Dec 02

Cyber Monday: Online retailers hope for shopping surge

Online retailers are hoping that a spending frenzy will continue, with internet shopping reaching a pre-Christmas peak.

Dubbed Cyber Monday, some online stores offer discounts for consumers ramping up their Christmas shopping.

The first two Mondays of December tend to be the busiest online shopping days, after browsing over the weekend.

Cyber Monday comes after the frenzy of Black Friday offers – which some stores have carried over for a few more days.

However, some analysts say that shoppers are leaving their Christmas buying later.

This is the result of greater confidence in delivery services as retailers now rely so heavily on online sales.

Nigel Wilson, managing director of consumer insight at Experian Marketing Services, said that the pre-Christmas shopping peaks were “clearly identifiable”.

Experian predicts consumers will spend £649.6m on 1 December, or £451,000 a minute – a 26% increase on Cyber Monday last year.

As the month goes on, online spending tends to be replaced by spending on the High Street for last-minute gifts and Christmas preparations. The busiest shopping day in stores is, according to Experian, on Boxing Day when traditional sales begin.

Staff tried to keep order at an Asda superstore in Wembley on Black Friday

Cyber Monday is seized on by retailers’ marketing arms. The same is now true of Black Friday – which originated in the US. The discounts on offer prompted some frenzied scenes on Friday.

Police criticised management of some supermarkets after crowd surges and scuffles in scenes that officers in Greater Manchester described as “totally predictable”.

Online retailer Amazon UK recorded orders for more than 5.5 million goods, with about 64 items sold per second – its busiest ever day.

Some online retailers reported problems with customers accessing their websites on Friday owing to demand.

Dec 02

Annie among ‘leaked’ Sony films following cyber-attack

Five films distributed by Sony Pictures appear to have been leaked online following a reported cyber-attack on the company last month.

Among the titles is a remake of classic film Annie, which is not due for release until 19 December.

The company was reported to have shut down its internal systems last week due to an “IT matter”.

Some have linked the cyber-attack to forthcoming film The Interview, Sony’s comedy about North Korea.

That film does not appear to have been leaked.

However, reports say other high-profile titles have been circulated. Among them Fury, starring Brad Pitt, which was in cinemas in October but is yet to be made available on DVD.

According to research firm Excipio, Mr Turner, Still Alice and To Write Love on Her Arms are also being distributed and downloaded.

Sony has not confirmed the authenticity of the leak, but was quoted in Variety magazine as saying: “The theft of Sony Pictures Entertainment content is a criminal matter, and we are working closely with law enforcement to address it.”

A spokeswoman for Sony Pictures refused to comment further on the leak.

Korea row

In The Interview, Seth Rogen and James Franco play two reporters who have been granted an audience with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The CIA then enlists the pair to assassinate him.

Technology news site Recode quotes unnamed sources saying the possibility that North Korea may have targeted Sony is being investigated.

Brad Pitt’s Fury was released in October, but is not yet out on DVD

The site said: “The sources stress that a link to North Korea hasn’t been confirmed, but has not been ruled out, either.”

In July, North Korea complained to the United Nations that the film, which will be released on 25 December, was “the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as a war action”.

The country’s UN envoy Ja Song-Nam said there would be a “merciless response” if the film was not cancelled.

In response, Rogen joked on Twitter: “People don’t usually wanna kill me for one of my movies until after they’ve paid 12 bucks for it.”

#GOP

Little is known about the breach of Sony’s systems last month.

A group calling itself the Guardians of Peace – #GOP – claimed responsibility.

Some reports said some computers of Sony employees displayed a picture of a skeleton, threatening to release large amounts of data from the company.

The early leak of films is considered, by the film industry, to have a devastating effect on the potential success of a title.

Last month, in an unrelated case, police in the UK arrested two men alleged to have leaked the Expendables 3 before its release date.

Some calculations said the leak of the film meant $10m (£6.4m) in lost box-office takings – although others said it is difficult to determine the true effect of piracy.

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
Genre
: Action
Publisher
: Warner Bros. Interactive
Platforms:
Windows PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer
: 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.