Quantum Break Developer Registers Trademark for ‘Alan Wake’s Return’

Quantum Break Developer Registers Trademark for 'Alan Wake's Return'

According to the eagle-eyed Internet detectives at popular video game forum, NeoGAF, Remedy Entertainment might be bringing back a well-loved IP. It has registered a trademark for what appears to be sequel to Alan Wake called “Alan Wake’s Return”.

“After seeing this I also discovered that http://alanwakesreturn.com/ was registered last year via the same proxy as other Remedy domains. (although you don’t see Remedy itself in the whois),” wrote a forumgoer under the handle ekim. “edit: it’s worth noting that the trademark was registered via FastTrack so someone was in a hurry?!”

(Also see: Quantum Break for PC Shows the Needs of the Many Outweigh the Needs of the Few)

This was followed up with another post claiming that a domain, stonecrow.band was registered by Remedy also last year. Alan Wake had Finnish rock band Poets of the Fall featuring in the game as a band named Old Gods of Asgard.

Alan Wake is a horror action game from Remedy that was met with a tepid commercial response (thanks to releasing around the same time as Red Dead Redemption) when it first hit the Xbox 360 in 2010, but picked up steam when it was made available for Windows PCs two years later. The game still has a rabid fanbase and is lauded for its story-telling and presentation.

(Also see: Quantum Break PC Requirements Announced, Free With Xbox One Version)

With Alan Wake and Quantum Break publisher Microsoft playing host to the press with a behind closed doors event on February 25 that’s embargoed until March 1 we might not have to wait too long to find out what’s in store.

Would you play another Alan Wake game? Let us know via the comments.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Eight Smartphone Features That Deserve an Award

Eight Smartphone Features That Deserve an AwardYearly software refreshes to mobile operating systems like iOS and Android, along with the constant app updates by developers means that there’s barely any time to stop and think about the amazing convenience our phones bring to us today. There aren’t any formal awards for small features in phones that nonetheless make a big impact, so let’s give out some informal awards to some of the greatest features in phones that make these devices so smart.

So, without further ado, here are the picks for software features on smartphones that deserve an award, sorted in the decreasing order of their awesomeness. Some of these features are built directly into the operating systems, and others can be enabled by installing third-party apps.

1) Doze on Android
Android phones have had a spotty record when it comes to battery life, especially the standby times. Over-the-top hardware features can drain even relatively large batteries, while software customisations by phone-makers, and apps that keep sipping power even if you’re not using them, all steadily empty the battery.

Google’s previous attempt at solving this problem, dubbed Project Volta, which rolled out last year withAndroid 5.0 Lollipop, was ineffective because it relied on developers to implement power-saving features in their apps. The results were barely seen, considering the general perception that battery life on Android phones got worse with Android Lollipop, not better.

This year Google has tried again with Android Doze as part of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. This feature wasn’t portrayed as a magic pill that would double up battery life, but rather as something that would prevent wastage of battery when the phone is not in use. The beauty of Doze lies within the implementation of this feature – principally what Doze does is not very different from what Sony had introduced with Stamina mode, or what ‘low-power modes’ on other phones do, which is basically to turn off background app activity. Most of those solutions were too drastic however, and basically turned your smartphone into a featurephone.

android_doze.jpg

The ‘special sauce’ of Doze is its reliance on motion sensors to minimise background app activity. Doze isn’t going to save your battery when you’re on the move, but cuts in when the phone is resting unused, on your table. Doze does allow apps to update themselves at set intervals, but it keeps them from all waking the CPU one by one throughout the day.

In real world scenarios, people with Nexus 5 running Android 6.0 Marshmallow have seen just 2 to 3 percent drop in battery levels, after seven hours of not using the phone. In contrast, a Lollipop phone dropped two to three percent in battery levels every hour, even when the phone was not in use. Doze is seamless, and brings the standby time for your phone to par with what iOS users have experienced for years. You can even make it more aggressive with a simple hack that makes Doze kick-in more quickly.

2) Actionable Notifications for third-party apps in iOS 9
Actionable notifications was a tiny feature addition in iOS 8 that got little attention last year, possibly because it was limited to default apps like iMessage. In iOS 9, Apple thankfully opened this hidden gem to developers using an API, many of whom implemented it within a few months of the iOS 9 release.

(Also see: 15 iOS 9 Features That Make Your iPhone and iPad Better Than Ever)

Imagine this scenario – you’re using your phone and somebody sends you a message on a chat app like WhatsApp. Instead of having to tap on the notification to launch the app, then reply, and finally return to what you’re doing, with actionable notifications, simply pulling down on that notification shade reveals a reply box, where you can just type and hit send. There’s no need to juggle between apps while simultaneously chatting with people and using your phone anymore.

apple_quick_reply.jpg

Actionable notifications are not restricted to just quick replies; app developers can put commonly-used app actions there as well. For example, FB Messenger has the popular ‘thumbs-up’ as an action item when you pull down a chat notification.

3) Multi-user fingerprint Authentication on CoolOS (Android)
With Touch ID in 2013, Apple paved the way for fingerprint scanners to become one of the most convenient hardware features to have in a smartphone. The next year, Android 5.0 Lollipop introduced multi-user mode which, like a computer, would compartmentalise your data to your account. This year, Android may have brought out-of-the-box support for fingerprint scanners with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but it missed the boat on this unbelievably-incredible use case that CoolOS, a customised variant of Android found on Coolpad smartphones finally delivered.

The Coolpad Note 3 is an inexpensive phone with a fingerprint scanner that works well. But more importantly, hidden inside the settings menu is an option to bind a user profile to a fingerprint. Consider this scenario – you as an owner of the device, can tie another user (such as your child perhaps) with their fingerprint.

coolpad_note3_fingerprintapps_ndtv.jpg

When you unlock the phone with your fingerprint, you will get to see your data, but when the other person unlocks the phone using theirs, the OS seamlessly switches to that user’s profile, so you could let your children play games on your phone without worrying about them sending an email to your boss.

Effectively, this becomes the easiest way to allow others to use your phone, without exposing your data (like emails, photos, chats etc). If you don’t want to create separate users, you can also lock individual apps with a fingerprint; much like app-locker apps, but built-in and convenient to use.

4) Google Photos App
Google’s Photos app already deserves a pat on the back for letting people back up as many photos as they want, as long as they’re okay with them being reasonably compressed. This takes a big headache off from manually backing them up, in case you know, your phone is lost, broken, or tampered with.

But there are two beautiful features of this app that make discovering photos extremely simple. First is the Assistant feature, which intelligently creates photo books using the time and location data embedded in your phone, along with algorithms that pick out good photos from the lot. It is fantastic to reminisce over old photos that you probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

google_photos_app.jpg

The next is in Google’s ability to interpret content within photos. The search box in the Photos app is mad accurate! I’ve searched for “Photos of car”, “Photos of dogs”, “Photos of dogs and cars”, “Photos of dogs on the street”, “Photos of cars in Pune”, “Photos of cars in 2013”, and each time, the app served the correct results (with a few forgivable exceptions here and there).

The only thing it can’t automatically tag is people’s names. It is very good at finding similar faces and lets you see all pictures of a specific person, but it doesn’t identify via Google+ what the name of that person is. You can manually fill it in for now, though. Still, Google Photos is a powerful tool to find just the right photo you’re looking for.

5) Google Now on Tap
The highlight feature of the new Android 6.0, Now on Tap deserves an award for being able to understand context within text in any app, automatically showing you relevant results that you otherwise would have had to look up manually. Right now, Now on Tap’s usefulness is hit-or-miss, but it will only get better with time. But when it works, it works!

(Also see: Hands on With Now on Tap – Android 6.0’s Best Feature Has Apps Dancing to Its Tunes)

So the next time you and a buddy are texting about which movie to watch, or which restaurant to catch up at, a simple press and hold of the home button makes Google go through the text on the screen, and serve the same knowledge cards you’re used to seeing on Google search results. If you’re talking about movies, you’ll see IMDB ratings, an option to quickly play trailers on YouTube, and even app-integration to book tickets. If you’re talking about places to eat, it’ll show their distance from your current location and a button to call the restaurant.

now_on_tap_ndtv_2.jpg

Tapping any word in the Chrome browser also shows up the search results as a card below. Now on Tap has huge potential and this feature is award-worthy indeed!

6) These (Really) Smart Calling Apps
There are some great innovations that make calling (which yes, people still use their phones for) much easier. Let’s start with TrueDialer – other than populating crowdsourced names on unknown phone numbers in your call list, it has also recently introduced a status feature.

This lets you know if the person you’re trying to call is available for conversation. The status is decided depending upon if they’re already on another call, or if their calendar has them marked as busy at the time, or their phone profile is set to ‘no interruptions’.

The app can let you know when this status changes, so you can get in touch at a more appropriate time. Its usefulness is limited by the fact that the people you’re calling also need to use Truedialer, butApple has a patent for a similar sounding system. If Apple or Google were to implement it in the dialers of tomorrow then it could really improve the way we communicate.

truedialler_app.jpg

Another app that deserves praise is an Android app called SpeakerPhone Ex, and its Windows Phone equivalent, Lumia Gestures. The app uses the proximity sensor to switch between the speakerphone and the earpiece, and it’s an incredibly convenient tweak that makes using the phone much easier.

7) Apple’s Continuity on iOS and OS X
Taking advantage of the tight control over their software ecosystem, Apple’s Continuity has enabled features that Android hasn’t been able to replicate. Continuity gives you the ability to make and receive your iPhone calls and SMS on a Mac, iPad or iPod Touch, the use of iPhone’s WiFi hotspot in a single click, wirelessly transferring files from one Apple device to another (AirDrop) and restoring the state of apps from one device to another (Handoff).

(Also see: How to Make and Answer Calls, Send and Receive SMS From Your iPad, Mac)

apple_continuity.jpg

Someone told me he gets poor connectivity at his home, so the ability to take calls on his Mac or iPad while his iPhone rests in another room (which has better reception) is a boon. Instant Hotspot also saves you the step of turning it on in Settings on your phone, before you can use a Wi-Fi Hotspot. Handoff is useful too, provided you’re using apps that support it (such as Safari or Mail). There are also a reasonable number of third-party apps that support it too, but most people said Handoff was second of the least useful new feature to them, after AirDrop.

8) Third Party App Integration with Cortana on Windows Phone
Cortana was a few years late to the party after Siri and Google Now opened up the possibility of controlling your phone using your voice. But it has one trick up its sleeve that the latter two haven’t been able to crack yet – third-party app integration. What this means is developers can create commands that Cortana will parse, so that you can also perform actions within apps using the voice assistant. So, you can ask the Wikipedia app to search something within it directly, or say, ask the Dictionary.com’s app for the word of the day, all with your voice.

meet_cortana.jpg

At the moment, Google Now supports a few third-party apps like WhatsApp so you can say “Send a WhatsApp message to…”, but it isn’t open to just about anybody. Siri on the other hand can launch third-party apps when asked, and actions are limited to the built-in apps like Apple Music – so you can say “Play the best hits from the last decade” to Siri and it will start playing.

These were some of the features that blew my mind. What features have brought you such happiness? Sound off in the comments below.

Rohan Naravane heads the Content & Product at PriceBaba. He’s usually found rambling mostly about tech on Twitter @r0han.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV Gadgets is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV Gadgets and NDTV Gadgets does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Ignoring the lessons of history, the US is considering a partition of Syria

A tentative ceasefire between warring parties in Syria is set to come to force on Saturday (Feb. 27), but the international community remains skeptical that it will hold. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has warned that if the ceasefire fails, the US might have to consider a Plan B—namely a partition of Syria.
“This can get a lot uglier,” Kerry told the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.“It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer.”
It’s the first time Kerry has spoken publicly about partition—which he is not yet advocating—but there have been plenty of murmurings of this so-called last-ditch solution.
Israel has expressed similar doubts that the ceasefire will hold. Defense minister Moshe Ya’alon suggested that Syria is “going to face chronic instability for a very, very long period of time” that could result in a number of enclaves, such as “Alawistan,” “Syrian Kurdistan,” “Syrian Druzistan,” and so on. Ram Ben-Barak, director-general of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry, went as far as to describe partition as “the only possible solution.”

Some suggest a partition plays into Russia’s hands (paywall); Britain has accused Russia of trying to carve out an Alawite mini-state in Syria.
As countries interested in protecting their own interests consider carving up Syria, the history of partition in the region highlights the problem with dividing people along ethno-religious lines.
Syria is no stranger to partition

This year marks the centenary of the Sykes-Picot agreement, where Britain and France secretly split up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire between themselves after World War I. Iraq, Transjordan, and Palestine came under British influence, Syria and Lebanon under French power.

But the preliminary divisions in this treaty highlight the problem of dividing people by sectarian affiliations. For example, the proposals envisioned Lebanon as a haven for Christians and the Druze, while Syria was to be a place for Sunni Muslims. As political economist Tarek Osman points out, these secretion divisions weren’t necessarily a reflection of reality on the ground.
The French and British employed the colonial policy of divide-and-rule for their own economic and ideological purposes. Some go as far as to blame the Sykes-Picot agreement for the current problems in Syria, and the rest of the Middle East, today.
“The artificiality of state formation has caused numerous conflicts over the last few decades,” Henner Fürtig, director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at GIGA research institute in Hamburg, told Deutsche Welle. “These questions haven’t been solved for a century and burst open again and again, in a cycle, like now with the ISIS advance in northern Iraq.”
These divisions would later be quashed under anti-colonialist struggles, which called for a united Arab world against imperialist powers, and then later brutally suppressed in the 1980s and 1990s by what Osman describes as the “Arab world’s strong men,” including Hafez Assad, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi. Osman argues these cracks and divisions didn’t disappear, they came to the forefront at 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
Ayse Tekdal Fildis, assistant professor in the Department of Political Sciences at Halic University in Istanbul, also blames artificial divisions imposed by French imperialists, arguing: “The process of political radicalization was initiated during the era of the French mandate, the legacy of which was almost a guarantee of Syria’s political instability.” CNN’s Fareed Zakaria used this argument to explain why Syria is imploding, and why Western powers should stay out of Syria.

Others are less convinced with the argument that those borders are the sole factor for the political instability in Syria today.
Sarah El Sirgany, a journalist and fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, told al-Jazeera that “to trace every event, mishap, war, conflict or even agreement back to the Sykes-Picot agreement would be giving it more than it deserves.” She argues a lot has happened since then, governments have been overthrown and world powers have shifted, while others point to other treaties as important contributing factors.
Who will own what?

Advocates for partition point to the relative success of the Dayton accords in 1995, which formally ended the three-and-a-half year war in the Balkans. Leaders of Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia signed an agreement that preserved Bosnia as a single state, but divided it into two parts. The accord created a federal system; the Muslim-Croat federation would represent 51% of the country, while a Serb republic would hold the remaining 49%.
More than 200,000 died before the peace deal was reached. Bloomberg columnist Marc Champion, who describes the Dayton as an “imperfect solution” to end the bloodshed, calls for a similar temporary partition of Syria. A map created by Columbia University’s Gulf/2000 Project shows how difficult that could be. Each color represents different groups in Syria, which at times overlap.
Syria Ethnic Composition.(Gulf/2000)
Critics warn that a partition of Syria could require the mass displacement of different ethnicities, which could to the kind of horrors during the India-Pakistan partition.

The 1947 partition of colonial India divided it into two separate states; Pakistan, with a Muslim majority, and India, with a Hindu majority. Thomas Carlson, assistant professor of Middle Eastern History at Oklahoma State University, points out that “around 15 million Hindus and Muslims were on the wrong side of the line and were forced to flee for their lives. Hundreds of thousands were killed.”
These borders do not always last. The artificial state of Pakistan could not hold, with isolated East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh in a bloody war of independence. The border between Iraq and Syria, established by Sykes-Picot, lasted a long time—from when when it was created until ISIL established its own so-called Islamic State connecting large areas of the two countries in 2014. The Kurds have had their own autonomous region in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003.
The lessons of past partitions suggest those who have the most to lose are minority groups who don’t wield significant political power. While finding peace in Syria is proving to be very hard, dividing people by ethnicity or sectarian affiliation is no quick fix in the long run, either.

[“source-wordpress”]

Mobile Locked Unless You Pay the Ransom? Could Happen to You in 2016

Mobile Locked Unless You Pay the Ransom? Could Happen to You in 2016

Software security firm Kaspersky Lab is holding the APAC Cyber Security Summit in Malaysia, where it is talking about the current security trends and threats faced by individuals and businesses in the region and across the world.

Gadgets 360 spoke to Vitaly Kamluk, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab, who discussed Kaspersky’s predictions for the global security landscape in 2016. Here they are:

1) Ransomware
Ransomware is a relative new online phenomenon, where the victims are locked out of their devices, unless they pay a ransom to the attacker. Since most users don’t back up their devices, many agree to pay to get access to their important data. It a lot more appealing to attackers as well, since the payout is immediate, especially when compared to traditional attacks where they had to steal financial information and then use it to gain access to the money.

According to Kamluk, the amounts involved in ransomware attacks are usually not too huge, and users are also less likely to report such cases, which decreases the possibility of attracting attention from government authorities. As a result, he sees ransomware attacks getting really popular in 2016.

Mobile ransomware is already a reality and Kamluk believes it will be one of the biggest trends in 2016, with users being locked out of their mobiles unless they pay up the ransom. According to Sergey Lozhkin, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky, 98 percent of all current mobile malware targets Android, which should tell you which set of users needs to worry the most about this trend.

OS X could also be another target in 2016, and Kamluk believes attackers see Mac users as more affluent, so they could be asked to pay bigger ransoms than their PC counterparts. IoT ransomware will also be on the rise, and it’s hard to disagree with Kamluk on this one – we’d hate to be locked out of our Internet-connected refrigerator, and will happily pay up whatever is necessary to get our hands on the pizza inside come meal time.

kaspersky_lab_summit_ndtv.jpg2) Attacks on researchers and developers
Kamluk believes researchers will be one of the top targets in 2016, as attackers will try to compromise popular tools used for reverse engineering, virtualisation, debugging, and even various PGP implementation themselves. Code repositories like Github and other channels frequented by developers could be another popular target as a way of injecting code into the entire ecosystem. This means we could see more XcodeGhost-like incidents in 2016.

3) Financial attacks
Kamluk hinted that payment systems like Apple Pay and Android Pay are on the radar of hackers and the next big attack could be used to exploit one of more of these systems. He admitted that the company predicated the same for 2015, and as these systems become deployed in more markets, the probability of such an attack increases.

4) Abuse of trust
One of the biggest threats in 2016 will come from the comprise of websites that consumers implicitly trust, for example the Intranet or Sharepoint, which are used to share information within a company.

5) Extortion and shaming
According to Kamluk, 2016 will see more cyber-extortion and shaming attacks similar to this year’sAshley Madison case.

6) The end of APT
This one is for those who track security trends rather closely. Kamluk believes the Advance Persistent Threats – or ATPs as they are known in the security world – will see a decline in 2016. However, don’t go celebrating just yet, as Kaspersky sees newer memory-resident or file-less malware replacing them, which will be even harder to detect.

kaspersky_lab_summit_slide.jpgDisclosure: Kaspersky Lab sponsored the correspondent’s flights and accommodation for the event in Malaysia.

[“Source-Gadgets”]