News Article | September 25, 2012
Canon has announced the launch of its latest EOS DSLR camera, the EOS 6D. Canon targets this DSLR at serious photography enthusiasts. In its official statement, Canon shares that the EOS 6D is the world's lightest DSLR to feature a full-frame CMOS sensor. Canon claims that for the first time in any EOS model, Wi-Fi and GPS connectivity are included, allowing photographers to capture images on the move, tag them with location information, and wirelessly transfer them to a computer, the cloud, or smartphones. Speaking on the launch Dr. Alok Bharadwaj, Senior Vice President, Canon India said, “Canon has yet again launched the first of its kind product in India. EOS 6D is the lightest full-frame DSLR camera boasting of a built-in WiFi and GPS support. The new EOS 6D is a perfect treat for photography enthusiasts. The Latest offering promises to give our users matchless experience on the move. The extensive basket of features, makes EOS 6D a preferred choice for consumers who inspire for the best.” “For a lot of people, photography is much more than a hobby; it’s a way of life. The EOS 6D symbolizes a new category of cameras and demonstrates Canon’s commitment to the passionate photographer who is always looking for new ways to express his imagination through pictures. With new offerings like GPS and Wi-Fi, Canon is making image sharing easier than ever before,” said, Seiji Hamanishi, ICP Group Head. Further in its official statement, Canon adds that the picture qualilty users get with the EOS 6D stems from the power of a full-frame CMOS sensor. A full-frame sensor is equivalent to that of a 35mm film, which is larger than the APS-C size sensors found in most DSLR cameras. The major advantage of full-frame, according to Canon is that it maximises the full potential of visual data captured by lenses designed for 35mm cameras. The full-frame CMOS sensor, adds Canon, captures more light per pixel than smaller sensors for a wider dynamic range at remarkably low noise even at high ISO speeds. The EOS 6D uses a new photodiode construction and a gapless microlens array that achieves a superior signal-to-noise ratio, providing a wide ISO speed range of 100-25600 (expandable range- L:50, H1:51200, H2:102400). The impressive ISO range of the EOS 6D is similar to that of the powerful EOS 5D Mk III for sharp photos even in darker or more challenging environments. Canon paired the full-frame sensor with DIGIC 5+, an upgraded imaging processor that performs up to three times faster than DIGIC 5. With this combination, the EOS 6D can shoot extremely sharp 20.2 megapixel photos at high ISO speeds with low noise, as the DIGIC 5+ improves noise processing by up to two-stops. What’s more, the DIGIC 5+ empowers the EOS 6D to shoot photo at a continuous shooting speed of 4.5 frames per second. The DIGIC 5+ processor lends photos a greater creative edge with tools such as Handheld Night Scene that helps users take night shots without the aid of a tripod. The EOS 6D does this by snapping 4 shots at high speeds and automatically compositing them into one perfect photo. In HDR Backlight Control mode, high-contrast shots such as extreme dark shadows against a brightly-lit backdrop are similarly overcome by automatically compositing 3 shots taken in quick succession at low, mid and high exposures to produce a picture-perfect photo with superior details. Multiple Exposure Shots takes up to 9 photos and then merges them into one single image. This fun and creative mode is similar that of a film camera taking several exposures on the same frame; excellent for illustrating action sequences such as a golf swing. The EOS 6D is able to shoot in RAW format, which is the preferred format for professional photographers as it gives users more control over the image and retains more visual data. Photographers will appreciate the EOS 6D for its in-camera ability to convert RAW files to JPEG, plus resize these files to the optimal sizes for blogs and digital photo frames for greater convenience and a smoother workflow. To make the EOS 6D incredibly convenient for users, it is outfitted with Wi-Fi capabilities. Wi-Fi allows the EOS 6D to connect to wireless networks at speedy 802.11 b/g/n wireless standards, so that it can transfer data to PCs and smartphones at speeds up to 150 mbps and print photos with PictBridge-enabled (DPS over IP) wireless printers. Making its debut is a new iOS and Android app known as EOS Remote, which takes further advantage of the EOS 6D’s WiFi capabilities by allowing iOS and Android devices to control the EOS 6D. With EOS Remote, the smartphone’s screen can double as the camera’s live view screen. With the freedom to be mobile, photographers can mount the EOS 6D on a tripod and then adjust and arrange their subjects without needing to check the camera’s LCD monitor. EOS Remote also allows the user to change shooting modes, adjust the focus, and of course, snap a photo or record a video. The user can also download images to iOS and Android devices and use these devices to view, organise and manage images on the camera. Another EOS first is the inclusion of a built-in GPS function. The high-sensitivity, high-precision GPS logs location data into the image file, allowing users to recall shooting locations during a photography trip. Together with the time-stamp, the entire route taken in a photography trip can be calculated using the photos taken or GPS logging with Canon’s Map Utility software. The EOS 6D is capable of fast and accurate AF performance thanks to a new 11-point AF system (EOS 5D Mk II has a 9-point system). These 11 points boast of accurate focusing even in low light up to EV-3 rating (an EOS first) for sharper photos. Exposure control is made incredibly precise due to an iFCL 63-zone dual layer metering sensor. After the AF system speedily determines the location of the main subject, this system then takes over to determine the optimal exposure setting for that subject. With the increased speed and accuracy of the AF and AE, users can happily snap photos at will, knowing that the images will be properly focused and exposed. The power of the DIGIC 5+ image processor allows the EOS 6D to take high-quality videos at Full HD quality, with sharp resolutions up to 1920 x 1080 at a smooth 24 fps. Movie compression methods available include the ALL-I to compress each frame (ideal for editing), and IPB for higher compression and lower file sizes. The image quality of the EOS 6D’s videos has been improved by the reduction of moire and color fringing. The 4GB movie file size limit has been removed, allowing users to shoot video clips up to 30 minutes each depending on memory card capacity. In addition, the EOS 6D comes with a magnesium alloy body, which Canon claims is dust- and drip-proof comparable to the EOS 1N, and includes a long-lasting shutter unit that is able to withstand 100,000 shutter cycles. The optional BG-E13 battery grip is also available, designed to be used with the EOS 6D for both portrait and landscape-oriented shots. The BG-E13 uses 6 AA batteries or 2 LP-E6 batteries. Here's a quick look at the specifications of the Canon EOS 6D:
News Article | November 9, 2012
Adobe has announced Release 24 for its Digital Publishing Suite (DPS), bringing support for the iPad mini, the upcoming Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ and a web viewer on Windows 8. The company has also added new reader behavior analytics for publishers to track. DPS apps designed for the iPad 2 will automatically support the iPad mini. Developers looking to target the Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, which comes out on November 20, can provide 1,920 x 1,200 folios in their apps. Finally, articles that are shared via social sharing can be read on Windows 8’s Internet Explorer 10. Release 24 also brings background downloading in iOS, though publishers will need to update their apps to activate the feature. Adobe’s Site Catalyst users will now be able to track the number of times their apps are opened, the total days spent reading and peak usage hours in new “App Usage” charts. They’ll also be able to track URLs, devices and operating systems. The new release also includes smaller changes such as account renewal options, a streamlined workflow, and a few other design tweaks. Adobe is leaning heavily on its digital publishing efforts. It released a Single Edition of its DPS earlier this year that doesn’t require any coding. Quickly supporting the iPad mini and the Kindle Fire HD is a wise move. Some reviewers are already speculating that the iPad mini will become the most popular model, leaving the larger version for more specialized use cases. Amazon is estimated to have sold 5 million Kindle Fire units before selling out of the first-generation in August. The second-generation should do well when it arrives later this month – the 8.9-inch version is already backordered until December 3rd.
News Article | April 1, 2012
The first four letters in “Xenoblade Chronicles” come with a lot of baggage attached to them. They are also the first four letters of “Xenosaga” and “Xenogears,” and they stand for the most loved and most hated and otherwise most polarizing Japanese role-playing games of all time. Sharing the whole story of these three games’ creators and what they have in common would take a while, so we’ve shuffled it off to one side of the next page. The important part is that Xenoblade Chronicles leaves most of its baggage behind. In fact, in a lot of ways it’s the last thing we would have expected from the outfit that made it. Xenosaga was routinely mocked as a game made by people who would rather have been making movies. It was, one might say, only grudgingly interactive. Xenoblade, on the other hand, doesn’t feel like it wants to keep our hands off the controller. It’s fun to come to grips with, and it wants us to play with it for a long, long time. Xenoblade is built around a real-time combat system. Characters attack according to a steady, set rhythm, but otherwise they move around the battlefield and use skills with complete freedom (and the bad guys can do the same). Strategy and tactics involve maximizing regular damage output, keeping the enemy’s attacks focused on the toughest defensive party member, managing helpful stat bonuses, making sure support characters keep the healing spells coming, and maneuvering to land special attacks in the right places. In other words, it’s World of Warcraft, or something a lot like it. Xenoblade shows a huge influence from massively multiplayer online games, even down to the jargon in the tutorial modes. It uses all the familiar lingo, like “buffs” and “debuffs” and “aggro.” As far as their roles in combat go, the characters fall into familiar categories, from the DPS attacker to the tank to the summoner to the healer. Fighting things is most of what you do in this game, and it’s most of the fun. There’s a mental and physical challenge to it, not just a steady process of picking options out of menus. The pace of combat hits the right level of controlled chaos – rarely does the game become unmanageable, but there aren’t many times that you can slack off and stop paying attention, either. Likewise, the overarching process of developing characters takes just enough involvement that it doesn’t get boring. Tweaking equipment and crafting a party that works well together is a fun, interesting process, not a head-scratching festival of higher math. Outside of combat, wandering through the dungeons feels a lot like an MMO as well. There’s no transition between the field map and the battlefield – just trigger a wandering enemy’s aggro and it’s on. There’s a lot to be said for this way of doing things, as opposed to the old-fashioned “battles pop out of nowhere at random” style. Even before a fight starts, there’s a separate layer of tactics for dodging the bad guys or engaging them in the right place. Pulling enemies into a spot where it’s safer to take them down is absolutely a viable tactic, and sometimes it’s crucial. Some dungeons host enemies that low-level characters do not want to aggravate. In a few cases, bringing the MMO concepts to a single-player game doesn’t work. Once in a while, Xenoblade tries to incorporate environmental hazards into a boss battle, things like lava or rivers of deadly energy. This is fine in a game where the players are all human and smart enough to avoid those hazards, but in a game where most of the party is under the computer’s control, the artificial intelligence has a nasty habit of falling off cliffs. Luckily, most of the key story encounters are sensibly lava-free. Do you love side-quests? Are you compelled beyond your will to do every last little extra bit of questing a game has on offer? Then you may or may not want to play Xenoblade, depending on whether you feel like seeing the sun for the next six weeks. There is a fearsome collection of bounty hunts, collection jobs, and other extra objectives scattered all over the game world. Some are out in the open, some are linked to story triggers, some show up at certain times of the day. Only the truly mad will get them all – or rather, only people who follow a guide so closely that it’s hardly any fun anymore. To Monolith’s credit, there’s more to the extra quests than just doing a job and getting some cash or experience. Many of them are bound up in a larger side-story where the party rebuilds a destroyed human colony – different quest chains fix up different parts of the settlement. Some quest chains affect the party’s relationship with key NPCs, who’ll pitch in to help with other projects when they get friendly enough. It all works to make the side trips more interesting, giving them some context and a place in a larger progression. With so much extra stuff to do, it’s very hard to estimate how much time the average player might get out of Xenoblade. An adept RPG’er could probably bash through the central story in 40 hours and change, pretty typical for the genre. Tearing through the bulk of the side-quests, though, might take three times that long, and no player is going to knock off every quest in just a single trip through the game. Not without following a guide, anyway, and following it so closely that all the fun would wash right out of the experience. Doing lots of side-questing has an extra side benefit, in that it lets you see every little corner of the game world. Just as there’s plenty to do, there is plenty to see, and most of it’s worth seeing. Going all the way back to Xenogears, the Monolith crew has always had a talent for epic, imaginative world design. A moment that will hook a lot of players comes just after the prologue to Xenoblade, when the camera pulls back through a long tracking shot and we see just where our heroes have set up their home. They live in a tiny divot carved into the knee of a giant dead petrified god. Their adventure takes them out of the knee, over the leg, through the guts, up to the head, and then across the way to the heart of the other petrified god, which may or may not be planning to stay entirely dead. For about the first ten hours of the game the background concepts are fairly restrained, but then it breaks wide open, showing us a long string of huge, beautiful vistas. From the dense primeval forests to the massive sci-fi floating cities, they’re almost all worth sitting back for a second to admire the view. On a mechanical level, some of the dungeon designs become a touch too complicated for their own good. The layouts are so multi-layered, with interlocking pathways tangling above and below and around each other, that it gets pretty hard to find the way to quest objectives with only a flat 2D map to show the way. It’s not a pervasive problem, but it could have used some work – either simplify the layout or create a 3D map, in the style of Metroid Prime, to show all the ins and outs and where to go.
News Article | April 3, 2014
Check out our Reviews Vault for past game reviews. When I first heard about The Elder Scrolls Online, the most important question I had as a devout fan of The Elder Scrolls series was whether or not a massively multiplayer online game could possibly live up to the standards of what I consider some of the best single-player role-playing games ever made. For all of their bugs and rough spots, Bethesda’s franchise has consistently drawn me into their worlds more than any other RPGs. Story and franchise faithfulness mean nothing in an MMO unless they are built upon a solid core design. We saw what happens when that isn’t the case with the disappointing Star Wars: The Old Republic. And while I appreciated The Secret World’s unique class customization system, it felt silly to deal with genre conventions such as respawning enemies (aka mobs) and running around doing the same thing as everyone else. So I’m glad to say that The Elder Scrolls Online makes enough changes to what I’d consider a typical MMO to make it different enough for a pure genre fan, versus a franchise fan, to give it a whirl. The Elder Scrolls Online adds something to MMOs. So, does the first MMO set in Tamriel meet the standards of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim? In my 20 hours with the PC version of ESO (it’s also coming out for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in June) and a thorough exploration of the first three zones for Ebonheart Pact faction characters, I found an MMO borne from the spirit of the single-player games — one that’s not only mechanically interesting but also faithful to the source material. The four classes in The Elder Scrolls Online may map roughly onto typical MMO classes – Dragonknights are warrior-tanks, Sorcerers are spellcasters, Nightblades are rogues, and Templars are healers – but the customization is so deep that the system doesn’t limit these to the preferred roles in parties that those archetypes usually fill. You earn skill points when you level up, and you can apply those points to class abilities, weapon class attacks like new bow or sword skills, racial skills like my Nord’s two-handed weapon specialty, or crafting skills. Furthermore, every class can use every type of weapon and armor throughout the game, which means you have access to all of their associated skill trees from the very beginning. I still see people shouting “One more DPS!” or “Need two healers!” in chat when they’re trying to assemble parties for encounters, but I wouldn’t assume that all Sorcerers do tremendous amounts of damage but can’t take punishment, or that all Templars need to sit in the back ranks of a fight and be protected while they heal everyone. That Sorcerer you just recruited might actually be a battlemage, and that Templar might be a damage-dealing paladin. Combat breaks out of its MMO chains The Elder Scrolls Online feels perfectly normal to play from a first-person perspective, and that goes a long way toward making it feel like The Elder Scrolls single-player RPGs. It also makes the combat feel more personal, versus the detached, stats- and repetition-based combat tactics that dominate most MMOs I’ve played. The left mouse button still swings your sword and looses your arrows, and the longer you hold the button, the more powerful the attack. The right mouse button throws a block. Sword and shield fighting in particular just feels right, like it ought to in any Elder Scrolls game. Where physical attacks feel like they’re more about where you’re specifically aiming your blows, ranged attacks are still mostly about auto-aim. Actively changing targets on the move was much easier for me in The Elder Scrolls Online than in other MMOs, because selecting targets with the cursor versus tabbing through targeting choices was my preferred method, and that played into making ranged combat more interactive. For instance, if I’m facing two enemies, I probably want to hit each of them with a poison arrow, which does damage over time, before I close with either of those enemies. Enemies are silhouetted with a red glow when you target them, so I loose one poison arrow, manually aim at the second target with my reticule while I’m backing up, make sure the second enemy has the red glow, and then fire the second poison arrow. Switching ranged targets on the move is all about kinesthetics. I can mostly stand still and use the abilities on my five hotbar buttons to defeat an enemy, but dodging enemy special attacks by double-tapping one of the movement keys is important. The area of effect of an enemy’s special attack is outlined in red as they’re prepared to use the attack, so I know precisely how to get out of the way. If you’re up close with an enemy, you can also interrupt their special move and knock them off balance for a moment. It all adds up to a very active and satisfying combat system that breaks from what I expect from an MMO. Crafting is easy and actually worth your time The crafting systems in The Elder Scrolls Online are superlative. I always craft in MMOs when the systems are not overly complex, but usually I find that whatever I’m making is worthless compared to the weapons and armor I get at the end of quests. In The Elder Scrolls Online, I made my entire first suit of heavy armor from scratch, and some of the pieces maintained their value much longer than armor of a comparable level I’ve made in other games. I fastidiously make sure I have the right kind of food crafted, and I use it all the time. Food crafting is usually a throwaway thing for me in MMOs. I’m taking the time to learn enchantments because they’ve also been immediately useful, versus being a crafting skill that only really matters toward the end when I’m crafting high-level items to sell to max-level characters for a ton of gold. The only form of crafting that’s been useless to me so far is alchemy. Just like in single-player Elder Scrolls games, I have no idea what effects a particular plant has until I’d experiment with them. Some plants are the basis of potions that restore health, and other plants make poisons. Plants can restore or damage your Magicka, which powers spells. Figuring out the alchemical properties of all of the different plants I’ve found is slow-going, much more so than I’d like. I keep at alchemy, however, because I am so entranced by the crafting systems in The Elder Scrolls Online that all I did for my first hour or two was collect resources for all of the different crafting systems — and level them all up as fast as I could.
News Article | November 12, 2013
While Parliament hasn't sat in the six weeks since the election, the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) has been working behind the scenes to ensure all desktops, mobiles, laptops, and accounts are ready for the new and returning MPs, senators and their staff. Following the election of the new government under Prime Minister Tony Abbott on September 8, the parliament has to prepare for the new MPs and returning MPs by first cleaning up the IT of the outgoing MPs and senators, DPS CIO Eija Seittenranta told ZDNet. "We've got to recover the equipment that they've had allocated to them under the ITP entitlements. That equipment is cleansed and sanitised, and it is then given to new incoming members because equipment is inherited," she said. "We have to remove their accounts from our network and email, and we provide outgoing senators and members with copies of all of their data and emails should they want it." Then for new members and senators, she said they get provided the cleansed equipment from the outgoing members and senators, and set up new email accounts and provide training on the IT facilities, and set up the equipment in their offices. As a result of the change of government, there was also a need for parliamentarians to move offices, as Coalition MPs get government offices, while Labor MPs move to the opposition offices. Seittenranta said that DPS had been moving eight offices per day over the last few weeks. The one-stop IT shop set up in DPS is up and running to allow MPs to try out their smartphones, laptops, desktops and tablets before picking the one they want, and Seittenranta said that MPs could now see a virtual one-stop shop on the internal DPS network. "We also now have an online version of [the one-stop shop] called ParlICT where they can see their own office equipment and the readiness for replacement of [that] equipment so they can make those choices through a self-service facility if they elect." There are around six models of phones MPs can choose from including iPhones, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone devices, and a Samsung Galaxy S4. "We've limited the Android choices because of the enormous variety of operating systems," Seittenranta said. While some have decided to stick with BlackBerry, many MPs were shifting away from the traditional BlackBerry over towards iOS more than either Android or Windows Phone, according to the CIO. "[There has] probably been a move to iOS, but there's people who have chosen to stay with BlackBerry, and a small number who have picked the Samsung." For those wanting to keep up with everything going on in Parliament, or those who are nostalgic for parliaments of the past, the Department of Parliamentary Services' video on demand service ParlView went live at the end of June, allowing members of the public to recall videos from Parliament back to the Keating Government era in 1993 . Not all of the videos are up yet, but Seittenranta said that she hoped this would be completed by the end of June next year. "We've now got about half of the backlog material to 1993 promoted online. The rest will hopefully be there by the end of this financial year," she said. Members of the public can also put in a request for any videos that are not up on the site yet, Seittenranta said. During the break from the last sitting of Parliament in June, DPS also replaced the analog television systems in the Parliament that are used to view parliamentary proceedings, this required retuning approximately 1,500 televisions in total.