Category Archives: Tech

Peak vs Elevate

Recently I’ve been pondering wether its possible to enhance your mental fitness. I mean its easy to improve your physical fitness – you can go to the gym, run, improve your diet etc – but when it comes to brain power is it really possible to see progress? Back in 2005 Nintendo certainly thought so with the introduction of Brain Age for the popular DS console. Brain Age had you solve simple math problems and complete basic tasks with the premise of making you smarter. Today however, there are several excellent options available for your smart device which make similar claims.
The three most popular brain training apps for mobile are Elevate, Peak and Luminosity. For me, Luminosity is way too expensive (£7.99/$11.99 per month) and as such I have opted to leave it out of this comparison. The two apps which really stood out for me as viable options were Elevate and Peak. Both apps offer a similar experience but they go about delivering it in a slightly different way. I subscribed to both premium services and have been using them frequently for about a month.
Elevate
Probably the most popular brain training app at the moment is Elevate. Although only launched in May 2014, at time of writing the app has been downloaded 5 million times. What makes Elevate great is its intuitive, bold design and slick execution. Recently Elevate hit the headlines when it was voted as Apples App of the year for 2014. New users to Elevate will first have to complete a quick diagnostics test which will tell the app the areas which need improving on etc. According to elevate the service focuses on your reading and writing skills, along with memory and focus. The app offers a customised service which adjusts appropriately to your performance over time.
Elevate comes with a pretty comprehensive free to use service but if you really want to reap the benefits you will want to subscribe to the premium service for £2.99/$4.99 a month or £31.99/$44.99 for the year. This will give you access to 8 exclusive premium games, unlimited access to all 25 games and also the ability to compare your performance to other Elevate users.
Peak
Peak brain training comes from the London based company Brainbow. It offers a very similar experience to Elevate and also comes with some very positive review. Peak also comes high in many app rankings and to date has been downloaded 2 million times. Like Elevate, Peak helps improve your language skills, but puts more of an emphasis on mental agility and problem solving. The service allows you to set your own training goals and like Elevate offers a customised service which adapts to you performance over time.
Sign up to Peaks pro subscription and gain access to the 6-game daily personal workouts, more comprehensive analytics and unlimited access to all games. The premium package will cost you £2.99/$4.99 a month or £24.99/$34.99 for a yearly subscription. There is also a pretty decent free version, although like its competitor you will need to subscribe to the premium service if your serious about seeing improvements.
Games and design
 
The structure of Elevate has improved recently and now comprises of three main sections: These ‘Training’, ‘Games’ and Elevate design‘Performance’. The ‘training’ tab gives you access to your daily training session and comprises of three specially selected games. The ‘games’ tab gives you access to all 25 games and allows you to practice them as much as you like, and the ‘performance’ tab gives you access to all you statistics and tracks your performance (more on this later).

Elevate games

The games are beautifully designed and incorporate bold colours, slick animations and great sound effects. Because the games
are so well designed and such fun to play you would hardly know you are working out at all. It is clear that a lot of effort has gone into creating this type of experience. Some games are locked until you reach a certain level in associated games, and others are only available in the premium service. There is usually a goal in each game (like maintaining propulsion of a space rocket or navigating a boat across an ocean) and it all helps to make Elevate both interesting and engaging.

Peak designPeak also has a lovely design which is easily recognisable. The app basically comprises of two screens. The first screen is centred around your daily goal and workout, and the second contains all you performance stats and progress. You can move between the two screens by swiping with you finger. There is also an icon in the top left hand corner which takes you to the menu, and another in the top right which takes you to the games archive. The interface is very slick looking and fairly easy to use. The games themselves are also very fun to play and offer enough variety to keep you interested. Unlike Elevate though, the games feel more functional rather than recreational.
Peak gamesWhilst both apps are exceptionally designed and lovely to use, Elevate is possible slightly simpler to navigate due to is tab based design. That said, I think Peak’s home screen design is a little bit more interesting and dynamic, particularly when you get used to it. Whilst games on both are great, Elevate perhaps shines a little more due to its use of animations and sounds.
Performance analytics
 
Your performance in Elevate is based on what has been coined ‘Elevate proficiency quotient’ (EPQ). This is based on you Elevavate statsperformance over time, how often you play and the variety of of games you play. It gives you a score ranging from 0 – 5000. Your EPQ is will give you an idea of how well you are performing in the five areas: Speaking, Writing, Reading, Listening and math and for each category Elevate will tell you which is your best game. You also get a percentile ranking which compares you against Elevate users. This is pretty cool although I’m not sure my writing skills would actually put me at 96.8% against other users. The scores do seem a little exaggerated.
Peak on the other hand does things a little differently. Importantly it gives you a single score based on your overall Peak Performance. This is scored out of 1000. There is also a graph which shows your score over the past week. If you want more in-depth statistics then Peak also breaks things down in much more detail. A very cool function is the ability to compare your Peak score to people within your age group or profession. This is great as it gives you a feel of how well you compare to others. The information is displayed in a spider chart which includes Peak brain score, memory, problem solving, language, mental agility and focus. As if this wasn’t enough there is also a graph charting your performance in each category over the last month and a break down of how you perform in each category compared to your age group.
Peak statsThe app further breaks down your performance and gives you a Peak brain score for every game you have played. It even tells you which day of the week you have performed best.
Whilst both Elevate and Peak have excellent performance trackers, there is no bout that Peak’s is more comprehensive. I also much prefer having a single score to keep me motivated. I find this gives me a target to focus on and means I don’t have to get bogged down in statistics if I don’t want to.
The science 
According to the Elevate website ‘Elevates games are designed in collaboration with experts in neuroscience and cognitive learning and are based on extensive scientific research’. Furthermore ‘Elevate’s brain training algorithms further focus the learning experience by drawing from research in memory studies to develop a personalised training program for each user’. 
Peak makes a similar claim ‘Designed in collaboration with experts in neuroscience, cognitive science and education, Peak makes brain training fun and rewarding. The scientific advisors involved with Peak includes Bruce Wexler, Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist at Yale, and Amir Konigsberg, PhD from Princeton in cognitive psychology‘.
What this all means, I’m not really sure. Both claim to be based on scientific research but neither goes any way in explaining what this actually means to the end user. The subject of brain training is a slightly controversial subject at the minute. It has been suggested that there is actually little evidence to suggest that such activities actually have any positive impact on mental agility. That said, doing any sort of task repetitively will surely have some sort of benefit. If your interested you can take a look at this study which suggests mixed results concerning the effectiveness of computer based cognitive training.
From my point of view it is difficult to say wether I have personally seen results. Looking at my analytics from both apps, I seem to do well some days and then terribly bad on others. It is difficult to judge wether I have actually improved in any of the given areas or wether I have just become well practiced at particular tasks. I’m sure in the long term however I will start to see more positive results. That said, I’m not sue how all this transfers to the real world.
Final thoughts
 
Wether or not these brain training apps are actually having a positive effect, they are certainly fun to play and I can see that there must be some benefit to exercising my brain regularly. To which app is best is a difficult question to answer. Both are excellent and tailored for slightly different needs. Peak offers a more all over experience, but Elevate focuses more on language and math. Both are beautifully designed and offer a lot of variety to keep you engaged.
I would say that Elevate certainly has a more bold and dynamic design, but in my opinion Peak offers better analytics and progress tracking. It is very difficult to recommend one over the other but if I had to continue just one of my premium subscriptions it would probably be with Elevate.
If you have had any experience with Peak, Elevate or any other service then please let me know.

Everything you need to know about Windows 10

So its official – the latest version of Microsoft’s popular operating system is official, and will be known as Windows 10. But what happened to Windows 9 I hear you say? Well nothing really, Microsoft just decided to leapfrog it. The new operating system offers a new design and a host of new features. Read on to find out everything you need to know about Windows 10.

Design

The new design and interface is where the majority of the changes can be seen. As windows 8 was criticised for being too different, Microsoft have rolled back the interface to something more reminiscent of Windows 7. Microsoft have done away with the annoying tile like meta-interface, and have replaced it with a more compromised traditional look. A big reason for this shift in design is attributed to an acknowledgement by Microsoft that not everybody loved the touch screen focus of Windows 7.
Tech-Preview_Start-menu-500x281
Windows 10 then, is much more reminiscent of Windows 7, and Microsoft have even made the big decision to re-introduce the popular ’start’ menu. This is one area where users will notice a more balanced user interface, with the inclusion of resizable tilesTech-Preview_Start-menu-500x281 which can be customised with your favourite apps, people and websites. Microsoft acknowledge that many users are still using Windows 7 and as such want to make the transition to Windows 10 as seamless as possible.
If you prefer the full touch experience then don’t panic, the charm bar is still available for simple gesture controls and you still have the option of running the touch mode which will display tiles in the familiar Windows 8 style.

Continuum

Like Apple and Google, Microsoft wants want to lock you into their own eco-system with multi platform functionality. Windows 10 has been designed to run cross platform and will offer a bespoke interface depending on the hardware. There will also be just one Windows store running across all platforms.

Windows_Product_Family_9-30-Event-741x416

Continuum means that the operating system will detect the hardware set up and offer the best user experience. This means that the user interface for a mouse and keyboard setup will differ to that of a touchscreen tablet. This is good news for all-in-one devices as the operating system will be able to detect when the keyboard has been removed and adjust the interface appropriately.

Multi tasking

Multi tasking capabilities have also been greatly improved with new features aimed at the power user. Importantly, Microsoft have introduced a new ‘task view’ button which will give an overview of open virtual desktops and apps and gives a simple way of switching between them. This is something which has been available in OSX for ages so should come as good news for Windows diehards.
Tech-Preview_Virtual-desktop-500x281
Virtual desktops are a means of being able to increase productivity by having access to multiple desktops for with different setups. This is a feature which will be recognisable if you already use multiple monitors. If however you only have one display, then virtual desktops are available to give give you similar functionality.

Windows ‘snap assist’ has also been improved with a new user interface. This allows for apps to be snapped from multiple desktops and auto sized to fit either all or part of the display in a tiled format. This is a multi tasking feature which gives greater Tech-Preview_Three-program-snap-and-suggestions-500x281functionality by allowing multiple apps to be displayed besides each other in an expanded interface. A new improvement is the ability to now have up to 4 snapped apps running per desktop. Windows 10 also introduces a quirky little feature whereby it will recommend similar apps you may want to run besides them.

Windows Apps

Windows apps have also received an overhaul and are now capable of opening in the same format as desktop programs. These can be resized at will and moved around the desktop. This is a big improvement compared to Windows 7 apps which could only be opened in full screen mode. This is also good for cross platform functionality with the ability to adjust apps accordingly.

New search

Microsoft have gone and improved the search functionality with a search bar now present within the task bar and start menu. This is reminiscent of Apple’s Spotlight feature and will display results from both your computer and the internet.

Availability and price

Windows 10 is slated as being available to consumers by the end of 2015. There are still a lot of tweaks and improvements to be made and the OS will be available to business users first. Prices are still unknown but there have been previous rumours that it may be a free upgrade!

If you just can’t wait however then Microsoft are offering a beta program via the ‘Windows Insider Program’. Microsoft have pointed out however that this will give users access to a preview version of Windows 10 which will by no means be a final package. Therefore make sure you know what your doing and expect to encounter plenty of bugs and rough edges.

Ebay and Paypal getting a divorce

It would seem that the marriage between Ebay and its Payment service Paypal is to coming to an end.

According to TechCrunch Paypal is to be spun off as a separate company and will no longer come under the Ebay umbrella.

The 12 year partnership will end amicably with Paypal becoming a public listed company with both companies getting new skippers.

Apparently this is a strategic move initiated by Ebay’s board of directors and is aimed at growing both companies within their respective markets.

This announcement should not come as a shock however with TechCrunch reporting that ‘this is a split that many, including activist investor Carl Icahn, have predicted or called for in the past’

The move is expected to go ahead later in 2015 and will see Paypal better placed to compete with other mobile payment services such as Apple Pay.

Deezer review

Deezer review

Music streaming is all the rage at the minute. With Apple acquiring Beats Music, and streaming becoming part of the UK music charts, we can be sure that this is the way music consumption is going. As less people begin paying for music downloads, streaming services such as Deezer are becoming far more popular. The concept of all you can eat music for a small monthly fee is actually rather exciting.

I have had been using Deezer for about a year now and as such I have had plenty of time to get to grips with the service and write this, hopefully, balanced Deezer review. I have also used both iOS and Android applications, though this review has been constructed using the iOS app. Both are ultimately the same however and differ little from the web version.

I am not an audio engineer or an expert in the field, so this Deezer review is concerned with my own experience of using the service.

I hope you find this informative.

Background

Deezer is a music streaming service which allows users to stream or download music for a small monthly fee. Similar services include the likes of Spotify, Beats Music and Google Play Music. Deezer was founded in 2006 by Daniel Marhely and initially launched in France in the guise of Blogmusik. Due to copyright infringements the company was actually shut down, but was relaunched in late 2007 as Deezer. The idea was that some of the revenue made by on site advertising would go towards paying copyright holders.

Although Deezer managed to sign up the four major record companies, they struggled to cope with rising costs. In 2009 the previously free service introduced a range of paid subscription options. Although uptake of the premium service was slow to start, telecommunications giant Orange soon  became a key shareholder and premium subscriptions surged.

Today, Deezer is one of the worlds most popular music streaming services and boasts a catalogue of about 30 million tracks. Deezer is available in 182 countries and this year became available in the US – historically a very difficult market to crack.

Presentation and navigation

Deezer menuDeezer is certainly a very pretty service to use, and the iOS app is very well presented and easy to navigate. The main menu can be accessed by the menu button at the top of the screen or quite simply by swiping the screen to the right. This is where you can select what you want to do. From here you can choose to access music recommendations, access music charts and radio channels, your own music library and synced music and playlists. There are also links to other apps and access to the apps settings.

A quick swipe to the left will hide the menu bar and reveal whichever feature it is that you are currently using. The app itself is very fluid and the graphics are very pleasing to the eye. The whole thing just feels really well designed and runs very smoothly. Its clear that a lot of though has gone into the design and the result is that it is simple to use and easy to navigate. You will rarely find yourself lost in the interface.

Features
Deezer is packed with cool features and one of my favourites is called ‘hear this’. Accessed from the top of the menu, Hear this presents itself as a music feed with a feature called ‘Flow’ at the top and music reccomendations beneath. ‘Flow’ basically takes all of your music content and music that you have streamed in the past, and stitches it all together in a non stop music feed.

Underneath ‘Flow’ are all of your music recommendations, based on your listening habits. This is easily one of my favourite featuresDeezer flow as it constantly recommends new artists, albums, tracks and radio channels which I may be interested in. This is particularly good because it recommends relevant content which fits within my music tastes, and it is an invaluable tool in discovering new and fantastic music. I have discovered so many news groups and bands through recommendations and I am not sure what I would do without it.

The ‘Explore’ feature gives access to Deezer recommendations. These are not personalised but rather generic recommendations. Also found here is the option to break down these recommendations regionally. So if your interested in seeing whats hot in South America for example then you have the option to do this.

IMG_0756Another feature gives access to Deezer charts. This shows what is currently popular on Deezer. This is broken down into Tracks, Albums, Artists and Playlists and is structured in the usual charts format. I find this very useful when looking for contemporary popular music and is perhaps one of my favourite features.

Deezer has a really great choice of radio channels. These are based around music genres (e.g pop, rock, hip hop etc) and Artists. For example if your into Maroon 5 the you can select this radio channel and listen to this particular group and other similar groups/artists. The genre feature is practically the same but plays music which belongs to that genre. Again this is a really fantastic feature, and one which I haven’t really used enough. This offers so mush variety and if your struggling with what to listen to at any given time then it is so useful to just default to a particular radio channel and let Deezer select the play list. Deezer Radio

Of course one of the main features of Deezer is the ability to just search for whatever you like. Wether you want the latest Ed Sheeran album or Arctic Monkeys single, you have so much choice with about 35 million tracks to choose from. There is a handy search icon to the top right of the interface where you can search to you hearts content. You always have the option to stream the track or download it. Either way you can add it to you library, but with a premium subscription you can download it to your device for offline use.

All your content is stored in your music library where you can choose to view all your music or just those albums or playlists which you have actually downloaded. Talking about playlists, you can either create your own or access them via the charts feature. One thing I don’t like about Playlists is the inability to search of them. It doesn’t really make sense to me because if you create your own, how have people supposed to be able to search for it? I actually emailed Deezer about this and they acknowledged the issues and said they would pass it on to the development team.

This is one area I feel where Spotify has an edge over Deezer. Playlists are a big deal nowadays and I would like to see more functionality within Deezer.

All in all, the features provided by Deezer are absolutely fantastic and you will struggle to get bored with it. There is so much content to discover, and the interface makes the process much less overwhelming.

Deezer does a lot with social media integration, and you can link in with friends via Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Once connected with friends you have the option to view their viewing habits and share music.

Sound quality

Sound quality is very good I am have rarely heard any deterioration in quality. I spend a good amount of time listening to Deezer via my car stereo and even at high volumes there are few issues with quality. Some of my tunes can become a little distorted but this tends to be older tracks which are not available with high quality audio.

The standard playback quality is pretty average, however premium subscribers get access to the much higher 320kbps which sounds great. Obviously this takes up more space if you choose to download, but sound quality is noticeably better.

If you live in the US then you are lucky as Deezer have just introduced ‘Deezer Elite’. This offers a stunning High Fidelity bitrate of 1411kpbs. This is true CD like quality. No word yet on when this will be rolled out to the rest of the world though.

Price

In the UK you basically get the option of the free ‘Discovery’ plan or for £9.99 a month you can subscribe to ‘Premium+’ which will give you high quality downloads and access to the offline mode. You also have the option to listen to Deezer via different sources i.e. you car stereo or HiFi.

Prices in the US range from $4.99 for the basic package and $9.99 for the premium option, though as mentioned there is a new ‘Elite’ option which starts at $14.99 a month but eventually goes up to a whopping $19.99.

My opinion is that for £9.99 in the UK for what is on offer, Deezer offers great value for money. I would be lost without it. Although it is a bit disappointing that it is much cheaper across the pond. This is pretty standard though where prices are concerned.

Conclusion

Deezer really is a fantastic service which offers some fantastic functionality. The music catalogue is absolutely massive and you will rarely not find what you are looking for. For me the playlist issue is a bit of a pain but certainly not a game changer. I just hope that they add the option to search for Playlists in the future as this is something which Spotify does better.

Since I have been subscribed to Deezer I have discovered so much new content and have found myself listening to things I wouldn’t ordinarily have. This is great as it has really broadened my listening habits. I Haven’t paid for a single track or album since I subscribed to Deezer so for me it represents fantastic value for money.

The interface is beautifully designed, simple to use and just feels so fluid. I love it and as such can thoroughly recommend Deezer to anyone who loves listening to music but finds high street prices too high.

Why I hate feeling disconnected and why I pay so much in SKY subscriptions.

Ok folks, so heres a bit of a rant.

So I’ve been with sky TV for a year now. Having paid £59 per month for my HD package I am now presented with the concept of my bill going up to £82 per month! Thats a massive price increase, and a huge amount to pay. Yes I have broadband, sky movies and HD, but still, where do these prices actually come from?

Ill tell you where – it all derives from a serious lack of competition. Where I live SKY is the only provider of subscription based TV and I know this is the same issue with people up and down the country. We live in a digital age but yet there has still been a serious lack of investment in the data communications infrastructure. I could actually get a TV package with fibre optic broadband much cheaper from one of SKY’s main competitors, however none of these services are available in my area. I even pay for 4G data with EE, but of course I don’t actually get any signal where I live.

My point is that the telecommunications infrastructure in the UK is seriously lacking. Unless you live in a big city then chances are you have to put up with decades old technology which results in painfully slow broadband, poor mobile phone signal and high prices! I keep hearing companies such as BT and EE talking about rolling out data services to rural communities, but how long does this actually take? Ill be in old age before I get access to super fast fibre optic services.

Other countries are far ahead of the UK when it comes to data communications and frankly we are not doing enough to bring our services up to speed. It was funny hearing the Queens speech a few years ago when she stated the UK government would spend more money on infrastructure. Well it hasn’t made any difference to me because I’m still living in the stone age!

So the answer to my question of where do these prices come from is actually quite simple; they charge me extortionate subscription fees because they are my only option and they know it! The day fibre optic is available to all of the UK will be the day that SKY experiences proper competition and actually does something about it. I just can’t quite believe sometimes that its 2014 but yet I still only get broadband speeds similar to what I had about ten years ago! Moreover, people are now talking about 5G data services but I can’t even send a text message from my own home! There has to be something wrong there?

I really hate feeling disconnected, I hate not having access to fibre optic services, and I hate having to pay extra for services I can get as a result.

this makes me grumpy.

End of rant.

Should you buy a curved screen TV?

Just what exactly is the crack with curved screen TVs? Does having a curved screen really enhance you viewing experience or is it just a massive waste money? LG and Samsung are the current market leaders when it comes to curved screen technology and both currently have a range of curved TVs available to consumers. Both companies are adamant that curved screens represent the future of home entertainment and it would seem that the technology is here to stay. The question is then; just how good is the technology and does it actually enhance your viewing experience?

Background.

The first curved TV prototypes were only introduced to the world last year at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2013 and within only a year we have already seen the technology develop, with both Samsung and LG showcasing their latest range of curved TVs at the CES 2014 earlier this year.

Although curved screen technology has been around for many years, It was actually Samsung who initially wowed the world when in 2010 it announced it was developing the worlds first curved screen Smartphone. Passionate about this technology they were quick to push through a prototype of the device which was showcased at the 2011 CES. Although this brought questionable benefits to the smartphone, it showed the world what the technology was capable of and got people talking. By the end of 2013 the worlds first curved screen smartphone was unleashed on the world. The Samsung Galaxy Round was born.

samsung galaxy round

When LG and Samsung announced their prototype curved TVs at the 2013 CES they both claimed to be the first to the market. LG however arguably had a slight advantage in that their curved screen supported 3D technology and they actually started taking orders at the show.

This year at the CES 2014 Samsung showcased what it claimed to be the worlds largest Ultra High Definition (UHD) curved screen TV – a 105 inch behemoth. For those of you not familiar with UHD, this is the latest Ultra Hight Definition format and is more commonly known as 4K. 4K is 4 times the resolution of full HD and as such is blisteringly sharp.

Of course LG weren’t to be overshadowed by Samsung and similarly boasted about their own record breaking TV. This was slated as being the worlds first and largest curved OLED UHD TV with a screen size of 77 inches. OLED stands for organic light emitting diode and basically means that each pixel is capable of producing its own light source. This does away with bulky internal lighting and makes for a much thinner and lighter display.

Although the technology is still in its infancy, within just a year we have seen some massive technological developments and some equally impressive price reductions. Both Samsung and LG are championing the technology and are passionate about the benefits it brings.

Why curved screen TV’s are awesome.

Now I don’t want to baffle you with science but an apparent major benefit to viewing a curved screen is concerned with what is known as the ‘sweet spot’. There is always an optimum position when watching TV and at the cinema the screen is so large that this isn’t really an issue. Many people can sit within the sweet spot and still get the optimum viewing experience. Gizmodo point out however that” the sweet spot in you’re living room covers one, maybe two people at most. This means that the best place to watch is from direct centre, with the middle of the screen at eye height”.

The reason for this is because the middle of the screen is closest to the viewer. As we move away from the centre and towards the edges there is a very slight distortion in the colours and image. This is due to the edges of the TV being further away and is more noticeable on larger screens with the viewer sitting further away. By adding even a slight curve to the screen this brings the edges further towards the viewer and thus reduces distortion. This, and the fact that the screen follows the curvature of the eye, makes for a more natural viewing experience. Viewing angles are also better as a result.

It is also noted that the wrap around nature of the screen makes for a more inclusive and immersive experience.

samsung

According to LG the curvature also creates a slight magnified effect, making the the screen appear larger and brighter than on a standard TV. The picture is brighter due to the light emitting from the display being more focused towards the audience.

There is also the wow factor associated with curved screen TVs. They have not yet become commonplace in peoples homes and by owning one you really will be the envy of all your mates. For someone such as myself who loves the latest and greatest tech the curved screen TV really is the thing of the future. Sometimes I buy things just because they wow me.

Things to consider.

Price should be a serious consideration when thinking about a curved screen TV. Whilst prices have reduced drastically in a short period of time, curved TVs are still more expensive than standard TVs. As mentioned prices on the high street range from about £2000 to £4000. That said I really must stress how much more affordable these TVs are compared to just a year ago. For example in 2013 it would have cost around £25000 to purchase a UHD curved screen TV. Today you can purchase one for as little as £4000. I say “as little as £4000” not because I could afford one, but rather because of how much more affordable the technology has become.

 

LG 55EA980W

Another potential problem is that curved screen TVs are not exactly easy to mount on the wall. Whilst mounting solutions have now become available, they are not exactly cheap or readily available. Curved screen TV’s are really designed to be free standing, and to be honest do you really want one protruding from you’re living room wall?

Size is another issue that needs considering with 55 inches being pretty much the smallest size available. For a lot of people this will just be too big, particularly if you have a smaller sized room. The size also adds to the issue of mounting.

Lastly, the technology is still evolving. Whilst LED and OLED technology is nothing new, you may be best off waiting a few years to get the best spec and the best price. At the moment OLED technology is very new to curved screen TVs and is only offered by LG. OLED TV screens are mesmerisingly thin and are clearly going to become more readily available. At the minute however you will have to choose between OLED technology and UHD (4K).

To be honest, you will get the more out of OLED technology at present than you will UHD. This is due to there being very few 4K sources. That said, Netflix will soon be streaming in 4K and this will look undoubtedly beautiful on your UHD TV screen. However, when spending this much money on a TV you will want a certain level of future proofing. Thats why I would suggest waiting until OLED and UHD come hand it hand and at a reasonable price.

So should I invest in one?

When Samsung released the Galaxy Round smartphone I fought it was a huge gimmick. I just couldn’t, and still can’t see the benefit of having a curved screen on a smartphone. It makes no difference at all to the viewing experience and just makes it really difficult to fit the device in your pocket. Im not sure Samsung released the Galaxy Round for any reason other than showing off the curved screen technology. Basically they put a curved screen on a smartphone because they could. This was the beginnings of the curved screen revolution and Samsung wanted to show the world what they were capable of.

Curved screen TVs are different, however. The technology has a practical implication and in my opinion enhances the viewing experience. I have to say that whilst I was still a little pessimistic about the concept of having a curved screen TV, I am now completely won over. Having viewed many different models I am absolutely mesmerised by how impressive these products are.

Even on the entry level Samsung 8000 series TV – with its mere 1080p resolution — the image quality is stunning. The 55 inch version retails at less that two grand in the UK and actually represents brilliant value for money. Whilst still more than what most people can afford, we are almost within the realms of affordability.

Samsung 8000

My opinion is that the technology is here to stay and that we need to embrace it. Whilst still a little expensive, prices have quickly stabilised and will continue to do so. My concern is that the technology is still young, however. My worry is that I would buy I curved screen TV today and within a year it will be out of date. If i’m spending a lot of money on a new TV I need to know that it will be relevant and current for at least 5 years. If you want my opinion wait a few years and then invest. Who knows, we may find curved screen TVs with UHD and OLED technologies retailing for less than a grand. That really would be great value!

Sources:

GizmodoTrusted ReviewsThe Independent

 

Google in talks with Virgin Galactic

According to Sky News, Google are in talks with Virgin Galactic in a deal with could land them a $30 million stake in the company. Another element of the deal would allow Google access to Virgin Galactics Satllite-launch technology.

Sky news reports that the talks have been ongoing for months and are part go Googles ‘ambitious project to put hundreds of satellites in low-Earth orbit in an attempt to extend internet access to billions of people’.

Virgin Galactic intends on sending its first commercial passengers into space later this year after a number of delays.

Source: Sky News

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo on its first test flight over the Mojave Desert, California

For more on the history of Virgin Galactic check this: http://livelystate.com/2014/03/06/the-story-of-virgin-galactic/

 

Extraterrestrial life possible on Saturn’s moon Enceladus

The search for extraterrestrial life in our own solar system could have taken a step closer recently with the discovery of what is believed to vast lake of water secluded under the frozen surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Enceladus has amazed scientists since 2005 when huge geysers at its south pole were found to be spewing icy water out into space. Scientist knew this water must have been coming from somewhere but little else was known.

Scientists now believe that this lake of water is about 40km down under the icy crust where the moons rocky surface can be found.  Measurements taken from Nasa’s Cassini probe estimate this lake to be about the size of Lake superior in North America, or about 250 times the water mass of lake Garda in Italy.

The solar system contains many moons thought to contain water, but Enceladus is of special interest because of this water believed to be in contact with rock. The BBC points out “This could make for some interesting chemistry – the sort of reactions that might facilitate the emergence of life”.

Scientists now are pondering the question as to wether thee has been enough time for life to emerge on the icy moon.

 

Source: Science magazine via the BBC.

Asteroid discovered with rings

If you thought that the only objects in the solar system with gravity capable of supporting rings was the gas planets then you would be wrong.

In a startling discovery scientists have now found an asteroid like object orbiting the sun between Jupiter and Neptune which has rings like Saturn. The object know as Chariklo only has a diameter of about 90 miles and is the first time such an object has been found to sport rings.

Chariklo is a centaur which has characteristics similar to both comets and asteroids and is the largest of such objects that orbits between Jupiter and Neptune.

The rings were discovered recently as Chariklo passed in front of a star. It is now thought that other centaurs may also sport rings.

Source: National Geographic.

NASA: Picture of the Day

 

Jupiter

NASA’s picture of the day is this absolutely stunning close up of Jupiter’s great red spot. The image was taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft and comprises of three black and white negatives taken in 1979.

Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system with a diameter of 89000 miles. According to NASA it could swallow up the earth 1000 times. The planets atmosphere is immensely turbulent with winds reaching up to 400 miles per hour. The iconic red spot is actually a huge storm three and a times larger than the earth.

Source: NASA

The future of virtual reality: Project Morphius

Today Sony have officially announced their new virtual reality headset ‘Project Morphius’. It seems previous rumours surrounding this were spot on as Sony confirmed this has been 3 years in development.

Morphius is an immersive 3D headset which features a full HD LCD display and will connect to the PS4 via HDMI and USB. It also offers a 90 degrees field of view and links in with the Playstation camera for motion control. Sony have said that at this stage the headset is only a prototype and is by no means the final design. Clearly a lot of consideration has gone into the current setup however with Sony stating that it it is designed to be comfortable and has good ventilation factored in to prevent the lenses steaming up.

It seems Sony are working with developers to ensure there will be plenty of content at release. When that will be however nobody knows.

Virtual Reality systems have never really been commercially successful in the past which is unfortunate because the concept has so much potential, particularly with todays modern gaming machines. Sony are clearly psyched about Project Morphius, and so they should be – it looks brilliant!

Breakthrough in big bang theory

Scientists are celebrating following the discovery of new evidence which could help shed light on the origins of the universe.

This groundbreaking discovery shows that the cosmos grew exponentially and dramatically following the big bang. This all happened within the first trillionth, of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second of its life. This theory of dramatic expansion is known as ‘Cosmic Inflation’ and researchers believe they have found the signal left over by this process..

These signals known as B-modes have been discovered in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB – a slight glow left over by the big bang), and it is the B-modes which scientists have been searching for.

Mashable sheds some light on this: “The smoking gun is a type of polarization in the CMB known as B-modes. The spectacular expansion of the universe during inflation produced gravitational waves, which, in turn, generated the B-modes, according to the theory”.

There will be a lot of discourse to follow but scientists are convinced they have got it right.

Sources: BBC (including image). Mashable

Mercury shrinking.

According to research which has been published in the Nature Geoscience journal, Our innermost and smallest planet Mercury has shrunk more than what was initially anticipated.

Initial measurements of the planet were made by the Mariner probe back in the 70’s where scientists first realised that the planet had contracted due to thermal cooling.  It was initially thought that Mercury had reduced in size by about 1 – 3km throughout its history.

New data provided by NASA’s Messenger probe however show how the planet’s radius has actually contracted by about 7km, much more than initially estimated. This shrinkage is evident by the huge scars and crack that mar Mercury’s shrivelled surface.

Source: Nature Geoscience journal, via the BBC.

Hubble: Stunning Monkey Head Nebula

 

Monkey Head Nebula

This outstanding image taken by the Hubble space telescope shows the Monkey Head Nebula in all its splendour.

“This colorful Hubble Space Telescope mosaic of a small portion of the Monkey Head Nebula unveils a collection of carved knots of gas and dust silhouetted against glowing gas. The cloud is sculpted by ultraviolet light eating into the cool hydrogen gas. As the interstellar dust particles are warmed from the radiation from the stars in the center of the nebula, they heat up and begin to glow at infrared wavelengths, as captured by Hubble. The space photo superficially resembles the “The Great Wave” print by 19th century Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai”

Source: Hubblesite.org