The electronic bleeps and squawks of Tetris, Donkey Kong and other generation-shaping games that you may never have thought of as musical are increasingly likely to be playing at a philharmonic concert hall near you.
From the “ping … ping” of Atari’s 1972 ground-breaking paddle game Pong, the sounds, infectious ditties and, with time, fully-formed orchestral scores that are an essential part of the sensory thrill for gamers have formed a musical universe. With its own culture, sub-cultures and fans, game music now thrives alone, free from the consoles from which it came.
When audiences pack the Philharmonie de Paris’ concert halls this weekend to soak in the sounds of a chamber orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra performing game music and an homage to one of the industry’s stars, Final Fantasy Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu, they will have no buttons to play with, no characters to control.
They’re coming for the music and the nostalgia it triggers: of fun-filled hours spent on sofas with a Game Boy, Sonic the Hedgehog and the evergreen Mario.
“When you’re playing a game you are living that music every day and it just gets into your DNA,” says Eimear Noone, the conductor of Friday’s opening two-hour show of 17 titles, including Zelda, Tomb Raider, Medal of Honor and other favorites from the 1980s onward.
“When people hear those themes they are right back there. And people get really emotional about it. I mean REALLY emotional. It’s incredible.”
Dating the birth of game music depends on how one defines music. Game music scholars – yes, they exist – point to key milestones on the path to the surround-sound extravaganzas of games today.
The heartbeat-like bass thump of Taito’s Space Invaders in 1978, which got ever faster as the aliens descended,caused sweaty palms and was habit-forming.
Namco’s Pac-Man, two years later, whetted appetites with an opening musical chirp . For fun, check out the 2013 remix by Dweezil Zappa, son of Frank, and game music composer Tommy Tallarico. Their take on the tune speaks to the sub-culture of remixing game music, with thousands of redos uploaded by fans to sites like ocremix.org – dedicated, it says, “to the appreciation and promotion of video game music as an art form.”
Based on the Russian folk song Korobeiniki, the music of the 1984 game Tetris has similarly undergone umpteen remixes – including Tetris Meets Metal, with more than 2.2 million views on YouTube.
By 1985, the can’t-not-tap-along-to-this theme of Super Mario Bros., the classic adventure of plumber Mario and his brother Luigi, was bringing fame for composer Koji Kondo, also known for his work on Legend of Zelda. Both are on the bill for the Retrogaming concert in Paris. Kondo was the first person Nintendo hired specifically to compose music for its games, according to the 2013 book, Music and Game.
Noone, known herself for musical work on World of Warcraft, Overwatch and other games, says the technological limitations of early consoles – tiny memories, rudimentary chips, crude sounds – forced composers “to distill their melodies down to the absolute kernels of what melodic content can be, because they had to program it note by note.”
But simple often also means memorable. Think “da-da-da-duh” – the opening of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
“That is part of the reason why this music has a place in people’s hearts and has survived,” Noone says of game tunes. “It speaks to people.”
She says game music is where movie music was 15 years ago: well on its way to being completely accepted.
“I predict that in 15 years’ time it will be a main staple of the orchestral season,” she says. “This is crazy to think of: Today, more young people are listening to orchestral music through the medium of their video game consoles than have ever listened to orchestral music.”
She still sometimes encounters snobbism from orchestras: “They saw ‘Pong’ once and that’s video game music to them, you know?”
But “halfway through the first rehearsal, their attitude has changed,” she adds. “And then when they walk out on stage and the audience treats them like they’re The Rolling Stones.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first game-music concert: The Tokyo Strings Ensemble performed Dragon Quest at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall in August 1987. Now there are six touring shows of symphonic game music, Noone says.
“This is just the best way, the most fun way to introduce kids to the instruments of the orchestra,” she adds. “It may be the first time ever they are that close to a cellist, and that’s really exciting for me.”
Dedicated to-do apps abound, but one of the best may be right in your inbox. Google Tasks, integrated into Gmail, provides a simple way to create ordered task lists, complete with due dates, and even turn emails into action items. Here’s how to get started.
Create a task
To start building a to-do list, click the down arrow next to “Gmail” in the upper left corner of your inbox. The Tasks window will open in the lower-right corner. To add a task, click the plus icon at the bottom of the window. A blank field will open with a checkbox and a blinking cursor. Type in your action item.
If you want to add a due date or notes, click the arrow to the right of the task and enter the details in the appropriate fields.
Turn an email message into a task
You probably find that a good chunk of the emails you receive require some action from you. Google Tasks allows you to quickly turn these messages into to-do items without leaving your inbox.
To turn an email into a task, select the message either by selecting the checkbox next to it or opening it. Next, click the More button above your inbox and select Add to Tasks from the drop-down menu. The message is added to your to-do list using the subject line as the item name. A link to the original message is also included. As when you create a task, you can add a due date and other details by clicking the arrow next to the task.
For more complex to-dos, you’ll want to break the main task into several sub-tasks. To do this, create each sub-task under the main task and hit the Tab button to indent each one.
Make multiple task lists
In addition to your daily task list, you may want to create separate lists dedicated to specific projects. To do this, click the Switch List icon (it looks like three bullets, each followed by a line) at the bottom of your main task list and select New list from the pop-up menu. Enter the name of your new list, then click OK and add your tasks. When you want to switch between lists, just click the Switch List icon and choose the one you want.
Print or email lists and other actions
To print or email a task list click the Actions button and select the appropriate option. From here you can also rearrange your tasks either by sorting them by due date or manually moving them up and down using the displayed key combos.
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Are you an admin or power user who feels slightly confused by the detail underpinning Microsoft’s Windows 10 updating and patching plans? If so, that’s not surprising. Microsoft has at times been less than clear about the ins and outs of the new Windows 10 updating branches and ‘rings’ which is some respects are similar to the regime pre-dating Windows 10 but dressed up in a new and confusing terminology.
Here we try to piece together what’s what with updating and Windows 10. There are certainly some things to watch out for. What is clear is that this new world is more complex, necessarily so. Today, Windows 10 is still an operating system but at some point it will resemble more of a service. This is the fate for all ‘big’ operating systems.
The mental map to understanding what’s going in are the different updating ‘branches’ and, within each of those, the deployment ‘rings’. A second important issue is to understand the difference between ‘updates’ (additional feature and services) and patches/fixes (security updates). The first of these is described in detail below while the second will happen as and when they deigned necessary by Microsoft.
For a specific primer on Windows 10’s main Security features see Windows 10 – the top 7 enterprise security features
Windows 10 updating: Current Branch (CB) – Windows 10 Home
This is plainly just the old Windows Update (WU) that home users have grown used to since its appearance in 2003 with Patch Tuesday but there are some important subtleties. Instead of the current monthly patching cycle, some updates will be applied on an ongoing basis, including Defender updates and what would once have been called ‘out of band’ security patches. Bigger updates covering new features will happen every four months, nudging Windows evolution along more rapidly than in the past.
In short, security fixes might coincide with CB updates but are, at a deeper level, independent of them and can happen on any timescale Microsoft chooses.
There have been long queues outside many banks in India as people tried to deposit discontinued banknotes ahead of a deadline that has now passed.
An estimated 40% of cash dispensers are empty, meaning people are unable to withdraw new notes to replace the old ones they have handed in.
There has been widespread disruption since Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in November that 500 and 1,000 rupee notes would no longer be legal.
The move as meant to curb corruption.
It has divided opinion, especially over how the ban was implemented.
Early last month the government scrapped the 500 and 1000 rupee notes to crack down on undeclared money and fake cash.
Some people, including those of Indian origin living abroad, will be able to exchange the notes in branches of India’s central bank until 31 March 2017 – but the process will be more complicated than going to a regular bank.
Parliament is preparing laws that will make it a criminal offence to hold the old notes from 1 April 2017 onwards.
Together the two notes represented 86% of the currency in circulation and there have been chaotic scenes in India ever since, with people having to spend hours queuing outside banks and cash machines which have been running out of money.
ATM queues and cash withdrawal limits mean getting currency can still be tricky, and there have been several changes of the rules around how much money people can access or deposit.
The government hopes the measures will encourage more people to have bank accounts and move towards a society less reliant on cash.
But there are concerns that many poorer people and those in rural areas have yet to get bank accounts.
Local firms which allow people to make digital payments both online and in shops have reported a surge in transactions as people look for cashless alternatives.
The government says the move has been a success with the banks flush with cash and significant increases in tax collection.
But critics argue the move has failed to root out corruption and unearth illegal cash, since most of the money in circulation has been put back into the financial system. Instead, they say, the economy which was growing at a rapid pace, has slowed down significantly.
The Federal Reserve expanded its communications strategy Thursday by launching a Facebook page, but there were no fresh hints on the direction of interest rates.
The new page—facebook.com/federalreserve—offered a photograph of the French-designed, Fed headquarters in Washington in its stripped classicist architectural style, and a statement that the Fed would post press releases, speeches, reports and other materials on the page.
But for anyone hoping for new insight into the central bank’s monetary policy plans, the Facebook offerings added nothing to existing communications, which have been criticized for alternately being vague, shifting too frequently and giving too much or too little information.
On Wednesday, the Fed released on its main website the minutes of its July 26-27 meeting, which showed policymakers still divided on the strength of the economy and whether they should raise interest rates soon, with the text saying mainly that they agreed that they want to keep their “options open.”
That came after the Federal Open Market Committee and its members individually repeatedly indicated early this year that more rate hikes were imminent after they made the first increase in the benchmark federal funds rate in nine years in December.
“The aforementioned minutes didn’t offer the market any convincing sense that the Fed is going to be raising the fed funds rate in September,” Patrick O’Hare of Briefing.com said in market commentary.
He said the tentative market reaction to the July minutes “might have to do with a growing level of exasperation over the Fed’s wishy-washy communication.”
Japanese brewer Asahi will buy Peroni and Grolsch in the UK and Europe, as well as London’s Meantime brewery
Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev has agreed a €2.55bn (£2bn) deal to sell European lager brands Peroni and Grolsch as it moves a step closer to sealing its takeover of SABMiller.
Japanese brewer Asahi – known for its Super Dry beer – will buy Peroni and Grolsch in the UK and Europe, as well as London’s Meantime brewery, which are being put up for sale by AB InBev to help ease regulatory concerns over its £71bn takeover of SABMiller.
Asahi first tabled its offer in February and the pair have since been in exclusive talks.
The deal is dependent on the completion of the SABMiller takeover, which is set to go through in the second half of the year.
Asahi’s offer includes the Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands, as well as SABMiller’s Italian, Dutch and British operations that make and distribute the brands.
It also includes the global rights to the Grolsch, Peroni and Meantime brands, except in the US.
Asahi said on unveiling its offer in February that it had been looking to grow internationally “for some time”, adding that it hoped the deal would help the group “expand its growth platform in Europe and become a global player with a distinct position”.
Buying Peroni and Grolsch would allow Asahi to tap into growth outside a declining Japanese lager market, where it has a 38% share.
AB InBev confirmed it was putting Peroni, Grolsch and its Meantime brewery on the sale block in December, less than a month after formally agreeing the SABMiller takeover following protracted talks.
It is seeking to get the green light from authorities for the deal, which marks the largest takeover of a UK-based firm as well as the fourth biggest in global corporate history.
AB InBev has already announced the sale of SABMiller’s US joint venture, with partner Molson Coors agreeing to buy the remaining 58% stake in MillerCoors for €12bn.
SAB has invested heavily in Peroni in recent years, marketing the brand across Europe and the US to help cement the lager as a global brand, alongside Grolsch.
A sale of the Meantime brewery in Greenwich will bring to a close a brief spell under SAB’s ownership after it was bought by the group last May. SAB, which was founded in South Africa, snapped it up under plans to tap into the burgeoning UK craft beer market.
Meantime was founded 15 years ago by brewer Alastair Hook and its most popular brews include London Lager, London Pale Ale and London Porter.
Sandwich chain, which started as a single shop in London’s Hampstead, opened 36 new branches worldwide last year, taking the total to 399
Vegetarian options, the craze for avocados and booming business in the US helped Pret A Manger serve up record sales last year.
The sandwich chain’s sales for the year to December rose 13.9% to £676.2m with sales at branches open a year or more up 7.5%. Earnings before interest, tax and other items increased 14.5% to £84.3m.
Sales of vegetarian products saw double-digit growth as customers sought to cut down on meat. Pret sold 17,000 each week of a new beetroot, squash and feta salad, outstripping chicken and salmon options. Avocados, in favour with trendy foodies, were the chain’s fastest-growing ingredient, with customers consuming 5m of them in salads and sandwiches last year.
Clive Schlee, Pret’s chief executive, said almost 10,000 customers voted on social media on options for improving the chain’s vegetarian range. Pret will convert a branch in London’s Soho into a veggie shop and branches of the privately owned chain will sell two vegetarian special options each month over the summer.
Schlee said: “Last year thousands of customers told us they were trying to eat less meat. This year we have challenged ourselves to increase our vegetarian options in all shops, as well as opening a veggie-only pop-up shop to learn more from our customers.”
The 30-year-old company makes products in or very near its branches every morning instead of in large remote factories. Sales at its US operation, launched in 2001, rose 13.8% at established stores. New products and larger stores to suit American tastes helped drive sales in the US, where Pret has 65 branches.
The chain, which started as a single shop in Hampstead in London, opened 36 new branches worldwide last year, taking the total to 399, and added a shop in Dubai international airport early this year.
Schlee said: “These results represent another year of record sales for Pret. The highlights were a strong performance in the US – our newly opened Penn Station shop has the highest sales per square foot of any Pret in the world – and the opening of two very busy transport hub shops in Paris’s Gare de Lyon station and Nice airport.”
The majority of Pret’s 303 UK stores are in London, where it began life as an upmarket lunchtime option during the Thatcher era. The company said it expected to grow steadily in Britain, where it opened 23 shops last year, of which 12 were outside London.
While there is no shortage of server vendors lending their weight to the official launch today of the new Intel Xeon E5-2600 v4 processor series, otherwise known by the codename Broadwell, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) is taking advantage of the opportunity to add a new level of persistent memory to its x86 servers.
Susan Blocher, global vice president of marketing for the HPE Servers business unit, says applications will soon be able to take advantage of 8GB of non-volatile DIMMs (NVDIMMs) that HPE will offer on HPE ProLiant Gen9 servers configured with the latest Intel Xeon processor series. The end result is a form of persistent storage that provides a ten-fold increase in I/O performance, which HPE says results in as much as a factor of four improvement in database and analytics application performance.
HPE, says Blocher, expects to be able to provide this capability uniquely for roughly a year after the launch of the Intel Xeon E5- 2600 v4, during which time HPE will continue to increase the amount of NVDIMM capacity it will make available on its servers.
Couple that with the 22 cores provided by Intel Xeon E5- 2600 v4 series, memory speeds of up to 2400MT/s, and 2TB of solid-state drives (SSDs), and Blocher says the latest HPE ProLiant Gen9 servers represent a lot more than just your average Intel processor refresh.
Competition across the x86 server space is fierce. But for the first time in long while, it looks like server vendors such as HPE are investing in their own innovations versus simply packaging up innovations that Intel makes available across its entire base of x86 server vendor partners.
Dark Souls games are difficult, yes, but they’re also amazing horror games, albeit with a dark fantasy veneer. The trailer above isn’t necessarily in keeping with the ‘spirit’ of Dark Souls 3, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable to imagine Miyazaki’s world as a straight-to-video B-grade horror film. Oh, and there are some grief glimpses of gameplay footage in there too, buried in the VHS grain.
That’s not where the weird Dark Souls trailer shenanigans end, either: Eli Roth, director of the Hostel films, has also contributed to the hype campaign. His trailer isn’t in keeping with the spirit of the games at all to be honest, but it’s worth a look if you want to see a cartoon warrior being force fed a cauldron of lava. Of course you do! It’s embedded below.
Dark Souls 3 releases April 12. James is working on our review as I write, and he’s already written up this collection of tips for the opening hours of the game.
Some Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users have begun to howl over Microsoft’s practice of automatically upgrading their PCs to Windows 10, saying that they were never given a chance to decline the upgrade before it installed itself.
That was contrary to how Microsoft has described its aggressive strategy of pushing Windows 10 to devices running older versions of its operating system.
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It stuck to that today. “Customers continue to be fully in control of their devices, and can choose to not install the Windows 10 upgrade or remove the upgrade from Windows Update (WU) by changing the WU settings,” Microsoft said in an emailed statement.
That’s not what some users experienced last week.
“My computer was working great last night [but] this morning it says, ‘Microsoft Legal Agreement’ with bunch of legal information and WAY at the bottom ‘Accept your new Windows 10’ or ‘Decline,'” wrote a someone identified as scifixtion in a Friday post to Microsoft’s support forum. “I hit Decline and it says, ‘It will take a few moments to go back to your old Windows software,’ [but] then it goes black and go[es] right back to [the] Microsoft legal agreement [and shows] ‘Accept windows 10’ or ‘Decline.’ I’ve hit Decline a dozen times and it won’t budge.”
The legal agreement that scifixtion referenced was the Windows 10 end-user license agreement, or EULA.
Others took to Reddit to report that their PCs were upgraded to Windows 10 while their backs were turned.
“I leave my house for 2 days with my computer on, I come back and I have Windows 10. What. The. F***,” said MalekuaMan yesterday on Reddit.
“So my Windows 7 machine was upgraded to Windows 10 without my permission about 2 days ago,” echoed rtn1797. “I downgraded [to Windows 7] but now there is a prompt that is continuously open and asking me to select a time for my Windows to update to 10. WTF?”
Some said that the EULA — where users were given a final opportunity to reject Windows 10, albeit a process that then took time to restore the previous operating system — appeared out of nowhere. Others reported that their systems had upgraded themselves after they’d been away from the keyboard for days, or perhaps just hours.
“This is happening to my desktop which runs [Windows] 8.1. A few days ago I came back from the shower to find my computer in the process of doing the upgrade by itself,” said Heck_Tate on Monday. “I had to wait for the entire thing to complete, decline the EULA, and then wait for it to reinstall previous OS. It’s now in the process of doing the exact same thing again and I’m about ready to just say f*** Windows and go with Linux.”
Last October, Microsoft announced that it would push the free Windows 10 upgrade to eligible PCs automatically, a practice that actually began six weeks ago. The company has repeatedly said — including yesterday — that users could decline the Windows 10 upgrade at some point during installation, but has refused to say whether the upgrade starts in all cases, document how the user authorization process plays out, and spell out whether it appears again later when a user snubs the offer.
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Thus, the fact that machines have tried to upgrade without user action wasn’t new: Microsoft has acknowledged that that is its intent. Instead, it’s the fact that some users have been unable to abort the installation, restore the older OS after 10 arrived or have received the upgrade when they’ve ticked the don’t-upgrade-automatically settings for Windows Update, that are at issue.
One user, a small business owner in Eugene, Ore., told Computerworld last week that his PC — which he uses primarily to run QuickBooks — displayed the same two-option message that scifixtion described. Clicking “Decline” did no good: The display returned.
In order to retake control of his PC and access QuickBooks to draft invoices, Jeff — he asked that his last name not be used — was forced to let Windows 10 install.
“I’ll be looking at a Mac for my next computer,” Jeff said.
There are ways to block the Windows 10 upgrade from installing on an eligible PC. Microsoft has published instructions for editing the Windows Registry — a dangerous chore for inexperienced users — that will do the job. And Josh Mayfield, a software engineer and developer, has created a tool dubbed GWX Control Panel that keeps track of incoming updates, detects those that are designed to force-feed Windows 10, and thwarts them.
On Monday, Mayfield did not have an explanation for the flood of complaints about the Windows 10 upgrade — his multiple-PC test pool, as well as the bulk of the users of his GWX Control Panel, run the application, and so shouldn’t see such conduct. But he did reveal that traffic to his website and the number of downloads had tripled in the four days prior. “I am still not completely sure why,” Mayfield said in an email replay to questions.
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However, Mayfield has seen traffic and download spikes before, notably in the fall of 2015 when users noticed “Upgrade to Windows 10 Home” or “Upgrade to Windows 10 Pro,” in Windows Update, Microsoft’s updating service for consumers and small businesses. At the time, those items appeared in the Optional section of Windows Update’s listing of available patches and fixes, but Microsoft had pre-selected the upgrade (even though that was counter to convention). Users with Windows Update set to automatically retrieve and install updates — the default setting — or who did not examine the optional update list, were then served with the Windows 10 upgrade, whether they wanted it or not.
Microsoft quickly issued a statement saying that the checking of the upgrade’s Optional item “was a mistake.”
“My guess is that [people now reporting unexpected upgrades have PCs that] are configured both to install Windows updates automatically and they also have the ‘Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates’ checked in Windows Update settings,” Mayfield said.
Another possibility, said Mayfield, was that users who had previously set Windows 7 or 8.1 to not update automatically — thus stymying a Windows 10 upgrade — had had those settings changed by Microsoft. “I have had reports from three different users in the past week who’ve seen their Windows Update settings change from one of the three options that don’t automatically install updates to ‘install updates automatically,'” Mayfield noted.
Microsoft regularly updates Windows Update, and in the past, some of those updates have switched user-selected settings or pre-checked optional updates. Recent refreshes of Windows Update — the latest was issued on March 8 for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 — may have done just that, triggering the automatic upgrades on PCs that should have been immune from a forced migration.
What remains unclear is whether the behavior — specifically, the completely-hands-off Windows 10 upgrade — reported by users was by design or another goof.
The Redmond, Wash. company declined to clarify. When asked to explain why users were seeing their PCs upgraded without a chance to decline, or were trapped in an endless loop that eventually forced them to acquiesce to the upgrade in order to regain control of their machines, a Microsoft spokesman provided a boilerplate statement that repeated what the company has said before about Windows 10 upgrades.
“[As] we shared in late October on the Windows Blog, we are committed to making it easy for our Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers to upgrade to Windows 10,” the spokesman said. “As stated in that post, we have updated the upgrade experience to make it easier for customers to schedule a time for their upgrade to take place.”
In the referenced blog post of Oct. 29, 2015, Terry Myerson, who leads Microsoft’s operating systems and devices group, announced that Windows Update would be used to serve Windows 10 upgrades to eligible consumer systems. The practice was extended in January to business PCs not managed by an IT staff.
Back in October, Myerson promised that users would be able to block a Windows 10 upgrade without resorting to fiddling with the registry. “You can specify that you no longer want to receive notifications of the Windows 10 upgrade through the Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 settings pages,” he said at the time.
Microsoft has yet to provide those settings for Windows 7 and 8.1.
In the meantime, many users were steamed.
“This happened to two of my PC’s a few days ago,” said jamierocks369 on Reddit today. “I missed it on the first PC and had to roll back [to Windows 7] and then do a system restore as the rollback still didn’t return the PC to the original Windows 7 state. Luckily managed to catch it on my second PC as I was about to restart for updates. Not cool, Microsoft.”
“This bricked my father’s computer. He was prompted to install a driver disk which he didn’t have during installation, leading to a crash which totally crapped out his system,” berniesright added to the Reddit thread on Sunday. “After many hours I was able to do a fresh install with my Windows 10 disk, only to discover that his computer now couldn’t be activated, as the OEM number was no longer recognized. Real s***storm. [About] 12 hours wasted on this, plus all my father’s data lost and still more OEM hassle to deal with. F*** Microsoft.”