Oct 29

Manuel Noriega case against Call of Duty is dismissed

A judge has dismissed a legal action brought by Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama, against the publisher of the Call of Duty video games.

The ex-military ruler had tried to sue Activision after a character based on him featured in the title Black Ops II.

Noriega had sought damages.

But the judge at Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that the inclusion of the character was protected under free speech laws.

“This was an absurd lawsuit from the very beginning and we’re gratified that in the end, a notorious criminal didn’t win,” said Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, who had defended Activision in the case.

“This is not just a win for the makers of Call of Duty, but is a victory for works of art across the entertainment and publishing industries throughout the world.”

Noriega is currently serving a jail sentence in Panama for crimes committed during his time in power, including the murder of critics.

In the video game, the character based on him initially helps the CIA capture a Nicaraguan terrorist, but later turns on the Americans and is hunted himself in fictional scenes.

In reality, Noriega did work as a CIA informant before the agency broke ties with him. After the US became concerned about his violent rule, President George Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989, which resulted in his capture.

Call of Duty games have featured other real-life characters including Fidel Castro, ex-CIA director David Petraeus and President John F Kennedy, among others.

Activision had warned that had the legal action been permitted to proceed, it could have encouraged other political figures to object to the use of their appearance in films, television programmes and books in addition to video games.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for… global audiences who enjoy historical fiction across all works of art,” said Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision’s parent company, Activision Blizzard.

Aug 30

Google Testing Drones; Apple Invitations; Samsung’s Standalone Smartwatch

Topping tech headlines on Thursday was Google’s big reveal of Project Wing, a new endeavor from its experimental Google X division that is “developing a delivery system that uses self-flying vehicles.”

Early tests were conducted in Queensland, Australia, where the company successfully delivered a first aid kit, candy bars, dog treats, and water to local farmers via drones. And while the search giant is “only just beginning to develop” the Project Wing technology, it ultimately wants to craft a delivery system that can “transport goods more quickly, safely, and efficiently.”

In other news, Apple sent out invitations for a Sept. 9 event that is expected to include the launch of new iPhones, and possibly the long-rumored iWatch. Few details were made available, though Cupertino will likely launch its next-gen handsets: a 4.7-inch smartphone and 5.5-inch phablet. The wearable iWatch may also be on the agenda, though we’ll have to wait until Sept. 9 to find out. PCMag will be there, so stay tuned for more.

Meanwhile, Samsung is expanding its own smartwatch collection with the new Gear S, a Tizen-based device with a curved watch face. The company also unveiled the Samsung Gear Circle—a necklace-like gadget that acts like a combination Bluetooth headset and earphones, which allow phone calls and vibrate to signal incoming messages. Not to be outdone, LG also took the wraps off its rounded LG G Watch R.

Aug 30

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Release Date: October 2, 2014
: Action
: Warner Bros. Interactive
Windows PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
: Monolith Productions

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an action-packed adventure-RPG inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Exploring an original story of vengeance and redemption, the game puts players in the role of Talion, a valiant ranger whose family is slain in front of him the night Sauron and his army return to Mordor — moments before his own life is taken. Resurrected by a Spirit of vengeance and empowered with Wraith abilities, Talion ventures into Mordor and vows to destroy those who have wronged him. Through the course of his personal vendetta, Talion uncovers the truth of the Spirit that compels him, learns the origins of the Rings of Power and ultimately confronts his true nemesis.

Every enemy that players face is a unique individual, differentiated by their personality, strengths and weaknesses. Through the Nemesis System, enemy relationships and characteristics are shaped by player actions and decisions to create personal archenemies that remember and adapt to the player and are distinct to every gameplay session. Gamers are able to craft their own battles, enemies and rewards within the dynamic world that remembers and adapts to their choices, delivering a unique experience to every player.

Apr 30

AT&T plans better in-flight Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi service on airplanes is mostly terrible. AT&T thinks it can change that with its planned 4G in-flight broadband service.
Planned for a late-2015 launch, AT&T will team with Honeywell’s aerospace division to build out an air-to-ground network. AT&T claims the network will “transform airborne connectivity.” As of now, however, the network isn’t built out and exists in the minds of AT&T’s engineers.

The FCC has previously expressed desire to offer a better in-flight Internet experience by freeing up wireless spectrum for telecommunications companies to use. But that process has stalled due to various regulatory processes. Meanwhile, AT&T’s planned network will use the same 4G wireless technology and spectrum that it uses for everyday smartphone communications.

Current in-flight broadband services, such as Gogo Inflight Internet, use slower 3G speeds and are inconsistent at best for anything more than basic email. To make matters worse, Gogo has also become increasingly expensive in recent years. Shares of Gogo plummeted 21% Tuesday.

AT&T’s stated goal is to improve the speed issue. The price problem is still a mystery, however, as. AT&T has not yet announced any airline partners or pricing plans.

Once completed, AT&T says the network will be available only within the continental United States.

Apr 05

Google+ Changes Rules of Engagement

Google+ has plenty of members, but most of them don’t interact much on the network. Google aims to make things a little more interesting by giving users some data on how often their content is viewed by others. That info can be hidden by a tweak to settings for those who’d rather keep their popularity stats to themselves. Google+ is the first major social network to offer this metric.

Gauging your popularity on Google’s social network, Google+, got a little easier Tuesday, as the would-be Facebook competitor added page view analytics.

Now, when members view their profile page — which metrics show isn’t that often — they’ll see a number beneath their mug indicating the number of times their content — profile page, posts and photos — has been viewed by someone since Oct. 12, 2012.

Someone doesn’t have to click on your content to generate a page view, Google+ Chief Architect Yonatan Zunger explained in a Google+ post.

When someone views your profile, a page view results, he noted. “For other things, it’s when they look at it — e.g., when one of your posts shows up on someone’s screen. (That’s because this is how most people read posts: showing up in a stream, without clicking on it explicitly).”

By default, the page view numbers are visible to anyone eyeballing a profile page. However, members can make the analytics private through their Google+ settings

Unique Differentiator

The page view metrics could set apart Google+ from other social networks, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, noted Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.

“It’s something people would like to know on Twitter and Facebook,but right now, no one else is doing it. So it’s a way for Google+ to set themselves apart, and they’re always looking for ways to give people a reason to come there rather than somewhere else.”

Members’ interest in content views have been used by some social networks as an incentive to boost their cash flow. For example, LinkedIn notifies its members on a weekly basis how many times their profiles have been viewed but requires an upgrade to its premium service to get more detailed view information.

Adding a metric such as page views is a natural thing for Google.

“Google is an analytics-driven company — both internally and externally — so it fits with their world view of providing you with lots and lots of data,” Dawson said.

Traffic Wars

Page views could have a positive impact on traffic to Google+.

“Those page views could create a competition between users to drive people to their Google+ pages as opposed to their Facebook or Twitter locations,” Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

Google+, which was launched in 2011, has about half the users of Facebook — 540 million compared to more than 1 billion — but those users spend far less time with Google+ — an average of seven minutes a month compared to six hours for Facebook.

Regardless of whether the page view gambit bumps up traffic, it could still have a positive effect on Google+.

“It’s trying to raise awareness that Google+ is a widely used platform, an active platform, not just a ghost town with a bunch of registered users who are unengaged,” said Opus Research analyst Greg Sterling.

“They’re showing these page views as a way to indicate there’s ongoing active engagement with the content there,”

Good Engagement

Actually, on some levels, engagement on Google+ is on par with Facebook, especially among name brands.

“People who go to Google+ appear to be interacting with folks more aggressively than they do on other services,” Enderle said. “If that interest scales with growth in Google+, it should give them a distinct advantage over other social networks.”

Engagement rates with brands on Google+ were 0.069 percent compared to .073 percent for Facebook in survey findings Forrester Research released earlier this week. That means, for example, if a brand has a million followers on Facebook, 730 of them will interact with the brand’s content.

“Our data says that large brands find nearly as many followers on Google+ as they do on Twitter, and those followers are twice as likely to engage in brand posts,” Forrester analyst Nate Elliott.

“It will be interesting for users to know how many people have seen their Google+ page,” he added.

“Google+ is looking for any edge they can get — any reason they can find to convince people to spend time there,” he continued. “If this is one feature that convinces people that Google+ is more interesting than they thought, then Google will do it.”