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13
Feb

Big Hunter lets you step back in time to fend for yourself (review)


There are all kinds of weapons-based games in the Play Store: gun games, vehicle combat (airplane, tank, etc), archery, and the like. The South Korean developer Karakod Interactive wants to take us back even a few more millennia, back to the days of our cave-dwelling ancestors, with a game called Big Hunter. It puts us in the position of a caveman (caveperson?) whose job it is to harvest dinner. Big dinner. Like, really big dinner. With nothing but a set of spears to chuck at said big dinner. Let’s see how this goes.

Setup

Setup is easy, just download from the Play Store and open it up.

Gameplay

Gameplay is simple; almost too simple. You are set on the screen with a rather large game 15385410_1610582839251210_2404514555199592637_oanimal on the other side of the screen as you; could be an elk mammoth, or other, sillier creations. Right before starting, you’re shown the ‘soft spot’ of the animal in question; the area to aim for with your spear to make a fatal strike.
When I say “almost too simple” above, it’s because that’s all you do: you aim and throw your spears Angry-Birds-style at the animal…after taking a couple of shots, or after a short period of idleness by you, the animal will begin to charge you and take you out first. You can also backpedal by tapping on a corner of your screen. But it quickly boils down to you wildly flinging spears trying to kill before the wicked tusks/antlers/beak/other hit you and take you out in the process.

Screenshot_20170123-211452There is a “training camp” section, where you can practice or spar with fake game animals, scoring as many points as you can before missing a total of 5 times. Once you feel confident enough, you’re free to go out into the wild to harvest your dinner. As you progress you are afforded the opportunity to upgrade your weaponry, from premium spears, to axes, and so forth.

But the game can go from too-simple to almost too-difficult, as well. The aforementioned 13086773_1534265126882982_2579979495855140378_osoft spot can be quite discrete….that is to say, small. It can quite difficult to hit this spot, and this can get quite aggravating. Both my son & I tried repeatedly to get through the middle stages of the game, without any success; we kept getting run over repeatedly without progress.
As a hunter, you start out on ‘Day 1’ and have to complete one kill per day. Maybe we are just pretty terrible with this game, but it sure seemed like the way to win a level was always elusive…we couldn’t get past ‘Day 8′ for the longest time, and every level after that was a struggle.

The days’ challenges can vary; from being given only a limited amount of spears to throw, to having only a limited amount of time to down your quarry.

Visuals & Sound

This is one of my favorite parts of this game. The graphics and animations are really good, with a clean 3D look. Some animals are dark and monochromatic, while some of the practice animals are more silly, appearing wooden in a realistic way, within hinged necks and such, carried by your fellow tribesman,and don’t come across as threatening at all. Your hunter avatar is more or less a featureless silhouette, with a bright white eyes.
The background is generally a solid color; a rather soothing sunset-yellow, with a large yellow setting sun in the background.

13086966_1534265136882981_6114718142189072383_oSound is pretty good, though it can get tiresome. The background music is as-expected African percussion, though it can swing to the Disney-side of things. Sound effects in general are very muted, as the music takes and holds prominence.

Conclusion

Overall I like Big Hunter. As a former hunter and avid outdoorsman myself, I actually found it kind of fun using a spear to harvest large prey in a gaming format. It’s likely not the most politically-correct game available, and I can see many gamers and parents declining to even download this title. But those who do may find some quality game time in the unique context of hunting for your own dinner.

Download Big Hunter from the Play Store here.

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13
Feb

Modder turns PlayStation 4 Pro and PlayStation 4 Slim into ‘laptops’


Why it matters to you

If the Nintendo Switch is a mainstream success, we might see an officially sanctioned version of a project like the PlayBook 4 Pro.

Next month, Nintendo will release the Switch, a piece of video game hardware that blurs the line between home console and portable system. However, modders have been pursuing this kind of project for years, and it’s now possible to commission your own PlayStation 4 “laptop” — if you’re willing to foot the bill.

Ed Zarick is a talented modder who operates the YouTube channel Ed’s Junk. Last year, he built a portable Xbox One S shortly after the system was released, and now he’s turned his attention to another recent piece of hardware, the PlayStation 4 Slim.

Zarick calls his creation the PlayBook 4S. The stock system’s innards are placed inside a clamshell design alongside a 19-inch display, resulting in a version of the PlayStation 4 that lends itself to long journeys, or just about any other scenario where you might want to keep a video game console on hand.

More: Build your own Xbox One S laptop by following these step-by-step instructions

The build doesn’t feature a battery, so you’ll need to plug your PlayBook into a power outlet, according to a report from Polygon. Zarick has included an HDMI out port on the rear of the system, meaning that you can hook it up to a big-screen television when it’s convenient to do so.

As well as the PlayBook 4S, Zarick also shows off one of his recent commissions, a portable version of the PlayStation 4 Pro. The customer apparently requested a 24-inch display, which makes the system a little less mobile, but more impressive.

Zarick decided to get creative with the extra space he was afforded thanks to the large screen size. This particular PlayBook features an Android tablet built into the console itself, which allows users to take control from the PlayStation app without any extra hardware.

Anyone can purchase a PlayBook from Zarick, but these custom-built consoles carry a hefty price tag due to the amount of work required. A PlayBook 4S will run you $1,495, or $1,195 if you send him your system to be used in the build.

13
Feb

Razer’s latest ‘Blade’ boasts cutting-edge hardware and a 4K Display


Why it matters to you

The new Razer Blade lineup blurs the line between gaming rig and everyday workstation, another example of how gaming gear is becoming more mainstream.

Razer unveiled the 2017 update to its popular Razer Blade lineup on Monday and the new notebooks are just packed to the gills with high-end hardware. The new 14-inch Razer Blades come in two flavors, starting at $1,900 and both boast seventh-generation Intel i7 quad-core processors alongside a powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU.

The 1080p model is slated to hit the Razer online store on Monday and other select retailers on February 20, while the 4K touchscreen model will likely be hitting store shelves sometime in the second quarter of 2017.

Razer Blade (2017)

Razer Blade 2017

Dimensions
 13.6 x 9.3 x .70 (inches)
Weight
 4.10 lbs (1080p), 4.30 lbs (4K)
Processor
 Seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7700HQ quad-core (2.8GHz)
Graphics Card
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
RAM
 16GB
Display
 14-inch 1080p, or 14-inch 4K Touch Screen
Resolution
 1920 x 1080 or 3840 x 2160
Storage
256GB SSD, 512GB SSD, or 1TB SSD
Ports
 3x USB 3.0, 1x Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C), 1x HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm jack
Webcam
 2.0MP
Operating System
Windows 10
Battery
 70 watt-hours
Price
$1,900 (1080p), $2,750 (4K)
Review
Coming Soon

This release follows on the heels of a banner year for Razer, according to CEO Min-Liang Tan.

“More users embraced this flagship computer model in 2016 than ever before. Beyond gaming it has been really gratifying to see people enjoying the power and portability of the Blade for video editing, music creation, and software development,” Tan said.

More: Razer Kraken 7.1 gaming headset offers a surround-sound gaming experience on a budget

The new 14-inch Razer Blade has some big shoes to fill. though. The 2016 Blade was one of our favorite gaming notebooks of 2016 with its unique blend of style, portability, and performance. Packing that GTX 10-series, alongside a seventh-generation Kaby Lake quad-core processor, it will very likely run circles around the 2016 model when it comes to performance.

That said, those high-end components might come with an unseen cost. The 2017 models feature more horsepower, but they still rely on the same size battery, so it will remain to be seen if the new model is an overall improvement over the 2016 model.

13
Feb

You can now create and share lists of your favorite places on Google Maps


Why it matters to you

Whether you’re looking for places to go for a date, or uncovering the best ramen eateries in your city, you can now save an extra step by making lists directly in Google Maps.

Read about a restaurant you want to check out? You can now add it to a list straight from Google Maps.

It was already easy to “star” your favorite places on Google Maps — just look up a place and tap the star icon. These starred places are stored in the “Your places” section of the navigation drawer — but if you constantly star your favorite places, it used to be quite difficult to find them again because you had to scroll through a giant list.

The new update improves on the ability to save places by letting users create lists to organize them — they’re still stored in the same place for quick access.

More: Never run for the bus again with Google Maps’ real-time commute update

When you Google a place on your phone, you see a glimpse of location data, hours, and more from Google Maps. Tapping into that data opens up the Google Maps app if you have it installed — and here, you can click on “Save.” Save isn’t a star icon anymore, instead it resembles a checklist.

When you tap Save, Maps will pull up your lists — there are preset lists such as “Favorites,” “Want to go,” and “Starred places.” You can also create a new list directly from here, if you don’t want to use the one of the presets. You can create lists about anything, and they’re easily shareable with your friends and family.

For example, if you plan a museum trip in a new city you’re visiting, you can add them all to a “Museums” to visit list. Once you’re done with your trip, you can share this list to anyone else who asks. Some other examples for lists are restaurants you want to check out, your ever-growing list of favorite bars, the best salons, and more.

More: Watch this astounding trip around the world, made entirely from Google Maps

When you go into the list, a share icon pops up at the top and you can send it out via a link.

You can’t create lists on the web yet, but the update is rolling out to Android and iOS devices today.

13
Feb

Become an urban farmer with the new Herbert hydroponic vertical garden


Why it matters to you

Eating local and sustainable foods is all the rage these days, and you can do so right in your own home with a new hydroponic vertical garden.

Who says you have to leave your home to go to the farmer’s market? Just bring all that fresh produce straight to your residence. No, we’re not talking about a grocery delivery service or a meal kit — you can go straight to the source with Herbert, a hydroponic vertical garden that promises to help you grow fresh organic food right in your home.

It’s the latest product to be released by Ponix Systems, a company started by self-described “tech freaks and urban farmers.” With a vision of bringing vertical farming solutions to the people, Ponix hopes that the Herbert system will help foodies and environmentalists everywhere grow their favorite fruits and vegetables year-round without the need for herbicides or pesticides.

More: No soil, no gimmick: Natufia’s Kitchen Garden is the future of at-home produce

Even if you don’t have a green thumb, the Herbert can help. To start farming, simply place a seed into one of Herbert’s biodegradable sponges, add water and biomineral fertilizer to the tank, and sit back. According to the Ponix team, this vertical farming method requires 90 percent less water, though it yields 40 percent more harvest when compared to traditional farming, as your garden stays safe and protected from the elements (because, you know, it’s indoors).

Herbert features its own proprietary LED technology and a hydroponic system that promises optimal growth of all your crops simply by placing their roots in water. Urban farmers can grow up to 15 plants in the wall-mounted Herbert, so whether you’re craving strawberries, lettuce, or something else, you can use your indoor garden.

“By growing your own food, you have full transparency of what you eat, and you can reduce your food waste, too,” said Alex Penzias, co-founder of Ponix Systems. So if you’re looking to eat cleaner or more sustainably this year, the Herbert may be for you. You can pre-order a Herbert now on Kickstarter for $323, which is 40 percent off of the proposed retail price. 

13
Feb

‘Really Blue’ Google Pixel is available in Canada exclusively through Rogers


Why it matters to you

If you have been breathlessly awaiting the restocking of the Google Pixel, hold your breath no longer.

Stop holding your breath, ye patient waiters for the Google Pixel. It’s finally back in stock. The tech giant either underestimated how popular their first smartphones would be or really knows how to get us wanting more, as both the Pixel and Pixel XL quickly went out of stock after customers just about fell over themselves to get their hands on a handset. But now, it looks as though almost every model of the smartphone is back in stock on the Google Store.

If you’re a Canadian fan of the Google phone, we have even more news for you — the “Really Blue” Google Pixel, the blue variant of the handset, will soon be available in Canada exclusively through Rogers. On Monday, the Canadian carrier and Google co-announced that the azure version of the phone (which has been in seriously high demand) will be making its way up north. While we are still unsure as to what price and dates of availability will be, we will be sure to update you as we learn more.

More: The Google Pixel audio bug has been fixed with the February security patch

In the meantime, if you have been dying to get a Pixel, they are more available than they have been in awhile on the Pixel page on the Google Store right now. We ought to point out that you can actually buy a Pixel XL whenever you want on Amazon with free Prime shipping, though you will have to really want it in order to buy it this way. That is because it is more expensive through Amazon, as it helps you skip the wait.

If you do buy from the Google Store, pricing will begin at $649, and you will probably want to move quickly, as you never know how long availability may last.

13
Feb

Huawei Watch 2 news, rumors, and release date


The original Huawei Watch was long-considered one of the best-looking and classiest smartwatches out there — and for good reason. The device, however, was launched way back in early 2015 — we’re finally about to see a second-generation model.

What will the Huawei Watch 2 look like? And how much of an upgrade will it feature under the hood? Here’s everything we know about the Huawei Watch 2 so far.

More: Android Wear is back in business with two new watches from LG

Release date and availability

The Huawei Watch 2 will be unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of February, though it is not known if it will be available at that time or just announced. The news comes from Huawei’s CEO of Huawei Technologies Consumer Business Richard Yu, who announced it via a Weibo post.

Yu also added an image of a person wearing the watch, though it’s hard to tell what the smartwatch actually looks like.

Yu doesn’t explicitly say the smartwatch will be unveiled at MWC, but his post contains the hashtag “#MWC2017” so it’s safe to say we will learn more about the device at the conference.

Design

According to well-known leaker Evan Blass, who published a report on Venture Beat, the Huawei Watch 2 may take a different direction than the original device, making use of a slightly sportier design, with a 1.4-inch display and classic styling. There will also be both leather and stainless steel straps.

This follows a trend in the wearable technology market — many watchmakers are turning to slightly sportier designs as a way to try and entice those who use fitness trackers to instead opt for a smartwatch.

More: Will your watch get Android Wear 2.0? Read our guide to find out

Specs

According to the Venture Beat report, the Huawei Watch 2 will add one significant feature — cellular connectivity. The report notes that a version with a built-in SIM will be available. This will allow the device to make or take phone calls, as well as access the internet without needing connectivity to a phone.

Not much else is known about the Huawei Watch 2 just yet, but it’s likely that the device will run Android Wear 2.0 — Google’s next-gen wearable operating system that recently launched alongside two LG-built smartwatches.

We’ll update this article as we hear more.

Article originally published in January. Updated on 02-13-2017 by Julian Chokkattu: Added news that the Huawei Watch 2 will be unveiled at MWC. 

13
Feb

Jolla’s latest update to Sailfish OS brings a number of key enhancements


Why it matters to you

Startup Jolla’s Sailfish OS is looking to capitalize on interest from international markets. Updates like these are a major step toward achieving that goal.

Finnish mobile startup Jolla has announced a new update to its Sailfish OS that brings a number of long-awaited features to the platform. The 2.1 release, nicknamed after Finland’s”Iijoki” river, is now available for early access, according to a post on the company’s blog.

Headlining the additions is the ability to copy and paste inside Jolla’s browser, and a redesigned camera experience that improves autofocus and speeds up the shutter animation. The update also introduces experimental VPN functionality for OpenVPN, OpenConnect, and VPNC, though Jolla says right now it’s intended only for experienced VPN users to collect feedback. Support for common platforms, like PPTP and L2TP, will come at a later date.

More: Do you want Jolla’s swish new smartphone? Tough luck, you can’t have one

Elsewhere, 2.1 sports user experience enhancements, like the ability to change text scaling across Sailfish, as well as “basic implementations” of 64-bit architecture and a number of performance improvements, particularly with respect to app startup speed.

Like so many companies that have come before it, Jolla continues to face the unenviable dilemma of how to build user adoption of its mobile operating system without the extensive feature set and mature development community offered by iOS and Android. It’s a mountain that many others, from Blackberry to Microsoft, have failed to climb, despite having exponentially greater resources and market presence at their disposal compared to what Finland’s spiritual successor to Nokia has to work with.

For that reason, updates like this one are a major boon for emerging platforms like Sailfish that are trying to play the catch-up game. In recent months, Jolla has courted hardware manufacturers in Russia and India to license its software, and the firm found particular interest from the Russian government, which is seeking to lessen dependence on foreign-built mobile devices.

To this end, local tech firms with national backing will reportedly work with Jolla to develop a custom version of Sailfish made for Russia, though it will still contain the same core code. Last November, the nascent operating system was certified in the country for “government and corporate use.”

13
Feb

Google’s Valentine’s Day Doodle has one pangolin journeying to its soulmate


Why it matters to you

Monday’s Google Doodle is an effort to educate people about pangolins and how they range from vulnerable to critically endangered.

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, Google has an adorable Doodle game that also doubles as an awareness campaign to save the vulnerable and sometimes critically endangered pangolin.

Pangolins, according to the World Wildlife Fund, are the “most trafficked mammals in the world” due to high demand of their meat and unique scales. Monday’s Google Doodle is a game that focuses on a pangolin’s efforts to meet its long-distance soulmate for Valentine’s Day — but throughout the four chapters you learn “a thing or two” about the scaly mammals.

More: Google Keep for Chrome adds doodle functionality

The side-scrolling game has you collecting food to make a cake in Ghana. Once complete, the pangolin finds itself in India to “construct a lovely melody” for its soulmate; and then in China, the pangolin collects colorful fans to learn to dance; and finally in the Philippines, it collects flowers to build a bouquet.

“Once our pangolin heroes have found their hearts’ desire, show your own Valentine they’re the king or queen of hearts by sharing your score when the game is complete,” writes Jordan Thompson, software engineer for the Doodle team. “After all, Valentine’s festivities are always sweeter when they’re shared.”

More: Watch this astounding trip around the world, made entirely from Google Maps

The game’s home screen offers a search button that asks Google “what is a pangolin,” and Google’s blog post links to the World Wildlife Fund to help you learn more about the animal. The WWF says there are eight species of pangolin and all are under threat — two species are listed as critically endangered. A 2016 treaty signed by more than 180 governments announced an end to all legal trade of the mammals, but illegal trade continues.

You can play the game by visiting Google’s home page on a desktop, or mobile via the Google app or a mobile browser.

13
Feb

Girlfriend Collective readies to launch its water bottle-based leggings


Why it matters to you

Fashion and environmental activism don’t always go hand in hand, but they certainly do at the Girlfriend Collective.

These leggings have already diverted 6 million post-consumer plastic water bottles from the landfill and they are just getting started. Meet Girlfriend Collective, a company taking advantage of our love for spandex to the benefit of the planet. After a nine-month promotion involving free leggings (yes, it’s true, you just paid the price of shipping), the Collective is getting ready to launch its full collection. If you missed out on the leggings before, you won’t want to make the same mistake come spring.

So what is so special about these leggings? For starters, they are the only product offered by Girlfriend Collective (for now, at least). So if you’re at all a believer in quality over quantity, this is the company for you. But not just any old leggings — these articles of clothing not only look good but are good for the planet. When you don a pair of Girlfriend leggings, you’re actually donning 25 recycled plastic water bottles from Taiwan. Specifically, they’re made from polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, the technical name for polyester yarn and fabrics.

More: Pedaling to protect the planet: New bike made out of recycled paper and plastics

But beyond the source of the material, where that material goes is just as important. “Cutting and sewing is the most human intensive part of making clothing, with 14 pairs of hands and eyes making each pair of our leggings. We believe they should be taken care of,” Girlfriend Collective notes on its website. All the company’s leggings are made in a factory in Vietnam, which promises to “treat every employee with respect and guarantee the highest level of compensation and worker health.”

The SA8000-certified facility ensures that the factory maintains safe working conditions, gives workers the right to unionize, and allows for no forced or child labor. Moreover, Girlfriend Collective’s minimum wage in Vietnam begins at 125 percent of the local minimum wage for new employees.

“When we started Girlfriend Collective we knew that we wanted to get away from fast fashion that strips the world of its resources and ends up in landfills,” the company says on its website. And it looks as though it’s quickly meeting its goal. In just a couple months, you will be able to order your own pair of Girlfriend Collective leggings and this is one purchase you can feel good about — body and soul.

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