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19
Jan

Local multiplayer mayhem comes to Xbox One with ‘TowerFall Ascension’


Xbox One owners, it’s time to invest in another controller because local-multiplayer mainstay TowerFall Ascension is finally coming to Xbox Live. From January 25th, Xbox One gamers will be able to get their hands on all the same content PS4 players have, with the game’s Dark World expansion also arriving on Xbox the same day.

For the uninitiated, TowerFall Ascension is an unusual but addictive mix of deathmatch and platformer that pits four brightly colored sprites against each other. Players share a single screen as they aim to eliminate their rivals using a mix of well-placed arrows and carefully considered powerups. While it may not be much to look at, it’s a chaotic and grin-inducing little party game. As well as the competitive multiplayer it’s best known for, the game also offers a campaign mode that can be played alone or in co-op.

Developed by one-man band Matt Thorson, TowerFall started life is an exclusive title for the KickStarter console curio, Ouya. Unsurprisingly, It wasn’t until the game was repackaged as Towerfall Ascension and released on PC and PS4 that it became a success. Thorson has promised an Xbox One version of TowerFall since 2015, so Microsoft gamers fearing its cancellation can now finally breathe a sigh of relief.

While we’ve seen some great games this console generation, If there’s one thing that’s been sorely lacking it’s quality same-room multiplayer experiences. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and pick up TowerFall Ascension – it’s the best local multiplayer this side of Rocket League.

Source: Eurogamer

19
Jan

Fujifilm X100F preview: Fixed-lens finery


If there’s one high-end fixed-lens camera that gets people excited, it’s the Fuji X100 series.

Now in its fourth-generation form, the X100F has the core make-up that made its predecessors such successes, but has a revamped layout and enhanced autofocus features that take it to the next level.

Following its announcement we got to handle a final production X100F at Fujifilm’s pre-launch event to get a real feel for the camera. Is its significant £1,249 price point worth every penny?

Fujifilm X100F preview: What’s different?

  • 24-megapixel X-Trans CMOS III sensor
  • New focus lever to rear
  • New ISO dial stacked within shutter dial
  • Exposure compensation adds custom (C)
  • New 325-point autofocus system (49 phase-detection points)

Front-on and the X100F looks identical to earlier X100T. It’s the same dimensions, with the same magnesium top panel construction and feels like a hardy wedge of quality in the hand. The 35mm (equivalent) lens and hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder remain the same as before (albeit the finder has a faster refresh rate for its electronic view).

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Flip the camera around, however, and it reveals its new design features. There’s a focus lever to the rear, which is much the same as you’ll find in Fuji’s compact system cameras, such as the X-T2. It’s really handy to use for quick point adjustment, while a press will allow for focus point size adjustment (controlled using the rear thumbwheel to cycle through the five size options).

Up top the X100F reveals some of its other new features, subtle as they are. The main addition is ISO sensitivity control from within the shutter speed dial – simply pull it up and rotate it to adjust between auto, low/high and individual ISO sensitivities (between third-stops). The exposure compensation also has a custom “C” position beyond its +/-3EV control which you can use via the thumbwheel to make adjustments to +/-5EV instead.

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Beneath that magnesium shell the X100F hosts the latest 24-megapixel X-Trans CMOS III sensor. That’s a 50 per cent resolution increase over the X100T model, which can be used in full wide-angle 35mm (equivalent) or jogged to 50/70mm equivalents (in JPEG only) using the front lens ring (doing this only crops directly into the image, but it’s a quirky feature).

Fujifilm X100F preview: What’s missing?

  • No 4K video
  • No vari-angle LCD screen
  • No touchscreen controls
  • Close-focus sharpness limitations
  • No exposure compensation dial lock

The new features are certainly welcome, but the X100F still misses out on a few features and adopts the legacy of its predecessor’s shortcomings.

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Principal to those is that the lens is not designed for close-up shooting at the wide-open apertures. There’s nothing to stop you shooting at f/2.0 but close-to-lens subjects won’t be sharp, even if they’re in the focal plane. The camera doesn’t warn of this – it’s just something you have to learn as you go, as it was with the X100, X100S and X100T before it.

  • Best compact cameras 2017: The best pocket cameras available to buy today

When using the camera we found the ongoing lack of a vari-angle LCD screen and the absence of touch to be a shame too. The other models that Fuji has also unveiled – the mirrorless medium format GFX 50S and X-T20 mirrorless system camera – each feature touchscreen options. It feels that the X100F should now offer this.

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Despite the camera operating faster – the electronic viewfinder operates at 60fps rather than 30fps of the earlier X100T, for example – the X100F isn’t able to leverage this for 4K video capture. Realistically this is a purist camera, so we don’t really care. Nonetheless, it seems like a feature that could be plausible – and removing stills from a stream of video can be useful.

Fujifilm X100F preview: How does it handle?

As high-end compact cameras go, however, we love the X100F. We’ve always had a soft spot for this camera series and now, especially thanks to the focus lever, it’s easier and more intuitive to use than ever before.

The new autofocus system offers a huge spread of focus points throughout the screen too, and with the ability to adjust their size they function in a fairly pinpoint fashion.

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Of the 325-points, there’s a 91-point option, while the centre-most 49-points are phase-detection for optimum performance. The more sensitive points are outlined as distinct, larger squares so you know what’s what.

However, we’d like on-screen focusing to offer a zoom-in 100 per cent preview, as this kind of functionality is available within the viewfinder.

And it’s that viewfinder that truly sells the X100F. It’s always been the pinnacle of its kind: a wider-than-100-per-cent optical frame, so you can predict what’s coming into the frame. The frame border is outlined by a digital border which, once adjusting to 50/70mm, moves within the frame. Parallax adjustment is also catered for, the frame edge moving to accurately show the capture frame one focus is acquired.

A flick of the finder switch to the front opens up an in-camera rangefinder-style preview window to the bottom right corner, which can be used to view the whole frame, or 2.5x or 6.5x magnification to see exactly what you’re doing. Flick the finder switch the other way and the whole viewfinder goes fully electronic – which can be handy due to no parallax error, but we far prefer the more fluid vision of the optical view with the electronic overlay.

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In short there’s no more interesting and practical viewfinder on the market. It only works in a camera like this due to the fixed-lens nature, but the viewfinder is a huge sell for the X100F.

Fujifilm X100F preview: What’s image quality like?

Bumping up the resolution by 50 per cent might sound like a lot, but with 24-megapixels on offer it’s roughly the current standard on the market. It’s the very same sensor that you’ll find in the X-T2, too, so we have few qualms about just how good the quality is.

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At Fujifilm’s preview event we were able to shoot a variety of scenes with the camera, including a male model (not Zoolander) and various around-the-house objects in mixed lighting. It wasn’t a particularly bright day, so was an ideal opportunity to test the camera’s low-light capabilities.

The quality is still very impressive even at higher ISO sensitivities. A dog statue, with lots of mid-level tones and blacks, shows off just how sharp images can be from that lens, without excessive image noise – there’s only a whisper of it in the background.

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Drop down the sensitivity – such as the ISO 400 model shot that we snapped (with off-camera flash) – and things look ultra clean and clear, with ample crispness. The lens really is great assuming the subject is far enough away.

That’s the one problem we continue to have with the X100 series: close-up focus is tricky to judge, as wide-open apertures always come out soft unless the distance is agreeable. Keep things at an arm’s length and be prepared to stop down as f/2.0 isn’t always usable.

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Other perks with the X100F is that the leaf shutter within the lens – which opens in an outward-from-centre motion, rather than upward focal-plane motion – means much higher flash sync speeds are possible. It’s great for catching flash-lit subjects while causing the background to not receive the same degree of lighting and, therefore, a darker appearance.

First Impressions

There’s no ignoring the the X100F is a niche product. There’s no optical zoom. Close-up shooting isn’t great. It’s also hugely expensive at £1,249 (a result of the sinking Sterling relative to political climes – it’s 8 per cent down year-on-year against the Yen).

Yet the X100F has heaps to offer than nothing else on the market can. It’s truly unique. Its quality of build is second to none. The hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder is outstanding, as is the rangefinder-style mode. The improved autofocus is every bit as good as its competition and the new focus lever makes it even quicker to control.

You might need to be as rich as a king to buy one, but then the X100F is indeed king of the fixed-lens compacts.

19
Jan

LinkedIn mercifully redesigns its cluttered homepage


LinkedIn, the professional network that everyone loves to hate, is rolling out a big redesign on the web. And as is often the case with social networks these days, LinkedIn appears to be taking serious “inspiration” from another company — in this case, Facebook. (Just take a look at that screenshot!) Regardless of where this inspiration came from, it’s long overdue. LinkedIn has definite utility, but it also has a long history of being obtuse, cluttered and just plain difficult to us (and the less said about LinkedIn’s email practices, the better).

That’s changing with this redesign, which LinkedIn says is the biggest desktop redesign in the service’s history — and probably the biggest change to LinkedIn since Microsoft bought it last summer. The main screen is still a feed of content and updates from people in your network, but it looks like navigation has been significantly streamlined. The top navigation bar features seven self-explanatory sections: home, messaging, jobs, notifications, me (your profile), my network and search. Below that navigation bar, posts from your network are surfaced immediately — it’s a lot nicer than the clutter that fills up the old LinkedIn homepage. You can still drop a status update, share an article or write something longer right from that home feed, but the interface element is simpler and takes up less screen real estate.

Messaging has also been revamped — after turning the old inbox into a messaging app meant for quicker back-and-forth conversations, LinkedIn has moved it into its own UI element that floats over your home feed, much like Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts.

LinkedIn says it has also revamped how it serves posts to your home feed, using a combo of human-curated and algorithmic suggestions. As with similar feeds (like on Facebook). The new feed is also theoretically smarter about showing you trending topics and news from industries you care about, but without actually seeing it in action it’s hard to say how different things will be here.

Search will also soon include the ability to look through posts as well as just people, companies, schools and groups. The service is also now offering better profile suggestions to get users to fill out as much of their personal info as possible. Lastly, LinkedIn will offer a little more detail on who is looking at the things you share so you can see if you’re reaching people of interest.

As useful as these new features might be, though, the real jewel here is the fact that LinkedIn’s historically cluttered interface might be a bit friendlier now. Whether that’ll be enough to convince users to browse their feeds rather than just use the site to update their online resume or look for jobs remains to be seen, but it’s a step in the right direction. The new interface will be rolling out to all users “in the coming weeks.”

Via: TechCrunch

Source: LinkedIn

19
Jan

Leica’s M10 rangefinder gives you full mechanical control


Unless you’re really fond of its lens system, Leica’s M-series range-finders have always been a tough sell — models like the M8 and M9 have limited features, and they cost a fortune. Leica has just launched the M10, though, and is trying to give you a bit more (and less) for your money. The mirrorless model is now as small as classic film cameras like the M7 and weighs about the same. It’s also got a new ISO-adjustment mechanical dial so that you don’t have to dip into the menus, which again makes for a more Leica-like experience.

Inside, there’s an all-new 24-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor driven by Leica’s Maestro II image processor. That gives it faster shooting speeds, better dynamic range and a much-needed boost to the ISO range, now from 100 to 50,000 ISO. That sensor is the similar to the one used in the Leica Q, and should produce similar quality images, the company says. Like past models, the Leica M10 doesn’t do video at all.

Unlike the EVF-equipped Q, however, the M10 is an optical rangefinder camera, and Leica has made some improvements in that area too. There’s now a 30 percent greater field of view, higher 0.73X magnification and a better range of adjustment for users who wear eyeglasses. If you’d prefer to have an electronic viewfinder, you can attach Leica’s Visoflex EVF accessory to the top.

Other new features include a simpler three-button control system for the rear display, giving you review, live-view and menu options. The menu function has been updated with a “favorites” menu, giving you commonly-used settings more quickly. It’s also easier to focus using the back screen thanks to a focus peaking feature that draws colored lines around sharply focused edges. The M10 is also the first camera in the series to get built-in WiFi, letting you send pictures to a smartphone or control the camera remotely via the Leica M-App.

The main draw for Leica users is the lenses, and along with the M-series, you can use R-glass via a new lens adapter. You’ll still be focusing manually, of course, but that’s arguably an easier chore with a rangefinder than an EVF. The M10 is now available for $6,495, exactly the same amount as Fujifilm’s new medium format GFX-50S. That’s a pretty big ask considering it doesn’t even do video, but with a lot of improvements over the last model, Leica fans probably won’t hesitate.

Source: Leica

19
Jan

Rick Perry didn’t understand the role of the Department of Energy


Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas, could become the United States’ next energy secretary. However, according to a New York Times report, Perry believed the role would help him champion the country’s oil and gas industry — which he has experience with during his time as governor. In fact, the job specification (and the majority of the department’s budget) actually centers on the nation’s $20 billion nuclear stockpile and overseeing national laboratories that form a major part of the government’s science remit. If approved, Perry has incredibly stiff learning curve ahead of him, encompassing nuclear management, science and technology investment.

Perry, who once demanded the elimination of the Energy Department, will start the confirmation process later today in front of the Senate Energy Committee. His predecessor, Ernest Moniz, was chairman at MIT and directed the institutes linear accelerator. Before Moniz, the secretary was Steven Chu — a Nobel Prize winner. Perry graduated in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science in Animal science.

If approved by the Senate, Perry would oversee the US’ nuclear stockpile, as well as being in charge of refurbishing and maintaining it. The country’s nuclear weapons program is currently in the middle of developing a new weapons system that will connect all its missiles via a secure network. This will cost over a trillion dollars.

Meanwhile, the department attempting to protect its political impartiality, with new guidelines to ensure employees can continue their research without any political influence. According to the guidelines, scientists will be able to express their opinion, get the opportunity to review Department statements about their work, and that officials should not and will not ask scientists to tailor work to fit particular conclusions. As we reported earlier, the new regulations would require Rick Perry to appoint an independent Scientific Integrity Official to handle any complaints. (Also: How easy would it be to undo these new guidelines once the new President is inaugurated?)

The Department has reason to be concerned: It recently refused a request from the President-elect to name employees that have attended climate change meetings. It said it will provide publicly available information, but will keep staffers’ names under wraps to “respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence”.

The DoE also has a role in funding new energy ideas and the companies that bring them forward. It loaned Elon Musk $465 million towards Tesla, which the company is paying back ahead of time.

Does the former governor know what he’s in for? Michael McKenna, an energy lobbyist who worked on both Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign and Trump transition’s energy department team, which he has since left, told the NYT: “If you asked [Perry] on that first day he said yes, he would have said, ‘I want to be an advocate for energy. If you asked him now, he’d say, ‘I’m serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.’ It’s been a learning curve.” Mc.Kenna has since reportedly recanted his remarks, saying they were out of context.

Update: The confirmation process has started. Perry started by apologizing for his past efforts to squash the department.

“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking. In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”

Source: New York Times

19
Jan

Google Home support coming to LG’s Music Flow speakers


LG’s Music Flow speakers are based on Google Cast (now “Chromecast built-in”) and on its site, LG specifically shows a home with a multi-room setup. Yet, while both Sonos and B&O products work with Google Home and Google Chromecast Multiroom, so far, LG’s Google-specific models do not. However, it looks like that’s changing soon: An LG representative said on the company’s product forums that both Google Multiroom and Home support are coming “before the end of February.

Music Flow owners were starting to get a bit testy about the Chromecast features missing from the device, especially after Sony unveiled Google Multiroom support for its X77 speakers. That level of fanaticism over speaker features may have taken LG by surprise, so it decided to integrate both Home and Multiroom support and release it in a new update. “We have prepared Google Multiroom functionality … and we decide[d] to update Google Home at the same time,” a representative said.

With Multiroom, you’ll be able to use Chromecast from a phone or other device to cast to groups of speakers around your house, while Google Home will let you order songs by voice. Both those updates should make your Music Flow speakers a lot more useful, and they’ll be delivered by an over-the-air update in February.

Via: 9 to 5 Google

Source: LG Forums

19
Jan

Netflix enters the design world for its next docu-series


Next month, Netflix will debut a new documentary series called Abstract: The Art of Design highlighting on individual designers’ work and methodology. It’ll begin streaming on February 10th, and from the trailer, it looks a lot like the cooking-focused Chef’s Table, but for design.

The eight-episode series will focus on eight designers from different disciplines: Graphic design, illustration, photography, architecture, interior design, set design, shoe design and automobile design. There are some pretty huge names in each category, perhaps most notable being the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels (think Via 57 West), Nike’s Tinker Hatfield (think Air Jordans and Mags) and Fiat Chrysler’s head of design Ralph Gilles (many, many cars).

Abstract: The Art of Design was produced by Wired’s departing editor-in-chief Scott Dadich, who has written a hard-hitting advertorial about the show for the magazine and website. Dadich announced his departure from Wired last month (he’s leaving to start his own design firm), and will be replaced by The New Yorker’s Nicholas Thompson.

19
Jan

Alexa gets meta, finds you the latest AI research


AI research is so hot right now, it’s hard for even scientists in the field to keep up. To stay on top of the 300-plus papers submitted per day to Arxiv.org, machine-learning researcher Amine Ben Khalifa naturally turned to … machine learning. He taught Amazon’s AI-powered Alexa bot to find the latest AI research papers for the day, read the titles and give a summary of specific projects, all via voice control.

“Alexa changed the way I get my daily flash briefings,” Khalifa said. “With the arxivML Alexa skill, I intend to skip paper browsing altogether, and instead get paper briefings while getting ready to go to work.”

After it’s asked, as shown in the video below, Alexa reads the top 50 papers of the day related to machine learning, AI and similar topics. If you want to know more about one of them, it’ll then read the abstract, and you can stop it anytime, or say “Alexa, next” to skip to the next title. The app also shows titles and abstracts in the Alexa app to help you keep track of where it is.

Staying on top of the latest work is a must for machine learning researchers, Khalifa notes, and using Alexa is a pretty apt way to do that. (If you’d rather read about the latest AI work, there’s also the “Arxiv Sanity Preserver” from AI researcher Andrej Karpathy.) The arxivML Alexa skill is available to anyone who wants it on Amazon’s Skill Store, and in the spirit of the field, Khalifa also posted the code on GitHub for anyone who wants to tweak it.

Source: Medium

19
Jan

Buy a copy of ‘Resident Evil 7’ on Xbox One, get it free on PC


The latest game getting the Xbox Play Anywhere treatment is Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. That’s right, Capcom’s upcoming horror jaunt will support cloud saves, and buying the digital Xbox One version will net you a gratis copy of the game on PC. While it isn’t the first non-Microsoft produced game with the feature (indies Ark: Survival Evolved, Astroneer and We Happy Few will have it as well) it’s certainly the highest profile occurrence thus far.

Two scares for the price of one next week? If your heart stomach can handle it, sally forth. If there’s a downside to going digital, though, it’s that you won’t have physical access to the game’s excellent box art that’s evocative of Resident Evil 4’s European variant. Decisions, decisions.

RESIDENT EVIL 7 biohazard confirmed for @Xbox Play Anywhere – buy once, play on both Xbox One & @Windows 10 PC. https://t.co/yhcwjEnjla

— Phil Spencer (@XboxP3) January 18, 2017

Source: Phil Spencer (Twitter)

19
Jan

AirTV is shipping to customers without its biggest feature


Back at CES, we were quite smitten with AirTV’s ability to put all of your streaming services and over-the-air channels in the same place. Well, it looks like the set-top box is shipping to customers without its key feature. AirTV doesn’t currently integrate OTA channels inside the Sling guide, instead there’s a button that launches a Google Live Channels app.

A customer pinged Dish CEO Roger Lynch last week after receiving an AirTV that lacked the feature. Lynch explained that the boxes on display at CES a few weeks ago were running a beta version of the software and that the OTA feature “will be rolled out soon.” Other users report that Netflix queues and recommendations are absent from the guide as well. This is a major issue since AirTV has been on sale since the day it was announced in Vegas over two weeks ago. We’ve reached out to AirTV for more information on the issue and we will update when we hear back. For now, it doesn’t look like the device is putting OTA channels and streaming services in one spot at all — which was kind of the whole point.

@markreaume The version shown at CES had beta software where the locals are integrated. That feature will be rolled out soon.

— Roger Lynch (@RogerLynch) January 13, 2017

Via: Zatz Not Funny

Source: Roger Lynch (Twitter)

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