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14
Sep

How to download Pixel and Pixel XL’s Launcher for Android


Ahead of the long-rumoured Pixel and Pixel XL’s launch, it appears as though their particular Android launchers have leaked. You can download and install them on your device now to get a taste of what the software will look like on the Nexus-replacement phones.

Apart from virtually confirming the next all-Google phone names, it offers a peak at how the Android experience is going to change in the near future. You can find out everything we think we know about the Pixel and Pixel XL by hitting up our in-depth feature. 

Before we dive in to the guide, we have to warn you that the launcher software is only available through unofficial routes. You’ll need to download it through Mega download. As with any unofficial source, we can’t vouch for the security or the validity of the software, and so if you choose to download it and install the launcher, you do so at your own risk. 

If you’re wanting to avoid unofficial routes, you’ll likely need to wait until the Pixel and Pixel XL are officially available before you can install their launchers. That’s if Google makes the launcher available on the Google Play Store. In the mean time, you can check out our feature on how to install a third party launcher, and why it makes sense to do so. 

Prepare your phone

Before you start, you need to ensure your phone allows apps to be installed from unofficial sources. Head to settings>security then find the “Unknown sources” toggle, and switch it to the on position. 

Pixel Launcher: Download and install

Once you’ve done that, you want to download the Pixel Launcher zip file from Mega. You can either download straight through your browser, or by using the Mega app. Download Link courtesy of Android Police/@LlabTooFer.

Once downloaded, you’ll notice two zip files. One is the main Pixel Launcher itself and the other is the redesigned wallpaper picker. All you need to do is open the files and it’ll run the install process and directly install it on to your device.

Pixel Launcher: New home screen

The first thing you’ll notice upon installation is that the style of the home screen has changed. The date and the day sit on the top right of the screen while a white tab sits opposite, on the left. In the final version, this G tab slides across to reveal the Google Now screen, but with the launcher installed in the way we’ve done it, it doesn’t do anything. 

  • Google Pixel and Pixel XL: Release date, rumours and everything you need to know about the next Nexus

There is a way to install the launcher so that it will work, but that involves a level of knowledge and nouse as well as messing with system partitions, which could do more damage than good if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

In one of the early versions of the Android 7.0 Nougat developer preview, the folders were redesigned to resemble circular windows looking in to the included apps. That style seems to be returning with the Pixel Launcher. Adding apps to folders is as easy as dragging and dropping icons on top of each other.  

Pixel Launcher: New app drawer

Unlike pretty much every version of Android ever, the app drawer no longer has its own icon in the dock at the bottom of the home screen. Instead, there’s a small arrow. To open the app drawer, you just slide up from the dock and the app drawer completely fills the screen. 

Like a lot of other launchers, there’s a search feature which lets you type in any app name to find it either on your device or – if it isn’t installed – on the Play Store. 

Pixel Launcher: New wallpaper picker

In the Pixel Launcher, if you press and hold the home screen you’ll get the usual options which let you change wallpaper, add widgets or access the launcher’s settings. The new wallpaper picker is noteworthy, since it’s been completely redesigned. 

The top of the wallpaper picker shows the home and lock screen wallpapers separately, then has a collection of categories for you to choose from. These include cityscapes, landscapes and more abstract stuff designed by various photographers and artists. These are in addition to the default Android wallpapers that come with the launcher, or any photos you have on your device. 

It could mean you’ll never need to download a wallpaper app from the Play Store again, presuming Google keeps it updated with fresh, attractive and high-res images. 

14
Sep

Hive confirms compatibility with Amazon Echo for voice controlled heating and lighting


Amazon today confirmed that the Amazon Echo is coming to the UK, powered by its onboard smart agent Alexa.

Announcing a range of partnerships, one of the more interesting for the UK is Hive, the smarthome offshoot of British Gas. 

Hive has confirmed that you’ll be able to ask the Amazon Echo to turn on lights in a particular room, if you’re using Hive Lights, as well as requesting a particular temperature through your Hive Active Heating.

In addition, you’ll be able to activate your Hive Active Plugs so you can turn things on and off.

Using voice might seem a bit weird, but it’s going to be useful in situations where you don’t want to use your hands, like when wrestling with a tantruming toddler, or when you’re half way through stuffing a chicken. 

Hive tells us that they’ve discovered that Alexa – the smart part of the Echo equation – will respond to a whole range of different requests, able to determine what you mean, without you being restricted by proscriptive language.

You’ll need to have Hive’s smarthome products, of course, as well as the Amazon Echo, which is on pre-order from Amazon now, with delivery from 28 September. 

Priced at £149, there’s a £50 discount for Amazon Prime members who get their order in before 16 September. So hurry, don’t delay, get your order in so you can bark orders at your heating system.

  • Amazon Echo comes to Europe, UK customers can finally use Alexa
  • Amazon Echo UK pre-order discount gives Prime members £50 off, but be quick
  • Amazon Echo review: Ace assistant, average speaker
14
Sep

Sex and sexuality: The Jane Austen game breaking the MMO rules


Ever, Jane is an online role-playing game set in the dramatic, romantic worlds of Jane Austen. It invites players to attend sophisticated dinner parties and fancy balls, share gossip, keep secrets, fall in love, get married and climb the ribbon-lined social ladder of Regency-era England. It is definitely not a sex game, though sometimes players get wrapped up in this universe of exquisite gowns and forbidden desire, and they simply can’t help themselves.

“Let’s just say that we had to put in private chat,” Ever, Jane creator Judy Tyrer says with a laugh.

To be fair, it’s difficult to produce an online role-playing game that doesn’t foster sexual relationships and conversations. “It’s in every MMO that’s out there,” Tyrer adds. “The erotica is just the name of the game.”

Even though Austen’s novels never delve into the sensual details of intimate encounters, her worlds are rife with sexual tension. As Tyrer explains it, Austen’s Regency era was a period of heady debauchery: The Prince Regent was notorious for hosting orgies, and women, once they produced an heir, were largely free to do as they wished. However, discretion was key.

That’s where private chat rooms come in to Ever, Jane.

“We’re not here to make a sex game. That’s not our purpose. But we also don’t want to ignore the reality,” Tyrer says.

Historical accuracy is paramount for Tyrer. She became a history buff while researching Austen’s life and writing, and she’s attempting to fill Ever, Jane with as many realistic rules and situations as possible. This means that players can have a private chat room, but they can’t flaunt any promiscuity. If they do, they’re sent to Botany Bay, a penal colony that’s populated with other troublemakers and anyone hoping to play without any rules at all. Botany Bay isn’t live yet, which means current players can be as naughty as they wish, but Tyrer and her team are working on it.

“Botany Bay sort of solves the problem of how angry people get when they get banned,” she says. “We’re sort of saying, if you want to behave that way, that’s fine, but we’re not going to give you customer support; we’re going to stick you in a penal colony, do what you want.”

Ever, Jane is, first and foremost, a wildly ambitious MMORPG from a small, independent team led by Tyrer called Three Turn Productions. The game secured $110,000 on Kickstarter in December 2013 and it just entered open beta at the end of August. Ever, Jane is still fairly early in development, but it already has a few hundred players, with roughly 30 people online at any given time.

The game opens up at a funeral, just like in Sense and Sensibility, and it immediately offers a different kind of quest than most other MMORPGs. Players see someone at the funeral that they’re interested in and they have to smile at this person — but it has to be discreet. This is a funeral in Regency England, after all. The game’s quests are meant to play with relationships in this way, intertwining players’ stories with longing looks and whispered promises.

Another quest that Tyrer is still writing throws drama into an otherwise demure dinner party: One player has to whisper a secret to a specific guest at the party. However, the targeted person’s goal is to not be alone with the player trying to share the secret. It’s a game of cat and mouse — any player who can see the pair will be able to hear their conversation, so the person with the secret attempts to seclude the other player as he or she tries to gracefully duck out of the conversation.

“The idea is to give people a little bit of drama and let them continue the role-play,” Tyrer says. “I like to say we throw plotbunnies into people’s stories.”

Ever, Jane is packed with atypical quests. There are no monsters to slay or worlds to save, but there are familiar mechanics for anyone who’s played an online RPG. One quest asks players to find and return a lost handkerchief, and one coming soon will send people on a mission to collect rare flowers.

This is Tyrer’s passion project. She’s in love with Austen’s blend of romance and wit, and she adores the time period itself. During her research for Ever, Jane, she uncovered a host of miniature histories, many that receive little attention in high school social studies classes. For example, there were black members of the Merchant Gentry across Regency England, and Austen was an abolitionist, even though she didn’t include this perspective in her novels.

“People want to play their own color and I didn’t want to limit them, but I also wanted to be historically accurate, so we dug into history and discovered that the history we’ve all been taught is whitewashed. Very whitewashed,” Tyrer says. “But this gives us an opportunity to help. This gives us an opportunity to present some un-whitewashed history, which is also really exciting. Let’s get the truth out there and let’s really look at what happened.”

Furthermore, cross-dressing wasn’t uncommon, and two men living together would be considered perpetual bachelors and left alone as long as they were — here’s that key word again — discreet. Two women living together were spinsters, of course.

“Nobody batted an eyelash at women,” Tyrer says.

That means no one in Ever, Jane will bother the spinsters living next door, either. As long as they’re — say it with me now — discreet. Ever, Jane is packed with these subtle interactions governed by a strict Regency rule set; it’s romantic, elegant and quietly complex. In a real-life society that paints women as more emotionally aware, it makes sense that most of Ever, Jane’s players are female. Tyrer says there are definitely men playing, but the average Ever, Jane player is a woman who loves literature.

And some of these literature lovers have never touched a video game before.

“Those are who we want to pull in,” Tyrer says. “We’re really trying to open that market and say, I believe there are a whole lot of people who would play games if we would just make games they want to play. A lot of people don’t want to play ‘I’m killing things’ games; it’s very offensive to many, many people.”

Tyrer is making the game she wants to play, an MMORPG that breaks all the rules in a dignified, rosy-cheeked way. She’s worked for decades in the computer science and video game industries, helping create experiences including Second Life, Magic the Gathering: Tactics and Ghost Recon. She’s currently enraptured by Elder Scrolls Online, another MMO that questions the genre’s typical mechanics — though not with the same gusto as Ever, Jane.

But, of course, not everyone understands Ever, Jane.

“According to the internet, as far as Ever, Jane’s concerned, I’m an old hag creative genius from North Korea,” Tyrer says, laughing. “Which I think is fine. I think it’s hysterically fine. The North Korea part is really amusing.”

Tyrer expected to receive some negative response to a game with more dinner parties than raids, but after years of working in male-dominated industries, she’s learned which criticisms to take seriously. That’s how women survive in these fields.

“We are mostly teflon,” she says.

Tyrer’s successful career helped make this independent endeavor possible. She’s funding Ever, Jane herself at the moment, but she hopes that the open beta will help lighten the load soon enough. Even though the game is still in early, rough stages, the open beta should help prove that there’s a market for a game like Ever, Jane. That’s important if Three Turn Productions wants to find investors.

“I’m not saying it’s a bad open beta but I’m not going to lie, it’s a weak open beta,” Tyrer says. “I would much prefer to have been stronger but we have a very small team and we have financial deadlines that are coming up. We have to get investors. So the open beta is giving us the numbers we need to prove the market to the investors.”

It’s incredibly difficult to find funding for most MMOs. High-profile busts like 38 Studios’ Project Copernicus only scratch the surface — building a massive online world takes incredible technical proficiency and millions of dollars, and many games struggle to maintain an active player base. World of Warcraft is the exception, not the rule.

Tyrer understands these risks, but she believes whole-heartedly in Ever, Jane. One reason MMOs have trouble finding funding, she says, is because they’re all alike. Ever, Jane breaks the mold. The game is not only romantic and socially aware, but it also has a marketplace where players can buy household items and clothing, and Tyrer plans to implement a free-to-play option. Free players would become servants — though note that every player can climb one social rank per lifetime.

Eventually, Tyrer envisions 250,000 people playing the game. This number is distilled from the audience sizes for Jane Austen novels, films based on her books, spin-offs like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and fanfiction readers and writers. Tyrer knows there’s a market for romantic, social MMORPGs. She knows there’s a market for Ever, Jane. Now she has to prove it.

“I want to open the women’s market,” she says. However, she isn’t attempting to create a limited, girls-only MMO: “There are literate men who also love Ever, Jane and Jane Austen. There really are. There’s a fairly romantic male component out there, they’re just not going to admit it to their more dudely guy friends.”

14
Sep

Disney-Square mashup ‘Kingdom Hearts 2.8’ is delayed to 2017


Kingdom Hearts 3 is a long way off. To tide keyblade fans over, Square Enix has been remastering the previous games — both the console and handheld instalments — and releasing them as three-part collections for the PlayStation 3. The latest instalment, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, was due to come out on the PS4 in December, but that’s now changed to January. The slight delay was announced at the Tokyo Game Show alongside a new trailer, which teases the ongoing adventures of Sora, Riku and Kairi, as well as older keyblade wielders Aqua, Terra and Ventus.

The compilation includes Dream Drop Distance, a game that was originally released for the Nintendo 3DS. Chronologically, it’s the closest title to Kingdom Hearts 3, charting Sora and Riku’s quest to become keyblade masters. It’s joined by Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage, a new playable sequence with Aqua, and Back Cover, a one-hour cinematic which serves as a prequel for the overarching series. (The same time period is covered in Kingdom Hearts Unchained X, a free-to-play game on iOS and Android.) Needless to say, the storyline is absurdly convoluted and only the most diehard Kingdom Hearts fan will know what’s going on.

If you’re one of those people, however, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 could serve as a mouth-watering appetiser for Kingdom Hearts 3. It should be coming out in Japan on January 12th, followed by North America on January 24th. Think of it this way — you now have a little more time to power through Final Fantasy XV, exploring the world of Eos and chilling with Noctis’ buddies.

Source: Kingdom Hearts (YouTube)

14
Sep

‘Rick & Morty’ co-creator unveils his first VR game


Squanchtendo Games, the recently founded VR studio from “Rick & Morty” co-creator, Justin Roiland, has just unveiled its first game: Accounting. But don’t let the benign name fool you, this virtual reality experience appears to be just as ingeniously deranged as its animated predecessor.

Squanchtendo collaborated with Crows Crows Crows game studio to create the game which, according to the Squanchtendo release, only took about a week to craft. It is available for the HTC Vive for free through Steam VR. Details are thin as to what exactly you do in the game — besides account, of course — but you can bet there’s going to be a whole lot of messed up shit in there.

Source: Accounting VR

14
Sep

Tim Cook has more faith in augmented reality than VR


When Tim Cook is not busy showing off the newest iPhone to celebrities, he is doing interviews on morning shows and speculating on emerging technologies. During an interview with Good Morning America this morning, the Apple CEO told ABC News’ Robin Roberts that he believed augmented reality to have a more promising future than virtual reality.

In response to Roberts’ question on where Apple sees virtual reality, which she said is “all the rage” right now, Cook said, “There’s virtual reality, and there’s augmented reality. Both of these are incredibly interesting.”

But to Cook, AR is the “larger of the two, probably by far.” He explained that augmented reality allows people to be more present and share experiences with each other, which would eventually make the tech more commercially viable. VR, on the other hand, is more closed off, Cook said. Even though it immerses people in really cool experiences, “less people will be interested in that,” he said, so it will likely inspire less commercial interest over time.

While this is far from a new AR product announcement from Apple, it does shed some light on why we might not have seen any moves in virtual reality from the iPhone maker. The company hired a virtual and augmented reality expert in January and bought an augmented reality company last year, but has not said anything on an AR/VR device.

Still, Cook’s apparent interest in augmented reality could mean a difference in focus. Apple’s biggest rivals, Samsung, Google and Facebook (which owns headset maker Oculus), have all developed virtual reality products, but few have made headway into AR. If the Cupertino company can produce something better than Google’s Glass, it could beat the competition to that punch.

Via: The Verge

Source: ABC News

14
Sep

The moon’s birth may have temporarily vaporized the Earth


According to the giant-impact hypothesis, the moon was formed when a baby Earth smashed against a Mars-sized planet named Theia. Scientists believe the collision was relatively gentle, but based on a newly published study by researchers from the Washington University in St. Louis, it might have been much, much more explosive. The team examined moon samples brought back by several Apollo missions and found that they contain a higher volume of a specific potassium isotope than sample rocks from our own planet. Isotopes are variations of an element with different amounts of neutrons.

See, the 2007 model of the giant-impact hypothesis suggests that the young Earth and what eventually became the moon were engulfed in debris and a silicate atmosphere from the low-energy impact. That atmosphere would have allowed them to exchange materials. However, this exchange would have taken a very long time and wouldn’t have been able to explain the team’s findings.

On the other hand, the 2015 model describes a much bigger impact. This version suggests that the collision was so violent, it vaporized not just Theia, but also the Earth’s mantle region that enveloped the core. All the vaporized material would have covered the planet and the small “moonlets” that formed our natural satellite with a dense atmosphere that behaved like a supercritical fluid. That’s what you call a substance that behaves both like a gas and a liquid. The fluid’s tendency to make the perfect cocktail out of different materials would’ve made it possible for the moon rocks to contain the amount of isotopes that they do.

According to the team, their study is the first evidence supporting this newer version, and other scientists will have to conduct their own to ensure the model’s accuracy. Lead author Kun Wang told Space: “We’re definitely hoping more people will follow up and try to confirm our results.” Despite the study’s promising results, we clearly still have a long way to go before we have a more solid picture of the early years of planet and its faithful companion.

[Image credit: Kun Wang]

Via: PopSci, Space

Source: Washington University in St. Louis

14
Sep

New York proposes online security rules for banks and insurers


New York state isn’t happy that banks and insurers are falling prey to hackers with alarming frequency, and it’s determined to do something about it. Governor Cuomo has unveiled proposed regulations that would set online security standards for those industries. All companies covered by the rules would have to establish online security programs and policies. They’d have to limit access to sensitive data (say, social security numbers) to only those people that need to know, and require multiple steps when checking user identities.

The rules would require constant monitoring, too. Companies would have to routinely test their defenses, appoint oversight for vendors and provide reports on both progress and potential security holes twice a year. Their board chairs would also have to file yearly certifications showing that they’re honoring the regulation.

The public has 45 days to comment on the proposal before it’s published, so there is a chance that you or the companies could influence the regulation at this early stage. Whether or not that happens is another matter. While it’s doubtful that banks and insurers will relish the idea of having to comply with more rules, New York’s Department of Financial Services also sees this as a glaring security hole. In 2014, a third of 40 banks surveyed didn’t even insist that their vendor partners let them know about data breaches — your private info could be out in the wild and your institution wouldn’t even know it. While tougher standards won’t guarantee that your data remains safe, they could prevent some easily avoidable mistakes.

Via: Reuters

Source: New York Governor

14
Sep

Thieves find an even more insidious way to swipe your PIN


The secret service has issued a warning to banks and ATM companies about a new way that thieves can steal your credit card information. A report from Krebs on Security explains that “periscope” skimmers have been found inside teller machines in Connecticut and Pennsylvania in the last two months. Of course, since the devices attach to the internal mechanism, there’s absolutely no way for an end user to tell if they’re at risk.

The report explains that ATMs with openable lids are the most at risk, since nefarious types can easily gain access inside. The “periscope” probe is installed in a pre-existing hole in the card reader to skim the magnetic stripe, while the other end contains a battery and storage unit. It’s believed that the device can store up to 32,000 numbers and will last 14 days on a charge. What the gear can’t do, however, is harvest PINs, so it’s theorized that these devices were tests in preparation for a bigger heist.

Krebs goes on to add that putting your hand over the cash dispenser’s number pad will defeat a large proportion of scammers with skimmers. Thieves who use pin-pad overlays — fake buttons over the real thing — are relatively rare because the hardware is expensive to reproduce. Krebs also advises users to avoid, wherever possible, standalone ATMs where the lid is easily accessible. Instead, people should favor cashpoints that are mounted in the wall, like those outside banks, and in well-lit areas.

Source: Krebs on Security

14
Sep

Apple can never release an ‘iWatch’ in the UK


Long before Apple actually launched its first wearable, a trademarking spree sent the rumour mill into overdrive. Understandably so, because what else could an “iWatch” be? The Swiss clocksmiths at Swatch weren’t best pleased with this application, however, challenging the filing with the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in 2014. The IPO recently brought an end to the dispute, siding with Swatch in its opposition of the trademark. It doesn’t really matter now, of course, with the Apple Watch already in its second generation. But, if the company ever wanted to launch an iWatch? Well, it can’t.

Swatch successfully argued that iWatch was too similar to trademarks it had already registered in the UK, namely iSwatch — a digital number released in 2013. Apple contested this on the basis it was known for the “i” prefix because of all its other iThings, so using the name iWatch was unlikely to cause confusion among consumers. The IPO thought otherwise, denying Apple the trademark. That’s true for smartwatches, anyway, with the company still allowed to use it for software, computer peripherals and components, as well as other things it wouldn’t really make sense to call iWatch.

Like patents, trademarks are a messy business, as Apple knows all too well. The company had to pay $60 million to secure the iPad trademark in China after a local firm laid claim to the name and briefly had tablets pulled from shelves. Apple famously battled with a Brazilian company over the iPhone trademark in the region, too, though that’s just another entry on a very long list of examples. In another iWatch dispute, a company that owns the trademark across Europe sued Apple last year, claiming that although it wasn’t stamped on any product, Apple was using the term behind the scenes to promote its smartwatch in searches and ads.

Via: BBC

Source: Intellectual Property Office

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