Friday, 27 March 2015

Using video games in job interviews

New Scientist reports: [edited]

Last week a company called Starfighter was launched. Its aim is to create games you can only master if you have a talent for programming, although those with a natural aptitude can learn as they play. If you do well in a game, the firm knows you are ripe for hiring.

Starfighter's games will have a story. "You'll pretend you're a spy for the day, for example," says Patrick McKenzie, Starfighter's CEO and co-founder. "The story might be to break into tech that's securing state secrets, but it's the same tech you'd use to secure a bank in the real world."

The assumption is that the players who are best at breaking into the software in the game will also be the best at securing it in the real world. Starfighter works with top players to place them in jobs fitting the skills they have demonstrated, if they want them.

Starfighter's games will be totally free, and while they won't have fancy graphics, they will be engaging to play just for fun. Starfighter isn't ready to talk about exactly which skills their games will test, but its founders have already built a game called Microcorruption. It imagines a scenario in which players must break into locked warehouses all over the world, each one stuffed with cash. A smartphone app controls each warehouse lock, and the players have to break in without knowing the code. Of 12224 players, just 182 passed the hardest level. The firm will get in touch with these elite players and help place them with one of their clients, who pay Starfighter a fee.
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Thursday, 19 March 2015

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II

Digital Photography Review has published a full review of the update to Olympus' OM-D E-M5.

Snippets from the conclusion follow:

"The Olympus E-M5 II is a more significant reworking of its predecessor than its looks or choice of sensor seem to suggest. The camera boasts a wealth of additional features and refinements to many of the existing ones have been upgraded."

The image quality isn't radically changed, compared with the original E-M5. This means it's still very good, with Raw files as clean and malleable as you'd expect for a Micro Four Thirds camera. The JPEG engine remains one of our favorites, producing bright, pleasant images at all but the highest ISO settings.

Raw performance is strong, in that it offers a similar performance (proportionate to sensor size) to its other Sony-sensored rivals (such as the Nikon D5500 and Sony a6000). However, while this means it offers more flexible Raws than the current batch of Canon APS-C cameras, the advances Samsung has made in its NX1 and NX500 mean the M5 II's performance is no longer standout excellent.

The high-res mode is only useful in a narrow range of situations, requires a good lens and requires absolute stability, but the results it yields can be impressive.

The camera feels great and fits well in the hand, and offers an impressive amount of direct control for a body that's so small. This compact form factor is aided by separating the flash out as a separate clip-on unit.

The E-M5 II is probably the stand-out Micro Four Thirds camera in a market with some very good rivals. This shifts more of the emphasis of its appeal and appropriateness to the strength of the Micro Four Thirds system as a whole: if it offers the lenses and size/price/image quality balance that's right for you, then the E-M5 II should be top of your list. But in these competitive times, the E-M5 is no longer the mirrorless king: it's merely the heir-apparent to one of the great mirrorless families.
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Wednesday, 11 March 2015

MacBook 12" First Impressions

Wall Street Journal reports: [edited]

At some point, I will stop being surprised at how thin and light gadgets continue to get. But not today. Picking it up the MacBook feels like lifting an iPad rather than a laptop. And when you look at the 13.1mm-thick machine from the side, it looks like a screen propped up by a metal stand.

Of course, it’s thin because all the ports you know and love are in the trash. No more SD card slot, no more full-sized USB ports or Thunderbolt. All that’s left is a headphone jack and one — and only one — USB Type C port. The latter charges the laptop, but also can be used to send video to monitors and connect and charge other devices.

The edge-to-edge, 2304×1440-pixel Retina 12-inch display is crisp and bright — a huge improvement over the current MacBook Air.

The trackpad has a smoother coating and new touch capabilities. Called Force Touch, the pad is now a single piece of flat glass that can respond to different pressure. You’ll still feel a 'click' when you press down on it, but that is actually all done with software. In a demo, Apple showed me how to press gently on the pad and then more firmly to speed up a video. I’m not sure how useful that feature will be, but the good news is that for regular navigating, the trackpad feels better than ever.

To accommodate the thinner bottom, the keyboard also had to be slimmed down. A new mechanism under the keys still gives them a slight spring—functional. It is harder to tell where the keys start and end. So I was shocked at how fast and accurate I was able to type.

It weighs 920 grammes (less than my iPad 3 with its case, Ed.) Apple claims the new MacBook will get nine hours of battery life.

Available in Silver, Gold and Space Grey. Prices start at £1049. Available 'soon'.
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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Free Font - Blenda

Behance reports: [edited]

Blenda Script is a free experimental font inspired by Lobster Font with a number of alternative letters and swashes.

License: Free for personal and commercial use.
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Thursday, 19 February 2015

Free Font - Cabin

Impallari reports: [edited]

The Cabin Font is a humanist sans inspired by Edward Johnston's and Eric Gill's typefaces, with a touch of modernism.

It incorporates modern proportions, optical adjustments, and some elements of the geometric sans.

Cabin comes in 8 styles: Regular, Medium, Semibold & Bold, with their corresponding italics.
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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Ampersand Table

Behance reports: [edited]

In homage to the fabulous curves & dynamic line weights of the great American type designer, Herb Lubalin (and his unsung genius letterer Tom Carnase), this table for two is modelled on one of his voluptuous 1970s ampersands for U&lc Magazine.

Construction was inspired by the simplicity of surfboard fins – the legs are attached with a precision-fit slot and tab technique. No nails or screws.

Designed by Matt Innes & Saori Kajiwara. CNC router cut, hand glued & finished in Danish oil & beeswax. 1100 x 1000 x 350mm, hardwood ply, food-safe glue. 45mm 3-ply surface.
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Friday, 30 January 2015

Dell XPS 13 (2015)

Engadget has published a review of what is currently the world's smallest 13-inch laptop.

Summary & 'Pros & Cons' follow:

"With Intel's new fifth-generation Core processor, the redesigned, 1.2kg XPS is notable for its nearly bezel-less display -a design feat that allows it to have the footprint of an 11-inch machine. And a starting price of $800 (or, if you are in the UK, £1,099! Ed.)."

Other than an update to the touchpad, there's very little we would change about Dell's redesigned XPS 13: It's compact and well-built, with a gorgeous screen, fast performance and surprisingly good audio quality. You'll pay dearly to get it with a touchscreen, but even then, it's priced in line with other flagship Ultrabooks.

Pros:

- Nearly bezel-less display
- Vibrant screen
- Excellent audio
- Attractive & well-built
- Comfortable keyboard
- Powerful

Cons:

- Average battery life
- Touchpad not great
- Expensive with touchscreen
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