Five to Try: The Elder Scrolls: Legends launches, and build with bricks and code with LEGO Boost

fivetotry july28 lead

As we get deeper into summer, some truly sweaty and agonizingly hot days may be ahead—depending on where you live, of course. But no matter your location, if you’re looking for some fresh reasons to stay inside with your Android phone, then we’ve got you covered with our latest Five to Try picks.

The Elder Scrolls: Legends leads this week’s list of the Play Store’s hottest debuts, as the fantasy game universe gets the Hearthstone-esque collectible card-battler treatment. Also new is the LEGO Boost app, which pairs with a new set of blocks and gizmos that let you build, code, and control robotic LEGO creations. If you’re looking for further options, Gratus, Galaxy of Pen & Paper, and Revenge of Shinobi round out this week’s list. So grab a few fresh apps and enjoy a little cool comfort away from the sun this weekend.

The Elder Scrolls: Legends

fivetotry july28 elderscrollslegendsIDG
Hearthstone? Nope, it’s the Elder Scrolls rendition.

Blizzard’s Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is the undisputed king of the competitive card game market right now, but here’s another heavy-hitting fantasy favorite to challenge its reign. The Elder Scrolls: Legends is Bethesda’s attempt to shake up the card-battling scene with its own free-to-play tie-in, which is set in the same universe as epic console and PC adventures like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and The Elder Scrolls Online.

The fundamentals aren’t significantly different from Hearthstone: It’s still a head-to-head showdown in which you’ll bring your best deck of spells and fighters into battle, but a dual-lane approach shakes things up here. Also, Legends has a less cartoonish aesthetic, and the story mode should appeal strongly to fans of the franchise. Legends already has a following on PC, and it hits Android with the new Heroes of Skyrim expansion included, which adds a bunch of content inspired by that aforementioned favorite.

LEGO Boost

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Just try to imagine that’s an Android tablet in the photo.

Got a kid at home who loves tinkering with LEGO bricks and is handy with a touchscreen? Be sure to check out LEGO Boost. The app is available now ahead of next week’s release of the $160 starter kit. LEGO Boost is like a simpler, more streamlined alternative to LEGO Mindstorms, allowing kids (and some adults) to create different types of robots and then control them via the Android app.

It imparts light coding fundamentals, although zero knowledge is needed to use the drag-and-drop interface. You will, however, need an Android tablet with at least an eight-inch screen as the app unfortunately doesn’t work with smartphones. With the app and kit, you can create rolling robots, meowing cat-bots, and even an AutoBuilder machine that builds smaller LEGO creations. The buy-in price is high and the tablet requirement might limit its reach, but LEGO Boost looks like brainy fun for tech-interested tykes (LEGO suggests ages 7-12).


fivetotry july28 gratusIDG
Don’t tell my family what I said about pizza.

In the midst of struggle, hardship, and frustration, it can be easy to overlook or forget about all of the great things we have going for us in life. That’s exactly why Gratus was created. Don’t worry, it’s not another social networking tool—we don’t need any more of those. Basically, it’s just a log for storing the things you’re thankful for.

Love your family, your dog, your lunch, a shady tree outside your office, or anything else in life? Make an entry in your personal Gratus log. The next time you’re down, feeling hopeless, or just need a reason to smile, fire it up. According to the Play Store listing, the app is designed to “promote good vibes and positivity,” and that really does seem to be the extent of it. If you get hooked on Gratus, you can pay $3 for an optional premium unlock, which adds a daily prompt, a widget, and passcode/fingerprint protection. Otherwise, it’s free to use.



Apple is discontinuing the iPod Shuffle and Nano

Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the new iPod Nano in 2005.

Apple said on Thursday it is discontinuing the iPod Shuffle and Nano, marking the company’s continuing commitment to its flagship iPhone product.

Two models of the iPod Touch will still be available, Apple said, starting at $199 with double the capacity they had before.

The music device, alongside iTunes, is widely credited with driving digital music adoption in the early 2000s. The first iPod, unveiled in 2001, helped solidify Apple’s rebound under the leadership of co-founder Steve Jobs.

As of October 2014 — the last quarter Apple disclosed iPod sales — the company sold 2.6 million iPods, far fewer than the 39.3 million iPhones sold that quarter. Since then, the iPod’s influence has continued to wane, as thinner phones with more storage and faster internet speeds made streaming services like Apple Music more attractive. Analysts surveyed by FactSet estimate that Apple has sold about 1 million iPods per quarter in 2017, compared to 40 million to 50 million iPhone sales during the same periods.


This AR gaming demo has me seriously excited for the iPhone 8

iOS 11 FeaturesAugmented reality is one of the main features of iOS 11, Apple confirmed at its WWDC event last month. The iPhone maker already released the tools developers need to come up with various AR apps that will work on a variety of supported devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and we already saw a bunch of impressive demos of ARKit apps. A short video shows us what it’ll be possible for games when AR is included, and the iPhone 8 might offer us a gaming experience that’ll have no rivals.Posted on Twitter, the following video shows us a game built on the Unreal Engine platform, and adapted to work with Apple’s ARKit:

The app uses ARKit to overlay game graphics over an object in the real world, turning the entire game into an unparalleled experience.

Moving around the table or getting closer to the action will change the whole perspective, far beyond the zoom in and zoom out features that would be available in a traditional non-AR game.

These experiences should be available on a variety of devices, not just the iPhone 8. But Apple’s 2017 iPhones will feature faster chips and better graphics, which should turn them into devices that are even better suited to consume graphics-intensive AR content like the game above.

The only downside to the whole experience is that you still have to hold the iPhone in front of you and touch the screen to interact with objects. But even so, AR gaming already looks incredible in these demos.


Opinion: The Apple Car could run traditional automakers off the road

Apple’s brand extends far beyond technology and coolness. The company has accumulated incredible goodwill with consumers.

So whenever Apple AAPL, +0.43%  comes out with the Apple Car, it will grab a disproportionately large market share from General Motors GM, -0.70%   and other automakers precisely because of that deep well of goodwill. By the time my youngest child, Mia Sarah, who is almost two, learns to drive, internal combustion engines will likely be a relic consigned to museums (just like Ford’s Model T).

I had this “Aha!” moment recently when I visited a Tesla TSLA, +0.41%  store and saw its cars’ power train. It looks just like a skateboard — basically a flat slab of metal (which houses the battery), four wheels, and an electric engine the size of a large watermelon. That’s it — the Tesla has only 18 moving parts.

Wall Street nowadays is going gaga over the stocks of auto dealerships (especially after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought Van Tuyl Group) and automakers. I am in the minority in thinking that party will come to an end. Just like Tesla, Apple is not going to be using a dealership model to sell its cars. Just as with the iPhone, the company will want complete control of the buying experience.

If both Tesla and Apple bypass the dealership model, the GMs of the world will be at an even larger competitive disadvantage. They will have to abandon the dealership model too. Yes, I know, selling cars directly to consumers is not legal in many states, but if the U.S. Constitution could be amended 27 times, the law on car sales (which is an artifact of the Great Depression) can be amended as well. The traditional dealership model is unlikely to survive anyway, as its economics dramatically degrade in the electric-car world. A car with few moving parts and minimal electronics has few things to break. Consequently, electric cars will need less servicing, throttling the dealerships’ most important profit center.

​Three Companies ​That ​Could Be Safe From Amazon

What is also amazing about electric cars is that they aren’t that much different from smartphones. Smartphone prices have declined significantly because their components became ubiquitous and commoditized. The simplicity of electric cars and the declining ambition of Tesla, Apple, and whoever else enters that space to be known as a “car” company will likely lead to commoditization of components and thus lower prices. Tesla today is more a software and battery company than a car company.

Think back to the day when Apple introduced the iPhone. No one suspected that it (and the smartphones that followed) would enable a service like Uber, which is putting cabdrivers worldwide out of business.

The baby boomer generation romanticizes cars. Most boomers can recite the horsepower and other engine specs of every car they have ever owned. For the tail end of Gen-X (my generation) and Millennials, a car is an interruption between Facebook FB, +0.25%  and Twitter TWTR, -0.15%  . We know the brand of speakers in our car but if asked would have to Google its horsepower. We feel little romanticism for our cars and have much higher brand loyalty to Apple and GoogleGOOGL, +0.18% than to GM or Ford Motor F, +0.09%

When Apple makes its entrance into the auto industry, it will likely be successful and highly disruptive. After all, Apple has the much-needed software know-how to design a car. (Apple is already working with car companies on CarPlay, the iPhone-centered car infotainment system.) Apple boasts a global network of stores, possesses unlimited resources ($150 billion of net cash and $50 billion of free cash flows annually), and its imagination has not been damaged by decades of producing cars with internal combustion engines.


Apple is at risk of falling out of the top 5 smartphone vendors in China

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends China Development Forum 2017 - Economic Summit at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on March 18, 2017 in Beijing, China.

Apple CEO Tim Cook attends China Development Forum 2017 – Economic Summit at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on March 18, 2017 in Beijing, China.

Apple’s share of the Chinese smartphone market fell last quarter, according to one analysis, representing the waning dominance of the iPhone ahead of a major milestone.

Local brand Xiaomi snagged the fourth-place spot that was held by Apple, leaving Apple at No. 5, according to Canalys, an independent analyst company. Samsung is also in the top 10 smartphone brands in China, although only the top four brands were ranked by Canalys’ statement.

  1. Huawei: 23 million
  2. Oppo: 21 million
  3. Vivo: 16 million
  4. Xiaomi: 15 million

Source: Canalys

Apple does not break out figures on sales of individual products in each region, and was not immediately available to comment. But earlier this year, a separate report from Counterpoint Research found that the iPhone was not the top selling smartphone in China in 2016, the first time Apple had been unseated since 2012.

Remaining in the top of the crop is key for Apple because the top five brands accounted for almost 75 percent of the 113 million shipments in China, Canalys estimates. It’s an area where Apple has struggled in recent years, with sales down 14 percent year over year last quarter.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has expressed long-term optimism on the Chinese market, despite strong competition provided by WeChat’s software ecosystem, which works on Android or iPhone devices. Apple recently created a new post, managing director of greater China, tapping an executive that has developed China-specific features for iPhone and iPad.

The iPhone 8, considered a marker of the device’s tenth anniversary, is expected by some analysts to revamp Apple’s influence in China. Sales in greater China are expected to hit $9.96 billion in the September quarter, according to FactSet, up from $8.79 billion in the year-ago quarter.


Art of Gaming: Blood Dragon, the Stanley Parable and the risk of humour in games

In our latest Art of Gaming video, Usul and Trinity analyse how humour works in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and The Stanley Parable. The burlesque, irony, or the absurd, often take centre stage in these types of games. It’s what makes them worth playing.

Story image for Gaming from VG247

VG247 has teamed up with European culture channel ARTE to exclusively debut new episodes of Art of Gaming, a 10-part series looking at the most important games of the past few years.

Hosted by French gaming blogger Trinity and German journalist Melek Balgün, each episode sees the pair play classic games and discuss their impact on entertainment, the player and games culture at large.

You can watch previous episodes here.

More episodes of Art of Gaming will debut on VG247 every week throughout July and August.

ARTE, the European culture channel, has been subtitling its programmes since the launch of ARTE in English in November 2015.

The project is co-funded by the European Union and aims to bring Europeans together through a shared love of culture. Find out more about ARTE in English here.


Apple Battles Qualcomm to the Sound of a Steve Jobs Opera

Image result for Apple Battles Qualcomm to the Sound of a Steve Jobs OperaIt’s been an interesting week for Apple and anyone who has been watching the soap opera surrounding its Qualcomm battle.

This week, Apple’s Qualcomm battle took a rather interesting turn, when a host of the company’s competitors, including Google and Samsung, announced that they back the iPhone maker in its chip battle. Meanwhile, Apple made an important change to the way customer support representatives handle App Store reviews, and the company has brought on a new leader for its China operations.

Oh, and there’s a Steve Jobs opera in the works, and a person was caught with 102 iPhones strapped to her body, trying to smuggle them into China.

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Read on for the big—and quirky—Apple news from this week:

This is Fortune’s weekly roundup of the biggest Apple news this week. To see last week’s roundup, click here.

  1. Apple has friends. Lots of friends. That was the takeaway this week, after a host of companies, including Microsoft (MSFT, -0.66%), Amazon (AMZN, -0.35%), Google (GOOGL, +0.17%), and Samsung (SSNLF, -10.30%), all said that they back Apple in its fight against Qualcomm. The group said the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) should reject Qualcomm’s request to block iPhones from being imported into the country on the grounds of Apple allegedly violating a handful of Qualcomm (QCOM, -0.24%) patents. The group said in a statement that Qualcomm has “monopoly power” and banning iPhones would “drive up prices on consumer devices.” The ITC didn’t formally respond to the plea.
  2. In a rather surprising move, Apple this week launched a new website that highlights the company’s artificial intelligence projects. The site, called the Apple Machine Learning Journal, will allow readers to see what the company’s engineers are doing to advance artificial intelligence through machine and deep learning.
  3. Apple (AAPL, -0.04%) has appointed Isabel Ge Mahe, its vice president of wireless technologies, to the new post of managing director of Greater China. In her new role, Mahe will lead Apple’s China efforts and look to expand its market share and influence across the critical country. It won’t be easy: Apple’s revenue in China has plummeted over the last several quarters, and there are no signs yet of it turning around.
  4. The iPhone maker has added a new Customer Support role that will allow developer support professionals to respond to reviews left on their App Store programs. Apple started allowing app developers to respond to customer reviews in March. The new role means developers can assign certain people to respond to reviews, offer technical support, explain features, and more, Apple said.
  5. A Florida man agreed this week to pay more than $278,000 in damagesto settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) insider trading accusations. According to the SEC complaint, the man obtained nonpublic information about Apple’s decision to buy his employer, AuthenTech, and bought call options to make a quick buck. The sum includes more than $135,000 in trading profit, plus interest. He’s also been slapped with a nearly $136,000 fine.
  6. Chinese customs officials this week detained a woman who was found to have 102 iPhones strapped to her body. The woman, who was also wearing 15 luxury watches, had four layers of iPhones strapped to her torso and waist, according to local media reports. She had more than 42 pounds of goods on her when she was discovered.

One more thing…If you’re looking for a different way to learn about Steve Jobs’ life, rejoice! The Santa Fe Opera Company in New Mexico will premiere The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs this weekend. The libretto will examine the personal and professional lives of Apple’s late co-founder.


Understanding Microsoft’s Value Proposition in the US Software Space

Understanding Microsoft’s Value Proposition in the US Software Space

Microsoft’s scale in systems software

Previously in this series, we discussed Microsoft’s technical indicators. Now, let’s look at its value proposition among other system software companies in the United States. The systems software space comprises OS (operating systems), system and network management, and information management. Microsoft is a leading player in this segment with a majority of personal computers using Windows OS.

On July 18, 2017, Microsoft (MSFT) was the largest global player in terms of market capitalization, followed by Oracle (ORCL). IBM (IBM) was third in market capitalization. Salesforce (CRM) and SAP (SAP) are also leading players in this space.

ETF Bubble or the Promise of More Growth? By TETF As stock markets have reached all-time highs, some people are pointing the finger at exchange-traded funds.

Become a certified web design pro and save over $1500 on the training

Web Design CPD Certification Bundle

With more than 140,000 websites going live every day, now is the perfect time to become a web designer. Whether you want to turn pro or just improve your own sites, the Web Design CPD Certification Bundle teaches you everything you need to know. You can get all four courses and 32.5 hours of training for $39 via the Popular Science Shop.

When you’re building a website, you need both code and design skills. It also helps to understand search engine optimization and how to create your own animations. This bundle covers all of these skills through hands-on video lessons. You also work toward a Master Diploma, accredited by the highly-respected CPD Certification Service.

The first course tackles HTML5 and CSS3, the building blocks of every website. You learn how to create custom layouts and add your own style. The course on Photoshop helps you edit images with a guided tour through all the major tools. You also learn how to craft responsive sites using Adobe Dreamweaver, before adding interactive content with Flash.


Pokemon Go Fest: When Are the Challenge Windows?

Pokemon Go Fest, Pokemon Go Fest chicago, Pokemon Go Fest chicago logo

okemon Go Fest Chicago is about to get underway. The day’s events are built around “challenge windows,” so when exactly do all of these windows start and end, and what is supposed to happen during these times?

There are three challenge windows during Pokemon Go Fest Chicago, each one lasting exactly 30 minutes. According to Niantic, the challenge windows are:

  • 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. CDT
  • 1:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. CDT
  • 3:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. CDT

You can use this helpful countdown clock to see when these challenge windows are in your local time. Originally, the second window began at 12:00 p.m., but Niantic has since changed this one to 1:00 p.m. CDT.

For those playing the game outside of Chicago, your goal during these challenge windows is to try to catch as many Pokemon as you can.

Those playing in Chicago will be attempting to catch certain types of Pokemon during the challenge windows, with bonuses unlocking worldwide if they do so. For example, if they catch a lot of Grass-type Pokemon, a Stardust bonus will unlock for everyone. But if players worldwide catch enough Pokemon in the challenge windows, these bonuses will be extended, i.e. making the Stardust bonus last longer if this had already been put in place.

But more importantly, if enough Pokemon are caught worldwide specifically during the challenge windows, a legendary Pokemon will appear in Chicago. Then, the Chicago players have to try to take it down in a Raid Battle, and if they do, that specific legendary Pokemon will begin appearing in Raid Battles around the world.

Presumably, Niantic will be unlocking the legendary Raid Battle in Chicago regardless of whether players catch enough Pokemon, as it’s hard to imagine they would gather so many fans together for such a major event only to disappoint them by not releasing a legendary because some arbitrary goal was not reached. However, the challenge windows idea will help keep players engaged and give those outside of Chicago a way to participate.

Pokemon Go Fest Chicago itself begins at 10:00 a.m. Central Time, an hour before the first challenge window starts. If the legendary Raid Battle appears, it will happen at 6:00 p.m. Central Time.