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14
Feb

You can now download a Pebble watch face just like the one from ‘Resident Evil 7’


Why it matters to you

Just weeks after the game launched, a fan project has transformed a virtual item from Resident Evil 7 into something you can actually wear on your wrist.

Capcom’s Resident Evil 7 is a gripping, horrifying experience, and it’s fair to assume that most people who play the game are so involved in it that they likely aren’t looking for tips on how to accessorize. But if you did find yourself coveting protagonist Ethan’s Codex smartwatch, there’s good news — you can now download a replica of its watch face for your Pebble.

At some point during the development of Resident Evil 7, Capcom inked a deal with Pebble to feature the company’s Pebble Time 2 smartwatch on the wrist of its protagonist. However, before this advertising effort could get off the ground, Pebble was acquired by its competitor, Fitbit.

The Pebble Time 2 was never released, save for the virtual version that Ethan wears in Resident Evil 7. However, a smartwatch developer saw the watch face in-game and decided to get to work on a version that could be installed on pre-existing devices like the Pebble Classic, Pebble Time, or Pebble 2.

“I was sad to hear the company go. but I got excited when I saw the Pebble Time 2 featured in RE7,” Reddit user Elijah Kang wrote in a post to a subreddit dedicated to the horror franchise. “No one made a decent watch face based off the game, so I decided to make one myself.”

More: Resident Evil 7 wears its horror influences on its torn, bloody sleeves

The line graph on the watch face is apparently generated from the user’s weekly steps, hourly steps, or a series of randomized values. On devices with a color screen, the readout will change from red to green to yellow depending on the watch’s remaining battery life. Bar graphs are included at the bottom of the screen to mimic the in-game watch, but they don’t reflect any real data.

Anyone who’s eager to introduce a little slice of Resident Evil 7 into their everyday life can download the free watch face right now from the Pebble app store.

14
Feb

Some Pixel and Nexus owners can begin using Android Instant Apps now


Why it matters to you

Android Instant Apps will help you save time and headaches installing and uninstalling apps you only want to try, or know you’ll only use once.

Late last month, Google announced it was beginning a limited test for its new Android Instant Apps initiative, a platform that allows users to run software without installing it to their device. Now, the functionality has reportedly reached some Pixel and recent Nexus phones, according to 9to5Google and Reddit.

In typical Google fashion, not all supported devices running the most current versions of 7.0 Nougat are receiving Instant Apps immediately — the company appears to be rolling out the feature slowly, without notifying users. You can check if your phone is ready to start running Instant Apps by visiting the Google > Services submenu inside Settings. Eligible devices will have a toggle for Instant Apps, where the user can opt in.

More: Google’s Instant Apps allows you to use apps without installing them

If you’re one of the chosen few, the method for finding Instant Apps is still a bit counter-intuitive in these early stages. Users have to search for them in Chrome, and currently there are only four known examples: Buzzfeed, Viki, Periscope, and Wish. With any luck, a search result near the top labeled “Instant” should appear, and you can follow that link to run the app.

At this point, not all of the apps are working in all cases, and 9to5Google says it is unclear which devices and versions of Android will receive the feature first. Google has stated it is targeting 4.1 Jelly Bean forward for the full release.

Google is pitching Instant Apps as a solution to the problem of having to install an app you’ll only use once, or just want to test-drive. Think of them as smaller, stripped-down versions of existing apps that disappear from the device the moment they are closed.

When Google announced the initiative in May of last year, it said that about “half a dozen” partners had agreed to embrace the format, including B&H Photo Video, Medium, Hotel Tonight, Zumper, Disney, and the aforementioned Buzzfeed. Instant Apps seem particularly beneficial for uncommon services, like hotel hunting, or impromptu shopping needs, so look forward to similar apps joining the list later on.

14
Feb

Close to the Metal Ep. 30: For Honor, Windows Game Mode, and the sharp rise in PC Gaming demands


This week, on our computing podcast Close to the Metal, we’ll take a look at For Honor, the multiplayer battle game, and see what’s slowing it down, and how you can keep from getting booted when your frame rate drops too low. We’ll also touch on the upcoming Windows 10 Game Mode to see if it can deliver on its promise of higher frame rates without any extra hardware.

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As modern video games quickly approach the point of photorealism, the demands they place on gaming computers are heavier than ever. Games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and more recently For Honor look stunning, but our mid-range review hardware has struggled to produce anything near playable frame rates.

But nowadays, it isn’t just oversized textures and complex models that cause GPUs to collapse under the weight of this enormous task. Advanced graphical elements like reflective surfaces, complex lighting and shadows, and strange edges are some of the worst offenders. Newer games will even let you crank up the resolution and then scale it back, in order to provide even higher-quality forms of anti-aliasing.

Indeed, PC gaming is typically one of the most stressful operations a personal computer will experience throughout its existence, and often for hours on end. To that end, there are a lot of little tricks that can help you game smoothly, without sacrificing the quality inherent to gaming PCs. Some games do it by offering a wide array of settings that let you tweak to exactly your specifications, or let you drop the rendered resolution without affecting the UI elements.

You can even take things to the operating system level, and prioritize gaming-related applications, while simultaneously cutting performance to non-vital software and add-ons. You can do the legwork yourself, or leverage the new Game Mode in the Windows 10 Creators update to do it automatically.

14
Feb

Google fixes creepy bug that asked you to provide body sensor info to Gmail


Why it matters to you

If you were creeped out by the Android Gmail app’s request for Body Sensor information in order to send an email, you weren’t alone. And now, Google has fixed it.

Who knew you’d need to give Google access to your body to send an email?

Actually, you don’t, but a bizarre bug in some Android users’ Gmail apps demanded that they give the application access to “Body Sensors” in order to send an email. And now, Gmail is issuing a fix for this, because it’s as creepy as it is weird.

According to reports, some Android owners found that after attempting to send a message via the Gmail app, they’d receive a notification that an error had occurred. “This app won’t work properly unless you allow Google Play services’ request to access the following: Body Sensors,” it read. Needless to say, this wasn’t something users were down with. Moreover, it’s been an ongoing issue since at least 2015, though a user more recently posted about the problem in the Gmail Help Forum last September.

More: Yahoo Mail gets a couple updates, including caller ID and photo syncing

So what was going on?  First of all, Google Play Services is an Android app that is central to your device’s functionality, providing authentication and synchronized contacts (among other things) across a range of Google apps. It also helps with the speed of offline searches, and in providing more immersive maps, Mashable notes.

If you have a fitness app installed on your Android device, for example, Google Play Service needs the Body Sensors permission so it can provide information like the number of steps you’ve taken or your heart rate. Of course, Gmail obviously doesn’t need that information.

Fortunately, the company has finally issued a fix. “The permission request was the result of a bug in the Drive API within Google Play services, which has now been fixed,” a representative from Google said in an email on Monday. While you’re waiting on the fix to be fully rolled out, you can head over to your phone’s Settings, then go to Apps, and navigate over to Permissions, where you can turn permissions on and off for individual apps.

14
Feb

Apple readies ‘Planet of the Apps,’ a ‘Shark Tank’-like venture capital series


Why it matters to you

If you’re a fan of shows like Shark Tank, and you’re interested in app development, this new Apple Music series might be for you.

Apple released a trailer for Planet of the Apps, its upcoming series that examines the massive world of apps, developers with ideas for what they hope will be the next big download, and the celebrity entrepreneurs and venture capitalists that could help them achieve their app dreams.

The two-minute trailer, released at the Recode Code Media conference, suggests the series as a sort of Shark Tank for app developers looking to earn venture capital investments to back their ideas and bring them to life. They first pitch their idea to a panel of four “culturally influential entrepreneurs:” Gwyneth Paltrow, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jessica Alba, and will.i.am. Unlike that other show, however, developers have just 60 seconds to get someone on the panel intrigued enough to fork over some dough. Weirdly, they do so while traveling down an escalator.

More: New ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ trailer reveals release date, Beyoncé parody

If they get someone interested, the show moves to the advisory stage, in which they work with the investor and other tech luminaries on building the app. Then, they give their final pitch to venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners, with the celebrity partner on stage with them this time for added support. The successful apps eventually get featured placement in the iOS app store, where millions of iOS device users can download and use them.

While the concept seems to work with shows like Shark Tank, which sees cast investors like Mark Cuban and Daymond John, and guest investors like Ashton Kutcher and Chris Sacca, back ideas for various services and products, will it work on a streaming platform, and strictly within the world of apps?

Maybe it’s just the cheesy name and inclusion of the escalator (really, why?), and the transparent goal of promoting and influencing app store purchases, not to mention celebrity brands, that might stand in the way of the series’ success. But given how many people like shows like Shark Tank (while the ABC series’ fall finale last December saw a significant drop in ratings, it still drew in a healthy 4.9 million viewers) Planet of the Apps may just have an audience.

The concept for Planet of the Apps was pitched to Apple by will.i.am. The series is “coming soon” to Apple Music.

14
Feb

Nvidia’s new GeForce driver is optimized for ‘Halo Wars 2,’ ‘For Honor,’ more


Why it matters to you

This latest driver is not only optimized for three new PC games, but it fixes issues experienced on Windows 10, Windows 8/8.1, and Windows 7.

Nvidia has released a new WHQL driver for its GeForce graphics cards dubbed as GeForce Game Ready 378.66. It’s optimized for Halo Wars 2, For Honor, and Sniper Elite 4, and fixes numerous issues seen across several games including Second Life, The Division, and more.

More: Nvidia’s Shield tablet is now more delicious with the Nougat software update

The new driver also provides Nvidia Ansel support for Epic Games’ free-to-play MOBA game Paragon. This feature enables players to create 2D, 360-degree and virtual reality 360-degree screenshots on GeForce GTX graphics cards. Users can add filters, adjust the field of view, the rotation, and save the images in a sharable format with just a single click.

Here are the fixes Nvidia made for six specific PC games:

Second Life:
After disabling the Advanced Lighting Model option, the world view would be tinted blue.
The Division:
Shadows would begin to flicker after enabling Percentage Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS).
Battlefield 1:
On Kepler-based GPUs, the game would flicker when using Temporal Anti-Aliasing (TAA).
Battlefield 1 Day 28 Patch:
When SLI is enabled, the menu text would become jittery.
Heroes of the Storm:
The game would crash at launch on GTX 1080 cards.
Minecraft:
Nvinitx.dll was causing Java SE Binary crashes.

Now here is a list of general fixes not tied to a specific PC game:

Surround:
Previously, Surround couldn’t be enabled on the XGPU.
G-Sync:
A long delay was experienced when switching a game from full-screen to windowed when G-Sync and V-Sync were enabled simultaneously.
GeForce GTX 1080:
Launching games in SLI Surround mode using an HDMI 2.0 connection caused the system to crash.
GeForce 860M:
DirectX games would crash on notebooks with this discrete graphics chip.
GeForce GTX 980 Ti:
Previously, the driver couldn’t detect multiple TV models.

Of course, there are still around 13 problems related to Windows 10 that still need to be fixed. There are two outstanding issues on Windows 8/8.1 as well along with three issues with Windows 7. All of this can be read in Nvidia’s release notes in a PDF file here.

Finally, here are the system requirements for the three PC games optimized by the new driver:

For Honor

Minimum
Recommended
Operating system:
Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 (64-bit)
Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 (64-bit)
Processor:
Intel Core i3-550
AMD Phenom II X4 955
Intel Core i5-2500K
AMD FX-6350
Graphics card:
GeForce GTX 660
GeForce GTX 750 Ti
GeForce GTX 950
GeForce GTX 1050
GeForce GTX 680
GeForce GTX 760
GeForce GTX 970
GeForce GTX 1060
System memory:
4GB
8GB
Storage:
40GB
40GB

Halo Wars 2

Minimum
Recommended
Operating system:
Windows 10 Anniversary Update (64-bit)
Windows 10 Anniversary Update (64-bit)
Processor:
Intel Core i5-2500
AMD FX-4350
Intel Core i5-4690K
AMD FX-8350
Graphics card:
GeForce GTX 650 Ti
GeForce GTX 1060
System memory:
6GB
8GB
Storage:
25GB
25GB

 Sniper Elite 4

Minimum
Recommended
Operating system:
Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 (64-bit)
Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 (64-bit)
Processor:
Intel Core i3-2100
AMD equivalent
Intel Core i7-3770
AMD equivalent
Graphics card:
GeForce GTX 660
GeForce GTX 970
System memory:
4GB
8GB
Storage:
Unknown
Unknown

As always, GeForce card owners can manually download and install the new driver from Nvidia’s website, or grab it through the GeForce Experience desktop client via the “Drivers” tab.

14
Feb

BlackBerry aims to help you visualize and share your ideas with new Notable app


Why it matters to you

If you or your team uses BlackBerry’s Hub+ suite to keep informed and on schedule, the addition of the Notable app should make communication even easier.

BlackBerry released a suite of Android applications last summer under the Hub+ banner that came pre-installed on the company’s own devices, but could be used on other phones as well. BlackBerry is adding to the platform with a screen capture markup app called Notable, now available for the BlackBerry PRIV, DTEK50, and DTEK60, and coming to other phones running at least Android 6.0 Marshmallow at a later date.

Apps like Notable that allow users to scribble and decorate screenshots — and then share their creations with friends — are common on Android, and usually come pre-installed by manufacturers on new devices. What differentiates Notable somewhat is that it integrates tightly with Hub+ services, and can be launched via a swipe gesture or, on BlackBerry devices, the convenience key. If your team is using Hub+ for all its productivity needs, Notable might be the best visual note-taking app for the task.

More: Hub+ puts the best of BlackBerry on your Android phone … for a price

If you’re unfamiliar with Hub+, it’s BlackBerry’s collection of business-minded software that features a unified inbox for multiple email, social media ,and instant messaging accounts, along with additional utilities, like the company’s Calendar, Contacts, Password Keeper and Tasks apps, as well as a unique launcher with bespoke widgets. The service runs for a subscription fee of $1 per-month for non-BlackBerry devices, but the first 30 days are free. Users who don’t pay up after the trial period are subject to ads, and lose some functionality.

Having struggled in the business of building their own devices, BlackBerry is counting on services developed by its Mobility Solutions Group to find a way into the Android devices people are already using. It’ll have to fend off the likes of Samsung’s Focus and Microsoft’s Outlook productivity suites to gain a foothold, but the company’s cachet in the professional community might make that an easier task than going to-to-toe with the juggernauts of the mobile hardware industry.

14
Feb

Pick up a Chromecast Ultra for $10 off at select retailers right now


If you’ve had your eyes on the Chromecast Ultra but have been waiting for it to drop in price a bit, you won’t want to miss out on this. Right now select retailers are offering $10 off the streaming media player, dropping the price down to just $59. With the Chromecast Ultra you can stream Netflix, YouTube and other media in 4K on a compatible TV set, something that previous generations were not able to do. If your wireless connection isn’t the greatest and may not be able to handle 4K video properly, you can also use the built-in Ethernet port to get a more stable connection.

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You can pick one up from Best Buy, the Google Store, B&H Photo, and Target for the discounted prices right now. You’ll need a 4K TV to take advantage of all the benefits, and if you don’t already have one you can pick up a great set for around $500 these days.

Everything you need to know about streaming 4K on the Chromecast Ultra

For more great deals on tech, gadgets, home goods and more be sure to visit our friends at Thrifter now!

14
Feb

Playing Elite: Dangerous on HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift


Upgrade your Elite: Dangerous experience with VR.

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There are many ways you can make Elite: Dangerous a more compelling, immersive game. A solid HOTAS controller, great audio hardware, and a decent high quality display will improve your experience substantially, but there’s still more you can do. Adding a VR headset to this game puts you in the Captain’s Chair in the most literal way possible. Being able to turn your head and see the menus on your dashboard light up while you grip the throttle and joystick is amazing, but which headset is going to offer you the best experience?

Here’s a quick look at the merits of using an HTC Vive versus an Oculus Rift to play Elite: Dangerous!

Read more at VR Heads!

14
Feb

Android Wear 2.0 has me itching to spend money on an LG smart watch


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New software and some shiny new watches from LG make Android Wear a little more interesting.

So, we’ve got a significant platform update for Android Wear and two carefully created watches to showcase it. It’s overdue. Most anyone who is familiar will tell you that Android Wear was getting a little stale and needed a watchOS-level update to freshen things up. And I think that describes the new update pretty well — what was lacking in software was addressed and delivered without going overboard and trying something that just isn’t ready. The new Google has grown up a bit and no longer throws everything into the air and later collects what works to keep.

Android Wear needed a refresh with the right features — not all the features.

Of course, the watches themselves dominate the stage because they are required to have everything the new update offers right now. That will change and we’ll see fully working builds of Wear 2.0 come to last year’s hardware, and some of them will even work well with it. Others will have the software shoehorned in and we’ll wish they had never been updated at all. That’s how this whole Android thing works, though to a much lesser extent on watches than phones. We’ll worry about that when it happens, but for now, I want to talk about the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport.

Like most of you, I haven’t been able to actually use either. That means there are going to be plenty of things I can’t say because I don’t know. But I did have the luxury of spending a week talking with Flo and Andrew and peppering them with questions and off-the-wall requests to build a mental checklist and see how they measured up to my wants — and to see if I even cared at all. I just could never find a reason to love Android Wear, and the few times it did make my life better wasn’t enough to justify having one more thing here that needed to be charged every night.

That’s changed, and I’m interested again. And not in the watch you think I would be interested in, and not for the reasons you might think, either. I’m really digging the LG Watch Style because to me, it looks good the way a watch should look good.

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LG delivered exactly what they needed to deliver with the Watch Sport. It screams Wear 2.0.

I don’t hate the Sport. In fact, I want to talk about it first. Google did exactly what so many people wanted them to do with Wear 2.0 and added standalone functionality and payment processing to the platform. Then LG looked over at Samsung and built it in the shape of a Galaxy Gear. There is zero shame in that. There are no unique ideas left and Samsung looked at countless Casio and Timex watches to make the Gear S2 and S3. I’m sure someone at Timex looked at something when they built the first Ironman watch. This is how a thing we like gets refined with each new model and, if left to continue, everything will look exactly the same. People clamoring for a round Apple Watch with a sweet sporty rubber strap don’t want one because it would look like a Gear S3. They want one because they think it would be better for them. They’ll probably get one eventually.

Feature-wise, the Sport ticks the right boxes, too. Standalone everything so you can set it up once then just be you and use it forever is what many of us were demanding. Use your GPS to find a Jamba Juice so you can pay for delicious drinks with your watch, then answer a phone call from your wrist so you can annoy everyone around you by yelling at your arm while they are trying to chill and slurp on a smoothie. We asked. LG delivered. And if you’re not into it all, you don’t have to use any of it (and can grab your smoothie and find somewhere else to drink it).

The Sport should be a successful product for LG. One they didn’t lose money on and one we remember as being pretty good a couple years from now. And really, that’s the best any company can hope for at this point.

But that Style. I think I’m going to get a Style.

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It’s not hard to figure out why, because I already said the one thing I wanted to see from all this new stuff — something that looks good. And the Style looks good to me. Titanium and black with an antique bell-style crown matches a couple watches I already have. With the right watch face — I’ll make my own if I have to because Android Studio makes it so damn easy now — it will be something I want to wear on my wrist. Yeah, shallow, I know. I don’t care and I like shiny things sometimes.

The LG Watch Style does what I want a watch to do and looks good while doing it.

I really do not care about the things the Style is missing. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’ll never go anywhere without my phone and everything I need is on my phone, including Android Pay. My watch really only needs to do two things — remind me what day of the week it is and tell the time. Both things my phone can also do, but reasons to justify buying a new watch that costs too much only because I like the way it looks. Wouldn’t be the first time, as my wife would be quick to point out.

Again, this is first impression, off-the-cuff thinking. There’s a good chance I’ll get a Style and not like it or see something that makes me wish I had gone with something else or just not bought anything right now. That would also not be a first. I might even change my mind if I roll into a Best Buy and rub all over one. I’m in the same boat as most everyone else here.

And to be honest, it’s kind of fun.

Android Wear

  • Everything you need to know about Android Wear 2.0
  • LG Watch Sport review
  • LG Watch Style review
  • These watches will get Android Wear 2.0
  • Discuss Android Wear in the forums!

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