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14
Dec

Blocky Cars Online – as close to Lego Racers as I can hope for (Review)


Overview:

Blocky Cars Online is a multiplayer car battle game that allows you to build a car and compete against others online in a collection of modes, level up, and unlock rewards.

Developer: Fahrenheit Lab

Cost: Free (With ads and microtransactions)

Impressions:

Playing Blocky Cars Online immediately brought me back to 1999, where I’d be found playing Lego Racers on my N64 in my pajamas. That game allowed you to build your own car in classic lego-brick fashion and race around in az Mario-Kart inspired kart racer. It was wonderful to my seven-year-old mind, even if it isn’t as great as I remember now.

Blocky Cars Online has a similar story, build your own car to compete in various game modes, except now you can play online with other players and the cars are not made of Legos. The game does have some unique elements as well, like the ability to leave your car and battle on foot, as well as unique vehicle movement like flying. Also, much like Lego Racers, Blocky Cars doesn’t quite hit the mark every time but gets a few things right, and for some, that’s more than enough.

1 of 5



My amazing creation


Players can leave their cars and fight on foot.

Blocky Cars Online’s main focus is the cars themselves, and in that department, they do a fairly good job. Car customization is simple and easy to use, and the selection of blocks available is pretty extensive. There are different material blocks to build with; boosters, engines, and weapons to choose from; and a bunch of cosmetic items to make it your own. Building a simple car that I was pleased with took only a few minutes, and there are multiple slots in the garage for you to have a few different designs. Unlocking the various blocks does take a bit of time and in-game currency, but the starting equipment you’re given is plenty to make something cool with.

Gameplay-wise, Blocky Cars is solid, if a bit frustrating at times. The controls for the car are pretty simple, but sometimes navigating terrain is a chore, due to slow steering and imprecise touch controls. This is especially apparent in attempting to make your car fly. Multiplayer sessions are often a mess with cars all over the place, making it difficult to get a bead on anyone or go exactly where you want to. It works just enough for me to say it isn’t unplayable, and for a free game, that’s just fine.

There are a few game modes, including dueling, capture the flag, a drivers-only mode like team deathmatch, and a few other car combat modes as well. They all generally involve shooting the enemy player with your weapons, and there aren’t any real surprises to be found here.

Visually, the game looks pretty good. The graphics are, well, blocky, but they look alright and they are colorful and varied in style and theme depending on the level you’re playing in. The blocks are primarily square-shaped, with few other geometric shapes to speak of, which works with the aesthetic of the game. Overall, the graphics are simple but effective without being too crude. Same can be said of the sound, with decent sound effects for the weapons and cars, but some pretty uninspired musical accompaniment.

One thing that really holds Blocky Cars Online back is its lack of a user base. The matches I was a part of rarely had more than 2 or 4 players at a time, and I often waited more than five minutes to get into a game. That’s a bit too long for my liking, and the game doesn’t have a single-player component to give me something to do when there’s nobody around. Time will tell if this improves as the game ages.

Conclusion:

Blocky Cars Online is an all-around solid game. It runs well, is simple and easy to pick up and play, and has a decent amount of depth in its game modes and car customization. The only thing really holding it back is it’s small user base, but that can change over time. This is definitely a great game for kids and lovers of car games and fans of Legos as well.

Download Blocky Cars Online from the Google Play Store

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14
Dec

Here’s how the Galaxy S8 can dethrone the Google Pixel


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It wasn’t long ago that the Galaxy S7 was the top dog but now it’s all Pixel. With the Galaxy S8 only a few months away, here’s how Samsung’s upcoming flagship can regain the throne.

Pixel, Pixel, Pixel. That’s all anyone seems to talk about these days, but with the demise of Samsung’s latest, the Galaxy Note 7, is it really all that surprising? The phablet was supposed to be the blockbuster follow-up to the Galaxy S7, but it ended up being a fire hazard.

Joking aside, the Note 7 debacle couldn’t have come at a worse time. Google’s smartphone is now the shining star — have you seen our end of the year lists? — so Samsung’s next device has quite a bit to live up to. Here are a few features Samsung should consider for the Galaxy S8 to give it that je nais se quoi the Pixel’s managed over its predecessor.

Leave the headphone jack alone

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This rumor about Samsung dropping the headphone jack is coming in hot. But as The Verge’s Nilay Patel wrote late last week, if Samsung decides to make this design decision for the Galaxy S8, it’ll make its next flagship definitively “user-hostile.”

The lack of a headphone jack will alienate a huge subset of Samsung’s users, not to mention it will be detrimental to those who commute daily on public transit. After all, there’s nothing worse than riding the bus with a dead pair of headphones because you forgot to charge them — or bring the adapter.

Meanwhile, both the Pixel and Pixel XL have retained the headphone jack, which Google joked was a “satisfyingly not new” key feature of its latest device during its launch event.

Better camera performance

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Galaxy S7 (left) / Google Pixel (right)

This has been a phenomenal year for smartphone cameras, especially when compared to year’s past. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and its extended family have managed to stay at the top of the crop, though the Pixel’s 12-megapixel rear-facing sensor has definitely got a bit of an edge over Samsung’s equal resolution.

First off, the, um, pixels of the Pixel’s camera sensor are actually bigger than the Galaxy S7’s— 1.55µm compared to the Galaxy S7’s 1.4 µm. Second, there isn’t as much post-processing going on behind the scenes when you’re shooting with the Pixel, as exhibited in the photo comparison above. Photos shot with either of the Pixel variants tend to have more dynamic range, and thus more malleability when it comes to changing exposure or applying a filter after the fact.

Samsung should follow suit by tweaking the algorithm in the Galaxy S8 so that the contrast and saturation of the photos it snaps aren’t so exaggerated. And even though it already offers so many intriguing camera features, it could offer a leg up by borrowing some of the iPhone 7 Plus’s telephoto camera techniques. Have you seen portrait mode on the iPhone? We’re not usually ones to covet features from our Apple-wielding brethren, but our Instagram photos would look so much better.

Compelling software

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Samsung was definitely on to something with its Grace UI, which came standard with the Note 7. Unfortunately, some Galaxy S7 users are still waiting for their software update, and what’s out now doesn’t include the Pixel’s major selling point: Google Assistant. This is the latest iteration of Google’s virtual assistant and it works in tandem with a variety of Google products, including Home.

The Galaxy S8 could offer its own compelling AI to prop it up — one that isn’t as limiting and as propriety as S Voice. Fortunately, there are already rumors that Samsung’s acquisition of Viv will play a huge role in how Samsung approaches artificial intelligence and it extends beyond just answering the same questions as Siri and Cortana. Viv’s capabilities could help Samsung devices become more simplified and contextual. What that means is not entirely clear yet, but there are rumblings it has something to do with “Bixby.”

More bragging rights

Isn’t it fun to brag about a feature your phone has that your friend doesn’t? For the Pixel, that’s Google Assistant and its offering of unlimited Photos backup. For the Galaxy S8, it could be something as simple as bringing back the iris scanning technology that went away with the Galaxy Note 7. It was pretty neat, made better by the fact that it actually worked.

Recent rumors have also pointed to the possibility of an optical fingerprint sensor, which would give the Galaxy S8 another bit of that gadget oomph the regular ol’ Pixel doesn’t have.

Your turn

What feature does the Galaxy S8 really need to separate itself from the Pixel? Bezel-free screen? Faster charging? A coffee machine? Let us know in the comments!

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14
Dec

Twitter is making the Periscope app less relevant than ever


Good news for people who live for likes!

Twitter has announced that it is integrating live streaming directly into its core app on Android and iOS, negating the need to download Periscope separately, something it has been encouraging since it acquired the company nearly two years ago.

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In a blog post, Twitter said, “Starting today, you can create and Tweet live video from the Twitter app, powered by Periscope. To go live, compose a Tweet, then tap ‘LIVE’ which brings you to pre-broadcast screen where you can frame your shot. When you’re ready, press ‘Go Live’ to start broadcasting.”

Users were already able to live stream from Twitter, but it would require downloading the Periscope app separately; it’s been possible to watch live Periscopes from within the core Twitter app for some time.

We’re making it easier for you to share what’s happening in your world. Now you can #GoLive on Twitter!https://t.co/frWuHaPTFJ pic.twitter.com/Xpfpk1zWJV

— Twitter (@twitter) December 14, 2016

14
Dec

How to sign up for Amazon Prime


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Prime Video is just one of several reasons to sign up for Amazon Prime.

With Prime Video now available in over 200 countries, now’s a good time to consider signing up for Amazon Prime. Prime subscription is available in the U.S., UK, Canada, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain. If you subscribe to the annual membership — which varies from $7.5 to $99 — in any of these countries, you get free access to Prime Video, as well as a slew of other benefits.

Amazon offers a 30-day free trial, so you have ample time to check out all the offerings and see if you’re comfortable shelling out the yearly subscription fee. Here’s how you can sign up for Amazon Prime.

How to sign up for Amazon Prime

Go to the Amazon Prime signup page.
Tap Start your 30-day free trial.

Sign in to your Amazon account.

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Don’t have an Amazon account? Hit Create a new Amazon account.
Add your payment method and tap Continue.

Tap Start your 30-day free trial.

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Once you’ve signed up, make sure you set a reminder to cancel the service before the 30-day trial runs out.

See at Amazon

14
Dec

Wynn Las Vegas puts an Amazon Echo in every hotel room


A tough of artificial intelligence is coming to your luxury room.

The Wynn and Encore hotels in Las Vegas, known as some of the most luxurious in the city, are getting a technology upgrade this month when they install an Amazon Echo in every single hotel room across the two properties. That’s a total of 4748 Echos, which will enable voice control of various actions in the hotel room.

Guests will be able to talk to their Echo to control their lighting, room temperature, audio and TV. Wynn Resorts says that future developments will bring additional functions to rooms, including basic “personal assistant” style features. Obviously to start off things will be more limited, so this won’t be a full Echo experience to match what you can get today at home with a truly personalized Echo tied to your Amazon account.

The rollout will begin in both Wynn and Encore hotels starting this month for suites and eventually hitting every single room by summer 2017.

See at Amazon

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14
Dec

Google is launching tools for viewing VR content in Chrome for Android


Lowering the barriers to entry for VR is always a good thing.

Building on the inclusion of Daydream in Android 7.0 Nougat, Google is working to make it even easier to view VR content with new tools to bring these experiences into the Chrome browser on Android. Starting with Chrome 56 for Android, which is currently in beta, developers will have access to WebVR and GamePad APIs that let them create VR experiences that can be viewed directly in the browser via a Daydream-capable phone and headset.

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Even though the developer is building an experience solely in the browser, they will have access to a user’s position and orientation, so the web app can respond to their movement in VR. The GamePad API, as you’d expect, lets users give input via a controller like the Daydream Controller for a complete experience.

Mobile VR could soon be just a click away in your browser.

The APIs are still being worked on and will be changed before being released to everyone, but this is an exciting development in mobile VR. As developers are able to more quickly create and deploy VR experiences through something as simple as the browser, there’s a higher chance that more people will be willing to sample new content or try it out for the first time. Not everyone wants to bother with installing and updating separate apps for each VR experience, and the new WebVR API will help move beyond that on mobile.

In the same post announcing the new APIs, Google says that WebVR will be expanding to desktop platforms and legacy Google Cardboard viewers as well, which could really expand the usefulness of these features.

Developers can get started right away by taking a look at the WebVR developer site, and those of us on the consumer side can look forward to simpler mobile VR in the near future.

14
Dec

OnePlus 3T’s first software update now arriving, and no it isn’t Nougat


As we all wait for Nougat, there’s a quick update to Marshmallow with welcomed fixes.

The OnePlus 3T’s first software update isn’t a substantial one — coming in at just 24MB — but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. The update is beginning an “incremental” roll-out starting today, and should be available to all OnePlus 3T owners shortly.

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Here’s the full list of changes from OnePlus:

  • Optimizations for US-TMO Network
  • Optimizations to Reduce Lag when Battery is below 5%
  • Optimized Bluetooth Connectivity for Mazda Cars
  • Optimized Battery Saving Mode: GPS and Orientation Preferences will be restored when Battery Saving Mode is closed.
  • Fixed Flashlight Usability Issue in WhatsApp
  • Increased System Stability
  • Implemented Various Bug Fixes

Most people will be happy to see that there are improvements to T-Mobile network performance, as well as changes to make the phone perform better at low battery levels and properly restore settings when returning from Battery Saving Mode. That’s a lot to pack into such a small update.

We’re now in the middle of December, and that means there are just a couple weeks left for OnePlus to roll out the Nougat update officially to the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T. We’re waiting (somewhat) patiently for the update, but what we saw in a pre-release version has us extremely excited to try it out in an official capacity.

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14
Dec

Best Drones For Kids


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Fly these cool, affordable drones down the chimney on Christmas Day!

Drones are shaping up to be one of the hottest gifts this holiday season, and may have found their way onto the lists of some of the young ones you’ll be buying for.

Whether you’re buying a drone for a kid, or simply for someone who’s never owned a drone before, there’s a few considerations you want to keep in mind — cost, size, range and durability. If you’re buying for a young one, you’ll definitely want to keep the first three down, but that will invariably also affect the drone’s durability as well. Crashing is part of the learning process, so we’ve highlighted some options that include built-in blade guards.

We’ve listed our favorites starting from the smallest and cheapest option — the perfect stocking stuffer — to more full-fledged camera drones, ideal for older kids interested in aerial videography or picking up drone racing as a new hobby. Note that these drones are all recommended for ages 14 and up.

Looking for more drones? Check out our article on the best drones under $300 or the best camera drones if price is no object.

  • Aukey Mini Drone
  • UFO 3000 LED Drone
  • Holy Stone HS170 Predator
  • UDI 818A Camera Drone
  • MicroDrone 3.0

Aukey Mini Drone

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This pocket-sized drone is basically the definition of a kid drone at just under two inches across. It comes ready to fly out of the box, with a USB cable for charging and a kid-friendly controller that features a one-press button for take-off and landing. You’ll get five minutes of flight on a fully-charged battery, with just over 80 feet of range from the controller.

Perfect for flying indoors, this little drone makes a great gift not only for kids, but for anyone interested in having a little drone fun in their spare time. Learn the basics of flight on the Aukey Mini Drone, then move onto bigger and stronger drones once you’re confident in your piloting abilities.

See at Amazon

UFO 3000 LED Drone

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When you’re learning how to fly a drone, crashes will happen. The UFL 3000 LED Drone helps to mitigate that by keeping the blades fully protected. Your novice pilot can bump into walls and whatnot while they learn how to zip around on low and high speed modes, as well as perform flips with the simple press of a button.

Oh, and then there’s how cool this drone is, with its blue and green LEDs creating four brilliant rings of light, so your little drone pilot can practise flying even in the dark. Two batteries ship with this drone, with flight times averaging around seven minutes on a full charge.

See at Amazon

Holy Stone HS170 Predator

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The Holy Stone Predator drone is a fun, palm-sized drone that’s pretty much good to fly right out of the box. It’s a great, affordable option for anyone looking to learn the basics of flying a drone. It features six-axis gyro stabilization and can be flown indoors or outside — though given its size, you’ll want to wait for a calm day with little to no wind.

The downside here is that you’ll only get about five minutes of flight time from a fully-charged battery, so we recommend picking up a few extras as well, since it’s easy to hot swap them out and only takes about 40 minutes to recharge. We’d also suggest getting a few extra props, too, since they’re so cheap and are the first thing to go flying and get lost or broken in a crash.

See at Amazon

UDI 818A Camera Drone

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This is the first drone on our list that comes with a camera, which allows you to snap photos and videos conveniently with the included controller. Its price makes it an ideal starter drone for someone looking to eventually upgrade to bigger and better drones with better cameras.

This is another drone that provides good protection for the blades, which are typically the first thing to get damaged or lost in a crash. It’s very lightweight, so you’ll want to avoid using it outdoors on a windy day. It ships with a camera that shoots photos and videos in standard definition (640×480), with a 2GB microSD memory card included for storage.

See at Amazon

Microdrone 3.0

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If you’re buying for an older kid who is really interested in taking up drone racing as a hobby, the Microdrone 3.0 is a great option, given everything that comes with it.

Included in the full set combo, now available from Amazon, you get the drone, a 2.4 GHz handset, propeller guards, four replacement blades, four blades for inverted flying, the Wi-Fi Camera module, a smartphone holder that attaches to the handset, as well as a VR headset that holds most smartphones for first-person view flight. Basically, it’s everything you need to dip your toes into the world of drone racing.

It’s a capable flyer with three control modes (slow, fast, and insane), as well as a toggle switch for stunt mode, which lets you perform impressive flips and rolls. The camera literally snaps on in a second thanks to proprietary magnets that also deliver power to the camera. Connect your phone to the camera’s Wi-Fi and control and record video through the Microdrone app.

See at Amazon

Your picks?

Do you have a go-to drone that’s great for kids? Let us know in the comments below!

14
Dec

Google’s 2016 was defined by ‘Pokémon Go,’ Olympics and Trump


Google’s Year in Search summaries have a knack for capturing the cultural zeitgeist, and that’s truer than ever in 2016. The company has published its top search trends for the year, and it clearly mirrors a tumultuous 12 months defined by the unexpected, the tragic and the rise of technology. Notably, the biggest global search trend was for Pokémon Go — yes, the wildly popular mobile game did more to captivate the world’s attention than political upheaval or sports triumphs. Apple’s iPhone 7 was the runner up, followed by President-elect Donald Trump.

A dive into specific categories reveals some of the other hot-button topics of the year. It won’t shock you to hear that the US election dominated global news, but the Rio Olympics were seemingly omnipresent, making the top 10 for news, people (think Simone Biles and Michael Phelps) and, of course, sporting events. The UK’s Brexit, mass violence (such as the Orlando shootings and Nice attacks) and the Zika virus were also important in the news sphere. And avoid the 10 losses of the year if you don’t want to be misty-eyed: Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali and Leonard Cohen are among the greats people mourned the most.

In the US, the trends were unsurprisingly different, if not what you’d expect. While politics and the Olympics certainly made the top 10, the biggest queries were for Powerball, Prince, Hurricane Matthew, “Pokeman Go” (no, that’s not our typo) and the web game Slither.io. As elsewhere in the world, Americans were at least as interested in entertainment and cultural news as they were earthshaking events.

Source: Google Year in Search 2016, Google Blog

14
Dec

GoDaddy and Causemo Implement Apple Pay


Web domain registrar GoDaddy and donation platform Causemo today separately announced they now accept Apple Pay on their respective websites.

GoDaddy is providing Apple Pay to all of its online store merchants who enable credit card payments through Stripe on mobile devices.

Causemo, a startup platform enabling non-profit organizations to acquire and retain donors, is providing Apple Pay on the web in Safari on Mac, iPhone, and iPad. When using Apple Pay, donors do not have to enter their billing, shipping, or contact details. Apple Pay is shown as the default payment option on enabled devices.

In November, Apple announced that nonprofit organizations in the United States are now able to accept donations using Apple Pay.

“We’re making it incredibly easy to give back with Apple Pay,” said Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Apple Pay. “Websites and apps tell us they see twice as many people actually completing a purchase with Apple Pay than with other payment methods. We think offering such a simple and secure way to support the incredible work nonprofits do will have a significant impact on the communities they serve.”

Earlier this month, Bailey said 35% of merchants in the United States now accept Apple Pay, compared to only 4% of merchants that accepted the payment option when it launched in October 2014.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
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