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Latest Gaming News Update : 13 Best PC Gaming Headsets 2016

Updated: We've added a triple whammy of gaming headsets! Check out the Sennheiser PC373D in at #2, Turtle Beach 350 Stealth VR in at #4 and Sennheiser GSP 350 in at #8. If you're looking for a more affordable surround sound option, Logitech's G430, in at number #14, might be just what you're looking for.

No PC gamer worth their kill/death ratio would skimp on a decent headset. Arguably more important than a mechanical gaming keyboard or mouse, a worthy pair of cans make the difference between guessing where enemies are and hunting them down like a sonically-enhanced ninja.

Pick the right pair and you'll hear the sound of bullets envelop your ears while explosions rock your eardrums, and dialogue in games takes on a new level of clarity.

Whether you need a USB or 3.5mm headset, a surround sound or stereo pair, or simply one to communicate with friends online, we've picked out the very best PC gaming headsets for your needs.
Siberia 840
Sometimes you're prepared to pay a premium for a PC gaming accessory that does the lot, and in the headset category that's the Siberia 840. Following on from the already impressive Siberia 800 (and the H Wireless before that from 2014), the upgraded Sibera 840 now works with Bluetooth and is lag-free within games. It also supports SteelSeries Engine 3 - a gorgeous and user-friendly app that lets you manage and tweak every element of the Siberia 840 - from profiles to equalizer settings and what to show on the OLED display on the side of the accompanying base unit.

All of that is, of course, secondary to the Siberia 840's sound qualities which are nothing less than sublime. Activating Dolby 7.1 surround sound is like dropping you into the game. Enemies' footsteps can be picked out across a room including behind you, leading to some heart-in-mouth moments in shooters like DOOM.

Expectations around any Sennheiser gaming headset are already high considering the brand's expertise in audio equipment. The company's flagship PC 373D doesn't disappoint thanks to its high-end Dolby 7.1 Surround sound that lets you pick out enemies from afar. We went for hours with minimal discomfort wearing the headset, which keeps your head cool using breathable plush velvet ear pads that offer surprisingly decent sound isolation. Our in-game team-mates had no trouble hearing us speak thanks to the noise cancelling microphone, which is decked in a red material that matches the inside of the ear-cup. The PC 373D's design is refreshingly demure, decked in matte black material and free of the ostentatious "gamer" features often found on other headsets. While it may not feature wireless connectivity, a combination of supreme comfort, flawless sound quality and a stellar retractable microphone add up to make one of the best premium gaming headsets on the market.
V-MODA
If you're more interested in the sounds coming out of your gaming headset, rather than glowing LEDs, macro keys and other nonessential extras, then the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless is the headset for you. These stylish cans are a treat for the ears, emitting booming sound that's bass-heavy with fantastically crisp treble at the other end. Whether you're being rocked by explosions in Battlefield or can hear the roar of the crowd in Fifa, they bring games to life and are equally suited to listening to music; You'll be able to pick out parts of your favorite tracks that you never previously thought existed.
 
Stepping out of the soundscape for a moment, the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless feature comfortable memory foam ear cups that don't irritate the ears even after hours of use, and you'll get around 12 hours out of its battery life when connected via Bluetooth. This headset's rugged build quality, funky travel case and optional USB connectivity add up to make it one of the best headsets on the market.

 

With VR headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift making their way into PC gamers' rooms, specially-designed audio headsets for virtual reality were bound to follow. The Turtle Beach 350 Stealth VR is one of the most flexible out there, featuring a generous amount of adjustability thanks to its sturdy headband which can fit over the top of VR headsets worn on even the biggest heads. Sure enough, the 350 Stealth is designed for practicality rather than sharp looks. Its black-and-white color scheme isn't the most exciting design out there, but an abundance of features makes up for that. There's mic monitoring, which allows you to hear your own voice inside the headset, bass boost for booming lows, a detachable noise-cancelling headphone mic, and a groove in the ear cups that lets you tuck the audio cable out of the way. While it's perfectly suitable for owners of PC-based VR headsets, it's quite literally a great fit for PSVR gamers too.

 

Unlike some of its competitors, SteelSeries stresses subtlety in its headset designs. The Arctis continues this trend by flaunting sound quality and comfort over gaudy appearances. 
When you pop an Arctis on your head, the goal is for your audience to see a professional environment rather than, say, a Dorito stain on your chair. The customizable lighting, however, gives you plenty of wiggle room, though, if the monochrome look isn't your thing.
The SteelSeries Arctis comes in three distinct flavors: Arctis 3, Arctis 5 and Arctis 7, each one more expensive than the last. The Arctis 3 is pretty analog protocol while the 5 ships with an external digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and the Arctis 7 is wireless with 2.4GHz connectivity. Each model comes with digital audio control built-in, with an app available for those looking to take this one step further.

The only drawback, then, is a less-than-attractive suspension headband.
Razer ManO'War 

Quick and easy to setup using an inconspicuous wireless USB receiver that stores inside the headset for transportation, the Razer ManO'War is a user-friendly unit that's primed for surround-sound gaming. Sure, it's a little chunkier than most other headsets, but two soft leatherette ear cups make it comfortable to wear for extended periods. They're easy on the eye too thanks to customizable Chroma RGB backlighting configured through Razer's Synapse software.

Though delivered through software, the ManO'War's 7.1 channel virtual surround sound does a fine job of ramping up immersion in-game. Doom's Imps are no longer somewhere around you – they're breathing down your neck. The ManO'War's range can reach up to 14 meters using the supplied USB extender, and its battery life is capable of stretching to just as many hours.

Arguably one of the most affordable gaming headsets available today, the HyperX Cloud Stinger is designed to give players eSports quality audio at a bargain. While there isn't much to write home about with the red on black plastic design of the headset, the stereo sound is superb. It also feels comfortable to wear for extended play sessions thanks to a set of memory foam earcups. Although this isn't the ultimate gaming headset, it's a great starting point if you're trying to game on a budget.

 

More affordable than Sennheiser's flagship PC 373D while still packing an audible punch, the GSP 350 carries over that headset's stellar 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound and closed ear-cup design. It's equally a suitable for marathon  gaming sessions thanks to its huge comfortable ear cups, with the right cup once again featuring a volume dial. The headset uses a closed-back design with an adjustable split headband, rather than the PC 373D's more solid and thicker continuous band. The GSP 350's noise-cancelling microphone is equally as good and once again mutes when lifted up while blocking out breathing sounds, much to the relief of your in-game team-mates. If you like the look of Sennheiser's flagship gaming headset but can't quite stomach its price tag, this one is a little lighter and slightly less solid, but still superior to many of its rivals.

G33 Artemis Spectrum 

Logitech's flagship gaming headset packs in plenty of bells and whistles, the most useful being its cup-mounted G-keys that provide handy shortcuts to performing actions in-game. In terms of design, The G933 is certainly one of the snazziest headsets around and oozes gamer appeal, and if you're fed up of round ear-cups on headsets then you'll appreciate its large and comfortable ear-shaped ones. Logitech has ran a multi-colored lighting strip all the way down the cup, rather than placing a flashing logo on the side, which in our eyes is more appealing than the small glowing areas on Corsair's and Razer's flagship headsets. On the negative side, this cuts down battery life to around 10 hours. Turning off the flashing goodness will help you eke out a few more,

Corsair Void RGB 

If you're looking for a pair of 7.1 surround sound cans with RGB lighting that won't break the bank, Corsair's latest entry should be high up your list. Its excellent 40-meter wireless range means you can go for a wander without your team-mates' chatter cutting off, and the Void is capable of emitting fist-pumping bass that's powerful without muddying the mix. You can configure its lighting colors using Corsair's intuitive software and even make it dance in tandem with the company's K65 or K70 mechanical keyboards. Unfortunately, there isn't any way for adjusting the fold-down mic so its clarity often suffers, but it doesn't put us off what is a solid and affordable option for surround sound gaming.

Cloud Revolver 

Here we have a no-frills headset that offers build quality that comes close to pairs that cost almost twice the price. You may have already come across Kingston's HyperX Cloud Revolver headset. Used by a number of eSports teams, its large interchangeable over-the-ear memory foam cups help block out unwanted noise, and the retractable mic allows clear and distortion-free communication with team-mates.

Despite its affordable nature, the Cloud Revolver is ready to rock. Its 53mm drivers have been tweaked to blast out punchy mid-range tones and pounding bass that's best described as in-your-face. Subtle they ain't. There's no surround sound support or RGB lighting to be found here, and you'll have to reach for the Cloud Revolver's braided cable to get to its in-line volume and mic controls. If those factors don't bother you then this value-focused headset comes highly recommended.

ROG STRIX WIRELESS 

Looking like something straight out of Quake 2, Asus' Strix 7.1 wireless gaming headset immediately caught our eye thanks to its large black-and-orange ear cups that are decked in a circular pattern resembling an owl's eye. Those oversized ear cups makes them comfortable to wear for extended periods but there's no RGB lighting on them, which on the plus side provides up to 10 hours of continuous gameplay using 2.4GHz wireless to connect.
Asus claims that it provides lower latency than Bluetooth, and while it's difficult to verify that, bullets whizzing past our head in-game synched up pretty well thanks to virtual 7.1 surround sound being blasted into our ears from all directions. Asus' Sonic Studio software provides an easy method of tweaking sound settings, and we found cranking up the (already sufficient) bass in the app's equalizer particularly satisfying for both gaming and listening to music.

Turtle Beach 

Aimed at PC and console gamers, using Turtle Beach's Elite Pro feels like sitting down at a command station and gearing up for war. This headset oozes gaming appeal, right down to the subtle orange ruler-type markings on the headset's automatically adjusting headband. It's a funky piece of kit that's reassuringly chunky while remaining supremely comfortable at all times thanks to its gel-infused Aerofit ear cushions. Most importantly, they sound great in the heat of battle. That's down to Turtle Beach's 50mm NanoClear drivers, which do an especially great job of bringing you into the heart of the action in shooters.

If you're particularly hardcore, you might want to shell out for the Tactical Audio Controller. At $199 (around £149) it's not cheap, but it grants an intuitive and fun of adjusting settings such as the game/chat mix, your own microphone level, in-game sounds, and there's also a mute button to cut game sound out completely. It also lets you chop and change between four surround modes (Game, Music, Movie and off), which is a lot easier than fiddling around with controls on the headset itself.

Featuring an eye-catching black-and-blue color scheme, Logitech's G430 is one of the more affordable surround-sound headsets out there. Featuring both Dolby 7.1 and FTS HeadphoneX surround sound, they allow you to detect enemies before they clock you.
They can be worn for hours thanks to their sports-like cloth on the ear cups, which pivot and rotate flat to a 90-degree angle for easier transportation. There's also a noise-cancelling mic that helps to cut out background noise, and you can easily mute yourself using audio controls located on the 2.3-meter cable.

Latest Car News Update : Audi R8 V10 Spyder: A Supercar That Anyone Can Drive

 
Audi is a car brand that's seen quite a transformation over the last decade or so, shedding its slightly stuffy image of a car maker that builds solid saloons and estates in favor of a more desirable one thanks to a raft of new model lines.

The original TT played a big part in this, while the likes of the first RS6 estates, with their dirty great V8s shoehorned under the bonnet, were pretty much the quickest way to transport a family of four and their dog over long distances.

Then there's Audi's success at Le Mans, winning five times with the LMP R8 before ripping up the rule book and entering the diesel-powered R10 TDi, which won the endurance event in its first year in 2006.

That same year Audi took the wraps off its most ambitious road car yet, borrowing the name from its race-winning cousin to boot: the R8 supercar.

Cementing Audi's status as a premium car brand, the R8 represented the pinnacle of the company's engineering prowess, and now, 10 years on we have the second-generation model - it'll be coming to the US in Spring 2017.

But with the supercar landscape changing dramatically as hybrid technology is embraced, is there still a place for the likes of the £129,990 R8 V10 Spyder?

Highlights:

The star of the Spyder show is its hand-built, naturally aspirated 533bhp 5.2-litre V10 engine. This stunning piece of engineering shuns turbos and hybrid technology to propel you from a standing start to 62mph in 3.6 secs, and will push onwards to a top speed of 198mph.

Audi has employed the classic supercar trick of positioning the engine in the middle; as a result weight distribution has a slight bias towards the rear axle, which when coupled up with the R8's Quattro all-wheel drive technology, should produce stunning traction and grip.

While those investing in a V10 supercar might not have fuel economy at the forefront of their minds, the engine features Audi's advanced Cylinder-on-demand technology. This sees the engine management system shut down five of the 10 cylinders when you're trundling along in traffic (or posing along the streets of Knightsbridge or Monaco) to improve fuel consumption, but within milliseconds of you hitting the throttle, all 10 cylinders will burst into life to give you the full force of that glorious engine.
While supercars of old had heavy manual gearboxes with just as heavy clutch pedals, not so the Spyder. With its seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic gearbox it's simply a case of pressing the throttle pedal and the gearbox will do the rest, while for those times when you want to move things along a bit faster you can pull up the right paddle behind the steering wheel to shift up through the gears.

Styling:

Compared to the original R8 Spyder, the design has been sharpened up quite a bit, and it's all the better for it. While it may not have quite the same in-your-face styling as some of its rivals, the Spyder's understated and purposeful looks - enhanced by the addition of distinctive sideblades, which shove air into the engine, and make the car's midriff a little wider - give it a certain presence and drama, whether it's parked up or going full pelt.

Going topless:


For purists, a cabriolet is always going to be seen as a compromise over a coupe equivalent - rigidity and stiffness are compromised by lopping the roof off, while the roof mechanism and extra engineering required to add the torsional strength lost by the roof all adds weight. But that's to ignore the sheer thrill of having the roof down, and the howl of the V10 ricocheting off the surrounding buildings and straight back into the cockpit.

Audi's done a stunning job here. The mix of carbon and aluminium makes the Spyder some 55% more rigid than the previous model, as well as being some 25kg lighter. Compared to its hardtop counterpart it's only 125kg heavier, which may seem a lot, but it's impressive given the level of engineering required.
The folding roof mechanism is a masterwork of mechanical dance, taking just 20 seconds from a single press of a button to reveal the sky, while if the urge to drop the roof is so great that you don't want to stop (or, less thrilling, if it starts to rain), this can be done on the move at speeds of up to 31mph.

Cockpit:

While it might not offer quite the same sense of occasion as slipping behind the wheel of a Lamborghini or Ferrari, the R8 Spyder's cockpit is still a very nice place to be, with lots of leather and carbon to deliver a very premium, high-end feel.

The R8 Spyder uses what's been termed Audi Virtual Cockpit, shunning traditional dials for a customisable digital display. Rather than having a multimedia interface (MMI) in the central console and the instrument panel up front, the two are combined into one high-resolution display, with the choice of three views: classic, infotainment and sport.
Google Maps is built in for navigation, while it's easy to partner your smartphone with the Spyder - provided you tick the Audi Smartphone Interface optional extra that is. This enables you to share mobile phone content via USB and display it on the MMI, either via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Another optional extra is the Audi Phone Box, which allows wireless charging simply by placing your phone on the storage compartment, as well as creating a wireless connection via the car's aerial.

Sound system:

If you ever tire of the stunning soundtrack of the R8's V10 engine, then you're in for a treat with the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System. It's an optional extra that will set you back another £1,750, but you get yourself a 16-channel amplifier with 13 speakers dotted round the cockpit (including two in each seat headrest and a subwoofer in the passenger footwell) that will kick out 550 watts. 
The sound quality is stunning - whether you've got the roof up or down, the clarity and depth are mightily impressive.

How it drives:


You'd think a £130,000+ V10 supercar would be intimidating to drive, but that's not the case at all. With the roof up, the gearbox set to full auto and the Drive mode dialled into Normal or Comfort, you've got an incredibly comfortable and cocooned cruiser that will happily demolish those motorway miles, or be quite at home just pootling around town. Find a twisty A-road, drop the roof and change the engine mode to Individual or Dynamic, and the Spyder's Le Mans-winning DNA shines through.
Put your foot down and the Spyder surges forward, with the engine note changing from a deep rumble to a loud howl as it nears its redline. Flick the right paddle behind the steering wheel and the change is seamless, while the snarling crackle that greets this change of gear is incredibly addictive.

This level of performance should be terrifying, but the grip is staggering - the all-wheel Quattro technology that saw Audi dominate the World Rally Championships in the 1980s inspires so much confidence as you travel through a bend that you'd have to do something pretty dramatic to unsettle it.
With all this power you'd naturally want to be able to stop pretty sharpish, and the optional-extra ceramic brakes that our car had deliver incredible stopping power. They can be a bit snappy to start with, but once you've generated a decent amount of heat their stopping power is immense.

Verdict:


The Audi R8 V10 Spyder is an engineering masterpiece. Unlike some supercars that can be hard to live with on a daily basis, the Spyder is a true supercar that you can enjoy every day. It's comfy and quiet when you need it to be, but a flick of the switch will see it transform into a true howling and cackling supercar that will punch you in the back as you climb through the gears at a staggering rate.
The coupe may be lighter and just a bit quicker, but you'll soon forget about that with the roof down and the sound of that glorious V10, just a couple of feet away, screaming through the rev range. The R8 V10 Spyder really does take your breath away.

Latest Car News Update : See The World As A Self-Driving Car Does In Tesla's Latest Video

If you're not already wowed by some of the work going on in self-driving car technology then Tesla's latest video might take your appreciation levels up a notch - it shows a split screen view of what one of these autonomous vehicles 'sees' during a journey.

That includes lane lines, the flow of the road, road signs and streetlights, as well as the in-path objects that need to be avoided. It's an enlightening look at just how complex these systems are and how far they've come in recent years.

The latest clip was shared by Tesla chief Elon Musk on Twitter and follows another similar clip released last month - obviously the company is keen to get as many people comfortable with the idea of self-driving vehicles as it can.

Tesla has already said that from this point on all of its cars will be fitted with the hardware and technology required to make them fully autonomous, but it can't be switched on until all the relevant safety checks have been carried out and it becomes officially legal to take an autonomous car out on the road.

The testing that the likes of Tesla and Google are doing at the moment is covered by special licences and it's going to be a few years yet before governments are going to give the legal all-clear.

These cars also need to be tested out in more extreme conditions and on more demanding routes around the world - tootling through the wide streets of California in the sunshine is all well and good, but until self-driving motors can also get across the Pennines in the snow they'll remain in beta testing.

News Technology Threat Update : Dangerous Backdoor Found In About 3 Million Android Smartphones, BLU Affected The Most

Just a few days ago, a backdoor was discovered in various Android smartphones that was being used to send call logs and text message archives to servers hosted in China. Now, an even more dangerous rootkit has been discovered, with devices from US-based smartphone brand, BLU, being found to be among the most affected.

Security research firm, BitSight has released an advisory about a rootkit found in the Ragentek firmware used in certain Android smartphones, mostly manufactured by Chinese OEMs. The firm carried out extensive tests using a BLU Studio G smartphone, which involved installing a tracking file using the exploit. Since the firmware allows installation of apps with elevated privileges, a compromised device can be used to do a lot of harm.

By monitoring the data transmitted to a couple of domains, BitSight identified nearly 55 smartphone models, which feature the backdoor. Many more devices with unknown identifiers were also discovered. US-based brand, BLU, is the worst-affected with about 26 percent of its smartphones found with this backdoor. The other brands include Chinese vendors such as Doogee, Leagoo and Infinix. BLU is said to be addressing the issue, but no details of the process are available yet.

According to BitSight, requests to the remote servers were largely made from phones used in institutions such as banks, hospitals and governments, where these devices probably were deployed in bulk due to low prices. Network admins or enthusiasts can monitor their traffic for requests to the following URLs to find out whether they have any affected devices in their network:
  • oyag[.]lhzbdvm[.]com
  • oyag[.]prugskh[.]net
  • oyag[.]prugskh[.]com
The recent discoveries about backdoors in smartphones coming out of China will surely raise concerns in the global market, where many of these devices are being sold with local branding as in the case of BLU.

News Gaming Update : A Hidden Trailer In Watch Dogs 2 Proves To Be More Interesting Than Ubisoft’s Entire Catalogue

Watch Dogs 2, the game where you play Marcus Holloway, hacker extraordinaire, has revealed an a mission where you steal a game trailer for an in-game version of Ubisoft.
Ubisoft is the company that is developing Watch Dogs 2 in the first place, but that’s not the interesting part. The trailer, reproduced below, shows off a game that actually looks rather nice. It’s so good, in fact, that many are hoping that this is a teaser for a game that Ubisoft is already working on.
As you can see, the trailer features a game with a vivid colour palette and what looks like a reasonably fleshed out space game. If I’m honest, I’d go so far as to say that the trailer actually looks far more interesting to me than the bulk of Ubisoft’s games.

If Ubisoft is indeed developing the game, I’m in two minds about the outcome. On one hand, I’m excited, on the other hand, I’m terrified; this is Ubisoft we’re talking about after all. If nothing else, the company has a reputation for dumbing down games and it has no pedigree when it comes to multiplayer gaming.

Watch Dogs 2 will be available tonight for PS4 and Xbox One and on PC by 28 November. The PC version is obviously the cheaper one, but given how badly Ubisoft ported the last game, the console version may be the one you’d want to play.

New Technology Update : A Malicious WhatsApp Video Feature Invite Is Spreading Across The Messaging App

WhatsApp recently announced the launch of its video calling feature which has started to roll out for Android, iOS and Windows Phone users. While a number of messaging apps offer this feature, WhatsApp has been a little late, it does however have the biggest user base across the globe.

While the news is welcoming, many users are receiving as well as sharing an unverified link on WhatsApp which is said to be an invite to activate the video calling feature. An invite system was introduced last year on Whatsapp when the voice calling feature was rolled out. It seems that certain scammers are trying to take advantage of this as they have spread a similar looking fake link for the new video calling feature.

WhatsApp has not officially released any links this time to enable any feature, so in case you get any such links, do not visit any of the links. Visiting these links could be harmful and could expose your personal data.

According to a report, the link takes you to what seems to look like an authentic page where it asks you to send the malicious link to other people on your list. It also mentions the existence of group WhatsApp video calling, a feature that is still not officially available on the platform.

If you do happen to get an invite to activate the video calling feature on WhatsApp, do ignore it. To get the feature you just need to update the app to the latest version. In case you don’t see an update, wait for a couple of days as it is rolling out in phases.

New Tech Update : Facebook Fake News Row: Mark Zuckerberg Is A Politician Now

I’ve long suspected that Mark Zuckerberg, who often refers to himself as the “leader” of Facebook, has dreams of high office.

This week, a taster of what that might be like has been knocking at his door in the wake of the US election result.

While Donald Trump’s visit to the White House was an apparently sobering experience about the level of responsibility he’d soon inherit, Zuckerberg has had a brutal political awakening of his own.

Facebook’s “fake news” crisis has had the normally stoic 32-year-old visibly irritated, and that’s because for the first time he is being treated like a politician, rather than just a tech CEO.

With that comes distrust and anger, not to mention disloyalty in the Facebook ranks and what for him must be the growing realisation that it’s impossible to please everyone.

Whether Zuckerberg was right to say fake news had little impact is largely irrelevant. By dismissing it apparently without second thought as “crazy”, he attracted a global pitchfork of people demanding that he at the very least acknowledge the potential role his empire had in Donald Trump’s election win.

That interview, carried out by journalist David Kirkpatrick, also contained one other exchange which should give Zuckerberg some serious food for thought -  and may even represent the biggest threat the network and its leader is yet to face.
 

Checks and balances

Kirkpatrick first laid out the context.

Facebook, he said, was the most influential commercial enterprise ever created, with unparalleled power that is yet to be fully understood.

Zuckerberg himself is a multi-billionaire in charge of a network that has intricate personal data on 1.8 billion people and counting.

“What are the checks and balances that need to exist for this new kind of entity?” asked Kirkpatrick.

“Do you think about that? At the moment it seems like you are the check and balance.”

Zuckerberg’s answer didn’t come close to addressing the question. He said it was about “listening to what people want”, and continuing to give people “the power to share” and to make “the world more open and connected”.

But is he confident the checks and balances are in place to stop Facebook over-stepping the mark?

“I mean… yeah,” he said, peering out into the audience for support.

Even though I was watching via a live stream, I could tell the room took an awkward turn. Kirkpatrick moved on - but the issue won’t.
 

The accountability gap
The exchange had touched upon a problem that surely deserves more attention.

There’s an urgent accountability gap between what technology companies do and what the public is allowed to know.

This isn’t about giving up trade secrets. You can inspect KFC’s kitchen without knowing the Colonel’s secret recipe.

It’s about being able to examine the reach and influence of technology companies, where supremely powerful men, and a few women, are able to control without any genuine scrutiny other than what appears every three months on a company earnings sheet (and even that’s unnecessarily cryptic).

Revealing moments like the one Kirkpatrick summoned from the usually robotic Zuckerberg are few and far between. The depressing accepted reality in technology journalism is that if you give a company a hard time, they’ll shut you out.

And that’s because many major technology companies guard their work with barbed wire, and wrap their executives in cotton wool.

Interactions between big tech and the outside world are orchestrated and engineered to the nth degree. On those rare occasions, even the mildest scrutiny about anything other than the new product being flogged that day is swiftly shot down with tech’s unofficial motto.

“Sorry… but that’s not what today is about.”
 

Unprecedented power

So what, you might think. So what if technology companies want to keep their affairs to themselves -  it’s not a public service or anything.

You might also think that this is a technology journalist throwing his connected toys out of his smart pram -  and for the most part you’d be right, I’m not ashamed to say.

But what Facebook’s challenges over fake news reveal, I think, is that we’re in completely uncharted territory.

Never has any private company had such immediate power over the way we act, feel, think, date, buy, fight - whatever.

And it’s impossible, if you plan on living in the modern world, to avoid Facebook or Google.

Even if you never create a Facebook account, your browsing habits will be logged when you visit pages that contain the Facebook ‘like’ button. Google’s near-$500bn value is made up almost entirely from selling advertising, which is why they’re absolutely everywhere on the internet. It’s the scale that makes the money.

How the internal cogs of these sites work is a complete mystery. My colleague Rory Cellan-Jones’ recent radio documentary into Google summarised that its algorithm was so complex that no single person could possibly grasp how it worked.
 

At odds

This situation, this imbalance, will surely not be able to last much longer. While technology bosses, Zuckerberg in particular, talk about their “mission” to “connect the world”, we do know that under their watch unacceptable things do take place.

Thanks to whistleblowers and investigative journalists, for instance, we know that Google at one time scooped up private wi-fi data from homes as it carried out its Street View trips. We know that Facebook knowingly manipulated News Feeds in an attempt to alter users’ emotions. 

You can see how both of those examples could have seemed harmless -  or at least fascinating - to the engineers involved.

But what they demonstrate is that what may seem a bright idea for the tech sites may be directly at odds for what is good for the users themselves.

One person in agreement with this is Zuckerberg, in 2009 at least. That was when Facebook was at around 200m users, and he posted a video message (in a shirt and tie!) saying how he wanted users to have a bigger say in how the site is governed.

A special section -  FB Site Governance - was set up. Check on it today and you’ll see there have been no significant updates since 2012 - other than to tell people about privacy policy changes.

Soft power

Zuckerberg’s political ambitions, if he has them, are off to a very rocky start. The fake news row was a big test, and he handled it poorly -  dragging out the issue in the news agenda for well over a week.

Had he been thinking like a politician, as he now must, things could have gone differently. The new reality for Zuckerberg is that it’s no longer okay to be an awkward tech nerd. Instead he must deal with his users’ concerns with respect, and not call them “crazy”.

There’s a lot in it for him to get things right. Zuckerberg’s global ambitions will live or die on his ability to be an astute political operator. He already played a bad hand in India, where local businesses said he was harming their chances online.

If Facebook is to hit the potential of connecting the unconnected, Zuckerberg will need to think like a world leader and engage in soft power and openness in order to build, or restore, trust.

And he must stop using “increased engagement” as the key metric for Facebook’s success. What’s popular isn’t always good, and what’s good isn’t always popular.

Zuckerberg’s record on dealing with controversy has been pretty solid, and there’s of course no suggestion he has any bad intentions with Facebook.

But this week has demonstrated that it’s simply no longer enough for Zuckerberg to deny an issue and expect people to blindly take his word for it. Even if he is right, he’ll have to learn how to prove it.

Because the message the public appears to have given Zuckerberg, and perhaps all of Silicon Valley, is that when you’re unfathomably powerful, “no comment” is fast becoming not good enough.

News Google Tech Update : Google Launches Allo In The Play Store; Here Is How To Get Started


Image Credit: Google Play Store

Google has finally launched the much anticipated messaging app by the company, Google Allo. It was previously reported that that messaging app would launch today. Allo is the part of communication platform made in conjunction with Google Duo. Duo was released some time back by the company, and it focused on video whereas Google Allo is focused on text communication along with sending media such as photos, audio messages, stickers and locations.
Google Allo main screen

You can start using Allo by going to Google Play Store and installing it on your Android device. The interface is pretty bare bones but quite functional for a messaging app. When you launch the app for the first time, the app asks you to verify your mobile number similar to how things work on Google Duo. The SMS verification servers seem to be in place for Allo verification. After the verification, the app asks you to set a profile picture and name.
Google Assistant

The app interface is reminiscent to how Google Hangout looks like (but without all the features in Hangouts). Nothing has changed since the leaked screenshots for Google Allo in alpha stage. On launching, you get the first (and only) surprise that Google Allo holds, that is “Google Assistant”, the bot by Google while will replace Google Now in the upcoming update, Android Nougat 7.1. It is a vital part of the experience provided by Google Assistant and a step away from how popular messaging apps work. Google Assistant is what Cortana from Microsoft and Siri from Apple are, but inside a chat window currently. The bot is labelled as ‘Preview Edition’ but in the limited tests that we ran, Assistant left us impressed coming from Google Now as the previous native offering in Android.
Sticker Store, Template replies

While diving into the chat experience, Allo does the basics of sending text, photos shot from the front or back camera, pictures from gallery, stickers and location. You can send 20 photos at a time in Allo from the ten photos limited on WhatsApp. Another small change is that in the notifications area, the app shows smart response as a quick reply to contacts who message you. Machine learning is working full time to suggest bubble shape cards in the chat as appropriate message responses to the conversations. Finally, you can search inside your conversations, as against the searchless realm that Google Hangouts are.
 Incognito Chats

There is nothing new when you dive in the Profile section or the General settings menu, and there are just small things like controlling the notifications, sounds, vibration and to download the media when you receive it. There is no status updates or message that you can set for people in your contact list to read. 

Google Allo turns into Snapchat
 
The reason we mentioned that the chatting experience is different from how it is in the conventional messaging is apps is that you can summon Google Assistant in your private conversations to ask questions, play games or device on dinner options or the movie options. This brings a whole different side to the concept of user privacy and the only remedy seen is the use of incognito chat with other users.
Group conversations

Incognito mode features auto-destruct messages just like Snapchat which expire after a fixed amount of time depending on the settings. Infact, you can turn Google Allo into an almost functioning Snapchat clone except Stories or ability to check who saw your stories.
The summon behaviour is consistent across individual as well as group chats where you can call in Google Assistant to ask questions and suggestions on places nearby. However, you can’t tag Google Assistant in incognito chats. Apart from this nothing much stands out in the latest messaging app by Google, Google Allo.

News Game Tech Review : Rise Of The Tomb Raider

When we last saw Lara Croft, she was growing out of being a victim. A victim of fate, of other people’s aggression, of her own uninspired previous playable incarnations. She’s still growing, but she’s different now.

For most of Rise of the Tomb Raider, the second installment of a rebooted Tomb Raider series, Lara Croft doesn’t go around being scared. She still faces down overwhelming odds, grapples with doubt, and absorbs a ton of trauma. The newest iteration of the iconic video game heroine displays less fumbly panic than she did in 2013’s Tomb Raider. There are more moments of steely determination and fewer moments where she pauses to psych herself up. She knows what she’s capable of—she hasn’t forgotten that one time she wiped out a supernatural army, climbed a mountain, and took down a sun god. It feels like she’s grown.

That feeling of growth is a key factor in this sequel. For Rise of the Tomb Raider to succeed, it needs to convince players that Lara has matured, but that she still has more growing to do. Yet the changes in a new installment can’t be too radical, lest this Lara become unrecognizable to old and new fans.

Rise of the Tomb Raider tells the story of young Lara Croft, alone in a dangerous place, exploring ruins, solving puzzles, and shooting lots of guys with flaming arrows. It combines hunter/gatherer elements—where you need to scavenge for the stuff you need to survive or make weapons—with a mix of melee and ranged combat with pickaxes, guns or a bow and arrow.
Rise opens yet again with Lara searching for proof of a time-lost civilization. This time, however, her motivations come from a deeply personal place. Before he died, Lara’s father was on a quest to find the Divine Source—an artifact said to grant eternal life—and the apocryphal Prophet who performed miracles with its power. Lara’s continuation of his work is directly linked to her desire to restore respectability to the Croft name—her father’s name. Her travels take her to a snow-swept mountain range in Siberia where she comes into conflict with a mysterious organization named Trinity, whose paramilitary goons are also looking for the Divine Source. Hello, cannon fodder.

Crystal Dynamics’ latest effort at a Tomb Raider game benefits from smartly imagining the psychological underpinnings of both its heroes and villains. Just as Lara is trying to contend with her father’s legacy, the main bad guy’s thirst for power is likewise driven by very personal reasons. There are moments that you feel like you’re fighting against a screwed-up worldview and not just a bunch of artificially-intelligent mannequins.

Rise of the Tomb Raider tweaks the gameplay formula established in its 2013 predecessor. There’s a new crafting system that has Lara constantly foraging for resources that she can use to make ammo, equipment or bandages. Once she has enough resources, she can craft what she needs on the go. The player holds down the left bumper and can craft, mid-action. So, collecting deathcap mushrooms lets her make poison arrows that release a fatal gas. Similarly, other new craftable items increase the ability to silently skulk through encounters if you want. If loud, messy combat engagement is your thing, then you can quickly turn bottles and cans into molotovs and hand grenades.

Lara’s newly improved abilities are a direct reflection of how much effort you put into exploring the gameworld. As her skills increase, her ability to spot resources and read the world gets more powerful. Lara buffs her mastery of ancient languages by finding murals and improves her arsenal and equipment by amassing exotic animal hides. Other combat upgrades let you pull off feats like multiple headshots at once with the bow. The way that ROTTR’s mechanics are structured feeds into the overall sense of growing or maturing.
Aside from its opening chapters, Rise of the Tomb Raider is set around the geothermal valley in Siberia where Lara and Trinity have tracked the Divine Source. It’s a gorgeously layered landscape that feels more like an open world than the terrain of the 2013 game. Whether snowy or lushly green, the terrain feels alive, teeming with plant-based resources or animals to stalk (or flee). Aside from scads of posthumous testimonials about the history of its events and fiction, the game also teases players with optional tombs. The entrances to these tombs are secreted away and you’ll need to apply some extra effort to even find them. Once you find these tombs, you’ll be faced with a single physics-based environmental puzzle—familiar to longtime Tomb Raider fans. But you’ll need to navigate through various section of the tombs to trigger various elements necessary to their solution. As a result, they wind up feeling bigger and more significant.

The game’s also got side missions—given to you by actual in-world quest-givers—that grant you new tools/weapons, like a lock pick and crafting tool. You can also use in-game currency to obtain some of these weapons and equipment from the supply shack that opens up in the first third of the game.
This is an enjoyable sequel and the reason it’s very fun is because it feels upgraded in nearly every way. When I tried for stealthier approaches in the 2013 Tomb Raider, the results felt haphazard. In this game, I was able to plan and execute better, thanks to a plethora of options that let you blind or poison enemies from afar. The feeling of being a cunning predator was a welcome change for me, especially after enduring the emotional rawness of the last Tomb Raider. Another thing I liked about Rise of the Tomb Raider is how it constantly rewards your curiosity. If you head to a seemingly innocuous cliff or stop and take in your surroundings with Lara’s survival instinct, you’ll almost always find a resource or collectible waiting for you. I leaned hard on Lara’s survival instinct because Rise of the Tomb Raider is the kind of game where I didn’t want to miss a thing.

I played Rise of the Tomb Raider much like I did its predecessor: almost exclusively with the bow and arrow and as stealthily as my patience would allow. This time around, however, I didn’t feel like a trembly twentysomething, scared of every shadow. I felt more like a hunter and explorer, systematically taking down enemies and challenges. That said, I didn’t like having to unlock the same suite of weapons as in the last game. Lara knew how to counter enemies and perform quick stealth kills in the last game—why should she have to re-learn it now?

Unlike the Tomb Raider game from two years ago, Rise doesn’t have any competitive multiplayer. Instead, it offers another gambit geared to entice players to keep returning to the game. The Expeditions feature lets you play remixed chunks of the story campaign in one of four modes—Chapter Replay, Chapter Replay Elite, Score Attack or Remnant Resistance.

In Remnant Resistance, you can create custom five-part missions by picking specific objectives, loadouts and time of day. Once you finish one of these missions, your friends will be challenged to do the same.
Completing Expeditions missions earns credits and winnings can be increased by using collectible cards as modifiers to increase difficulty, grant buffs and add challenge objectives.
So, a Lobotomy challenge tasks players to notch five headshots with the bow and arrow and using a Big Head card on enemies swells their craniums makes their torsos and limbs more resistant to damage. The credits you earn in Expeditions can be used to buy more card packs for increased variability in the missions you create. I enjoyed the handful of Expeditions missions I took on and the feature feels like a clever way of re-jiggering the work that’s already in the game.

Rise of the Tomb Raider’s greatest success is in how it encourages exploration, which in turn makes you feel more connected to its fictional world. Every hapless corpse in the frozen Russian wastes is a reminder that Lara’s moving through a place that’s killed many others. As I played, she came across as increasingly gifted, with enough spirit and ingenuity to find ways to see herself through to the other side. This Lara isn’t a wide-eyed newcomer, nor is she a flinty veteran. She’s somewhere in between. Rise of the Tomb Raider makes me want to follow her where she goes next.

Additional Thoughts on PC Version :
Sometimes you just want to play a really pretty PC game, and in walks the PC port of Rise of the Tomb Raider. I already played through the enjoyably acronymed “ROTTR” on Xbox One last fall, and at the time was struck by how gorgeous the game could be.

It stands to reason that it’d look even better at a higher resolution and frame-rate, with some extra PC bells and whistles dropped in. Then again, a few messy recent PC ports have demonstrated some of the many ways PC versions can go awry. How does Rise of the Tomb Raider’s stack up?

I’ve played five or six hours, and my verdict: solid port. The porting job was handled by the Dutch studio Nixxes, who usually handle PC porting for most Square Enix-published games (2013’s Tomb Raider, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Sleeping Dogs all come to mind). They do fine work, and from what I’ve played ROTTR is no exception.

I recently upgraded my PC, which is worth keeping in mind as I recount my experience: I’m running an i7-4770k with an overclocked 6GB GTX 980Ti, along with that 144Hz G-Sync monitor that I love so much. With that setup, I’m able to run the game at 2560x1440 (1440p) resolution at high or very high settings and, for the most part, it stays north of 60fps, occasionally dipping down to the still-playable mid-40s or 50s. I haven’t had much time with the new optimized Nvidia driver that hit today, but I haven’t seen a big difference between the game before and after I installed the driver.

ROTTR pushes my PC, but I’m actually happy to have a game that pushes my system for the right reasons. Unlike the frustrating PC ports of Just Cause 3, Fallout 4 and Batman: Arkham Knight, I have a good sense of the tradeoffs I’m making and so far haven’t felt like the game is running poorly for no discernible reason.

And it really is incredible looking, particularly in 1440p. Look at this screenshot:
Enhance:
Enhance:
In-engine cutscenes are gorgeous, and I’m regularly impressed by how much this latest version of Lara Croft looks like an actual human being.
I mean, like... enhance:
Jeez.

ROTTR’s PC version offers a variety of graphics settings; you can see mine here:
 

I’ve dropped the Level of Detail setting down from Very High to High and dropped Shadows to Medium, which keeps the game running well aside from some frame-rate drops as I enter some of the bigger open areas and some hitches in the midst of transition animations from one area to another.

Then there’s the hair. Rise of the Tomb Raider is actually the first PC game in which I’ve left the hair tech—called “PureHair” this time around—turned on, rather than turning it off to improve my frame-rate. PureHair does impact performance somewhat, but Lara’s hair looks good enough that I’m fine taking the hit.

Aside from its graphics, Rise of the Tomb Raider is another third-person action/adventure game that plays better with a controller than with a mouse and keyboard. Running, sneaking and shooting all work fine with a mouse and keyboard, and as usual I’m much more accurate when using a mouse. But platforming and puzzle-solving feel odd with a keyboard input. The game has some mechanical interactions—winding winches and breaking down brick walls, etc.—and they feel much more natural on a controller. Similarly, jumping puzzles feel awkward when navigated with a keyboard. Some of that is due to my own comfort level playing this type of game on consoles, so your mileage may vary.
 
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