Russian Officials Brand The Sims 4 as ‘Harmful to Children’

Russia has come under fire from both gamers and the global LGTB community for its decision to restrict sales of Electronic Arts game ‘The Sims 4’ to 18+ gamers.

EA have claimed that this 18+ rating is due to the game’s depiction of same-sex relationships, images of which are deemed by Russian law as being “harmful to children”.

The Sims, in any incarnation, centres on the lives of a group of virtual characters. Players must ensure that the characters are fed, enjoy gainful employment, have somewhere to live (preferably with adequate toilet facilities) and are generally happy in their lives.

sims 4 2014There are very few mission-based objectives within The Sims. In fact, it is intended as a virtual depiction (some may say satire) of modern life. To this end, relationships play a part in the game, although characters are neither explicitly heterosexual nor homosexual, these are largely choices made on the part of the player. Relationships can either be brief flirtations, casual flings or monogamous, steady partnerships; it is entirely up to the gamer.

Depictions of sex (called ‘woohoo’) within the game take place under sheets, or in other private places. Players can tell that something is going on, but one would be hard pushed to guess that it was sex without some prior erm…Woohoo experience.

In 2010, Russia passed a law known as 436-FZ, which was created, ostensibly, to protect children from harmful content. The law gives Russian officials the right to censor anything that may elicit “fear, horror, or panic in young children”. It sounds fair enough, except when you try to envision any child, no matter how sensitive, being rendered ‘fearful, horrified or panicky’ at the sight of two, essentially genderless, computer sprites exchanging, essentially nothing, under a duvet.

For the record, Sims cannot take illegal drugs or self harm in any way (with the possible exception of being up all night woohoo-ing and then falling asleep at work and being fired, which I don’t think qualifies), so it is hard to imagine why else the game could have garnered such a severe age restriction.

Oh wait; I forgot to mention that in 2013, Russian authorities amended 436-FZ so that it prohibits the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships”. Now there’s an ill-fitting definition if ever there was one.

Many studies/groups (such as America’s TREVOR project) maintain that media-enforced pressure to conform to heterosexual norms can cause depression, anxiety and even suicide among LGBT youths, essentially proving that only showing one type of romantic relationship can actually be harmful to young viewers. On the flipside, as far as I know, there is no evidence to suggest that seeing a same-sex partnership in a video game will cause an otherwise heterosexual gamer to become a homosexual and even if there was, how exactly would they be being harmed by this unlikely metamorphosis?

Critics maintain that this move reflects little more than personal prejudice in the guise of child protection. Who’s ‘fear, horror and/or panic’ are Russia really preventing here?

In the rest of the world, The Sims series has either been rated at 10+ or 13+ (mainly because of all the woohoo, I suppose). Electronic Arts was voted as being one of the best places to work for LGBT individuals by the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) in 2012, it got a score of 100%.

One has to wonder what score the Russian government would get.

SOURCE

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-27374539

Computers and Technology

NuForce gets serious about making great headphones

When we found this post we were so pleased, having looked for over one year for this, discovering it on this blog was an exciting day for me.

The new NuForce Primo 8 in-ears are supposed to be awfully good. The Audiophiliac tries them on.

NuForce is primarily known as a high-end electronics manufacturer that also makes outstandingaffordable products. I’ve been a fan for years, and while they’ve offered headphones in the past, the new Primo 8 in-ears aim higher. I liked them from the get-go, so I used the Primo 8 for a few weeks as my everyday, walking-around headphones. The more I listened, the more I liked them. That’s really saying something because when I’m not reviewing an in-ear headphone I use my Jerry Harvey JH13($1,099) custom-molded-to-my-ears ‘phones. Hey, I’m a headphone reviewer and a hard-core audiophile, so I use the best stuff.

Anyway, the Primo 8, which runs $499, didn’t leave me missing the JH13.

The Primo 8′s rated 38 ohm impedance and high sensitivity make it easier to drive than most in-ears, so it can play pretty loudly from your phone. I found the Primo 8′s isolation from noise on the New York subway better than I’ve found in most universal-fit in-ear headphones. NuForce claims it has a proprietary cable and crossover network for the Primo 8′s four balanced armature drivers in each earpiece. The cables are user-replaceable, so when they break, and all headphones cables will eventually fail, you can just buy a new cable and be on your way. The Primo 8 comes with a huge assortment of ear tips, so getting a good, tight seal should be easy.

The Primo 8′s sound is neutral and clear — there’s no boosted bass or exaggerated treble; it just sounds right. The clarity is unforced, and that’s a rare commodity nowadays. Take the Cardas EM8513 in-ears ($425) — they have more bass and overall detail, but switching to the Primo 8, the sound is far more natural. It’s also more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. The Sennheiser IE-800 in-ear headphones are more transparent and open sounding than the Primo 8 or EM8513, but the IE-800 sells for $1,000! Again, the IE-800 succeeds by being even-tempered in its sound; nothing jumps out or annoys — the balance is spot on. Even so, the Primo 8 is more comfortable, and until you compare it with headphones that sell for double the price, the sound is very respectable. The Primo 8 is a true audiophile headphone, and while it’s expensive, you’d have to spend a lot more to get something better.

Source – http://www.cnet.com/uk/news/headphones-reviews-nuforce-primo8-audiophiliac/

Computers and Technology

How did people communicate with each other 100 years ago?

Asked by Barbara from Basingstoke

 

Hi Barbara from Basingstoke (I like that, it has a nice ring to it), 

I presume you mean to ask me how people communicated over long distances, because otherwise the answer would simply be ‘they talked to each other, just as they do today’. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but please be more specific in future! (Kidding!)

OK, so 100 years ago, in 1914, the telephone was still in its infancy, relatively speaking. 99 years ago, Thomas Watson made the first coast-to-coast phone call in America, so that should give you some idea of where the telephone was, development wise.

However, the invention had been patented since 1876 and 1877 had seen the first long-distance phone call placed. But by and large, telephones were not an overly common part of people’s lives the way they are now.

More common was the telegraph, which had been knocking around for a while by then. People in official positions tended to use that, but it wouldn’t have been a fixture of regular people’s houses.

Far more common than telephone or telegraph was the postal service. In 1914, if you wanted to contact a friend, relative, or loved one, you wrote to them. The working classes were better educated than at any other time in history (up to that point) and literacy was improving (although it certainly wasn’t at the near-ubiquitous level of today). Letters took a long time to arrive by today’s standards, so they tended to be longer and more absorbing than, say, a Facebook chat is today. In fact, intellectuals, authors and politicians would often engage themselves in long-winded and exhaustive intellectual contests via thorough, essay-length correspondences.

Another option would have been to speak via mutual acquaintances. Literature of the period frequently involves friends using a mutual friend in order to carry on a long-distance discussion and it is my understanding that this was quite a common practice. Interestingly, this may very well have shaped the development of certain customs in society (such as ‘good manners’ vs. ‘bad manners’ regarding correspondence etiquette). With our communication methods of today being so vastly different, it remains to be seen how our society will come to reflect this. 

Telecommunications

how does a walkie talkie work

A walkie-talkie or 2 way radio is a battery-powered transceiver (meaning that it can both transmit and receive radio signals). Walkie-talkies receive radio waves via an antenna and can also broadcast return signals (on the same frequency) via the same device.

A walkie-talkie essentially converts incoming signal into sound and outgoing sound into signal.

The antenna on a walkie-talkie is home to various groups of electrons. These electrons respond to specific, pre-set channels (different groups respond to different channels). When the walkie-talkie antenna intercepts radio waves, the electrons translate those radio waves into electrical impulses, which then pass through the device and into a small processor, housed within the walkie-talkie itself.

How do Walkie Talkies work

The processor, in turn, converts the impulses into a signal, which is then played back by the speakers.  This is not at all unlike the process of hearing as undertaken by the Human ear. The speakers vibrate to the same pattern as they did when the sender of the signal spoke into their own device, replicating exactly what was broadcast from their end.

For an outgoing signal, the vibrations that make up a Human voice rattle a small membrane inside the microphone. The walkie-talkie’s processor then converts those vibrations into an electrical impulse. The impulse is pushed outwards, towards the antenna, where it is transmitted over the desired audio channel. From there, the process takes place in the opposite order. It is, however, the same process every time.

Interestingly, mobile phone technology is basically the same as walkie-talkie/two-way radio technology. The major difference, however, is that whereas walkie-talkies are only have a half duplex channel (meaning that only one signal can be sent or received at any given time), mobile phones are full duplex, meaning that two signals can be sent and received simultaneously.

Another major difference is that mobiles rely on nearby cellular towers in order to get a signal, whereas walkie-talkies utilise a point-to-point system, communicating between individual handsets and also devices called ‘repeaters’, which boost overall signal strength by blocking out specific channels.

Of course, because there is only one channel featured on a walkie-talkie, only one person can speak at any given time, whereas mobile phones can broadcast conversations that are identical to those between two face-to-face people.

The success of walkie-talkies likely lies with their innate simplicity. The process by which a transceiver works is as clear and uncluttered a process as one could wish for. 

2 way radio

Google Glass Gets Ray Ban Treatment

The design firm behind Ray Ban and Oakley eyewear has teamed up with Google in order to make their upcoming ‘Google Glass’ product look as fashionable as possible.

Italian eyewear designers Luxottica, the firm that owns popular brands Ray Ban and Oakley, are looking to create a stylish new collection that combines “high end technology with avant garde design”. They hope this will place them – and new partners Google – firmly at the top of the anticipated “smart eyewear market”.

Luxottica Chief Executive Andrea Guerra says that Google Glass has the potential to “give birth to a new generation of revolutionary devices”.

Google Glass, first announced in 2011, is an augmented reality (AR) headset device that superficially resembles a pair of eyeglasses (although prescriptions will be available as well). The lens includes a small screen above the right eye that allows the user access to applications, the Internet and other functions. It can be operated via voice commands, or by using the small touchpad on the side of the device.

Glass is presently only available via application to Google’s ‘Explorer Program’, an initiative which the project’s website describes as being “for people who want to get involved early and help shape the future of Glass”. At present, it is only available to US residents and it costs $1,500 (roughly £900) to partake. To date, Google has sold more than 10,000 units to these ‘Explorers’.

Last week, the search engine giants unveiled a new version of their Android operating system, specifically made for Glass.

Google Glass’ ability to take photographs and record video has given rise to concerns about privacy. Copyright protection issues were also raised after one Glass user was ordered to leave a cinema.

Critics have also attacked the high pricing and the potential dangers caused by distraction whilst driving or walking down the street. After motorist Cecelia Abadie was issued a ticket for driving, Google began lobbying against proposed anti-Glass legislation, which would make it illegal to use the device whilst driving.

However, Guerra and her colleagues obviously have high hopes for Google Glass. “We believe that a strategic partnership with a leading player like Google is the ideal platform for developing a new way forward in our industry and answering the evolving needs of consumers on a global scale,” She said.

No pricing information for the new glasses has been disclosed at the time of writing. 

SOURCES

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-26730791

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/mar/25/ray-ban-maker-to-work-with-google-on-google-glass-eyewear

Computers and Technology

New Analog-to-Digital Migration Guide Helps Users Take Advantage of the Latest Technologies

You’ve probably stumbled upon this looking for information about walkie talkie’s, hopefully this will help you answer some of those questions, if not please click on one of the relevant links within the article

All around us, the wireless world is going digital. But organizations have questions about this breakthrough technology. To provide them with answers, BearCom and Motorola Solutions teamed up to create our Analog-to-Digital Migration Guide: “Five Reasons to Migrate to Digital Two-Way Radios.”

“A ‘smart’ revolution is transforming two-way radios,” the guide begins. “Digital technology is opening the door to a host of useful web-based applications for two-way radios, even as it enhances capacity, coverage, audio quality, and battery life.”

Available as a free download from BearCom.com, the guide details how digital two-way radios offer additional functionality, greater efficiency, enhanced coverage, improved audio quality, and extended battery life compared to analog radios. It explores the capabilities and benefits of the latest radios, the differences between analog and digital technologies, and the process for making a smooth transition to digital.

“There are plenty of exciting new digital two-way radio products available,” reads the cover letter from BearCom President & CEO Jerry Denham. “This new Analog-to-Digital Migration Guide is the latest tool we’ve developed to assist organizations around the country as they harness the power of digital performance to improve their communications capabilities.”

The guide includes details on the MOTOTRBO line of digital two-way radios from Motorola Solutions and the new Motorola CP200d, which was made available through BearCom last summer. In developing the CP200d, Motorola Solutions was able to retain the simplicity and durability that have helped make the Motorola CP200 analog model popular across a wide range of industries.

The guide also answers frequently asked questions, such as:
Why should we go digital?
How are apps useful in two-way radios?
Will analog radios become extinct?
Are my analog two-way radio accessories compatible with digital models?
How can I get the best value when selecting digital two-way radios?

- See more at: http://blog.bearcom.com/2014/01/new-analog-to-digital-migration-guide-helps-users-take-advantage-of-the-latest-technologies/#sthash.hoMbIaZV.dpuf

2 way radio

A Review of The New Nexus 7 Tablet

In the 1994 movie ‘Star Trek: Generations’ the character of Guinan tells Captain Picard about the Nexus, a sort of temporal energy ribbon where all your hopes and dreams appear to have come true. “Its like being inside joy” she says of this ‘space ribbon’. It is a description that also fits the new Google Nexus 7, the latest update to the future-classic Android tablet. Just like Star Trek’s Nexus, this new 7-Inch masterpiece also feels like it can bring any passing whim to life…Its a little slice of space age magic.

Pathetically nerdy framing device aside, the new Nexus is truly a joy to use.

Essentially an update on the original Nexus 7 (but only inasmuch as tablet technology had advanced a lot in the last year or so), the newest member of the family Nexus has experienced a slight price increase (from £160 to £200 for a 16GB model), but that is to be expected given the updated technology available here, not to mention the rough and tumble of the decade’s economics thus far…

Frankly, it would be forgivable to expect a much larger price hike based on the strong sales of the original, but Google are smart people and they understand that the Nexus’ low price is a major selling point.

The 2013 Nexus 7 is lighter and thinner than its predecessor (the original weighed 340g, whereas the new one weighs just 290g). The new outer casing looks the part, for sure, but it’s actually the area that we found the most problems with…

For starters, the ‘improved’ screen is actually a major drawback; it is a case of form over function, of style over substance.

Essentially, the new screen has been embiggened, but to the detriment of the device itself. Due to this ‘improvement’, it is now tough to hold the Nexus without placing a digit on the touchscreen, which is problematic. It’s fine if you’re actively engaged in something, but a total pain in the you-know-where if you’re watching a video clip or navigating a menu. Unusually for Google, this comes across as poorly thought out.

The back is no longer coated with plastic, which makes it as slippery as a greased up iPhone. This will make the 2013 Nexus harder to keep hold of (and may increase its chances of sliding down in-between the sofa cushions and thereby being lost forever).

The screen, on the other hand, is beautiful. It’s as good as almost anything out there. It’s not a Retina screen, of course, but it’s easily the best you’re going to get for the asking price.

In addition, the 2013 Nexus is quicker than a whippet with a firework lodged tightly up you-know-where – and we mean that. You can put this thing to sleep (for hours, if you like) and yet, the second you boot it up again, the New Nexus is wide-awake, ready to rock and/or roll. As a matter of fact, the battery life, although not quite as good as the older Nexus, is good enough that you could probably let it sleep for days before you had to even think about charging.

Generally speaking, this is the old Nexus 7 but smaller, thinner and faster. It really is a joy to use, as well as an absolute steal at the price. Almost intuitively, this tablet knows what you want it to do and then does it.

Sure, Android OS eats about 6GB of the memory (causing immediate memory problems if you buy the 16GB version), but it really is worth it. The Nexus series are arguably the best Android models out there, with the OS and the tablet being literally made for each other, so it does make sense in the end, we suppose.

Overall, the New Nexus 7 is not without its faults. There are things we preferred about the original Nexus 7 and there are things we prefer about this one. As an upgrade, however, the 2013 Nexus 7 is still a sound investment. 

Tablet pc

What are the best over-ear bluetooth earphones?

Picture if you may, a pleasant trip in the shops on the warm summer’s day. This is not a tension packed, hunger-enthused expedition to that local supermarket followed with the bitter finding that the bastards have set their fees up AGAIN…I said that this was a pleasing journey. You head out into the nice and cozy, bright summer time daylight seeking milk, some eggs and perhaps a little treat for yourself. You slide your iPod out of your compartment and…and…Wait a minute, the wires all jumbled up.

Hold on.

Gimme a moment.

…Mutter.

…Grumble.

…Mutter.

By time you have untangled the wires, you’re out of a nice mood for a walk, you have abandoned that spur-of-the-moment jaunt to the playing field you were toying with and you don’t want to hear any tune at all. In reality, it is too damned hot for just about any of that. You don’t want a nice, healthy tossed patch salad or Spanish omelette for dinner, you’ll just swing by local grease trap on the way home. Likewise, there’s bills to pay and housework to do and arguments to see with your partner. Maybe you even cancel the trip to the shops altogether. The milk isn’t that lumpy in the end and you may make a wonderfully serviceable Spanish omelette out of flour, water and spaghetti hoops, right?

To avoid this type of thing happening to you, it’s advisable to test guided contemplation, counseling, or self help guides that can prevent little such things as a snarled headset cable sending you spiralling right into a bottomless, shadowy melancholy. But, if we can’t be bothered with all that New Age hocus pocus, then why get yourself a set of Bluetooth in ear headphones?

Bluetooth in-ear headphones don’t have a cable, all you need to do is slide the little beauties from the pocket, pop them into your ears and take advantage of the ride.

Imagine our little sun-dappled situation again, now not including the cable debacle.

Your stroll is enjoyable and comfy, the hot sun gently caresses your face and here doesn’t seem to be a cloud in the sky. A lovely associate of the female smiles at you (no doubt drawn to the spectacular range of headsets) and everything seems right within the world. Perhaps a tossed garden salad becomes dinner and dancing? Perhaps a quick flutter on the lottery becomes a mansion and a pool house. Who knows?

I’ll generously confess that not any of the scenarios above are actually mostly probable, but, I’ll furthermore say that with a set of Bluetooth in ear headphones, at the least the cables won’t get knotted inside your pouch and infuriate you on a day by day basis. That has to be worth something, right?  

Headset

Transferring photos taken on your digital camera to the amazon kindle fire hd with out a computer

The short answer is no, you can’t. I’m sorry, but that is just the best way it is.

However, all hope is not lost despite this bad news. There are two main avenues you may go down.

The very first is to easily email the photos to yourself and then download them to your Kindle. This process will work fine if you simply need a few holiday snaps or pictures of your little nephew’s birthday or what, but its not much use for the great deal of photos.

The next method is little more refined. With a hard drive, it is possible to transfer pictures moderately quickly from one device to the other, it will help you transfer a greater quantity of photos but will likely take much less time.

The best option, I believe, is likely the second, especially if you seek out the “eye-Fi” SD card, compatible with most up-to-date cameras (though, as always, it’s certainly best to double check). Sime, of The Digital Photography Educate blog, was obviously impressed. In his review, he said,

“With the Eye-Fi X2 card, I could upload full res photos from my NEX 5  to my iPhone and then do what I wanted with them [Instagram / Facebook / Flickr etc] when you’re using the X2 card, you can connect the camera directly to your iPhone / iPad without having to use a Wifi router etc… You can also use the Eye-Fi app on your phone [iPhone and Android] to upload your images to your computer / Flickr etc. Yep – works, works well”.

He then gave a personal account of the Eye-Fi’s usefulness, which I have re-printed below.

“My wife and I went to the zoo with our almost-three year old a couple of weeks back and I had a look through her images afterwards, realising that there were images from her camera dating back to… well, when I gave her the camera! She’s currently using a 32GB SDHC card in there, and just leaves everything on the card! When I asked if she had copied any on to her computer, I was told “That’s too hard / I don’t have time / Where’s the cable” (Yes, a combo of the three, I didn’t press for details…;) So – I cunningly swapped out the existing card for the Eye-Fi card, loaded the app on her Macbook and added it to start when her computer starts, but to hide in the background (This is an option in the application) so basically, the camera connects to her laptop whenever it can and copies the photographs across – they are there, ready to use. Guess who won ‘awesome technical husband of the week award?’ (Obviously a lot of you are tech savvy, but well… )”

Never let it be said I disregard a question of yours without producing a suggestion of my own.

If you’ll allow me a quick tangent, there is the line in one of the beloved books of my teen years ‘Have Nice Day: A Tale of Blood & Sweatsocks’ by Mick Foley (which is a immense book about life generally, even if you aren’t a wrestling fan) in which Mick says, “I had always felt that it was not good enough to shoot something down – It is best to have a solution”. Take that and work with it, reprobates.

Tablet pc

Who Invented the Tablet PC?

That’s actually quite tough to pinpoint. Computer scientist Alan Kay first came up with a concept (and then a prototype) for what he called a ‘Dynabook’ in 1968. Depending on which version you look at, the Dynabook concept can be viewed as a prototype tablet PC (as well as a direct ancestor of the laptop).

 

In science fiction, tablet-like devices can be seen in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ as well as ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. While in comics, Jack Kirby’s ‘Motherboxes’ (as featured in the 1970’s ‘New Gods’ series) can be considered to be ‘super-tablets’ by any other name. So the idea for the tablet was firmly entrenched in fiction and popular culture long before the iPad was even a glint in Steve Jobs’ eye. 

 

Jeff Hawkins developed the first modern-style tablet PC in 1989, this invention led to a prototype named Lombard (for some silly reason) that was released in 1992. However, before that, in 1987, Apple had designed hardware for a touchscreen and stylus operating system, which was a primordial version of the iOS that you would use today on the aforementioned iPad.

 

In 2002, Microsoft launched the ‘Tablet PC’, which was a grand idea on paper, but, for too many reasons to list here, the invention never took off. It would take ten long years (and the rapid rise of mobile phones) before Apple dusted off the idea and proudly produced their iPad, in 2010.

 

So, in a very real sense, no single person invented the tablet PC. It was a culmination of wild-eyed science fiction dreamers, wild-haired computer scientists and the market-driven will to profit as utilized by companies like Microsoft and Apple.

 

Personally, if I had to pick just one name out of the hat, it would be Alan Kay. Now, before all you tech-bods rush out to correct me, consider this: John Logie Baird invented the television, but his initial invention is barely recognizable compared with today’s net-ready, Blu-Ray playing, surround-sound enabled living room leviathans, so its just a question of who had the first idea.

 

I’ve seen sites that credit Jeff Hawkins, which is fair, but honestly, the idea (and an early version of the eventual tech) actually existed 30 years or so earlier, so I’m not going to personally subscribe to that one. 

Tablet pc