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Spotify launches in India with exclusive features and premium monthly subscription at Rs 119

Latest Tech News - Wed, 02/27/2019 - 00:14

After a long wait, Spotify just went live in India. The Swedish company had been eyeing an entry into one of the largest music market of the world and late Tuesday night, consumers were able to download and use the Spotify app from Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

It was only yesterday that Spotify was at the receiving end of an injunction filed by Warner Music Group with the Bombay High Court. The case prevented Spotify to access Warner/Chappell Music catalog with the company going on record to say that it “remains the lone holdout needed for a Spotify launch in India”. While there’s no update on the case, eagle-eyed fans of the music streaming service were able to download the Spotify app.

Spotify has built-in some exclusive features for the Indian listeners which it detailed in a blog post. The app’s recommendation engine has been tuned to suggest music in multiple languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu. This is for Spotify’s auto-curated Daily Mix, Home and Radio playlists. In addition, there are new playlists specifically for the Indian audiences including Indiestan, Rap 91, Namaste Love, Punjabi101, and Bollywood Butter, to name a few. Users will also be able to check out tracks based on what’s trending in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangaluru and Chennai.

“As Spotify grows, our goal is to bring millions of artists and billions of fans together from every country and background. India has an incredibly rich music culture, and to best serve this market, we’re launching a custom-built experience. Not only will Spotify bring Indian artists to the world, we will also bring the world’s music to fans across India. We have been working towards this goal for quite some time, and I am thrilled with today’s launch,” says Daniel Ek, Spotify’s founder and CEO.

Spotify India Premium subscription prices and student offer

Indian users can listen to music on the Spotify app for free albeit with ads and streaming quality topping out at “high”. The Premium subscription bypasses these limitations and listeners can use the app ad-free, download music and set the streaming quality to “very high”.

Spotify offers a bunch of Premium subscription plans for users to choose from. The monthly plan starts from Rs 119 per month on a recurring basis. Alternatively, users can choose from a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and annual prepaid plan which are priced as:

  • Daily- Rs 13
  • Weekly- Rs 39
  • Monthly- Rs 129
  • 3 months- Rs 389
  • 6 months- Rs 719
  • 1 year- Rs 1,189

Spotify is also offering a Premium subscription to students at a special price. For students over the age of 18 enrolled at an accredited college or university, Spotify can be subscribed for Rs 59 per month for four years. The second plan is priced at Rs 66 and enables a single month of subscription. There’s a student verification process in place through SheerID which will corroborate the student’s status, following which they will be able to get over 50% discount for Spotify Premium. 

Categories: Tech News

Kayo Sports is now available to stream on Android TV devices

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 20:26

Previously limited to PCs, Apple TV, Telstra TV and Google Chromecast devices, Kayo Sports has announced that it can now be streamed on televisions and devices running on the Android TV platform.

Users will be able to stream events from over 50 sports both live and on demand via Google-powered TVs and devices such as the Nvidia Shield, Nexus Player, Mi Box and Amazon Fire TV, so long as they're running Android TV OS 7.0 or above.

The expanded device compatibility comes just in time for a huge month of sports on Kayo, with the NRL Telstra Premiership and Toyota AFL Premiership seasons both kicking off in March, along with the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix.

If that sounds right up your alley, you can sign up now for a free 14-day trial with no lock-in contracts on the Kayo Sports website, after which the price becomes either $25 per month (two simultaneous streams) on the Basic plan or $35 per month (three simultaneous streams) on the Premium plan.

You can find out more about Kayo's packages and what they offer at the sign-up links below. 

Categories: Tech News

Microsoft and VMware reportedly planning cloud partnership

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 20:17

While Microsoft and VMware were once fierce rivals in the software business, the two companies are reportedly working together on a cloud partnership that would be beneficial to customers of both businesses.

According to The Information, VMware is exploring a partnership with Microsoft that resembles one it made with AWS several years ago.

Despite the fact that the two companies were once in competition to see who would control the data center during the early days of cloud computing, Microsoft and VMware are reportedly developing software that would make it easier for businesses that built applications based around VMware's virtualization to move their workloads to Microsoft Azure.

Companies relying on business applications built during the last decade are aware that they will have to modernize their infrastructure but fear that the process of updating their software to run in a modern environment could potentially break these mission-critical applications.

Cloud computing partnership

VMware fought the rise of cloud computing for years before finally giving in with a partnership with AWS back in 2016.

Entering a similar partnership with Microsoft makes a great deal of sense as Azure is now the second-leading cloud computing provider and a potential deal could be great for customers that still prefer a hybrid cloud infrastructure over completely moving their workloads to the cloud.

A partnership between the two companies would also be beneficial for Microsoft as it would help address the looming deadline for Windows Server 2008.

The company will stop supporting Windows Server 2008 in January 2020 but many companies are still running their data centers using the software and a partnership with VMware could help customers planning migration projects over the next year.

Via GeekWire

Categories: Tech News

Vote now in the second annual Australian PC Awards!

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 20:05

Voting in second annual Australian PC Awards is about to close - if you've not yet voted, now's your chance. Vote by 5pm tomorrow and not only do you get a chance to let some of the PC industry's biggest names know what you think of them, but there's also a mighty fine range of prizes to be won!

Presented by Future Publishing Australia for readers of APC, TechLife, PC PowerPlay, TechRadar and PC Gamer, the Australian PC Awards recognises the best gear for PC and the companies behind the top products.

It’s up to you, our readers, to decide which products deserve to be called the best of the best across a range of PC-centric categories. 

Vote now, and keep an eye out for the big reveal of who wins on March 22, after a gala event in Sydney.

Categories: Tech News

Google Docs' AI grammar suggestions arrive for all G Suite users

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 20:04

Halfway through 2018, Google revealed an AI-powered grammar checker for Docs and other G Suite apps, but at the time it was exclusively available to select business users, was disabled by default, and could only be activated via a company administrator.

Now, the tech giant has announced that the feature is rolling out to all customers that use G Suite Basic, Business, or Enterprise – services which currently cost $5, $10, or $25 per month respectively.

From today, these users will see “inline, contextual grammar suggestions in their documents as they type”, in a similar fashion to how Google’s spellcheck already functions in its ecosystem, but instead with a squiggly blue line beneath a grammatically incorrect or dubious phrase.

Sentence make read good

The technology is able to catch errors ranging from the commonly mistaken usage of “affect” versus “effect”, to more complex rules regarding the tense of verbs and correct preposition usage.

In order to achieve this, Google has built a model using machine translation and then checked the AI-created rules with linguists to make sure it's accurate in its suggestions. Given that the model is powered by artificial intelligence, it also means that it has the ability to learn and improve the more it’s used.

While the functionality is currently only available to paying customers of G Suite, its expansion is likely a hint that it will eventually make its way to an even wider release for all free users of the service, but we don’t have any indication yet of when that may be.

Categories: Tech News

Apple puts the winners of the 'Shot on iPhone' contest in the spotlight

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 19:08

Apple has today announced the winners of its ‘Shot on iPhone Challenge’ that ran between January 22 and February 7.

10 entries made it to the top and will be featured on Apple’s adverts, social media channels and in retail stores. 

The winning entries – taken on Apple smartphones ranging from the iPhone 7 to the iPhone XS Max – were shown off on the Today show in the US by Apple representative Kaiann Drance.

The winners were selected by a panel of prominent photographers, including official Obama White House photographer Pete Souza and iPhone travel photographer Annet de Graaf. Entries were received from around the globe, with winners from Singapore, Germany, Belarus, Israel and the United States.

The subjects of the winning shots are also varied, with architecture, wildlife, people and landscapes included. You can see all the winners, and learn more about why those images were chosen, in Apple’s newsroom

And, more importantly, Apple has announced that the winners will be paid a licensing fee after the company received criticism for wanting to use the photos for marketing purposes without compensating the photographers.

Categories: Tech News

Why augmented reality is the future of smart toys

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 18:56

People flocked to Toy Fair 2019 earlier this month to find the latest toy reveals from major brands like LEGO and Mattel for the coming year. But toy inventors, distributors and sellers also attend to pick each other’s brains on which toys will fly off shelves, not just this year, but in five to ten years, too. 

This year, the industry scuttlebutt was fairly straightforward: by 2023, consumers will spend tens of billions of dollars on augmented reality (AR) toys. 

With Apple and Google going all-in on their ARKit and ARCore platforms, and apps like Pokemon Go enjoying huge popularity, toymakers see augmented reality as the perfect way to bridge physical toys and app-loving, screen-addicted children. 

But successfully combining physical playsets with AR is no easy feat, the Toy Fair experts warned. You need both physical toy designers and AR programmers to successfully work together; a physical play experience that can stand on its own without the app; an AR interface that doesn’t have the child staring for too long at the screen and ignoring the physical toy; and a dozen other rules for making sure the augmented side of a toy doesn’t feel gimmicky or tacked on. 

We scoured the Toy Fair for all of the smart tech toys we could find, and unsurprisingly, many of them used AR. But does the AR actually make these toys more fun, or is it just a gimmick to increase the toys' price tags? Here are our thoughts on the highest-profile AR toys due to come out later this year. 

LEGO Hidden Side

By 2023, consumers will spend tens of billions of dollars on augmented reality (AR) toys.

LEGO Hidden Side, an 8-set series of spooky locations and possessed vehicles, is the best example of an AR toy that technically doesn't need AR for a kid to enjoy playing with it.

As with any LEGO set, kids can engage simply by building the haunted town of Newbury, then playing with their minifigs inside of them, without ever opening a phone app. 

Plus, Hidden Side's sets have a fun mechanic. Some of the blocks rotate between their normal appearance and their haunted appearance. These were designed as something for kids to interact with that would trigger an augmented reality reaction, but they easily work as a purely physical way to play. 

The pieces have been rotated and activated to show the haunted school in its true form. 

Once kids open the AR app, they begin a more guided experience as a ghost-busting sleuth, investigating the area for clues before driving the hidden ghosts out into the open and defeating them during a rail-shooter minigame. 

Finding the ghosts is relatively simplistic: kids will hover their phone over bright lights of "gloom"; collect enough gloom currency (which takes a few seconds), and a haunted object will be highlighted. Interact with that object in the real world, and the ghost will appear to be captured.  

There are 100 ghosts to collect, and certain ghosts are much more likely to appear in certain sets than others. Supposedly, different ghosts will have different personalities and actions while being hunted, but the core gameplay of ghost hunting should be the same across each set. 

The optimistic view of the AR app is that it extends the physical play of Hidden Side by helping kids to imagine the haunted world surrounding their sets—a world they can conceptualize and play in once the app is closed. Plus, the LEGO rep said they would be able to add more missions to the app as time went on, further adding to Hidden Side's replay value. 

The more cynical view is that this app exists for collectible-loving kids to pressure their parents into buying all 8 sets so they can collect all 100 ghosts. 

Video games and mobile games compel kids to invest more and more time into them in exchange for rewards—achievements, loot boxes, collectibles, etc. By adding an AR online element, LEGO hopes to lure its kids into a similar recurring play pattern. And we find it highly likely that other companies will try to replicate this model, and potentially sell subscriptions or season passes to toys. 

Pictionary Air

At the other end of the spectrum from the highly independent Hidden Side LEGO sets, Pictionary Air relies entirely on augmented reality tech for its playing experience: You draw in the air using a light-tracked pen, in front of someone holding a phone or tablet camera. The camera tracks your drawing and projects it onto the screen for everyone else to see, and they guess what you're drawing. 

It's a simple system, and it mostly worked very well when we tested it out at the Toy Fair. The pen uses light tracking instead of more advanced sensors to make it more affordable for consumers, but in our experience it tracked our drawings accurately. Though it's difficult to tell, since we're drawing in mid-air: without a real canvas you'll find it difficult to remember where you've already drawn, leading to some pretty inscrutable sketches. 

Also, since you have to face the person with the table so the camera can track the pen, your drawing is a mirror image of what you want the person to see. I tried to draw the United States for a clue, and California and Florida ended up flipped, making it pretty hard for the other person to recognize.

"Use the screen in order to get you off the screen. Screens can sometimes facilitate interaction with other kids."

littleBits founder Ayah Bdeir

Pictionary isn't just a promising AR toy because it's fun to use, or because it fulfills the "A" requirement for a STEAM toy (Arts). It's also promising because it doesn't isolate the person using it, like many AR apps. 

During a panel on STEM/STEAM toys, littleBits founder Ayah Bdeir said that, while research is still ongoing on the effects of prolonged screen time on kids' brains,  "social interaction is a key component of helping the development of kids. And so by inference you can say that if face-to-face interaction is so important, and if the screen is getting in the way of that, then we need to make room for what’s working ... Use the screen in order to get you off the screen. Screens can sometimes facilitate interaction with other kids."

In other words, giving kids toys that revolve around screens isn't bad per se, but it's better if those screens involve work or play with other people. In this case, drawing for and responding to other people. By contrast, Hidden Side's AR app clearly restricts the play to one person, where normally multiple children could build and play together. 


A lot of parents are looking to cut down on kids' screen time; an entire Toy Fair panel titled "Screenless Is In" was devoted to covering tech toys that don't use screens. So it's safe to say that toys with corresponding AR apps aren't going to be popular with parents unless they combine recreation with learning. 

PaiBotz is one such toy that strikes that balance. It teaches young children about Block-based coding languages and techniques like sequencing and looping. But not just through the AR app shown above, but also through the 150 physical building blocks your kid will use to build and rebuild the robot. 

Intriguingly, during the Pai Robotics demo, I saw that someone from Google had come to check out the little bot as well. He and one of the Pai representatives were having a serious discussion about PaiBotz's calibration issues. 

Google, Apple and Microsoft have engaged in a years-long war to determine AR dominance in the tech marketplace. Google, for instance, is reportedly developing an AR headset designed to be competitive with Hololens 2. We aren't surprised by the idea that Google would look for promising AR toymakers and developers to partner with, and that AR toymakers would want to grab some of that $100+ billion competitive marketshare. 

What the rise of AR means for kids

Technology is already rapidly changing how young children see the world. During a panel, toy business owner Kate Stone discussed how two-year-olds have been seen pinching and zooming magazine pages, not understanding why they were "broken" and not reacting to their touch. 

Toymakers see augmented reality as the perfect way to bridge physical toys and app-loving, screen-addicted children.

Before long, if augmented reality apps and toys continue to proliferate into our daily lives, children will consider seeing holograms into the real world to be the norm. 

The real question is what form all of these AR apps will take. Phil Sage, an inventor at Hasbro who was on the same panel, said that these apps will become more and more multi-modal, incorporating other senses and features beyond AR like voice assistant support. 

Eventually, your child may be able to summon holographic objects into their toy realm simply with their voice. Or, if glasses like Apple AR take off, kids could use AR apps without having to hold a phone in one hand, encouraging freer playtime in an augmented environment. 

Categories: Tech News

Best Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti: which version is best for your PC?

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 18:11

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is a graphics card we never expected to be real, but we’re so glad it is. If you’ve been waiting for Team Green to release a Turing-based GPU that was actually affordable, this is it.

Although it lacks ray tracing and tensor cores to power Nvidia’s new RTX and Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) features, this card is a stunning performer and comes in at a reasonable price, too. This is, unsurprisingly, our pick for the best budget graphics card you can buy today.

Unlike Nvidia’s past GPU launches, the company didn’t release its own Founders Edition of the GTX 1660 Ti. Without this baseline model to set the benchmark for how other versions should be configured, you’ll find a wide variety of cards going for varying prices out there. The good news is you won’t have to pore over the dozens of Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti models on the market, as we’ve done the job for you and picked out the very best ones.

Image Credit: PNY

The PNY GeForce GTX 1660 Ti XLR8 Gaming OC may look like a small graphics card, but it packs a punch. Equipped with a 70MHz factory overclock and otherwise solid specs, this card delivers on the dream of 1440p Ultra quality gameplay at 60 fps. Better yet, all of this performance costs less than 300 smackers. This is the best bang-for-your-buck graphics cards you can get.

Read the full review: PNY GeForce GTX 1660 Ti XLR8 Gaming OC 

Image Credit:  Asus

Looking to max out the performance of the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti? Well, then the Asus ROG Strix GTX 1660 Ti OC is the right card for you. It features the highest factory overclock we’ve seen on this mid-range graphics card yet. Additionally, its oversized heatsink and triple axial fans keep this card running a full 10C cooler than most. Overclocking this card is a breeze, thanks to its extreme cooling system.

Read the full review: Asus ROG Strix GTX 1660 Ti OC review 

Image Credit: Gigabyte

Looking for something in the middle of the road between basic and extreme? The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Windforce OC is the closest thing to your average GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. Although it’s only equipped with a pedestrian dual-fan cooler, Gigabyte has made use of 3D molded curves on the fan blades for increased airflow. The graphics card’s fans also spin in alternate directions to further increase airflow. Top that off with a 1,845MHz boost clock, and this card delivers more performance for not much more money.

Image Credit: Palit

The Palit GeForce GTX 1660 Ti StormX OC is one of the most compact graphics cards designed to fit in the smallest of PC cases. Despite its small size, this GPU still packs all the might of a full-sized GTX 1660 Ti and then some with a factory set 1,815MHz boost clock. Best of all, it costs the same amount as the most inexpensive versions of the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti, so it’ll be light on your wallet too.

Image Credit: MSI

Just because you’re gaming with a mid-range card doesn’t mean you can’t be stylish. The MSI GeForce GTX 1660 TI Gaming X 6G is easily the most handsome of the bunch with a sharp aesthetic and fully addressable RGB lighting – in other words, you can customize how it glows in sync with an MSI motherboard. Looks aside, this card delivers tuned up performance and a Twin Frozr cooler designed to keep it chilled.

Categories: Tech News

Best hard drives 2019: the top HDD for desktops and laptops

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 16:51

The best hard drives are obviously not as fast as the best SSDs, but they are much cheaper and more capacious. Yeah, you’re not going to find one in an Ultrabook, but the best hard drives are definitely useful as an extra drive or an external measure – especially if you have a lot of data to back up.

Finding the best hard drive for your needs ultimately boils down to what you need to do with it. If you’re looking for the best hard drives for game consoles, you’ll want a 2.5-inch drive, or maybe one of the best external hard drives. However, if you’re rocking one of the best gaming PCs, and you just want the biggest drive you can get, you’ll want a hard drive with a ton of space – and a ton of speed. It’s a lot to take in, but we went ahead and gathered up the best hard drives you can buy today. 

Image Credit: Seagate

Seagate’s BarraCuda lineup is the indisputable face of the best hard drives. And, it’s not without good reason – they offer a great ratio of gigabyte per dollar and speed benefits to top it off. The 2TB model hits a sweet spot by balancing high performance and affordability. Since this drive combines 7,200rpm platters and high density data, computers outfitted with this drive will be able to read data extra fast.  

Image Credit: Toshiba

Even if its laptops aren’t as popular as they used to be, Toshiba is still a huge name in computing, and has a lot to offer. When it comes to the best hard drives, the Toshiba X300 is a high-capacity, high-performance champ worth taking a look at. The X300 drives boast great gigabyte-to-dollar value without sacrificing on performance. These drives all spin at 7,200 rpm and include 128MB of cache for higher speeds. The only downside is the warranty only lasts two years, which feels short for a drive meant to store so much important data.

Image Credit: Western Digital

When it comes to PC gaming, it’s better to be fast than capacious. So, if you’ve been resisting the allure of an SSD, and looking to kick it old school with one of the best hard drives, the WD VelociRaptor should be up your alley. Not only does this drive have a whopping 10,000 rpm spin speed, but you’re going to want to pay attention to it. With capacities up to 1TB, the VelociRaptor drives are ready to store large game libraries, and the super fast platters will help your games launch and load quickly.

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Seagate FireCuda 

Image Credit: Western Digital

Western Digital offers a solid bargain with its line of WD Blue hard drives. With a wide variety of storage options from a small 500GB to a capacious 6TB, the WD Blue is a viable pick for almost any type of PC build that’s sticking to a budget. The best value comes from the larger drives – they’ll give you much more storage per dollar spent. And, if you’re looking for a bit more speed, there are also 7,200rpm models available that don’t come with too much of a price hike. 

Image Credit: Seagate

SSDs are all the rage these days, and it’s not hard to see why. But if you need a lot of fast storage, hybrid hard drives – which contain a small amount of solid state storage to bump of their speed – are a great option. The SeaGate FireCuda is the best hybrid drive out there, it can fit up to 2TB of data, and then its 8GB of solid state cache storage learns and stores the data you use most to access it faster. That speed boost is even sweeter when you consider this drive spins at a fresh 7,200rpm. With its 5-year warranty and approachable price tag, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the best hard drives out there. 

Image Credit: Seagate

It’s a little unfortunate that the Seagate IronWolf NAS drives come at a premium, but they aren’t priced much more expensively than a standard hard drive at their capacity. However, their native NAS optimization makes that premium totally worth it. These drives are capable of running at a fast 7,200rpm spin rate 24/7 without having to worry about drive failure. Really, if you have one of the best NAS devices for your business or home, the Seagate IronWolf NAS really is your best bet. 

Image Credit: Seagate

Upgrading the storage in a laptop in a hard drive can be tough, since they typically require a smaller drive to fit. A lot of the 2.5-inch options aren’t terribly attractive, as anything fast comes with a serious markup, but Seagate’s 2.5-inch FireCuda hybrid drive strikes a nice balance. It offers an easy way to add lots of storage to a laptop while also giving it a speed boost thanks to 8GB of flash storage. A 5-year warranty on the drive will also help ensure it for as long as almost any laptop’s lifespan.

Image Credit: Western Digital

Game consoles hard drives fill up fast with massive libraries. And, like laptops, the upgrade path for 2.5-inch hard drives isn’t all that great, but that’s where an external drive comes in. The WD My Book strikes an amazing balance of storage and price, offering enough room for massive game libraries. Running on USB 3.0, it may not be quite as fast as an internal drive upgrade, but it will run games and offer more storage at a cheaper rate.

Image Credit: G-Technology

A lot of people seem to think that the best hard drives are ancient and dead technology in 2019. However, with devices like the G-Technology G-Drive, you can show the naysayers in your life that spinning disks have their own place in the future. Not only does this external hard drive offer huge amounts of storage – up to 10 TB – but thanks to Thunderbolt 3 compatibility, it can even charge your laptop while you work. If you have a MacBook Pro, it’s hard to think of a better work companion.

Read the full review: G-Technology G-Drive 

Categories: Tech News

The best motherboard 2019: the top Intel and AMD motherboards we've seen

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 16:49

When you’re getting ready to build a PC, the best motherboards typically don’t get the love that the best graphics cards and processors do, and that’s unfortunate. The best motherboards are arguably the most important part of your entire PC. They essentially serve as the backbone of your computer, helping your hardware reach its full potential by pushing it to its limits – utilizing and optimizing every inch of performance. In other words, you can overclock better with a good motherboard.

But, because they’re so important to your PC build, you should only opt for the best motherboard you can get your hands on. If you cheap out and get a sub-par motherboard, it could die and force you to rebuild your entire computer from scratch – and that’s not a good time, trust us. So, do yourself a favor and pick up the best motherboard today, so you won’t have to replace it tomorrow.

There are dozens of motherboards out there, and the marketplace can get confusing. That’s why we went ahead and created this list of the best motherboards on the market. So, let us help you find the best motherboards that we’ve tested ourselves. Not only will they do everything you need them to and more, the best motherboards are built to last.

When Coffee Lake Refresh CPUs hit the market, Intel promised that they would be the best processors for gaming, and we knew that meant kitted out motherboards were on the way. And, lo and behold, the Z390 Aorus Gaming Pro Wifi – the best Intel motherboard on the market right now. It’s packed with gaming-centric features like reinforced PCIe slots and enough RGB lighting to blind you. It’s hard to find a better motherboard, especially at this price point.

Sometimes, when building a new PC, you’re just want  to throw your hands up and say “just give me everything.” In times like this, you’ll want the Asus ROG Maximus XI Code Z390 Gaming. Packed with every feature that Intel’s new Coffee Lake Refresh processors support and then some with a RGB-lit shroud covering every inch of circuitry on this motherboard.  

So, Coffee Lake Refresh is out, and you want to take advantage of all the performance it has to offer, but those more exotic motherboards are out of reach. If that sounds familiar, you might want to take a look at the Gigabyte Z390 UD. This doesn’t have the same level of RGB bells and built-in Wi-Fi whistles, but what it does have is great value. You’re getting all of the essential features that Z390 has to offer, while sacrificing some unnecessary features like SLI or extra M.2 slots. If you’re a budget gamer, the Gigabyte Z390 UD is the best motherboard out there.

If you’re looking for an edge on the competition, and you don’t have a lot of extra room on your desk, you’re going to want a Micro-ATX motherboard – you’re going to want the MSI MPG Z390M Gaming Edge AC. What you’re getting here is a Micro-ATX motherboard with all the features a full-sized ATX part, but a fraction of the price. Despite it’s reduced size, you still get getting dual M.2 slots, SLI and Crossfire support and all the scalding performance that Intel Coffee Lake Refresh has to offer. If you’re looking for a smaller motherboard, you can’t afford not to get the MSI MPG Z390M Gaming Edge MC. 

If you need the smallest motherboard that you can get, without compromising on key features of your CPU, you should consider the Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming. With this motherboard you don’t have to compromise on features or power. You don’t even need to settle for a measly 32GB of RAM, thanks to Asus’ double capacity memory compatibility – you can have up to 64GB of memory in the tiniest motherboard you’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, like most Z390 boards, it’s a bit pricey, so prepare yourself for that.

With the X470 Aorus Gaming 7 Wi-Fi, Gigabyte further illustrates is mastery of motherboard design. Rocking the new AMD X470 chipset, allowing full support of the new AMD Ryzen 2nd Generation processors, this is the best motherboard if you’re looking to side with Team Red. What’s more, it supports Quad-GPU SLi and extremely fast RAM (up to 3,600 MHz) for peerless expandability, and thanks to its multi-zone RGB lighting, it looks good while kicking butt. 

For the longest time, AMD has been the reigning champion of budget builds, and in 2018 that doesn’t seem to be changing. Marketed exclusively to gamers, the MSI X470 Gaming Plus is loaded front to back with features like two PCIe M.2 slots and quick performance tweaking buttons to make sure you’re on the top of the leaderboards at all times. And, since it’s a gamer-focused motherboard, it comes with all kinds of flashy RGB lighting that you can even customize it from your smartphone.

These days, small form-factor PCs are all the rage and with motherboards like the ASRock B450M-HDV, we think they’re going to stay that way. Now, while this motherboard doesn't do SLI and supports only up to 32GB of RAM– it is a B450 unit, after all – it is still compelling due to its low price. Outside of these omissions, you still get a slot for a NVMe SSD and four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports around back. If you’re looking to build a solid budget gaming PC, this is going to be the best motherboard for you.  

Asus aims to prove that big things can come in small packages with the ROG Strix X470-I. Featuring the latest and greatest AMD chipset, everything in this tiny board is designed with performance in mind. Even down to the BIOS, where you can find a stress test for overclocks before you even boot into Windows. This board even elevates beyond the constraints of the Mnii-ITX form factor by including an M.2 Audio Combo riser, so that you can install your M.2 NVMe SSD without getting in the way of other components. 

The X-series processors are here and they're spectacular, so if you want to take advantage of all they have to offer, you need an X-series motherboard. This ASRock X299 is an excellent choice, with support for overclocked memory speeds up to 4400MHz(!!!) and 8 different slots for memory modules. It also supports up to 128GB of RAM, so with an X-series processor and a good graphics card (or 3…) this thing will absolutely tear apart anything you throw at it.

If you’re the type of builder with lots of cash to burn and an ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ build method, the Ryzen Thredripper X399 Professional Gaming board is for you. Not only does it support 4-way SLI or Crossfire configurations, but you can also pack this thing with up to 128GB DDR4 memory. It even features a ton of flashy RGB lighting, so that people can’t help but stare at your rig when they walk in the room. And, if you upgrade to Ryzen Threadripper 2nd Generation, you can use this board, but keep in mind you may have to update your BIOS. 

Coming to terms

If you’re unfamiliar about what makes the best motherboards, well, better than the rest, we’d like to include a primer for anyone who might not know that much about them. Motherboards are available in a broad range of different form factors, the most common of which being ATX and Micro ATX. However, there are plenty of more less common form factors including mini ITX and E-ATX. Don’t worry though, most of the best PC cases will support multiple form factors. 

Moreover, in our rundown of the best motherboards, we detailed the socket type that each mobo adheres to. For those not in the know, the socket is the part on the motherboard that the CPU locks into. Typically, newer Intel processors use either LGA 1151 or 2066 while the latest AMD Ryzen architecture is designed for the AM4 chipset.

Categories: Tech News

AMD vs Intel: which chipmaker does processors better?

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 16:26

Although the battle between Coffee Lake Refresh and AMD Ryzen 2nd Generation is still raging on, the war between Ryzen 3rd Generation, Ice Lake and Sunny Cove is about to begin. It’s also time for us to dive into the perennial deathmatch: AMD vs Intel.

Essentially acting as the brain of your computer, the best processors are behind everything your PC does. This is why it’s so important to find the one for your specific needs – you don’t want to pay for features you don’t need. 

If you’ve been following the frantic war of Intel vs AMD as closely as we have over the years, you probably already know that AMD and Intel have traditionally focused on different segments of the CPU market. Where Intel has focused on higher clock speeds and efficiency with low core counts, AMD has focused on upping its core counts and boosting multi-threaded performance.

Still, there’s room for the coexistence of AMD and Intel – they cater to different audiences, with direct competition in the middle. If you’re not quite sure whether to pledge allegiance to either Team Red or Team Blue, continue on to the next slide for a constantly updated look at the AMD vs Intel clash.

Gary Marshall originally contributed to this article

For bargain shoppers on the prowl for the next hottest deal, it used to be assumed that AMD’s processors were cheaper, but that was only because the Red Team did its best work at the entry level.

Now that Ryzen processors have proven AMD’s worth on the high-end, the tide has ostensibly turned. Now Intel reigns supreme in the budget CPU space, with its $64 (about £46, AU$82) MSRP Pentium G4560 offering far better performance than AMD’s $110 (about £80, AU$140) MSRP A12-9800.

Even among mid-range, current-gen chips, Intel is leading the pack by offering 8th-generation Coffee Lake CPUs as low as $117 (about £83, AU$152) for the Core i3-8100T. 

Much of this is due to the Advanced Micro Device company’s reluctance to move beyond simply iterating on its antiquated Bulldozer architecture and onto adopting the current-generation ‘Zen’ standard it’s already introduced with pricier CPUs. 

Still, on the low end, Intel and AMD processors typically retail at about the same price. It’s once you hit that exorbitant $200 (around £142, AU$252) mark where things get trickier. High-end Intel chips now range from 4 up to 18 cores, while AMD chips can now be found with up to 32-cores.

And, thanks to some recent price cuts you can find the AMD Ryzen 5 2400G and the Ryzen 3 2200G for $160 (around £129, AU$208) and $105 (around £84, AU$135), respectively.

While it was long-rumored that AMD’s Ryzen chips would offer cutting-edge performance at a lower price, benchmarks have demonstrated that Intel is remaining strongly competitive.

If you can get your hands on one, the Core i7 9700K is  is $409 (£499, AU$659), while the still more-capable Ryzen 7 2700X is priced at $329 (about £230, AU$420). And, if you’re looking to get your hands on the new hotness, the Intel Core i9-9900K is available for $579 (£599, AU$859.)  

For anyone looking to dip their toes into the realm of the HEDT processors, AMD and Intel are very close right now, especially on the heels of the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX CPU, at $1,799 (£1,639, AU$2,679). That might seem like a lot, but compared to the $1,999 (£1,649, AU$2,729) Intel Core i9-7980XE, it’s a downright bargain – especially given that AMD’s offering has nearly double the cores. 

If you're building a gaming PC, truthfully you should be using a discrete graphics card, or GPU (graphics processing unit), rather than relying on a CPU’s integrated graphics to run games as demanding as Middle Earth: Shadow of War.

Still, it’s possible to run less graphically intense games on an integrated GPU if your processor has one. In this area, AMD is the clear winner, thanks to the release of the Ryzen 5 2400G that packs powerful discrete Vega graphics that outperforms Intel’s onboard graphic technology by leaps and bounds. 

Yet, as we mentioned before, Intel has officially started shipping its high-end H-series mobile CPU chips with AMD graphics on board. In turn, this means that hardier laptops powered by Intel can now be thinner and their accompanying silicon footprints will be over 50% smaller, according to Intel client computing group vice president Christopher Walker.

All of this is accomplished using Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) technology, along with a newly contrived framework that enables power sharing between Intel’s first-party processors and third-party graphics chips with dedicated graphics memory. Even so, it’s too early to tell whether this is a better solution than the purebred AMD notebooks slated for the end of this year.

Intel might be aiming to shake things up though as it has announced that it’s planning on releasing a GPU aimed at gamers by 2020. And, if we could see Intel putting some of that effort into improving integrated graphics.

Still, if all you're looking to do is play League of Legends at modest settings or relive your childhood with a hard drive full of emulators (it's okay, we won't tell), the latest Intel Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake or AMD A-Series APU processors for desktops will likely fare just as well as any forthcoming portable graphics solution.

On the high-end, especially in cases where you don’t need to worry about on-board graphics, Intel’s processors are typically on top – its Core i9-9900K handily beats out the workstation-class Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX for less than half the price. 

AMD typically provides better multi-threading performance, as a result of higher core and thread counts. Ryzen CPUs also offer more PCIe lanes, which come in handy if you want multiple NVMe SSDs alongside  SLI and CrossFire multi-GPU performance.

While there is no clear winner in the graphics department, survey says AMD is the better option for integrated graphics, while hardcore gamers who don’t mind shelling out the extra cash for a GPU will find that Intel is better for gaming alone – although with Ryzen 2nd Generation AMD is closing that gap. Meanwhile, AMD is superior for carrying out numerous tasks at once.

If you're building a gaming PC, truthfully you should be using a discrete graphics card, or GPU (graphics processing unit), rather than relying on a CPU’s integrated graphics to run games as demanding as Middle Earth: Shadow of War.

Still, it’s possible to run less graphically intense games on an integrated GPU if your processor has one. In this area, AMD is the clear winner, thanks to the release of the Ryzen 5 2400G that packs powerful discrete Vega graphics that outperforms Intel’s onboard graphic technology by leaps and bounds. AMD has also launched an updated driver for its mobile Ryzen chips, which leads to up to 20% better performance in games like CS:GO and Fortnite.

Yet, as we mentioned before, Intel has officially started shipping its high-end H-series mobile CPU chips with AMD graphics on board. In turn, this means that hardier laptops powered by Intel can now be thinner and their accompanying silicon footprints will be over 50% smaller, according to Intel client computing group vice president Christopher Walker.

All of this is accomplished using Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) technology, along with a newly contrived framework that enables power sharing between Intel’s first-party processors and third-party graphics chips with dedicated graphics memory. Even so, it’s too early to tell whether this is a better solution than the purebred AMD notebooks.

Still, if all you're looking to do is play League of Legends at modest settings or relive your childhood with a hard drive full of emulators (it's okay, we won't tell), the latest Intel Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake or AMD A-Series APU processors for desktops will likely fare just as well as any forthcoming portable graphics solution.

On the high end, such as in cases where you'll be pairing your CPU with a powerful AMD or Nvidia GPU, Intel’s processors are typically better for gaming due to their higher base and boost clock speeds. At the same time, though, AMD provides better CPUs for multi-tasking as a result of their higher core and thread counts.

While there is no clear winner in the graphics department, survey says AMD is the better option for integrated graphics, especially on mobile with its Ryzen chips for laptops.However, Intel is working on improving its own integrated graphics in 2019, with its Gen11 graphics – we’ll have to see how well they work when they actually ship. 

Hardcore gamers who don’t mind shelling out the extra cash for a GPU will find that Intel is better for gaming alone. Meanwhile, AMD is superior for carrying out numerous tasks at once.

When you buy a new computer or even just a CPU by itself, it's typically locked at a specific clock speed as indicated on the box. Some processors ship unlocked, allowing for higher clock speeds than recommended by the manufacturer, giving users more control over how they use their components (though, it does require you know how to overclock).

AMD is normally more generous than Intel in this regard. With an AMD system, you can expect overclocking capabilities from even the $129 (about £110, AU$172) Ryzen 3 1300X. Meanwhile, you can only overclock an Intel processor if it's graced with the “K” series stamp of approval. Then again, the cheapest of these is the $180 (£160, AU$240) Intel Core i3-8350K.

Both companies will void your warranty if you brick your processor as the result of overclocking, though, so it’s important to watch out for that. Excessive amounts of heat can be generated if you’re not careful, thereby neutralizing the CPU as a result. With that in mind, you’ll be missing out on a few hundred stock megahertz if you skip out on one of the K models.

Intel’s more extravagant K-stamped chips are pretty impressive, too. The i9-9900K, for instance, is capable of maintaining a whopping 5.0GHz turbo frequency in comparison to the 4.3GHz boost frequency of the Ryzen 7 2700X. If you’ve access to liquid nitrogen cooling, you may even be able to reach upwards of 6.1GHz using Intel’s monstrous, 18-core i9-7980XE.  

In the end, the biggest problem with AMD’s desktop processors is the lack of compatibility with other components. Specifically, motherboard (mobo) and cooler options are limited as a result of the differing sockets between AMD and Intel chips.

While a lot of CPU coolers demand that you special order an AM4 bracket to be used with Ryzen, only a handful of the best motherboards are compatible with the AM4 chipset. In that regard, Intel parts are slightly more commonplace and are often accompanied by lower starting costs, too, as a result of the wide variety of kit to choose from.

That said, AMD's chips make a little more sense from a hardware design perspective. With an AMD motherboard, rather than having metal connector pins on the CPU socket, you'll notice those pins are instead on the underside of the CPU itself. In turn, the mobo is less likely to malfunction due to its own faulty pins.

When it comes to availability in the latter half of 2018, it gets complicated. While both Coffee Lake and AMD Ryzen 2nd Generation processors are widely available, Intel is going through supply shortages, and AMD is starting to catch up to Team Blue’s titanic market share. In fact, financial analysts have downgraded Intel’s stock in the face of both 14nm shortages and Cannon Lake’s constant delays, according to a report from CNBC. AMD really has a chance to steal the crown here.

Still, you can pick up processors from both companies today, though Intel chips like the Intel Core i7-8700K might have some increased pricing. AMD APUs like the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G are still great options for anyone on a budget, though.

Future speculation 

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that AMD had a great year in 2017 with its Ryzen processors – especially the high-end Threadripper processors. And, now that the Ryzen 2nd Generation CPUs have been released, AMD is claiming more and more of Intel’s market share, up to 50% at the time of writing.  And, if AMD keeps putting out processors as good as the Ryzen 5 2600X and the Ryzen 7 2700X, we think this trend will only continue.

As for Intel, it continues to struggle with 10nm production, which has seen its Cannon Lake processors pushed back again and again. We’re not sure when Cannon Lake is going to come out at all as Intel recently announced its 10nm Sunny Cove architecture, which will be behind whatever Ice Lake, Lakefield and a host of other chips we hope Intel will launch in 2019. 

The first of these appears to be Ice Lake, rather than Cannon Lake. Ice Lake will be behind the next generation of Ultrabooks, and will feature built-in Thunderbolt 3, WiFi and Gen11 graphics. Intel is making some promising claims for Ice Lake, like that it will be able to search for images twice as fast as Whiskey Lake. As with all Intel’s on-stage demonstrations, take that with a grain of salt though. 

AMD, on the other hand, has announced the Ryzen 3000 series of CPUs, based on the new Zen 2 architecture. And, while we don’t know any specifics beyond the nameless 8-core processor it showed off at CES 2019, there are plenty of rumors floating around. For instance, we’ve seen a 12-core, 24-thread chip show up in a leaked UserBenchmark result.

Categories: Tech News

Sprint 5G: all the phones coming to the next-gen network

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 16:03

Sprint has unveiled its plan to deploy one of the first 5G in networks in the first half of 2019, rolling out the fast service to metro downtown areas in nine cities. So what phones will it be able to use? 

First, let’s clarify where Sprint’s 5G network will show up first. Starting in May, the service will go live in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and Kansas City, and will then spread to Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. “in the first half of 2019,” per a Sprint press release.

This 5G network won’t be available across these entire cities at first, mind – only particular parts of their downtown metropolitan areas. New York City’s coverage will start at 30 square miles between Midtown and lower Manhattan, for example. Meanwhile it will start in 230 square miles of the Dallas-Fort Worth region and 110 square miles in Kansas City, according to the Kansas City Star.

In total, the initial 5G coverage area will span more than 1,000 square miles across all nine cities.

Sprint will surely continue to expand their 5G network as the year rolls on, and is using Massive MIMO radios to augment coverage and simultaneously meet consumers’ 5G and LTE needs. Once they’re up, though, expect a ridiculous upgrade in speed: in one demo video, Sprint showed someone getting 421 Mbps download speeds within their Chicago coverage area. 

But you won’t get those speeds unless you use certain phones – not just ones that play nice with Sprint’s network, but also pack the tech (specifically, processors and modems) designed with 5G in mind. Without further ado, here are the phones you’ll be able to use on Sprint’s 5G network.

Image credit: TechRadar

LG V50 ThinQ 5G

The first phone you’ll be able to use on Sprint’s next-gen network is the LG V50 ThinQ 5G, which is coming to the service sometime this spring. LG introduced the phone at MWC 2019 as one of the first 5G phones that will hit the market, and it will be the initial device consumers can use on Sprint’s fastest network yet. 

The V50 looks very similar to the V40, though it packs more of a punch thanks to the brand-new Snapdragon 855 processor (essential for hooking up to 5G networks). It has the same 6.4-inch OLED screen as its predecessor, yet features a larger 4,000mAh battery, ostensibly to watch more media and for longer with those hyper-fast connection speeds. 

We still don’t know how much the V50 5G will cost, but given its predecessor cost $900 (around £690 / AU$1260) at launch, we expect the new version to be around or a bit higher than that.

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

One of the biggest, baddest flagship phones will be coming to Sprint’s 5G network sometime this summer. No, literally: the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G’s 6.7-inch AMOLED display is one of the largest we’ve seen in a flagship phone, at least until the foldables start rolling out. 

Everything else about the handset is equally big, from its Snapdragon 855 chipset to its 256GB storage and 8GB of RAM. Like the Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus, the 5G variant has three rear lenses (12MP wide, 16MP ultra-wide and 12MP telephoto) along with a time of flight (TOF) sensor to measure depth. It’s even got one of these TOF sensors on the front to augment your selfie game. 

We also don’t know how much the Galaxy S10 5G will cost. Given that it has another camera and twice the storage capacity of the baseline S10 Plus, which retails for $999 / £899 (about AU$1,398), we expect the S10 5G to be priced above its less powerful kin.

HTC 5G Hub

Okay, this definitely isn’t a phone – but until Sprint announces more compatible handsets, the standalone HTC 5G hub might not be a bad substitute, especially if you already have a powerful device. 

The mobile smart hub (the first of its kind, Sprint claims in its press release) lets up to 20 users hook up to it for smooth 5G speed. It even has a 5-inch HD touchscreen for easy setup.

It's unclear how much the hub will cost or when you'll be able to pick one up – presumably when Sprint's 5G network starts coming online in late spring/early summer.

Categories: Tech News

USB 3.2 to take over the world's computers – but not how you think

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 15:32

The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), an independent technology standards group, has officially rung in the era of USB 3.2 at MWC 2019. However, USB 3.1 and USB 3.0 – as you know them – aren’t going anywhere.

While USB 3.2 marks a new level of data transfer speed reached for the standard at 20 Gigabits per second (Gbps), it also will see previous USB technologies become rebranded “USB 3.2” in technical product listings, Computer Base reports.

This means that what is known as USB 3.1 Gen 1 today, which offers 5Gbps data transfer speeds, will henceforth be known as USB 3.2 Gen 1. Likewise, what we call USB 3.1 Gen 2 today will now be called USB 3.2 Gen 2, which still offers 10Gbps transfer speeds.

Ports and devices carrying the new level of transfer speeds that USB 3.2 introduces – again, 20Gbps – will be known as USB 3.2 Gen 2x2. This increase in transfer speed is achieved by placing another 10Gbps data transfer channel within the connector, which is only possible in the Type-C format that is all but taking over smartphones and laptops.

Another quagmire for consumers

It’s unknown exactly when we’ll see laptops and other devices bearing ports capable of USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 transfer speeds, but it’s expected that manufacturers will soon adopt the new naming conventions for current and upcoming products that will continue using 5Gbps and 10Gbps USB ports.

The USB-IF has attempted to get in front of any potential confusion with suggested marketing names: SuperSpeed USB, SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps and SuperSpeed USB 20Gbps. Unfortunately, this isn’t any different from how the organization has tried to do this in the past, and manufacturers have been historically terrible at adopting this naming convention.

It will be up to manufacturers to come up with their own methods of educating consumers on the specifics of their products’ USB ports. Of course, we’ll be sure to take manufacturers to task on this front, too.

Via Tom's Hardware

Categories: Tech News

Pandora Stories teaches you the history of your favorite songs

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 15:32

If you’re the kind of person who likes to know how a song came to be just as much as the song itself, Pandora’s latest feature – Pandora Stories – is right up your alley. 

The feature, brand new to the service at the time of writing, allows artists to add audio commentary to the playlists on Pandora to create a new type of narrated experience.

So far, six artists have created stories, including John Legend, Daddy Yankee, Lauren Alaina, Perry Farrell, Tommy Brenneck and Wes Anderson movie collaborator Randall Poster

You'll either need a Pandora Premium account to listen to the stories or go through a 30-second video advertisement if you're still using a free Pandora account.

While the feature makes the most sense for musicians to use as a way to provide additional insight into why they made a song a certain way, Pandora says that it can also be used by other celebrities, actors, filmmakers, athletes, authors, podcasters and thought leaders as well … as long as you’re willing to fill out a form on Pandora’s marketing website

Apple Music vs Pandora 

If this idea sounds semi-familiar to you, it’s because there a number of services all developing similar ideas: Apple has its Beats1 Radio that gives artists some air time to sit alongside some world-famous disc jockeys, while Deezer has long had the ability to intersperse podcasts and spoken segments into your daily playlist.

What Pandora Stories most resembles is Spotify’s "Behind the Lyrics" feature that shows you some insight into what an artist was thinking or feeling while the music is playing. That feature is powered by the editors and writers at Genius, however, and not by the artists themselves.

What makes Pandora Stories slightly different than anything else on Apple Music, Spotify or Deezer is that they allow artists a platform to tell stories alongside their music the same way a commentary track on a DVD or Blu-ray would.

If you like to learn while you listen, head on over to Pandora.

Via TechCrunch

Categories: Tech News

Researchers compromise bare-metal cloud servers

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 14:39

A new report from the hardware security firm Eclypsium has revealed that hackers can corrupt the firmware of bare-metal cloud servers so that they can regain access to the servers after they've been released and reassigned to other customers.

A bare-metal server is a physical server that is rented to one customer at a time and many companies in the cloud services industry offer these servers to their customers because of their flexibility and security benefits. Once a customer is finished with the server, it is released back to the cloud company and the provider wipes the server of any customer data so that it can make it available to others.

However, in its latest experiment, Eclypsium discovered that cloud service providers are not doing enough when it comes to properly wiping base-metal servers.

The team was successfully able to make modifications to a server's baseboard management controller (BMC) firmware which a potential attacker could use to access a server after it was wiped and reassigned to another customer.

Bare-metal cloud server security

Last year, researchers from Eclypsium discovered vulnerabilities in the BMC firmware of Super Micro motherboards and they used this knowledge to exploit IBM's SoftLayer cloud service which uses Super Micro hardware.

The company explained why it chose IBM SoftLayer for its experiment, saying:

“We originally chose SoftLayer for our testing environment because of its simplified logistics and access to hardware but noticed SoftLayer was using SuperMicro server hardware that based on our previous research we knew were vulnerable. It should be noted that SoftLayer uses other hardware vendors in addition to SuperMicro, and SuperMicro devices are used by many other service providers."

Eclypsium called its successful test Cloudborne and the company's research team was able to update a rented bare-metal server's BMC firmware with one they had prepared in advance which contained just one single bit flip so that they could recognize it at a later point. However, an attacker could add malicious code to the BMC firmware opening a server up to backdoor accounts.

IBM responded to Eclypsium's research in a blog post in which it detailed how it had reconfigured its cloud service to reflash all BMC firmware to factory settings and erase all logs and generate new passwords for each client.

Via ZDNet

Categories: Tech News

SAP wants to power the next generation of IoT

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 13:47

At MWC 2019, SAP unveiled SAP Leonardo Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities to help drive digital transformation for the industrial IoT and Industry 4.0.

The company also announced the cloud-to-cloud interoperability of SAP Leonardo IoT with Microsoft Azure IoT Hub to provide customers more choices when it comes to connectivity and device management.

SAP is uniquely positioned to bring IoT data and business processes together and SAP Leonardo IoT will help customers increase productivity, redefine their customer experience and grow their revenue streams.

The company's IoT solution will also enable customers to embed IoT into line-of-business (LoB) solutions and enhance their business applications with IoT technology.

SAP Leonardo IoT

Senior Vice President and Global Head of IoT at SAP, Elvira Wallis explained how committed the company is to IoT technology, saying:

“SAP delivers valuable insight and drives business results by embedding IoT data into business processes. With the launch of SAP Leonardo IoT, SAP solidifies its commitment to the IoT, and in particular Industrial IoT. The combination of IoT and our depth and breadth of high-value industry and application expertise helps customers gain greater business value and a stronger competitive advantage.” 

SAP Leonardo IoT will allow customers to innovate and enhance their business processes using data-driven intelligence and operational context from machines, products, supply chains, consumers and partners.

SAP customers will also be able to use Microsoft Azure's IoT Hub as the connectivity and device management layer for IoT telemetry data which is then seamlessly relayed to SAP Leonardo IoT.

At the same time, the company aims to give customers the option to extend support for their business processes locally on top of Microsoft Azure IoT Edge runtime. Essential business function (EBF) modules based on SAP Leonardo IoT Edge are also planned to run in containers on Microsoft Azure IoT Edge to help reduce customers dependency on latency, bandwidth and connectivity.

MWC (Mobile World Congress) is the world's largest showcase for the mobile industry, stuffed full of the newest phones, tablets, wearables and more. TechRadar is reporting live from Barcelona all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated MWC 2019 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about your next phone. 

  • Keep up to date with the latest news from Mobile World Congress 2019 by checking out our MWC 2019 Hub
Categories: Tech News

Cheaper Nvidia GTX 1660, 1650 graphics cards might be coming soon

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 13:07

Nvidia GTX graphics cards are alive and well following the release of the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. Apparently, Team Green’s new mid-range GPU will soon be joined by two more affordable models.

Digitimes reports there are plans to release a GeForce GTX 1660 on March 15th for $229 (about £170, AU$320). What’s more, there will also purportedly be a GeForce GTX 1650 launching on April 30th for $179 (about £135, AU$250).

If this report is true, Nvidia could quickly dominate the entry-level market in the PC gaming world, especially if both of these GPUs are as impressive as the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti.

Producing GeForce GTX 1660 and the GeForce GTX 1650 cards certainly wouldn’t be a difficult task for Nvidia. The company could just use cut-down versions the its existing Turing TU116 GPU core with fewer CUDA cores or slightly lower operating frequencies to produce more affordable models.

According to VideoCardz, the GeForce GTX 1660 will feature 1,280 CUDA cores with either 6GB or 3GB of GDDR5 video memory. The GeForce GTX 1650, on the other hand, is still heavily shrouded in mystery and we’ve only heard it will come equipped with 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM.

The motive behind Nvidia’s sudden stream of affordable GPUs is far more transparent. Earlier this month, the company announced its Q4 FY2019 results with revenue dipping to its lowest levels since mid-2017. Part of its poor performance was due to the low sales of high-priced GeForce RTX graphics cards.

It’s almost certain that Nvidia is trying to reverse its fortunes for the better by selling as many mid- and entry-level graphics cards it can.

  • Here is our full review of AMD’s latest graphics card, the Radeon VII

Via Wccftech

Categories: Tech News

BlackBerry acquires Cylance for its intelligent security technology

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 13:00

In an effort to bolster its portfolio of security solutions, BlackBerry has announced that it has completed its acquisition of machine learning and AI-based security tech firm Cylance.

The deal will add valuable IP and technologies to BlackBerry's already extensive portfolio of security solutions for today's increasingly connected world.

Cylance utilizes advanced AI and ML algorithms to predict, detect and prevent both known and unknown threats which will help enhance both BlackBerry's QNX and Spark platforms for connected cars as well as various other IoT devices.

IoT and other connected devices are still relatively new which is why potential threats that can harm them remain largely unknown at this time. Advanced AI and ML algorithms, such as those developed by Cylance, can help predict and detect threats, making them a great addition to software platforms running on these emerging devices.

Cylance acquisition

In total, BlackBerry paid $1.4bn for Cylance which was founded in 2015 by former Intel and McAfee employees.

The company's founder Stuart McClure will continue to serve as the president of BlackBerry Cylance which will operate as a separate unit within BlackBerry.

BlackBerry's Executive Chairman and CEO, John Chen praised the acquisition in a statement explaining how Cylance's technology will help it achieve its goal of becoming the world's largest AI cybersecurity company, saying:

"Today BlackBerry took a giant step forward toward our goal of being the world's largest and most trusted AI-cybersecurity company. Securing endpoints and the data that flows between them is absolutely critical in today's hyperconnected world. By adding Cylance's technology to our arsenal of cybersecurity solutions we will help enterprises intelligently connect, protect and build secure endpoints that users can trust." 

Via AnandTech

Categories: Tech News

Best roguelike games: a beginner's guide to the die-a-lot genre

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 12:49

Gaming used to be hard because of two things: money and time. As many games were designed to be played in an arcade, they leant into being intensely tricky in order to get your pocket money. Meanwhile, the games that were always destined for consoles usually just weren’t that long. In order to counteract their short playtime, home console games were made more difficult to prevent you feeling like you wasted your hard-earned cash- 30 hours to finish a four-hour story is value for money, right? 

As time progress, games changed and developers learnt the benefits of creating longer, less difficult games. However, while that’s something gamers claimed they wanted, in reality many still long for the nostalgia that comes with challenging games. They remind us of the arcade’s frustrating legacy. This has led to titles such as the infamous Demon’s Souls thriving, as saying that a game is ‘hard’ has suddenly become a positive thing in marketing. 

This masochistic awakening has seen the revival of a genre, buried by the sands of time, that is designed to kill you and sees your progression tied more to you than your character: the Roguelike… roguelite… rogue-ish. 

Roguelikes are all about getting better because you have suffered. Only through great suffering can one attain great power. Only after failing 1000 times can you expect to succeed once. Roguelikes take masochism and gamify it, rewarding your stubbornness in a way that no other genre does. 

So this is our little guide to some of the best rogue-inspired games around. A genre full of dying a lot, making mistakes, and scraping through by the skin of your eyes. Yes, your eyes...

The Shoot ‘Em Up: The Binding of Isaac

Image credit: Edmund McMillen

The Binding of Isaac is an eight-year-old game that has been consistently receiving updates up until last year. For many, this is the quintessential roguelike game. You play Isaac – initially at least – a poor boy whose mother has been told by God to strike him down. He goes into hiding and winds up in a dungeon filled with monstrosities that seem intent on killing him. If you guide Isaac down deep enough you actually go through your mother’s womb and even fight Satan. You read that right.

The joy of this game comes from the runs where you become all-powerful. You can become a flying laser-firing cyclops that turns to stone when stationery. You can have an army of babies that attack enemies for you. Hell, you can spit teeth at enemies in order to take them out. The game gets harder the better you do, with bosses becoming more difficult and new areas unlocking. The real challenge though is in the other characters. 

As things progress you'll unlock more powerful playable characters, less powerful ones, and even biblical babies. Eventually, you unlock The Lost, a ghost baby that can only take one hit. Yes, just one hit and it is game over - to put this in perspective, the latter bosses are all bullet hell fights. You might be wondering why you would do this to yourself, well the only way to truly complete the game is to complete it with every character. The Binding of Isaac will crush you, and you will love it. 

The Metroidvania: Dead Cells

Image credit: Motion Twin

Dead Cells came out last year to widespread critical acclaim - and probably resulted in some broken controllers. It’s a side-on action-platformer game where you get new abilities and unlock new areas as a result of progressing: aka a Metroidvania. You also go back to the beginning when you die, which makes it a roguelike. 

The two terms are naturally at odds with each other, due to the former requiring permanent progression and the latter denying it. Nevertheless, Dead Cells balances both perfectly, like balancing a bottle of nitroglycerin on the end of a sword. 

The combat in this game is balletic. You flow around levels constantly attacking and double-jumping like a pointy spinning-top (or a Beyblade, for you geeks). You can clamber up walls, grow vines, set traps, and set everything on fire. You upgrade your character over the course of each run and then have it taken away from you when you die, or when you succeed. In the unlikely event that you make it past the final boss, the game restarts. 

This time though, you have a boss cell activated that changes the enemies in each level, removes some healing opportunities, and generally turns things up a notch. You can do this several times. The final difficulty gives you three healing chances to last an entire run. Apparently, this is still achievable... 

The Turn-Based Strategy: Into the Breach

Image credit: Subset Games

Into the Breach is such an intensely compelling and enjoyable experience that you often won’t even realize you’ve failed before you’ve started your next run. The turn-based strategy title shows you every move your enemy is going to make and asks you to react perfectly in order to protect the timeline from alien interference. 

In order to succeed you need to look past your immediate options, if you can’t think at least three turns ahead then you are doomed to failure. Failure means permadeath, in this case that means teleporting to another timeline and abandoning all but one of your mech pilots - essentially making you start from scratch.

The brilliance of Into the Breach lies in the fact that you are always responsible for your failure and you’re forced to live with it - there are no redos. In other games, it is easy to blame an unfair AI or attack however, in Into the Breach , you can see what is going to happen, so it is your fault if you make a bad move. 

It’s like playing chess with the ability to see the future; if you still mess it up then it is on you, not the game. You unlock new mechs as you go and can even mix-and-match them to build your own perfect squad - just try not to lose them. If the threat of losing your squad isn’t enough to get the blood pumping then add a soundtrack comparably to audio ecstasy for extra measure. 

The Multi-Player Dungeon Crawler: Crawl 

Image credit: Powerhoof

Crawl is a Lovecraftian local multiplayer dungeon crawler which sees you descend into a pixel art dungeon - hoping not to descend into madness. You will probably die, but that is not the end of you. You see, there are up to four adventurers (controlled by you and your friends) all aiming to make it to the end of the dungeon- but only one can. Queue the literal backstabbing and murder. 

Whichever of your friends is lucky enough to kill you comes back to life, while the other adventurers exist as vengeful spirits intent on killing the fortunate survivor. These spirits can possess traps and furniture, and summon monsters in special areas that can be used to attack the living. These monsters gain levels and evolve depending on how strong the adventurer is. The stronger the living becomes, the stronger the dead are. It keeps things in balance. The aim is to be the living adventurer to first slay a boss. Then you get to start it all over again. 

While the vast majority of roguelikes are single-player and frustrating affairs, Crawl turns this on its head. Instead, you and three friends can take turns stabbing each other in the back, all to try and be the one who succeeds. It is well-balanced as no matter how strong the hero becomes; the monsters just get fiercer. The more you play the game the more content you unlock. You gain access to new old ones to worship, new items, and deadlier traps. The frenetic rush to be the spirit to deal the killing blow to the adventurer is wonderful, and one that is repeated throughout each game. Why not share the joy of dying a lot with your closest friends?

The Card Game: Slay the Spire

Image credit: Mega Crit Games

 Despite only releasing in January 2019, Slay the Spire has cemented its place in the roguelike genre. On paper, it’s a deck-building card-battling turn-based dungeon crawler, but you have to assume it was created by feeding two genres into a randomizer and just going with the results (in the best possible way). 

Your role is to make it to the top of the titular spire. To do this, you journey through different levels, battling various monsters along the way. As you progress, you get new cards to add to your deck and maybe even some fancy equipment. Seems simple, right?

Where Slay the Spire excels is in the subtle decisions you have to make. Adding a new card to your deck should be a good thing. The trouble is, doing so lowers the chances of drawing something else. Whenever a new card is offered, you have to figure out if it is worth taking. Do you take the card that is good on its own or do you take the combo card? The good one is good no matter what other cards you have, but the combo card could be instantly lethal if you get the other bits - which is more valuable. Failure means starting again of course, but this time you’ll know more about deck composition and strategy. It really is unique amongst roguelikes. 

Categories: Tech News

Samsung Galaxy S9 prices set to rise - grab one of these great deals before they go

Latest Tech News - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 12:25

As much as we've been loving the new Samsung Galaxy S10 its launch last week, it has been a bit of a struggle to see past the price. Instead, we've found solace in the affordability of its predecessor - the Galaxy S9.

But now that might not be an option either, with prices set to rise on Samsung's older device. We've been told that the best deals on the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus are set to disappear in the next couple of days. But this is not a time for despair, as it means there is still time to grab one of the many affordable offers still floating around on these devices.

Below you can find our picks for the best tariffs available on both the S9 and S9 Plus. But if you would rather see what other handsets are currently available, take a look at our best mobile phone deals page to compare prices.

The best Samsung Galaxy S9 deals in full:
Categories: Tech News