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Logitech unveils K830 home-theatre keyboard and trackpad

Logitech unveils K830 home-theatre keyboard and trackpad

The Logitech K830, designed specifically for home theatre use, boasts soft-touch keys for quiet typing and an integrated trackpad where the number pad would normally sit.


Peripherals giant Logitech has unveiled an illuminated keyboard designed specifically for home-theatre PC (HTPC) use, dropping the traditional number pad in favour of a touch-sensitive trackpad.

Dubbed the Logitech Illuminated Living-Room Keyboard K830, which we’ll refer to as the Logitech K830 from now to save wear on our own keyboards, the new device boasts a rechargeable internal battery, illuminated back-lit keys and the aforementioned trackpad to serve as a single-unit solution for pointing and pressing.

More and more consumers want an easy way to access movies, TV programs, music and photos with their PC connected to a TV,‘ claimed Logitech’s Charlotte Johs at the unveiling. ‘Our new Illuminated Living-Room Keyboard K830 is designed with this setup in mind. Backlit keys and a premium aesthetic that blends into the living room make it a stand-out choice for people with connected TVs.

The Logitech K830 shows a few design tweaks that suggest the company has certainly been considering the requirements of the HTPC and Smart TV enthusiast in its creation: silent-action soft-feel keys reduce typing noise, the integrated backlighting adjusts its brightness depending on ambient conditions and switches off five seconds after you’ve finished typing, and the keyboard’s slim design should make storage a cinch. As with Logitech’s previous wireless products, the K830 uses the company’s Unifying receiver – meaning the K830 can be coupled with a more traditional mouse or trackball while still using only a single receiver.

Logitech has confirmed plans to release the K830 in the US and Europe later this month, with a recommended retail price of €99.99 (around £60, excluding taxes.)

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I backed ‘Veronica Mars,’ but DRM is hobbling my reward

Veronica Mars

Veronica Mars, ready to snark her way back into your heart.


(Credit:
Veronica Mars)

When I heard the “Veronica Mars” movie was up on Kickstarter, I ran over to the crowdfunding site and elatedly flung my $35 pledge at the project. Along with 91,584 other people, I helped raise $5.7 million to fund the film. This past Friday, it was officially released into theaters. My town of Albuquerque, N.M., however, was not on the theater list. But, never fear, my pledge included a digital copy of the film.

My official Kickstarter email arrived, with a link to a Digital Ultraviolet version of the film, accessed through the Flixter streaming video service. Cool. So, I went through the sign-up, got a Flixster and Digital Ultraviolet account, and settled in to watch it stream. It started to load. Then, it stopped.

I got this message, like a stab in my crowdfunding heart: “Your screen configuration does not support protected playback.” Huh? I went to the FAQ for explanation and discovered my dual-monitor desktop setup violates Flixster’s DRM restrictions. I wonder if Flixster thinks dual monitors are a gateway to pirating activities.

If I had ever tried to use Flixster before, I would have been aware of this ban on dual monitors, but I had to meet the ugly truth while in a “Veronica Mars” fever of fan fervor, which quickly slapped a big cold damper on my excitement. There are ways around the issue. I ended up downloading the Flixster app to my computer and running the movie from there. I could have switched to my laptop. Really, I just wanted the convenience of streaming my reward right then and there.

I’m not the only person who tripped over a Flixster-shaped “Veronica Mars” stumbling block. Other backers have reported issues with Flixster working with Roku boxes, along with a lack of Flixster support for
Apple TV. The result was a number of upset comments on the Kickstarter update page. Backer Sarah Zaslow wrote, “I am beyond angry that I had to use Flixster to get my digital download.”

There is a bit of a happy ending to all this. An official Kickstarter backer update arrived with an explanation and a way around the whole Flixster thing. First, the explanation: “In the end, Flixster was the best option for getting the digital movie reward out to all of you, worldwide, at the same time.”

Now, the options: “We understand that some of you prefer other platforms or services for watching digital content. If you contact our Customer Support team, they can help.” If you complain and share your technical issues with Warner Bros. customer support, you get the option to buy the movie on a service of your choice and get a refund for the purchase price.

After all this, am I down on “Veronica Mars?” No. The project has done so much right, I’m not going to torpedo the whole thing just because of the ill-advised method of doling out the digital copies. We didn’t get a “too bad, tough luck” answer to complaints, we got a work-around. It’s not ideal, but it gets you the movie on your terms.

The larger issue here is the ongoing weirdness with DRM efforts. Flixster’s DRM prevented me, a legitimate backer, from streaming the movie in my browser. If you head over to the Pirate Bay, you’ll see “Veronica Mars” sitting near the top of the current Top-100 movies list. Annoying me and plenty of other people with overzealous DRM hasn’t done anything to prevent the spread of the movie through illicit means. It won’t keep me from backing other Kickstarter films, but I hope future projects will have the faith to offer a DRM-free download.

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Our doom will come sci-fi-style, NASA-funded study says

We’ve all seen movies depicting a dystopian future. Usually they envision a small group of elites living in sleekly designed homes wearing clean gray clothes, sipping pure water, and enjoying generally dust-free living while the rest of us schlubs reside in cardboard boxes beneath bridges. Now, a NASA-funded study is saying the collapse of civilization as we know it might not be all that different from what happens in movies like “Blade Runner,” “Elysium,” and “The Hunger Games.”

The study, sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and first reported on in The Guardian, examined five key factors that led to the collapse of civilizations such the Roman Empire and Han Dynasty: population, climate, water, agriculture, and energy. It found that civilizations collapse when these factors coalesce in such a way that natural resources are stretched at the same time the gap between the rich (termed “Elites” in the study) and the poor (dubbed “Commoners”) increases. Sound familiar?

In arriving at these conclusions, the study authors, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, applied something known as the HANDY (Human and Nature Dynamics) model of analysis. It was derived from previous predator-prey mathematical models invented in the early 20th century and assigns nature the role of prey and humans the role of predator. It then goes one step further, assigning Elites a wolf-like role. “We have also added a different dimension of predation whereby Elites “prey” on the production of wealth by Commoners,” the paper says.

The report details just how this type of predation can lead an empire to collapse. “Even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the solution appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, then Elites grow and consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society,” it says. According to one model run during the research, there is a total collapse of society just 125 years after the Elites reach their maximum size.

So the end will come, according to the study, not from running out of resources but from greed, pure and simple. Hear that, 1 Percent?

Actually, they probably didn’t hear that. The report, which was penned in 2012, but recently accepted into the peer-reviewed scientific journal Ecological Economics, points out that the Elites are typically blissfully unaware of society’s eminent demise. It says that “historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases).”

As in every good sci-fi flick, all hope is not lost. The study authors say that “collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion.”

Ah, so that’s all it will take. A sudden change of heart among the elites to distribute their wealth amongst the rest of us, and people to stop using natural resources like free lives in a video game. Better start hoarding bottled water and batteries now.

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William Shatner: Of course there’s alien life

You know he’s right.


(Credit:
Strombo/YouTube; screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

When scientists speak about space and the world out there, it’s always worth a listen.

But they’re scientists. They have a vested interest in being right. More interesting, perhaps, are the people who seem to have an unalienable instinct for the truths of existence.

William Shatner is surely one of these people. Not merely for his portrayals of Capt. James T. Kirk and the Priceline Negotiator, but for his extraterrestrial nose for truth when he played Denny Crane in “Boston Legal.”

Shatner has now offered his definitive view on alien life.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, he offered this: “I don’t think there is any doubt there is life in the universe, yes. I don’t think there is any question.”

But what can possibly deliver such certainty to the Shatner mind? Math, that’s what.

“The mathematics involved — what have they just discovered, 730,000 new planets the other day? — mathematically it has to be,” he said.

Yes, it’s hard to imagine that of all the newly discovered worlds out there (NASA recently announced 715 new planets — and each potentially represents hundreds more), at least one wouldn’t have small green people or hieroglyphically nasty-looking 10-armed beings with a twisted sense of humor.

But that’s the problem with alien life, isn’t it? We keep thinking of it as something that is akin to our own. Yet, as Professor Michio Kaku told Big Think earlier this week: “When we look at aliens in the movies, we’re basically projecting our own consciousness.”

Shatner seems to agree with the professor. Speaking of what form alien life might take, he said: “Just how it happens we don’t know yet, though I’m sure we’ll know soon.”

But he’s declared himself and that’s enough. There is alien life. It is out there. It may not be as we know it.

Soon, though, we may know something. That will at least make our own mundane existence more interesting.

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Titanfall live action series inbound

Titanfall live action series inbound

Playfight has previously done work on Call of Duty live-action content.


Multiplayer mech-shooter game Titanfall is to be joined by its own live action series.

In a collaboration between developer Respawn Entertainment and Playfight, Titanfall: Free the Frontier will build on the Titanfall universe.

The content will be launched tomorrow alongside the game’s North American launch. Titanfall will be launching in the UK on Thursday.

‘Titanfall is set in a rich near future universe with visceral, epic battles with Pilots and their Titan companions, reads the announcement site. ‘We wanted to partner with Playfight, who has a history of delivering movies that meld gameplay, live action and stellar CG into truly entertaining media, for Titanfall.’

Playfight has previously worked on Video Game High School and Call of Duty: Operation Kingfish. The production house specialises in visual effects, animation and motion graphics.

Video games have increasingly been experimenting with this sort of cross-media project. A live action series, Forward Unto Dawn, was used to support the launch of Halo 4 in October 2012 and proved a successful method of promotion.

Other games have also received anime or comic book treatments while Hollywood has also turned its attention to several successful game franchises, most recently Minecraft and The Last Of Us.

Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment, a studio formed of several ex-Call of Duty developers, is proving to be a highly anticipated title and has already garnered positive press from its beta rounds. The game was originally intended as an Xbox One release title but along with several other next-gen titles such as Watch Dogs, its delay was put back several months.

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At SXSW, thousands get a Kevin Bacon number of one

Actor Kevin Bacon spoke at SXSW about the 20-year-old game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.


(Credit:
Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

I now have a Kevin Bacon number of one.

Technically, that’s not true. But given that I was in the audience today, along with at least a thousand other people at
South by Southwest (SXSW), listening to the famous actor talking about the now 20-year-old Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, I’m going to stake a claim to a score of one. With an asterisk.

In 1994, after watching a couple Kevin Bacon movies, Brian Turtle, along with friends Mike Ginelli and Craig Fass, decided to figure out how many connections it would take to get from actors like Robert De Niro to Bacon. Before long, their little game went viral, and countless people knew what a Bacon Number was: The number of connections between a specific actor and Bacon. For De Niro, it’s one (they were both in “Sleepers”); For Harrison Ford, it’s two; and for Sally Field, it’s two.

That’s why my number deserves an asterisk, of course: I’m not a performer, and I’ve never been in a film or TV show at all, let alone with anyone who’s acted with Bacon. But hundreds of others are, given that bacon has been in 78 different movies and TV shows.

In the early days of the game, Bacon recalled, he knew nothing about it. But he said he knew something was up when random strangers kept running up to him, touching him, and yelling out, “‘I’m one degree, I’m one degree.’”

When he figured out what was going on, Bacon said, he was none too pleased. “My first reaction to the game, because I took myself so seriously, as an actor, as a performer,” Bacon said, “was that I was horrified by it. I thought it was a giant joke at my expense: ‘Can you believe that this a-hole can be connected to Lawrence Olivier in six steps or less?’”

It turns out, of course, that Olivier’s Bacon number is just three.

Back to Kevin Bacon, though, one day, he was on Jon Stewart’s TV show and got a chance to meet the game’s creators, and he quickly realized they were fans, not detractors. And his view of things changed overnight. Even then, though, he expected the game would peter out quickly, like so many social phenomena. Yet, it kept on going. “Eventually I’ve learned to embrace it,” Bacon said, adding that, I truly believe that there’s a lot of other people more connected to more people [than I am]. It just happened to be me, my movies just happened to be on.”

One might ask why SXSW decided to have a panel about the Kevin Bacon game. Perhaps actress and Internet personality Felicia Day put it best: “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon was social media before there was social media,” Day said onstage. “The beautiful thing about connections like that is that each person in the chain is equally important.”

Another panelist, Mashable editor-at-large Lance Ulanoff agreed. Having been an early participant in the game, he recalled playing when there was barely a World Wide Web, and when IMDB was first getting started. The game “revealed something about our connected nature,” Ulanoff said. “Fast forward to now, when we’re all on Facebook, we’re all on Twitter, and all on Linked In, it’s getting to be a physical manifestation of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”

For his part, Bacon has taken the spirit of the game and turned it into something that actually helps people — not just entertains them. His SixDegrees.org charity has raised more than $5 million connecting people.

To close out the SXSW talk, Turtle invited audience members to come up to a microphone and tell everyone their personal Bacon number. The first up, a man, said, “I’m as close to zero as you can possibly be. My name is Kevin Bacon, and I’m a musician.”

The crowd erupted in laughter.

Bacon, the actor, admitted that Bacon the musician was a plant, and that he’d asked his namesake to come and introduce himself to the SXSW crowd. He also recalled how he’d first come to realize there was someone else out there with his name. “I knew his work because people would come up to me and say i liked you in Footloose,” Bacon said, “but I really liked the music you produced a lot better.”

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Is 2014 the year that 4K goes mainstream?

We’ve been lucky enough to have a resident 4K monitor here at bit-tech for a while and I’ve written about the so-called Ultra HD experience elsewhere too. It is, for the most part, mightily impressive and not just in games either.

Anything that benefits from a higher pixel density is markedly improved, from viewing images and movies, to simple content creation. The sharpness on offer compared to current 30in 2,560 x 1,600 displays that boast some of the highest pixel densities is palpable, even staring at the desktop.

Of course most operating systems are still yet to catchup with the high-resolution revolution but especially for desktop computers the benefits still outweigh the downsides.

However, resolutions have otherwise stagnated, especially in the more mainstream 20in-24in market. 2,560 x 1,600 is still one of the highest resolutions you can buy on a standard monitor aside from the small selection of 4K displays available. 1,920 x 1,200 and 1,920 x 1,080 have been the customary resolutions for most of us and for some considerable time too.

With larger monitors, higher resolutions are the logical step forward – especially so with PC’s as opposed to TV screens as you sit much closer. However, having seen numerous laptops and MacBooks with pixel per inch counts approaching 300ppi (a 2,560 x 1,600 30in display only has 140ppi) I was staggered by how good they look too. The additional pixels on offer compared to your average 1080p 13.3in laptop screen were instantly noticeable in a similar way to the larger 4K desktop screen, despite the laptop screens themselves being so small.

Is 2014 the year that 4K goes mainstream? Is it just me that pines for higher resolutions on standard displays?
Thankfully, we are seeing plenty of truth to rumours we heard at the end of last year that 4K screens would see a hefty price drop in 2014 and perhaps even more interestingly that 24in screens for the first time in nearly a decade were getting a significant pixel count increase. Dell’s UP2414Q is one of the first 24in 4K displays and offers a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution IPS panel.

Best of all, it costs less than £900 and is readily available, which for a decidedly premium first-out-of-the-traps product is actually very interesting given it’s only four times as much as Dell’s U2412M, which sports a 1,920 x 1,200 IPS display. For me 27in is the limit I find comfortable for every day viewing, but if you’re prepared to let that slip a little to 28in then as we reported in January, Lenovo has an even better value offering in the form of its ThinkVision Pro2840m – a 28in 4K monitor for a price of just $799 – no UK price yet but it looks sure to be even cheaper than the £860 Dell UP2414Q.

Is 2014 the year that 4K goes mainstream? Is it just me that pines for higher resolutions on standard displays?
It still seems strange that sub 27in PC monitors have been languishing in the 1080p area for so long, especially as many laptops have been getting significant boosts for over a year. It’s one area, that could be a real selling point too when monitors only have refresh rates and panel technology to otherwise shout about. I’d also say it’s worth boosting the resolution on smaller displays too – maybe not to 4K but somewhere in between. It’s possibly unlikely due to the way panels are mass manufactured but I for one would snap up a 24in monitor with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600.

In any event, even if the industry settles on strict 4K resolution boundaries, I for one will jump on one once they’re a bit cheaper and I’m guessing that the thought of 4K gaming, movie and photo viewing on something like a £500-600 24in monitor is pretty appealing to other people too. Maybe some time later this year or in 2015, 4K might break into mainstream PC gaming. Then we’ll all need more powerful graphics cards to cope with all the extra pixels of course. And so the upgrade cycle continues…

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AT-AT walker rocking horse built for little Sith lords

AT-AT rocking horse

This looks friendlier than the ones from the movies.


(Credit:
Epbot)

AT-AT walkers generally don’t make good house guests. They’re large, messy, and prone to shooting at things with their laser canons. Jen Yates, known for geeky blogs Epbot and Cake Wrecks, figured out how to tame an AT-AT by building a rocking version of the robotic creature.

The AT-AT started with a template, which was used to guide the cutting out of more than 40 pieces of medium-density fiberboard. The pieces were assembled onto a set of rockers and painted to approximate the markings of a walker. A red holographic strip makes the “eye” glint in the light.

The resulting toy manages to suck all the terror out of the machine and make it look downright adorable, like a lost puppy of destruction.

The AT-AT shape doesn’t naturally lend itself to a rocking-horse format, so the builders had to add several safety features to make it secure for a 4-year-old test subject to ride. That includes foot pedals, a front handle, and a seat back. Bumpers built onto the bottom of the rails keep it from rocking too far forward or back.

Yates hasn’t yet decided what to do with the rocker. It’s plenty heavy, so she’s considering giving it to the local chapter of the 501st to auction off for charity. It’s going to make some little Sith lord very happy.

AT-AT rocking horse with Darth Vader kid

Darth Vader would have loved this as a kid.


(Credit:
Epbot)

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Gotham-inspired garb puts Catwoman on the catwalk

The famous Catwoman-inspired catsuit was the main attraction of The Blonds show at New York Fashion Week.

The famous Catwoman-inspired catsuit was the main attraction of The Blonds’ show at New York Fashion Week.


(Credit:
The Blonds)

New York-based fashion duo The Blonds — David Blond and Phillipe Blond — strutted their fall and winter 2014 collection at New York Fashion Week with Selina Kyle-meets-Bettie Page punk-glam outfits that would make even Catwoman purr.

Inspired by costumes donned by Catwoman in comics, movies, and the iconic TV show “Batman,” The Blonds’ upcoming line of dresses, coats, and leggings looks like it would befit a life of crime and passion in Gotham City.

“This is a collection we wanted to do for some time now,” designer David Blond told Billboard. “Selina Kyle (Catwoman) is a strong powerful woman who was both sexy and smart.”

The Blonds are famous for outfitting some of the most fashion-fearless performers in the music industry, from Lady Gaga to Miley Cyrus. The black slinky dresses complete with cathead shoulder pads were the highlight of The Blonds’ fashion show at Milk Studios. Even the whip-adorned strapless dress and Gotham-print leggings and jackets look like they clawed their way straight out of a Catwoman comic book.

This geektastic Gotham outfit by The Blonds is perfect for a big, bad night out in the city.

This geektastic Gotham outfit by The Blonds is perfect for a big, bad night out in the city.


(Credit:
The Blonds)

Other “Batman” villains were also represented on the catwalk. A white gown with a giant bedazzled grin represented The Joker. A metallic purple and green corset gave glimpses of Poison Ivy. Purple jumpsuit with a green furry jacket would make even the Riddler second-guess his own costume designer.

This isn’t the first time fashion designers have found inspiration from comic books and sci-fi movies. The latest runway shows from Rodarte and Preen channeled the Force with gowns featuring images of Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and other characters from “Star Wars.” If this year’s New York and London Fashion Week are any indication, comic book couture is finally chic.

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Behind the Oscar-nominated sounds of ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

In an era when more people are watching movies at home or on their mobile devices, Dolby and Hollywood are hoping sound will lure people back into theaters.

Dolby Atmos, an evolution of Dolby’s 5.1 and 7.1 systems, was used on two of this year’s Oscar-nominated movies for sound mixing, “Gravity” and “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.” The system includes speakers in the ceiling theater, in additional to the front, back, and sides of a theater. The real audio innovation comes from the ability to isolate sounds and control where, when, and which sounds come through each speakers.

Stuart Bowling, Dolby’s director of market development, explains: “When something moves through the room, it basically goes from speaker to speaker to speaker instead of the way it does normally when it hits every speaker and then fades.”

As a theater goer, you can track sounds as they make their way around the room. So, for example, when a helicopter flies across the sky in a movie, you can distinctly hear the sound of the blades travel above your head and across the ceiling from one end to the other. Currently only 450 theaters are equipped with the Dolby Atmos system.

Bowling said “Hobbit” Director Peter Jackson used the sound technology to draw the audience into the movie’s fantasy world. “He really wants you to feel like you’re part of Middle Earth, feel like you’re part of the journey the characters, Bilbo, are going through,” he said.

Academy Award-winning sound mixer Christopher Boyes used Dolby Atmos on both “Hobbit” movies: “Atmos is the opportunity for me to take the next step forward in immersing the audience in sounds that push the story forward. And at the same time, help the audience be in the environment of the film itself.”

Working closely with filmmakers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Boyes says the trick was not to overwhelm the audience with sound, especially in scenes with a lot of action where the audience needed to focus on certain characters. “We’re in orchestrated chaos at times in the ‘Hobbit,’ with hundreds of Orcs attacking and trying to keep our eyes on our heroes as they battle all these forces,” Boyes said.

We’ll find out this weekend if Dolby Atmos, which can also be used to remix older films, has what it takes to win an Oscar. Whether Atmos can convince people to spend a night out at the movies, that remains to be seen — and heard.

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