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10
Apr

Tappitt: A frenetic and thrilling opening act [review]


Tappitt Review

Sometimes games are really complex, with enormous worlds and massive storylines. Other times, a simple, yet fun mechanic can be enough to create an addictive game that can provide a lot of fun. Tappitt, just released at the beginning of April, falls into the second category, combining a fast-paced, challenging gameplay with several additions, such as multipliers and boosts, into a game that’s a worthwhile addition to your library.

Developer: Ludo Gear Ltd

Price: Free, with in-app purchases.

Features

Tappitt TutorialThe tutorial will teach you the basics.

The first time you play, the game will show you instructions on how to play. The premise is really simple: there are several circles, which contain red, yellow and purple circles. These colored orbs are constantly growing, and you must tap them before they reach the outer line. If they happen to outgrow your efforts, you’ll lose a life.

However, the lives system is rather peculiar. At the bottom, you’ll have a stack of red, yellow and purple bars. If you lose a life, a bar will be knocked out of the corresponding color’s pile. Running out of lives in any of the piles will end the game.

This is where things start to get interesting. There’s also a black circle that grows amazingly fast, and failing to banish it from your board will take a life of each color, which can be deadly if you are short on lives.

Tappitt GameplayThe game gets harder as more circles are presented on screen.

For each circle you burst, you get a point. The game lets you have a multiplier by touching four circles of the same color consecutively. This multiplier, fortunately, has no limit; so, if you play your cards correctly you can rack up an impressive amount of points.

After tapping circles for a while, you can get a boost. If you want to get a high score, boosts are absolutely essential because they increase your multiplier with each tap, regardless of the color. It also clears nearby circles, so not only it can help you increase your score, but also help you survive a difficult situation. You can speed up the time it gets to get a boost by bursting seven circles of the same color in a row. It’s not impossible to do it but it’s hard, particularly on smaller boards.

Also, the board itself changes its form after a while, keeping things interesting. These variations not only include the number of available circles but also from different shapes and even rotate to make things harder.

As you can see, there’s a lot of variations and different elements to keep you entertained. These situations can make for frantic, fast-paced games which can get very dramatic when you’re really short on lives and boosts.

Graphics and Sound

Tappitt High ScoreThanks to multipliers and boosts, you can rack up points quickly.

Graphics are really simple and straightforward. Fortunately, the colored circles spice things up, because the rest of the elements maintain a mix of black, white, and different shades of gray. This absence of flashy graphics at least makes the game run smoothly- essential for a game that relies on quick actions.

Tappitt avoids the mistake made by several developers that include only one song for their main gameplay. The game chooses between several tunes so you won’t get bored of hearing the same song over and over again. These melodies grab their inspiration from 8-bit songs from games of yesteryear. It’s a curious choice since the game doesn’t seem to be themed around 8-bit, but the songs are catchy and upbeat.

The most noticeable sound effect comes from tapping each circle. When you start chaining your movements and trying to increase your multiplier, the sound will get more sharp, indicating that you’re getting closer to your goal. Since the game is really fast-paced and there’s no time to look the visual indicator, these sounds are really helpful for knowing if you’re close to raising that multiplier, or even better, if you’re close to chaining seven colors in a row.

Options

Tappitt OptionsThe game is lacking options and Google Play Games integration for now.

Unfortunately, considering this is an initial release, some aspects have been left out in order to refine the core experience. There’s no Google Play Games integration, so there are none of the benefits that this service brings, such as leaderboards and achievements. We hope they’re added in the future since leaderboards would be ideal to increase the game’s replay value.

Also, the options screen is pretty barebones, with options to turn off sound effects, in-game music or to watch the tutorial again. I would like to see a way to lower the volume of sound effects instead of turning them off altogether because I think that they’re a bit loud, and lowering my phone’s volume will leave me almost unable to listen to the game’s excellent soundtrack. There’s also instructions on how to play the game, in case you access this screen before entering the tutorial.

A thing to note is that after each game, you’ll be shown a full-screen ad. Fortunately, there’s an in-app purchase to remove them, since it becomes really annoying after a while. Also, you have the option of buying boosts at a cheap price. Also, for some reason, the game is not available in Ecuador (my home country), so maybe the developer blocked access to the game in some regions. All of my tests were done on a preview release, which was virtually the same as the Play Store release.

Conclusion

For a game in its infancy, Tappitt manages to get a lot of things right. This game provides frantic, swift, and addictive gameplay, with several variations and alternatives to keep things interesting at all times. A seemingly forgiving lives system is balanced with black circles that are a latent peril at all times. The multiplier and boost process gives great rewards, but can be deadly if executed incorrectly. Smooth performance and great soundtrack round up a great game, which can only get better with future updates.

Download from the Play Store.

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10
Apr

It’s time to reveal the winner of our #WhatIsAndroidN contest!


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In March we ran a contest to see what everyone’s naming predictions are for the upcoming Android N operating system update. We decided we wanted to give one of you a Pixel C tablet, because Android N is going to bring a super important function to this tablet and we thought it would be rad to give one out to someone. In typical Android Central fashion, we wanted to have a little fun while we were at it, so we asked you all to send us a picture of your prediction on social media.

There were so many great entries, that we decided we couldn’t choose just one. So we went ahead and added 3 runners up, who are each going to be taking home a Chromecast!

Grand Prize – Pixel C tablet

I ran out of bread. My phone needed the Nutella treatment anyways. #WhatIsAndroidN #AndroidNutella pic.twitter.com/bBhHLdB1fe

— Suhant Mehta (@LifeofSM) March 15, 2016

Runners up – Chromecast

According to my calculations, Android N will be called Android Nerds! #WhatIsAndroidN pic.twitter.com/8Fq6Sawrl9

— Fabian G. Cisneros (@CisnerosFabian) March 16, 2016

@androidcentral I’m ready to taste something sweet #WhatIsAndroidN pic.twitter.com/xHjhCLrXSa

— Matteo (@MattServa) March 18, 2016

What’s next for Android? Nutella!! #WhatIsAndroidN

A photo posted by Mikko Biboso (@miko.b) on Mar 30, 2016 at 8:18am PDT

Congratulations winners! I’ll be in touch with you in the coming week to get your prizes sorted. Thanks to everyone that entered. It was a lot of fun seeing all of your creativity! While we still don’t know what the nickname for Android N will be, it seems that the overwhelming majority of you think it will be Nutella. Now we just wait and see.

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10
Apr

Mobile Nations Weekly: HoloMazing


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Double the cameras, double the tours, double the holograms.

This week in tech: Huawei goes double with the P9 phone with dual Leica cameras and BlackBerry starts up their Priv Marshmallow beta.

Things were relatively quiet in the Apple space, sans more rumors about the iPhone 7 and fancy new Apple Watch Hermes bands.

But the really cool stuff is happening in, of all places, Windows land. Yes, we have a HoloLens and even though we’re still getting to know it… HoloLens is pretty awesome. Which is good, because those that are waiting for a flagship Surface phone will be waiting until Spring 2017.

Android Central — Huawei steps up

This was a big week for Huawei, which unveiled its new P9 and P9 Plus flagships to the world with an event in London. We know the specs and even got our hands on it at the event, and it’s a nice piece of kit.

As Google Play pushes out its latest round of updates, you may notice a new look for Google’s family of Play apps. The new app icons follow a more cohesive design, and look pretty snazzy if we do say so ourselves. In other media news, T-Mobile has expanded its BingeON and Music Freedom streaming deals.

If you’re still rockin’ a BlackBerry Priv, and are adventurous, you may want to check out BlackBerry’s Android 6.0 Marshmallow beta program. Even if you’re not on Marshmallow, you may want to check out the April 2 Google security patch, which is hitting some phones already.

But sadly, less than 5% of active Android devices are running Marshmallow.

  • 8 things to know about the Galaxy S7’s SD card slot
  • Here’s how the Galaxy S7 handles heat
  • Galaxy S7 edge: A second opinion
  • Nexus 5X vs. iPhone SE: Battle of the upper middle class
  • T-Mobile Galaxy S7 edge review: The best you can get right now
  • Amazon Echo Dot review: Maybe the right amount of Alexa for you

CrackBerry — Not done yet

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This week, BlackBerry lowered the price of the Priv by $50 permanently, John Chen discussed BlackBerry security and E-mail and let it be known once again, BlackBerry is not done with building Android devices yet as there’s currently two mid-range devices in the works.

  • Unlocked BlackBerry Priv gets a permanent $50 price cut to $649 in U.S.
  • John Chen discussed BlackBerry security and E-mail
  • BlackBerry CEO John Chen reiterates plans to launch two mid-range Android phones

iMore — Analyze This

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While we’re all still battling it out over iPhone SE vs. iPhone 6s, and big vs. baby iPad Pro, we’re also adding to the team! Michael Gartenberg, former senior director of worldwide marketing at Apple, is joining iMore as our new Analyst in Residence. When you see him, make sure you say hi!

Meanwhile we’ve got guides up for Fitbit Blaze and Fitbit Alta. And yes, we do indeed, even Bitmoji!

  • iPhone 7 rumor roundup
  • New Apple Watch Hermes bands: What you need to know!
  • Battery life problems with your new iPhone? Here’s the fix!
  • Why Apple lives in the real world, not a virtual one

Windows Central — It’s HoloTime

Microsoft HoloLens! We finally got our very own 3D wearable holographic computer from Microsoft. We unboxed it with a brief tour along with some excellent photos. The next day we shared our experiences with the device after 24 hours including what you can do with it including games and apps.

Microsoft continued to push Windows 10 this week with a new Fast Ring edition for the PC. Build 14316 brings a massive amount of new features and smaller tweaks to the OS. We documented all the changes and you can read about them right here. This latest Fast Ring release is a sneak peek of the big Windows 10 Anniversary Edition update coming later this summer, and we have full details on that one as well.

In an exclusive article, I revealed that any Surface phone from Microsoft likely won’t come until the spring of 2017 when the company refreshes their Windows 10 Surface line. The good news is there look to be at least three different categories for the last-chance device.

  • Here is why Satya Nadella thinks Continuum is the defining feature of Windows 10 Mobile
  • Microsoft Build 2016 post-analysis (and why developers are happy again)
  • Enter now to win a Lumia 650 from Windows Central!
  • We go hands-on with HP Spectre — the ‘thinnest laptop in the world’

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10
Apr

The After Math: Siri take the wheel


Wow, this week just sped by like a couple of LA heisters. We saw news of super computer-controlled Roboracecars, autonomous big rig convoys, “guardian angel” emergency override systems and the Google Car’s toughest test to date. Come, take a look at the future of driving, where every seat is shotgun.

10
Apr

Ben Heck’s lunch box dev kit


The Ben Heck Show - Episode 231 - Ben Heck's Lunch Box Dev Kit

This week, Karen and Ben produce a portable, plug-and-play hardware development kit enclosure, suitable for diagnosing problems on the go and swapping over between kits. Using the BeagleBone Black, a modified Motorola Atrix phone dock and various 3D printing tools at their disposal. As a bonus, Ben unboxes the Raspberry Pi 3 and accessories while Felix looks at NXP hardware sensor dev kits for a future project. Join us on the element14 Community page where you can get the supporting files and talk with The Ben Heck Show team!

10
Apr

Ricoh Theta S review – CNET


The Good The Ricoh Theta S takes the complex process of capturing and creating spherical photos and videos down to a single button press. Using its Wi-Fi and mobile apps, you can control the camera, and edit and share photos and video. Addition of self-timer gets you better selfies or time to get out of the shot entirely.

The Bad Processing takes its toll on photo and video quality, so just don’t look too closely. Having separate apps for capture and editing hurts the user experience. Video-editing app is currently only available for iOS. You need to upload to Ricoh’s site before sharing to other sites. Because of the twin-lens design, you have to be extra careful how you store the camera and the battery and storage can’t be increased.

The Bottom Line Whether you’re looking to create content for your VR headset or just love cool camera gadgetry, the Ricoh Theta S is an excellent way to start creating spherical images.

Unless you’re really into cameras, it’s probably a surprise that Japanese electronics manufacturer Ricoh — a company best known for its copiers, printers and other office equipment — was the first to launch a consumer point-and-shoot camera for spherical images, the Ricoh Theta.

When it was announced in October 2013, the Theta definitely fell into “niche product” territory, but now with the burst of virtual-reality headsets and other 360-degree photos and video capture devices, it looks like Ricoh saw a category developing well before the likes of Nikon and Samsung. Those companies and others are just getting around to launching their first 360-degree cameras, while Ricoh is on its third with the Theta S.

The design hasn’t changed much from the original, using two ultrawide-angle lenses to capture a fully spherical image when stitched together in camera. For the S, it has twin f2.0 lenses with folded optics allowing for a longer optical path while keeping the body small and still making room for its two 12-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch image sensors that combine to output 14-megapixel spherical images (5,376×2,688-pixel resolution equirectangular JPEGs). It can also record spherical video with stereo sound in full HD at 30 frames per second for up to 25 minutes. (Technically, though, the resolution is 1,920×960 pixels.)

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Sarah Tew/CNET

While I definitely like the design for its simplicity and comfort, the lenses are very exposed when not in use so you really have to make sure you store it in its included pouch to keep it scratch-free. Also, the sealed-up body means you can’t replace the battery or increase storage. The 8GB of memory can hold up to 1,600 photos or about an hour of video at full resolution. The battery life is a bit harder to pin down depending on your use, but Ricoh rates it at 260 photos with Wi-Fi on and a shot being taken and transferred to a mobile device every 30 seconds.

Taking a photo or shooting a quick video clip couldn’t be simpler: Turn the camera on with a button on the side and press the shutter release. Since the images are spherical, you don’t even really have to point at anything if you’re just trying to capture the scene around you. But that also means as long as you’re holding the camera, you’ll be in the shot. And, because the shutter release is directly below one of the lenses, your thumb and the rest of your hand will appear much larger than it should be. This is where the camera’s Wi-Fi and self-timer (available with a firmware update) come in very handy, no pun intended.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

The Theta’s Wi-Fi kicks on when you turn on the camera, but there’s also a button to switch it on and off. You connect to the camera with an iOS or Android device just as you would any wireless network and then use the Theta S app to control the camera, change settings and view and transfer photos and video to your phone or tablet.

Using your phone to control the camera makes it so you can duck out of the picture if you don’t want to be in it. (There’s a tripod mount on the bottom and the camera can stand on its own as well.) You get a live preview for photos, but not for video. You can, however, connect the camera to a computer via USB or an HDMI input or to an HDMI capture device to view a live stream from the lenses.

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View full gallery

Sarah Tew/CNET

Along with starting and stopping recordings and triggering the shutter, the app gives you access to different shooting modes. You start in Auto mode, but you can shoot with dynamic-range compensation and noise reduction for low-light shots. An ISO-priority mode lets you set the sensor’s light sensitivity and white balance, while a Shutter-priority option gives control over shutter speed (1/8 – 1/6,400 second) and white balance. Or, in Manual mode you can set all three: ISO, white balance and shutter speed (60 seconds to 1/6,400 second).

Once you’ve got a photo or video to share, you can upload to the Theta360.com site and from there share on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. A separate app, Theta+, can be used for editing images first, including adding filters or cropping (once you crop it becomes a static image, though). There is desktop software for viewing and sharing, but you don’t get any of the editing features. Also, if you want to edit video, you’ll need a third app called Theta+Video and an iOS device since it’s not available for Android.

10
Apr

From the Editor’s Desk: Life in 360 degrees


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The world is in 360 degrees. it’s about time our cameras caught up to it.

I’ve been a big fan of the little handheld cameras that never took off. (Thanks, smartphones!) The HTC RE Camera is one of my favorite underrated devices of the past year or so. It’s an extra thing to carry and charge, sure. But it’s also quicker to take a pic than a smartphone. It’s (marginally) more waterproof than most. It’s easier to prop up some place to shoot a time-lapse. The RE Camera, while overpriced at retail, is surprisingly good.

It’s also just the beginning, of course. We’re very quickly moving into the world of virtual reality and, on a slightly different plane, easy-to-take 360-degree photos and video. That, I believe, is going to be the more popular move for most folks. VR is awesome and a lot of fun, but it’s cumbersome. It’s not casual. (Even the excellent Samsung Gear VR is going to be more work than a lot of folks want to put up with, to say nothing of a phone hanging off of your face.) The bulk of this 360-degree content will be viewed without the help of a visor. And the bulk of it will be viewed on Facebook — which so far only supports 360-degree video, and not still images – and that’s a mistake.

This is all still nerd stuff, but that’s about to change. I’ve been using the LG 360 CAM for a week or so now. It’s fun. It’s only $199. It’s not the world’s greatest quality, but it’s not bad for a first-generation product, and that sort of thing will only get better. LG’s going to put some marketing muscle behind it and the LG G5, so these will actually be a thing. And in the near future Samsung will unleash the more alien-like Gear 360, and I can’t wait to see how it compares in quality.

And those are just the ones from the names you already know. There’s the slightly more expensive Ricoh Theta and 360Fly, and others. This is going to become a crowded space, really fast. It’s also a whole lot of fun. The ability to show folks everything that’s around you instead of what’s just in front of you is a game changer. And the 360 and VR worlds overlap. If you haven’t seen Joanna Stern’s excellent explainer of VR — as seen in a 360-degree video — take a few minutes and watch it. This won’t be just nerd stuff for long. Low cost Google Cardboard brings it to everyone. Samsung and others are bringing higher quality for relatively low cost. It’ll entertain and educate us. It’ll bring the dinner table discussion to family members thousands of miles away. It’s only a matter of time before we’re all livestreaming in 360 degrees, for better or worse.

And it’s going to be fun.

A few more thoughts on the week that was …

  • In this post-Space Shuttle world, it’s so good to be excited about space again.
  • As we get ready for the HTC announcement on Tuesday, a fun look back at the past few years of HTC One. There was some good (and not so good) stuff there.
  • LG G5 review goes up on Monday. (The review video is already live.) My short take? It’s not a horrible phone. It’s maybe just trying too hard to do a little too much.
  • In music that I’ve been missing out on, I got into Maggie Koerner this week. Missed the show here in Pensacola since I was up in NYC, but it’s always good to support regional folks.
  • And on the other end of the spectrum, how did I not know about the new Prong?
  • Also getting into David Axelrod’s podcast.
  • And The West Wing Weekly is coming out of the gate hard. So good.
  • Started reading Cory Booker’s “United” this week, too.

That’s it for this week. Lots of yardwork (and work work) left to do. See y’all Monday.

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10
Apr

Inhabitat’s Week in Green: Toyota’s wooden roadster and more!


Auto tech is advancing by leaps and bounds, but Toyota’s latest car is a blast from the past. Meet the Setsuna – a gorgeous roadster that’s hand-carved from 86 wooden panels. In other transportation news, Dutch politicians are hatching plans to ban all polluting cars by the year 2025. If the thought of sharing the road with self-driving big rigs makes you uneasy, this may put your fears to rest: six trucks with driverless technology just completed a 1,300-mile journey across Europe. We also took a firsthand look at VanMoof’s new Electrified S smart bike, and a startup launched the world’s first cargo scooter, which can easily tote up to 50 pounds.

Wave energy has yet to catch up to solar and wind, but a new design could change that: CorPower’s small floating buoy can produce enough electricity to power 200 homes. Meanwhile, London unveiled the UK’s first solar bus shelter, and a new study shows that the US could produce 40% of its electricity from rooftop photovoltaics. Researchers developed a new “reverse photosynthesis” process that could revolutionize biofuels, and design studio Salt & Water unveiled plans for a floating farm that can produce clean energy and organic food.

Excited for the upcoming Rogue One Star Wars movie? Then check out Eyal Rosenthal’s minimalist lamps, which are inspired by droids lightsabers and stormtrooper helmets. In other design news, Sony just debuted a multitasking light bulb that doubles as a wireless speaker and San Franciscans were surprised to find gigantic glowing bunnies pop up throughout the city. IKEA is taking interior design to a whole new level with an app that lets you try out furniture in virtual reality. And MIT is establishing a new manufacturing hub to spearhead innovations in textile technology.

10
Apr

Plex on the web gets smarter with media searches


Plex’s web interface just got much, much better at helping you find that favorite movie. The company has introduced a revamped dashboard for its media front end that’s at once smarter and more organized. The search feature now finds everything across multiple categories as you type, and it’s both considerably faster and more forgiving — even if you don’t know how to spell “Stellan Skarsgård,” you’ll probably spot both him and the movies he stars in. Navigation is easier, too, as you’ll get the latest discovery features front and center, with better mouse and touch control as well as zoomable posters. Check it out now if you regularly venture beyond Plex’s native apps when browsing your media collection.

Source: Plex Blog

10
Apr

Astronomers find a supersized black hole in a cosmic small town


The humongous black hole in the center of a galaxy called NGC 1600 took the MASSIVE Survey astronomers by surprise. It’s not only almost as big as the largest one we’ve discovered, it’s also located in a sparsely populated region of only 20 or so galaxies, 200 million light years away. To note, it’s 17 billion times bigger than our sun, while the largest one that we know of is 21 billion times larger. Supermassive black holes, which weigh at least 10 billion suns, are typically found in the center of huge galaxies that reside in heavily populated areas. NASA says finding NGC 1600’s was like finding a skyscraper in the middle of a small town.

The MASSIVE Survey, which is a study of huge galaxies, determined this particular black hole’s size by measuring the movements of stars within its influence using the Gemini Observatory telescopes in Hawaii and Chile. Lead astronomer Chung-Pei Ma said the stars were moving so fast that the only possible explanation is that they’re affected by a region with “a 17-billion-solar-mass black hole at the center.”

It’s still a mystery why it’s so big, but one possibility is that it’s a product of two black holes that merged when their galaxies smashed into each other. Whatever the reason is, scientists now know that supermassive black holes can exist within smaller groups of galaxies. And since that type of cosmic community is more abundant than densely populated ones, then there might be a lot more supersize black holes than we thought.

Source: Nature (PDF), NASA

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