Gamers give their verdicts after being among the first in the UK to try the Xbox One X

The Xbox One X is nearly here – and fans in the UK have just been able to play it for the first time.

People at the EGX games expo in Birmingham have been playing demos of new games for the follow-up to the Xbox One.

Microsoft promise a more powerful processor which will be able to run games in 4K ultra-HD.

Here’s what gamers thought – after being some of the first in the UK to try the console.

Ashley and Omick

Ashley and Omick

“Wow. It’s mind-blowing,” says Ashley, who was playing Assassin’s Creed.

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Why do sports games need story modes?

“The game really does pop out at you, whereas before you didn’t get that depth of field that you get now.”

Omick adds: “It’s definitely leaps and bounds ahead of what’s currently out there.

“It’s just a matter of using the power to take it to new gaming heights.

And they don’t have any qualms paying around £500 for the console – they’ve both pre-ordered it.

“It’s a case of if you want that PC-level quality experience but don’t want the complexity of setting it all up,” says Omick.

Christina and Myles

Christina and Myles

Having just played the new console, Christina and her boyfriend Myles are both slightly more reserved.

“The game we played showed off the 4K really well, and showed the potential of the new Xbox,” says Christina.

“Definitely going from 720p to 4K is nicer. It ran really well. No latency at all,” agrees Myles.

But they’re both concerned about the price – and not just of the console.

“To get the 4K and the top graphics, you need to buy the 4K TV as well,” says Christina.

“PlayStation already do 4K, so Xbox needed to step up. They are, but you have to look at the price and see what else they can give us [for that price]“.

Matt and Matt

Matt ad Matt

One of the Matts isn’t really buying the claims of the Xbox One X being more powerful than ever.

“Apparently the PS4 Pro was the most powerful one as well. They can say what they want, it’s just marketing gimmicks.”

He’s not sure the console will take off because 4K TVs are still relatively new and expensive: “When they become a lot cheaper, people will appreciate the ability of the consoles,” he says.

The other Matt dopes admit the game play was “really good” with impressive graphics, but is still “a Sony fanboy” at heart.

He’s more into indie games, so “it’s more about the games than power for me.

“I don’t have a 4K TV, so at the minute it’s fun but not realistic.”

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/articles/41350096

The long wait for a Persian iPhone keyboard

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Reuters

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Apple introduced new iOS on Tuesday

Android devices as well as Apple computers have Persian keyboards, but until this week the option wasn’t available on Apple phones or iPads.

For years Persian speakers used the Arabic keyboard on the iPhone, which was not really ideal for writing quickly or accurately in Persian.

There were lots of petitions to Apple, pressing them to add a Persian keyboard to mobile phones. That finally paid off with the latest release.

Arabic and Persian keyboards are very similar. But there are two major issues – the four extra letters in Persian – and the “half space” feature needed for a well-edited Persian message.

In order to type the extra four letters in our alphabet we had to press and hold another letter and wait for a window to pop up so we could drag our finger on it and see it on screen.

Yet that was still doable. The “half space” was the more serious issue.

In Persian, the letters in a single word are joined-up. Some words we make by combining two words together. These compound words should be near but not attached to each other.

On Apple and Microsoft computers, as well as in Android devices we have long been able to use a “half space” to separate words but keep them close enough. A hyphen does almost a similar task in English. But the half space is used far more in Persian.

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First line is typing without half space and the second line has the half space. Extra Persian letters are circled in Red. Half space button has a blue circle around it.

For example: “I work for the BBC.”

If I want to write this sentence in Farsi, I use the “half space” three times to keep the BBC letters close to each other and to join two parts of the verb.

For several years, many Iranians and Afghans signed petitions, hoping to add the keyboard. One of my friends personally wrote to Steve Jobs twice, but never heard back.

Even though Apple could have given us this option sooner, I took the joy of having a proper keyboard to Twitter and wrote about it there.

Some Android enthusiasts replied to me, saying their devices had it for “ages”.

Others wondered why Apple would add the keyboard as they abandoned Iranian apps.

Recently Apple has removed some apps developed in Iran from their stores. Snapp, a popular ride-hailing app like Uber, was one of those affected. Apple said it was deleting them due to US sanctions, but some Persian cooking apps or video streaming apps developed outside Iran were also deleted. Google did not take the same measures.

Even though many see Apple’s recent moves as a double standard, I still think having a Persian keyboard is good for our language.

Persian written in the Persian alphabet is common in only two countries: Iran and Afghanistan.

During the time of the Soviet Union, Iranian elites often sent their sons to Europe and the USSR to study.

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Amazed by the Western world, some suggested we should change our alphabet to Latin, much like Turkey did. Others argued we would cut our ties with our literary heritage, and those arguments won out. We ended up keeping our alphabet.

Then came the era of computers and smartphones. Early technology did not support the Persian alphabet. So my generation, who grew up in the 80s and 90s, started writing Persian with a Latin alphabet on computers and early phones, calling it Farglish.

Because of the sanctions, Apple and other major tech companies do not have any legal presence in Iran and as some of these smartphones are considered expensive, they don’t have a big market in Iran and Afghanistan.

One may wonder why it was important for us to have a Persian keyboard on devices that not many Iranians own.

The answer is that we do care about our cultural heritage and appreciate any attempt to have a better connection with our great poets and writers – masters like Sa’di, Rumi, Hafiz, Ferdowsi, Khayyam and others.

A text for me is like a wall. Every word is like a brick. If I want to build a sturdy and beautiful wall I cannot use broken bricks. I don’t want any extra space between the pieces of a brick.

As a journalist or even as a user on Twitter, I would like to make a good impression on my audience.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41355541

Bees ‘go online’ in Manchester

Bees in Manchester are having computer chips glued to their bodies, to help beekeepers track when they enter and exit the hive.

Rory Cellan-Jones visited the project to find out how it works.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41363465

Hijacked software used to target tech giants

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It’s still not clear what the attack code does on compromised machines

Hackers who booby-trapped widely used security software also used their malware to infiltrate machines at tech firms, suggests analysis.

Evidence that other companies had been compromised came to light as Cisco researchers probed how attackers got at the popular CCleaner programme.

Millions of people downloaded a Windows version that hackers had laced with malicious code.

Cisco said the attackers were seeking valuable intellectual property.

Cleaning up

Last week CCleaner creator Piriform revealed that attackers had managed to place a hijacked copy of version 5.33 that works on Windows on some download servers. The booby-trapped code was available for about a month between August and September,

Millions of people downloaded the compromised version of CCleaner but damage was limited because whoever created it had not updated it to include elements that could scan machines and steal data.

However, Cisco said its analysis suggested that attackers had taken that extra step on machines at tech firms they had managed to infiltrate.

Hi-tech giants including Cisco, Intel, Google, Samsung and Microsoft were among the 20 or so companies believed to have been hit in this way.

“These new findings raise our level of concern about these events, as elements of our research point towards a possible unknown, sophisticated actor,” wrote the Cisco researchers.

Cisco said it was likely that a lot of other firms had been hit by whoever was behind the sophisticated and wide-ranging attack.

It recommended that anyone cleaning up after finding they had been compromised restore machines from backup as it was not clear what other code the attackers had installed on those computers. It said it was still analysing the code to find out exactly what it did.

Cisco said it was not yet clear who carried out the sophisticated attack on CCleaner and the other technology firms.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41359852

Gym app Pact pays $1m over broken promises

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Pact

Fitness app Pact, which promised members financial rewards for meeting their health goals, has settled accusations that it broke its promises.

The app let people set exercise and dietary goals, and charged them a penalty between $5 (£3.70) and $50 if they failed to meet their target.

It pledged to share some of the “fines” with members who did reach their goals.

But the US Federal Trade Commission said Pact had now started to return money wrongly taken from subscribers.

Pact – originally known as GymPact – was launched in 2012 to help people meet fitness goals.

Pledges were verified by using smartphone location data and photographs to prove members had been to the gym.

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PAct

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Pact used smartphone data to prove people were genuinely exercising

People could choose how much they would be “fined” if they failed to meet their own targets.

The FTC alleged that the company had broken its promises and charged “tens of thousands” of people a penalty even if they had met their fitness goals, or cancelled their subscription.

It also said the app did not pay out the rewards it had promised,

“Unfortunately, even when consumers held up their end of the deal, Pact failed to make good on its promises,” said the FTC’s Tom Pahl.

As part of the settlement, the company will return $940,000 to members who earned cash rewards or were incorrectly charged.

The BBC has attempted to contact principals of the Pact team.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41363463

Uber London loses licence to operate

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Some 3.5 million passengers and 40,000 drivers use the Uber app in London

Uber will not be issued a new private hire licence, Transport for London (TfL) has said.

TfL concluded the ride-hailing app firm was not fit and proper to hold a London private hire operator licence.

It said it took the decision on the grounds of “public safety and security implications”.

Confirming it would appeal against the decision, Uber said it showed the world “far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies”.

Some 3.5 million passengers and 40,000 drivers use the Uber app in London.

Latest updates and reaction

What does the ruling mean?

In a statement, Uber said: “Transport for London and the mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice.”

Uber’s general manager in London Tom Elvidge said: “To defend the livelihoods of all those drivers, and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app, we intend to immediately challenge this in the courts.”

He said Uber operated in more than 600 cities around the world, including more than 40 towns and cities in the UK.

TfL’s concerns include Uber’s approach to carrying out background checks on drivers and reporting serious criminal offences.

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PA

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Taxi drivers have been campaigning against Uber, such as engaging in this “go slow” protest in 2014

There had been growing speculation that the app could be banned from London.

Opponents of the firm claim it causes gridlocked roads and does not do enough to regulate its drivers.

One driver with Uber in London said: “I don’t think it is a fair decision. Uber offers a flexible schedule, and a weekly income.”


Analysis: From BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones

Throughout its short, tempestuous life, Uber has clashed with regulators around the world – and more often than not it has come out on top.

Its tactic has often been to arrive in a city, break a few rules, and then apologise when it’s rapped over the knuckles. Some regulators have backed down, others have run the company out of town.

In London, despite protests from angry taxi drivers, the company has had a relatively easy ride until now.

But a wave of bad publicity about its corporate culture, its lax attitude to checks on its drivers and its treatment of this freelance army seems to have spurred TfL into action.

Make no mistake, Uber will use every legal avenue to fight this ban. It will argue that consumers, in the shape of the millions of mainly young Londoners who rely on its service, will be seriously let down if it can no longer operate.

But the courts will have to balance that with the serious concerns about public safety raised by TfL.


Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said in a statement: “I fully support TfL’s decision – it would be wrong if TfL continued to license Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security.

“Any operator of private hire services in London needs to play by the rules.”

Across the world, Uber has been pushed out or denied access by local licensing laws.

Legislators in Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, are debating whether to allow Uber to return after a raft of reforms designed to open up the ride-sharing market were announced.

Uber is currently fighting a test case in Denmark after four if its drivers were found to be in violation of the country’s laws requiring taxi meters.

General secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association Steve McNamara said it was the “right call” not to re-license Uber in London.

“We expect Uber will again embark on a spurious legal challenge against the mayor and TfL, and we will urge the court to uphold this decision,” he said.

“This immoral company has no place on London’s streets.”

‘Luddite decision’

Labour MP Wes Streeting, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Taxis, said: “This is a courageous decision by the mayor and Transport for London.

“It finally draws a line in the sand to make it clear that no company, however big and powerful, will be allowed to flout our laws and regulations or jeopardise Londoners’ safety without facing serious consequences.”

However, David Leam, of London First which campaigns for business in the capital, said London needed to be open to new ideas, business and services.

He said: “This will be seen as a Luddite decision by millions of Londoners and international visitors who use Uber, and will also hit London’s reputation as a global tech hub.”

James Farrar, chairman of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain’s United Private Hire Drivers branch, said: “This is a devastating blow for 30,000 Londoners who now face losing their job and being saddled with unmanageable vehicle-related debt.

“To strip Uber of its licence after five years of laissez-faire regulation is a testament to a systemic failure at TfL.”

Uber has 21 days to appeal TfL’s decision.


Timeline: Uber

  • July 2010 – Uber is launched as a cab-hailing app in San Francisco
  • July 2012 – Uber is granted a five-year private hire licence to operate in the capital
  • May 2017 – Uber is issued a four-month operator licence to continue working in London to allow TfL to “consider” a new five-year deal
  • 18 September 2017 – TfL announces it is overhauling the current fee structure for private hire companies operating in the capital
  • 22 September 2017 – TfL announces it will not be issuing Uber London Limited with a private hire operator licence

Do you use Uber? Do you drive for them? What is your reaction to this news? Email your comments to

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-41358640

YouTube to end paid channels service

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YouTube has announced the end of paid channels, which were launched in 2013 as one of the site’s first attempts at charging for content.

The facility let people pay a monthly fee to access individual YouTube channels from providers such as National Geographic and Sesame Street.

However, the service was not popular with viewers and will end in December.

“It never achieved popularity with creators or users,” Google admitted in a blog post.

In December, videomakers who currently host their videos on a paid subscription-only channel will have the option of hiding them or making them available free.

The closure does not affect YouTube Red, the website’s own subscription service that offers exclusive programmes and removes advertisements from YouTube. It is currently available only in the United States.

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YouTube

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Individual paid movie and concert rentals will also still be offered on YouTube.

To help videomakers earn money, YouTube said it would open up its sponsorship facility to more content creators.

That facility lets viewers set up voluntary monthly payments of $4.99 (£3.70) to their favourite YouTube stars, in exchange for perks such as customised emojis.

“They haven’t seen the take-up they wanted,” said Joseph Evans, an analyst at Enders.

“It’s somewhat surprising when you look at what the other giants are doing. Amazon is pushing a modular ‘subscribe to one channel at a time’ service, having started with its all-you-can-eat package.

“With the sort of content people expect on YouTube, the sponsorship model does make more sense.

“But YouTubers may be wary of giving Google control of their video distribution and sponsorship money.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41336426

Nest reveals alarm system and smart doorbell

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Nest

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Nest’s home security system is more expensive than several rivals

Nest is expanding its range of smart home products, ending a lull in which it improved existing kit, but did not expand into fresh categories.

The items include an internet-connected intruder alarm, a video-streaming doorbell and a door lock system developed in collaboration with Yale.

In addition, the firm – which is part of the Google empire – announced an outdoor version of its IQ facial recognition camera.

The tech is priced at a premium.

The Nest Secure alarm starter pack, for example, will cost $499 (£367) when it goes on sale in November.

And if owners want to add a cellular back-up service to ensure it still works if the wi-fi connection goes down, there is an additional $50 per year charge.

By contrast, the Era Vault smartphone alarm system starts at about £150, Yale’s SR-320 smart alarm kit can be bought for £250, and Samsung’s SmartThings Home Monitoring kit begins at £140.

“Home security is an vital part of smart home market and is already a very competitive market segment comprising of established players as well as other smart device players,” said Dinesh Kithany from the IHS Technology consultancy.

“Nest’s current price tags put them in a premium position and could possibly restrict them from having a sizeable market, particularly outside the US.”

Detect and tag

Nest is pitching its products as being easier-to-use than much of the competition and all controllable via a single app.

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Nest

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The Nest Secure system can be expanded with further products for an additional cost

The basic Secure system consists of three interlinked devices :

  • Detect – a sensor that recognises both nearby motion and the open-shut movement. It can be placed on a wall, door or window
  • Tag – a keyring fob that allows the system to be armed and disarmed by family members with a tap as they enter and leave their building
  • Guard – a base that sounds the alarm and can be turned on and off by either being tapped with a Tag or having a code typed into its keypad. It also contains its own motion sensor and, like the company’s earlier smoke detector, guides its owners via voice recordings

Notifications are sent to the Nest app if the system detects anything unusual and allows the system to be turned on remotely if the owners forgot to do so when leaving.

The Hello video doorbell aims to rival similar products already on the market by providing high dynamic range (HDR) images – meaning they should be richer and more detailed than standard feeds when viewed on compatible equipment.

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Nest

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The Hello bell streams high definition audio and video and can be paired with facial recognition software

The device can be set to send alerts if it does not recognise a stranger’s face or hears an unusual sound – however owners must subscribe to an additional service to gain the function.

If paired with the other forthcoming product, the Nest+Yale lock, owners will be able to unlock their front door remotely for friends or deliveries, assuming they are comfortable with the idea.

“The Nest Hello video doorbell brings a few unique features to an increasingly crowded market,” remarked IHS Technology analyst Blake Kozak.

“[But] despite its brand recognition, Nest will have an uphill battle to supplant [smart doorbell] Ring, which currently has a global market share of about 45%.”

Neither Nest’s lock nor bell have yet been priced.


Analysis:

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Nest

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The Detect sensors can identify when a door or window is being opened

By Dave Lee, BBC North America technology reporter

Last year, Nest’s co-founder Tony Fadell was forced out of his company – the primary criticism being that it wasn’t putting out enough new products.

The same complaint can’t be levied at the man who replaced him, Marwan Fawaz. At San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum, we saw a slew of new ideas, all focused on the idea that home security products are atrociously hard to use.

Nest Secure, a complete home security system, is much more ambitious than previous Nest products. And if it’s taking on the terrible home security industry, with its confusing number pads and unintuitive installation, it won’t be difficult to pick off that low-hanging fruit.

In fact, I’d say Nest’s biggest challenge with Secure will not be detecting bad guys, but eliminating the false positives that plague rival products.

Until I’m able to test it out properly, I’m going to withhold my judgement. But at first look, it seems Nest have put together a strong suite of new ideas that cater to – shock – normal people.

Take Nest Hello, the new smart doorbell. Its “nap time” mode allows you to still be notified when someone presses the bell, but it will not chime so as not to wake any sleeping babies (or adults, for that matter). That’s good, simple design.

UPDATE: Tony Fadell’s PR staff has been in touch to say Mr Fadell did not leave Nest because of a lack of new products – noting that “under Tony’s leadership, Nest shipped 4 hardware products, launched 2 new services, and had 5 app releases”.

However, reports published at the time of his departure cited a lack of new product lines – rather than upgrades to existing products – to be a key factor in his departure.


Google paid $3.2bn (£2.4bn) to buy Nest Labs in 2014 despite it only having two products – an internet-connected thermostat and smoke detector.

The expectation was that it would launch further smart home kit in short order.

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Nest

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Nest also announced a $349 outdoor security camera that uses facial recognition tech

But, until now, the only new hardware category it had moved into had been security cameras, and they were only released after Nest acquired Dropcam, a start-up specialising in the field.

“This launch is essential for Nest and long overdue,” commented Ben Wood from the CCS Insight consultancy.

“Google paid an eye-watering sum for the business and it then seemed to have been struck by some kind of paralysis.

“In the meantime, the market has slipped away from them as others have piled in.

“The products announced today will help close the gap, but they are far from the disruptive leap that Nest made when it first exploded on to the scene.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41336093

Microsoft confirms Outlook issues

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Microsoft

Microsoft has confirmed that some users of its email service Outlook are unable to send email or access their accounts.

Hundreds from around Europe have commented on the website Downdetector that they have been affected by the problem – many since Monday morning.

One common issue seems to be that sent emails remain in the drafts folder and are not being delivered to recipients.

On its website, Microsoft says the service dropped “unexpectedly” and it is working on a fix.

Not all account holders are affected.

“Intermittent connectivity is affecting customers in some European countries, which we are working to resolve as soon as possible,” said a Microsoft representative.

Outlook incorporates Hotmail and Windows Live Hotmail accounts.

On its service status page, Microsoft is currently saying that an “alternate infrastructure” is being used while the service is restored.

“We’ve identified that a subset of infrastructure was unable to process requests as expected, which caused general service availability to drop unexpectedly,” it says.

“We’ve redirected requests to alternate infrastructure to restore service, and we’re monitoring the environment while connectivity recovers.

“Additionally, we’re investigating an issue in which users are unable to send email messages.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-41306441