Star Wars game in U-turn after player anger

Games publisher EA has changed a rule in its Star Wars Battlefront II video game after a huge backlash.

During the game, players have to obtain credits – either by buying them or through long hours of game play – to unlock popular characters including Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

Many players said it was unfair as the gaming required worked out at around 40 hours per character, unless they paid.

EA says the number of credits required will now be reduced by 75%.

“Unlocking a hero is a great accomplishment in the game, something we want players to have fun earning,” said executive producer John Wasilczyk from the developer Dice, in a statement.

“We used data from the beta [testing period] to help set those levels, but it’s clear that more changes were needed.”

The change will be effective from today, he added.

The credit system has faced huge criticism from the game’s fans.

The game without any of the extras is available for pre-order at £69.99 in the UK, which many felt meant there should not be additional payments for the most popular Star Wars characters.

A post by EA on community news site Reddit, explaining the reasons for the original rule, has become the most “down-voted” in the site’s history.

The post explained that the rule was intended to “provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes”.

The post currently has a score of -639,000 points – which is a total of the number of “upvotes” (those who liked it) minus the number of “downvotes” (those who didn’t).

According to Reddit’s own statistics the previous most unpopular post had a score of -24,333 and that was a message which asked people to downvote it.

One of the game’s developers, tweeting from a locked account, said he had received seven death threats and more than 1,600 “individual personal attacks”.

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How to buy Bitcoin

Bitcoin has become something of a media darling lately. The rapid growth in knowledge and value of the digital cryptocurrency is certainly a story that grabs the headlines, but underneath is a potential to change how money could be used in the future.

So, how can you actually get hold of Bitcoin? After all, your local bank branch won’t be handing out the digital currency any time soon. We show you where you can exchange your cash for the money of the brave new, online, world.  

If you’re not familiar with cryptocurrencies, then you might find our What is Bitcoin? and What is Ethereum? features a helpful introduction.

Set up a Bitcoin wallet

Before you can buy any Bitcoins, you’ll need somewhere to keep them. This is done by creating an online wallet. These are offered by a number of online sites, often with apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.

The Bitcoin.org site lists several wallets from different creators, but you can also try popular apps like Mycellium, Coinbase, or Blockchain, which claims to be the world’s most popular digital wallet.

how to buy bitcoin

how to buy bitcoin

The most important things to look for when selecting a wallet is security and ease of use. The more secure the better, as Bitcoin theft has been a problem in the past. This was proven in spectacular fashion in 2014 when the most popular exchange in the world was brought to its knees after 850,000 Bitcoin were stolen.

Be sure to find a wallet provider that allows two-step authentication, always use a strong password (don’t forget it!), and if possible look for the ability to backup your wallet offline.

Most modern providers offer high-levels of security, but in your mind you need to think of a Bitcoin wallet as an actual wallet. If you lose your cash, you’re not getting it back. The same is true of Bitcoin. So protect it judiciously.

Take your time, do some research on any potential wallet providers you prefer, and things should go smoothly.

For more details on how to secure your wallet, and the potential risks involved, read this helpful guide on the Bitcoin.org site.

Do I have to buy Bitcoin from an exchange?

The easiest way to buy, and sell, Bitcoin is on one of the many exchanges now in operation around the world. These function in the same way as popping down to the Post Office to buy foreign currencies when going on holiday, except everything takes place online.

You’ll need to create an account on the exchange, and enter your bank details so payments can be made to and from your account. Many also support PayPal if you’d prefer to keep everything digital.

Some of the most trusted exchanges include the aforementioned Coinbase, eToro, and Coinify, but you can search around for others too.

how to buy bitcoin

how to buy bitcoin

As the value of a single Bitcoin at the time of writing this article is around the £5000 mark, you probably won’t be buying a whole one to start with. Instead you’ll purchase a percentage based on value.

Therefore, if you want to invest £100, then the exchanges will sell you £100 worth of Bitcoin, no matter what percentage that amounts to. These can then be spent online at supporting outlets, or you can trade them on the exchange.

For more details on these digital markets read our Best Bitcoin Exchanges guide.

Buying Bitcoin from a cash machine

Believe it or not you can actually buy or redeem Bitcoins at cash machines around the UK, US, Canada, and other countries worldwide.

These kiosks are connected to online exchanges and allow users to make purchases by depositing cash into the machine itself. They can also dispense the local currency in exchange for Bitcoin already bought online.

You can see the locations of Bitcoin ATM on the very handy Coin ATM Radar site.

how to buy bitcoin

how to buy bitcoin

One thing to bear in mind though, is that there have been several reports of quite high transaction charges when using the machines. So, if you do want to get your Bitcoin from a hole in the wall, be sure to check what it will cost before you begin.

Now you just have to decide whether to head out into the marketplace to spend your Bitcoins, or hang onto them for a while. Those who opted for the latter a few years ago are very happy they did so now.


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The JJRC H37 ELFIE puts a tiny flying selfie drone right in your pocket. This diminutive drone weighs a mere 73 grams with the installed battery, and has foldable arms that allow it to be stored in an even smaller form. In spite of its size, it features headless mode, altitude hold mode, and one-touch return, which you normally find on larger, more expensive drones. The H37 ELFIE features a camera that records in 720p, and broadcasts its FPV view right to your phone, which also acts as the controller. It can perform 3D rolls, and take off with the push of a button.

Get the JJRC H37 ELFIE Foldable Mini RC Selfie Drone now and save 13%, bringing its price down to £32.09.

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New PCMark 10 update out now

Update v1.0.1403 fixes some minor bugs.

The latest update to benchmarking suite PCMark 10 adds some improvements and addressing a number of bugs, but does not affect previous benchmark scores.

Here’s the update’s fixes:

Improved

  • SystemInfo module updated to 5.3.629 for improved compatibility with the latest hardware.

Fixed

  • Fixed an issue with the Web Browsing video workload not starting in some cases.
  • Fixed an issue with the Web Browsing workload not starting when running on a proxy server.
  • Improved logging for the App Start-up, Spreadsheets, Writing, and Web Browsing workloads.

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HTC Announces Vive Wave Open Mobile VR Platform, Vive Focus HMD

HTC, hoping to curb mobile VR fragmentation in China, announced Vive Wave during the company’s annual Vive Developer Conference. Vive Wave is a toolset that lets developers support third-party mobile VR HMDs on HTC’s Viveport content distribution system.

With China’s VR market booming, the number of companies selling VR headsets, particularly for mobile, is also growing. Choice is great, of course, but when each device has its own content platform, it’s difficult for developers to support all systems, paving the way for one platform to dominate.

HTC is striving to prevent this scenario by offering a unified solution that supports a wide range of hardware. The Vive Wave platform purports to solve two industry problems: It gives software developers a larger potential customer base with no extra effort; and it frees hardware designers to focus on hardware innovation, rather than perfecting a software distribution system. HTC said that 12 hardware partners have already signed up to take part in Vive Wave. The company also revealed that 35 developers have committed to creating software for the Vive Wave platform.

HTC also said that it formed a partnership with Unity to integrate Viveport and the Vive Wave SDK into Unity to offer one-click publishing to the Viveport distribution platform. HTC said that the no-hassle publishing system would support Viveport for PC VR and mobile VR content.

“We’re delighted that the Vive Wave VR open platform is receiving such strong industry support from both hardware partners and developers,” said Alvin Wang Graylin, China Regional President of Vive, HTC. “As the VR industry leader in China, it is our duty to help reduce market fragmentation and provide content developers with more ways to make money. Vive Wave will assure a higher consistency in the user experience on a variety of mobile VR devices across various price points, making quality VR more accessible to the mass market.”

Along with the Vive Wave announcement, HTC discussed a few more details about its upcoming standalone VR headset for the China market. Over the summer, HTC announced that it would release a Snapdragon 835-powered VR HMD for China that would mirror the specifications of the standalone Daydream headset HTC is building for the global market. Today, the company announced that the headset would be known as the Vive Focus.

“As the world continues to become more mobile and connected, we’ve been working closely with Vive through our HMD Accelerator Program and advanced VR software features to enable immersive virtual reality experiences without the need for wires or PCs,” said Hugo Swart, senior director, product management, Qualcomm Technologies Inc. “The combination of Snapdragon’s ultra-low power, high performance VR coupled with the new Vive Wave VR open platform will help content developers deliver best-in-class mobile VR experiences to users.”

HTC didn’t reveal many new details about the device, but the company confirmed that it would feature a low-latency, high-resolution AMOLED screen. The representative that we spoke with declined to discuss the full specifications of the hardware and would not say how much the Vive Focus would cost or when it would be available. The company did note that the Vive Focus would be the “first commercial standalone device to deliver inside-out 6-degree-of-freedom tracking (6DoF).”

Predictably, the Vive Focus headset is fully compatible with the Vive Wave open platform and Viveport content distribution system. In fact, HTC is offering Vive Vision headsets along with Vive Wave developer kits to qualifying developers. The company said that it handed out 500 priority vouchers to developers who were present at VDC 2017. HTC is also accepting applications for Vive Wave developer kits through the Chinese Vive developer hub.

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Connected toys have ‘worrying’ security issues

Consumer watchdog Which? has called on retailers to stop selling some popular toys it says have “proven” security issues.

Those toys include Furby Connect, the i-Que robot, Cloudpets and Toy-fi Teddy.

Which? found that there was no authentication required between the toys and the devices they could link with via Bluetooth.

Two of the manufacturers said they took security very seriously.

Sloppy security

The lack of authentication meant that, in theory, any device within physical range could link to the toy and take control or send messages, the watchdog said.

“Connected toys are becoming increasingly popular, but as our investigation shows, anyone considering buying one should apply a level of caution,” said Alex Neill, managing director of home products and services at Which?

“Safety and security should be the absolute priority with any toy. If that can’t be guaranteed, then the products should not be sold.”

Hasbro, which makes the Furby Connect, said in a statement that it believed the results of the tests carried out for Which? had been achieved in very specific conditions.

“A tremendous amount of engineering would be required to reverse-engineer the product as well as to create new firmware,” it said.

“We feel confident in the way we have designed both the toy and the app to deliver a secure play experience.”

I-Que maker Vivid Imagination said there had been “no reports of these products being used in a malicious way” but added that it would review Which?’s recommendations.

Spiral Toys, which makes Cloudpets and Toy Fi, did not comment.

Other toys tested by Which? included the Wowee Chip, Mattel Hello Barbie and Fisher Price Smart Toy Bear – but these were not found to have serious security concerns.

Cyber-security expert Prof Alan Woodward, from Surrey University, told the BBC it was a “no brainer” that toys with security issues should not be put on sale.

“Sadly, there have been many examples in the past two to three years of connected toys that have security flaws that put children at risk,” he said.

“Whether it is sloppiness on the part of the manufacturer, or their rush to build a product down to a certain price, the consequences are the same.

“To produce these toys is bad enough, but to then stock them as a retailer knowing that they are potentially putting children at risk is quite unacceptable.”

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Nvidia Is Building Its Own AI Supercomputer

AI has begun to take over the data center and HPC applications, as a quick trip through the recent HotChips and ongoing Supercomputing 2017 trade shows quickly affirms.

Nvidia has been one of the companies at the forefront of AI development, and its heavy investments in hardware, and more importantly the decade-long development of CUDA, have paid off tremendously. In fact, the company announced that 34 new Nvidia GPU-accelerated supercomputers were added to the TOP500 list of supercomputers, bringing its total to 87. The company also powers 14 of the top 20 energy-efficiency supercomputers on the Green500 list.

Jensen Huang, Nvidia CEO, took to the stage at Supercomputing 2017 to announce that the company is also developing its own AI supercomputer for its autonomous driving program. Nvidia projects its new supercomputer will land in the top 10 list of worldwide AI supercomputers, which we’ll cover shortly.

New threats loom in the form of Intel’s recent announcement that it’s forming a new Core and Visual Computing business group, headed by Raja Koduri of AMD fame, to develop not only a discrete GPU but also a differentiated graphics stack that scales from the edge to the data center. AMD is also enjoying significant uptake of its EPYC platform paired with its competitive Radeon Instinct GPUs, a big theme here at the show, while a host of FPGA and ASIC vendors are also vying for a slice of the exploding AI segment.

The show floor is packed with Volta V100 demonstrations from multiple vendors, as we’ll get to in the coming days, and Nvidia took to the stage today to outline some of its progress.

Nvidia announced that its massive V100 GPU, which boasts an 815mm2 die packed with 21 billion transistors and paired with 16GB of HBM2, has been adopted by every major system and cloud vendor. The blue-chip systems roster includes Dell EMC, HPE, Huawei, IBM, Lenovo, and a host of whitebox server vendors. AI development is expanding rapidly, and a number of startups, businesses, and academic institutions are rapidly developing new products and capabilities, but purchasing and managing the requisite infrastructure can hinder adoption.

Every major cloud now offers Volta-powered cloud instances, including AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, Alibaba, Tencent, and others. Microsoft recently announced its new cloud-based Volta services, which will be available in November. The company also now supports up to 500 applications with the CUDA framework.

Nvidia is also offering new software and tools on the Nvidia GPU cloud (NGC), such as new HPC containers that simplify deployment. The containers work with Docker, with support for other container applications coming in the future. The applications run on any Pascal or newer GPU, along with HPC supercomputing clusters and Nvidia’s DGX systems.

Japan’s AIST also incorporated 4,352 Tesla Volta V100 GPUs into its ABCI supercomputer, which provides over 37 PetaFLOPS of FP64 performance, making it the fastest AI supercomputer in Japan. It’s the first ExaFLOP AI supercomputer in the world (0.55 ExaFLOPS). 

Nvidia also announced that it’s upgrading its own supercomputer, the SaturnV, with 660 Nvidia DGX-1 nodes (more detail on the nodes here), spread over five rows. Each node houses eight Tesla V100s for a total of 5,280 GPUs. That powers up to 660 PetaFLOPS of FP16 performance (nearly an ExaFLOP) and a peak of 40 PetaFLOPS of FP64. The company plans to use SaturnV for its own autonomous vehicle development programs.

Amazingly, Nvidia claimed that the SaturnV will easily land in the top 10 AI supercomputers worldwide, and might even enter the top five once completed. That’s impressive considering that state-run institutions drive many of the world’s leading supercomputers. Nvidia and IBM are also developing the Summit supercomputer at the Oakridge National Labs. Summit should unseat the current top supercomputer, which resides in China, with up to three ExaFLOPS of AI performance.

We’ll be scouring the show floor for some of the latest Tesla V100-powered systems; stay tuned.

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