HTC and Valve team-up for VR headset!

March 3rd, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

htc valve vive vr headset 300x300 HTC and Valve team up for VR headset!Some supergeeks will have read the headline and immediately screamed; “I DON’T CARE! HAVE MY MONEY!”

For those of you wondering what in the Sam Hell is going on, then here’s the lowdown: HTC has just announced the Vive, which is a virtual reality headset that they’ve developed in collaboration with Valve. Go pop in on your face, and you’ll be in a world of wonder!

It’ll be on the shelves later in 2015, with a version for developers available in the next few weeks. The best thing about it all is that there’s a promise to make loads of games for it, which should be great fun!

The Vive Developer Edition uses two 1200 x 1080 displays that refresh at 90 frames per second, which we’re told is perfect for “eliminating jitter” and achieving “photorealistic imagery.” That’s good news, if it works! The display on the headset is promising to give you 360-degree views and wholly envelope your field of vision. This really is next-level nerdgasm.

Using a accelerometer, a gyrosensor and laser positioning sensors, the Vive tracks the movement of your bonce to the measurement of one-tenth of a degree. There’s also something called the Steam VR base station, which lets you walk around a virtual space instead of using a controller, which sounds ridiculous and fabulous.

It is also really light so it won’t hurt your head while frying your brain.

HTC’s Peter Chou says: “We believe that virtual reality will totally transform the way that we interact with the world. Virtual reality will become a mainstream technology for the rest of the world.

Chou also reckons that, with the device, you’ll be “attending real-time concerts, learning history, reliving memories.” THE FUTURE! IT IS COMING!

Pebble raise $7m for smartwatch

February 25th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Pebble have announced their new smartwatch, which is called Time. This new device was shown off on their Kickstarter page for it, and at the time of writing, has already raised in advance of $7 million (in pounds, that’s ‘shed loads’).

This new watch does look rather smart and comes with a colour screen. Previously, Pebble watches had greyscale screens, which is a bit drab.

pebble time 500x240 Pebble raise $7m for smartwatch

To say people are excited about this is something of an understatement – the company were hoping to generate half a million dollars for Time, however, after a matter of hours, they’d gone way past that.

So what’s the deal with it? Well, the Kickstarter page says that Time is a [sic] “color e-paper smartwatch with up to 7 days of battery and a new timeline interface that highlights what’s important in your day.”

They add: “Time’s new microphone lets you send voice replies to incoming notifications or take short voice notes. We used the latest technology to maintain water resistance so you can swim or surf with Pebble Time (we do not, however, recommend talking underwater).” In addition to that, “Pebble Time is 20% thinner than the original Pebble at just 9.5mm” and you’re able to personalise it as they’ve “included a soft silicone band with each Pebble Time, but all standard 22mm watch bands will fit.”

You’ll be able to access messages and emails and the like (obviously) as well as keep tabs on your physical activity and find out about the weather, as is par for the course with smartwatches. There’s over 6,000 Pebble-specific apps that you can get at too. The phone will run on Android.

If you like the look of the thing, there’s a load of images, gifs and videos on the Kickstarter page. When it hits British shelves, it should cost around £130.

Facebook tests adverts that know where you are

January 30th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

Bitterwallet Facebook censorship Facebook tests adverts that know where you areFacebook are road-testing a new thing where adverts will be able to respond to where you are.

The all-seeing social media icon will be installing ‘beacons’ that will set off a trigger that will alert you to any deals or suchlike that are available in that vicinity. A bit like that Minority Report film where you get personalised adverts and the like.

It hopes the service, called Place Tips, could help it take on Yelp by offering information about shops and other locations

It’s currently being tested in New York around various landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and JFK Airport.

Trials of a special bluetooth ‘beacon’ also underway in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dominique Ansel Bakery and several other NYC stores. Your location is determined using mobile networks, WiFi and GPS, and the beacons will transmit Bluetooth signals up to 500ft.

Facebook reckons that “Place tips will show you fun, useful and relevant info about the place you’re at. Starting today on Facebook for iPhone, place tips may show up at the top of your News Feed when you’re out and about.”

Place tips won’t show up in your general feed. Your contacts won’t see an alert telling them that you’ve just bought some towels that were recommended from a local sauna or how much you got some sausages for. It will show some restraint at least.

facebook stalk 300x186 Facebook tests adverts that know where you are

Users can turn place tips off or on at any time in your settings, or just hide tips about specific places. And anyway, Place tips only appear if you’ve given Facebook permission to access your location on your phone, the firm said.

“If you choose to view place tips, you’ll find things like posts and photos your friends have shared with you about that place. You can also see information about the place, including posts from its Page, popular menu items and upcoming events.”

Well, isn’t the future just WONDERFUL!

Deathwatch: Sony’s Music Unlimited

January 29th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

Sony are getting rid of their Music Unlimited service.

The streaming service is going in favour of a new deal that Sony have conjured up with Spotify, which will be streamable to consoles, smartphones and tablet devices.

Spotify will become the exclusive partner for a new service called PlayStation Music, which is heading this way in the Spring and hitting 41 countries.

sony unlimited music 500x316 Deathwatch: Sonys Music Unlimited

Music Unlimited breathes its last on March 29th after an unremarkable five years since its launch in 2010.

Sony customers paying for Spotify through PlayStation Music will be able to access the streaming service across their various devices, browsing its catalogue of 30m songs, creating and listening to playlists, and streaming music while playing games.

Spotify’s chief executive Daniel Ek said: “As a gamer and PlayStation 4 user myself, I’m super excited to be able to soundtrack my FIFA 15 Arsenal matches later this spring.”

Sony Computer Entertainment boss Andrew House chipped in with: “This partnership represents the best in music and the best in gaming coming together, which will benefit the vibrant and passionate communities of both Spotify and PlayStation Network.”

The challenge now is Spotify’s and see if they can woo the 64 million active users of the PlayStation network, and rinse them for subscriptions. The companies are not announcing how much a Spotify subscription through PlayStation Music will cost or whether Sony will be subsidising part of the £9.99 monthly price.

Snapchat’s Discover woos more firms

January 28th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

The likes of Daily Mail, CNN and Vice are among early media adopters of Snapchat’s new Discover feature.

The Discover feature grants users a snapshot of content every 24 hours, allowing Snapchat users to flick through new content on their Discover channels.

Let’s look at some filmed content:

Discovery Channel, ESPN and Warner Music are also on board with more set to follow. The Daily Mail have even dedicated a team of four to re-purpose editorial content for the app, which will no doubt point via nosy pictures at Kim Kardashian pouring her curves into a slinky winning dare-to-bare outfit, or throwing shade at various degrees of dressed down celebrities getting coffee with pixelated children.

A Snapchat spokesperson said: “Snapchat Discover is a new way to explore stories from different editorial teams. It’s the result of collaboration with world-class leaders in media to build a storytelling format that puts the narrative first. This is not social media.

“Social media companies tell us what to read based on what’s most recent or most popular. We see it differently. We count on editors and artists, not clicks and shares, to determine what’s important.”

It went on: “Discover is different because it has been built for creatives. All too often, artists are forced to accommodate new technologies in order to distribute their work. This time we built the technology to serve the art: each edition includes full screen photos and videos, awesome long form layouts, and gorgeous advertising.”

Apple Watch has a release date at last

January 28th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

Remember the Apple Watch? Oh you must do. It was mentioned in passing around that Apple launch where U2 made massive tools of themselves.

Well, news has come that it will start shipping in April.

apple watch 500x334 Apple Watch has a release date at last

Tim Cook confirmed that it would be in April, having previously said that ‘early 2015′ was the time frame. ‘Early 2015′ usually suggests January in our minds, but we’re not Apple.

The Apple CEO delivered details of the wearable’s release during a quarterly earnings call with investors and the press.

If you recall, the Apple Watch will come in men’s and women’s sizes with a choice of six different straps which is quite nifty and could actually catch on – or at least, that’s what Apple is hoping.

Cook had already gone on record to declare that users will use the device so much, that they’ll be charging it up daily. Which is obviously good news for the planet. There’s no actual price as yet, but early estimates of the original $349 (£230) mentioned back in the launch.

This follows the news that Apple posted the biggest profit ever, after selling 74.5 million iPhones in its fiscal first quarter. Revenue went up to $74.6 billion from $57.6 billion a year earlier.

Tweetbot: victim of its own success

January 27th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

Twitter Logo1 Tweetbot: victim of its own successTweetbot for Mac has been pulled from the Mac App Store. The third party app has hit a cap imposed by the social network on the number of users it can have.

Tweetbot originally started life on the Mac App Store back in October 2012, and has now the latest casualty of the Twitter rule of limiting new clients to 100,000 users.

The rule dates back to August 2012, when Twitter announced that any new app which was mainly used to access the users’ timeline would need explicit permission to have more than 100,000 users.

The post was widely seen as an attempt to kill off third-party Twitter clients, and eventually forced users onto the official Twitter app.

Mainly as Twitter cannot display adverts on third-party apps, and it has no control over which of its new features get rolled out when, you can imagine why they got a bit itchy about it.

While other apps have managed to escape such a fate – the rules were imposed in August 2012 – Tweetbot for Mac fell foul and is now ostracised. The ruthless world of social media!

Windows 10 is (nearly) here!

January 22nd, 2015 2 Comments By Ian Wade

windows 10 300x199 Windows 10 is (nearly) here!Microsoft have announced details of Windows 10! And it looks like they may have got their act back together.

First up: THE START MENU IS BACK. Finally!

They’ve made it a proper cross platform affair, so that whether you’re using a desktop, laptop, phone or tablet, the apps will run across all of them. Even holograms!

That’s right – with Microsoft Holographic, it’ll allow you to overlay digital images into the real world via a special headset, and should also be compatible with Google Glass (Good news, you 12 people!) and Occulus Rift

The key news with No.10 is that Windows Phone assistant Cortana will now be loaded into the desktop system. So now you can literally talk to your computer now as she’s built into your search. Nice to have a friend at last.

The other main attraction is Project Spartan, it’s a web browser that has a minimalist user interface but with various features, the key feature is killing off Explorer. You can now “freeze” web pages and annotate with either text or just doodling obscene images with your finger or a stylus and you’ll be able to save them to read offline and even set up a reading mode which help make various sites easier to read, a bit like Amazon’s Silk browser.

And finally, Xbox is going to be more integrated into Windows 10, with Xbox apps contained in each device. Appswise, they’ve made it where Office and Outlook and all that will work the same way on all your devices.

A new feature called Continuum will automatically switch an app into fullscreen tablet mode if it detects there’s no keyboard attached. Then, it’ll offer to return if you hook one up.

CEO Satya Nadella said of No.10 at the launch event: “Windows 10 is built for a world where everything is digitally mediated. It’s not just a checklist of features, it’s a design sensibility. We want people to love Windows on a daily basis.”

‘Love’.

But don’t start queuing up just yet, Windows 10 is still a few months off, but frankly when you have a holographic doodah, you’re gonna want to let people know about it.

amazoninstant Amazon Prime to show movies before everyone elseAmazon have announced their intention to release approximately a dozen original new independent movies in 2015 from their own stable, and their release will come just weeks after the theatrical release.

That’s independent as in ‘away from the big studios’ and not ‘biopics on the Palma Violets and Huggy Bear’ by the way. The online bits-and-bobs mall said it will aim to air Amazon Original Movies between four to eight weeks after they appear in theatres in the US for Amazon Instant Prime subscribers.

Why, they’re even eyeing up making a follow-up to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon!

Roy Price, vice president of Amazon Studios, said: “We look forward to expanding our production efforts into feature films. Our goal is to create close to 12 movies a year with production starting later this year. Not only will we bring Prime Instant Video customers exciting, unique, and exclusive films soon after a movie’s theatrical run, but we hope this program will also benefit filmmakers, who too often struggle to mount fresh and daring stories that deserve an audience.”

Ted Hope, new head of production for Amazon Original Movies, said: “Audiences already recognise that Amazon has raised the bar with productions in the episodic realm, tackling bold material in unique ways and collaborating with top talent, both established and emerging.”

“Amazon Original Movies will be synonymous with films that amaze, excite, and move our fans, wherever customers watch. I am incredibly thrilled to be part of this.”

Unlike arch rival Netflix, Amazon’s Prime video service comes bundled with the internet retailer’s two-day delivery for items purchased on the site, which costs £79 a year.

This comes after the firm last week not only won a Golden Globe for Transparent but also brought director Woody Allen on-board to create his first ever TV show, who joins the likes of Steven Soderbergh in creating exclusive content.

zzzw EE customers to share £1m refund after VAT kerfuffleSeveral EE customers are due a windfall refund of around £1 million. Not each, mind.

The EE customers were those who went outside of the EU and used internet data between October 2012 and October 2014 are affected – about 0.5% of EE’s total customers.

EE told the BBC that the cash was never EE’s and that the overcharges went straight to Revenue & Customs. Customers affected can expected refunds from about £2 to £80 per customer.

Spokesman David Nieberg said: “Due to a configuration error in our billing system, made following a system change, a small number of customers were wrongly charged VAT on the Data Roaming bundle outside of Europe.”

“This was a mistake, and we are now refunding these charges and contacting affected customers to apologise for the error.”

He added: “We’ve claimed that money back from HMRC, and then it goes back to the customers.”

Customers affected by the error are being contacted via text message and told the amount they are owed, and any former customers who believe they may be eligible have been told to contact customer services.

Ofcom looking into 5G becoming a thing by 2020

January 19th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

5G 300x251 Ofcom looking into 5G becoming a thing by 2020Ofcom are looking into the feasibility of 5G becoming very much a thing.

The regulator is seeing how the technology will work and how it will be delivered, just as people are starting to get themselves used to 4G.

It would mean such giddy developments as holographic projection, which would be a boon* (*fad) for gaming and trading and entertainment solutions. 5G would see such speeds up to 50 Gbit/s, according to Ofcom, which is more than 3,000 times quicker than the average 4G download speed in the UK.

Steve Unger, Ofcom acting chief executive said: “We want the UK to be a leader in the next generation of wireless communications. No network has infinite capacity, but we need to move closer to the ideal of there always being sufficient capacity to meet consumers’ needs.”

Ofcom wants to set up the UK’s infrastructure to be able to carry 5G by seeking which sections of the airwaves would be able to be used. They’ve identified the spectrum above 6 GHz as potentially useful as it is not popular with mainstream television and mobile services given difficulties in carrying conventional communications.

Ideally, Ofcom say they’d like to have it out by 2020, which is not worth holding your breath for really. Either way, just imagine how fast you’ll be able to download dirty pictures to your phone while you’re on the bog at work!

mobile apps Millions of customers over paying on their phoneMillions of people are over-paying approximately £159 a year due to being on the wrong phone plan, according to Which!!!

An average of seven out of ten mobile customers are paying for bits they never use, or over charged when they go over their monthly contract allowance.

They also believe that if users were to switch to a more suitable contract or mobile provider, three quarters of them would save around £50 a year.

This mobile overspend amounts to £5.42billion a year across the UK according to the report, which also claims that a right load of customers reckon they know they’re probably on the wrong deal, but carry on being ripped off due to not being arsed.

As many as 42% think there is a better value tariff out there for them, but Ofcom research shows only 52% have switched supplier. And apparently only 28% of mobile users actually trust their mobile phone provider.

Which!!! executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “It’s shocking that consumers are overpaying by billions of pounds for mobile phone contracts that just don’t suit their needs. Mobile phone companies must do more to help people get the best deal, making switching hassle free and ensuring that pricing is transparent.”

“If we don’t see mobile firms making voluntary improvements then we will ask the regulator Ofcom to step in.”

Understandably, Which!!! want mobile companies to take voluntary action by unlocking their phones for free, allowing customers to gain greater control over tariffs. Companies should also notify customers at least a month before the end of their contract and provide information on the best deals for them, showing the monthly cost of the handset separately from the service charge, the watchdog said.

Which!!! praised the moves by the likes of O2 and their Refresh scene, where bills are split into two so mobile fans can see exactly what is being spent.

Deathwatch: Google Glass

January 16th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

google glass Deathwatch: Google GlassGoogle Glass is no more. Or at least the first phase of it anyway.

Which will be great news for the beleagured supermarket chain that’s just released an app with them, eh?

Google have admitted that the whole Glass thing isn’t really happening, and has decided to halt sales of its specs. They’ve said that they are committed to unveiling some form of eyewear at some point, but the current model is to be no more.

The uptake has been slow to say to least, as people decided they didn’t want to look a bit Borg-y, but after an initial roll out in 2013 and in the UK in 2014, the mass rollout didn’t happen. So Google have stopped taking orders as of January 19th.

Google Glass was also one of the big wearable tech launches, and so it will be interesting to see how all the rest fare in the coming months.

Google said it would still offer support to companies that already use Glass, which is kind of them. Maybe for the next push, they might consider making them less expensive?

Tesco launch app for Google Glass

January 15th, 2015 3 Comments By Ian Wade

Google Glass 4 Tesco launch app for Google GlassYou’d think they’d have other issues more pressing to deal with, but Tesco have launched a shopping app for Google Glass.

It is hoped that it make it a faster method for shoppers to add items to their online baskets.

Tesco Groceries is a free download for the £1,000 smartglasses, which went on sale in the UK in June 2014. That’s either demented thinking from the mad, or some proper well-thought out futurism.

You can operate the app by speaking commands, like “Glass, find me a Snickers” or via the scanning of barcodes that are in the sight of the shopper. Or, you could stand in a shop and find it yourself, put it in a basket and be stood outside eating it before Google Glass does anything useful.

Shoppers will also be able to look at how much fat or salt something has. Dullards.

The chain had prototyped it back in June 2014, probably imagining that Google Glass would become quite the thing. “We thought about how our colleagues might be able to use Glass to check stock hands-free, or how our customers might be able to add a product to their grocery delivery basket while making a cup of tea,” blogged Tesco’s Pablo Coberly at the time.

“Getting to that stage has been a journey into entirely new areas of user interaction: new gestures, user interface elements, and input mechanisms.”

google glass tesco 500x222 Tesco launch app for Google Glass

Coberly has bugled about Google’s genius again in an updated post too: “The Glass Development Kit (GDK) documentation is good and getting better. The community is helpful and proactive about sharing knowledge, especially on stackoverflow. The Glass team at Google does all they can to try to make sure the glassware delivers the best experience possible.”

“This is a challenge given how Glass is still being developed, so it can be somewhat of a moving target. The Glass software platform went through 6 updates in the time we worked with it, which shows how much Google is still investing in the platform. Given the steady flow of software updates, and the various articles that have been published alluding to updated Glass hardware, I can’t help but feel this is still the beginning of the journey for Glass and for Tesco.”

Admittedly Coberly is not expecting it to happen overnight, allowing five to 10 years for our new eyewear overlords to enslave us all.

Spotify subscriptions are up!

January 14th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

spotify logo Spotify subscriptions are up!Spotify have revealed that they’ve recruited 15 million subscribers in 2014. The streaming effort also revealed that it had 60 million active users as the year ended.

Not bad eh?

The blog on their site failed to go into much more detail as to where and who was subscribing, but it suggests that the bulk of the gain happened in the second half of the year.

Paying subscribers make up around 25% of the Spotify user base, with most of the growth coming from mobile devices – 42% on phones and 10% on tablets – with old school desktops providing 45% and 3% on the web player.

Spotify’s mobile explosion validates its decision to offer users free access to its streaming catalogue on IOS and Android smartphones and tablets late 2013 for the first time.

And this was after Taylor Swift took her back catalogue off the service too.

It’s all set to get interesting in 2015 though, with Apple’s Beats Music, Pandora and Google Play muscling in more and more into Spotify’s manor and, of course, simultaneously, there’s a vinyl revival afoot too! The heat is on.