What is Final Fantasy Record Keeper?

By Dia Ascenzi

You are Tyro, the newest Record Keeper of the Royal Archives. Here, records of every Final Fantasy world are kept safe. Until now. Your teacher, Dr. Mog, has informed you that some evil force is causing the records to vanish, and the only way to preserve them is to dive right in and relive each record. Your journey begins in Final Fantasy Record Keeper.

Final Fantasy Record Keeper (FFRK) celebrated its one-year anniversary this past March. Considered one of the most overlooked games of 2015, FFRK hits all the nostalgia buttons for any die-hard Final Fantasy fan. It’s a mobile, free-to-play (F2P) game developed by Square Enix and DeNA. Released globally in March of 2015 (earlier in Japan), the game is almost a year and a half old, and still going strong. Despite having upset many of its players in a prior controversy involving item drop-rates, most players stuck around, though many are spending significantly less money on the game.

Many F2P games allow players to spend real money for extra content, or for an in-game currency. So although the game is free, you can easily spend hundreds of dollars on it, and many players do. This can be dangerous for players, as the “relic-pull” system in FFRK is more-or-less just gambling. The game allows the purchase of “gems” within the game, which you can then use to draw for rare items, among other things. The relic-pull feature uses a random number generator, meaning regardless of the percentage chance for you to get an item, you could still get nothing, over and over again. It is gambling, in the same way gambling can potentially cost you more money than you can afford to lose, often with little reward. After all, that relic could be just one more $30 click away… or not. Luckily, the FFRK community knows and lives with that hard truth.

The Tactics banner controversy

During a recent in-game event, and perhaps the most hyped event in the game’s history, players were misinformed, or at least given false expectations regarding the drop rates of certain rare items. This caused an enormous uproar among the game’s community, specifically in the game’s Reddit community. Due to the uniform rates that were used in every event for the past few months, players expected the new event to be no different. When the event launched, however, a redditor compiled over 70,000 results, from almost 2000 other redditors, and their data spoke differently. The rates for featured items were not what players expected based on months of uniform rates, and players believe DeNA did this knowing players would spend more money chasing these relics. Players who spent large amounts of real money, as well as players who have spent no real money, but instead spent months worth of hoarded in-game currency, felt cheated and confused.

When reaching out to DeNA for answers, players were given the same few vague, unsympathetic responses, claiming that drop rates were working as intended. One such response stated: “We have carefully investigated in this matter and were able to confirm that the drop rates for the featured relics, as well as those for the other items, on this banner are correct.”

DeNA’s redemption

After a few months of players protesting by giving the game terrible ratings, stopping spending any money, or quitting the game altogether, DeNA was able to slowly regain their players’ trust and loyalty. The game is currently still very popular, the subreddit having over 13,000 subscribers. The developers continue to add new content to the game, launching a new event almost weekly, and frequently doing other events, such as a Summer giveaway, monthly “Nightmare Dungeons,” and the ever coveted “Orbfests,” perhaps the game’s most popular kind of event. For a game that has been around well over a year (and a mobile game, no less), it’s impressive that so many people are still in love with FFRK (including me).

Play at your own risk

Microtransactions in gaming are growing in popularity, and not just mobile gaming. GTA 5’s online mode has made “at least” $500 million in optional transactions. Halo 5 introduced microtransaction as well, and has netted over $1.5 million. Not only are microtransactions showing up more in gaming, but it seems players are making use of them.

But it has its downsides. There was a time when buying a game meant you bought the whole game. Then developers began charging separately for download content. Now many games have virtually no limit to how much money you can spend. It’s dangerous, to say the least. Especially in light of DeNA’s recent fiasco with FFRK. If developers do in fact employ shady tactics in order to urge players to spend more money with diminishing return, microtransactions may quickly fall out of fashion. Until then, enjoy the feature, but be careful.

Final Fantasy Record Keeper was once near the top of the Top Grossing list in the Google Play Store. They are currently around 150th. That’s not too bad, considering they still have tons of people playing, just not as many spending. DeNA has still been able to reliably keep the game interesting. With over 120 different characters spanning across 15 different Final Fantasy games that we all know and love, dozens of exclusive events to date, and 23 story updates, this game hasn’t really ever hit a boring patch. And, with the Japanese version of the game acting as a sort of teaser of what’s to come for Global players, we know that there is much, much more to look forward to. 

Top Apps for Productivity: Six Ways to Supercharge Your Routine

By Kayla Robbins

When it comes to productivity, there are two basic schools of thought. One rewards you for getting things done in a timely fashion, while the other punishes you for falling behind. The type of motivation that works best for you is largely a matter of personal preference, but whichever side of the fence you tend to lean toward, rest assured: there’s an app for that!

For those of you who appreciate a swift kick in the pants, we’ll start with the less forgiving productivity tools.

    1. BetterMe

      This app for iPhone and Android hits you right out of the gate with a healthy dose of public humiliation. For each time that you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock, BetterMe will automatically post a message on your Facebook timeline letting all your friends know that you were too weak-willed to get up on time. Again. It can also be programmed to shame you if you miss a deadline, fail to go to the gym as planned (you have to check in via GPS, so no fibbing), or fall behind on any custom goal. It doesn’t use Twitter, so if you’d prefer to reproach yourself there, you’ll just have to type out your own admonishments for now. 

        2. Carrot

        Never has a simple to-do list been so cruel. With the gentle disposition and amiable personality of GLaDOS, Carrot insures that you get your daily tasks done. Or else. The iOS app actually covers both sides of the spectrum, handing out rewards for completed tasks, as well as meting out punishments to the less-productive. Finishing work also earns you points, which help you level up and unlock new rewards. If you do decide to let Carrot into your life, be sure you’re ready to pledge your undying loyalty by kissing the “ocular sensor,” because this and much more will be demanded of you.

        Read the full story at our friends at lovefone.co.uk.

        Esports Athletes Angling to become Overwatch Pros

        By Dia Ascenzi

        The hype surrounding the launch of Overwatch was real. 9.7 million players played the open beta, logging 81 million hours, and 37 million matches played. The word “hyped” may not actually do that justice. Players were pleased with the finished product, and it lived up to the hype.

        First of all, it looks great. The maps are beautiful, and the heroes aren’t bad to look at, either (I always think of this Conan skit). It’s an FPS, but not like what most people expect from such. It’s not your typical military-type FPS. It’s got a sci-fi/fantasy style with very unique characters to choose from, each with their own style, weapon type, strengths, and weaknesses. Think of it maybe as a cross between CS:GO, League of Legends, and Team Fortress 2 (yeah, I chose three of the best games to compare it to, what does that say?). So will Overwatch become the next big esport? And if so, will it hold its own against the other juggernauts in the industry? All signs point to “yes.”

        For players to want to play a game long-term, especially on a competitive level, they need to be heard. Who can say what the game lacks or does well better than the players, after all? That means the game needs some pretty damned good developer support. Overwatch has Blizzard, and Blizzard plans to do right by Overwatch. A game like this, with plenty of exclusive characters (about 21 so far), skills, and weaponry, has a lot of room for growth. Blizzard can add more characters, weapons, maps, and even multiplayer arenas, keeping players and spectators interested.

        You’ve got tanks, offense, defense, and support. This game was built around team-gameplay. You have characters like Mercy, a healer/scientist support role with incandescent wings, or Winston, a tank role in the form of a genetically engineered gorilla decked out in high-tech armor and a huge electric gun, giving each character the potential to be someone’s favorite. And with such variety, there is a ton of room for tinkering with different party compositions and different strategies.

        One large boon to Overwatch’s competitive esports potential is that it has options. The game even has four game modes. This allows for some variety when it comes to competitive tournaments. The Escort, Assault, Hybrid, and Control game modes allow for some variety, and will prevent players from growing bored. This also allows for Blizzard to add even more game modes, so the game doesn’t grow stagnant. I know every time a new battleground in WoW would come out, I would be giddy with excitement at playing it, and getting good at the strategy.

        Read the full story at our friends at E-sportsbetting.org.

        Should eSports Drug Test?

        By Dia Ascenzi

        In basically every professional sport, it is strictly prohibited to take performance-enhancing drugs. After all, taking drugs like anabolic steroids and human growth hormone can definitely give a football player, boxer, or wrestler a very unfair advantage against someone playing by the rules with no artificial boost. Last year, the esports industry jumped on this bandwagon, prohibiting the same exact list of drugs from use that are currently prohibited from every other professional sport. The question you may be asking yourself is, “Is that really necessary?”

        Participants in the esports scene—management and coaches included—have long known of the use of certain drugs surrounding esports teams, according to veteran esports journalist Richard Lewis. It wasn’t until professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player Kory “SEMPHIS” Friesen admitted that himself, along with other members of Cloud9, were using Adderall during major tournaments that the ESL began to take this matter seriously. They have since partnered with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to combat drug use in esports tournaments.

        The Argument for drug testing in esports

        SEMPHIS and his teammates were taking Adderall, a psychostimulant, during a tournament with a $250,000 prize. When the stakes are that high, everyone really should be playing on a level playing field. Adderall can definitely give certain players an advantage, as its effects are an increased ability to focus for long periods of time. Esports competitors train for long hours, and can easily lose sleep during tournament days—or anytime really. For pros under pressure to perform and win these massive tournaments, it is very tempting—and not frowned upon not so long ago—to rely on certain substances to give them prolonged attention, and an edge during tournaments.

        There are some problems with Adderall testing, however. It’s basically one of the easiest prescription to get. It’s really not hard to fake having ADHD. And if all it takes is a letter from a physician to prove you actually need the medication to be allowed to test positive during a tournament, I’m sure the number of doctor’s notes for Adderall are too many to count. I’m sure they’ve been trying their best to regulate the use of Adderall in esports so far, but I would bet plenty of pro gamers that don’t have ADHD are hopped up on the stuff.

        The use of performance enhancing drugs can not only rig the game, but it can throw a wrench in the works for those of you who bet on esports. No matter how much you study a player’s playstyle, stats, or team mechanics, doping can easily turn the tables for many tournaments. The better team won’t always win if the opponent has been practicing twice as much, and has enhanced focus and attention. So if you’re betting on esports, you can feel a little more confident in your bets knowing that there is at least some action taken to prevent drug use in tournaments.

        Read the full story at our friends at E-sportsbetting.org.

        Turkish Shepherds Charge Their Smartphones in the Middle of Nowhere

        By Andrew Hendricks

        On the sandy, unfolding plains of Sanliurfa, Turkey, there are no coffee shops to plug in your all-important smartphone charger. In the day-to-day grind of these Turkish shepherds, there are no buildings of any kind, or road signs, for that matter. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to even find shade. However, there is one thing they have plenty of (other than miles of dusty sand), and that’s sunlight.

        With no power source available but the sun, these shepherds take resourcefulness to a new level by using small solar panels attached to the backs of their donkeys to charge up their smartphones.

        The images released last week of the whole process in action are pretty astounding. You almost get a bit of old-meets-new culture shock as you see a shepherd on his mobile while playing with a curly-horned sheep, the dusty Turkish plateau stretching on behind him for miles. If this were a movie, critics would be up in arms over anachronisms, but it’s real life. Other photos depict shepherds kicking back on large rocks, or right on the ground, chatting on their smartphones while a tea kettle comes to boil resting on flat stones over a rudimentary campfire.

        For shepherds working in the wild, dealing with the elements all day, the durability of the slightly futuristic bendable smartphones might be a good investment, if they were affordable. Although, since they claim to mostly use their phones for music, emergencies, and staying in touch with family, a basic cheap phone purchased second-hand would probably do the job, as long as they follow our guide to taking excellent care of it to ensure it would last as long as possible in the harsh outdoor environment.

        Read the full story at our friends at Lovefone.co.uk.

        Are Esports Players Athletes?

        By Andrew Hendricks

        If you’re American, French, or Russian, the short answer is yes. According to the BBC: “The US Government recognises esports players as professional athletes, at least where the granting of visas is concerned.” Russia is set to recognise esports as a sport this month, and France is proposing a bill that recognises esports players as athletes. Case closed.

        However, as you can imagine by such a click-baity headline, there are plenty who would alternatively scoff, or at least politely disagree with this assessment. Despite the fact that ESPN has begun numerous partnerships with different esports broadcasts (among other forays into esports), its president John Skipper is among those in the distinction-with-a-difference camp. “[It] is not a sport,” said Skipper, “it’s a competition.”

        One can see where traditional sports enterprises such as the ESPN may be tepid in their endorsement of the burgeoning market, lest they conflate esports players with the actual athletes on their networks. However, many find the need to make this distinction somewhat nonsensical, and more than a little offensive.

        Current “sports”

        If you google “Is golf a sport?” over 24 million search results pop up with pages upon pages of articles arguing one way or another. Sure, some of them are arbitrary opinions like saying it’s not a sport because “you can play while injured,” but there are plenty of instances where athletes have played and finished games with broken legs, crushed fingers, a broken neck, and of course, Michael Jordan’s famous 38 point game while having the flu.

        Clearly what is or isn’t a sport is not so cut and dry to the world at large, and the judgment can be quite subjective. Should it be though? By what metric is something a sport and not a competition, like a chess match? Is it reaction time? Muscle? Coordination? All three?

        For those so quick to dismiss esports athletes, let’s wade into some controversial territory and explore other “sports” that may challenge our knee-jerk reaction sports requiring bulging muscles and sweating in the sun.

        We’ve already mentioned golf, but what of Ultimate Frisbee? A popular pastime of college students who can’t kick a ball and don’t want to be tackled, one could argue that Ultimate Frisbee is more of a game than a sport. But it is a competitive activity that involves physical activity, that is played for entertainment, and involves a winner and a loser. You could easily argue that it is a sport.

        One way to exemplify some common sentiments about what is and isn’t a sport would be to look at archery or target shooting. Both require coordination, but archery would be much more likely to be construed as a sport with its muscular requirements. If technology being involved removes the athleticism and “sport” aspect, this would be pretty damning for esports players who do consider themselves athletes. It seems an easy distinction: a competitive bicyclist is an athlete—a NASCAR driver is not. Regardless of the other overlaps, is this technological barrier really what separates the sports from the competitions? Or are we all just talking past each other with our definitions? And plenty of people vehemently (and perhaps not incorrectly) argue NASCAR is a sport, and you’re silly to question that.

        Professional synchronized swimmers and figure skaters have long been at odds with some of the commonplace “definitions” of sports. “That’s just performance art!” people often say of these two “sports.” In both, “athletes” perform (albeit highly athletic) routines based on certain criteria, and they are judged by meeting their criteria. At no point are they engaged in one-on-one competition with other athletes. And unlike the shot put or long jump, there is less of a clear-cut objective standard for grading one superior performance as better than another.

        Read the full story at our friends at E-sportsbetting.org.

        TBS is Turning Esports into a Real Household Event

        By Dia Ascenzi

        Much like the world of professional athletics, esports are now becoming a phenomenon not just for the gamers themselves anymore. Viewers, gamblers, and fanboys themselves who may never have played a single online game they are becoming more and more drawn to the ultra-competitive world of high-stakes competitive gaming. And now, the mainstream media has taken notice. TBS has recognized this mania, and has decided to take it even further with the creation of ELeague.

        ELeague will be a televised competitive gaming event, broadcast once a week, following tournaments and players for a massive prize pool. The goal is to make esports into something comparable to watching the NFL or the NBA, where viewers can follow competitors and the progress of the tournament over time, becoming attached and invested in the progression of the competition, and growing familiar with their favorite competitors and teams. The world of esports is already that big, it just hasn’t been recognized in that way until now. A televised, professional-style event like this is just what the esports community needs.

        Esports have been around for quite some time now. Blizzcon was hosting StarCraft tournaments long before esports grew into what it is today. Since the integration of live streaming platforms like Twitch, it has grown into something much more accessible and widespread. Naturally, the next step would be to broadcast it on television.

        Read the full story at our friends at E-sportsbetting.org.

        How FPSs Affect the Brain

        By Dia Ascenzi

        First Person Shooters (FPS) often get a bad rap as a less sophisticated type of game compared to the slower-paced RPGs and the real-time strategy “war-chess” games like StarCraft. One of the most reaction-intensive types of games, FPSs are associated more with younger gamers, and are assumed to require less intelligence, and less abstract thinking.

        It’s true that anyone who has played Call of Duty multiplayer online is well aware that the stereotype is not entirely without merit—there are plenty of nasally 11-year-olds eager to tell you what they plan on doing to your mother—but every community has its negative elements at the lower-skilled levels. Anyone starting out in League of Legends or Dota can confirm that bad behavior abounds in video games of all shapes and sizes.

        But not only are FPS games dismissed without merit, there are aspects to the specific style of gameplay that real, rigorous science has shown to be especially beneficial compared to other games.

        FPS Gaming: A History

        The first actual FPS game was Maze War.  Debuting in the ‘70s, this game set the stage for FPSs in the future. It was very, very basic, to be sure. The player was only able to move one square block at a time, and only left, right, forward, and backward, much like a boardgame. But hey, it was a start.

        As FPSs became more popular in the ‘90s, huge titles like Doom and Goldeneye 007 really began to set the stage for what FPS games could be. Doom was the first game to successfully integrate multiplayer mode into gaming. This alone played a huge part in the growth of FPS gaming, and all gaming, for that matter.

        Goldeneye 007 went on to perfect the capabilities of FPS gaming. Released in 1997, it eventually became the best-selling Nintendo 64 game in the U.S.. It was the first FPS to have an especially extensive single-player story mode, and features like the sniper rifle and headshots. After these games became ridiculously popular (and they still are in 2016), FPS gaming would forever be a huge staple in the gaming industry.

        With the growth of multiplayer gaming that started with FPSs, LAN development became really popular. LAN (Local Area Network) parties were a chance for gamers to get together, with their own consoles or computers, and play a game together on a larger scale, against or alongside each other. This reduced the need for games to include great AI development, as developers wanted players to play against each other, not the AI. This left even more room for perfecting gameplay and multiplayer capabilities.

        With the growth of online capabilities in gaming, online competitive play has since become the go-to form of FPS gaming. If you are playing Call of Duty, Halo, or Counterstrike, you are almost definitely playing against other people online, not single-player. These games, along with team-based FPSs like Team Fortress 2, have now become the gold standard for FPS gaming.

        FPS Good for the Brain?

        30 years of studying the cognitive effects of gaming has left us with some pretty good knowledge of what games affect your brain, and in what ways. Gaming has shown a diverse range of downstream performance enhancements, as presented in this review, such as spatial visualization, visuospatial attention, visual search, and temporal order judgments. Basically, gaming allows us to learn and exercise skills that would be pretty hard to exercise in everyday life, and FPS does this better than any other type of game.

        Read the full story at our friends at E-sportsbetting.org

        The First Modular Smartphone: The Google Ara

        By Dia Ascenzi

        As wonderful and endlessly useful as smartphones are, they haven’t seemed to evolve much in the past few years. Sure, new apps pop up every day, and minor tweaks and features get added to the mix with nearly every new smartphone model, but no huge step into the future of smartphone technology has happened in quite some time. Until now, it seems. Google is planning to launch the Google Ara in 2017, and it’s like nothing you’ve seen before in a smartphone.

        The Ara is a truly revolutionary idea in what we know smartphones to be. It is the epitome of technology meets engineering. It is a modular phone that, at its most basic components, is just a phone. What makes it different is that it can be modded to your specific preferences. The Ara has ports in which you can insert any number of interchangeable parts to customize your smartphone in more than just its appearance. You can add a better camera, a better speaker, an extra speaker, and just about anything else that interested developers may come up with. And there are a ton of interested developers. Panasonic, Wistron, E-Ink, Toshiba, Harman, Samsung, Sony Pictures, and even some health companies are thinking about designing modules for the Ara.

        Project Ara is the brainchild of Google, and will be the first smartphone Google will make themselves. The idea was to make a phone with more staying power than smartphones today. Instead of having to buy a new phone every time you want access to the newest technology, like that better camera or better battery that the newest Apple smartphone may have, you can keep your phone, and just add the newest, nicest modules out there.

        Originally, the goal of the Ara was to have a totally modular phone. That would mean that the smartphone’s CPU, antenna, and everything else that makes your phone tick, would be customizable. This was a huge tease for many technology lovers, and for that reason, even got a somewhat negative review from the creator of a similar concept, Phonebloks. But as Project Ara progressed, the team realized that this was a little too much to go for. According to Ara, many users don’t want to waste time thinking about the processor or RAM in their phone. They would rather take the developer’s word for it, and worry about the simpler things, like their camera quality and what fun things they can do on their shiny new smartphone.

        Read the full story at our friends at lovefone.co.uk.

        KFC Giving Away Battery-boxes in India

        By Andrew Hendricks

        The KFC Watt a Box is a new promotional product available at KFCs in Delhi and Mumbai. The international fried chicken restaurant has provided fast food for customers on the go for years. Now, the chain is trying to entice customers in India by including a pick-me-up treat for your phone as well.

        The charger box was a collaboration between KFC and the Mumbai-based advertising agency, Blink Digital designed to give the Colonel a jolt with the increasingly tech-savvy population.

        In a place where you might not be able to reliably find a public outlet when you’re on the go, KFC is hoping to cash in on the second most populous country in the world by providing to-go boxes that are battery-powered chargers for your smartphones and mobile devices.

        How the KFC battery box works

        The meal box is packed with a 6,100mAH power supply, two USB plug-in ports, and is designed to work with any standard USB smartphone charger, Android or iPhone.

        Apparently the power bank is removable from the box, however, it is not sold at an additional cost,according to reporting by CNET. It is a part of KFC’s “five-in-one” meal that costs 150 rupees or £1.50.

        The box is advertised as having enough juice to charge a couple smartphones in theory, although some reports have said boxes are often barely able to power a single phone.

        Read the full story at our friends at lovefone.co.uk.

        “Unhackable” iOS Nears Decade with No Significant Malware Outbreaks

        By Andrew Hendricks

        Yes, there is a reason “unhackable” is in quotes. Nothing is unhackable from a technological perspective. You just need either thousands of years for brute force methods or a really good exploit!

        Compare this to Android. Based on a Linux kernel, they are not entirely unsecure devices. The distinction in security between the Android and iOS operating system has less to do with the trivialities of their OS, and more to do with how the companies approach their software and security itself.

        Malwarebytes senior analyst Nathan Collier explains this “walled garden” approach Apple takes. “[Apple] can vet, deny and remove any apps they feel do not meet their developer's license agreement," he said. "By requiring all apps come from their App Store—which is locked down at device level—it makes it much harder for developers to submit malicious apps.”

        This does not mean it is impossible to get malware onto an iPhone. But between his approach and the difficulty of downloading something from the internet with iOS compared to an Android mobile device, you have to really be trying to play fast and loose with your iPhone to risk it becoming vulnerable or infected with malware. 

        “A customer can 'jailbreak' their device, giving them escalated privileges,” warns Collier, “but then Apple will say 'you're on your own any malicious apps encountered are your own fault'.” He also goes on to say that Android’s appeal is its openness, so it is really a trade-off, more so than the iPhone being an objectively “better” device.

        Read the full story at our friends at lovefone.co.uk.

        Flowers for Siri: What Made Apple's AI so Stupid?

        By Andrew Hendricks

        Was it Apple’s fault? Did we bring this upon ourselves?

        One thing is for certain, the steady decline in Siri’s artificial intelligence has been noticeable for years now, and it shows no signs of getting significantly better any time soon.  

        "I used to ask Siri, 'What are the five biggest lakes in California?' and it would come back with the answer," Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said in an interview. "Now it just misses. It gives me real estate listings."

        Shuffling music used to work like a charm. Now half the time she tells me, “I’m sorry, your music application isn’t open.” Well, Siri, surely you could have just assumed I wanted the default iOS music player to open and shuffle my music. I mean, you used to do this for me, Siri. What happened? What made you re-enact the climax of Flowers for Algernon? You used to save us when we needed our hands free. You used to impress our drunk friends at parties with your prowess. Now you’ve reverted back to no longer capitalizing the first words in our sentences, and having difficulty performing anything but the most basic of operations.

        Siri was once lauded as an application that could learn from others, not unlike IBM’s supercomputer Watson, which drew its wide base of knowledge from all corners of the web. But just what has she been learning from us? IBM’s Jeopardy-winning supercomputer eventually had to have Urban Dictionary scrubbed from its memory to keep it from responding to questions with foul language. Is this what happened to poor Siri? Did she finally stumble across one too many shock videos on ebaumsworld, and decide to give herself an overzealous memory wipe?

        It’s a shame that just as we’ve come to rely on her most, Siri has decided to go all Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on us. With the new Apple Watch relying immensely on Siri and her response to voice commands, and smartphones on the verge of controlling things as important as your car (and not just unlocking it, but driving it as well), a reliable personal assistant is more vital than ever. Can you imagine what could happen if you asked Siri to get your car out of the garage one morning, and she decided that the “braking application” was not open? We can’t have you deserting us now, Siri!

        Read the full story at our friends at lovefone.co.uk.

        Macro, Micro, and APM: Starcraft Terminology 101

        By Andrew Hendricks

        So you’ve got $100 riding on the latest Starcraft match and you turn to your friend complaining “his macro makes no sense! He thinks he’s winning but they’ll have a way stronger economy in just 30 seconds!” most likely your friend will just look at you quizzically.

        If your friend isn’t in the competitive esports scene but is a gamer, he’ll probably think you’re just using the term macro weirdly. In MMORPGs and similar games, “macros” refer to binded keysets that allow you to execute a combination of commands all at once with a single keystroke. In real-time strategy games with an “economy” like Starcraft, “macro” means something completely different. If you or a loved one needs a primer on the basic Starcraft terminology, then look no further.

        APM

        This is the skill that separates the men and women from wannabees. APM stands for Actions Per Minute. This refers to how fast a player can perform the actions they must execute during the match, and can really hurt your gameplay if your opponent is performing actions much faster than you. Some hardened pros will even exploit their opponent’s weak APM by changing their play style to cause the opponent to have to execute more actions, thus making their low APM their biggest weakness.

        Micro

        Micro, as the term implies, refers to a player looking at the game at a small, microscopic level. The smallest level you can get to is a single resource gatherer who can build things or a single army unit who can attack things or scout. Amazing professional players with their hummingbird-like APM can win even the most one-sided of battles against less-seasoned players by exploiting the weak micro of players controlling and otherwise-unstoppable army. Knowing which units to send against which is essential to maximizing your micro skills. Marines are an unstoppable force until they hit a patch of banelings or a horde or roaches. An armada of void rays will quickly be made into swiss cheese with just a small clump of hydras. Splitting your army to make sure the proper units are attacking their squishy enemy and not just the nearest possible enemy is what make makes micro matter.

        Macro

        Very different from “macros” as previously explained, macro refers to your economy (the entirety of your units, resources, and buildings)—the opposite of your micro. Whereas micro refers to your unit-specific control of army units engaging in positioning and battle, Macro refers to your economy as a whole. Think microscopic compared to macroscopic. The bird’s-eye view of how you’re doing, whether you’re supply blocked, whether you’re expanding, whether you’re upgrading—all of these things contribute to your macro. Your APM heavily affects your macro as well as your micro. A good professional player will be able to seamlessly transition between micro-ing their army and boosting their macro. Because you still have to switch between your buildings and bases, every millisecond spent considering the grander-scale economy is a millisecond you aren’t attacking with your units most effectively, and that makes you vulnerable to attack. But without a solid macro and thriving economy, you’ll have no resources or strengthened units to win the fight!

        Read the full story at our friends at E-sportsbetting.org.

        What to Expect from iPhone 7

        By Kayla Robbins

        It’s no secret that the newest addition to the Apple franchise is slated to come out later this year, but most of the information regarding its features is being kept very quiet by Apple execs. Nevertheless, there have been a few leaks that give us a better idea of what to expect from the iPhone 7, and even more rampant speculation of the same.

        What will it look like?

        From a design perspective, experts expect it to be rather similar to the iPhone 6s. The folks at Apple are apparently confident that they’ve finally perfected the art of perfectly curved corners, along with all other elements of the signature iPhone aesthetic. It may have a few minor changes, of course, like a slightly less protruding camera (though reports are divided on that point) or fewer antenna bands, but it will remain the same basic size and shape. It will once again be released in two different sizes: the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. It is likely that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will use the same screen size as the current iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, 4.7 and 5.5 inches respectively, having apparently hit the sweet spot when it comes to screen size. One potential difference is the removal of the standard headphone jack which would allow the new device to be much thinner than its predecessor. Users would still be able to connect headphones through the lightning port or via bluetooth. Apple may also decide to integrate a second set of speakers for stereo audio.

        What’s under the hood?

        Apple is of course known for stepping up their game with each new product release, so it will be exciting to see exactly what new technology they’ve come up with for us this time. In the iPhone 7, we expect to see some new top-of-the-line A10 processors from TSMC, along with a Smart Connector on the back of the phone that could potentially be used for wireless charging. The Smart Connector has been previously seen on the latest version of the iPad Pro, in that case being used to connect wireless keyboards and other accessories quickly and easily. However, Logitech has recently demonstrated the Smart Connector’s power as a charging method with its Logi Base, so it’s entirely possible that Apple may be heading down that road themselves. Its intended purpose remains to be seen.

        Read the full story at our friends at lovefone.co.uk.

        ASUS Smartphone Fails to Live Up to Brand

        By Rae Avery

        Laptop and PC manufacturer ASUS wants to cash in its chips and win big with its new line of smartphones and mobile devices, but are they worth it? How do they stack up against iPhone and other products we know and love? ...And who is ASUS anyway? It’s not a name that comes to mind when thinking of smartphones, but it might soon be up there with Samsung and Apple.

        In 1989, a group of four ambitious hardware engineers all working for the same company, decided to strike out on their own and developed ASUS, a humble little tech enterprise that made motherboards. Today, nearly 30 years after its launch, ASUS designs and manufactures everything from laptops to flat screen TVs to sophisticated data storage. The hard-working, Taiwanese "multinational computer hardware and electronics company” continues to grow and expand its product line, and in 2013 the business boasted a $21.4 billion profit. According to the ASUS website, “ASUS takes its name from PegASUS, the winged horse in Greek mythology that symbolizes wisdom and knowledge. ASUS embodies the strength, purity, and adventurous spirit of this fantastic creature, and soars to new heights with each new product it creates.” Wow. That's quite a lofty promise from a tech company. Let's see if ASUS can take that vision and manifest it into quality products, by taking a peek at some of their newest, fresh off the line devices.

        Read the full story at our friends at lovefone.co.uk.

        BBC Igniting New Wave of Young Programmers With Micro Bit

        By Dia Ascenzi

        It’s no secret that much of today’s world is built around computers. There are tons of jobs that require extensive knowledge of them, meaning there is job security in being current and proficient in computer programming. Because of this, the BBC has taken a bold and innovative step to promote computer education for British youth. They are sending minicomputers to each student in the UK enrolled in years 7 and 8. Their goal is to help students become familiar and excited about learning computer programming, even if only at a beginner’s level. One million BBC Micro Bits will be sent out to students in the UK, absolutely free. This could represent a huge change in how the next generation will be able to use and understand computer programming.

        The BBC Micro Bit is a small, programmable micro computer similar to the Raspberry Pi or Arduino. It has inputs, outputs, a processor, 25 LED lights, and two programmable buttons. Students will be given these Micro Bits to use in the classroom alongside beginner-friendly web portals and smartphone apps. Teachers will be trained in how to teach the skills needed to make basic programs and apps, or even basic robotic mechanisms. There is almost no limit to the coding capabilities of the BBC Micro Bit, so dedicated students may learn enough to make much more advanced programs with their shiny new mini computers.

        This program was funded by the BBC’s Make it Digital campaign, an initiative to create a generation with widespread proficiency in computer programming. This mass distribution and education could produce an army of computer geniuses hitting the job market in a few years.

        Read the full story at our friends at lovefone.co.uk.

        Blizzcon 2016 Hype

        BlizzCon 2016 marks the tenth annual gathering hosted by Blizzard, and should shape up to be a pretty epic event. This also marks Blizzard’s 25th anniversary, so it should be an event to remember. BlizzCon is one of the most anticipated esports tournaments, and rightfully so. Blizzard has always been a pioneer in gaming, and has plenty of hugely played games to show for it. This year at BlizzCon, seasoned players will compete in StarCraft II, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and (my personal favorite) the World of Warcraft Arena Championship. The event isn’t until November, but tickets go on sale really, really soon, and can only be purchased on two days. If you were planning on going, you better be ready to scramble for tickets.

        BlizzCon Tickets can be bought on April 20 and 23. The event will be held in Anaheim, California, on November 4 and 5. If you want to go, you need to get your tickets on one of these two days. The tickets go for $199, and are released in batches. The first batch goes on sale at 7 PM Pacific Standard Time, April 20 and the second batch goes on sale at 10 a.m. P.T, April 23. The tickets will be sold through Universe, or you can just check out the BlizzCon Tickets page.

        Esports are still relatively new in the scope of the gaming community. While they will be a large focus of BlizzCon, perhaps the more exciting part of these conventions are the panels. You can find out breaking news about what Blizzard is working on, and what may soon be on the horizon. There will surely be talk of the Warcraft movie, new games on the way, sequels to older games, expansions, and whatever else Blizzard has been up to.

        Read the whole story at our friends at E-sportsbetting.org.

        Let your Smartphone Fly with Drone Phone

        By Kayla Robbins

        With manufacturing and technology costs for drones becoming lower and lower, consumer drones are quickly becoming a top trend this year. It seems like every tech enthusiast across the nation has one or wishes he could get his hands on one. The fear of wrecking $1,600 worth of technology in a single flight no longer is a factor for early tech adopters. A company called xCraft is now looking to make that dream a reality for more and more consumers with the literal launch of their affordable quadcopter, dubbed the PhoneDrone. And they’ve done so in an innovative way that tends to elicit one of two reactions: “that’s amazing!” or, “that’s really, really dumb.”

        How Soon Until Bendable Screens are Market-Ready?

        By Dia Ascenzi

        For the past couple years, there has been talk of flexible smartphones being right around the corner, but we haven’t really seen it happen yet. Sure, there have been small steps in that direction, and in the past, manufacturers have claimed that it is coming soon, but it seems that the technology involved to make a bendable phone may be just slightly out of reach. Any real attempt at a flexible smartphone so far has been pretty lackluster with battery issues of dead pixels ruining the allure of this bleeding edge tech. So, how long will we be waiting for these phones to become available, really?

        A flexible smartphone would surely be a very neat thing to have, but it could also solve some common problems for smartphone users. For one, it could greatly increase the durability of smartphones, something that will always be a huge selling point for smartphone manufacturers.  On the other hand, flexible phones may change how easy and practical it is to go get your phone screen fixed instead of having to replace your phone altogether. There are also some big possibilities for functionality that could accompany a flexible smartphone, as demonstrated by the latest bendable smartphone prototype, the ReFlex.

        This prototype was built at Queens University in Canada, and is made up of a 720p flexible LG OLED screen connected to bend sensors and haptic feedback motors. The bend sensors allow the phone screen to react when the phone is bent, allowing the bending of the screen to actually be an interactive thing, and not just the ability to bend your phone. The prototype demonstrates this function by bending the phone to flip pages in an e-book, and even by playing Angry Birds by use of bending the screen. The haptic motors even react to allow you to actually feel the pages turning, or the stretching of the slingshot in Angry Birds. This makes using your screen even more mentally stimulating, as it actually alerts your senses more than a normal touchscreen.

        Read the full story at our friend's at Lovefone.co.uk.

        Understanding Smartphone Malware and Your Risk

        By Rae Avery

        Malware is short for malicious software, and is sort of like a computer virus, but specifically designed to target your smartphone through shady apps and security lapses. If your phone gets infected, the malware could steal your GPS coordinates, your contact list, email addresses and other personal information. Some malware can even record phone conversations, and charge you money by authorizing messages to be sent to premium rate numbers or subscribe your phone to premium services, all without your permission, or even your knowledge. Read on to find out whether iPhones really are safer than android phones when it comes to malware, and what you can do to safeguard your smartphone, no matter which device you own.

        When designing Apple phones and devices, they made it so users can only get third party apps from the official App Store, where they do a “static analysis” (this means they examine the code without executing the software, ensuring that it meets industry standards) of all submitted app source code before even allowing an app in the store to begin with, among other rigorous security procedures.

        One of the core safety features of iOS is “sandboxing,” which ensures all apps are kept separate from each other. This means that installed apps cannot remove system files, and cannot enforce any unauthorized actions. Deep in the DNA of your iPhone is a program called BSD, a version of the UNIX system (sort of a cousin to Linux). BSD requires that in order to read, write, delete or execute files, one must have file permissions. To perform any of these things, one must act as the “root user.” Apple designed it this way on purpose so that users cannot gain root access. Like the child-proof cap on the bottle of Tylenol, it's really for your own good.