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19
Nov

Tap Numbers: An almost too-simple Android game (review)


If you’re looking for a deep, intensive, complex gaming experience… you’ve come to the screenshot_20161009-222014wrong review. For this is a review for Tap Numbers, a well-done but very, very simple gaming experience on your Android device.

The game comes from the developer MateriUp. It’s a type of match game that is very friendly for all ages. Let’s take a fairly quick tour of this game.

Setup

screenshot_20161006-221433Like the rest of this game, setup is dead-simple.  Just download from the Google Play Store, and click on your shiny new icon. From there you jump right into the game. Done.

There are some simple settings (sound effects, music on/off, etc.), and an achievements screen; but there really won’t be much use for these for most folks.

Gameplay

How to explain this and give the game the credit it deserves? Upon entering play, you are given a random number which immediately begins counting up. Directly above is a static number within a circle. You only job is to tap the screen when the ascending bottom number matches the static one above. screenshot_20161003-092916

That’s it; that’s your only job.

If or when you do stop the count-up so both numbers match, you are immediately transferred to a new screen with an new static number to match. The goal is to survive, matching the number you’re given and moving on. The risk is either tapping too soon or too late, missing the number-match. You are scored a point for each match you make. If you do miss, your game is immediately over and you must begin from zero.

There is a bit of variation to the game, but it lies specifically with the speed of the counting-up of the numbers. When you begin play, the game moves very steady, and fairly pedestrian in its pace. This allows you to get used to the game and find your groove.

But, after a few rounds of this easy speed, the pace begins to waver. At first it will speed up slightly with each round, and though the increase is incremental and rather expected, it does a good job in ramping up the tension.

Then the game changes a bit; the speed will begin to vary in its increase and decrease. If you would record the speed on a scale of 1 to 10, one round would be a 3, then the next a 5, then a 9, then a 4, 7, 6, 2, 8, and so on.

The real challenge lies in once you get to the upper levels of your game. With this variation in speed also comes a variation in the difference between your goal number and the number you start with.

In the beginning most/all of your numbers are at least separated by 5; this gives you a decent amount of time to gauge the speed in which to anticipate your tap. But as you progress through the levels, this difference in numbers you start with starts to vary. One level you may have a difference of 7, then 4, then 11, then 3, then 6, 2, 8, 3, etc.

Coupled with the speed variation, getting to higher levels drastically increases the difficulty of this game – as simple as it seems. Sometimes the best tweaks to a game lie in its simplicity, and that’s what you have here. The upper levels are just as difficult for adults as it is for kids, and that makes Tap Numbers a great game for family members to challenge each other with.

screenshot_20161003-092919What We Liked

  • Simple game, and doesn’t apologize for what it is.
  • Sneaky-good variations as you progress.
  • Nice color palette.
  • Easy pick-up and replay value.
  • Very responsive to your taps.

What We Didn’t

  • Very simple gameplay; perhaps seemingly too simple for experienced gamers.
  • Replay can get repetitive quickly.

Download Tap Numbers from the Play Store here.

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19
Nov

Samsung is trying to sell a Galaxy Note 3 on Black Friday and it should feel ashamed


galaxy-note-3-2048_1.jpg?itok=gpL3RWh0

There are bad deals, and then there are sales that show a disrespect for your customers.

Samsung’s online Black Friday deals kick off on November 20, and it’s always great to get an early look at what products will be available — and at what price — before the sales go live. As is often the case with these kinds of sales there are a couple of great deals out there, surrounded by lots of so-so offerings and a couple of complete head-scratchers.

This year, the biggest head scratcher of them all is Samsung attempting to sell a certified pre-owned Galaxy Note 3 for $249 … yes, in the year 2016.

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Alright, the Galaxy Note 3 was one hell of a phone back when it was released in 2013. This was well before big phones were the norm, and it had a great set of specs: Snapdragon 800, 3GB of RAM, a 1080p display and of course the S Pen. Our review was, to say the least, positive:

It’s big and brash and expensive — but it’s also brilliant. And whether you’re a power user looking for bleeding-edge specs or a professional seeking a larger screen with stylus-based productivity features, the Galaxy Note 3 is the best device in its class, and a phone that’s earned itself an enthusiastic recommendation.

But that was October 2013. It is now November 2016. The Note 3 is running Android 5.0 Lollipop, hasn’t been updated since November 2015 and will not receive any future updates. It’s well over 3 years old and will not receive any sort of support or warranty service by Samsung. It’s an old phone, and nobody would recommend that you buy one, especially for $250.

For that kind of money you can buy a Moto G4 Plus, a OnePlus 2 or maybe a ZTE Axon Pro. Heck, you’re not too far off from the likes of the Honor 8 or even stretching for the OnePlus 3T.

It’s the kind of money-grabbing insensitive move that any company should be repulsed by the thought of.

I know this, and most of you know this, but the unsuspecting average consumer looking for a deal on Black Friday may not know this. And because of that, Samsung needs to respect its potential customers and not attempt to sell them a used phone that launched in 2013 and will not be supported from the day they purchase it. That’s the kind of money-grabbing insensitive move that any company should be repulsed by the thought of, particularly a company skating on thin ice when it comes to consumer confidence in its phones.

Considering that the sale is starting and the phones are still listed, it seems as though Samsung is going to sell more than zero Galaxy Note 3s this holiday season. Tell your friends, your family, your coworkers and anyone you see: do not buy a Galaxy Note 3 on Black Friday.

Samsung

Samsung is a massive South Korea-based multinational company that makes some of the best-selling phones, tablets and mobile accessories, but also spans industries such as televisions, appliances and semiconductors (like memory and processors). Samsung is the largest Android device manufacturer worldwide.

  • Best Samsung phones
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge review
  • Best microSD card for Android

19
Nov

Alfa Romeo Stelvio preview: Alfa’s first SUV


At the LA Motor Show – or AutomobilityLA as it’s now known – it felt as though every brand brought a new SUV. From Honda and Mazda, through to Chevrolet, Jaguar and – most surprisingly of all – Alfa Romeo.

Alfa has never made an SUV before, but the demand for these vehicles simply isn’t slowing down, so enter the Stelvio (which is named after a famous Alpine mountain pass).

It’s a Porsche Macan-sized SUV with design language that riffs on the Giulia, the latter Alfa’s new saloon – that feels like it’s been around for some time, but which we’re still waiting to drive in the UK.

Pocket-lint

Shown in LA in its range-topping Quadrifoglio Verde form (that’s Cloverleaf in British), the Stelvio is Alfa pushing hard the sports part of Sports Utility Vehicle. The QV model gets the Giulia QV’s 2.9-litre V6, making 510-horsepower and driving through an 8-speed auto box. It’s going to be Porsche Macan Turbo fast, too, this Alfa.

It’s also Macan Turbo-sized, despite perhaps appearances to the contrary. The main response to the Stelvio at the Los Angeles show was how small it was, particularly in height. It bears more of a resemblance to a hatchback on steroids, than a genuine SUV. But it’s not a crossover.

Part of the reason for this is the gargantuan 22-inch wheels the Stelvio QV wears. Bigger wheels have an impact of making you feel that the actual car is smaller than it might seem. But at just 1650mm tall, the Stelvio is low for an SUV. And with the ground clearance on offer, you’ll be better off on the Nurburgring than you will the muddy field of your country fair.

Pocket-lint

It’s perhaps no surprise the Stelvio bears a strong resemblance to the Giulia, given they shares the same platform and many components. With rear-wheel drive biased chassis, and a purported focus on driving dynamics, the Stelvio should be great to drive then. That low height and corresponding centre of gravity will probably help out too.

However, despite wearing the Alfa shield, and being painted in an evocative red (which tends to trip critics into automatically stating that a car is beautiful) in the metal we found the Stelvio a little underwhelming. It looks derivative and brings very little new to the SUV party (indeed, flick through the gallery in our LA show round-up, and many of the cars there almost begin to merge into being one and the same).

  • LA Motor Show in pictures: The best cars from the AutomobilityLA show floor

In design terms, the Stelvio manages to appear both overly soft, and yet too flat – like the design hasn’t been properly worked through in 3D. Italian car brands traditionally don’t use clay to develop their new models, whereas other brands do – which is seen as the best way to refine surfaces. For Alfa, we think that approach shows. Around the rear three quarters, in particular, the Stelvio looks stodgy and the body ill-connected to the rear wheel.

Pocket-lint

Inside, however, the Stelvio’s cabin is sporting, featuring a similar architecture to the Giulia. That means a rotary control, not touchscreen centre display (should be easier to use on the move), alongside heavily cowled Alfa dials for speed and revs, which flank a digital display.

The start button is on the steering wheel, and the seats grip you tight and feel snug and low. It’s a sporty driving position inside, for sure. We didn’t manage to get into the back seats, but the boot space looks class competitive, which is good news for families.

First Impressions

There’s clear demand for an Alfa-branded SUV, so Alfa Romeo is sure to do well with the Stelvio.

Of course the Alfisti will hate this type of vehicle wearing one its badges, just as Porsche drivers did when the first Cayenne emerged. But it’s SUVs like these that generate the profits for the brands, which enable them to stay alive, and then build the low-volume sports cars that everyone wants to see.

We just wish the Stelvio’s design looked a little more resolved, though we will caveat that by saying, as with the Giulia, we actually think the regular models look better than the QV – and that could be the case here.

So we’ll await full judgement until we’ve seen the Stelvio on smaller wheels, without the body kit and in either the 2.0 petrol or 2.2 diesel versions that people will actually buy.

19
Nov

Jaguar I-Pace preview: More titillating than a Tesla?


It only seemed like 15 minutes ago that we were arguing about whether or not Jaguar should build an SUV. With the I-Pace shown off at the LA Motor Show – or AutomobilityLA as it’s now known – Jag shows us it’s not only thinking about building more SUVs, but making them electrically powered, too.

So what is the I-Pace? It’s smaller than size than the F-Pace SUV, it’s lower and shorter (4680mm long) and the profile is very different too.

Rather than Jag’s traditional long bonnet and rear-wheel drive proportion (“cab backwards” in designer speak) with the I-Pace the British company has made the bonnet short, with a “cab forwards” proportion.

That creates quite a snub nose and a large, spacious passenger cabin. The tail is chopped off and the rear window more of a coupe profile, creating something that looks altogether new and fresh.

Pocket-lint

Under the floors, and integral to the structure, is a 90kW, liquid-cooled battery pack. That’s three times the capacity of the battery in, say, a Nissan Leaf. And Jaguar is projecting this means the car can travel around 500km on the official European drive cycle.

However, everyone who’s owned or driven an electric vehicle (EV) knows that measurement to be fallacy, so a better estimate of real-world range is the USA EPA system, on which Jag says the I-Pace will deliver 220 miles range. This sounds much more realistic to us.

Jaguar has also set out to go Tesla baiting, it seems, so the I-Pace makes 400 horsepower and 700nM of torque, and the company is conservatively saying the car will run 0-60mph in around four seconds.

Pocket-lint

But as it’s all a concept isn’t this all just powder puff stuff anyway? Well, not so fast because – and having talked to Jag’s team – we’re fairly confident that the design of the I-Pace represents 80-90 per cent of the production design. Lose some of the concept details and you’re almost there.

  • LA Motor Show in pictures: The best cars from the AutomobilityLA show floor

And when it comes to the powertrain, this is the real deal. Jag, like many other brands, has been working on its EV technology for some time now. Unusually the battery has been developed in house, whereas other brands primarily use Samsung and LG-chem technology. So the I-Pace will arrive, for real, in 2018. Whether it wears the same name, is up for debate.

Pocket-lint

Inside Jaguar has evolved its current interior design language, added some clever design devices to remove mass and developed some thin seats, but overall it’s quite restrained and not as arresting as that exterior. It doesn’t push things to quite the futuristic lengths as a BMW i in terns of materials, or as a Tesla in terms of tech screens and button removal.

Nonetheless, there’s what Jag calls its “flightdeck” control interface, with everything to hand, meaning things like normal indicator stalks, gear selector buttons exist on a high, floating console – which also contains the climate control knobs.

Pocket-lint

Combine this tech setup with a 12-inch, TFT driver display, plus a 12-inch centre touchscreen and tertiary 5.5-inch display for the climate. It might not be a Tesla, but there are plenty of screens to hand. The graphics have a much crisper, linear and monochrome design than current Jags, which feels more in-keeping with the I-Pace’s concept overall. It’s something we hope Jag will strive to keep and move forward for production.

First Impressions

In general we sense that EVs are reaching a tipping point. That 200 miles of range feels like the magic, acceptable number for many people. Meanwhile battery prices are falling and battery energy density continuing to increase.

With Tesla already there, and Audi, BMW and Mercedes all planning their own fully electric SUVs between now and 2020, Jaguar won’t have the market to itself when the I-Pace makes its real-world debut.

But what the I-Pace will have – if it’s even 80 per cent of what we see here on the Los Angeles show floor – is a highly appealing, good-looking car that pulls off the neat trick of feeling authentically like a Jaguar and yet advanced and modern enough without being so far out it puts the more conservative buyer off. Roll-on two years’ time.

19
Nov

24 hours with Sony’s A99 II full-frame DSLR


With high-end mirrorless cameras such as the A7S II and A7R II, it’s easy to forget that Sony also makes full-frame DSLRs. Its latest one, the A99 II, is set to arrive later this month for $3,200 body-only. That gets you a massive 42.2-megapixel sensor, max ISO of 102,400, 12-fps continuous shooting and, for the first time, in-camera image stabilization. While I’ve only been using it for a day or so, I can tell you the camera shows a lot of promise — which isn’t surprising given its sensor type and how much it costs.

As you’d imagine, it helps to have it paired with expensive lenses, like Sony’s 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G2 ($2,200) and 70-200mm f/2.8 G SSM II ($3,000), among others. What impressed me the most about the A99 II is its autofocusing speed, which makes use of a hybrid 4D Focus with a wide area of coverage (79 phase detection points and 399 focal-plane). In theory, that technology is also supposed to make the camera’s AF more accurate, especially when you’re trying to capture moving subjects. So far, that’s been working out well for me.

I’ll have more on the A99 II soon. In the meantime, check out my sample images from Sony’s new flagship DSLR.

To view our sample images in full resolution, click here.

19
Nov

Recommended Reading: Fake news writer takes blame for Trump’s win


Facebook Fake-news
Writer: ‘I Think Donald
Trump Is in the White
House Because of Me’

Caitlin Dewey,
The Washington Post

Facebook’s struggle with fake news has been widely reported and the issue is still a hot topic in the days following the US presidential election. The Washington Post caught up with Paul Horner, a man who has made a living off of news hoaxes over the last few years, some of which got picked up by the media and the Trump campaign as legit stories.

“His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything,” Horner said. “His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.”

Q-Tip Got It From Here
Donnie Kwak, The Ringer

The Ringer reviews the new A Tribe Called Quest album that combines a political statement with a masterfully crafted album that’s, as writer Donnie Kwak puts it, “an exceedingly rare example of a successful, age-appropriate project from 40-something rappers.”

Review: ‘Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life’ on Netflix
Maureen Ryan, Variety

Gilmore Girls is set to return to TV next Friday after a much-anticipated revival at the hands of Netflix. While there’s plenty to satisfy the show’s faithful followers, Variety says its four 90-minute installments prove problematic for pacing.

The Alphabet That Will Save a People From Disappearing
Kaveh Waddell, The Atlantic

Two brothers developed a new script for their native language and now they want to make sure it’s available on every smartphone in the world.

Shirtless Trump Saves Drowning Kitten
Brian Phillips, MTV News

Mark Zuckerberg told the American people not to hold Facebook responsible for Donald Trump’s win. Should the CEO pay attention to the group of employees who have taken it upon themselves to combat the problem?

19
Nov

How to avoid getting conned by fake news sites – CNET


19
Nov

Firstbuild Opal Nugget Ice review – CNET


For some only one style of beverage ice will do. Called nugget or compressed ice, this special form of frozen water is soft, light, and particularly easy to chew. Outside of a few restaurant chains and gas station snack bars, however, nugget ice is hard to come by. And though you can buy nugget ice machines qualified for home use, they’re exorbitantly priced at about 2 to 3 thousand dollars a pop. GE’s FirstBuild microfactory plans to disrupt the nugget ice market with its fresh appliance, the $499 Opal Nugget Ice.

Designed to produce sought-after nugget ice at home and with speed, the more affordable Opal Nugget Ice is also compact and made to fit easily on to cramped kitchen counters. The Opal will boast a bevy of high-tech sensors too for automatic operation plus feature multipurpose controls and a colorful LED status light.

Opal Nugget Ice supplies chewable ice at…
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Design and features

Though the Opal Nugget Ice I saw up close was an engineering prototype, I was still impressed by its clean-lined appearance. The cube-shaped Opal Nugget Ice looks more like a robotic attendant than an ice maker. Occupying the center of the appliance is a large, transparent ice bucket. Deeply recessed into the machine, it almost sits flush with the Opal’s front face. This helps the clear container act as a window to ice production and provides a fast way to check how much ice you have on hand.

The Opal Nugget Ice is compact and futuristic-looking. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Standing 16.5 inches tall by 10.5 inches wide and stretching 14 inches deep, the Opal is compact as well. It takes up about as much space as two large drip coffee machines standing back to back. That might sound clunky, but the machine is a fraction of the size of commercial nugget ice models you’ll find in restaurants and fast-food joints. Compared with those professional monsters which tip the scales on the order of hundreds of pounds, the Opal Nugget Ice is positively minuscule.

Related links
  • FirstBuild Paragon Induction Cooktop Preview
  • FirstBuild ChillHub Refrigerator Preview
  • GE’s FirstBuild facility opens its doors

Just because it’s small doesn’t mean the Opal Nugget Ice isn’t built to perform. FirstBuild representatives I spoke to explained that the scrappy device can create 1 pound of nugget ice per hour. Given this speed you’ll be able to hit the Opal’s maximum ice capacity of 3 pounds in 3 hours. By comparison your average kitchen refrigerator’s ice maker needs a full day (24 hours) to make the same amount of ice. Hidden underneath the ice bucket is the Opal’s 6-cup reservoir, which should supply enough water for 3 pounds (3 quarts) worth of nugget ice.


The ice bucket is removable and holds a max of 3 pounds of nugget ice. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Above the bucket is the Opal Nugget Ice’s only control, a circular thumb-size button. Ringed by an LED that changes color to match which mode the machine is in, the button will command the Opal to perform various duties and also indicate the device’s status. These include modes for standby, error, and of course ice making. At the time of my Opal Nugget Ice demo, though, FirstBuild engineers said they were still hammering out details for the control’s operation.


The Opal’s button toggles through various functions and changes color. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Outlook

I confess that as a native New Yorker the allure of nugget ice is still a mystery to me, and shelling out $500 for a dedicated nugget ice machine for the home seems frivolous. That said, there’s no doubt a demand for this particular ice variety, compelling people to frequent specific fast-food chains just to get their hands on the stuff.

Couple nugget ice’s limited availability with a true lack of models designed for home use and it’s easy to see a bright future for the Opal Nugget Ice. The machine’s more reasonable $500 price is also very attractive compared with dropping 2 or 3 thousand dollars on a commercial nugget ice maker.


Does the idea of having an unlimited supply of nugget ice make you drool? Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Interested in a shiny new Opal Nugget Ice of your very own? You have a bit of a wait in store; FirstBuild expects the product to hit retail in summer 2016. Even so, you may have a chance to get a unit sooner and for a bit less money if you back the Opal’s Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. You can find details about how to get on board at the Opal Nugget Ice’s official website.

19
Nov

Honeywell Lyric Wi-Fi Leak and Freeze Detector review – CNET


The Good The Honeywell Lyric Leak and Freeze Detector has one of the most feature-rich builds of any flood sensor on the market.

The Bad The high price seems inappropriate for a device that isn’t waterproof and integrates with hardly any other gadget.

The Bottom Line Honeywell’s gadget is an impressive piece of smart-home tech, but its price feels a little too high for most consumers. And the fact it isn’t waterproof is a major problem.

When you think of luxury products, you probably don’t picture flood sensors. But Honeywell’s Lyric Wi-Fi Leak and Freeze Detector is just that. It can do more than its competitors, and it’s easier to use, since it doesn’t need a smart hub to function.

What could be a great premium device, however, doesn’t quite live up to the hype. A few odd design choices make its $80 price tag feel too steep.

Here are the specs for the Honeywell Lyric Wi-Fi Leak and Freeze Detector:

  • Connects with Wi-Fi (meaning no smart hub is needed)
  • Measures temperature and humidity
  • Includes a cable to extend its sensing range
  • Can send alerts in case of flood, or specific temperature/humidity levels
  • Battery-powered with an estimated life of 1-3 years (depending on your settings)

Just in terms of skills, this flood sensor beats out pretty much all the competition. Its cable range extender makes it a much more flexible device for the needs of different users. And its battery power is impressive, considering Wi-Fi-based gadgets typically require more power than Z-Wave or Zigbee devices.

19
Nov

D-Link Wi-Fi Water Sensor review – CNET


The Good D-Link’s Water Sensor is smartly designed and features all the important perks to make it an effective flood detector.

The Bad D-Link’s only real weakness is that it relies on being plugged in, which means power outages are its Achilles’ heel.

The Bottom Line The D-Link Water Sensor is one of the best flood sensors on the market. If you’re considering buying such a device, this should be the first option on your list — especially if you don’t already use a smart-home hub.

The design behind leak sensors is actually pretty cool: essentially, most sensors have two or three metal probes that, when they come in contact with water, detect increased conductivity and set off an alarm. It’s an elegant solution to the age-old problem of flooding.

But D-Link takes an even more creative approach. Rather than using probes, D-Link’s Wi-Fi Water Sensor uses a cable with long, twisting leads embedded in it. You can run the cable along the edge of your basement floor, say, and if water touches it anywhere, the twisted leads detect increased conductivity and set off an alarm. It’s a little like what we did when we created our own flood detector last winter.

D-Link is unique for more reasons than the cable, though. The base unit also plugs directly into a wall, negating the need for batteries, and connects via Wi-Fi to your phone — cutting out the smart home hub middleman that limits so many other flood sensors.

The result is a solid product with a slightly higher price of $60 (compared with its $40 competitors that work with SmartThings or Wink).

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