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Updated: 4 hours 43 min ago

Despite a rocky launch, Anthem was Bioware's second-biggest launch to date

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 05:47

Anthem may have had a rocky launch plagued with performance issues and bugs, but it hasn't stopped the online multiplayer shooter from being one of BioWare's biggest launches to date.

According to industry-tracking firm The NPD Group (via VentureBeat), Anthem was the best-selling game of February 2019, and resulted in BioWare's second-biggest launch month to date - and that data doesn't include those who are playing via EA's Origin Access Premier. 

More Anthem in the future?

Image credit: BioWare

So which BioWare title beat Anthem to first place? That would be Mass Effect 3, the beloved third addition to the Mass effect sci-fi RPG series.

And while Anthem is a controversial divergence from the usual BioWare narrative-heavy formula we've seen with the likes of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, a successful launch means we'll probably be seeing more additions to the Anthem series in the future.

However, don't be expecting a new Anthem any time soon. It's still early days, and BioWare isn't even close to exhausting its post-launch content. In addition, the studio is currently focusing on ironing out the performance and gameplay issues the online multiplayer is experiencing.

If you're wanting to know what Anthem's roadmap currently looks like, BioWare has revealed the scheduled updates planned up until May 2019.

Anthem is available now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

Categories: Tech News

Five reasons why the cloud can help CIOs close the ‘innovation-execution’ gap

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 05:30

Innovation is king. In the face of rising expectations and disruptive digital competitors, enterprises are desperate to innovate to safeguard their businesses and unlock future growth. Yet how often do we see many struggle to be able to execute? Look at Xerox, Kodak, Nokia. All big names that struggled to adapt to the changing demands of the market. Yet, interestingly, these companies often had “the next big thing” first yet failed to deliver on those innovations and instead found themselves ceding to others.  Why?

People are realising that being able to generate ideas and being able to execute those ideas effectively - either in implementing new business models or turning ideas into business outcomes - are two different things. This was identified as the innovation execution gap by Cass Business School and VMware in the ‘Innovating in the exponential economy’ report.  With fluctuating market conditions and the unpredictability of doing business in today’s global economy, combined with unprecedented speeds in technical innovation, organisations have to move faster than ever before. This has left traditional approaches to executing ideas no longer fit for purpose.

As the report outlines, to bridge that gap organisations need to finely tune their focus on putting the right people, process and technology into play and creating the right conditions for them to succeed.

People is really about the work culture. It’s creating, fostering and enabling an environment where individuals feel empowered to come up with ideas themselves, rather than assume it’s someone else’s job.

Process supports people. Deploying the mechanisms that allow those ideas to be captured, developed and shared effectively with decision-makers.

Underpinning it all is technology. It’s how we deliver, the digital foundation on which everything is built: the infrastructure, apps, services and devices which allow businesses to experiment, to scale, to be nimbler; people to work smarter and in new ways– often at speeds and with lower risk profiles not available before. The role of cloud computing in this cannot be underestimated.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

The role of the CIO in transformation

That technology and process piece requires CIOs to be the instigators of business delivery. Many are already aware of this, and their role in delivering innovation. According to a report we developed with Forbes Insight, 46 per cent of CIOs say their function will be essential to fostering innovation within their companies. 

How do they plan to achieve this? Even those that don’t realise it are taking steps in the right direction. In the past the questions for a CIO have been about the executional concerns of classic IT, which focused on when hardware could be procured and installed. Increasingly, however, they now are asking ‘when will I see results?’ They are looking for services that can be deployed and integrated quickly, and deliver results and value, even faster.

And this is where cloud environments can really help deliver.

Why cloud delivers the execution of innovation

There are five core ways that cloud is enabling organisations to execute innovation.

Firstly, it delivers. It is ‘sign up and go’ simple. Need additional licenses, servers, functionality, features, applications? If it’s delivered by cloud the acquisition and set up time is minute compared to on-premises classic IT. Speed in delivering new applications and services is now essential to business advantage, and cloud technologies provide a great sand-pit for experimentation. This is exactly why Amadeus, a provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel industry, is using cloud - to help speed application development lifecycles to realize and respond to new business opportunities rapidly.

Secondly, it empowers users to be innovative. That speed and simplicity, combined with a re-imagined digital workspace, allows access to cloud native applications and delivers the heightened, intuitive experience employees have come to expect from the digital tools they use outside of the workplace. It means the technology is in the background, IT ceases to be an inertial barrier, and users get on with the task at hand.

Thirdly, cloud delivers financial freedom. Traditional IT required upfront investment to be hedged against expected requirements. Cloud changes that dynamic – with most services being subscription based, cash can now flow in the form that best meets the needs of the work being done. That means having the full flexibility of both capital (capex) and operational (opex) expenditure models to have both long-term spend optimisation and venture-style investment backing for trialling new services or applications. In other words, finance is no longer the blocker to experimentation and innovation, but becomes a strategic weapon.

Fourthly, cloud delivers scale. It allows organisations to scale up and down all of their resources as business demands it, quickly and without a high cost of change. This means a wide spectrum of our finite resources, including people and technology, can be aligned to shifting business priorities on a daily basis, rather than in quarterly cycles. This gets more out of investment, making it work harder as opposed to standing redundant, and mitigates the costs of deviation where changing course can result in exponential costs increases.

Finally, cloud offers access to shortcuts. That might be prebuilt platforms or X-as-a-service solutions – whatever it is, and whatever you need, it’s likely that, a version of it already exists. This is what allows digital native companies to scale rapidly. Take Uber – it isn’t all custom-designed code but instead uses other services to get the job done quicker. If you only have to develop a part of your offering from scratch and can augment it with off-the-shelf components that have already been delivered and proven, you will have a much faster, and less risky, time to market.

Image Credit: Pixabay

All cloud is not equal – why hybrid cloud is fundamental

That said, it isn’t as simple as listing five reasons and that being it. Consideration needs to be given to the reality of enterprise infrastructure. Most established organisations have a complex mix of legacy systems and applications, some of which are critical to the business, but simply can’t be moved wholesale. They may need to evolve, they may need to be decomposed, or they may simply have to stay where they are. To support all the ways of working we now need, we need consistency between our different environments and cloud platforms.

This is where hybrid cloud environments, such as VMware Cloud on AWS, come in. They act as the digital foundation that allows businesses to place applications where they function best, but also provide the flexibility to move services around as circumstances change. For the likes of IHS Markit, that has meant developing infrastructure across multiple cloud environments, including Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. By taking a hybrid approach, with seamless connectivity across private and public clouds, it has been able to achieve frictionless IT, in a fast and secure way.

This is vital for CIOs looking to make any sort of transformational business case to their board. The CIO can take a line of business as an example project, use cloud to rapidly transform the necessary elements, and take those results to their leadership to prompt engagement and further sign off. 

By being able to action change and deliver results rapidly, the CIO increases relevance. Rather than long term planning to “pilot this” or project plans to do “proof of concepts for that”, they have live use cases. In turn, they become the catalyst to turn the established business model into an innovative one.

Cloud empowers

Innovation is king, but a failure to execute is the death knell for organisations in all sectors. This gap exists because companies lack the ability to effect, and demonstrate the impact of, change without significant debate, sign off and drawn out decision-making. In these cases, silos are the enemy as more problems and barriers spring up around the things you are trying to change.

Cloud can help overcome the gap by providing the technology enabler people and process need to complete the innovation prism. Yet it cannot be a single cloud, but an integrated mix of environments with a consistency at its core to provide the digital foundation to unlock rapid results using the right technology, in the right location, at the right time. With this, the CIO’s hand is strengthened as they assume their role as the catalyst for transformative innovation.

Richard Munro, Director of Global Cloud Strategy at VMware

Categories: Tech News

PUBG Mobile first anniversary: Season 6, new weapons, vehicles, and more

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 05:04

Tencent Games and PUBG Corporation are celebrating the first anniversary of PUBG Mobile with the launch of a new version of the popular battle royale title. In the past year, PUBG Mobile has grown to 30 million daily active players and has over 200 million downloads registered on Google Play Store and Apple App Store. The game is also the most popular title in India where the company also hosted two big tournaments -- Campus Championship with a prize pool of 50 lakhs following it up with the India Series 2019 which had a prize pool of 1 crore.

PUBG Mobile update 0.11.5: Here's everything new

Image Credit: PUBG Mobile

The latest PUBG Mobile release is 212 MB in size and updates the game to version 0.11.5. It brings in a slew of improvements to the gameplay in addition to a new weapon, vehicle and Royal Pass subscription packs. Erangel and Miramar maps have been updated to support dynamic weather as well.

With the new Season 6, features of the Royal Pass have been enhanced to include two subscription plans- Prime and Prime Plus. Players will be able to buy either of the plans starting from early April. The subscription plans will offer 80% discounts on crates along with free UC, Royal Pass points among other benefits.

Image Credit: PUBG

The new update also brings in a new weapon, the G36C, which is a carbine-type assault rifle that replaces SCAR-L in the Vikendi map. The G36C fires 5.56 rounds in Single or Auto mode and has hit damage of 43 points. With an extended magazine, the rifle can house 40 rounds in a single cache and has 4 attachments.

Image Credit: PUBG 

Players will also find a new three-wheeled rickshaw, the Tukshai which has a capacity of 3 and replaces the Jeep, Dacia and Mini Bus in Sanhok map.

Some general improvements have also been done to the game which improves the gameplay and make it more seamless.

PUBG Mobile 0.11.5 update: full changelog

Royale Pass:

- Players can now view RP rankings of the entire region and your friends directly from the Royale Pass page.

- Elite Pass Plus purchase now has additional rewards besides instantly gaining 25 ranks.

- Weekly challenges now award more points. Point rewards can now be collected with just one tap.

Anniversary:

- Birthday parties on Spawn Island! Light fireworks and collect crates during matches.

- Open the collected crates after the match to get anniversary rewards.

- Find randomly spawned birthday cakes in matches for a surprise!

General:

- Dynamic weather added to Erangel and Miramar.

- Added a new weapon: G36C rifle (Vikendi only). Fires 5.56mm rounds and can be equipped with stocks. Replaces SCAR-L in Vikendi.

- Added a new Sanhok-exclusive vehicle: Tukshai, a three-wheeled bus. This will replace the Jeep, Dacia and Mini Bus.

- Subscriptions will be available in early April. There are two plans: Prime and Prime Plus. Both plans come with free daily UC, Royale Pass points, daily 80% discount on Crates, purchasing from the shop with BP and more. Benefits from both plans are stackable.

- When players don't win items above a certain quality many times in a row at the Shop, they will earn vouchers instead. Relevant titles and achievements relating to bad luck have also been added.

- "Room Card: 1-Use" in Clan Shop has been adjusted to 1 purchase every 10 days. Added a robot avatar to the Clan system.

Other Improvements

Survive Till Dawn:

- Zombies will now enter a weakened state from time to time during the match. Please see in-game announcements for more information.

- Fixed some areas on the map where zombies could not enter.

- Damage outside of safe zone at night has been increased.

- Some resource drops have been tuned.

- Some zombie skills have been tuned.

- Vehicle fuel levels have been tuned.

General:

- Quick chat message "I got supplies" is now pre-selected.

- Outfit preview will send a warning when a piece being previewed is hidden by a currently equipped piece.

- When previewing outfits from a new crate, the preview from the previous crate will now be removed.

- Added tapping feedback to buttons of the main menu.

- The animation skipping feature (when purchasing 10 crates) has been tuned.

Categories: Tech News

Opera adds a free, unlimited VPN to its Android browser

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 04:31

Opera has released a new version of its mobile browser – and it comes with something special. Opera for Android 51 includes a built-in, unlimited VPN to protect your privacy and improve security – and it's free.

The built-in VPN should prove particularly handy if you're connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots in places like cafes and hotels.

It uses 256-bit encryption to secure your data, and re-routes it via remote servers to disguise your physical location from trackers. The servers won't log any of your activity, either.

No plugins necessary

You don't need to download any extra apps for extensions to use the VPN, and there's no registration – just toggle it on in the browser's settings.

“The fact is that users are exposed when they connect to public Wi-Fi without a VPN,'' said Peter Wallman, senior vice president of Opera Browser for Android.

“By enabling Opera’s browser VPN service, users make it very difficult for third parties to steal pieces of their information and can avoid being tracked. Users no longer need to question if or how they can protect their personal information in these situations.”

Categories: Tech News

Motorola to launch Moto G7 in India on March 25

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 03:59

After the launch of the Moto G7 Power last month, another phone from Moto's G7 series is headed for India. The Moto G7 is all set for an official unveiling on March 25 after which it is expected to hit both online and offline stores. There is no word on its price at this moment but we know that it retails for $299 in the US which roughly translates to Rs 20,000. 

The Lenovo-backed company is also running a contest on its official social media handles where participants have a chance to win the Moto G7.

Moto G7 specifications

The Moto G7 features a 6.2-inch Full HD+ (2270 x 1080 pixels) IPS panel and is the first phone by Motorola to sport a waterdrop style notch. This gives the screen an aspect ratio of 19:9 albeit with visible bezels. The phone comes clad in Gorilla Glass 3 both on the front and the back which gives it an overall premium finish. A fingerprint sensor is also housed on the rear panel.

It is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 chipset with an octa-core CPU and is backed by 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Users can choose to expand its storage by up to 512GB via dedicated microSD card slot.

Moto G7 has a dual camera setup on the back consisting of a primary 12MP sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and a 5MP depth sensor. On the front, there's an 8MP selfie camera.

The phone has a 3,000mAh battery which supports fast charging via 15W adapter.

Categories: Tech News

Revamped iPod Touch rumored to launch today

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 03:25

The iPod was a revolution in portable music players, and rumor has it that while the iPod Nano and the iPod Shuffle have long since been benched, Apple might be announcing a refreshed version of the iPod Touch today. 

The company is expected to announce the new iPod Touch via a press statement, as they did with previous low-profile announcements of the new iPad Air, iPad mini, and iMac, according to a Macrumors report.

The information reportedly came from Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst with a good history of Apple leaks. Developer Steve Troughton-Smith also discovered references to a refreshed iPod Touch among the iOS 12.2 code back in January.

The new Apple iPod touch is expected to have an A10 Fusion or A11 Bionic processor, to keep up with future iOS updates. The design is still unclear: will Apple keep the thick-bezels in order to mark the difference between its iPhone and iPod, or will the company embrace the iPhone's notched design- or will we get a completely new full-screen design taking advantage of swipe gestures of the iOS?

The current generation iPod touch comes with a tiny 4-inch Retina display and a home button with Touch ID. It packs Apple’s old A8 chip, and also features an 8MP rear camera. The report suggests that the official announcement about the new iPod touch is slated for today. So it won't be long before we see what changes that Apple aims to bring to its music streaming device.

Categories: Tech News

HMD Global's penta camera Nokia 9 PureView is coming to India soon

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 03:16

After its debut, last month during MWC 2019, HMD Global's penta camera phone - the Nokia 9 PureView is all set for its India launch. The official Facebook page of Nokia Mobile India has posted a video which is essentially a montage of pictures shot on Nokia 9. By the end of the video, the company takes a jab at other smartphone makers who have been using fake camera samples in their promotional content by stating  "Shot on Nokia 9 for real"!

The video is accompanied by a caption which reads, "Get ready to capture the most breathtaking pictures with the all new Nokia 9. Stay tuned!". While there is no official word on the exact launch date or pricing of the Nokia 9, we will certainly know more as we near the launch date. 

With the Nokia 9, HMD Global brings back Sony's Carl Zeiss optics and tops it up by adding Light's lux capacitor for image processing. Hence, there are some big expectations tied to the camera prowess of the Nokia 9.

Nokia 9 specifications

The phone features a 5.99-inch POLED display with QHD (2880 x 1440 pixels) resolution and is layered with Gorilla Glass 5 for added protection. In addition, the display on the Nokia 9 PureView is HDR10 compliant which makes it one of the better phones to watch content.

Nokia 9 is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset with an octa-core CPU, coupled with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The phone runs on Android 9.0 Pie and is part of Google's Android One program. 

The five cameras on the phone consist of 12MP snappers optimized by Carl Zeiss. Two of those sensors are RGB while the other three are monochrome which works simultaneously to capture a frame. Additionally, there's a Time of Flight (ToF) camera as well which assists in depth sensing. On the front lies a 20MP camera for selfies.

The fingerprint sensor is embedded into the display itself and there is a 3,320mAh battery to boot which supports both 18W fast charging and 10W fast wireless charging.

Categories: Tech News

Apex Legends launches its first season, introduces new character Octane

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 21:38

After reaching an astonishing 50 million players in less than a month, Apex Legends has now officially launched its first season, dubbed Wild Frontier. 

Players on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC are now able to purchase the Wild Frontier Battle Pass for 950 Apex Coins, entitling them to a new character in Octane (available separately for 750 Apex Coins or 12,000 Legends Tokens) and the ability to earn 100 new items, such as Legend Skins, Apex Coins and a new legendary Havoc skin.

As a reference, Apex Coins start at $9.99 (around £7.50 / AU$14.15) in real world money for a pack of 1,000.

Octane is a colorful character who possesses robot legs, incredible speed, self-healing abilities and a Launch Pad Ultimate Ability which other team members can also take advantage of. 

You can find out more about Octane's play style and special abilities in the character trailer below.

Along with this speedy new Legend, the Wild Frontier Battle Pass also offers the ability to earn 100 new items, such as Legend Skins, Apex Coins and a new legendary Havoc skin. 

Players who want to get a head start can immediately unlock the first 25 levels (out of 100 available in Season 1) by purchasing the Battle Pass Bundle, which costs 2,800 Apex Coins.

Check out the trailer for Apex Legends' Season 1 Battle Pass below.

Categories: Tech News

Why Google Stadia could have the PS5 and Xbox Two running scared

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 20:01

Google has introduced Stadia, its streaming game platform that will let you play graphics-intensive mainstream games from within a Chrome browser window using a basic internet connection, no hardcore hardware needed. These are big claims, but if Google can pull it off, Stadia could change the gaming landscape. 

Here’s why it might take a chomp out of the marketshare from the upcoming PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two.

First up: we know very little about either next-generation console... not even their release dates. Some rumors have suggested a PS5 could be coming some time in 2019, others say we won’t get it ‘til 2021. Yet more rumors about the Xbox Two consoles (plural!) have them coming possibly in 2019 but likely 2020, though news has been thinner about Microsoft’s consoles.

In other words, they’re coming so soon that it’s doubtful that either Sony or Microsoft could make dramatic changes to their consoles in response to Stadia before their release – the trains have left the station. But it’s unlikely that they’ll come out before Google’s platform launches, which the company officially announced would be some time in 2019.

Let’s start with the stakes. Google Stadia runs entirely off of company servers – players simply have to open up a Chrome browser window, load up the service, pass a connection test (Google requires a streaming rate of 15Mbps, latency below 40ms, and data loss below 5%), and they can play anything in Stadia’s catalogue. So far as we know, there aren’t any other requirements.

On stage, Google demonstrated playing the graphics-intensive game Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey through Stadia on low-specced computers and a Pixel tablet. Hardware doesn’t seem to be holding the platform back, and Google claims it will work on a wide array of desktops, laptops and devices – as well as use a plethora of existing controllers, keyboards and peripherals.

Google’s service was effectively demoed as Project Stream, which wrapped up in January after a public beta had players streaming Assassin’s Creed on everyday machines. Assuming all the broad components of Stadia work as advertised, the PS5 and Xbox Two consoles may have serious competition when they launch – and might even look a bit old-fashioned. 

Image credit: Google

Leaving the console behind

“The future of gaming is not a box,” as Stadia’s official page boldly proclaims. This is a very clear shot across the bow of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, which have dictated progression through generational consoles. 

Instead, Stadia will operate on Google servers packed with custom GPUs built in partnership with AMD that aim to deliver 10.7 teraflops of power (compare that to the 4.2 teraflops of the mid-generation PS4 Pro or 6 of the Xbox One X). Players with a basic internet connection will be able to play on what will, presumably, be a very wide range of devices, many of which players already own. All they have to do is run Chrome.

In short, Google is handling the march of progress for game tech – all you have to do is sign up for Stadia. Sure, we don’t know how much it’ll cost (are there sign-up fees? Subscription dues? Price per game?), but it would have to be a seriously expensive service to out-price a next-generation console. Again, we don’t know how much the PS5 or either of the rumored Xbox Two consoles will cost, but seeing as the Xbox One was priced at US$499/£429/AU$599 at launch back in 2013, we’re assuming the next ones will be pricier. 

Tack on extra peripherals and/or services like the $10-per-month Xbox Game Pass and console gaming could face a lot of competition so long as Stadia is priced right. 

Streaming possibilities

Image credit: Google

Google is audaciously claiming that players will get a norm of 4K resolution at 60fps on Stadia, which will eventually climb to 8K and over 120fps. Doom Eternal will be one of the first games on the service, and id CEO Marty Stratton said on Google’s stage that the Stadia version of the game will support 4K/HDR/60fps. How?

Because Google, really. The company runs the servers where games are rendered, eliminating intermediate steps, which means the only thing that changes from player to player is latency. The experience is standardized.

Which means... well, a lot of things. Google can integrate a lot of its services directly into the experience, which we saw demonstrated at the Stadia announcement. Stuck in-game? Ask Google Assistant for help. Watching a streamer play a game on YouTube? Join that game with a button press. Friend stuck? Join their game by clicking a link. This is streamlined even further by the proprietary controller, which has buttons dedicated to each of these perks. 

There’s a lot of integration and optimization that consoles won’t have. Their big advantage, of course, is local processing, which is a feather in their cap to appeal to players in areas without robust internet. But given the intermediate steps Stadia eliminates, this may not be as much an obstacle as we’d expect. We’ll have to see how much connectivity players need to make the most out of Stadia.

It’s not like console makers have ignored streaming game platforms, obviously: one rumor has the first Xbox Two console, codenamed Lockhart, as a cheaper disc-less console that streams games from the cloud. It’s Google’s infrastructure advantages that might make the difference in this fight.

Image credit: Google

Co-op so easy, it should be required

“Stadia will, of course, embrace full cross-platform play,” said Google’s Phil Harrison during the platform’s announcement. The prospect of cross-play has been so contentious that only enormously successful games like Fortnite have had the clout to more or less force cross-platform play.

But it’s not just playing with your friends – Stadia enables developers to let players bring over their game saves and progression. This is a bigger deal than just storing your progress on one company or platform’s cloud: it’s obnoxious to have made a lot of progress in the PC version of a game and buy it again elsewhere (like, say, the Nintendo Switch), only to have to start all over. 

The death of couch co-op is another popular lament, and some developers have stated that performance suffers with local co-op in today’s high-performing games. Of course, when you have hundreds of server-side GPUs rendering your game, this is a thing of the past, and those developing exclusively for Stadia should expect zero performance dips during couch co-op. How does local console processing compete with that?

Image credit: Google

Developers, start your engines

On stage, Google showed off a cool trick for Stadia: using machine learning, the platform lets developers feed an image into a game engine, which applies a matching art style to the visual landscape of whatever game the developer is building. That’s cool, and shows off artistic applications of Stadia’s (and Google’s) processing muscle. 

It’s unclear how many more toys Google will provide developers to incentivize them to build on its streaming platform, but one thing we can predict: developers won’t have to fret over a lot of the downsides of digital gaming, like downloading patches or players with different versions of games. Just update on the server, and everyone plays the same edition. It’s hard to imagine next-gen consoles achieving that kind of game version parity.

There’s another advantage developers have for working on Stadia, and it involves State Play, a feature that lets anyone click a link to immediately load up an instance of a game with a particular world, player-character and item state. “Can you get yourself out of this sticky situation?” the on-stage demo suggested.

But think about what else a developer, especially smaller ones, might do with that feature. Players can send dev teams their favorite moments, and the dev teams can rebroadcast those moments on social media. Sure, players can use ‘share’ buttons on PS4 and Xbox One to broadcast screenshots and clips, but who knows if next-gen consoles will have pathways letting players and developers jump into each others’ game-states by something as easy as clicking a hyperlink?

Image credit: Google

Players playing... anywhere

This might be the cheapest shot, but it bears mentioning: if you can play some of the latest games on a cheap tablet anywhere, why would you buy an expensive console that’s stuck in your home? 

Google is claiming a lot with Stadia, but the platform could change how and where we play. The Nintendo Switch has cruised to record sales on its hybrid portable-home form factor. Imagine that same portability, but at a cheaper cost and not bound to a single system. 

Play on your tablet while out and about and then on a bigger screen when you get home. Heck, you can even play on a huge screen linked to a Chromecast. And if you lose your device? Don't worry – just pick up the game on another. All you need is something that runs Chrome and a decent internet connection.

This might not be a death sentence for Xbox Two and PS5; one TechRadar editor pointed out that Fortnite has attracted plenty of younger players on their phones, and some have likely invested in more established gaming as a result. 

The question is whether Stadia can achieve the same experiences as the Xbox Two and PS5, or if the latter will have their own must-have features or interoperability. Who knows? Not us. We’re still in the dark about the next generation of consoles. But if they can’t justify their high cost against Google’s colossal network advantages, this could be one of (if not the) last console generations.

Categories: Tech News

First Look: Stadia Controller

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 18:09

At Google’s opening keynote at this year’s Game Developers Conference, CEO Sundar Pichai unveiled the future of game-streaming: Stadia

The correct plural pronunciation of the word ‘stadium’, Stadia will offer gamers an arena to watch and participate, game and stream their games to the wider world. It’s ambitious and, despite some huge unknown factors like cost, game library and recommended specs, potentially game-changing. 

Part and parcel of Stadia is the new Stadia Controller – a Wi-Fi-enabled gamepad created by Google’s hardware team that will help you get the most from the streaming service when it launches later this year. 

Now, you don’t need the controller to use the streaming service: Stadia can be played with any controller you already own, including your keyboard and mouse if you’re playing on a laptop and PC. But this first-party controller unlocks the next-level functions Google is building into its streaming service, like Google Assistant, that offers in-game help on-demand and its share button that will trigger Google to start a second stream of your game live on YouTube Gaming.

Inside the halls at the Game Developers Conference we got the chance to check out the controller for ourselves and while we weren’t allowed to put it to the test for ourselves, we could get up close and personal with the bridge between you and Google’s hyper-powered streaming service.

Design

Whatever it says to the contrary, Google is a relative newcomer to the AAA gaming space. Sure, it single-handedly created the gaming-enabled Android TV, the operating system of both microconsoles like the Nvidia Shield and stellar Sony TVs like the Sony X900F, but it’s not the first name that comes to mind when you think of mainstream gaming manufacturers like Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. 

That said, it’s no wonder Google has sought inspiration from 'the Big Three' in terms of its controller the design – the Stadia Controller is exactly what you’d get if you mashed the Xbox One gamepad with Sony’s DualShock 4

Image Credit: TechRadar

The result is a flatter gamepad that doesn’t have the sharp contours of the DualShock 4 or the indents of the Xbox One. Instead, it has this almost space-age look to it that some will love for its simplicity and others will decry as uncomfortable, awkward-looking and cheap. 

Where gamers will find some crossover between this new pad and the controllers they’ve come to know and love is with the Xbox-style face buttons (A,B,X,Y) and in-line control sticks that mirror both the alignment and the concavity of the sticks on the DualShock 4. There’s a D-pad in the top-left corner that looks like it could be either fantastically responsive or awfully mushy depending on the resistance. (Though, the same could be said for literally every button on the controller including the left and right triggers and bumpers located on the back of the controller.)

Pockmarking the face of the controller where you’d expect to find the Start and Select buttons are four new buttons in addition to the home button located in between the joysticks that we’ll cover in the next section. 

Last but not least, while Google has mostly shown images and video of a white controller, we were also able to track down a black version that was in a case outside the show floor. 

Image Credit: TechRadar

Performance

So what will it be like to use the controller to play games like Doom Eternal or Assassin’s Creed Odyssey? At this point no one really knows – Google included. That’s because the controller has not actually cleared the FCC certification process yet and could, theoretically, change how it works before it comes out later this year.

That said, while we can’t give you the final verdict on performance right here right now, we do know that the wireless Stadia Controller will have a slight edge on the Xbox One in terms of latency, as Google built it to work over Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth. Connecting directly to your router could cut out crucial milliseconds of delay and save you lives in platformers and frustration in the real world. 

That said, although the controller looks like it’s meant to be used wirelessly, there is a USB-C port on the back that will be used for charging. Every Google rep we spoke to couldn’t comment on battery length (again, FCC clearance is key here) but told us that information will be made available publicly before the Stadia launch.

What about all the new buttons on the front of the controller? 

Google Assistant (the three bubbles) is relatively self-explanatory – it’s your direct access to Google’s virtual assistant. During its opening keynote at GDC, Google told the audience that the Google Assistant could potentially offer tons of in-game functionality like walkthroughs, guides or another feature set specifically by the developer, but didn’t say whether we’d be able to use it for everyday tasks like turning off the lights or setting reminders. 

The other even-more-nebulous feature that you'll find on the Stadia Controller is the YouTube button that connects you straight to the streaming service. 

In its keynote, Google said that pressing the button will cause the service to create a second identical stream that will be posted live to YouTube Gaming that will act as a record of all your adventures in-game. When we asked reps to elaborate on that, however, most said that we'd have to wait for more information. For now we can assume that the controller and the service itself will have a close tie to YouTube Gaming and while we're not 100% clear on what form that will take, it seems like the Controller is the device that will be crucial to closing the gap.

Final thoughts

The old adage about not judging a book by its cover seems to apply nicely here: Until we know what it's like to hold and to use for an extended period of time, it's impossible to pass judgment on the Stadia Controller. 

That probably won't stop everyone else from doing it, however.To that end, expect to see a lot of polarizing opinions out there on the internet. Some will love it for its integration of Google Assistant and direct access to YouTube. Others will likely label its flat, space-age design as out-of-touch and awkward. 

But hey, if anyone can take a good hardware design and re-purpose it, it's Google.

Categories: Tech News

Best FreeSync monitors for G-Sync: get the Nvidia G-Sync display for less

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 17:54

Nvidia launched G-Sync five years ago, promising the end of screen tearing and visual artifacts. And, while the technology has certainly had its fair share of controversy, it’s become one of the best monitor technologies. Recently at CES 2019, Nvidia decided to port its G-Sync technology to FreeSync monitors designed to work with AMD graphics cards. 

After testing 400 FreeSync monitors, Nvidia recently announced that 15 of them were worthy of G-Sync, opening the tech up to more affordable displays. But, how do you find the best FreeSync monitor for G-Sync?

So, when you go out to pick up the best FreeSync monitor for G-Sync, there are just a couple of things you need to take into consideration. First, is obviously going to be a high refresh rate. Because G-Sync will automatically change the monitor’s refresh rate to match your framerate in-game, shoot for the highest refresh rate you can get. 144Hz should be perfect for most people. 

Then, of course, you’re going to want to find a monitor with fast response time. If you’re big into esports, finding the fastest monitor is literally game-changing, so 1ms should be the goal. However, if you’re more into laid-back adventures, like Astroneer, this is not as big of a deal.

This is a lot to take in, but we here at TechRadar have your back. We’ve picked out the five best FreeSync monitors for G-Sync, so you can spend less time shopping and more time gaming. 

Image Credit: Asus

TN panels make for great gaming monitors, even if they aren’t the most beautiful things in the world. They’re fast, affordable, and they’re color accurate enough for games, without going to the extremes needed for professional work. That’s why when we heard that the Asus MG278Q was one of the FreeSync monitors approved for G-Sync, we were appropriately excited. This monitor checks all the right boxes for an esports monitor, without driving the price through the roof. 

Read the full review: Asus MG278Q

Image Credit: AOC

The AOC Agon AG322QC4 isn’t the fastest gaming monitor out there (look at the entry above this one for speed), but it might be one of the prettiest. One of the prettiest that doesn’t cost a fortune at least. Not only is this a FreeSync monitor that now supports G-Sync, but it also supports HDR 400, so games that support it will look especially vibrant, on top of being tear-free. We wouldn’t recommend it to esports players, but everyone else should keep their eyes on this one. 

Read the full review: AOC Agon AG322QC4

Image Credit: Asus

Let’s say you’re practicing to become the next big CS:GO or Overwatch world champ, but you just don’t feel like your monitor can keep up. You could go for some 144Hz panel, but why not go all the way? Why not go for a 240Hz 1080p panel, especially one packed with RGB lighting and a slick 1ms response time? We’ll that’s what you’re getting with the Asus ROG Strix XG258Q, and while that price tag seems high, it’s worth it for buttery-smooth frame rates.

Image Credit: Acer

We know we’re not the only ones that love tech that looks as good as it performs, and the Acer XG270HU definitely fits the bill. This beautiful red monitor is packing a 27-inch TN panel with a 144Hz refresh rate and 1ms response times. This is one of the best FreeSync monitors for G-Sync, and it’s got the style to back it up – even if we wouldn’t exactly call it the ‘gamer aesthetic.' 

Image Credit: BenQ

BenQ’s Zowie monitors are beloved for their esports cred these days, so when the BenQ Zowie XL2740 showed up on Nvidia’s list of FreeSync monitors for G-Sync, we were excited. This pro gaming monitor features a 240Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time and decent color accuracy for a TN panel.  These specs, combined with an attachable screen shield make for a gaming monitor that esports players will want to take to every tournament. 

  • Find the best Nvidia GeForce graphics card to go with these G-Sync displays
Categories: Tech News

Mirai botnet returns to target IoT devices

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 14:59

A new variant of the Mirai malware targeting IoT devices has been discovered in the wild by security researchers from Palo Alto Networks.

The researchers first discovered this new strain earlier this year and now it is being used in a new IoT botnet targeting smart signage TVs and wireless presentation systems.

The authors of the botnet have spent a great deal of time upgrading older versions of the Mirai malware with new exploits and according to Palo Alto Networks, this new Mirai botnet uses 27 exploits with 11 that are completely new to Mirai altogether.

Mirai's built-in list of default credentials has also been expanded by the botnet operator to allow the malware to more easily gain access to devices that use default passwords. In total, four new username and password combinations have been added according to a new report from Palo Alto Network's Unit 42.

IoT devices

This new Mirai botnet is intended to infect IoT devices with exposed Telnet ports through the use of default credentials which many hardware makers continue to leave unchanged despite the security risks they pose.

While previous botnets using the Mirai malware have targeted routers, modems, security cameras and DVRs, the latest one is intentionally targeting smart signage TVs and wireless presentation systems, specifically LG's Supersign TVs and the WePresent WiPG-1000 wireless presentation system.

Both of these exploits have been available online for some time but this is the first instance researchers have seen of them being weaponized.

To avoid having your devices fall victim to the Mirai botnet, it is recommended that you only use devices from trusted manufacturers and immediately change the default passwords on those devices.

Via ZDNet

Categories: Tech News

Stadia: everything you need to know about Google's game-streaming service

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 14:38

Imagine a world where you don't need expensive gaming hardware to play the next big release – a world where all you have to do is open the Chrome browser, pick out a game you want to play and instantly have it start without any need for a lengthy download or surprisingly large patch. 

That’s the idea of Google’s cloud gaming service, Stadia. From Chrome tab to 4K, 60fps game, in five seconds. No installation. Google promises that Google Stadia's cloud computing power is the equivalent of a console running at 10.7 GPU terraflops, that's more than the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X combined.  If Google delivers on this promise, then it could be a game-changer.

Rather than needing high-end hardware, Stadia (which was prototyped under the Project Stream moniker) allows you to use whatever computer you have around to play videogames. Google handles all the heavy lifting on its own servers, which can process the latest version of the game at high resolutions and frame rates, encode it into a stream, and deliver the stream to you over the internet.

At launch Google promises Stadia will support desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones - without the need for a hardware box, instead running on Google's own data center. 

We got our first taste of the service during an extended beta that ran back in 2018, and now it's been fully revealed at GDC 2019

There's still much to learn as Google's Stadia rolls out, but based on what we played last year, the renamed Project Stream serves as an impressive showcase of what the future of cloud gaming could look like.

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? Google's big gaming play – a 'Netflix for gaming' streaming service that's a true console competitor, one to rival (and potentially lead) the next generation.
  • When is it launching? At some point in 2019, with launch territories including the USA, Canada and UK.
  • How much will it cost? That remains to be seen – it's not yet certain if you'll need to pay for individual games, or pay for a subscription pass, or a combination of both.

How Google Stadia works

As long as you’re connected to the internet with a fast and stable connection and you’re using a recent desktop version of the Chrome browser, you’ve got the setup needed to use Stadia. 

Playing a videogame on Stadia is as simple as opening a new tab in Chrome and going to the service's Stadia.com homepage, or even jumping from a YouTube video link about the game.

Google will prompt you to run a connection test that checks your internet bandwidth, the latency between your computer and the servers, and any data loss. Google requires a streaming rate of 15Mbps, latency below 40ms, and data loss below 5%. With these requirements met, you’ll be ready to dive into a game.

The beta of Project Stream offered Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which is nothing short of a demanding title. When you launched the game in your Chrome tab, it would go fullscreen, and run exactly as if it has been launched on a proper gaming computer (except without a deep graphics settings menu). You can play with a keyboard and mouse or connect a game controller and play that way.

All of your inputs on the computer get sent over to Google’s servers, processed in the game, and everything happening gets streamed right back to you. This is why that latency is so important, because you can’t have a good game experience if everything you do in the game shows up a second later.

The limits of Stadia are still being detailed, but Google has stated that Stadia will eventually be able to scale up to 8K / 120+fps frame rates, with 4K/ 60 fps play as the norm. That's way above the standard bar for quality PC gaming. 

All of your inputs on the computer get sent over to Google’s servers, processed in the game, and everything happening gets streamed right back to you.

So, in effect, you’re opening a new tab that pipes all your inputs to a high-end gaming PC that streams back the visuals and audio to your computer screen. This system is simpler than some others, which set you up with a virtual desktop that then remotely runs Steam, Origin, Battle.net, or what have you.

In the case of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey on Stadia, you are still required to log into a Ubisoft account to play, but beta testers aren’t required to own the game.

Stadia will also work with Google Chromecast – you'll be able to stream its games straight to any TV using Google's streaming dongle, not to mention phones and computers. 

You'll be able to use keyboard and mouse or a gamepad to play Stadia, and Google's Stadia gamepad, a brand new piece of hardware, seems particularly smart. First off, the issue of latency – the gamepad itself connects directly to Google's cloud, which take a few of the steps out the data transfer chain, reducing the lag between your inputs being registered by the game. It also has a dedicated Google Assistant button, which Google claims will be loaded up with information on the title you're playing, offering tips when needed, or allowing you to access special in-game features from developers. 

In addition, it'll support cross-platform multiplayer – so long as the other major game players want to take part, of course.

It’s unclear at this point whether Google will require players to buy games and pay for the streaming service in separate transactions, or whether access to select games will be bundled into the service.

What games will be available on Stadia?

Through the Project Stream beta, the only available game was Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. While this didn’t give us much idea of what games Google will offer in the future, it did give us a good idea of what games Google's Stadia could be capable of offering. 

For a 1080p 30fps game experience at High settings in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Ubisoft recommends a system with the following specs:

  • OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
  • Processor: AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0 GHz, Ryzen 5 - 1400, Intel Core i7-3770 @ 3.5 GHz
  • Video: AMD Radeon R9 290 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 (4GB VRAM or more with Shader Model 5.0) or better
  • Memory: 8GB RAM
  • Video Preset: High
  • Storage: 46GB available hard drive space
  • DirectX: DirectX June 2010 Redistributable
  • Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card with latest drivers

For 4K at 30fps and high settings, the recommended specs bump up to include 16GB of RAM, a more powerful AMD Ryzen 1700X or Intel Core i7 7700 processor, and a beefier AMD Vega 64 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card. With Stadia streaming in video, this limitation could be eradicated, bringing AAA gaming to even entry level laptops.

In addition, id Software confirmed Doom Eternal is coming to the Stadia - with the team only taking a few weeks to transfer the title onto Google's cloud streaming service. id Software's Marty Stratton revealed Doom Eternal is capable of running at 4K 60fps at native HDR on Stadia.

If the service can handle Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at 1080p 60fps and Doom Eternal at 4K/60fps, Stadia is going to be capable of playing a whole lot of games at these settings. Other major titles could easily see support on the service.

Games with a major online focus may have dicier prospects on Stadia. Since competitive online games are often fast-paced and require split-second reaction times, the extra latency introduced by streaming will likely be an issue for serious competitors. But Stadia looks better placed to beat this issue than other similar services, with infrastructure that no-one else has in terms of fibre optic cabling, and a Wi-Fi controller that connects directly to Google's cloud. That could mean online multiplayer titles such as Fortnite supporting thousands of players rather than just hundreds. 

A recent Chromium update also added support for Nintendo Switch controllers to Google's browser, so it looks like we could be getting more than just streams of PC releases.

Google also announced the launch of Stadia Games and Entertainment. This will be a new arm at Google, with the sole aim of designing games exclusively for Google's game streaming platform.

Google Stadia will also allow for developers to implement split-stream local couch co-op easier, through Stream Connect. This should allow players to not only view but interact in each other's worlds. 

But, perhaps the biggest development for content creators and their viewers, is Crowd Play which will allow viewers to play games with their favorite streamers by simply clicking a button. 

The big focus here is on designing a system that's both easy to play and easy to show off to your friends. To that end, Stadia will send both a 4K signal to both your device and to YouTube simultaneously, allowing you to record what you're doing.

The last feature Google showed off was called State Share - i.e. the ability for you to share any spot in your adventure with anyone via a Google link. One use case would be that State Share would allow you to record your spot in a tough boss fight and challenge your friends to beat it.

If you're stuck, either in your game or your friend's, Google Assistant integration will allow you to access guides and walkthroughs on-demand.

What was Project Stream like to use?

At its best, Project Stream was good. At its worst, well, Google won’t let you play below a certain threshold of quality, and you wouldn’t want to anyway.

We tested Project Stream on varying setups. We played on an unstable 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection, a fast and nearby 5GHz Wi-Fi connection, and on an ethernet connection held steady and offered high bandwidth. Keep in mind this was without the dedicated hardware Google has now introduced.

The highly dated Chromebook hardware didn’t hold it back from playing.

We also played on a 5-year-old Chromebook, a 2-year-old Razer Blade, and a modern desktop gaming rig that would be happy to run Assassin’s Creed Odyssey at 1080p/60FPS on its own hardware. We even started one computer up while another was running the stream, and Google simply transferred control over to the second computer, with no stop in the stream.

Across the board, we’d describe the experience as at least playable. The highly dated Chromebook hardware didn’t hold it back from playing. The biggest issues come from a bad connection: if the connection speed drops, so does the game quality, with lower resolutions, latency, and far more noticeable compression. 

That said, in our experience, the visual degradation came before the latency, so we were able to continue battling enemies smoothly even if they started to look like ghostly swarms of pixels.

Overall, the graphics were fairly good throughout, especially when playing on a high-bandwidth connection using ethernet cables. Colors, shadows, and anti-aliasing look fine, and the frame-rate seems to vary between 30 and 60fps.

The low frame-rate was one of the two issues we noticed. The other was compression. Most of the time, it’s not super jarring, but when there’s a lot of detail in a scene and a lot of movement, the compression turns it all into a bit of slop. Character faces become a blur and hard edges (noticeably the character’s hair) go soft. Will Stadia have fixed these issues by launch?

It would seem to be a sign of the lower bitrate enabling this type of streaming, but the truth is that most of the time it’s unnoticeable, and would be even harder to spot if you weren’t looking for it (we were looking for it). Panning the camera and running through dense wooded areas in the game (and combining the two) were the only times we were turned off by the dips in visual quality.

The experience isn’t mind-blowing, at least until you remember that it’s using so little of your computers processing power that you’ve literally got a full-system virus scan going in the background and nothing changed. The visuals are comparable to what you’d get on a console, except with compression artifacts here and there. And, with a stable connection, it compares rather favorably to in-home streaming on a Steam Link.

While the price and service model Google adopts will go a long way in determining whether Stadia is worthwhile, we can say right now that its prototype works, and it looks good doing it. But, will Microsoft’s xCloud do it better?

  • Looking for a fully baked game streaming service? PlayStation Now is available now
Categories: Tech News

Check out the latest ROG innovation at PAX EAST 2019

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 14:11

TechRadar editors spend their days reviewing the best and the worst tech products on the market, so they usually know which ones consumers will actually like. But while you can trust their judgment on which companies make the most reliable laptops or phones, sometimes it’s safer to try them out for yourself first before buying anything. 

And PAX East, where the top tech companies gather to show off and sell their newest and best gaming laptops and PCs, is a great place to do just that.

If you have a ticket to PAX East 2019 anytime from March 28 through 31, we highly recommend you check out Booth #16001, where Republic of Gamers will be showing off its latest innovative gaming tech and deals!! You’ll see with your own eyes why TechRadar editors so frequently give ROG products positive reviews.

If you’re attending make sure to check out the ROG Mothership (GZ700) made to redefine how you play! Mothership is a desktop replacement that packs a portable Windows 10 Pro powerhouse with an innovative standing design that enhances cooling for its factory overclocked GeForce RTX™ 2080 GPU and 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i9 CPU. It’s state of the art detachable keyboard and smooth visuals on its NVIDIA G-SYNC™ display with a 144Hz refresh rate and 3ms response time makes it a truly revolutionary gaming machine! We won’t be surprised if the future of gaming looks more like this from ROG!  

If you need your gaming laptop fix now, try the ROG Zephyrus S GX701—TechRadar’s “Best in Class” for all gaming laptops—next. It’s the thinnest laptop with a 17-inch surface on the market, and those 17.3 inches of 1080p display comes with a 144Hz refresh rate, NVIDIA G-Sync to reduce tearing and lag, and a Pantone Validated 100% sRGB color gamut. 

That total color range will come in handy for content creators who want their laptop to work for more than just gaming. ROG designed the GX701 to switch between the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU and integrated Intel UHD 630 GPU, depending on whether you need high-quality gaming or longer battery life when you’re not plugged in during meetings.

Over 40 gaming laptops use GeForce RTX 20 series graphics—they’re an industry favorite—so why pick the GX701? Because the GX701 lets you clock your 2080 Max-Q up to 1330 MHz at 100W, an incredible amount of power for such a slim machine. Enough power to hit between 70 and 160 FPS during TechRadar’s benchmark tests of the machine.

Republic of Gamers will also show off the ROG Strix Scar II GL704 at PAX. The 15- or 17-inch laptop also comes with an Intel Core i7, and actually beats the above models with a 144Hz refresh rate. With up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 GPU, you’ll have the juice to run your favorite FPS on high settings without dropping any frames.

Of course, if you’re the kind of gamer that doesn’t trust a gaming rig to perform unless you’ve built it yourself. On TechRadar’s Best 2019 Motherboards list, you’ll find three separate ROG motherboards for both Intel and AMD. 

Beyond those, you’ll find the trailblazing ROG Ryujin cooler, one of the first all-in-one CPU coolers to place a fan directly above the liquid pump to keep the VRM running cold; or the ROG Thor PSU, the perfect power source if you plan on overclocking your rig or integrating multiple GPU cards.

ROG will also bring back the ROG Gaming Phone for PAX EAST! It’s a great option for gamers who think that mobile games are anything but “casual”, with a 90Hz AMOLED screen, Touch-sensitive AirTriggers for pinpoint controls, and recording and streaming options for your Twitch and YouTube subscribers. The ROG Phone will be one of the larger deals at PAX EAST, buy it there for $1099 and get a free Gamevice controller and a free ROG Phone case!

If that all sounds a bit too hardcore for you, they’ll also have discounts on ROG gaming mice, mousepads and headsets, along with other gaming peripherals and exclusive apparel. 

Whatever you’re looking for, if you came to PAX to see the future of gaming technology, the #16001 ROG Booth is a great place to start.

Categories: Tech News

EU government websites littered with Google ad trackers

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 13:43

Adtech trackers from Google and other firms were found on all but three government websites belonging to EU member states raising privacy concerns as citizens were tracked without their knowledge.

Following an analysis of 184,683 EU government web pages, Cookiebot has released a new report revealing that 112 companies have been tracking EU citizens' browsing habits when visiting such sites.

Adtech trackers were discovered on 25 of the 28 member states' sites with only those belonging to Spain, Germany and the Netherlands found to be free of commercial cookies.

According to Cookiebot's analysis, 52 companies were identified on France's government sites, 27 on Latvia's and 19 on Belgium's. However, twenty cookies were discovered on the UK government's website, GOV.UK, with 12 related to marketing and all the cookies belonging to Google.

Ad trackers

The firm's report describes the US search giant as the “kingpin of tracking” and the company's trackers were found on 82 percent of all the sites scanned. YouTube, DoubleClick and Google accounted for three of the top five trackers according to Cookiebot.

This was particularly concerning to the report's authors who pointed out the fact that Google can cross-reference trackers by using account details from its own services such as Gmail, Google Search and Android apps.

Cookiebot's analysis also examined public health service sites to discover that cookies were widespread with 52 percent of the sites tested found to contain commercial trackers.

The firm's founder Daniel Johannsen explained why finding ad trackers on government websites is such a big deal, saying:

"How can any organisation live up to its [European General Data Protection Regulation] GDPR and ePrivacy obligations if it does not control unauthorised tracking actors accessing their website? Public sector bodies now have the opportunity to lead by example – at a minimum by shutting down any digital rights infringements that they are facilitating on their own websites."

Via The Register

  • Also check out the best VPN to avoid unwanted tracking online
Categories: Tech News

Get up to £140 in pre-paid Mastercards with BT's fibre broadband deals

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 13:33

In the ever-changing landscape that is BT Broadband deals, we are yet again greeted with a brand new free incentive making the popular ISP's fibre broadband deals just that bit more tempting - this time in the form of massive cashback in reward cards.

While this offer can't quite touch BT's impressive free gifts from last week, there's no doubt that this is still one of the best broadband deals available right now. Putting all of the attention onto BT's reward cards, these offers focus fully on getting you the effective cheapest price on BT.

Whether you're looking to save around £5.50 a month on BT's Superfast fibre package or go all out and save almost £8 p/m on BT's bigger Superfast fibre 2 package - you can see these offers in full down below. Or if this still feels too expensive, even after the reward cards then check out our cheap broadband deals guide.

BT's fibre broadband deals What is a BT Reward Card?

The Reward Card that BT sends out is a pre-paid credit card that you can use anywhere that accepts Mastercard. In short, that's around a million shops, cafes and restaurants around the world, so you shouldn't find it difficult to find places to spend, spend, spend.

It's an old-fashioned chip and pin card, rather than contactless. But do make sure that you claim your Reward Card within three months of installation, otherwise you'll lose out on all that cash.

Today's best broadband deals
Categories: Tech News

Zenit unveils 50mm f/0.95 lens

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 13:25

Super-wide-aperture lenses usually arrive with a painful price tag, particularly when they’re designed for full-frame cameras. And yet, Zenit has just confirmed a 50mm f/0.95 optic that arrives with a three-figure asking price.

The Zenitar 0.95 | 50 is being launched in Russia with a 50,000 ruble price tag, which works out at about $780 /£590 /AU$1,100, although there's no word yet on when it'll become available in other markets. If you’re thinking that price sounds too good to be true, you’re right (kind of). 

The lens is manual focus only, and doesn’t communicate with the body on which its mounted at all. It's also only available for Sony's E-series cameras, such as the A7 III pictured above. 

On top of that, it sports an all-metal barrel, which is great from the perspective of solidity, but it makes an already heavy lens even heavier at 1.1kg.

Built around nine elements across eight groups, the lens is encircled by an aperture ring that runs from f/0.95 through to f/16. A manual focus ring lies behind this, while depth-of-field markings in both feet and meters are also engraved.

Other features include an impressive 14-blade diaphragm, which bodes well for smooth and rounded bokeh. Markings that indicate a 72mm diameter are also visible, although it's not clear whether the lens can accept standard, screw-mounted filters.

The lens, which was first unveiled three years ago without confirmation of pricing or availability, arrives ahead of Nikon’s manual-focus Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S lens, the development of which was announced at the same time as the company’s Z6 and Z7 cameras. Exact pricing and availability for Nikon’s lens is still to be confirmed, although the company has stated that it will arrive later this year.

Categories: Tech News

Google Stadia is the future of game-streaming

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 13:16

Google has just lifted the curtain on a new game-streaming service called Stadia at the Game Developers Conference that's being held in San Francisco this week. 

Unlike services already on the market, Google's game-streaming service will work on any screen including desktops, laptops, TVs, phones and tablets. 

There's also going to be a heavy emphasis on integrating streaming services like Twitch to create a single unified gaming experience.

What do you need to get started? If you're playing on PC, all you'll need is an internet connection to achieve a 60fps/1080p experience. For those playing on Chromecast Ultra or on mobile devices, Google unveiled the new Stadia Controller that will join the Google hardware family.

Of course, this won't just be a clone of the hardware already out there - the Stadia will include a capture button, a button for YouTube, Google Assistant and a built-in microphone for "special in-game features from devs".  

Breaking...

Categories: Tech News

Best budget smartphone 2019: our top cheap mobiles

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 13:09

Welcome to our round up of the best budget smartphones available. We've painstakingly reviewed all the top budget smartphones around, to bring you our definitive ranking on the very best, so you can find the best cheap phone for you.

Update: There's another new entry into our best budget smartphones line up, with the Motorola One joining the party.

In the past, the term 'best cheap phones' was usually a warning rather than a tempting proposition, with shoddy build quality, sluggish performance, laughable screen resolution and woeful cameras typically featuring on such handsets.

But this isn't the past, this is the present, and the market abounds with top budget phones.

While the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S9, iPhone XS, Huawei P20 and OnePlus 6T steal headlines around the world, there's a lot of intriguing (and cheap) stuff going on in the world of budget smartphones. 

Here's our favourite cheap phones that cost under £200.

  • Not worried about the cost? Check out our best phone list

Image Credit: TechRadar

The Huawei P Smart 2019 is the best cheap phone you can buy right now.

It packs a usable camera, plenty of storage and great battery life as well as a screen and design that punch way above their weight.  

There is very little between the Huawei P Smart and the Honor 10 Lite, they're practically the same device, but the P Smart tops our list with its slightly sharper design.

Read our full review: Huawei P Smart (2019)

Image Credit: TechRadar

The Honor 10 Lite is a little unlucky to find itself second in our best budget smartphone round-up, as it can make a strong case for being first as it's almost identical to the P Smart (2019).

If you're a frequent Snapchatter or selfie addict the 24MP front-facing camera on the Honor 10 Lite is the one for you.

Read our full review: Honor 10 Lite

Image Credit: TechRadar

This is the best budget smartphone when it comes to battery, with the Moto G7 Power packing a mammoth 5,000mAh power pack.

It’s also awkwardly big, but for those who want two days (and sometimes more) from a single charge no other smartphone around can match the Moto G7 Power right now.  

Read our full review: Moto G7 Power

Image Credit: Motorola

The Moto G6 is no-longer the best budget smartphone, but it's still a great buy for those looking for value for money.

It may not feel or run like a flagship phone, but it’s not pretending to be one. The Moto G6 offers a lot of solid features, plus extras including some fun camera features, fast charging and it all adds up to make one of the best budget handsets on the market.

Motorola has been a class-leader at the budget end of the mobile for a few years, and the pure Android software and solid build of the Moto G6 ensures you get a top smartphone experience without having to break the bank.

Read our in-depth Moto G6 review

Huawei had an extremely strong 2018 with its flagship handsets making waves at the top end of the market, but it didn't forgotten about the savvy, price-conscious shoppers.

The Huawei P Smart is a smart choice if you're after an affordable handset with a big 18:9 display, premium design and rear fingerprint scanner

Its camera isn't quite as good as the Moto G6, which sees it slip in just below in our best budget smartphone ranking - but this is still a top cheap phone. 

Read our in-depth Huawei P Smart review

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You’re unlikely to find many more compelling phones than the Moto G7 Play at its rock-bottom price. It’s well constructed, slim, has zippy internals, the camera is good when you factor in all the shooting modes and it lasts a full day. 

The lack of NFC is a bit of a disappointment, but if that doesn’t phase you and you’re not put off by the clunky looking notch and practical design, go forth and pick one up, you won’t regret it.

Read our full review: Moto G7 Play

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The Honor 9 Lite is a bit of a steal. Not only do you get dual rear facing cameras, you also get dual front-facing cameras, along with a design that's taken from the flagship Honor 9.

There's also a fingerprint scanner, decently sized full HD display and the latest version of Android. Its cameras may not be the best in low light, but there's a lot of bang for your buck here.

Read our in-depth Honor 9 Lite review

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If you're after the best design and screen you can get for under £150, the Nokia 5.1 is best cheap phone you can buy. 

The rest of the specs are fine, it's not going to dazzle you with performance or camera quality, but it's how it feels and looks that make it stand out. 

Read the full review: Nokia 5.1

Image Credit: Motorola

The Moto E5 Plus offers up a big screen, long lasting battery and a low price tag, making it an excellent contender for the best budget smartphone on the market.

It just misses out on a top three spot thanks to its slightly weaker performance and lower resolution screen versus - but this is still a top budget buy.

Read the full review: Moto E5 Plus

Image Credit: Motorola

If the design of the iPhone X has caught your eye, but the price tag is way, way, way off your budget, then the Motorola One could be your ticket to stylish smartphone nirvana.

With an iPhone-like wide notch and relatively slender bezels all the way around, the Motorola One looks pricier than it is, and while that premium pretense may be lost a little when you pick it up, it's a great budget smartphone.

The stock Android interface keeps its fresh and fluid under finger, there's a decent amount of power under the hood and the dual-lens camera is a nice addition at this price point.

Read our in-depth Motorola One review

Categories: Tech News

UK government spending £1bn on cloud transition

Tue, 03/19/2019 - 12:53

Migrating to the cloud can be a costly process and new figures have revealed that the UK government is spending more than £1bn each year as it undergoes its own cloud transition.

According to industry experts, public sector bodies are set to spend as much as £1.3bn on cloud services before the fiscal year ends in April.

Government figures for the 2017/2018 year show that around £1.1bn was spent on cloud services including hosting, software and support which is more than double the £421m spent in 2014/2015.

The Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have spent the most on cloud technology as they aim to migrate more of their systems such as the Universal Credit platform to the cloud.

Cloud growth

US tech giants Google, Amazon and Microsoft have been spending heavily on improving and building out their own cloud services over the past few years.

AWS still controls the largest share of the cloud market though its dominance could be tested as other companies seek to expand their own offerings in the space.

A number of British businesses, such as the public sector cloud computing provider UKCloud, are also trying to establish a foothold in the growing cloud market.

The company recently confirmed that it had received a £25m investment from the Digital Alpha Advisors fund backed by Cisco. UK digital minister Margot James praised the investment saying it marked “another vote of confidence in our talented sector and will help us maintain our reputation as the leading destination in Europe for inward investment”.

Via The Telegraph

Categories: Tech News

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