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About Rob LeFebvre

Rob LeFebvre Anchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Culture Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef

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London calling: The best of the iTunes Festival (so far)

A$AP Rocky

This year’s iTunes Festival lineup is fantastic. It’s got everything, with veterans like Tony Bennett and Robert Plant sharing a festival stage with relative newcomers Sam Smith and Deadmau5.

All those taking the stage at London’s Roundhouse as part of the free shows are consummate performers but — as with any large concert program — there are always some standout acts. We’ve rounded up some of the best moments from the first half of this month-long concert series.

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Why Microsoft might be the best thing that ever happened to Minecraft

Picture courtesy Xbox

Picture courtesy Xbox

Microsoft’s $2.5 billion purchase of Minecraft maker Mojang might read like another “corporate behemoth swallows a beloved indie” story, but in reality this could be the best thing that ever happened to the game.

The inevitable snarky reactions on Twitter called out the deal as yet another reason to hate on Microsoft. While those might be valid points when it comes to some of Redmond’s more egregious enterprise software tactics, there’s simply no reason for worrying about the fate of Minecraft. When it comes to gaming acquisitions, Microsoft has shown itself to be anything but a harsh master.

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Guns, robot hands fuel controversy in new movie about 3-D printing

Screengrab from YouTube

Screengrab from YouTube

3D printing is our current generation’s new home computing, says a new documentary airing on Netflix later this month. The film focuses on the first 3D printer company, Makerbot, and the several new entries into the field since.

What happens when you can suddenly print your own robotic hand? What about your own handgun? The world is suddenly both more dangerous and a better place to be.

Check out the trailer below for a sneak peak at the documentary, Print the Legend, scheduled to go live on Netflix September 26.

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Planet Hop is the most masochistic fun you’ve had since Flappy Bird

Pic courtesy Retro Dreamer

Simple, yet compellingly brutal. Picture courtesy Retro Dreamer

There’s something incredibly compelling about a mobile game with simple mechanics and a maddeningly frustrating success rate. If you’ve played Flappy Bird or one of the several clones out there, you know exactly what that means.

Gavin Bowman, an indie developer and co-founder of Retro Dreamer, wanted to make a game that he could reasonably finish within one weekend, as part of a “game jam” called Ludum Dare, the theme of which was “connected worlds.”

“I was trying to come up with something for the game jam that I could definitely finish,” Bowman tells Cult of Mac. “So I had to keep the art and mechanic fairly simple to have it be releasably finished versus game jam finished.”

The result is a one-tap wonder of a little game that has you tapping your iPhone (or iPad) screen to send a little sphere off one planet to another that’s spinning around it, like planets and moons tend to do. When you find just the right timing for your tap, the success feels glorious, but when you miss, well, let’s say the f-bomb comes into play quite a bit.

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‘Scarf Guy’ steals the spotlight at Apple event, but who is he?

Tommy Krul

With a scarf and a certain air, Tommy Krul grabbed the spotlight at Apple’s big event. Screengrab: Cult of Mac

The Apple Watch and iPhone 6 event yesterday in Cupertino may have been Apple’s most fashion-forward event ever. In addition to the usual schlubby tech journalists, there was Vogue editrix Anna Wintour leading a pack of fashionable scribes into the squat Flint Center as if it were a runway show in Paris or Milan.

It was Tommy Krul, however, who stole the show.┬áHe took the stage during the glitchy keynote to demo his company’s latest game Vainglory. Standing off to one side of the stage, his role was just to play the game on an iPhone 6 while co-founder Stephan Sherman of Super Evil Megacorp talked it up behind a huge video screen showing the action.

But Krul, the company’s CTO — sporting a chunky purple infinity scarf that brushed against a collar-length pageboy haircut — quickly became all anyone talked about.

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U2 plays it safe with solidly crafted Songs of Innocence

Screen grab from iTunes/Apple

Screen grab from iTunes/Apple

As Bono came in chanting and The Edge power-chorded his guitar for the radio-friendly chorus of “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” today, we hoped for a revitalized big-arena rock band performance from the biggest Irish rock band of all time.

What we got was the boys miming a well-rehearsed, highly-produced single that sounds like anything but The Ramones. Bono sings, “I was young/Not dumb/Just wishing to be blinded/By you/Brand new/We were pilgrims on our way” and, frankly, we wish they were young again. We wanted to be blinded by rockstars, but we really only got an ad for Apple.

At first listen, Songs of Innocence is a musically safe choice, a collection of songs that will sound just fine in the background as you wait in line for your first latte of the day at Starbucks. This isn’t the same band that had us thrilling to “In the Name of Love,” or “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” let alone snake-dancing to the mysterious syncopations of “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” or the gospel-tinged “One.”

The new album is being pitched by the band as intensely personal, but it comes off as more craftsmanship than artistry. It’s not all bad, and chances are U2 super-fans would have bought it even if it weren’t free, but the music lovers in us were a little disappointed.

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Apple makes everything you own obsolete … again

You're gonna want one of these. Probably both, though. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

You’re gonna want one of these. Probably both, though. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

That like-new iPhone 5s in your pocket? Obsolete. How about that smartwatch or fitness band you’ve been carting around on your wrist for the past six months? Old news. If you whip out your leather wallet and try to pay with a rectangle of plastic — at least at the corporate stores Apple works with — chances are you’ll be looked at like an old fogey.

Apple has, once again, thoroughly owned the mobile category, expanding the ways we communicate, live and transact business in our daily lives.

This domination of the smartphone, smartwatch and mobile payment categories, as revealed in today’s big iPhone 6 and Apple Watch event, has us ready to hand over another load of cash to the Apple mothership, and gladly. As usual, there were some surprises — some awesome and some not so much — but here are the main takeaways.

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Apple powers up new U2 album exclusively on iTunes for free

U2 rocks the Flint Center. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

U2 rocks the Flint Center. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Apple just released U2’s new album, free to all iTunes users, onstage at the Flint Center in Cupertino this morning at the end of Apple Event.

After the two hour event, which unveiled both the new iPhone 6 models and the highly anticipated Apple Watch, Tim Cook introduced “one of the best artists of all time.”

U2 took the stage at the Flint Center in California and rocked the crowd of tech and fashion journalists. Then the two celebrities, one tech and one rock, released the new U2 album Songs of Innocence exclusively to iTunes through October 13 of this year.

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American Horror Story’s freak-filled trailer will creep you out

Screengrab from FX Networks' YouTube Channel

Screengrab from FX Networks’ YouTube Channel

American Horror Story: Freak Show is set to premiere this October 8 on FX. As each season of the acclaimed FX series is a self-contained mini-series, this fourth season will focus on a big-top freak show.

Below is the first full reveal of the main cast, which includes a mysterious Jessica Lange (who’s played a different character in each season of this drama), dressed in a circus tent-style dress that just begs to be compared to the tents that fall to the ground at the end of the trailer. Also, as above, Kathy Bates is playing a bearded lady for the win.

Check the trailer out and enjoy the creepy music, courtesy of Melanie Martinez’s haunting “Carousel.”

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HyperX Cloud headset covers the basics at a budget-friendly price

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

I don’t do a whole lot of up-close computer-based gaming, but when I do, I prefer to have a decent set of headphones to keep the sound to myself so that the rest of the household doesn’t need to hear the full complement of explosions and combat sounds that typically accompany gaming on my Mac. There are an array of headsets out there with gaming microphones built in, many of them in the $300 and up range.

Not everyone can afford this sort of luxury, so most brands have less-expensive versions of their headsets to appeal to a more budget-conscious gamer. The HyperX Cloud is just such a set of headphones aiming for the entry-level gamer who may not have much more than $100 to spend on their gaming audio gear.

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