Thursday, 30 April 2015

Microsoft encourages kids to code with Minecraft

During the second day of Microsoft’s annual developers' conference, they made an interesting announcement regarding Minecraft – the extremely popular sandbox game they bought for $2.5 billion last year. To encourage young people to get involved with computer science, they have added the ability to create Minecraft mods with Java into Visual Studio.

(A Minecraft mod – if you didn't already know – is a user created extension to the game. There are a diverse amount of mods available to download from the internet which do everything from add new bizarre blocks, to creating beautiful biomes.)

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

iOS and Android apps are coming to Windows Phone

Microsoft apps in 2013
The Windows store on both Windows Phone and Windows 8/10 devices has always been underpopulated compared to the app stores of Apple and Google. Microsoft is hoping to change that today with the announcement of four new ways to make it easier for developers to make Windows apps.

The first way is by registering their website with the Windows store. This then makes the website available in the store for users to download. When the website’s app is launched, it looks and feels just like a Windows app.

Secondly, Win32 apps and .NET programs are going to be able to be bought to the Windows Store. Microsoft announced Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Premier Elements will be coming later this year.

Thirdly, Android, Java, and C++ apps are now supported in the Windows Store. With only a few modifications to code, they will be able to work seamlessly on Windows devices.

And finally, Objective C programmed apps (which is the programming language used to make iOS applications) will also work with both Windows 10 and Windows Phone. Developers can even quickly integrate the Object C apps with XBOX achievements. According to Microsoft, the Candy Crush Windows Phone app is already an example of an Objective C app.

With the promise of 1 billion Windows 10 users by 2018 – plus these new, easy ways to make apps for Windows – I can imagine many thousands more Windows apps arriving very soon.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Peter Kay's Car Share review

In the driving seat: Peter Kay in 'Car Share'
Peter Kay's new BBC 1 comedy, 'Car Share', premiered during April. The six-part sitcom has been in the works for many years now and tells the story of two supermarket employees: John (Peter Kay) and Kayleigh (Sian Gibson). They met each other when they were paired together in their work's car share scheme so almost all of the series is set in John's Fiat. Other series's set wholly in a car include Rob Brydon's 'Marion and Goeff' and 'Carpool' on Dave. 'Car Share' is a welcomed addition to the car comedy category.

The series is very amusing and heartwarming as the character's friendship grow. Comedies with simple settings, like Car Share, rely on well-written, humorous dialogue. The four writers of the show have thankfully done a great job; despite the whole show being set in a car, the two characters don't drive you mad.

From adults using children's crossings, to death, dogging and dating, the two characters discuss an array of typical topics that many will find relatable and humorous.

After no TV work from Peter Kay for over a decade, I was expecting more from 'Car Share' however it is an entertaining light watch if you've got time to kill. The show is sadly no where near the same level as Kay's previous work such as Phoenix Nights and Max and Paddy's Road To Nowhere. 

'Car Share' was debuted on BBC iPlayer between April 24th - 28th and was then broadcast weekly on BBC 1 from the following week.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

10 years since the first YouTube video was uploaded

On Valentines Day 2005, three former PayPal employees set about creating a new website called YouTube. The website allowed both individuals and corporations alike to upload, view, and share videos of different formats whether they be vlogs, shorts, TV clips or music videos. The first YouTube video, called 'Me at the zoo' was uploaded on April 23rd 2005 and it is still available to watch today:

YouTube became so popular, Google purchased it for $1.65 billion in 2006 and by 2007 it was estimated that YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet did in 2000!

YouTube in 2005
10 years on, YouTube is rated the 4th most visited website in the US and UK. They has recently released an app exclusively for children called 'YouTube Kids', the video player is compatible with 4K 3D video, everyone from politicians and celebrities to lonely teenagers living in back-bedrooms upload a total of 300 hours of content to YouTube every minute, and YouTube Music Key (launched late 2014) allows users use YouTube like a music streaming service. It hasn't been a completely smooth journey to where it is today though. YouTube is banned in multiple countries for both political and logistical reasons, controversial content uploaded by users have made them subject to numerous government inquiries, and similar services such as Vimeo have launched offering content creators appealing alternatives.

So can YouTube flourish for another 10 years? I hope so. Unlike some other Google products, YouTube seems to always be getting new features and design upgrades. Also many teens would struggle to survive without the a breed of celebrity called 'YouTubers' (such as Caset Neistat, Zoella and Syndicate). The developers of YouTube also have a good sense of humor which the internet appreciates.

However, Facebook has been working hard on their video player over the past few months and they were happy to report today that videos on their website are getting over 4 billion daily views. This was the number YouTube was at only 3 years ago. However, I predict Facebook still has a long way to go until it reaches YouTube's level of success with compelling content.

The world wouldn't be the place it is today without YouTube. It is a valuable service for so many storytellers, creators, musicians, celebrities, politicians and businesses around the world and it is the number one place for online videos - for now anyway.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Facebook launches It's Facebook Messenger without Facebook
Last week Facebook showed off a bunch of new apps developed by third parties which worked in line with Facebook messenger. These apps allowed messenger users to send each other GIFs, sounds, and other types of media which was impossible to do previously.

Today, Facebook has launched which gives users a sleek, clean interface for users to message each other with on a computer without needing to use the Facebook website. The website closely resembles the Facebook Messenger iPad app and has many of the same basic functionalities.

To send a thumbs up, users can click and hold depending on how large you want it to be, users can send pictures from their documents folders, and they have access to all the sticker packs that they have downloaded on messenger on their smartphone. The calling and video calling capabilities are even included.

Developers have already turned into a Mac app. Fingers crossed that a Facebook messenger Chrome extention is in the works too which can be used without a browser (like Google Hangouts).

For users who use Facebook messenger to communicate but don’t like to be distracted by creepy Teletubbies videos, friends’ mundane first world problems, and advertisements; is the perfect platform. However, I find myself constantly wanting to check other notifications - not just messages - so I need to revert back to using the traditional Facebook website.