Blizzard Entertainment's digital card game Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has publicly launched on the Mac after a brief public beta period. The free-to-play collectible card game is set in the Warcraft universe, allowing players to compete with Magic-style decks in one-on-one fights via Battle.Net -- Blizzard's online gaming platform -- or against the computer.
The Hearthstone beta is complete and we wanted to take a moment to thank all of our participants for their incredibly valuable feedback and support. If you haven’t had the chance to jump into the game, now is the perfect time to check out the fast-paced strategy card game that’s fun for everyone. If you’re new to Hearthstone, getting started is simple: Just visit playhearthstone.com and click on the “Play Free Now” button. Once your download is finished, fire it up and click on the Hearthstone icon. Install Hearthstone, then hit the “Play” button and you’ll be on your way.
As soon as you jump in you’ll challenge iconic Warcraft characters, including the ferocious Hogger, the mischievous Millhouse Manastorm, and the wise Lorewalker Cho. As you progress through these introductory missions, you’ll hone your card-slinging skills in preparation for a climactic battle against Illidan Stormrage! You are not prepared . . . for this much fun!
System requirements are fairly generous, requiring an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, although Blizzard recommends an Intel Core i3 or better, along with an NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M or ATI Radeon HD 5670 or better graphics card.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is a free download from Blizzard's website.
First introduced at CES in January, LaCie's 1TB Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 drive is now available for purchase for $1,299. The Little Big Disk is one of the first external hard drives to support Intel's Thunderbolt 2 specification, delivering transfer speeds of up to 1375 MB/s.
Little Big Disk offers two 500 GB PCIe solid state drives from Samsung in a Raid-0 configuration and is able to support mobile streaming and editing of both 4K and 3D video. It features an aluminum enclosure with a Mac Pro-style black finish along with an optimized interior design that improves cooling efficiency and reduces noise.
To achieve the full potential of Thunderbolt 2 speeds, LaCie engineered the Little Big Disk with some of the best–performing solid state drives on the market – a pair of 500 GB PCIe Gen 2 SSDs. It's possible to push the boundaries of the technology even further by daisy chaining two LaCie Little Big Disks to achieve speeds faster than the maximum Thunderbolt 2 transfer rate. By connecting them in parallel to Apple's powerful new Mac Pro, they can deliver speeds up to 2,600 MB/s.
Thanks to its Thunderbolt 2 ports, the Little Big Disk can be daisy chained with up to five other Little Big Disks along with a 4K display, all connected to a computer with a single cable.
The Little Big Disk is available in a 1TB SSD capacity from the LaCie online store for $1299.
Microsoft is planning to introduce an updated version of its Office productivity suite for the Mac in 2014, according to Thorsten Hübschen, Business Group Lead at Microsoft Germany, who gave Computerwoche (via Macworld) the news at the Cebit trade fair in Hanover.
While there's little information available on a possible release date, Hübschen said more news on the product should come during the second quarter of 2014. Microsoft's current Office software for the Mac was released more than three years ago in October of 2010.
At the Cebit trade fair in Hanover, Hübschen told Computerwoche that there are now development teams for each of the Office applications, which each produce versions of their product for different platforms. In addition to MacOS, other possible targets for the future may include tablets running iOS and Android.
Microsoft originally had plans to release Office for Mac in the spring of 2014, but it appears the company will miss that timeline, instead planning for a release later in the year. According to a representative from Microsoft, the company is indeed working on the next version of Office for Mac.
"The team is hard at work on the next version of Office for Mac," she said in an email. "While I don't have details to share on timing, when it’s available, Office 365 subscribers will automatically get the next Office for Mac at no additional cost."
When Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen removed his ultra popular app from the App Store back in February, he gave little explanation for the surprising decision, aside from a short message stating he could no longer take the attention.
In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Nguyen explains why he pulled the app, pointing to extensive press coverage and unwanted attention in his home town of Hanoi. While Nguyen enjoyed his early success, he was swarmed by the media after news of his monetary success was revealed. At the height of its popularity, Flappy Bird was generating upwards of $50,000 per day.
As news hit of how much money Nguyen was making, his face appeared in the Vietnamese papers and on TV, which was how his mom and dad first learned their son had made the game. The local paparazzi soon besieged his parents' house, and he couldn’t go out unnoticed. While this might seem a small price to pay for such fame and fortune, for Nguyen the attention felt suffocating.
Even more troubling were the messages he began receiving from parents and Flappy Bird players who had become addicted to the game. One woman told him he was "distracting the children of the world," and Nguyen worried the game was too addictive.
Another [message] laments that "13 kids at my school broke their phones because of your game, and they still play it cause it’s addicting like crack." Nguyen tells me of e-mails from workers who had lost their jobs, a mother who had stopped talking to her kids. "At first I thought they were just joking," he says, "but I realize they really hurt themselves."
According to Nguyen, who had trouble in school because of his own addiction to Counter-Strike, those messages were a major reason why he opted to put an end to Flappy Bird. When asked by the interviewer why he ultimately pulled the app, he said "I'm master of my own fate. Independent thinker."
With Flappy Bird’s removal from the App Store, hundreds of clones have popped up. While Apple initially attempted to stem the flood of Flappy Bird-style games, the game’s success has continued to tempt developers into creating clones. At the end of February, one-third of new games released over a 24-hour period ended up being games that were heavily inspired by Flappy Bird and Nguyen's success. "People can clone the app because of its simplicity," Nguyen said, "but they will never make another Flappy Bird."
Flappy Bird clones
Nguyen told Rolling Stone that removing Flappy Bird from the App Store has been a "relief," but he is also contemplating returning the app to the App Store.
"I'm considering it," Nguyen says. He’s not working on a new version, but if he ever releases one it will come with a "warning," he says: "Please take a break."
Though Flappy Bird is no longer available for download, it continues to make money for Nguyen, "generating tens of thousands of dollars." The app's success has led Nguyen to quit his job, and he’s considering purchasing both a Mini Cooper and an apartment as he continues to develop new games.
Rolling Stone's full interview with Nguyen, which is well worth reading, also includes tidbits on the development of Flappy Bird, details on Nguyen's childhood, his game creating experience, and info on his future plans.
Music video and entertainment platform Vevo announced today that it is partnering with Apple to stream this week's iTunes Festival at SXSW. Apple is limiting the service to include the same streaming options offered by its own iTunes Festival coverage, which includes iOS devices, Macs and the Apple TV.
Starting Tuesday, March 11 and ending Saturday, March 15, viewers can launch the Vevo iOS app or open the Apple TV channel to watch live performances from ACL Live at the Moody Theater in Austin, Texas. Mac owners can view the live stream by pointing their Safari browser to Vevo's iTunes Festival website.
Three performances are scheduled each night, with headline acts to include major artists such as Coldplay, Kendrick Lamar, Soundgarden, Pitbull an Keith Urban. Select performances will be available for on-demand viewing after the concert is over.
iOS owners who prefer not to use Vevo can watch the daily concert series via Apple's iTunes Festival app [Direct Link], while Apple TV users can open the recently updated iTunes Festival channel. Both sources allow users to live stream the concert's shows as well as view concert lineups, on-demand performances and artist information.
Apple is preparing to significantly improve its Maps application in iOS 8, claims a report in 9to5Mac. Apple will slow its work on UI changes and focus instead on improving the underlying infrastructure that powers the application. These data-level changes will make Maps more informative and reliable for iOS users.
The new application will also be injected with new points of interests and new labels to make places such as airports, parks, train stations, bus stops, highways, and freeways easier to find, the sources added. Sources also say that the mapping application’s cartography design has been tweaked to be slightly cleaner and to make streets more visible.
Public transit is another major area that Apple will bring to the iOS 8 version of Maps, tapping into the engineering talent the company has acquired from mapping companies such as HopStop and Embark. The new Maps app likely will allow users to find train, subway and bus information in major U.S. and international cities. These public transit options will be embedded in the maps themselves and in the Directions panel, where they will show up in a new tab next to "Driving" and "Walking."
Mockup of iOS 8's transit features
These changes are only the beginning of Apple's proposed plans for its Maps application, as the company is reportedly also working to add indoor mapping views, improved car integration, and augmented reality features in the future.
Apple switched away from a Google-powered mapping solution in 2012 when it introduced its own Maps application alongside iOS 6. Apple's Maps faced extensive criticism at launch when a series of high-profile incidents highlighted embarrassing inaccuracies in mapping data and missing features like street view and transit directions that were available in its competitors' products. Apple CEO Tim Cook even issued a personal apology to iOS owners, promising to improve the app until it lives up to Apple's "incredibly high standard."
Apple's much rumored larger iPhone is said to be a variation on the iPhone 5c rather than the iPhone 5s, according to a new report from Mac Otakara. Sources indicate that the larger iPhone would be an expansion to Apple's lineup rather than replacing the positions currently held by the iPhone 5s and 5c.
Mac Otakara's sources claim Apple has decided on 4.7-inch and 5.7-inch displays as potential candidates for new iPhone models that would launch later this year. These two sizes originally were singled out by Reuters in a report published last year.
This new iPhone model may keep the basic design of the iPhone 5c such as the rounded back edges, button designs, and speaker/microphone hole designs, with some inspiration from the seventh-generation iPod nano. The latest iPod nano models are available in a range of colors like the iPhone 5c, but feature an anodized aluminum design instead of polycarbonate.
Sources also claim the 4.7-inch iPhone will measure at 14x7 cm, while the 5.7-inch model will be larger with dimensions of 16x8 cm. Possibly both models will be 7 mm thick with a protruding rear camera as seen on the current iPod touch models, although it the report indicates that the final version of the phone could be expanded to 7.5 mm thick to match the thickness of the camera module. The design for the phones should already be complete for a launch later this year, so it is unclear if Mac Otakara's sources are sharing information from earlier in the design process or if there is simply still some uncertainty in the sources' information.
Rumors about Apple's next generation iPhone have been scattered, with reports suggesting the iPhone 6 will adopt a "bezel-free" display and a 10-megapixel or higher camera module with an improved filter. A sketchy report from earlier this year also claimed Apple was working on an iPhone with a 5.6-inch display that would not be marketed with the iPhone name because of its experimental nature.
While Pandora and iHeartRadio took first and second place with a 31% and 9% share of the market respectively, iTunes Radio accounted for an 8% share with over 20 million users, passing Spotify's 6%. Apple's streaming service also passed the likes of competitors such as Google Play All Access, Rhapsody, Slacker, and TuneIn Radio.
While users can hop between services freely (and at least one report has suggested that 92 percent of iTunes Radio listeners also find time for Pandora), that figure would suggest that iTunes Radio is growing at the fastest rate of the top three services, and is likely to overtake iHeartRadio in the next quarter or two.
Apple launched iTunes Radio in Australia last month, as the company looks to ultimately have the service "in more than 100 countries," according to senior vice president of Internet software and services Eddy Cue. The company will be able to roll out its service to additional countries more quickly than competitors due to its existing international rights deals with Universal Music Group and other record companies.
Steve Jobs' great displeasure about the the idea of a multi-button mouse was apparently the driving force behind Apple's push to greatly innovate in the area of input devices, according to a new interview with Apple's former Senior Mechanical Engineer of Product Design Abraham Farag (via Cult of Mac).
Farag, who is the current owner of product development firm Sparkfactor Design, says that he was brought onboard to Apple in 1999 to design a successor to the original Apple USB "hockey puck" mouse, which shipped with the iMac G3 in 1998 and garnered heavy criticism for its small size, short cord, and tendency to rotate in a user's hand.
From left to right: Apple's USB "Hockey Puck" Mouse, Pro Mouse, Mighty Mouse, and Magic Mouse
The designer said that Apple's design team had worked on five complete prototypes to show Jobs, complete with lines cut for buttons and different plastic parts. Farag noted that the team made a last-minute choice to work on one more prototype model, which resembled the Apple Desktop Bus Mouse II.
However, that last prototype was not finished as Jobs entered the room to look at the group of potential mice, which led to an encounter between the CEO and the design team:
“It looked like a grey blob,” Farag says. “We were going to put that model into a box so people wouldn’t see it.” However, when Jobs turned up things went awry.
“Steve looked at the lineup of potential forms and made straight for the unfinished one,” Farag says.
“That’s genius,” he said. “We don’t want to have any buttons.” “That’s right, Steve,” someone else piped up. “No buttons at all.” The meeting, it seemed, was over.
“[Afterwards], Bart Andre, Brian Huppi and I left the room and huddled outside with each other, [saying] ‘how are we going to do that?’” Farag recalls. “Because of that unfinished model we had to invent a way to make a mouse with no buttons.”
The unfinished model that Jobs designated as his choice eventually became the Apple Pro Mouse, and began shipping in 2000. Farag believed Apple was the first to create a mouse that used an LED for optical tracking in place of a rubber ball, as the team looked toward building a successor worthy of the Apple Pro Mouse. Once again, Apple's design team wanted to create a mouse with multiple buttons, as Farag recalled a meeting with Apple design chief Jony Ive in which multiple prototypes were being discussed.
“Steve wasn’t invited to the meeting,” Farag recalls. “Not because he wasn’t allowed — he could go anywhere in the company — but just because it wasn’t something we were pitching to him yet.
...Suddenly Jobs happened to walk by, on his way back from another meeting. Seeing prototypes on the table, he stopped and came over. “What morons have you working on this project?” he asked as he realized what he was looking at.
“There was just a total hush,” Farag recalls. “No one was going to fess up to being the moron in the room. Eventually I said, ‘Well, this was asked for by the marketing division. It’s a multi-button mouse. It’s been approved through Apple’s process channels, and so we’ve been working on it.”
Jobs stared at him.
“I’m Marketing,” he said. “It’s a marketing team of one. And we’re not doing that product.” With that, he turned and stalked off.
Farag notes that it was Jobs' persistence to create a mouse unlike anything on the market that helped Apple in the long run, and that the concept of built-in capacitive sensors to emulate the presence of multiple buttons eventually changed the former CEO's mind about multi-function mice.
Apple then went on to produce the Mighty Mouse, which was the company's first mouse to ditch the one-button philosophy, and followed it up with the Magic Mouse, which features multi-touch gesture controls and is currently included with every new iMac.