The After Math: Pay up
This was a week of folks getting theirs. Brazil locked down $6 million of Facebook assets in its ongoing battle of WhatsApp. Disney shelled out $3.5 billion for the company that runs MLB At Bat. Hall-of-Fame running back Jim Brown squeezed $600,000 out of EA for its unlicensed use of his likeness. And Apple is reportedly about to spend big bucks buying Tidal from Jay-Z. Numbers, because how else are you going to measure financial debt?
Watch your favorite games quickly conquered for charity here!
It’s the long holiday weekend, we’re smack dab in the middle of the summer drought for big game releases and you want to make it to Tuesday with all your fingers intact. That basically rules out lighting fireworks or playing a new game. And, let’s face it, the chances of you actually playing anything you bought during the Steam summer sale are slim, at best. What’s there to do? How about plopping down and watching a ton of video games beaten in record time, for charity?
Summer Games Done Quick 2016 kicks off this morning at 11:30 Eastern with Super Mario Sunshine and doesn’t wrap until next Saturday with Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Between those games starring the most famous Italian plumber around are a glitch-free speed-run of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the absurdly difficult NES Ghostbusters tie-in, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and a whole lot more.
And you can watch all 160 hours of speed-runs right here! For an idea of what’s playing and when, check out the schedule over on the Games Done Quick homepage. It’s not like you had big plans this week anyhow.
Watch live video from GamesDoneQuick on http://www.twitch.tv
Source: Games Done Quick (Twitch)
Six months with the Steam Controller
The gentle whine of the haptics, the new rumble support, those inner paddles that make toggling run and crouch so easy … oh, and the one-click quick-save! I may be in the minority, but that I love my Steam Controller.
The divisive Valve device has just cleared six months of existence. You may have dismissed it at launch, as most reviewers did, as being “weird.” In the past half-year, though, it’s found its groove among weirdos, modders and amateur tinkerers. My love for the controller has even begun to grow outside of gaming, and I’ve found that it’s started to colonize my interactions with Windows in many surprising ways.
But of course, the controller is fundamentally a gaming device. In fact, many of my recent game choices have made been on the basis of how well they would work with the Steam controller. Doom has been a pure joy with the device (once you have the trackpad and gyro aiming configured to your liking), once you have your trackpad and gyro aiming set up to your liking. It’s also become my preferred way to play point-and-click adventure games, or role-playing games like Pillars of Eternity, which I have been playing from my sofa. I’ve also spent time thumbing my way through strategy games like Europa Universalis (although not on a sofa because of the tiny-text problem).
The growing list of “configs” for the controller has produced some surprising applications — for example, you can play Street Fighter V strictly with motion controls. Serious Rocket League players have the Steam Controller grips programmed for acceleration/brake and triggers for drift/boost. Cities Skylines has moved into the living room for many people.
Yes, “configs” has been said a few times already in this piece. Yes, that means before you can play a game with the controller, you need to browse a number of configuration settings through Steam and find one that suits your style. Yes, it also means you that it doesn’t end there: Once you find a config that works for you, it will no doubt need some tinkering. Yes, all of these things seem like obstacles to play. But configuring the Steam controller has become a surprising part of its appeal. It delivers the same kind of understated excitement you might get from assembling a custom gaming PC, or the kind of mild thrill that you might find in tweaking graphical settings to achieve the best image your rig can deliver. When you look at it this way, the Steam Controller is a fun new aspect of the PC gaming “meta.” I spent over two hours tweaking controls, graphical settings and mods before I actually started to play Fallout 4. Was that gaming time wasted? Depends on your definition of wasted.
However, because of all of this, the controller undeniably still feels like a specialist device. The range of configs and modifications it now supports, following several updates, can be staggering. An example: Valve has now made it so the user can have complete control over all device inputs by allowing modification of the so-called activators, control how input becomes an output –- for example, an activator can make a long press of a button mean something different than a short press (a hop vs. a long jump, for example). Opening this up is like giving a new canvas to the active modding community. Not to mention that Valve has released the blueprint of the device into the Creative Commons for the true “hard modders.”
But the good thing about specialist devices is that they spawn a community. For any Steam controller neophyte, finding a community to stay abreast of the latest configs, mods, updates and innovations will be a necessary step. The highly active, enthusiastic Reddit community is a great place to start. It’s beginner-friendly, home to useful wikis for first-timers and even gives out prizes for users to create configs that are still needed for major games. It also publishes the “Five Stages of Acceptance” that all users go through when they first try out their alien device and immediately regret the purchase. (Take heart because in Stage 5, “Your hands are naturally jerking around in crucial moments tweaking the gryo mouse to get a perfect snipe, a perfect course correction, a major grip over your recoil.”)
Soon enough you’ll discover other uses for the controller. I know people who use it in 3D modeling applications because of the precision of the gyro. I’ve started using it to interact with Windows more generally, particularly with Chrome. It also can work as a remote control for VLC and other video applications. And typing? Well, I wrote this entire piece using the Steam Controller keyboard interface. Just kidding: Typing is still a bit of a drag. The fastest I’ve seen someone brag about typing with it is 24 words per minute, just over half the average keyboard speed. (Don’t worry, the community is working on a Dvorak virtual keyboard layout, which should speed things up.
There are other problems too –- in most cases, the controller is still bound to Steam, particularly the Big Picture Mode (which you’ll need to minimize to access the rest of your desktop). Bugs abound, as well as seemingly random errors –- but these are natural for a piece of highly modifiable hardware that’s expanding in surprising ways.
The defining quality of video games is interactivity. Though they are composed of beautiful digital images, the true art of a game is in the dialogue between the player and the software. The interface is the message. And for many, nothing will beat a gamepad, or the keyboard and mouse. I get that, but it’s worth it if you have the $50 (on sale now!) to expand your interface horizons. If nothing else, it will make you think about games from a different perspective. But there’s fun to be found in the configs, too.
Lenovo ThinkPad 13 review – CNET
The Good The thin-and-light Lenovo ThinkPad 13 offers a lot for a little, including a great keyboard, a matte 1080p screen, useful port assortment, a fair amount of upgrade options and a lightweight, but rugged build quality.
The Bad The touchpad can be a little jumpy and the trackpoint can be hard to find without looking. The keyboard isn’t backlit.
The Bottom Line A travel-friendly, tough business laptop, the Lenovo ThinkPad 13 delivers essentials for work or school.
Budget laptops get no glory and ones made for business, even less so. But, they’re the ones a lot of us buy for day-to-day tasks at the office, at home or at school, so when a good one comes around, you know it because it stands out from the crowd. The Lenovo ThinkPad 13 is just that: a budget-friendly standout.
Starting at around $600 (AU$900, £360), the ThinkPad 13 might not go above and beyond for performance with its entry-level components. It’s really the overall design — including an excellent ThinkPad keyboard — and features are better than you might expect, giving you something more than “good enough.”
The ThinkPad 13 is also available as a Chromebook starting at less than $400, but around $550 configured with the same Core i3 processor and full HD display as the Windows system reviewed here.
View full gallery
Lenovo’s ThinkPad 13 might be inexpensive, but it’s built to pass 12 military specification tests for durability.
Available in black or silver, the ThinkPad 13 isn’t super thin or light, but at 0.8-inch thick (19.8 mm) and 3.2 pounds (1.4 kg), it’s hardly a burden to travel with to and from the office or around campus. The top is covered with metal, but the rest is a durable plastic, and Lenovo says it’s built to pass 12 military specification tests including humidity, high and low temperatures, vibration and shock. This is ruggedness you don’t typically find in laptop at its price.
The full HD-resolution display (1,920×1,080 pixels) is also nice to have on a laptop at this size and price. However, if you opt for the black version, you get an HD 1,366×768-pixel resolution screen, the bonus being that it comes with a fingerprint reader absent from the silver version.
A big selling point for the ThinkPad 13 is it’s keyboard which is one of the best keyboards you’ll find on a budget business laptop. Or probably any budget laptop, really. If you spend much of your day typing, you want a keyboard that’s comfortable and responsive and this is it. Laptops this thin usually don’t offer much key travel and can feel mushy. But that’s not the case here, with every key giving you a firm response with each press. The only drawback is that it’s not backlit, but at least the keys are marked well.
View full gallery
The ThinkPad’s keyboard is one of the best you can find on a budget laptop.
The little red nub that is the ThinkPad TrackPoint works well for guiding your cursor around the screen, but is nearly flush with the keys. That makes it hard to find by touch alone, which had me looking down at my keyboard a bit more than I’d like. The TrackPoint does have its own left, center and right mouse buttons below the spacebar. The center button can be programmed for scrolling or as a middle click.
And suddenly it was as if everything I knew from my childhood was wrong. Snickers doesn’t really satisfy, Pepsi wasn’t the real thing, and I’d been mispronouncing “nougat” all this time.
So it turns out I’ve been mispronouncing “nougat” all my life, eh? Noo-get. The blame lays squarely, of course, on Snickers. Well, that and the Southern bastardization of the English language.
In any case, we’ve finally got the nickname for Android N. Which might or might not be better than just calling it “Android N.”
O is too easy. If there’s not already a licensing deal in place for Oreo, well … Then we’ve got to have the yellow digestive hell knows as Peeps. But after that? Q?
And what happens a decade from now when we run out of letters? Actually, we never had A and B nicknames. So maybe Google rolls things over and stretches out a dozen years.
In any event … It’s a four-day holiday weekend. (Thanks, Canada Day!) Let’s not spend too much of it deep in thought.
A few other things that have been rolling around a bit …
- Horrible story with an even worse headline.
- Cool inside look at a job I’d never want.
- When I’m awake and working at 5:30 a.m. — on a weekend, too — that’s pretty much the same thing, right?
- How’d I miss that Seveneves is going to be made into a movie?
- Or would a miniseries be better?
- Shhhhhhhh. Nobody tell Texas that if it wants to secede it’ll have to figure out how to pay for things.
- It’s so cute that they keep bringing that up though.
- I’ll have a full review in a little bit, but the Bose QC35 headphones are legit.
- Sorry, Chris. I’m just not hearing it.
- I had higher hopes for Sony. Actually, I think we all did.
- I’ve got a OnePlus 3 on the way, though. (And Daniel Bader has a second-opinion review coming up.)
- Moto Z can’t be too far out now, either.
- And I’ll have some more thoughts this week on Nexus stuff. But leaked specs don’t excite me at all. Smartphones have smartphone specs.
That’s it for this week. Things are going to start heating up very, very soon. See y’all Tuesday!
Inhabitat’s Week in Green: Solar roadways, and more!
Photovoltaic roads sound almost like science fiction, but they’re becoming reality in the US. This week Missouri announced plans to pave a section of the historic Route 66 with energy-generating Solar Roadways tiles. In other futuristic transportation news, Russia wants to build a 44-mile-long hyperloop track that stretches along the coast to China. Driverless cars are expected to hit prime time within the next five years, and we explored whether the convenience they offer will fuel suburban sprawl. Volkswagen promised to pay a whopping $14.7 billion to owners of cars affected by the emissions cheating scandal. And if you hate parallel parking, check out these incredible omnidirectional wheels that allow any car to drive sideways.
In energy news, Mexico, Canada and the US just made a major commitment to source 50 percent of their electricity from clean sources by the year 2025. Meanwhile, Germany passed a groundbreaking measure that effectively bans fracking for all practical purposes. Sunpower set a new world record for rooftop solar efficiency, while a recent report projects that the average cost of solar and wind power will fall by 59 percent in the next decade. And two designers developed a spiraling building that sucks in carbon dioxide and produces clean, green biofuel.
A Chinese company just 3D-printed an entire mansion in 45 days — and they say it’s durable enough to withstand an 8.0-magnitude earthquake. In other technology and design news, researchers at Cambridge believe that they can grow buildings from natural materials like bone and eggshell, and Neste launched an awesome egg-shaped office pod that lets you work from almost anywhere. We also featured one of the most futuristic mobile homes we’ve ever seen. It’s called the Doubleback, and it expands 6.5 feet with the push of a button. Finally, in NASA developed a new technology that could provide the entire solar system with internet, and an experiment deemed that plants grown in Martian soil would indeed be edible.
Best TV shows to catch-up with: Wimbledon, Formula E and more on Freeview Play
It has been a real summer of sport and that is reflected in our weekly round-up of TV shows from the last seven days you should catch-up on.
If you scroll backwards through a Freeview Play electronic programme guide, you can click on any of the following and they’ll instantly open up the related on demand app – BBC iPlayer, All 4 or ITV Hub – and play without having to search for them further. Alternatively, you can always navigate to the individual apps yourself on any connected device.
Freeview Play TVs and set-top-boxes also have access to Channel 5 content, through the Demand 5 app, but it’s far easier to use the EPG for now.
So grab the remote, settle down and check out any of the following shows below to see if they tickle your fancy.
Battle of the Somme 100 – Zero Hour
BBC News (BBC iPlayer) – broadcast on Friday 1 July
To mark the 100th anniversary of first day of the Battle of the Somme, the Beeb presented a live programme from Thiepval in France – the site of the devastating events – and Westminster Abbey.
It’s part of the BBC’s commitment to look back at the first World War that has been running throughout the year.
BBC One & BBC Two (BBC iPlayer) – broadcast from Monday 27 June
The Wimbledon 2016 Championship has started and you can catch up with highlights and matches ahead of the second week of tennis action.
Bar a few showers here and there, it’s not been interrupted too much. Let’s hope it stays that way (touch wood).
The Graham Norton Show
BBC One (BBC iPlayer) – broadcast on Friday 1 July
If you missed the last series, you can now catch-up with a compilation show of highlights featuring plenty of the incredible guests to have appeared over the last few months.
Jennifer Lawrence, Tom Hiddleston, Ryan Gosling, Ben Affleck, Meryl Streep and many more appear throughout.
Formula E Live
ITV (ITV Hub) – broadcast on Sunday 3 July
The second London Formula E grand prix took place on Sunday and you can catch up with the action now.
The all-electric motorsport is really gaining traction and it’s great to see ITV invest so much time, effort and cash into broadcasting it.
Goodwood Festival of Speed
ITV 4 (ITV Hub) – broadcast from Wednesday 29 June
Also available for motorsports and general car fans are several shows broadcast on ITV 4 that brought us some true highlights from this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
We were there too, so you never know, you might even see a Pocket-linter in the background of some of the shots.
Ramsay’s Hotel Hell
Channel 4 (All 4) – broadcast on Thursday 30 June
We featured Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares last week, a show the Michelin Star chef has finished with. Now here’s the first episode of series three of his new programme, Hotel Hell.
It’s basically the same thing, but with hotels. And it is five parts hilarious, to six parts cringeworthy. In a good way.
4seven (All 4) – broadcast on Wednesday 29 June
The BAFTA winning series, where couples meet and chat for the first time in front of cameras, is being repeated on 4seven at the moment.
It’s easily the best reality TV show on the box at present and we find it compulsive viewing.
Get catch-up and on demand TV for £0 per month with Freeview Play. Click here to find out more.
Second man pleads guilty to breaking into celebrity accounts
No, the convictions over celebrity account breaches aren’t over yet. Chicago man Edward Majerczyk has agreed to plead guilty to using phishing scams to fool more than 300 people into compromising their Gmail and iCloud accounts, including 30 celebrities. The bargain reduces his sentence from a maximum of 5 years in prison to between 6 to 12 months. We’ll learn the extent of his time behind bars in a few weeks, when the case transfers from California to Illinois for sentencing.
The decision comes just 3 months after Ryan Collins’ own plea. However, it’s notable that there’s no apparent connection between the two men — they just happened to be targeting famous people (including the likes of Jennifer Lawrence) for the sake of downloading racy photos and videos. There’s also no hard evidence that they posted the material online themselves. Either way, it’s increasingly apparent that the US is determined to crack down on high-profile breaches like this.
Save 60% on this slim Droid Turbo 2 case today!
Are you looking for a thin case to keep your Droid Turbo 2 safe? If so, Amzer’s Pudding TPU case is just what you may be looking for. The case provides a slim layer of protection to the back and sides of the phone and right now you can save 60% on it, making it just $3.95.
NuAns raises funds to release its Windows 10 phone worldwide
When we took a closer look at the NuAns NEO in January, the Japanese company wasn’t sure if the Windows 10 Mobile phone was ever going to make it outside its home country. Now, it looks like NuAns has decided to attempt a wider release, because it’s raising $725,000 on Kickstarter to fund NEO’s global debut. According to the team’s campaign, they’re using the money they’ll get to buy the components needed for the device to work anywhere in the world, not just in Japan.
The NEO is much chunkier than most smartphones these days, with interchangeable back halves. You can choose from various finishes, like wood, suede and even ostrich. The device itself has a five-inch 720p screen, 2GB of RAM and a 1.5GHz octacore Snapdragon 617. Plus, it’s capable of running Microsoft’s Continuum feature, which turns it into a tiny computer. To get one as a Kickstarter reward, you’ll have to pledge at least $270, though that tier is quickly running out as of this writing.
Via: The Verge