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All Digital Xbox One S Could Launch May 7

Following up on previous reports claiming that Microsoft could unveil a disc-less Xbox One in April, Windows Central allegedly got their hands on some photographs of the upcoming console, and recreated them in Photoshop to protect their source. "Additional documents" they obtained suggest that the new Xbone could launch on May 7 in a "global simultaneous release," but as we've noted with some of our own predictions, exact launch dates can be fuzzy this far ahead of time. The publication thinks that Microsoft is positioning this as a replacement to the original Xbox One, rather than a replacement to the newer disc-based consoles.

The design of the Xbox One S All-Digital appears to be virtually identical to the current Xbox One S, without the disc drive and eject button. The product shots we received seem to indicate that it will come with a 1TB HDD and with Forza Horizon 3, Sea of Thieves, and Minecraft digital codes bundled into the box. It doesn't look as though it will be bundled with Microsoft's Netflix-like subscription service for games, Xbox Game Pass. Our information suggests that the Xbox One S All-Digital edition will have the lowest recommended retail price (RRP) of all current Xbox One consoles, aimed at newcomers to the ecosystem, although the exact pricing is unknown at this time.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 21, 2019 11:04 AM (CDT)

Digital Foundry Analyzes Google's Stadia Platform

Following Google's "Stadia" game streaming service announcement yesterday, Digital Foundry decided to take a closer look at the hardware behind the platform. Google says they use a "Custom 2.7GHz hyper-threaded x86 CPU with AVX2 SIMD and 9.5MB L2+L3 cache," and while they didn't mention the vendor, DF notes that they haven't seen such a configuration in any of AMD's currently shipping server CPUs, and that it should significantly outpace anything found in a modern console. Meanwhile, the GPU largely resembles a Vega 56 card with 16GB of HBM2, and the games are reportedly loaded from an SSD. Through their own testing, DF came away impressed with the platform's consistent frame pacing, and in some cases, total latency is on par with locally-run games on a console or PC.

Google has also demonstrated scalability on the graphics side, with a demonstration of three of the AMD GPUs running in concert. Its stated aim is to remove as many of the limiting factors impacting game-makers as possible, and with that in mind, the option is there for developers to scale projects across multiple cloud units: "The way that we describe what we are is a new generation because it's purpose-built for the 21st century," says Google's Phil Harrison. "It does not have any of the hallmarks of a legacy system. It is not a discrete device in the cloud. It is an elastic compute in the cloud and that allows developers to use an unprecedented amount of compute in support of their games, both on CPU and GPU, but also particularly around multiplayer."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 20, 2019 9:14 AM (CDT)

Western Digital Launches Budget WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD

Western Digital has announced its new WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD product line that features budget friendly offerings. The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) in the U.S. is $54.99 USD for 250GB (model number: WDS250G1B0C) and $77.99 USD for 500GB (model number: WDS500G1B0C). The drives feature a single-sided M.2 2280 PCIe Gen3 x2 form factor that makes them perfect for slim form factor notebooks or desktop PCs. Although the drives will appeal to price-conscious consumers, they are built on Western Digital's own 3D NAND technology, firmware and controller, and delivers sequential read and write speeds up to 1,700MB/s and 1,450MB/s respectively (for 500GB model) with efficient power consumption as low as 2.7W. The drives feature a downloadable SSD dashboard to help monitor drive health and a 5-year limited warranty.

"Content transitioning from 4K and 8K means it's a perfect time for video and photo editors, content creators, heavy data users, and PC enthusiasts to transition from SATA to NVMe," said Eyal Bek, vice president marketing, data center and client computing, Western Digital. "The WD Blue SN500 NVMe SSD will enable customers to build high-performance laptops and PCs with fast speeds and enough capacity in a reliable, rugged and slim form factor."

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 14, 2019 12:37 PM (CDT)

Microsoft Reveals Project xCloud: a Vision for Game-Streaming

Microsoft has revealed Project xCloud: its vision of the future of game-streaming. As long as there is a client for the device, the service enables gamers to play the games that they want on the device that they want. Just like music where you have a choice to listen at home, on the commute to work, at work, or at a cafe; Project xCloud seeks to do the same for gaming. The only requirement is a good internet connection and the previously mentioned client, as the Microsoft Azure datacenters will take care of the heavy work of rendering and remotely streaming the exact game experience that the game's creators intended onto the gamer's device. Public trials start this year.

While our vision for the technology is complementary to the ways in which we use consoles today, Project xCloud will also open the world of Xbox to those who may not otherwise own traditional, dedicated gaming hardware. True console-quality gaming will become available on mobile devices, providing the 2 billion-plus gamers around the world a new gateway to previously console- and PC-exclusive content. We can achieve this vision with the global distribution of Microsoft's datacenters in 54 Azure regions and the advanced network technologies developed by the team at Microsoft Research. We're excited about our ability to deliver a best-in-class global streaming technology.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 13, 2019 10:44 AM (CDT)

Careless Employees Expose Sensitive Data as Public on the Cloud

Adversis has discovered employees at numerous companies are sharing files by enabling public file sharing in Box Enterprise. This combined with the ability to brute force the the sub-domain, URL, and folder names of Box Enterprise accounts means that these sensitive files, documents, and more are easily discovered and some are even being indexed by Google. Files found by Adversis include hundreds of passport photos, social security and bank account numbers, tech prototype and design files, employee lists, financial data, invoices, VPN configurations, and more. It is unknown how Box Enterprise can be changed to save employees from themselves. This is not a vulnerability or bug as public sharing is a feature of Box Enterprise. Adversis noted that in 2014 the issue was brought up and ignored by companies. Box released a Public Service announcement, but most companies ignored it also. Techcrunch listed some of the interesting files discovered on Box including passwords and backdoors for major municipality public works, customer phone numbers; names and email addresses, healthcare provider patient information, and more. Adversis has open-sourced its scanning tool.

Box spokesperson Denis Roy said in a statement: "We take our customers' security seriously and we provide controls that allow our customers to choose the right level of security based on the sensitivity of the content they are sharing. In some cases, users may want to share files or folders broadly and will set the permissions for a custom or shared link to public or 'open'. We are taking steps to make these settings more clear, better help users understand how their files or folders can be shared, and reduce the potential for content to be shared unintentionally, including both improving admin policies and introducing additional controls for shared links."

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 11, 2019 4:54 PM (CDT)

Ubisoft Will Prevent Third-Party Digital Stores from Selling "The Division 2" after Release

According to a statement issued by Gamesplanet, Ubisoft and Epic Games have decided to ban third-party game-key vendors from selling The Division 2 after its official release. Post March 15, the title will only be available for purchase on Uplay and the Epic Games Store, so fans who want to save a bit of money may want to visit their preferred vendor straight away. The Division 2 will have a 50GB day-one patch for disc buyers, and the PS4 version weighs in at 100GB.

Needless to say that we are against this anti-consumer move from both Ubisoft and Epic Games. It’s one thing securing a game to launch exclusively on your launcher but to prevent all third-party digital stores from selling keys? That’s a new low in our opinion. Bad move Epic Games, especially when your boss, Tim Sweeney, was whining about UWP and how anti-consumer it was compared to Win32.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 10, 2019 12:05 PM (CDT)

Microsoft to Announce Xbox One S "All Digital Edition" in April [Rumor]

Last year, Brad Sams of Thurrott leaked information detailing how Microsoft is expected to announce a Xbox One S without the disc drive. Now Jez Corden of Windows Central has heard that the console is coming and it will be called the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition. Preorders for the console are expected to begin in April 2019 with a May 7th release date. Hints of a Fortnite Edition console are gaining traction also. PC gamers shouldn't be sad as Brad Sams talks about Halo: The Master Chief Collection coming to PC possibly at E3 this year in the video below.

The disc-less Xbox One S would be a first for the company, offering fans the ability to ditch discs altogether and go all-in on digital game licenses. As Microsoft pushes for greater access to its game library via things like the Xbox Game Pass digital subscription and the incoming streaming service Project xCloud, dropping the disc drive from the "All-Digital Edition" should make it the cheapest Xbox console yet, although we have no word on pricing just yet or whether the console will see any design refinements beyond simply dropping the disc drive.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 05, 2019 9:51 PM (CST)

ZDNet Analyzes the Windows 10 Update Schedule

Microsoft recently released code from the Windows 10 2020 H1 branch to testers last month, which left many wondering why Microsoft wasn't releasing code from the 19H1 update. Some thought Microsoft might be moving to one Windows 10 feature update per year, while others thought the marriage of Chromium and Edge might be creating a delay. However, ZDNet's sources refuted both those claims, They say that, as a result of the Azure development team catching up to the latest version of Windows core OS, the Windows core team is skipping the June Windows update and is instead focusing on the Windows 10 20H1 release. In a nutshell, ZDNet thinks that the Windows 10 19H2 update might appear to be a relatively minor update, but that's only the result of some one-time development shifts, not a release pattern Microsoft wants to stick to in the future.

This 19H2 release might appear like a more minor update, but only to those paying close attention. Does this mean Microsoft is going to move to a major/minor schedule with Windows 10 feature releases moving forward? I hear the answer is no. This year is just a messy one-off, sources of mine say. Microsoft's plan remains to continue to roll out two new Windows 10 feature updates every year (over the howls of protest of many business and consumer users). If all the stars align,the 20H1 release will be built on the Windows 10 core OS Vibranium platform which engineering will deliver internally to various Microsoft teams as of December 2019. If all goes as planned, the Windows 10 20H2 release will be built on the Windows 10 core OS platform delivered internally in June 2020 (which is codenamed "Manganese").

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 01, 2019 10:18 AM (CST)

Fox Spins Off Alien Isolation's Cutscenes as a Digital Series

Following up on their promise to release more Alien spin offs, 20th Century Fox just announced a digital series based on the cutscenes from Alien: Isolation. The IGN press release says that "the goal was to offer new depth to a story that many gamers would have already experienced in 2014's release, and also tell the story in a newly accessible way for those who haven't," and mentions that some newly rendered scenes that weren't part of the original game will be in the series. Check out the trailer below:

The official summary for the Alien: Isolation series reads: "Fifteen years have passed since the deep-space freighter Nostromo disappeared with all hands. And for fifteen years, Amanda Ripley has scoured the known universe for information about her mother, Ellen Ripley, the Nostromo's warrant officer. When representatives from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation approach Amanda with news that the Nostromo's flight recorder has finally been found and brought to the space station Sevastopol, Amanda joins the Company's expedition to the remote outpost. But when Amanda reaches the station, she walks into a living nightmare: Sevastopol's inhabitants have been terrorized, hunted, and brought to the brink of annihilation. Now she and a band of unprepared - and perhaps untrustworthy - survivors will have to confront the same diabolical species that changed her mother's fate forever."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 28, 2019 9:18 AM (CST)

The HTC 5G Hub Will Bring Cloud-Based Virtual Reality to the Home

The new HTC 5G Hub harnesses the power of 5G technology to bring cloud-based virtual reality to the home. For example, this will allow HTC Vive owners to stream VR content from the cloud to their headsets. No PC or cables will be required. Other features include 4K video streaming, low-latency gaming, ability to connect up to 20 devices, and faster networks.

Enjoy ultra-low-latency, 60fps, and 4K resolution--gaming at its finest--with the HTC 5G Hub. Combining the processing power of Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Mobile Platform with Android 9 Pie, the HTC 5G Hub allows for unprecedented data speeds and power for native Android and PC games supported on the largest of screens. *PC gaming compatibility available only through third party applications.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru February 26, 2019 2:20 PM (CST)

GOG in Financial Trouble as Layoffs Hit the PC Games Digital Storefront

GOG is in financial trouble as the DRM-free PC games digital storefront has confirmed it laid off 12 members of its team. This number may seem small, but it equates to 10% of the total workforce at GOG. On a more positive note, the company is hiring more employees and says it has "welcomed nearly twice as many new team members." GOG competes directly with other digital game storefronts such as Steam, Origin, Epic Store, etc.

"We were told it's a financial decision," that person told me in an online message. "GOG's revenue couldn't keep up with growth, the fact that we're dangerously close to being in the red has come up in the past few months, and the market's move towards higher [developer] revenue shares has, or will, affect the bottom line as well. I mean, it's just an odd situation, like things got really desperate really fast. I know that February was a really bad month, but January on the other hand was excellent. We were in the middle of a general restructuring, moving some teams around, not unprecedented. But layoffs that big have never happened before."

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru February 25, 2019 5:39 PM (CST)

Backblaze Analyzes SSD Reliability

BackBlaze regularly posts failure rates for their substantial collection of hard drives, and according to the results they published last month, they have over 100,000 of them to test. But as we've recently noted, flash memory prices are dropping like a rock, hence solid state drives are quickly becoming a somewhat economical alternative to 7200 RPM spinners. But just how reliable are these drives? According to a recent blog post, BackBlaze thinks that SSDs are "generally" more reliable than HDDs under most workloads, though the factors that affect SSD reliability are different. As their name would suggest, SSDs have no moving parts, hence they're more tolerant to shock, vibration, and temperature changes, but that also means that users get no audible indicators when they do start failing. Flash memory can eventually wear out too, and it can wear out relatively quickly in QLC SSDs, but Backblaze says "SSDs can be expected to last as long or longer than HDDs in most general applications." Unfortunately, the backup company isn't backing up their claims with hard data yet, but other publications have torture tested SSDs before, and I expect it won't be long before Backblaze starts posting SSD failure rates as well. Thanks to AceGoober for the tip.

SSDs are a different breed of animal than a HDD and they have their strengths and weaknesses relative to other storage media. The good news is that their strengths -speed, durability, size, power consumption, etc. - are backed by pretty good overall reliability. SSD users are far more likely to replace their storage drive because they're ready to upgrade to a newer technology, higher capacity, or faster drive, than having to replace the drive due to a short lifespan. Under normal use we can expect an SSD to last years. If you replace your computer every three years, as most users do, then you probably needn't worry about whether your SSD will last as long as your computer. What's important is whether the SSD will be sufficiently reliable that you won't lose your data during its lifetime.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas February 22, 2019 10:45 AM (CST)