Chinese Agencies Demands Result in iBooks and iTunes Shut Down

Apple is one of the few companies that has managed to stay active in China where regulation of digital services is strictly controlled by the countries many agencies. That was until last week when several of Apple’s services were shut down in China.

Apple’s iBooks store and iTunes movies were shut down last week, following the demands of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. Apple has since responded saying that they hope to “make books and movies available again to our customers in China as soon as possible”, something that implies there is a condition to the services.

Apple managed to launch Apple pay in the country just two months ago, and with it counting China’s as its second biggest market, any services that are stopped would have a huge impact on the company. China is known for the censorship of its technology, with the country hidden behind “the great firewall” while it’s suspected that several groups within the country are behind large-scale hacks in other countries.

Recently Apple denied ever handing over its source code to China, a move that may or may not have contributed to the states less favorable look for the California-based company.

Metro 2033 Set to Become a Film

It would seem the dark is set to become a scarier place with games like Thief becoming movies. If the idea of a master thief sneaking around wasn’t enough to make you want to avoid the dark then the creatures from Metro 2033 will probably be best left on the small screen as it’s been revealed that Metro 2033 is set become a film.

Based on a novel by Dmitry Glukhovsky, the book follows the story of Artyom and as he explores the world after “the war that ended the world” and the mysterious creatures titled “the Dark Ones”. The series is set in the dark tunnels of Moscow’s subway system, a dark tunnel where both friend and foe live in the dark corners of its embrace.

Commenting on the news that a Metro 2033 movie is in early development, Glukhovsky commented saying “my novel and I have been waiting for this to happen for the last ten years”.  As with many writers Glukhosvsky said he was “extremely careful about handing my ‘baby’ over to Hollywood producers for adaption for a feature film” but was convinced to hand over the concept as Michael De Luca and Stephen L’Heureux “have a great vision”.

Are you a fan of the book? Maybe the game got you into the world of Metro? Do you believe a film is a good idea for this series and if so who would you cast?

Surface Book Launches in the UK

Microsoft is probably most well-known for their software, with everything from the Windows operating system to the Office tool suite commonplace in homes around the world. One thing that Microsoft have been keen on expanding though is their hardware. With the success of the Microsoft Surface, a tablet that featured a magnetically docked keyboard and was well-known for its high power and low profile. Now the next phase in Microsoft hardware has been unleashed in the UK in the form of the Surface book.

The Surface Book was announced half way through last year, with Microsoft creating a system for people to swap out their Macbook’s for a Surface book, with claims that it would be twice as powerful as a Macbook Pro. Surprisingly this didn’t go down too well with Tom Cook over at Apple who then described the Surface Book as deluded.

The new Surface Book will set you back, at least, £1,299 if you are looking at an i5 model  but upgrading it to the top of the line will set you back £2,249 for an i7 and dedicated NVIDIA graphics (rumoured to be NVIDIA’s 940M).

Are you interested in the Surface Book? For the price tag is the 13.5 inch screen a little too small for your taste? If you are looking at buying one you can find out more at the Microsoft store.

The Witcher Movie Release Date Released

Written by Andrzej Sapkowski, the Witcher series started as a collection of short stories and novels revolving around the world of Geralt of Rivia. Set in a fantasy world where monsters and magic are commonplace, Geralt is a Witcher, a monster hunter who gained magical abilities to help combat the creatures he hunts. After its success at a series of video games, creating several large open world RPG games following the character, it would now seem that his world will come to the big screen in the near future.

The Witcher movie has been picked up by none other than the Sean Daniel Company (SOC), a company well known for their work on “The Mummy” franchise. As if that wasn’t enough to excite you about the movie, the film is planned to just introduce us to the world which will soon become a series and is being written by Thania St John, known for working on shows such as “Grimm” and “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”.

With an international release planned for 2017 it could soon be gracing both our PC and big screens.

Are you a fan of the Witcher series? Do you like the idea of a fantasy series with such a deep background of knowledge and lore created ready for use within the movie or would you prefer if the show introduced you to some new lore?

Surface Book All Sold Out From Microsofts Site

Microsoft recently pushed quite hard on the smaller devices market, with the release of windows 10 supporting most of their devices they have two devices that are looking for release soon. First up was the next in the surface series, the Surface 4, running all the latest bits of technology and looks to be released by the end of the month. Then the new kid on the block is the Surface book. Essentially the bigger brother of the Surface the book was announced and we covered the details here. The problem with it being an amazing product is that people want it, quite badly it would seem.

As of this moment, it would seem that you can’t pre-order the new device from Microsoft’s store, instead users are greeted by a message asking them for their email address so Microsoft can contact you when it’s next available.

This is both good and bad. It is great news for Microsoft who are the probably celebrating the fact that their new devices have been so clearly and whole heartedly desired by the public. On the other hand, it means that they are going to need to step up production and give the public what they want.

While you can still get it from all the other places like Amazon, there is no reason to not look at the product before it’s released on the 29th October.

Thank you PC World for the information.

Disney Is Devising a 3D Augmented Reality Colouring Book

I don’t know, children today in developed countries have it all in terms of tech, where tablet computers and Smartphone’s are the norm and internet access is available 24/7 to assist with homework, yep, let’s assume it’s for school work and not for social networks. Now, Disney has incorporated augmented reality into a colouring book which allows your child the ability to colour in a character from an art book in 3D.

Below is a video which shows the concept, as you can see, it utilizes an augmented reality app that Disney have developed with the aim of tracking and capturing real-time images from a mobile device camera. It then maps them onto any 3D deformable surface. The end result is a moving 3D character which can be coloured in within real-time.

The app is still very much at the development stage, but it certainly shows the possibilities which could exist within toys of the future.  Below is a screenshot to convey the idea, the user views the 3D character via a phone or tablet camera while using the app, they can then colour in the figure within the 2D colouring book which is then translated onto the character.

This concept is certainly fantastic and shows what could be achieved if you transfer this principle onto a more advanced model. Imagine if this technique was perfected and allowed you to colour in a Star Wars vehicle before it flew around the room or a historical building or landmark.  It will be a while yet before it hits the shops, but when it does, expect children to clamber for it.

A fantastic concept for tech lovers, and imagine working for a company called “Disney Research” certainly eye-catching on a CV.

Thank you disneyresearch for providing us with this information.

Why eReaders for Everyone is Your Best Gift Idea This Year

It’s only a few short months before the holiday season is here again. If you’re the type to spring for last-minute gifts, why not make a change this year? By shopping for holiday gifts this early, you won’t have to fight your way through the crowd. As for the gifts, here are five gift ideas that prove eReaders make the perfect holiday present:

For Your Travel Buddies

If you’ve got friends who love books and hit the road a lot with only their rucksacks, you might want to give them an eReader. The slim design and lightweight nature of the device makes it portable so they can take it anywhere with them. That also means it uses up just a tiny amount of space so it doesn’t compromise their backpack space. Since eReaders can take on as much as a thousand books, you won’t have to worry that your friends are missing out on their favourite reads whenever they’re away from home.

Brother Who Just Relocated

So your brother is finally ready for college and he’s moving to another state that’s hours away by plane. Help make the relocation easier on him by giving him an eReader. This way, he doesn’t have to bring all his beloved books along with him. That and because he probably wouldn’t have enough space in his tiny and cramped dorm room anyway. So just load up that eReader with his favourites and he can read all the books in his collection sans the piles, boxes and towers of books he left at home. A good choice for him would be the Nook Samsung Galaxy Tab s2, a recently launched device that packs a lot of features, including one of the best display resolutions in the market. That makes it ideal for him and his love of comic books since the new display is perfect for rendering graphic novels. The contrasts are starker and the colors have more depth that any comic fan will surely appreciate. The high-storage capacity of its 32GB built-in memory ensures his entire collection will fit. If not, he could always upgrade the unit to 128GB with a microSD card later on. So when homesickness hits months ahead, at least he’s got his favourite reads to give him comfort and make him feel like he’s just back home with the rest of the family.

Moving into a New Apartment

So two of your long-time best buds are tying the knot and moving in together into a micro apartment. If you’re helping them pack their dusty book piles for the move, then a nice ‘just got married’ gift to give these two would be a pair of eReaders in matching colors, styles and design cases. Put their entire collections onto those eReaders so when they move to their new place, they won’t have to take all the books with them; they’ll already have them on their eBook libraries. They could sell off the books instead for some handy pocket money. If that’s too much trouble though—answering inquiries, posting books, finding buyers and meeting them—then simply give the books away to charity. With an eReader, your friends won’t have to move into a new apartment, cramped and teeming with books. They could celebrate starting their new life together with a great deal more room. It’s a pricey gesture especially if you go for the Tab S2 from Galaxy. But if they’re your best buds, then they’ll be worth it. Plus, you get bragging rights for winning “Best Friend of the Year.” You should.

Your Parents or Grandparents

Getting your mom or your granddad an eReader is a great way to give them better control over their reading experience. With features that allow them to make the fonts as large as they want, or dim the screen brightness until it doesn’t hurt their eyes any more or even change the background of the text, they’re sure to appreciate the convenience and improved reading experience an eReader brings. Plus, with the dictionary, they won’t have to get up and check what a word means. They’ll simply click on the word and watch the definition handily pop up.

For You

If you love books as much as your friends, then give yourself an excellent present this year: an eReader. The Tab s2 fits all the boxes in your check-list. And because it’s a Nook device, you can shop online with just a few clicks. That’s the real magic behind eReaders: you get the book you want in an instant. No more waiting in line at the book store. No need to get up and head out just to check out the latest titles and releases. With an eReader, you can do all that right from your bed.

So if you’re looking for a great holiday idea, go with an eReader. Your book-loving family and friends are going to thank you for it.

Amazon Accused of Spying on Users’ Social Media Profiles

If you purchased from Amazon before, you know that reviews are important to get the right customer feedback from others who had bought the same product in the past. This is a great way of knowing that your money is going towards something that deserves the price tag it comes with. However, Amazon needs to sweep through all these reviews and take down illegitimate reviews. But how do they do it? One writer appears to know the hard truth.

Imy Santiago bought a book from Amazon a while back. She apparently loved it so much that she wanted to post a good review about it on Amazon to congratulating the author and let others know a consumer’s opinion about the book. However, she was greeted with an unexpected email rather than having her review posted on the website. The email was as follows:

Dear Amazon Customer,

Thanks for submitting a customer review on Amazon. Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:
http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines

She went back and read her review and also took a close look at the retailer’s guidelines, to which she saw nothing wrong in what she wrote. So she went on and emailed their customer service team to get a better answer. Their reply was as follows:

Hello,

We cannot post your Customer Review for (book title deleted) by (author name deleted) to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author. 

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers. Because our goal is to provide Customer Reviews that help customers make informed purchase decisions, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or misleading will not be posted. To learn more about this policy, please review our Customer Review Guidelines (http://amazon.com/help/customer-reviews-guidelines) and FAQs (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=201077870).  

We encourage family and friends to share their enthusiasm for the book through our Customer Discussions feature or Editorial Reviews feature. To start a Customer Discussion visit the Meet Our Authors forum and enter your discussion title in the Start a new discussion box. You’ll find the forum here: 
http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/&cdForum=Fx2UYC1FC06SU8S

To have your Editorial Review posted to the detail page, e-mail it directly to the author so they can add it for you. 

If you believe you’re eligible to write a Customer Review for this book, send additional details to review-appeals@amazon.com

We hope to see you again soon.

Best regards,

Harm J,

At this point, Santiago wrote an email explaining that knowing an author online is not the same thing as knowing an author personally. We all have fan pages we like, authors or other public figures we add as friends, but having a website as Amazon snooping around users’ social media websites and judging by profiles is surely not a way to make sure reviewers are ‘legitimate’. Amazon also did not reveal how they ‘determine’ how accounts are related and are not able to share ‘further information’ about what made them deny a good review.

Santiago may have crossed paths with the author, may it be online or even in person at an expo for example, but Amazon’s decision to deny sharing information on how they determine this is quite unsettling. I mean, if not even the customer knows how companies find out two people are related and are not provided with an explanation, then there’s clearly a privacy violation in the middle of it. What do you think?

Thank you BGR for providing us with this information

Using a Tablet or e-Reader in Bed Can Disrupt Sleep

It seems the death of paper is causing the death of sleep. As reading habits have shifted from books and magazines to e-readers and tablets, our sleeping patterns have become impacted. Backlighting from the two devices has been demonstrated to disrupt the body’s clock, its circadian rhythm, that controls our sleep schedule.

According to the study by the Mayo Clinic, “Some research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.”

A dozen volunteers spent a fortnight at a sleep centre, with a strict 10pm bedtime. For one week, half the volunteers were given regular books to be read by dim light, and the rest used backlit e-readers. The roles were switched the following week.

Levels of melatonin, the hormone that controls the body’s day-night cycle, were 50% lower in e-reader volunteers, compared to their book-reading counterparts. The data suggested that the drop in melatonin pushed the subject’s circadian rhythm back by an hour-and-a-half, and resulted in 10 minutes less REM sleep than the book readers.

The study is just the latest in a series that points to backlit tech use before bed hampering healthy sleep.

Source: Ars Technica

George RR Martin Gives Middle Finger Salute To Impatient Fans

Game of Thrones has to be one of the biggest book and TV sensations of our generation, and with a massive collection of books and several TV series already available for us to pore over, the anticipation for what comes next is getting a little too much for some fans, and it’s starting to get to author George RR Martin even more, and not for the first time.

George issued a statement to fans who are wondering if he will finish his next book and of course the entire collection before he dies, to which George replied “F##K YOU” and quite frankly, I don’t blame him for such a stern reply. When George was asked about readers worries on this matter by Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger he responded: “I find that question pretty offensive, frankly, when people start speculating about my death and my health, so f##k you to those people”. To cement his feelings on the matter he raised his middle finger, directed towards the people who asked if he’s going to die early.

Before the TV series George suffered similar issues with fans clamouring for his next book, which at the time was A Song of Ice and Fire. “Some of you are angry that I watch football during the fall … some of you hate my other projects … some of you don’t want me attending conventions, teaching workshops, touring and doing promo, or visiting places like Spain and Portugal (last year) or Finland (this year). More wasting time, when I should be home working on A Dance with Dragons,” said Martin. “After all, as some of you like to point out in your emails, I am 60 years old and fat, and you don’t want me to ‘pull a Robert Jordan’ on you and deny you your book.”

The best defence for George came from Neil Gaiman, who told one Game of Thrones fan that “George RR Martin is not your bitch. This is a useful thing to know, perhaps a useful thing to point out when you find yourself thinking that possibly George is, indeed, your bitch, and should be out there typing what you want to read right now. People are not machines. Writers and artists aren’t machines.”

George has no release date penned for his next book, only going as far as saying “it’ll be done when it’s done” and personally I think that is fine. I would love it sooner, but surely the wait will just make it all the more rewarding when the time comes. Just remember that if you ever meet George, you best show some patience.

Thank you Guardian for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Guardian.

George R.R. Martin wants to kill YOU in the Game of Thrones

From what I hear, Game of Thrones is meant to be quite an invigorating series that is the brainchild of George R.R. Martin; personally though I couldn’t tell you a single thing about it at all as I’m not into these sort of programmes. Our resident gaming and TV series addict, Pete, however would be able to tell you tons of information on the subject – but lets brush around that for now.

As the series creator, Martin is certainly well-known around the world (I guess this may have something to do with this series?) and whilst he is regarded to be a cold-hearted writer, there is a softer side to this real-life character – especially when it comes to saving wolves and helping out his local population in Santa Fé.

So how goes a TV series and a persons charitable side come together? To give support to both of Martin’s close to heart charities, he has set up a campaign through Prizeo, where fans of the TV series – and everyone else for that matter – can send in their donations to help out the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and The Food Depot.

To spur his massive following into giving donations to both of these fantastic non-profit making organisations, backers can donate as little as $10 right up to a whopping $20,000 and based on the level that is donated, a number of rewards are on offer. Now unlike some charitable campaigns you won’t be seeing a cuddly toy or a picture sent out to you each week for the rest of the year; instead you will have to chance to own Martin’s own worn hat or even breakfast with him. Taking the opportunities up to another level, those who donate a little more could get tickets to the premier of Season 5 and a signed cookbook dedicated to the Game of Thrones.

Where the cream of the crop opportunity lies however is to those who donate that jaw dropping amount of $20,000, no you won’t see a hat or breakfast, nor will you get a book. What you will get is the chance to get yourself written into the next novel, “A Song of Ice and Fire”, where your fate will be met and you will die in a typically horrific manner. I hear this happens quite a lot – but hey donating large amounts of money to charity to help out those who are not so fortunate in life is worth dying for if you ask me – even if it is only in words.

Here is Martin’s message to the word:

Hi everyone,

It’s George R.R. Martin, and I’m here to raise money for the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and The Food Depot of Santa Fé.

If you make a small donation to my campaign, you will automatically be entered to win an incredible experience. You and a friend will be flown out (from wherever you are in the world) to meet me in Santa Fé, where we’ll share a helicopter ride to the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary.

In addition to touring the Sanctuary together, we’ll also have plenty of time to discuss the show, A Song of Ice and Fire, direwolves – and if there’s anything you have ever wanted to ask me, here’s your chance!

Thank you for supporting my campaign. I look forward to meeting one of you!

– George R.R. Martin

Even if you don’t pledge $20k or get the hat, breakfast, tickets or the cookbook, don’t worry as EVERYONE that pledges will be in with a change of winning a trip to Santa Fé, where you can hang out with a group of wolves which take their name from the novels – the Westeros Pack. That in itself is worth the pledge.

Even if you don’t get any of the above goodies, or the trip to see the wolves, what you will be able to take away from this campaign is the reassurance that you are supporting two very good causes and helping out those in need. If this still doesn’t persuade you, hear it from the man himself – George R.R. Martin:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdrxBbrUjZ8[/youtube]

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite Notebook Review

Introduction


Before I even start this review, I’m going to lay down the law so to speak. The term Ultrabook adheres to a device that follows Intel’s strict guidelines and while the device that we’re looking at today may look Ultrabook-esque, it features AMD CPU architecture and therefore cannot be claimed as an Ultrabook, though for the most part (barring the exclusion of an Intel processor) it pretty much is an Ultrabook.

What Samsung have done to create this notebook is to take the fundamental aspects of their Ultrabook range (Ativ Book) and given it the same treatment as its big brother; the Ativ Book 9 Plus, but to keep costs down an AMD quad-core processor has been used as opposed to the more expensive and slightly more powerful Intel equivalent. While Intel fan-boys across the world will be shouting at their screens right now, you have to remember that a device such as this has limited purposes and no matter what CPU the manufacturer favours, it will not see Crysis 3 being  run with all the settings turned right up to the max.

The term Ultrabook and the very similar AMD equivalent offer an unrivalled range of features in a convenient, small form factor that allows for superb battery life, fantastic connectivity options and of course the added portability factor due to the size and most importantly, the weight of a lightweight product like this.

As a journalist (as that is effectively what our line of work falls under) you’ll generally have a stereotypical view in your mind of me sitting in Starbucks with a Macbook Air/Pro in front of me and a large Americano steaming away as I ponder the latest happenings in the tech world; but whilst I am a typical journalist and I have coffee running through my veins, I don’t spend all my hours sitting in a coffee shop such as Starbucks or Costa waiting to chase the news. What I do instead is to attend pre-arranged press conferences and launches – typically in London and to get the news out as soon as possible or to make taking note down easier, I prefer to take either a tablet or more ideally a small laptop with me to type my notes on to – I still keep my trusty notebook and pen in the bag though!

This scenario is exactly where the Ativ Book 9 Lite comes into play. With a lightweight design, lightning fast performance and small form factor, on paper it ticks all the right boxes and to top that all off that it features a touchscreen panel. What’s more the Ativ Book 9 Lite retails at just a fraction of the price of an equally spec’d Ultrabook the features an Intel CPU at its heart.

This notebook that I’m having a look at today comes in one of two almost identical specifications, but with one component that is different between the two, but one that also affects the price quite considerably. This sole item that I’m referring to is the screen. Many laptops, notebooks and Ultrabooks that are coming to the market are now featuring touch-screen capabilities and the Ativ Book 9 Lite is yet another system that has this option available, although if you’re not a fond user of this new feature, or you simply don’t need it, then the Book 9 Lite does offer a non touch panel for a slightly lower price point.

In terms of the specifications, Samsung are a bit vague as to the CPU but after some digging we can see that it’s Socket FT3 (BGA769) A4/A6 APU 1.4GHz Quad Core offering which of course supplies the GPU side of the machine too.

The box in typical Samsung stylish is clean, crisp and to the point with a large image of the device and subtle branding. The image on the front showcases the Mineral Ash Black colour, though the model we have today is Marble White.

Prototype MIT Project ‘Sensory Fiction’ Lets You Feel a Book’s Emotion

The movie theaters have seen all effects get enhanced, from audio and video, to 3D and special effects, but the plain old book has only seen its years weigh heavy on their pages as they get passed on from one hand to another. But researchers from MIT’s Media Lab have found a way to develop a new experience for the reader of printed words, having a project named “Sensory Fiction” in the works.

The concept involves wearing a vest covered in sensors and actuators that uses vibration to simulate shivering or an increased heart rate, local heating to change your skin temperature and pressure from airbags to convey tightness and loosening. This vest is paired with a book, which also has LEDs to create ambient lighting which will show specific lights and colors altogether with each page and feeling it is supposed to express.

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/84412874[/vimeo]

No ordinary book, this version of the award-winning sci-fi novel ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’ can sense what page you’re currently reading, and feed that information to a control unit mounted on the back of the vest to create vibration, pressure, or heat in sync with story beats. It is said that just by reading ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged’ should be enough to provoke an emotional response from most, but the researchers hope the vest-and-book combo can enhance a reader’s experience through external stimuli.

As Sensory Fiction is only in prototype stages, there’s no telling if the team has achieved its lofty goal yet, however the concept at least poses some interesting questions as to the future of immersive storytelling.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information
Image and video courtesy of The Verge

OcUK Professional W540 UltraNote 14″ LED Ultra Book Review

Being mobile is more important for many of us today than ever before, having the right tools for the job where ever you are in the world can make all the difference and the system were looking at today aims to offer high performance and portability that could allow us to be highly mobile and have no concerns about getting our work done.

Ultra books are proving massively popular recently and for good reason too, with many offering high performance solutions that are slim, light and very portable. Given that the high power and highly portable market has been dominated by Apple Mac Books for many years its great to see so many Windows-based solutions on the market, and of course a few Linux, Android and Chrome models too.

The model we are looking at today has been slightly customised and should set you back around £580 from OCUK. It features a 128GB SSD, i5 3210m 2.5GHz processor, 8GB ram and a 1366 x 768 resolution display. While that may not be the most ideal resolution for some people it’s more than enough for web browsing, word processing and maybe even some light gaming.

We often kick things off by benchmarking a system to within an inch of its life, but that isn’t something that is going to show this system in its best light, sure it packs an impressive mobile CPU, some good ram and a decent SSD, but it’s also tailored towards being highly energy-efficient to extend the battery life. So lets take a different look at this system, it’s built to be mobile and that’s exactly what we are going to do, road test it!

The system came in a fairly nondescript box, which contained another fairly bland box, although given this is a custom-made system I was hardly expecting a full finished retail package covered in images.

The system comes with a fairly standard power brick adaptor with a nice long cable.