Is Google’s Author Rank Dead or Just Incognito?

Ever since Google killed off Authorship, speculation has abounded. It all began with a quote from Eric Schmidt in his book, about a conceptual system that ties an author with a verified profile to the content they produce. This system, independent from Authorship, was called author rank.
Author rank has not seen the light of day. As recently as March of 2014, it was stated that author rank is not being used. While it’s possible that it has been implemented in the months since, there’s been very little talk of any concrete implementation. If it’s entering widespread search influence, it’s doing so unannounced and in small doses.
There’s only one area where author rank is being used, and that’s in the in-depth articles section. It’s the only actual confirmation that author rank even exists, for that matter. It makes sense to use in this limited context, at least. When you’re looking to dig deep into a given topic, you want your information to come from recognized authorities in the industry. By linking an author with their reputation, Google can provide information from those authorities without muddling search. Authority authors don’t have to worry about their posts not ranking if they’re on a site other than their normal home.
With a lack of any concrete expansion, the mum’s the word attitude Google has adopted and the death of Authorship, people are wondering; is author rank dead as well, or is it playing the long con under cover?
Why Authorship Failed
Authorship was a valid experiment, and it may have been a cover for Google to test deeper applications of the author rank system. The reason Authorship itself died is actually several reasons.
First, Authorship required the use of Google+. A lot of authors and webmasters were slow to adopt Google+, and despite the massive push towards using it – to the extent that they made it required for many services, at least for a short time – it failed to catch on. Google+ is a losing endeavor, and Google has finally realized it. Any system – email, YouTube, analytics, Authorship – that ties into Google+ as a required service is either going to fail or is going to be split off into its own service again.
Second, Authorship required the use of special markup. In order to use Authorship effectively, it needed to be implemented through special code added to your site. This means the user needed to know how to edit their site, needed to implement the code properly, and so on. This was made even more complex on multi-author blogs and on blogs where content was posted under a pseudonym or general admin account. A linked byline was necessary, but would not serve on its own.

Third, Authorship required knowing about the system and how to use it. In the SEO industry, we take it for granted that we’re going to implement any system that works best for our clients. We learn about Authorship, we learn how to implement it and we implement it for our clients where applicable. The problem is, the SEO industry is like a technically advanced microcosm. For every client we add to Authorship, there are dozens more businesses out there that have no idea how that the system even exists, let alone how it’s beneficial, not to mention how to use it. Heck, just look at how often we need to tell clients that they need a blog in the first place.
Fourth, Authorship could not be made automatic, at least not easily. Just look at some of the failures when Google tried to implement it algorithmically. Their system picked names, often high profile names, with little regard for the actual byline.
How Author Rank Compares
Author rank is a different system, designed to circumvent some of those restrictions. For example, the first issue, that of needing to use Google+, is not relevant for author rank. They ask that you have some kind of verified profile, but that might be Google+, Facebook or even your own personal site.
Second, you have the issue of the special markup code. Author rank is entirely algorithmic and entirely internal within Google’s system, so it doesn’t require special markup. Maybe Google will begin to put a little more emphasis on Schema and the author property, but they are unlikely to make it quite as required as the rel=”author” tag was for Authorship.
Third, you have awareness. The great part about author rank is that you don’t need to be aware of it to use it. As long as you have a byline on your content and you have a verification profile somewhere, Google will be able to draw the connection and give you the benefit of author rank.
The fourth option is perhaps the most damning for author rank, and could be almost entirely the reason it hasn’t been implemented on a broad scale. The system underlying the automatic Authorship attribution is essentially the same as what author rank will have to do. This means it runs into some of the same issues.
However, if you look at that link above, about the Truman Capote snafu, you learn a few things. First, the actual author of the piece didn’t have an active verification profile. The Truman Capote profile was perhaps more active, though because it has been deleted, it’s impossible to tell. Second, the author added Truman Capote’s name to her byline. This was legitimate, of course; as part of a program name, it was perfectly in place. Google just needed a little sanity check to ask itself why a long-dead writer was writing blog posts.
Positioning for Maximum Author Rank Benefit

Author rank isn’t dead, that much is very likely to be true. Google will, in some form or another want to track authors and bring value to people using name recognition. This means some things will hold constant, and you can take advantage of this knowledge to position yourself well for when author rank is widely implemented.
First, you should have a verification profile. Google+ would be ideal, but you should have several social profiles and a personal site all linked together for best effect. Try to keep them all active as well, to avoid the Capote Scenario.
Second, network with other influential content creators. Author rank might not care as much about your social following as it does the people you follow. If Google sees two people writing blogs about wall street, they’re probably going to promote the author who is networked with several prominent wall street bankers over the author with no such connections.
Third, find a valid niche. Author rank will pay attention to subject, and there will be no jacks of all trades. You can be an authority in bagels, but you can’t be an authority in everything related to food, food service, cooking, appliance manufacture, shipping and retail. Focus is critical.
Fourth, write good content! You can be networked with everyone influential and have several well-positioned blogs, but if the content you actually produce is amateur at best, you’re not going to earn the authority label.
The post Is Google’s Author Rank Dead or Just Incognito? appeared first on

What are good web server benchmarking tools for Linux

As far as web server performance is concerned, there are many different factors at play, e.g., front-end application design, network latency/bandwidth, web server configuration, server-side in-memory cache, raw hardware capability, server load of shared hosting, etc. To compare and optimize web server performance under such a wide array of factors, we often perform load test […]Continue reading…
The post What are good web server benchmarking tools for Linux appeared first on Xmodulo.

Related FAQs:How to enable mod_rewrite in Apache2 on Debian or Ubuntu
How to install and configure Cacti on Linux
How to analyze and view Apache web server logs interactively on Linux
What is a good alternative to wget or curl on Linux
How to configure virtual hosts in Apache HTTP server

What are the best plugins to increase productivity on Emacs

Over a year ago now, I went looking for the best plugins to turn Vim into a full-fledged IDE. Interestingly, a lot of the comments on that post were about how Emacs already has most of these plugins built in, and was already a great IDE. Although I can only agree about Emacs' incredible versatility, […]Continue reading…
The post What are the best plugins to increase productivity on Emacs appeared first on Xmodulo.

Related FAQs:What is a good text editor on Linux?

How to disable Network Manager on Linux

Network Manager is a feature-rich network configuration service which is used by default in most Linux desktop environments nowadays. It provides automatic configuration of (wired/wireless) network interfaces, as well as VPN, mobile broadband and even Bluetooth connections. Network Manager is smart enough to automatically switch to the best (or the most recent) connection network, and […]Continue reading…
The post How to disable Network Manager on Linux appeared first on Xmodulo.

Related FAQs:How to switch from NetworkManager to systemd-networkd on Linux
How to configure network interfaces in CentOS
How to set a default gateway on CentOS
How to configure a Linux bridge interface
How to find Ethernet network interface card information in Linux

Unlocking an AT&T Microsoft Lumia 640 for use on T-Mobile

Some of you may recall that prior to Thanksgiving, Microsoft dropped the price on an AT&T locked Lumia 640 to a paltry $40 USD. For what the phone provides, it’s already dirt cheap at its current $60 USD, but $40 turned out to be my breaking point. Just one problem. I’m on T-Mobile.
I’ve never actually unlocked a smartphone prior to this, but I felt that it would be worth the effort for such a cheap backup phone, especially when the T-Mobile version of this same phone costs a lot more ($100 USD at the time, and isn’t even officially sold anymore). Combined with the fact that according to the paper specs, the AT&T locked version does in fact support all the T-Mobile LTE bands, my Excessive and Unnecessary American Consumerism Disorder promptly took over and forced me to buy the device.
Unlocking it turned out to be much easier than I expected. Head over to AT&T’s device unlocking portal, and after confirming your eligibility, check the box at the bottom and proceed to the next page.
Level T-Mobile security clearance, thank you very much.
Of particular note is the four options at the top. Being part of the T-Mobile master race, I didn’t have any sort of AT&T account, so I picked the non-AT&T Mobility customer option, which significantly trims down the forms that need to be filled out.
The IMEI number can be found in your device’s About page, found in Settings. You may have to tap a “show more info” button to expose all the complicated numbers.
Windows Phone 8 settings navigation is garbage.
Input this information, along with your name and email address, into the form, and you will get an email confirming that AT&T is working on providing you with an unlock code, and that it’ll take roughly two business days. You may get a supplemental email saying that they’re looking into it more, but they shouldn’t ask you for any more information than you’ve already provided.
About two days later, if all goes well, you’ll get an email with a morbidly obese unlock code, and warnings that you only get ten tries to unlock your device.
Plug your T-Mobile (or whatever) SIM card into the Lumia 640, and boot up the device. You’ll immediately be greeted a warning saying that you’re not using an AT&T SIM card, alongside a number pad instructing you to provide an unlock code. Enter the code that was emailed to you, and that’s it.
It works with T-Mobile LTE
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get T-Mobile specific features such as Wi-Fi calling working on the newly unlocked device, so don’t expect to get a fully baked T-Mobile-specific experience. Visual voicemail works. As does all the normal phone stuff, including LTE internet access.
And that’s all I need.
Buy an AT&T Microsoft Lumia 640 here. And of course, barring no bizarre circumstances, the Lumia 640 will be eligible to upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile when it gets released early 2016.
The post Unlocking an AT&T Microsoft Lumia 640 for use on T-Mobile appeared first on WinBeta.

SiriusXM coming to Windows 10 in 2016, according to Reddit report

According to a recent post on Reddit, SiriusXM is developing a Windows 10 app scheduled to arrive sometime in 2016. In an email sent to Reddit user, proneto911, a SiriusXM representative confirms the development of a Windows 10 Universal app:
“Yes, we are currently developing a SiriusXM Streaming app to support Windows 10. The app will be available in 2016 for Windows 10 smartphones, tablets, and computers.”

View post on

Howard Stern is a big draw for many SiriusXM customers and the self-proclaimed “King of All Media” recently extended his 12 year contract with Sirius to continue The Howard Stern Show for another 5 years. Boasting over 29 million subscribers, Sirius XM has over 150 channels streaming music, sports talk, and other ad-free content.
Although there are browser-based streaming options, SiriusXM previously did not provide an app for Windows Phone 8.1. This will be a first SiriusXM app for the Windows ecosystem as SiriusXM currently only offers a streaming app for Android and iOS. Microsoft did say that Windows 10 apps will be gaining more traction, but there is still a long way to go.

The post SiriusXM coming to Windows 10 in 2016, according to Reddit report appeared first on WinBeta.

Amazon selling Lumia 950 with zero up-front fees with AT&T contracts

Amazon is selling Microsoft’s new flagship Windows 10 Mobile device, the Lumia 950, with zero down payment but there’s a catch; buyers will need to use an AT&T contract.
The AT&T contract can be for new users or for those already with the popular cell phone provider and a variety of 20, 24, or 30 month plans are available. The Lumia 950 model being given away is the 32 Gig black model and supplies are limited so those interested are encouraged to jump on this deal as quickly as possible (currently there are only 2 devices left). It should be noted that while the device is being given to AT&T users for free up-front, it will still be back-paid as part of the plan’s monthly fees.
The Lumia 950 and its larger sibling, the Lumia 950 XL, have garnered a rather mixed response from Microsoft supporters. While both the devices look physically fine, some have been critical of them being not as powerful as they could have been. Recently we filmed our own special unboxing video of the Windows 10 Mobile flagship and also completed our full, in depth, review which should answer any questions potential buyers may have.
Have you picked up a Lumia 950 or Lumia 950 XL yet? Was it worth the upgrade? Let us know in the comments below.
Edited for clarification.
The post Amazon selling Lumia 950 with zero up-front fees with AT&T contracts appeared first on WinBeta.

Your Windows 10 device encryption keys are stored on OneDrive

The Intercept – the government-busting news site funded by EBay founder Pierre Omidyar that popped up following Snowden – has dug up some not-exactly-new feature of Windows 10 for probing, which is automatic device encryption and key storage on OneDrive. Since their article is gaining some steam, let’s talk about it.
What’s it all about?
First of all, a quick description for the unfamiliar. Users signing in to a new shiny device using a Microsoft account will have their devices automatically encrypted by Windows behind the scene, after which the encryption key will be stored automatically on OneDrive. Automatic is the keyword here: users don’t need to use an ounce of effort for all this. They also may not ever know about it happening, either.
This is separate from BitLocker, which requires a user to open the Bitlocker service, start the encryption process manually, and choose where to store the key (in fact, we have a handy guide available that you can give a look). Also, unlike BitLocker, the built-in encryption is not limited to the Pro and Business version of Windows, instead it’s available to Home users as well. As a matter of fact, the feature has been available since Windows 8, which makes The Intercept’s article a bit old hat.
Convenience versus potential risk – the age-old tech dilemma
How is encryption secure? The encrypted device will be inaccessible, period, in case of recovery, without the key. Conversely, the key by itself is useless without the actual physical device for it to unlock; it’s a two-way system not too dissimilar to a physical lock. It means, however, that if you lose your key, prepare to kiss all your data goodbye, since there will be no way for you to get to it. Ever. Which is why the automatic key backup is more convenient for, and actually preferred by, most layman users (or so the quoted Microsoft spokesperson claims).
The security risk, the original article argues, starts the moment the key leaves your device, as it can then be intercepted by a third party, Microsoft or otherwise. Sure enough, the uploaded keys can be checked and deleted very easily by following this link , which Microsoft claimed would wipe them from existence, but at that point, it’s hard to be completely, absolutely sure that your key has not been tampered with. In the best world, according to the article, Microsoft would be doing the same as Apple with their built-in encryption FireVault, asking users whether they want the cloud backup during initial setup.
Paranoia aside though, as mentioned before having the key means nothing without the physical device to unlock, so you should be reasonably safe. If you’re still having doubts, the original article suggests using BitLocker to decrypt and encrypt the device again, rendering the uploaded key useless, after which you can keep a new local key handy.
All in all, it is really up to the users to evaluate the trade-off for convenience and draw the line on what they see as compromising their privacy. All business operates on a certain degree of mutual trust with its customers, and with the increasing frequency of data breach in recent years, that trust may be getting eroded, which is why articles like what The Intercept wrote are getting attention.
Nevertheless, given that Microsoft has always been a leader in cyber security, and that it, like most companies, want to stay in business, claiming that it actively tries to compromise customers’ data and trust is a bit far-fetched. We have reached out to Microsoft for comment regarding the original article, and will update you once more info comes.

The post Your Windows 10 device encryption keys are stored on OneDrive appeared first on WinBeta.

Mail and Calendar for Windows 10 Mobile now lets you ‘undo’ a mistake

Over the past few weeks, Microsoft has pushed a number of updates for its Mail and Calendar app on Windows 10 Mobile with bug fixes and enhancements. The Mail and Calendar app has picked up yet another update, but it’s not a major one.
The latest update brings up a What’s New screen when you launch the app. As the name suggests, the new screen lists all the changes introduced with the update. Apart from that, the developers also introduced an “undo” feature to let your rectify your mistakes.
Other than than, there’s nothing ground breaking in the update. Just head over to the Windows Store and grab the updated Mail and Calendar app for Windows 10. Let us know if you notice any other change in the latest update using the comments below.
WP-Appbox: Mail and Calendar (Free, Windows Store) →
The post Mail and Calendar for Windows 10 Mobile now lets you ‘undo’ a mistake appeared first on WinBeta.

Wi-Fi certification completed for Samsung’s upcoming 12-inch Windows 10 tablet

We reported back in August on an upcoming Samsung 12-inch Windows 10 tablet that was looking pretty sharp. Well, seems like this mythical wonder received it’s Wi-Fi certification, which is an important step in bringing any new machine to market (via
The Samsung machine (product number SM-W700) is looking like a well-spec’d device, at the very least. There no news on whether the tablet will sport a plug-in keyboard to make it a true Microsoft Surface competitor, nor do we have any idea of Samsung’s design. What we do know about the specs amount to the following:
12″ display with 2,560 X 1,440 or 3,840 X 2,440 resolution
Intel Core M processor, fanless
S Pen
6.2mm thin
600 grams
Here’s the Wi-Fi certification documentation:
Samsung tablet WiFi Certification page one.
Samsung tablet WiFi Certification page two, which gives a hint at some of the wireless capabilities of the new device.
We don’t know much more than that, but another member of the Windows 10 stable will be welcome, and should help accomplish the expected significant growth in Windows 10 tablets. We’ll let you know as soon as we learn more about the new Samsung tablet.
The post Wi-Fi certification completed for Samsung’s upcoming 12-inch Windows 10 tablet appeared first on WinBeta.

How to set up your Ecobee3 thermostat with HomeKit

Here's how to connect a newly-purchased (or gifted) Ecobee3 to your HomeKit network. Just purchased or received a new Ecobee3 HomeKit-enabled thermostat? Once you've done all the initial wire-work and installation, it's time to get your thermostat talking with HomeKit. How to set up your Ecobee3 with HomeKit Open the Ecobee3 app on your iPhone or iPad. Tap the Settings button in the upper right corner. Tap Add HomeKit-enabled Ecobee3. If you don't already have a HomeKit home set up, you'll be asked to create one now. The app will display all HomeKit-connected Ecobee3 thermostats. If you have more than one, you can tap Say hi to identify the right one. When you know which one you want to add, tap Add. On the Ecobee3 thermostat screen, the HomeKit code will appear. Scan it with your iOS device (or manually enter the code) to pair the two. On the thermostat, you'll see a "Paired with HomeKit" alert, along with a note about the disabling of Auto mode. Press OK to continue. You can now use your Ecobee3 thermostat with Siri commands, third-party HomeKit apps, as well as the default Ecobee3 app. How to reset your Ecobee3 HomeKit connection If your Ecobee3 thermostat has, for whatever reason, de-synced from HomeKit—or if it never got set up properly in the first place—you can reset your Ecobee3 HomeKit connection with fairly minimal trouble. Go to your Ecobee3 thermostat and tap on the Main Menu button (the three lines in the lower left corner). Scroll down to Settings and tap on it. Scroll down to Reset and tap on it. Tap on Reset HomeKit. After the warning, tap on the Yes button. You can now follow the steps in the previous section and set up your thermostat once again with HomeKit. Questions? Let us know in the comments.

Plugging USB devices into the Lumia 950

The Continuum feature available on devices such as the Lumia 950 brings Windows 10 Mobile devices one step closer to truly being possible PC replacements for general consumers. Another often-overlooked capability that makes Microsoft’s smartphones more PC-like is the ability to plug USB devices into them. This feature, called USB On-the-Go, allows portable smart devices to act as a “host” for USB devices, much in the same way standard PCs do. As the Lumia 950 (and predictably its larger sibling the 950 XL) supports this protocol, I took the opportunity to play around with it on my Lumia 950 to see its limitations.
As most of my devices use standard micro-USB plugs, I had to use an adapter to plug them into the Lumia 950’s more modern USB Type-C port. These adapters can be had on Amazon for cheap. Some of you may remember seeing this adapter in action in my Actiontec ScreenBeam Mini2 Continuum Edition unboxing and demo (I swear if I ever have to type or say this amazing product’s name ever again I’m going to punch someone). As shown off in the video, USB keyboards work just fine, with all the familiar keyboard shortcuts and tricks present and accounted for. I don’t have any PS/2 based keyboards on me, so I unfortunately couldn’t test those out, but I see no reason why they wouldn’t when given the proper adapter.
Can’t wait until USB-C becomes common
Same with USB mice, with the familiar Du-dudu-Duh! (I know, shut up) Windows sound effect playing through the Lumia 950’s mediocre speakers. USB mice work exactly like you’d expect, with a white pointing cursor popping into the smartphone’s screen, highlighting everything it rolls over, and context clicking anything that can be tap-and-holded.
Interestingly, while there is a Mouse section in the Settings panel, it only has the option to change left or right as the primary button. It’s bizarre to me that Microsoft would omit the other options given that all elements of the underlying PC architecture are already there. Microsoft got the hard parts out of the way, but it didn’t finish the easy stuff. This is actually very problematic when using Continuum, as there’s currently no way (to my knowledge) to adjust mouse tracking sensitivity.
The dark side of minimalism.
USB Microphones like my Yeti USB Microphone work as you’d expect as well, with the hardware mute button found on the microphone itself working to silence all sound recording from being inputted into apps like the generic Voice Recorder.
Devices that require a hefty amount of power to operate (external webcams, for instance), are detected, but don’t function, predictably.
Where things get really interesting is with external memory drives. Basic pen drives work as expected, allowing you to access them through the native File Explorer app, as well as target them as destinations for “Save As” functions. The issue, however, is not all of them work. Some work exactly like expected, some will give you a warning saying it may not function correctly (which they don’t), and some simply won’t register at all. No Du-dudu-Duh!
Some of my flash drives contain a bootable Windows images for installing into fresh PCs. These flash drives are the ones that aren’t detected by the phone at all. I could completely understand such formatted drives not working correctly, but I don’t understand why the phone doesn’t detect them at all.
Another file transfer use-case that didn’t work like a PC for me was when connected to my DSLR camera with flash memory inside. When plugging it into my PC, the memory card shows up as removable storage. When plugging into the Lumia 950, I get a warning saying the attached device may not work correctly. I found this one a bit concerning, as the USB OTG specification clearly allows for this.
Things get even more bizarre when attaching to an external hard drive that has its own power supply. The phone detects it just fine, and gives me no warnings, but simply doesn’t work. The device never shows up anywhere in the accessible file system.
Now, of course, some of these issues may be specific to some of my particular hardware and may not reflect on other people’s devices. However, given what I’ve experienced, I’m a bit disappointed at how inflexible it turned out to be. The issue isn’t that it doesn’t work with all my devices; there’s no way it’d be fair to expect that. My issue is that what kinds of devices are supposed to work isn’t very predictable.
The functionality I’ve seen so far is great. Unfortunately, in my experience, even with such basic things as external memory, it doesn’t seem robust enough to fully obviate the need to carry along a portable PC.
Buy a USB Type-C adapter on Amazon here.
The post Plugging USB devices into the Lumia 950 appeared first on WinBeta.

Apple updates its 'Start something new' creativity showcase

Apple has started updating its "Start something new" website in a number of countries. The site showcases artistic work created on Apple products. This year's refresh highlights creations from twelve new artists, made with the iPhone 6s, iPad Pro, and MacBook Pro. The new website makes use of motion, moving around to different pieces as you drag your cursor around the screen. "Start something new" also dedicates a small page to each artist, delving a bit into how they created their piece, along with the apps they used to do so. These apps include things like Procreate for painting and sketching on the iPad, or Darkroom, for editing photos on your iPhone. Apple launched "Start something new" last year to highlight creativity with Apple devices. The updated site is now live in a number of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, India, and Vietnam, and the update will likely make its way to the U.S. soon. Source: Apple Australia; Via: MacRumors

The best accessories for your new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus

Protect, enhance, and extend your brand-new iPhone with a few of these awesome accessories! If you were lucky enough to unwrap a brand new iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus for the holiday, you'll want to start checking out what accessories you'll need to make the most of your new smartphone. Snag a protective case that can handle a drop, a car charger for staying juiced up on the go, or even a tempered glass screen protector to shield the display from imperfections. This helpful guide will point you in all the right directions. iPhone Cases Keeping your new iPhone protected from fumbles may not be a top priority to some, but for the rest us — the clumsy, the accident-prone, and the slippery-fingered — our phones are always just a drop, smash, or bend away from a bad day. So a bit of extra safety in the form of a case isn't a bad thing. Thankfully, when it comes to Apple's latest iPhones, there are plenty of options for excellent cases that can provide you with everything from minimal scratch defense to all-out protection from your worst abuse and the elements. We've highlighted the best cases for the iPhone 6s, with options that range from slim covers to dual-layer options designed to hold up to a real pounding. If you're rocking the larger sibling, dive into our best cases for the iPhone 6s Plus write-up for some other excellent choices. Best cases for iPhone 6s Best cases for iPhone 6s Plus Tempered Glass Screen Protector You've gotta keep that display scratch-free if you can help it — and you can with a good tempered glass screen protector. These custom-cut shields are more durable than the average PET protector, better against fingerprints, and provide excellent transparency and touch screen response. There are tons of options to choose from, and a few of our favorite include ZAGG, Kodiak, and Spigen. iPhone 6s: Spigen Glass ZAGG Glass Kodiak Glass iPhone 6s Plus: Spigen Glass ZAGG Glass Kodiak Glass Smart Battery Case Extending the battery life of the iPhone 6/6s is Apple's own battery case that provides up to 25 hours of talk time and 18 hours of web browsing on LTE. Although the hump on the back of this soft cover may not be ideal for some, it actually feels nice compared to some other aftermarket battery cases. The interior sports a microfiber lining that helps keep your iPhone 6/6s scratch-free and the elastomer hinge design makes installation and removal a breeze. Helping to keep cell reception up to par, Apple's added a coupled passive antenna to the case. If you're a battery hog, this is an excellent solution that covers both protection and power. See at Apple Store Chargers and Cables Although your new iPhone certainly comes with its own Lightning cable and wall adapter, you'll want to snag some extras to have around the house, in your bag, and in the car. Those who prefer to stick with the Apple-brand chargers can grab this 3.3ft bundle or opt for a more affordable aftermarket cable. When it comes to traveling, having a charger that's compact in size and offers more than one USB output is your best best. Tronsmart makes some fantastic vehicle chargers, whether you just need one with dual-ports or one that's built to accommodate everyone in the car, there's an option out there for you. Apple Watch For those that want to go the extra mile with their new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, the new Apple Watch is the perfect partner to consider. There are plenty of apps for this wearable that can make the experience better, not to mention a variety of unique and elegant watch bands to choose from. Get instant notifications, take calls, monitor your heart rate, pay for your coffee, and so much more without having to pull your iPhone out of your pocket every time. See at Apple Store Lightning Dock Keeping your iPhone charged up at your desk or even on a nightstand is best done with Apple's Lightning Dock. This compact charging dock features a new design that accommodates any sized iPhone using a Lightning connector and also has a headphone port on the back for sending your tunes to a larger set of speakers. A non-slip grip underneath helps keep the dock stationary. If you don't like fumbling with charging cables, this dock is must-have. See at Apple Store Apple TV The new Apple TV brings all your mobile apps to the big screen, whether you're streaming movies and shows or playing your favorite mobile games. The Siri Remote features a touch surface and motion controls, and connects to the Apple TV via Bluetooth, making finding what you want to watch easier than ever. Apple TV is also a great way to share all your photos and video via iCloud conveniently and easily. See at Apple Store

Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours review

Sometimes we really do get everything we want for Christmas.
Darius was a horizontal scrolling shoot-em-up first released in arcades in 1986. An IP with a noteworthy history, it was considered creatively groundbreaking at the time, and its mainstay of experimental music, ethereal styling, and marine themed nemeses has remained unique in the 30 years since.

Publisher: Degica
Developer: Pyramid, Chara-ani
Platform: Reviewed on PC
Availability: Also available on PS4 and Vita

Dariusburst – the first new entry since 1997's G-Darius – debuted on PSP in 2009 before being overhauled as a very different, thoroughly impressive arcade game that upheld the series legacy of multi-monitor displays and vibrating seats. After an EX revision in 2011 and a host of content updates via Taito Japan's online Netsys operation, it's been been four years of shoot-em-up diehards swearing the game would never make it to home console. Yet here it is.
Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours (notably using the latter noun's correct British English spelling) is now available on Steam and PS4 as a digital download and in physical format for the PS Vita. Unquestionably the ultimate version of the game, the package doesn't just feature everything from the arcade's original and EX releases, including Chronicle mode's head-spinning 3000 stage variations, but comes with an all-new CS mode to boot. The four-player option that made the arcade so special is maintained both locally and online, allowing you to join aptly named 'cabs' and take up the mantle with a band of co-heroes. This is a necessity for Chronicle mode, which was never intended to be beaten in its entirety by a single player.
An effectively initiated laser duel.

The game's format is the same as ever: you steer a small but deadly spacecraft through horizontal scrolling stages filled with enemies, obstacles and a generous helping of power-ups, before facing off against one of the Belser army's chief guardians. Where the older titles were more methodical, this speeds everything up, its strip of widescreen regularly bloated by impressive schools of cannon fodder. Although the graphical design is now almost entirely space opera, with galaxies, deep-space outposts and cloud-sheathed planets comprising the bulk of its aesthetic, the series superb audio-visual enterprise and enduringly characteristic sea-life thematic remains intact.
Where predecessor G-Darius's leading novelty was the capture ball, Chronicle Saviour is anchored around the Burst Unit: a highly versatile, rechargeable laser cannon that can either be expended in a powerful attack or detached from the craft and wielded independently. Though the latter property was added as a gimmicky afterthought, according to director Junichi Kashiwagi, it's now the game's key element, allowing the laser to be angled freely for use as a shield, for scything through curtains of enemies, or to capitalise on your score multiplier. Needless to say, once you have an understanding of the cannon's subtleties the scope for strategy is enormous. Will you use it to tear off pieces of Mirage Castle's mecha-armour, or camp behind it while you pummel away at the porcupinefish's heart? Will you expend it on a stage's brief mid-boss or throw it out high, blading across the screen to incinerate an avalanche of meteors? Alternatively, adversaries like Golden Ruler demand you use it as a bridge to cross safely to the opposite side of the screen, and – inspired by Taito's own G-Darius and Metal Black – bosses can be engaged in a deadly laser duel that will boost your power if timed right.
There are nine ships to choose from with enough variation to satisfy a whole range of player preferences. Representing different parts of the Darius chronology, some are stripped back expert ships buoyed with tweaked agility and fire rates, while others boast unique secondary weapons that reap massive score multipliers. The Gaiden ship even comes packing the iconic black hole bomb from Darius Gaiden and it's as gloriously fun to detonate as ever.
Iron Fossil in all his glory.

DBCS's size is impressive, to the point where newcomers may find it difficult to know where to start. The Arcade option features 24 stages across Original and EX (expert) maps, where you're tasked with clearing three stages of your choice, optionally altering your route after each boss encounter as desired. This mode displays in a native 32:9 aspect ratio and is subsequently letterboxed, meaning anything smaller than a 13" display may be an eyestrain (and playing on the Vita, the text is almost indecipherable.) Maintaining the correct aspect ratio over an unsanctimonious crop is a necessity, and the sense of scale works beautifully on the right setup. For true justice, there's even an option to replicate the arcade display by linking two monitors together. Dim the lights and the only thing you'll be short of are a few warning lights and a rumbling seat – although fighting mega-boss Great Thing usually takes care of the latter, if you catch my drift (or yours, as the case may be).
New CS mode is a nice addition if you prefer a gourmet platter of challenges, and is the only option optimised for a normal 16:9 display. Much like Chronicle mode, in which you liberate star systems by felling trials under varying conditions, CS branches out over a 200 stage map with missions ranging from straightforward assaults to defence and time attack scenarios. It also makes an attempt to guide you through the series overarching story from various perspectives, but unless you're a real fanatic most of any narrative continuity will be difficult to glean from the spartan text-based subtitles. As with Chronicle mode's 3000 stages, CS is guilty of liberal copy-pasting, and this may discourage some to mine its watery depths. Those who go in for the grind will be treated to new enemies, bosses, audio tracks and a healthy amount of Darius homage for series stalwarts. CS's shop system allows you to spend points earned in stages on unlocking new ships, upgrades and power-ups, with pragmatic spending required for mammoth boss-rushes and ultimately Gigantic Bite – a new CS-only boss confirmed as the toughest in Darius history.
However you choose to play, whether all or in part, alone or in a group, DBCS is a product of exceptional grace. Cinematic and grandiose, the hypnotic flow of its stages and the dynamism of your weaponry is only upstaged by its set-piece bosses. From giant mechanised crabs and hulking sea turtles to formidable stingrays, swordfish and golden lobsters, each battle is positively majestic. When you're in the heat of it, pyrotechnics blistering all around, firing off the Burst Unit and tripping through laser belts being spewed in concentric clusters, the adrenaline only subsides when shafts of light spill from between your foe's ceramic scales and they go up in a thundering ball of flame.
The opening stage of new CS mode.

And all this is conducted symphonically to Zuntata's godly soundtrack, an avant-garde masterpiece of a composition that develops in harmony with the on-screen action. Arranging traditional instruments and heavy bass with choir vocals, sea-life samples and radical progressions, it occasionally hits as high a brow as video game music has the right to achieve. Only Freedom – a token track created for Chronicle Saviours that opens CS mode's first stage – is a smudge on an otherwise comprehensive piece of work, the vocalist caterwauling over what can only be described as unremarkable J-muzak.
The best Vita games Our pick of the games on Sony's indie powerhouse handheld.
It's sad that Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours will merely be a blast from the past for most people. Shooting games – or shmups, depending on your preferred designation – are as much fun to master now as they were thirty years ago, except these days the genre's time-honoured arcade discipline of clearing a 25-minute campaign without using a continue is regrettably misunderstood by all but the dedicated. If you're questioning the unusually high price tag – and most people are – it's because Taito know they can only make the bulk of profit from gamers with an existing affinity for the genre. While that's understandable to a degree, the PS4's £50 price tag – currently double that of Steam – is frankly unacceptable for a digital download.
On that note, perhaps Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours should be considered something special rather than something expensive. It's not only beautifully designed, with a balanced learning curve, absorbing scoring pursuits, and an engaging sense of risk and reward, but the Burst Unit alone opens up whole new dimensions of approach. Being a meticulous reproduction of a once out-of-reach arcade experience doesn't guarantee it mass appeal, but there's magic awaiting those who can commit to felling three brief stages on a single credit. Given the shape of today's gaming landscape and the tastes of its patrons, however, it's not a title that can be easily recommended to everyone. Considering that it's the best thing since tuna sashimi, I really wish it could be.

Assassin's Creed Syndicate: Jack the Ripper DLC review

Ubisoft's announcement that it would adapt the murders of Jack the Ripper into a rip-roaring epilogue for Assassin's Creed Syndicate rose some eyebrows. How would the developer handle the gruesome murders? Would you play as Jack during them? After Syndicate's solid main storyline and well-written cast of characters, it was a risky swansong to take on.

Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Price: £11.99, or via Season Pass
Available now

For other franchise fans, it was an extremely attractive prospect. Assassin's Creed devotees have been asking for Jack the Ripper since the series' earliest entries, and when Syndicate's main campaign was set in Victorian London some 20 years earlier, many saw it as a missed opportunity. Ubisoft has instead decided to save this unhappy tale for an add-on all of its own, billed as the highlight of Syndicate's season pass.
Jack the Ripper's story stretches over some 10 missions, although it is initially disappointing to see that there are no new districts added to London's map. As is to be expected, the missions are largely situated in Whitechapel, where the Ripper's murders took place: an already well-trod locale in the main game. Both this district and the City of London are populated with new activities, but the rest of London is locked off. The DLC's geography is almost identical, then, albeit with a new dusting of Victorian snow and Ubisoft collectibles, the latter unlocking more information on the Assassin's Creed storyline (such as what happened in the modern day after Syndicate's all-guns-blazing finale).
Thankfully, an early feeling of repetition is broken up by some later excursions outside of London: to a Cotswolds manor house, a Great Expectations-esque marsh in the Thames estuary, and a final, more familiar location where the story culminates. The missions which explore these fresh areas are the highlights, although there is much to enjoy throughout, as the story reintroduces an older Evie Frye as its protagonist – well voiced again by Victoria Atkin, in another throaty performance – alongside the increasingly desperate Inspector Frederick Abberline.
[embedded content]
Over a century on, detailed descriptions of the Ripper's crimes are still shocking, although the game thankfully does not dredge up the investigation's photographic evidence. The events of his murder spree are for the most part handled with appropriate care, and the story benefits from Evie's more mature presence. Assassin's Creed has always been a series about stabbing historical figures in the throat and watching as your target gurgles up exposition through a gallon of claret, but these are also games about secret organisations, an ancient Precursor race and silly sci-fi MacGuffins. The real Jack the Ripper has now achieved a mythical status similar to some of the series' other fictionalised characters, but his brand of brutality is noticeably different from the usual pantomime villains of Assassin's Creed.
It's potentially jarring, but Ubisoft tempers this somewhat through Evie Frye, who remains one of the series' best protagonists. Better written and ultimately more human than her brother – and now middle-aged, but no less athletic – Ubisoft has you experience the Ripper's campaign of fear through her eyes, mature in years as well as in demeanour. One thing especially worthy of praise is how Evie and the expansion in general treat the subject of sex workers, who reappear in the Assassin's Creed series after a deliberate leave of absence.
Earlier Assassin's Creed games allowed you to hire "courtesans" or prostitutes to distract guards. It is a mechanic which resurfaces here, albeit in a story which treats sex workers in a far more mature manner. The story of Jack the Ripper could not be told without their inclusion, of course, but Ubisoft goes to some length to ensure their appearances in the game amount to more than simple victims. A raft of side missions highlight the inescapable dangers of sex work at the time, but do not involve Evie trying to convince those involved to stop their trade. Instead, these missions are about aiding those whom society has deemed "Fallen Women", and stopping exploitation where it occurs. One set of missions sees you parading abusive clients through crowds in order to shame them. Another sees you tracking down sex workers who have been kidnapped. There are still shades of women as objects to be rescued, but there is nothing but support for those involved, who almost always had no other option.

Mechanically, there's nothing in Jack the Ripper which reinvents the Assassin's Creed formula, although an additional set of tools allows you to scare enemies through the use of a hallucinogenic powder. There are "fear bombs" which spit it out amid sparks, spikes to impale enemies to the ground, and a new heavy takedown move where Evie shakes the hallucinogen around enemies like salt from a shaker. Enemies now have a fear meter with three levels. Fill this up and your foes will simply turn and flee. It's a pretty promising package, then – except for a few missions when the story becomes a rather different animal. (For anyone super sensitive to spoilers, it may be worth skipping the next paragraph, although the DLC begins with an example of what I'm about to describe).
Jack the Ripper is undoubtedly the antagonist of the add-on, but there are several occasions when you are forced away from Evie to play as the Ripper himself. These serve little purpose other than to show the similarities in the techniques he uses compared to Evie's or, sometimes, to briefly see a location prior or after to Evie's own visit. Playing as the Ripper does nothing for the story, nor to answer any of those raised eyebrows – especially when the first thing you are asked to do on loading the add-on is to walk Jack through a street to brutally and repeatedly stab an unsuspecting copper. Amazingly, Assassin's Creed still clings to its traditional 'you must not kill civilians' mentality, even when playing as Jack; you are told he did not kill random people to avoid messing up his plans.
An exploration of the Ripper's psyche would not necessarily be a bad thing, but there is little to no motivation or reasoning given for his actions. The interludes where you clomp about in his boots and brutalise the right civilians – but not others – do not heighten the disgust felt when reading the very real descriptions of his murder scenes. It is just a distraction from the add-on's main story and main character, and all in all, something of a misstep.
These moments aside, Jack the Ripper is another well-rounded if slightly slender addition to the Assassin's Creed canon: good fun in its new locations, rather familiar otherwise, but dignified by its treatment of some difficult subject matter. It is most comparable to Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag's Freedom Cry expansion, which also suffered from a few unpolished moments, but also explored themes other major games would not stray anywhere near.