macOS Sierra is heading to your Mac sooner than expected

macOS Sierra is heading to your Mac sooner than expected

We've finally got a date for the arrival of macOS Sierra, and that date is September 20 – and most definitely not mid-October as some previous speculation had pointed to.

So you don't have much more than a week to wait for Apple's next desktop OS to turn up on your Mac complete with Siri along with various other treats like a Universal Clipboard (which facilitates direct cutting and pasting between iOS and macOS devices).

While announcing the launch of Sierra, Apple also clarified the machines which were compatible with the new operating system. They are as follows:

  • MacBook (Late 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2010 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Mid 2010 or newer)
  • iMac (Late 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Mid 2010 or newer)

Those with older models of Apple computers or laptops are unfortunately out of luck – the hardware requirements of the operating system have been cranked up a little, as macOS is a little more demanding than the last incarnation of OS X (El Capitan).

Farewell to OS X

You can upgrade from OS X 10.7.5 or later, and you'll need 8.8GB of free drive space.

The new OS is, of course, a free upgrade, and when September 20 arrives, you can install macOS Sierra by heading to the Mac App Store.

Previously, some folks figured that Sierra might not launch until October, looking at the pace of beta releases compared to El Capitan the year before. But obviously enough, that speculation was off the mark.

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BBC iPlayer mobile app just got the one big feature it’s been missing

BBC iPlayer mobile app just got the one big feature it's been missing

BBC iPlayer for mobile devices is getting a significant update, with the Beeb announcing it will soon begin rolling out live programme restart options to its iOS and Android apps.

The ability to roll live shows back to their beginning while streaming is already possible on the BBC's connected TV apps, but it's a first for the company on mobile, letting users restart a live show that's already begun with a single tap.

Live restarts come at a particularly busy time for the iPlayer apps – Glastonbury, Wimbledon, the Euro football championship and Olympics drew in an average of 16 million unique viewers a week across June, July and August for the platform.

Visually seeking

While the mobile apps are getting the headline features, some other updates rolling out across iPlayer are worth noting too.

With half-decent broadband now standard up and down the country, and the majority of TVs now supporting at least 720p playback, the 720p HD resolution will now be the default setting for playback on computers and connected TVs. That's provided that your connected TV supports adaptive bitrate streams, which most do.

Also on the way is a "visual seeking" scrubber for a snapshot look at moments during a show while rewinding or fast forwarding, offering thumbnail views of the show in the progress bar, as is the norm in Netflix.

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Nvidia’s new software makes streaming and optimizing your games a breeze

Nvidia's new software makes streaming and optimizing your games a breeze

Nvidia has pushed out a new version of its GeForce Experience software which is more streamlined and boasts a revamped UI including a convenient in-game overlay.

GeForce Experience 3.0 has been completely retooled from scratch, meaning it's faster and also leaner – the company claims it's three times faster than the previous incarnation of the app, while using only half the amount of memory.

As mentioned, you also get a completely new interface, including an in-game overlay that allows for quick and convenient access to features such as recording, streaming and instant replays – sharing those choice gaming highlights has never been easier, whether you're showing off video, screenshots or live streaming.

You can record your games at up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, or livestream straight to Twitch or YouTube Gaming at 60 fps in full HD. It's also possible to use the Stream option on the in-game overlay to swiftly invite a friend into your gaming session to take control of your character to help you through a difficult bit, or indeed play co-op with you.

GeForce Experience 3.0 menu

Simplified settings

Version 3.0 also boasts Game Ready drivers optimized for specific games which can be installed with one simple click, and Optimal Playable Settings – which tune in-game settings for the best experience – is also now accessible with a single click. Ease-of-use is certainly a priority with this new release.

Registered users of GeForce experience will also benefit from various giveaways and prizes from time to time, which might be free games, beta keys, or indeed a free graphics card or gaming notebook if you really luck out.

You can grab the new version by updating through your existing GeForce Experience installation, or download it here.

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Download guide: Download Google Nik Collection free and refine your photos with premium filters

Download guide: Download Google Nik Collection free and refine your photos with premium filters

Google Nik Collection

Enhance photos with Google Nik Collection

Google Nik Collection - top downloadGoogle Nik Collection was originally priced at US$500 (about £380, AU$650), but its suite of seven powerful tools is now available to download and use completely free. The seven filters can be used as Photoshop plugins, but each one also works as a standalone image editor.

The filters won't appear in your Program list after you've run the installer, and you won't find any desktop shortcuts. Instead, you need to track them down using Windows Explorer. Provided you've used the default location during setup, you'll find them in C:\\Program Files\Google\Nik Collection.

Download Google Nik Collection freeBefore you begin editing your photos using Google Nik Collection, back them up somewhere on your hard drive. The filters don't have the usual menus you'd expect in Windows programs, and once you click the 'Save' button the original file will be overwritten. Once it's finished saving, the program will close itself – don't worry, it hasn't crashed.

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Analog Efex Pro

Analog Efex Pro

Like all apps in Google Nik Collection, Analog Efex Pro lets you open several photos at once for batch processing. It includes a list of preset retro camera effects, which look superb by themselves and can be adjusted using a set of sliders on the right.

You have an impressive degree of control, with siders for brightness, color, saturation, dirt and scratches, lens vignette and film type. If you're particularly pleased with your own creation, you can use the 'Custom' button the left to save it as a preset.

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Color Efex Pro

Color Efex Pro

As its name implies, Color Efex Pro is packed with options for manipulating the colors in your photos. There are dozens of presets, all sorted into categories for different subjects (including landscapes, architecture and portraits). As with Analog Efex Pro, each of these presets can be edited using a set of sliders. Best of all, you can combine multiple filters to create a 'recipe', then save it for future use - a feature you'll find in several Google Nik Collection tools.

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Dfine

Dfine

Some of the programs in Google Nik Collection - including noise reduction tool Dfine - don't have a File menu. Instead, you need to use File Explorer to drag your chosen photos over its EXE file.

Dfine is ideal for grainy photos taken in low light conditions. The three views at the top let you choose between a single image view, a split image showing the filtered version on one side and unfiltered on the other, and a side-by-side preview showing the full filtered and unfiltered images beside one another. Dfine will apply a noise reduction filter automatically, which you can then adjust using the contrast and color noise sliders on the right.

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HDR Efex Pro

HDR Efex Pro

HDR Efex Pro has two uses – it can combine three photos taken using different exposure settings to create a true HDR photo, or it can fine-tune the highlights, midtones and shadows in a single picture to simulate the same effect. Just like Color Efex, it provides a set of presets categorized by subject so you can choose the best option to enhance your snaps. The 'Surreal' options are very striking (particularly for photos of people), so experiment and see what you like best.

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Sharpener Pro

Sharpener Pro

This is another Google Nik Collection filter without a File menu, so drag and drop your images over the EXE file to begin editing them. It's a highly customizable sharpening tool that offers three options: output sharpening (optimized for print and screens), creative sharpening (for experimental effects) and selective sharpening (for sharpening certain areas). The loupe window at the bottom right provides a zoomed-in preview as you pan across the main image, giving you a closer look at the effects of your handiwork.

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Silver Efex Pro

Silver Efex Pro

Creating great monochrome photos is an artform, requiring careful manipulation of contrast and brightness to bring out the best in your subject. Silver Efex Pro not only lets you tweak these settings, it can also simulate the look of various branded films, apply grain, and replicate the effect of manual dodging and burning. With so many options to choose from, this part of Google Nik Collection is a full digital darkroom for greyscale processing.

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Viveza

Viveza

The final tool in Google Nik Collection is Viveza, which lets you control color and exposure settings in your whole photo or just selected areas. Drop a photo onto its EXE file, then click 'Add a control point' to select a certain color. Move the brightness, contrast, saturation and structure sliders and you'll see areas of that hue change independently of the rest of the image. The effects can be subtle or incredibly striking - it's entirely up to you.

Download Google Nik Collection freeIt's amazing that these seven powerful image editors are yours to use completely free - no strings attached. Download them today, start experimenting and bring your photo collection to life.

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Android Pay now speeds up web shopping with Chrome

Android Pay now speeds up web shopping with Chrome

Wallets at the ready - Android Pay is now available on the web through Google's Chrome browser.

So long as you're shopping within Google's browser, and the retailer in question is supporting the search giant's payment system, you'll be able to use Android Pay to check out quickly and securely, taking advantage of its encryption systems and hidden account details.

Android Pay will also now feed into Uber's Payment Rewards program, meaning you'll receive ride discounts if you use the Google service to pay for Uber journeys. In fact, if you're a US user, you'll get 50% off the next ten Uber rides that you use Android Pay to pay for.

More banks

That's not to say the UK goes completely without some Android Pay lovin' though. While US Android Pay users with Chase bank accounts can now also use Android Pay, those in the UK with Santander or TSB cards will be able to sign up for Android Pay "in the coming weeks" too.

Though Apple's Apple Pay service is now available pretty much anywhere that contactless payments are accepted in the US and UK, Android Pay's rollout has been a little slower. Still, it's good to see new banks and features rolling out, and web support will expand its reach considerably.

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Hate using Chrome on a MacBook? Google’s latest update might change your mind

Hate using Chrome on a MacBook? Google's latest update might change your mind

If you've given up using Chrome on your MacBook because you were fed up with the amount of battery power the browser seemed to chew through, then we've got some good news – Google has tweaked the software to be kinder to your beleaguered battery.

With version 53 of the Chrome browser, Google has improved battery longevity across the board, so Windows notebooks will benefit from its better power efficiency – but because the MacBook has been such a problem area in the past, the company highlighted the boosts made for Apple laptops.

In a blog post, Google said that Chrome for Mac now uses 33% less power no matter what you're doing, from more intensive tasks like watching video on YouTube, through to simple web browsing and scrolling down a page. That's an impressive boost for MacBooks indeed.

Polished performance

Google also showed an old version of Chrome (v46, from last year) against this latest incarnation running on a Surface Book and playing a Vimeo clip – the old version lasted for 8 hours and 27 minutes, compared to 10 hours and 39 minutes for Chrome 53. Again, that's a considerable increase of 2 hours and 12 minutes.

Google also said that Chrome 53 ups the ante on the performance front and is now 15% faster on desktop and Android alike.

But the battery gains will certainly be more noticeable, and should make a very appreciable impact on the lastability of a MacBook when web surfing on the move.

And if we do get a new MacBook Air or refreshed MacBook Pro at Apple's press event which is due to kick off shortly, just maybe we might see a beefier battery on board, and increased longevity with the new model(s).

Here's hoping, but with much of the buzz on the grapevine having been about slim new machines, that might be at odds with any sort of major increase on the battery front. Unless Apple engineers have got some real magic up their sleeves – at any rate, we don't have long to wait to find out.

Via: Digital Trends

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Microsoft’s not slacking, wants to pimp Skype with team-focused features

Microsoft's not slacking, wants to pimp Skype with team-focused features

Microsoft is building its own messaging service to rival Slack, according to the tech grapevine.

This won't come as any great surprise to people who follow developments at the company closely, because earlier this year, Microsoft considered making a massive bid to take over Slack.

However, apparently CEO Nadella wasn't convinced by the move – hardly surprising given some of the stings Microsoft has received from major acquisitions in recent times, such as Nokia – and Bill Gates also advised against purchasing Slack, instead wishing to develop Microsoft's own products.

Hence we now have Skype Teams in the pipeline, according to an inside source who spoke to MS Poweruser, and this new messaging offering will carry quite a number of similar features to Slack.

So it'll be designed around chat channels and offer direct messaging – all the usual stuff you'd expect – although apparently Skype Teams will diverge in some elements such as the inclusion of threaded conversations (replies to specific messages which then become threads, Facebook-style).

Integrated video calls, naturally…

The app will unsurprisingly allow for sharing files such as images and documents, and naturally will maintain Skype features such as facilitating video calls within channels or directly between members. You'll also be able to do things like schedule online meetings.

It won't be all work, work, work, of course, as there is a 'fun picker' feature which will allow users to quickly insert entertaining bits and pieces into chats such as emojis, memes and Giphy antics.

All of this will be integrated with Microsoft's online productivity suite, Office 365, and the company will probably bring bots in on the action too – because AI and bots are a huge concern for Microsoft looking down the line, as we discussed back in the spring.

You can expect Skype Teams to be a cross-platform affair with a Windows version (obviously) along with mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Mobile, plus a web app. There's no indication of a possible launch timeframe yet and the service is still in testing, but it will likely come to Office 365 users before anyone else gets a look in.

Image Credit: MS Poweruser

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Pokemon Go update will let you pick and play favorites

Pokemon Go update will let you pick and play favorites

Niantic, the game studio behind Pokémon Go, is readying another update for the popular mobile game. Soon, you'll be able to choose your favorite pocket monster to be your "buddy," confirming the rumor we reported yesterday.

Once you choose a Pokémon to be your buddy, it will show up next to you in your trainer profile screen and next to your avatar icon. You'll also get rewards from your buddy Pokémon, like getting Candy while you guys walk together.

Pokemon Go buddies

Niantic also says your buddy will provide "unique in-game rewards and experiences," but doesn't elaborate on what that means beyond getting candy while walking. The company also didn't mention when to expect the update, but hints at a fall release.

"We've got a lot more in the works this fall. Stay tuned here for all the details," writes Niantic in a blog post.

Summer fad

While Pokémon Go was initially a massive success with over 30 million downloads as of July 19, the mobile game is now losing its lustre. According to a Bloomberg report, the game is losing daily active users at an alarming rate and active users are being less engaged.

Searches for "Pokémon Go" have declined rapidly since its launch. Even though the game was initially seen as a boon for augmented reality, interest in the technology has also declined in recent months.

Pokemon Go search decline

It's unsurprising that Pokémon Go was a summer fad, with justified criticisms of its shallow gameplay and exponential difficulty. While the original Gameboy game let you battle wild Pokémon to weaken them before an attempted capture, Pokémon Go watered down gameplay to simply throwing streams of balls and berries at Pokémon. Gym battles are similarly shallow, only allowing taps for attacks and swipes for dodges.

Hopefully Niantic goes back to the drawing board to update the game's core mechanics. There are only so many Pidgeys I can catch before I start ignoring the game altogether.

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The power of DirectX 12: Nearly half of all Steam users are now on Windows 10

The power of DirectX 12: Nearly half of all Steam users are now on Windows 10

Windows 10 continues to make good headway with gamers according to the latest statistics from Steam, despite the fact that the freebie offer for the OS isn't in effect any more.

Valve's latest figures on operating system usage across the Steam user base are for August, the first full month when Windows 10 hasn't been available as a free upgrade (the offer expired at the end of July).

And they show that Windows 10 is now within touching distance of the magic 50% mark. For August, 47.44% of Steam denizens were using Windows 10 64-bit, with 1.51% using Windows 10 32-bit, for a total of 48.95% on Microsoft's newest operating system.

That's an increase of 2.7% compared to the previous month, a sizeable leap, and a considerably bigger one than the increase from June to July which was 1.79%.

So the free upgrade offer disappearing down the pan hasn't made a jot of difference to the number of Steam addicts adopting Windows 10, doubtless because there's a major lure for gamers when it comes to the OS: if you want DirectX 12, you can't stick with Windows 7/8.1 as they don't support the technology.

Taking the plunge

So it would seem it's clear that DirectX 12 is definitely pulling its weight for Microsoft in terms of pushing its new operating system, and persuading gamers to take the plunge.

And that's despite all the negative publicity Windows 10 has encountered of late in terms of privacy worries and various problems caused by the Anniversary Update (coupled with the fact that it's not possible to avoid updates any longer – not on the consumer flavors of Windows anyway).

DirectX 12 offers a number of tasty boons, boasting less overheads than DX11 and much improved performance as a result, and also allows for tricks like combining the power of GPUs from AMD and Nvidia together. It'll make many games like the upcoming Star Citizen (pictured) look far more glitzy.

At any rate, next month, then, will almost certainly be the first time that Windows 10 secures a greater than 50% (majority) share of the OS market for Steam users.

As for the other operating systems in August's stats, Windows 7 is now a long way behind the leader, with a total share of 34.66% – that's over 14% less than Windows 10. Windows 8/8.1 has a combined share of 10.26%, with Windows XP on 1.56%, and Windows Vista on 0.24%.

Outside of Windows versions, OS X has 3.34% of the market, and Linux is on 0.83%.

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