Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The future of gaming

What is the future of gaming? Is it virtual reality headsets, like the Oculus Rift? Or is it something further? For the last several years, Microsoft has been working on the next big thing in gaming. Think virtual reality, but without a headset. This new gaming system would project the game in a room 360-degrees around the player/s. There would be no controllers, just the bodies and extremities of the gamers. When exactly this next generation of gaming will be reaching the shelves and homes of consumers in unknown, but it will be something big when it happens, of that you can be certain.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Social Media and Government Surveillance

Over 100-million users, mostly in the former Soviet states, use the social media site VKontakte. The Russian equivalent of Facebook is the ninth most popular social media site in the world. Originally founded by Pavel Durov in 2006, the site quickly became one of the most visited sites in Russia. Durov ran the site independently of the state and held it to high principles. Durov drew fire from the Russian government in 2011 when he refused to take down anti-Putin pages that had sprung up amongst its users. VK had become a bit of a safe-haven for Russian citizens, somewhere they felt safe to talk about things that might not be safe to talk about in public under the watch dog government under Vladimir Putin. In January 2014, however, that all changed as Durov sold off his last remaining stake in the company to Putin crony, and Russia's richest man, Alisher Usmanov. In 2011 Usmanov fired two board members for allowing anti-Putin articles to be published in a newspaper he owns. Durov was essentially forced to sell his stakes through shady legal maneuvers by the government and other businessmen. He was forced to flee the country in April of 2013 after being accused of running over the foot of a traffic cop. There were no witnesses of this incident. Days after this incident, two of his co-founders sold off 48% of the company with no warning. Durov didn't even know of these plans, and didn't hear about it until after it happened. Over the following years, the corrupting became too much for him, and he finally gave in and sold off the remainder of his controlling power in VK. With the Putin cronies now controlling the site, the users can no longer feel safe of their privacy, or of their safety to say what the want in confidence of the site's instant messenger.

App review: VK

For users of VK, their app can be used as a one-and-all program for the phone. Like the site, the app offers access to your own personal page, messenger service, free videos (similar to YouTube, but with full movies and TV episodes) and music streaming. The app is like if you combined Facebook with Spotify and YouTube all in one. That said, it isn't without it's downfalls. The app drains battery like leaving your headlights on all night. And if you're having a conversation with someone on the website, every message comes through on your phone as well. So you get a notification for every time the person you're talking to says something, even if you are reading it as it comes through on the website. Facebook is a better option here, as the site waits for about 30 seconds for you to read a message before it sends it to your phone.