Friday, 31 October 2014



Deliberately divisive.

D4 is batshit crazy. There’s really nootherway to describe the latest game from Hidetaka ‘Swery’ Suehiro. It’s everythingwe expected from the creative force behind cult classic Deadly Premonition – and that’s a compliment and criticism in equalmeasure. While D4 is absolutely one of the weirdest and unique games you’ll play on your Xbox One this year, you’ll have to ask yourself: howmuch amI willing to put up with? For every second that’s wildly irreverent, zany and insane, you’ll find just asmany clumsy design choices.

This is a bizarre murder mystery, one that isn’t necessarily suited for those that fell in love with Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us. It casts David Young, a private investigator driven by the mysterious murder of hiswife andher final words “Look for D.” It’s a tragedy that granted Young the ability to leap through time using mementos as a bridge to the past. Can he findher killer, alter time and save her?

Apple Pay: the complete review

apple pay

Apple Pay makes payments quick and convenient.

Why it reall y does transform mobile payments

We're so used to hearing that the latest Apple product or service launch "transforms" its category, and we aren't necessarily referring to the language used in the Cupertino firm's own press releases - the wider media are more than good enough themselves at that particular hyperbole. It would be easy to think that Apple's latest innovation - Apple Pay - surely can't live up to the hype of doing the same for mobile payments. However, if you did, you'd be wrong.

Sure, a lot of bold claims have been made for a solution that is supposed to make mobile payments easier and quicker than ever. Apple itself has described the service as "a new category of service that will transform mobile payments with an easy, secure and private way to pay", while the Wall Street Journal has said that it "changes the way we look at our phones, not to mention wallets full of credit cards and bits of paper."

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Stand and deliver


Is your chair bad for you? Here’s how to fix it.

Are videogames ruining your life? Probably not: or at least not in the Daily-Mail-approved, Keith-Vaz-baiting, won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children sense usually suggested by the question. But there’s another activity that goes hand in RSI-crippled hand with playing games, and it’s more pernicious than endlessly worrying about your Hearthstone deck or getting too emotionally invested in The Sims. The problem, of course, is sitting down itself. The solution? It’s the same one favoured by Ernest Hemingway, orchestral conductors and Britain’s greatest ever wartime prime minister. But more on that in just a second. First, the science bit.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Intel DC S3500 Series 800GB

Intel DC S3500 Series 800GB

Intel have two distinct SSD product lines: the 730 series (aimed at the home or light use consumer) and the DC S series (geared towards the commercial users). In reality, though, the line between business and home use can be extremely thin, which is why we decided to include this model in the high capacity group.

This drive, then, is an 800GB, 2.3" form factor SSD, utilising 20nm MLC NAND and a custom Intel controller, is built for endurance and longevity rather than blistering performance with extreme capacities. Indeed, the projected endurance capabilities of this drive are really quite impressive, when compared to the other drives on test. A two million hour mean time between failures rating, and a lifetime write rating of 450TB certainly speaks of its datacentre heritage. However, the model above this - the S3700 Series - claims a lifetime endurance of 14.5PB (yes, you read that right: 14.5 Petabytes), so considering both share roughly the same kind of technology, you can rest assured you're in good hands and that that’s probably a conservative prediction.

Monday, 27 October 2014

How-to Basics Choosing Free Anti-virus Software

Free Anti-virus Software

Need protection for your PC but don't want to spend anything? Read on...

Unfortunately, we live in a world where it's nearly impossible to connect to other computers and visit websites without picking up nasties that can affect our own computer.

It doesn't matter if you're using Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android or any other modern operating system; you can guarantee that some little oik out there has developed a bit of code that will vandalise your setup and create untold havoc.

Thankfully, we have anti-virus programs to help combat and prevent such nasties from entering our system, or if they do, they can quickly be quarantined and dealt with. Many of these programs cost a few pounds, and if you're on a tight budget you could be left unprotected. However, there are many that are free to use and are just as good at protecting you as their paid-for relations. The problem, though, is knowing which one to choose.

Laptop batteries explained

Laptop batteries explained

They're essential to any laptop, and often a hot topic.

If there's one thing most laptop owners will agree on, it's that they'd all like a better battery. Poor battery life is the number one frustration laptop users have to deal with, and no matter how careful you are, the battery life gets worse and worse the more you use a laptop. Eventually, they fail to hold a charge entirely, meaning you have to shell out for a replacement - no small expense, especially when you haven't done anything with the battery that it wasn't designed for.

But why is that? And why, when processors, memory, hard drives and screens get better and better every year, does it seem like battery technology is standing still? We've looked into it, and while we may not be able to improve laptop batteries for you, at least we can explain them.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

SteelSeries DeX Gaming Mousepad

SteelSeries DeX Gaming Mousepad

Mark luxuriates in silicon and textured fabric combo of the SteelSeries DeX.

In my daily work I use an old SteelSeries mouse pad, one of its older S&S designs. Made from a very durable hard plastic, it adheres to my desk with a soft rubberised coating that stops it moving around.

Unfortunately, being at least seven years old, the rubber coating has started to shed like the tire of an F1 car that's done far too many laps.

With perfect timing, SteelSeries sent me its new DeX pad, and what a wonderful replacement it is. The DeX, as you can see in the images, is made from two distinctively different materials that are heat bonded into a single flexible pad. On the underside is a brightly coloured orange silicon surface that has sufficient tack to maintain zero slippage, however aggressively you move your mouse.

Edifier Studio 980T Speakers

Edifier Studio 980T

Аlthough not an essential addition to a PC system, a set of speakers certainly provides another form of entertainment, particularly if you use your PC for more than word processing. The fact is that PCs and computer devices in general do far more these days than they were originally conceived for, everything from video editing to running a full DJ studio. Or perhaps to simply play a few games to provide an escape after a long day poring over figures in an office.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Should you buy a tablet or laptop?

tablet vs laptop

We look at how to choose the right portable computing solution for your needs.

Although tablets and laptops are very different classes of devices, they also have a huge amount in common. They’re both fairly casual devices compared to a full-size desktop system, so you don't have to spend a lot of time maintaining them. They're both quite cheap, so you don't have to spend a lot of money on them. And they're portable, so you can take them anywhere you like whether that's on holiday or simply into the next room.

But that's where the similarities end. Although they're often mentioned in the same breath, there are as many differences as similarities. At some point, you have to decide whether you actually want a tablet or a laptop. To try to help you do that, we've taken a quick look at the advantages and disadvantages of each class of device so you can decide which makes sense for you.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Introducing Windows 10

Windows 10

Microsoft has taken the wraps off its new version of Windows. Windows 10 brings back some old favourites, while looking into a cloud-first, web-first future. By Graham Barlow, Dan Grabham

Microsoft has announced the successor to Windows 8, cutting version 9 out of the chronological sequence altogether and jumping straight to version 10.

“I think we’d all say that Windows is at a threshold,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Operating System Group at Microsoft, introducing the new Windows 10 while making a joke about the well-known codename for the next OS, “and now its time for a new Windows.”

10 Years of Ubuntu

10 Years of Ubuntu

We celebrate a decade of the distro by looking back at Ubuntu with its movers and shakers.

Ten years ago this month, a seemingly unassuming distro nicknamed Warty Warthog emerged in the Linux landscape and set in motion a cultural landslide that would see Linux rise from the shadows of the archetypal operating systems and become, in 2014, a household name. Since October 2004, Warty Warthog has evolved through numerous forms into Utopic Unicorn, the latest version of Ubuntu.

A catalyst for change, Ubuntu has achieved a great deal in its first fabulous decade. It pioneered the idea of a Linux operating system that just worked straight out of the box, without the need to manually troubleshoot and configure your hardware. It popularised the graphical interface that we use for most of our distro installations today, making them more accessible and easier to use, as well as the long-term support releases that many of us rely on for our main computers. It sharply divided opinion by having an opinion on the future of desktop and mobile operating systems, predicting convergence and boldly taking a hand in preparing the way.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

AMD FX-8370E

AMD FX-8370E

AMD rejigs old hardware in an attempt to compete with Intel.

AMD has ceded the CPU high ground to Intel’s all-conquering i7 chips, but the firm still reckons it can fight in the mid-range – and that’s exactly where the new FX-8370E hunkers down.

This chip is different from the rest of AMD’s FX parts thanks to its ‘E’ suffix. It stands for ‘energy efficient’, and means it has a TDP of 95W. That’s a reduction from the 125W and 220W TDPs used by other AMD FX chips, but it’s still 11W more than Intel’s Core i5 parts require. That’s because the FX-8370E still relies on the toasty 32nm Piledriver architecture, rather than the 28nm Steamroller cores found in the firm’s APUs.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments

The game is at hand.

Call me the king of wrongful imprisonment. The big ‘hook’ with the latest Sherlock Holmes title from Frogwares is that you get to both accuse and suggest the punishment for the perpetrators of the Crimes being investigated. At this I failed.

Despite my careless dooming of innocents to their fate, the investigative side of the game is surprisingly robust affair, especially when compared to the usual fare that claims to include detection as a feature. While the actual means to an end sometimes feels like a bizarre attempt to shoehorn in mini games, the actual process of evidence collection and deduction is quite slickly done, and requires both a thorough approach and some decent thought processes.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

How algorithms control your life


Algorithms are choosing the movies we watch, the people we date and the news we read. Stuart Turton investigates how they’re taking everyday decisions out of our hands.

Imagine a shotgun blast scattering birds from the trees, their indignant squawks fading into the clear blue sky. That’s pretty much what happens when you toss the word “algorithm” at major tech companies. In happier times, they paraded their algorithms before us like proud parents, explaining how their little bundles of decision-making joy improved Google searches, filtered the boring from Facebook and made memories on OkCupid. Unfortunately, it turns out that the kids have a wild streak. In the past few months, they’ve been accused of censoring newsfeeds and tampering with our emotions - oh, and rigging the stock market.

Here, we reveal how far the algorithmic tendrils have spread through society, investigating whether companies are neglecting their ethical responsibilities, or whether we’ve simply misunderstood the technology underpinning this brave new world.

What is the cloud?


You hear a lot about ‘the cloud’, but how does it actually work?

The term ‘cloud’ implies something that’s above your head, but in reality the data that you upload is likely to be stored very much at ground level or even underground, and probably thousands of miles away from your location. A cloud service is actually a cluster of computers: more accurately, a huge number of servers with vast amounts of hard drive storage attached. It’s a natural evolution of the technology behind the internet itself and has come about largely thanks to rapid improvements in global bandwidth and the plummeting price of storage capacity.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Unreal worlds. Beyond level design

Mind: Path to Thalamus

Rick Lane steps into some surreal game worlds that attempt to go beyond the usual fantasy and sci-fi escapism.

The aim of so many popular games is to provide escapism, a way to escape to a fantasy land or science-fiction universe that often looks and acts in a very realistic way. Achieving that realism an understandable ambition, but it's also a limiting one. After all, games can also symbolically depict our own world, visually realising abstract ideas and concepts that our own world and civilisation generate.

Moreover, when level design is decoupled from escapism, it can be used to create worlds that are truly alien, going beyond the logical constraints of realism. In this article, we’ll explore a couple of games that challenge the notion of environmental design and how it’s used.

Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury

Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury

Logitech's latest gaming mouse is a pure, focusedeffort intended to provide the best performance per buck. It eschews extras such as weight systems or adjustable bodywork and focuses entirely on a top-spec tracking system and good ergonomics, and that's precisely what makes it so good.

Its flagship feature is what Logitech calls its Fusion Engine, which combines an accelerometer and gyroscope with a conventional laser sensor to help improve tracking accuracy when the mouse is moving at speed. This enables Logitech to claim a tracing speed of over 500 in/sec. compared to around 100-150 in/sec for just the sensor alone. The Fusion Engine also necessitates the mouse's other headline feature, the 32-bit ARM processor. This CPU is used to do all the necessary number crunching before sending the results to yourcomputer.

Corsair Gaming K70 RGB

Corsair Gaming K70 RGB

Corsair Caming is a new division within the company, solely responsible for its nigh-end performance peripherals. It also aims to give Corsair a bigger presence at gaming and eSports events worldwide, and within online gaming communities generally. One of Corsair Gaming's first products, the K70 RGB, has been a tong time in the making. It's an upgrade to the Vengeance K70, but boasts the major feature of Cherry MX RGB (referring to the LEDs) mechanical switches, on which Corsair has a time-limited exclusivity deal.

Other than the new logo, the design is almost identical to the original K70 As such, the anodised, brushed aluminium front plate has outstanding build quality and looks fantastic, and the raised keycaps are likewise striking and also make the keyboard easy to clean. Prior Cherry MX switches only had space fora 3mm LED, but RGB LEDs (which can light up in red, green or blue colours) measure 5mm across. The solution is to surface mount the RGB LEDs onto the switch's PCB, which also improves reliability by reducing the chance of static discharge. Accordingly, Ihekeyboardliasa Iwo-year warranty, and a single LED failure entitles you to a replacement.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Synology DS115J

Synology DS115J

Synology's DiskStation DS214 was the dear winner in our last NAS Labs test, but the best things in life are never free, and the downside of this two-bay NAS was its sligntly high price. However, you can still join the Synolcgy NAS party without paying over the odds, as the company's new single-bay DS115J costs a more palatable £81 inc VAT.

As it only accommodates a single hard disk, RAID isn't even on the table. Although this means you might lose some performance, or the option of data mirroring, it makes the device much simplerto set up and use. You just plug in a drive turn it on, install the DiskStation Marager software and it's ready to go. There's no chance of waking up one day to find a drive dropped from the array, and there's none of the increased risk of mechanical failure of RAID 0 either.

MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4G

MSI GeForce GTX 970 Gaming 4G

Unlike the GTX 980, the GTX 970 is only available in custom SKUs courtesy of Nvidia's board partners. MSI is one such partner, and its GTX 970 Gaming 4G is a cracking card too.

The GTX 970 GPU is essentially the same as the GTX 980, but with three SMMs disabled, reducing its stream processor and texture unit counts to 1,664 and 104 respectively. The reference clock speed is also slightly down at 1,050MHz, but clock speeds also vary between partners. Elsewhere, the full 4GB cf GDDR5 memory again runs at 7GHz (effective) across the same 256-bit interface, and all 64 ROPs are intact too.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

CEL Robox

CEL Robox

CEL’s new printer promises to take the hassle out of 3D printing, with user-friendly design and safety features.

Personal 3D printing is very much an emerging technology: although its potential is exciting, the devices we’ve seen so far have felt more like clunky industrial prototypes than slick consumer products. Now, the CEL Robox printer - originally funded through Kickstarter, but on general sale from December - alms to address its predecessors’ shortcomings.

This begins with the stylish, self-contained physical design, which immediately makes the Robox a more attractive desktop companion than the bare scaffolds we’re used to seeing at this price. It’s practical, too: the pungent fumes associated with 3D printing are sealed beneath the Robox’s plastic lid, and the enclosed atmosphere also helps to keep temperature consistent, so your plastic is more likely to cool and set evenly. There’s even a safety benefit: the lid automatically locks down while the printer is in operation, which is a sensible precaution since the working print head heats up to more than 200 C.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

NVIDIA gets smart with Maxwell

GTX 980

BENNETT RING inspects NVIDIA’s latest gadget.

Performance gamers, welcome at last to Maxwell. The successor to NVIDIA’s incredibly popular Kepler architecture, Maxwell first snuck its way into desktop gaming PCs by way of the GTX 750/Ti mainstream graphics card back in February of this year. It was a strange way to introduce the company’s latest 
desktop design, as the company tends to roll out new architectures at the upper echelons first. As a result it didn’t make much of a splash, but the good news is that NVIDIA has now introduced the next version of the Maxwell architecture to the speedy end of town. Welcome to the GeForce GTX 980 and its cutdown sibling, the GTX 970.

ASRock X99X Killer

ASRock X99X Killer

Lane splitter.

Landing around the middle ground of X99 pricing, the X99X Killer from ASRock doesn’t have any  agship features to set it apart from the rest. Instead it ticks off all the expected boxes while arriving with a rather attractive price point. Let’s see what’s in the box.

The biggest surprise is the number of full length PCIe lanes, with only three included on the board, limiting it to triple GPU setups. It’ll only impact a handful of users, but we were still a little surprised. Adding insult to injury is the fact that there are only two more PCIe x1 lanes, delivering a total of five – that’s quite limiting for such an expensive board. As well as the ten SATA 3 ports on the board, another Ultra M.2 port is included, connected to a PCIe 3.0 x4 lane. There’s no sign of SATA Express, though there is a port included to add ASRock’s proprietary Thunderbolt 2 card, which is sold separately.

Intel’s doc ock

intel core i7

Intel’s new high end platform lands and Bennett Ring opens up his wallet.

Got a wallet bulging with $100 notes just burning a hole in your pocket? Have we got the CPU for you! Intel has just released the latest version of its Extreme Edition processor, along with another two Haswell-E chips aimed at the jet-setting, high-falutin’, cashed-up crowd. Along with the new processors comes a new motherboard chipset, the X99, ensuring you have to spend even more to whack the new Extreme Edition sticker on the outside of your case. And just in case that didn’t destroy your bank account, it even comes with a new type of memory, DDR4. Yep, those who want the best are going to have to wipe the slate clean, upgrading most of their system. The question is whether the performance gains are worth the high upgrade cost. The answer depends entirely on what you use your system for.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SSD

Samsung 850 Pro 512GB SSD

Samsung is the SSD slayer.

Samsung’s efforts in the SSD market really have been quite remarkable. Ever since unveiling it’s 840 series in 2012, the company has absolutely dominated the consumer SSD market, delivering blitzkrieg speeds at affordable prices. The new 850 Pro aims to lengthen the companies lead, and appears to have accomplished its mission.

Key to the new drive is the use of 3D V-NAND ash memory, a proprietary type of memory developed by Samsung where the memory is layered both horizontally and vertically. This is powered by the existing MEX controller found in other Sammy drives, but the speed has been bumped up by 100MHz, now maxing out at 400MHz. A SATA 3 interface provides the interconnect between the drive and the motherboard, which is limited to a maximum speed of 6Gb/sec, which is fast becoming the bottleneck in today’s consumer SSDs.

Cougar 700M laser gaming mouse

Cougar 700M

Ugly but effective.

Finding the right mouse for your mitts can be an arduous task, as we’re not all clones with identically sized palms. The Cougar 700M aims to solve this problem with its adjustable palm wrest. A small screw at the base increases or decreases the wrest height, while a second wrest of slightly smaller size can be swapped out for the default component. It doesn’t go quite as far as some adjustable mice though, as there’s no way to change the position of the thumb wrest.



Let’s get the flock out of here.

Team 17, the developers best known for the long lived Worms franchise was also responsible for the well-received last installment of the equally long lived Lemmings franchise. They are also responsible for Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust but we won’t hold it against them (anymore). The developer’s latest game melds elements of Worms and Lemmings to deliver a fiendishly difficult yet still approachable and appealing puzzle adventure game that will have you cheering and pulling your hair out in equal measure.

Wasteland 2

Wasteland 2

The triumphant return of the RPG.

It is easy to forget that the RPG was once filled with titles renown for their immensity, for the multiple paths you could take, the encounters you’d never see, the companions left behind. Back before consoles took hold, before Nolan North voiceovers, the AAA budgets and the shift towards guns and conversation the RPG was a very different beast indeed.

Wasteland 2 is very much ye olde RPG, a massive affair possessing that elusive hook that had me firing up another playthrough when my first 60ish hour odyssey came to a close. It was clear that choices had closed off avenues, that there were more tales to be told, secrets left unclear. It mattered little that I know knew the twists and turns that bring the game to an end. For this is a title where the journey is what matters, as a great RPG should be.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth

JOHN GILLOOLY spends some time getting to grips with a preview build of Firaxis’ new opus.

It has come to that strange time of the year where, after a drought, the ood of games has begun. Odds are that by the time you read this Beyond Earth will be out, but unfortunately review code timing and embargo dates mean that we missed out on including a review by mere days. We have, however, been able to spend a pretty serious chunk of our time playing a preview build of the game, limited to 250 turns. While this means it lacks the all important endgame, it was enough to give us a pretty good understanding of how the game has turned out, freshing out the information conveyed during various chats with Firaxis throughout the game’s development.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Dirty, rotten scoundrels


From IDKFA-activated arsenal boosts in Doom to sophisticated aimbots, cheating in games has evolved signifi cantly since its developer-championed inception. NATHAN LAWRENCE takes a faithful look at the rise and restriction of online cheaters.

There was a time when cheats were fun, back when cheats provided an unofficial ‘beyond casual’ difficulty option for games. The uniting logic behind the lack of controversy surrounding cheating back in the good ol’ gaming days was twofold. First, games were, more often than not, purely single-player experiences. Second, the individual player had the option to choose to activate cheats at their discretion in a contained solo experience.

The triumphant return of the RPG

fantasy rpg

Now that the fi rst big wave of crowdfunded titles is landing JOHN GILLOOLY looks at the past, present and future of the RPG.

In his missive to Kickstarter backers announcing the release of Wasteland 2, Inxile’s Brian Fargo made a point of the fact that without crowdfunding the game would never have been made. This is in spite of the fact that the original title is widely held as one of the seminal early RPGs, inspiring a generation of developers and acting as a huge influence on many games made in the 25 years since its release.

As you’ll see in our review of the game this month, the game has been a huge hit in the PCPP offices, bringing with it a flood of nostalgia for a genre many of us grew up with, but one whose pickings have become incredibly slim in recent years. It isn’t so much that the RPG has gone away, but it has morphed and splintered into all kinds of different things, its influence felt across all kinds of genres. But along the way the big, meaty isometric epic adventures have become thin on the ground.

Anonymous networking

Anonymous networking

Davey Winder wonders if a social network can ever be truly anonymous, and is horrified by Facebook’s latest announcement.

Love it or loathe it, the Portable Document Format (PDF) – developed by Adobe and released to the world in 1993 – is a fact of online life. If you do any kind of internet research, you’re sure to find documents in this format, and while most web browsers have builtin PDF viewers, they’re typically less well featured than the real Adobe Reader. Regulars to these pages will know that I’ve been bashing Adobe for the past few years due to various security vulnerabilities in its products, not to mention the seemingly endless torrent of fix patches, but for once I’m putting these security matters aside to concentrate on an altogether different complaint.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014



Power and performance meets style and user friendliness with the new high end Asus router.

Looking like the front of a sleek sports car, the new Asus RT-AC87U takes its design and shape from the Asus Republic of Gaming G range of laptops. With its angled build, carbon fibre style finish and four giant antennas, the RT-AC87U isn’t going to win any awards for subtlety; this design is all about achieving the best performance possible. It can still lower its presence a little by switching off the humming blue glow of the network LEDs leaving it about as low profile as a unit like this can get. Asus knows its market here is hardcore users and makes a great addition to any gamer’s or tech enthusiast’s network setup, both with design and ability.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Raspberry Pi Model B+

Raspberry Pi Model B+

Learn to program, control robots or just stream music using this tiny computer.

The Raspberry Pi Model B+ is, like previous models, a tiny computer built for hobbyists, students and anyone who wants to learn more about how computers and computer programs work.

Comparing to its predecessor – the model B , the B+ has a microSD slot (instead of a full-size SD version) and a combined audio/video port (instead of separate stereo sound and composite video connectors). These changes were necessary to make room for its 40-pin GPIO (General Purpose Input/Output) connector that’s designed to connect and control other devices. You can still connect equipment designed for the B’s 26-pin connector, but the extra pins let you hook up even more sensors, lights and motors. It also has four (up from two) USB ports.

Has Shellshock made the internet unsafe?


A new security vulnerability affecting more computers than the Heartbleed bug allows hackers to steal your information from banks, routers and security cameras.

For the second time this year, security experts have discovered a widespread flaw that places the safety of the internet – and the personal information you store on it – in doubt.

The latest vulnerability is called Shellshock, and it affects more computers than Heartbleed – a flaw discovered in April that let hackers extract passwords from hundreds of thousands of the world’s most popular websites.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Why Digital Distribution Platforms Thrive Or Die

Digital Distribution

Why do some services succeed where others fail? Shaun Green reports.

The storefronts via which we purchase our entertainment have changed immensely over the past decade. This seems a statement of the obvious, but it's worth considering that this change was a slow and gradual process and few shifts occurred overnight.

The widely proclaimed death of the high street never came, for example, although the recession of the past half-decade has seen a number of high-street chains close their doors and shutter their windows. Elsewhere we've seen small chains like Ottakers or GameStation gobbled up by their larger brethren. However, despite tough times, independent and specialist music, book and video game shops still exist. It's even possible to find hold-out second-hand DVD shops dotted throughout the UK. There will probably always be some form of high-street retailers hawking goods that are easily available online; once all is said and done, many people simply prefer to take to their feet and peruse physical shelves of items.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The No Console Future

future console

Gaming is hurtling towards unavoidable transformation. With the average processing capabilities of everything from phones to USB dongles increasing at a rapid rate, the day of traditional consoles is coming to an end.

Historically, the videogame industry has been characterised by change. Be it new hardware, new forms of distribution, new types of games or new ways to interact, this is not a medium with a habit of standing still. The only thing that is certain about its future, therefore, is uncertainty.

What will the games, the hardware, the interactions and the means of consumption look like in three, five and ten years from now? Will we still be plugging HDMI cords from a console to a TV, or will such an idea seem retro in 2020? Will we even need a specialised box to play games from at all? Perhaps the medium will follow the lead of films and music and migrate to the proverbial cloud, as we're starting to see with the likes of PlayStation Now and OnLive.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Why Next-Gen Remakes Are Bad... For Now

Next-Gen Remakes

The trend for re-issuing last-gen games on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One has attracted fierce criticism. We take a look at how developers can turn this into a positive for the whole industry.

The sales charts in August were completely dominated by one game: The Last Of Us: Remastered. Naughty Dog’s updated PlayStation 4 iteration of last year’s PlayStation 3 triumph further energises an industry-wide trend for reissuing popular last-gen titles on Xbox One and PSA, and was only knocked from its perch by the re-release of Diablo III: Reaper Of Souls Edition.

This comes hot on the heels of similarly repackaged titles in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition and Ray man Legends, and arrives before a veritable onslaught of more that include Metro Redux, Grand Theft Auto V and, if persistent rumours are to be believed, Beyond: Two Souls.

iPhone 6 fares strongly in speed tests

apple a8


You've read the press release by now. You've also probably spent months poring over the online rumor pages. Now that they've finally officially broken cover and appeared in the shops, you might have even spent time playing around with them, contemplating whether now is the time to buy. Yes, we are - of course - referring to the recently unveiled iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Now, there are many things that will dictate whether you actually plump for that final purchase. It might be those stunning Retina HD displays that do it for you, or perhaps the convenient Apple Pay payments system. Alternatively, you might be in the market for a 'phablet' and reckon that the iPhone 6 Plus is exactly what you have been looking for.

For others, though, it's all about performance. Alas, this is an area in which some observers might have glanced over the specification sheet and decided that the latest additions to Apple's iconic iPhone line just aren't up to scratch.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Shareware Through The Ages


Shaun Green looks at how shared software has grown and changed over time.

The story of shareware runs parallel to the tale of the modern PC, from 1980s inception through to the present day. It may be surprising to think that something as innocuous as a method of distributing software can have had such significant roots and have left such a deep impression on the landscape of computing.

Shareware was born of humble origins all the way back in 1982 -just one year after the arrival on the market of the first IBM PCs, the great granddaddies of most modern personal computers. And in one of those odd coincidences that crop up again and again throughout history, shareware was invented almost simultaneously by two men - both Americans and both software developers.

BackBeat Pro

BackBeat Pro

Michael checks out new headphones from Plantronics.

These BackBeat Pros are a set of noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones from Plantronics. Tthis well-padded product is of the over-the-ear type, offering simultaneous dual-source connectivity, fold flat capability and a battery life that can deliver up to 24 hours of listening power.

Plantronics have also included power and audio leads in the box for use with this device. You also get a ‘Ballistic Nylon Travel Sleeve', a grandiose description for the soft-lined black pouch with Velcro fasteners for storing the headphones. Both of the supplied leads are of a reasonable length (94cm for power and 147cm for the 3.5mm jack) with a rubber coating for better protection. The audio lead has a volume adjustment controller, but this only appears to work with certain Apple devices.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Netgear ProSAFE GS105PE PoE Plus Switch

Netgear ProSAFE GS105PE PoE Plus Switch

Netgear launches a switch that can't even power itself.

Over the past year I've seen a few pieces of equipment that support the often misunderstood PoE or Power Over Ethernet standard. The concept behind this technology is that the eight wires that make up Ethernet are enough to carry both data and power if used intelligently. It works well with devices like security cameras, as it's much easier to run a network cable than deliver mains power to many install locations.

The GS105PE is a switch that was made by Netgear specifically for supporting PoE situations and has five ports that between them support gigabit Ethernet and a couple of PoE standards. Those being; 802.3at Type 1 (802.3af) and 802.3at Type 2. What really confused about this device initally, though, is that it has no normal means of powering itself; instead, it uses PoE. That reduces the useable ports to four, though one port would always be used as a link back to a router or another switch anyway.

Tesla Breaks The World

Tesla Breaks The World

The father of electricity in a videogame? Shocking...

Funded on via Kickstarter and released as part of Steam's Greenlight scheme, Tesla Breaks the World is every bit an indie game. Having raised just $6,797 (with a $5,500 goal), it's nothing if not low budget. But having played more than our fair share of high-quality indie platformers in recent years, we're aware that such titles can often prove the most entertaining.

That certainly looks like it's going to be the case with Tesla Breaks the World. The screenshots of the game are sumptuous, belying its tiny budget. Yes, it's made up of cartoon characters and relatively simple backgrounds, but it's all expertly drawn and designed. So far, so good, then.

Introducing Windows 10

Windows 10

Microsoft confirms that we're getting a new version of Windows in 2015 - and it's called, er, Windows 10. Simon finds out more...

Increasingly, if you're going to pick up a copy of Windows, it's been best to go with every other release. Windows 98 was fine, while Windows Millennium Edition best forgotten about (there are some PCs still frozen on a Windows Me desktop screen somewhere). Windows XP, however, straightened things out, then Windows Vista bloated it back up.

In more recent times, Microsoft has continued its trait of learning from such mistakes with the release of the slimmer, far more popular Windows 7. But then it took a mighty gamble with Windows 8 and found itself stuck again. It's the great irony: people urged Microsoft to throw caution to the wind a little, it did, and it landed if not flat on its face, then certainly uncomfortably.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The future of gaming

Mobile and console games cross paths.

I have been playing video games ever since Atari released its first game console in 1977, and in the almost 40 years since, I've never seen anything change the landscape of the gaming world like the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. With Apple's mobile operating system, suddenly you could play console-caliber games anywhere, against competitors from around the world.

As technology is improving with Metal, iOS 8's new programming system, as well as with breakthrough accessories from top gaming companies, I see a future where console and mobile games will blend until they're almost indistinguishable. Mobile gamers will have access to all the best console games and will have the same access to professional gaming competitions.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky

Hello Games’ Sean Murray is steering No Man’s Sky’s debug camera from a few inches of dirt on the surface of a desert world up to a view of the planet from orbit. Up, then down. Up, then down. From the ground he swings the camera upwards, where another planet hangs low in orbit on the horizon. I can see hills, valleys and forests on its surface.

“That planet is being fully generated, just at a low level of detail,” he says. “The planet you’re stood on is also fully generated. When you’re stood on a mountain you can see forever - to the curvature of the planet.”

There are no loading screens or pauses as the perspective of the debug camera races from ground to space, from world to world, just a slight fading effect as terrain closer to the player is rendered at a higher level of detail. The reason there are no loading screens is because No Man’s Sky isn’t reliant on reading content from a hard disk. In fact, none of this data is contained in a file at all.

Asus Strix Pro

Asus Strix Pro

A good headset can provide a very big edge in gaming, and Asus have demonstrated their understanding of this concept in the form of the Strix Pro Gaming Headset. It joins the Strix range of components and peripherals (for those who like uniformity) as a multiplatform stereo headset that really delivers the goods.

And it looks good too. The Strix logo (owl eyes and eyebrows, essentially) has been cleverly worked into the design; the powerful 60mm neodymium drivers are housed behind clear panels in the ear cups, are accented with a bright orange. When the ear cups are folded down (they rotate a full ninety degrees) and the headset is laid flat, this element, combined with the shape of the ear cups, looks just like the logo. It’s a nice touch when all is said and done, and one that speaks volumes about the design approach taken for this product.

Monday, 6 October 2014



Some evolution required…

Destiny is Bungie’s first title away from the confines of its Halo universe. Published by Activision, this much hyped “MMOFPS” provides the player with something new from the studio that created one of the bestselling FPS franchises out there. But under the weight of Activision’s extreme hype engine and the pressure of delivering a title that breaks several moulds and boundaries, Bungie seems to have lost sight of certain elements in the overall construction of the game.

It needs to be said, right off the bat, that Destiny has been receiving a general raw deal in terms of reviews. Perhaps buying into the hype machine soured more than a few views of the game, and it has been getting a beating in reviews that it doesn’t necessarily deserve. That said, it certainly doesn’t live up to the lofty promises made by marketing departments and press releases. To be fair, Destiny is a good game, and it delivers a lot of fun. But it isn’t what we were told we would get.

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

A hype-machine mishap? Or a revolution in gaming?

The Lord of the Rings is not an easy intellectual property to take on. First you have to contend with the fact that Tolkien, the master that he was, created such a tightly woven and immense body of lore that simply trying to find a gap in the narrative of Middle-earth is an immense task in and of itself. While small details may remain obscure, by and large the collected works of Tolkien represent a breathtaking display of an imagination that has created a world rich with a history seemingly as complete as anything that real life has to offer. What has naturally followed is a mass of adherents utterly opposed to anything that would attempt to rewrite or alter the canon of Arda, let alone introduce a completely new chapter to the saga. This is the task that Monolith have chosen however, and while the developer, best known for Alien versus Predator 2, No One Lives Forever and F.E.A.R., might have been somewhat absent over the past decade, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is looking to place Monolith firmly in the spotlight once again.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Fallout Of A Hack. Celebgate, Double Standards And iCIoud Weaknesses

A nightmare for those involved and a mixed blessing for the mainstream press. John Moore looks at the two-sided tale of the recent iCIoud hack...

The massive release of stolen celebrity pictures that began at the imageboard AnonIB, an affair that's since been dubbed Celebgate (or The Fappening, if you really want to be crude), must have caused some fevered meeting among newspaper and website staff on Sunday 3rd September. They had a fine line to walk when working out exactly how much salacious content they could get away with, without crossing the line. Seriously, if infamously amoral celeb blogger Perez Hilton - who has a long track record of publish-and-be-damned insouciance - is pulling photos from his site and sites like Gawker are wringing their hands about this breach of privacy, others needed to tread carefully, because the legal rottweilers must be on the loose. Or was this change in attitude more than just the result of legal approaches?