Saturday 20 January 2018

Digital Life: Presenting the Cube: the must-have gadget for road warriors on the go

Tight fit: Don't lose the Cube
Tight fit: Don't lose the Cube
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

The great Bill Hicks often used to pause in the middle of his stand-up gigs and inquire: "Anyone from marketing or advertising in here tonight? Please kill yourselves. No, really . . ."

His hatred for the machinations and manipulations of hawkers and peddlers was legendary, particularly the way they would twist words to their own meaning.

Bill would love the Logitech Cube. Now maths and geometry were never my strong point but in no alternative reality could this otherwise intriguing little device be described as cube-shaped.

Someone in marketing couldn't be bothered coming up with a new name or maybe the engineers couldn't deliver on their promise to make a square mouse that doubles as a presentation clicker.

The Cube targets laptop owners on the go who need a compact travel mouse that can also help when a quick demo of PowerPoint is on the cards. It's definitely a niche product that's a waste of cash for anyone else.

Resembling an oblong school eraser, albeit in aesthetically agreeable black and white, it's small enough to fit in a closed fist, yet still functions adequately as a conventional mouse.

Just plug the tiny (and very easy to lose) USB receiver into your Mac or PC and, without any software installation, the Cube is ready to go. Tapping the front end gives left-click, the centre right-click. Running a finger up and down the upper surface gives smooth-ish scrolling.

Pick up the Cube and it turns into a PowerPoint controller. One click moves the presentation slide forward, another goes backward. Simple but clever.

At €70, it's a neat little combo for road warriors. You can buy better, more usable mice with longer battery life that are easier to pack for a road trip but the Cube has its own little category sewn up.

www.logitech.ie

How galling it is to be upstaged by a younger sibling. Sony debuted its flagship Xperia S smartphone in March to a general "meh" from tech reviewers.

Its newer, cheaper brother arrives three months later and, though the Xperia P doesn't set the world alight, manages to improve the design. Gallingly, it still doesn't have the latest, greatest Android software on board (and won't have for at least another month).

But its aluminium frame (echoing the feel of the iPhone and with a shape cribbed from Sony's Bloggie camcorder) and lower price make it instantly more appealing.

The Xperia P struggles to compete with the faster, slimmer and more modern HTC One S but it's a solidly made mid-range phone that won't let you down.

It will set you back somewhere between €140 and €150 on the typical cheapest contracts from, for example, O2 and Vodafone.

www.sonymobile.com/gb/

Game On

Resistance: Burning Skies

PS Vita

RATING: 7.5/10

Sony's new baby has been crying out for a first-person shooter, a genre that's always a system seller but one that presents unique problems for handheld machines.

The PSP never really could handle an FPS because it lacked a second analogue stick to control the camera. But Vita's twin sticks just about make it possible and we await with bated breath what Call of Duty will look like on that gorgeous screen when it hits the shelves before Christmas.

In the meantime, there's Burning Skies. A shooter for PS3 based on sheer scale and spectacle was always going to be a tough ask to translate to Vita. Sure enough, everything has been downsized to fit.

The battle among the monstrous aliens continues as before but it's a much more linear, one-note affair. Though the de rigueur touchscreen functions are clumsy and add little, the best weapons from the PS3 series -- such as the homing Bullseye -- have been retained and remain a blast to use.

Factor in a nifty online multiplayer and you have a worthwhile package to tide you over until Call of Duty comes calling.

Sorcery

PS3

RATING: 7/10

First teased when the PlayStation Move controller launched in 2010, Sorcery has been a long time coming and has probably missed the Harry Potter fervour it was trying to cash in on.

For this is a game about wands and magic aimed squarely at young Hogwarts fans.

Backed by a bog-standard medieval fantasy yarn about a boy who likes to meddle in things he's not supposed to, the Move controller acts as a wand with which to cast spells at monsters.

The fun comes from mixing different spell attacks (freeze enemies, then shatter them, or launch tornado, then add projectiles), all gracefully handled with waves of the motion-tracked wand.

Older players will quickly race through the short story and be disappointed with the lack of replay value.

But younger gamers may be entranced by the magic of it all.

Midway Arcade

iOS

RATING: 5/10

Try this as an exercise - play videogames without using your hands. Maybe by painstakingly moving your nose or your eyelids. Now you know what Midway Arcade is like. This comprehensive package reviving Midway classics such as Spy Hunter and Defender is totally unsuited to the touchscreen controls of iOS.

Some, such as Defender, are unplayable. Others offer a glimmer of hope that if Midway could sort out the controls (at least it supports the iCade joystick add-on), it would be on to something.

Bits and Bytes

• Nintendo has answered the prayers of, well, no one really by announcing a 3DS with screens twice as big as those of the regular machine. The monster 3DS XL goes on sale next month -- pricing unknown -- and also promises much longer battery life.



The 3DS XL hits the shops on July 28.



www.nintendo.co.uk



• Netflix has introduced a 'Recently added' category to its streaming video service. It's a handy riposte to those cynics who say the catalogue isn't growing fast enough here compared with the US version.



Mind you, the latest "new additions" include several oldies (but goodies) such as Bridge on the River Kwai and Glengarry GlenRoss.



www.netflix.ie



• Habbo Hotel, the social network for children exposed by Channel 4 as having paedophiles among its users, will relaunch this week with stronger controls on chat rooms.



The creators shut down all chat on the site -- which has 250 million users -- earlier this month after the C4 programme broadcast allegations of explicit conversations.



Habbo's parent company Sulake, which last year made a profit of €1.6m, vowed to use a mixture of human and technical moderation to ensure its young customers would be protected.



www.sulake.com/blog/

Irish Independent

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