is the envy of those outside of the select few locations it has been rolled out. Touting 1 gigabit per second bandwidth for both uploads and downloads, it puts the common superfast packages of 1 or 2 hundred megabits to shame. Now they look to be planning to add a home phone service to the package, with members of Fiber’s Trusted Tester program receiving invites to try out the system ahead of everyone else.

Unlike most internet packages that include a phone line as part of the package, because Google Fiber provides a fiber optic connection directly to the user’s premises, a landline is not required and not offered by the internet giant. Adding a phone service to the Fiber package would bring their offering up to the same type of “triple-play” bundle that comprises of internet, TV and phone services.

Offering a phone service looks to be taking into account the existing Google Voice service, with this new offering taking a number of features from Voice, including a cloud phone number, transcribed voicemail delivered to an email inbox and the ability to screen calls based on the person and time. Users will also be allowed to make use of an existing phone number for use with the service, or get an entirely new number with the service.

For now, the service is yet to be formally announced by Google, so whether it goes ahead is likely based on the adoption and feedback from their Trusted Testing group. Could Google Fiber continue to be a more and more attractive package for those able to get it, negating the need for a separate landline, or will it be reaching too far? Only time will tell.

Smithsonian Museum Restoring Original 1967 USS Enterprise

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of Star Trek and it’s sure to be celebrated by the millions of fans of the series worldwide. With the next movie, Star Trek Beyond, on the way and rumours of a new TV series abound, it’ll definitely be an anniversary for Trekkies to remember. Not to be left out, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum have set about restoring the original 1967 USS Enterprise model that was used in the filming of all 79 episodes of the original series.

The model had been on display in the Smithsonian since it was donated back in 1974, but in September 2015, was taken off public showing due to the time taking its toll on the model leaving it in need of conservation. The team plan to have the model back on display later this year in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, to mark the museum’s 40th anniversary in July and Star Trek’s 50th in September. The aim of the conservation is to restore the model to its appearance in the Trouble With Tribbles episode from August 1967, which featured the last modification made to the ship during the show’s production. Trekkie’s can rest easy knowing the iconic model is in good hands, with the conservation team having collective experience spanning over 100 movies, including 8 Star Trek flicks (and four episodes of Star Wars).

The Smithsonian have shared a number of images of the work in progress on their blog, showing off more of the ins-and-outs of the model than any episode of the series would show. It’s definitely good that great effort is being made to maintain this iconic piece of sci-fi history, instead of simply remaining on display until it falls apart.

52% of Developers Are Working on a PC Game

Consumers tend to be quite vocal about their chosen platform and demonstrate a great deal of brand loyalty. It makes sense though as investing into one platform and swapping to another is a costly endeavour. During the last few years, developers have gauged the popularity of each system, to try to maximize sales. While consoles are still selling extraordinarily well, it’s difficult to dismiss the rise of mobile gaming and PC. According to the Game Developer’s Conference State of the Industry Report, 52% of developers are currently making a PC game.  This is a slight drop from last year’s figure of 56%, but doesn’t really indicate a noticeable shift towards other platforms. In second place was mobile, with 44% of those surveyed outlining their mobile development plans. In a similar vein to PC, this is a drop of 6% from last year.

Rather unsurprisingly, the PlayStation 4 attained third position with 27%, while the Xbox One managed to achieve a very respectable 23%. Towards the lower end of the spectrum, Nintendo’s Wii U only has 5% of developers creating something for the platform. This is shocking and emphasizes how quickly support is dwindling for the Wii U. Furthermore, only 2% of developers are working on 3DS titles, which is down from 3% last year.  Clearly, Nintendo is still relying on their exclusive line-up and developers might be working on launch games for the upcoming NX console.

It’s great to see the PC platform having so much support from developers and this isn’t surprising due to the open access model. While digital distribution is still fairly new on consoles, it’s incredibly popular among PC consumers. This provides lower development costs, and there’s greater competition via Steam, GOG and other services. Although, Steam really does have a monopoly on the mainstream market. Hopefully, this trend continues and developers produce a whole host of unique titles on the PC platform.

 

Macronix is Supplying Memory For The Nintendo NX

Nintendo’s upcoming console, codenamed NX is receiving a barrage of media attention as speculation mounts regarding the device’s form factor. The majority of these reports stem from a number of patents which make for very interesting reading. In theory, Nintendo could be creating a hybrid device which works with PCs, mobiles and tablets. Furthermore, it’s rumoured to run the latest version of Android, and could allow more freedom than you typically expect from Nintendo. The Wii U and 3DS are both region locked and this even applies to digital content! Hopefully, Nintendo now understands how the global market works today and going to adopt a more consumer-friendly approach.

The latest piece of news revolves around Macronix International, a manufacturer of non-volatile memory. During an online Q4 2015 financial results conference, the company’s president C.Y. Lu weighed in on the current ROM business and claimed one of their biggest partners is preparing for a next generation platform. The company confirmed that the partner in question is Nintendo, and the platform in question is the NX console. Here we can see a slide from the presentation:

According to a Yahoo (Chinese) financial stock article translated by ConsoleFood, the NX is a key part of Macronix’s future plans:

“Japanese video-game company Nintendo will launch their new NX system this year. Macronix’s General Manager (CY Lu) said that Macronix will supply products for the NX and has considerable expectations regarding this.

Macronix held an online conference this afternoon. Due to Nintendo releasing their new NX system this year, investors were concerned about whether Macronix (who have a longstanding business relationship with Nintendo) will be part of the NX supply chain.

CY Lu stated that Macronix will provide memory units for the NX and, internally, has considerable expectations regarding the NX.

Despite refusing to disclose whether they will supply the NX with ROM, CY Lu did say that he expects ROM sales to be outstanding this year.”

So what does this actually mean? It’s still fairly unclear, but there’s the potential for games ship via cartridges instead of optical media. This makes sense due to the advent of affordable high-capacity storage. Furthermore, there’s no need to complete a lengthy install which should enhance the user-experience. On another note, optical drives are the mostly likely component to fail, so ditching a drive completely will help reliability.

CryEngine-Based SNOW Has Entered Open Beta

Just in case you’re not already aware, Poppermost Productions has been working on a brand new open world, winter sports game named SNOW, which has recently entered a free-to-play open beta phase on the PC platform. SNOW was created using CryEngine, and it now features free-roam multiplayer as well as competitive events, leaderboards and a large mountain that includes 20 areas just waiting to be discovered. As you can probably imagine, being a free-to-play game, the developers are relying on cosmetic item stores as a way to make a profit, but it’s also worth mentioning that players will be able to purchase access to premium events that offer unique rewards.

Right now, the team is working on implementing snowboarding and snowmobiles into the game, which will be unveiled soon enough in the Open Beta. From what I’ve seen so far, the game certainly needs some more work as far as animations and physics are concerned, but I’m confident that things will improve over time. The CEO over at Poppermost, Alexander Bergendahl, has stated the following:

“Open beta is a huge leap forward in fulfilling SNOW’s promise of a fun and authentic sporting and exploration experience that’s totally yours to do with as you please, alone or with friends. Now the lifts are open to the whole world. Winter is finally here!”

You can try out SNOW on Steam right now.

Photoshopped Image Wins Nikon Photography Contest With Hilarious Results

On Thursday, Nikon Singapore announced a winner of their NikonCaptures photography contest, Chay Yu Wei, whose winning entry was a shot of an aeroplane perfectly captured by a ladder in Chinatown. Or so they thought. As many photographers were quick to point out, Yu Wei’s image was quite clearly edited.

“Yu Wei chanced upon a set of ladders while on a photowalk with his friends in Chinatown, and thought the view above would make an interesting perspective,” Nikon’s post read. “Little did he expect to catch an airplane in mid-air. We’ll try looking up too, Yu Wei.” The winning entry, supposedly capured using a Nikon D90 at f/2.8 and 1/1600s won Chay Yu Wei a Nikon-branded trolley bag. Nikon have stood by the decision, posting a comment on Facebook, apologising for the oversight and planning to revise the rules following this, also stating “NikonCaptures is a casual photography contest that focuses not on the devices or props you use, but on the imagination and creativity that each photographer exudes while capturing and sharing their images.”

Inspection of the winning entry reveals a white box around the aeroplane in the image, easily visible without the use of any tools, although it was pointed out that adjusting the levels on the photograph causes it to obviously stand out. The internet was quick to their image editors after seeing this, posting a barrage of amusing takes on the image, including replacing the aeroplane with a TIE Fighter, the Death Star, Godzilla and many, some paired with comedic takes on Nikon’s original announcement.

He should have waited longer for the coaster to add a bit of drama. – Render Brant

I chanced upon a set of ladders while browsing the internet with my imaginary 501 legion and thought the “award winning” view would make an interesting perspective. Little did I expect to catch the Death Star from space. – Rogan Yeoh

Such a poor copy and paste by Yu Wei can win a Nikon trolley bag, my entry can win the new Nikon D5 with AF-S 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR. LOL !!! – Glenn Guan

Meanwhile, others took to point out the flaws in Yu Wei’s photoshopping of his photograph, explaining that use of the ‘multiply’ layer blending would have hidden the white box surrounding the plane. Yu Wei even responded to comments on Instagram regarding the photograph as if it were real after the photoshop ruse was already discovered. While it seems clear that Nikon has no intention of pulling the photograph or the contest as a result despite the hilarious and mocking responses it caused, it has definitely given Nikon more publicity and provideda entertainment for many.

Successful Streamer is Using a Pirated Copy of The Witness

Jonathan Blow is one of the most recognizable names in the indie development scene and best known for creating the hit puzzle game, Braid. In addition to Super Meat Boy, Braid showcased the kind of creativity and unique experiences players could expect from independent studios. Clearly, Braid’s wonderful aesthetic and captivating level design made it a huge success story. To build on the success of Braid, Jonathan Blow decided to work on a brand new title called, The Witness set in an open world enviroment with dozens of locations to explore. Furthermore, the game has over 500 extremely challenging puzzles and offers a lengthy single player experience.

Unfortunately, The Witness has fallen victim to extremely high piracy numbers and already become the most downloaded game on an unnamed pirate site, (most probably The Pirate Bay).

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Blow/status/692831051845083137

Arguably, the game’s $39.99/£29.99 price tag could be a root cause of this very high piracy rate as people feel it’s overpriced for an indie puzzler. Please remember piracy doesn’t always mean the individual in question simply wants the game for free. Perhaps, the price is a concern, and it’s downloaded as a form of testing. Although, it’s clear many pirates have this intention and never buy the game. On the other hand, much cheaper titles including Grey Goo suffered from similar piracy rate which discredits the idea of pricing being the single cause. It’s probably a contributing factor though.

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Blow/status/692831910179971074

Unbelievably, a very successful streamer with 3 million views has been broadcasting the game using a pirated copy. This is absolutely astonishing because the person in question is clearly going to make at least $40 back from donations, or other means. It’s extremely stupid for someone with a small channel, but when you’re so influential and making an impressive amount of money, it shows a complete lack of respect for game developers. Jonathan Blow didn’t name the streamer, but it’s certainly something which almost defies belief.

https://twitter.com/Jonathan_Blow/status/693202768136253442

Patriot Viper 4 DDR4 3200MHz 16GB (2x8GB) Dual Channel Memory Kit Review

Introduction


DDR4 memory kits are steadily superseding DDR3 DIMMs due to competitive pricing and the advent of Intel’s LGA1151 chipset which supports speeds in excess of 3200MHz. Furthermore, DDR4 modules require less voltage to remain stable despite the typical increase in memory bandwidth. Recently, professional overclocker Shamino set an astounding world record and overclocked the G.Skill Ripjaws 4 to 4255MHz using a mere 1.3 volts. Clearly, this is an extreme case and the majority of DDR4 kits available to consumers range between 2400MHz and 4000MHz. Plus, the performance difference in gaming tasks primarily revolves around your system’s graphics card, and CPU. Nevertheless, it’s still important to select high-quality DIMMs to keep your PC perfectly stable and compliment the other components.

The Patriot Viper series is synonymous for offering excellent memory speeds at an affordable price point. Here’s a brief description of the product directly from the manufacturer:

“Patriot Memory’s Viper 4 Series memory modules are designed with true performance in mind. Built for the latest Intel® Skylake processor utilizing the 100 series platform, the Viper 4 series provides the best performance and stability for the most demanding computer environments.

The Viper 4 series utilizes a custom designed high performance heat shield for superior heat dissipation to ensure rock solid performance even when using the most taxing applications. Built from the highest quality Build of Materials, Patriot Memory’s Viper 4 Series memory modules are hand tested and validated for system compatibility.

Available in dual kits, 8GB, 16GB and 32GB kits, Patriot Memory’s Viper 4 Series will be offered at speeds from 2400MHz up to 3600MHz and XMP 2.0 ready. Hand tested for quality assurance the Viper 4 series is backed by a lifetime warranty.”

As you can see, the latest version of the Viper range comes in a variety of capacities and memory speeds to suit a wide range of user requirements. Given the impressive 3200MHz speed, 16-16-16 timings and respectable voltage, I expect to see some superb numbers which legitimately rival the best dual channel kits we’ve tested!

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

Patriot have adopted a clean, bold design to the memory’s packaging which makes it easy to read the key specifications while admiring the DIMM’s colour scheme. Here we can see a visual run down of the memory’s speed, capacity, XMP version and other essential statistics. Many kits on the market utilize pretty plain blister packs which don’t enthuse a luxury feel. In this case, the packaging draws you in and leaves a very positive initial impression.

On the rear section, there’s information about Patriot’s lifetime warranty, a brief synopsis of the product, and links to the company’s presence across various social media platforms.

A Closer Look

From an aesthetics standpoint, the DIMMs have a rather understated look and targets the mainstream gaming audience. Any red and black heatspreader combination is going to become a popular choice, and the different shades combine quite nicely. Another striking touch is the contrast between the textured black finish and matte section towards the PCB. I’m also quite fond of the sophisticated Viper logo and small gap between the main heatspreader which creates an impressive visual effect. Sadly, the green PCB is difficult to overlook and detracts from the attractive design. If a black PCB was used instead, the memory would be the perfect choice for a high-end build. Despite these qualms, once the RAM is installed, you’re not going to notice the PCB colour in an enclosed chassis.

London’s Streets Will Receive Driverless Pods in July

Several companies are currently working on their own autonomous vehicles, including Tesla, Google, Ford and probably Apple. However, sources suggest that a company called GATEway will be one of the first to offer driverless pods to the general public, as its vehicles are currently scheduled to hit the streets of London in July. These pods are already being used on tracks at Heathrow Airport, but they will be modified in order to be able to run just fine on the tarmac as well. The pods will operate across Greenwich Peninsula, and they will most likely follow routes that will take them to several residential streets and around the O2 Arena.

A selection of invited users will be able to test the service three months before they will become available to the public. These vehicles are large enough to accommodate six people, but one of those people will be a steward that will make sure to press an emergency button should any issues arise. While the shuttles themselves will be manufactured and tested by Westfield Sportscars, Oxbotica will create the mapping software and Heathrow Enterprise will take care of the main software. After Greenwich, people from areas such as Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry will also be able to test out the service.

Moving over to Switzerland, the country is looking to introduce nine-seater autonomous busses this year, which will surely make public transportation easier in larger cities. In the Netherlands, officials have been testing similar shuttles on public roads, so it looks like the future is quite bright for autonomous vehicles.

Apple’s iPad Air 3 Might Be Unveiled in March

It’s true that Apple’s iPaid Air is long overdue for an update, as the latest model for this particular gadget was unveiled back in October 2014. Fortunately, sources indicate that the Cupertino-based company is looking to put the iPad Air into the spotlight once more in March during a special event. Looking at the numbers, it looks like iPad sales have declined quite a bit from 2014 to 2015 as figures dropped to 16.1 million. It makes sense for Apple to turn its attention to the iPad Air in order to fix this, as this particular model appeals to a wider audience when compared to the iPad Pro, which is more business-orientated.

During the aforementioned event, the company is also expected to unveil a 4-inch iPhone as well as a new Apple Watch. As far as the watch goes, it will celebrate its first anniversary this year, and Apple will probably use this opportunity to present new timepieces as well as several visual updates to existing models. However, revealing a new iPhone in March seems a bit out of place, as these devices usually come to light during special events held in September. In any case, we’re talking about the iPhone 5se, which will be powered by the same new A9 processor that currently animates the iPhone 6 and 6s.