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Microsoft Makes A Bold Move With Xbox Game Pass

February 2, 2018 by  
Filed under Gaming

Microsoft has significantly improved its Xbox Game Pass subscription service.

The service was launched in June last year, and initially offered gamers access to 100 Xbox One games for a monthly subscription fee. Most of the games were older, catalogue titles.

Now the firm has made a significant improvement to the service, by offering all Xbox first-party games onto the service. That includes new releases such as the upcoming Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3 and State of Decay 2.

Xbox head Phil Spencer also wrote in a blog post that the firm is teaming up with GameStop and other retailers to offer a 6-month Xbox Game Pass subscription card. He says that he believes the new business model could create major opportunities for developers and publishers.

“This plan to bring new games timed with their global release into Xbox Game Pass not only includes announced titles like Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, and Crackdown 3 but future unannounced games from Microsoft Studios including new iterations of our biggest Xbox One exclusive franchises such as Halo, Forza and Gears of War, on the same day they launch,” Spencer wrote.

“Our fans have also asked for more choice in the subscription offerings available for Xbox Game Pass. As part of today’s library expansion, we are also pleased to announce that we are working closely with our retail partners, such as GameStop, to offer a 6-month Xbox Game Pass subscription card for those fans who look for a variety of ways to purchase and enjoy new games and services. The 6-month Xbox Game Pass subscription card will be available at select retail partners for $59.99 beginning March 20. By working closely with retail partners, Xbox Game Pass will have valuable ambassadors in popular destinations for gamers to discover new and exciting games and enjoy community.

“With the addition of more great games, new blockbuster releases and a new subscription offer, we are giving fans more choice and value in how they discover and enjoy games – purchase games for their permanent library or play through Xbox Game Pass for one low price.

“We’ve only scratched the surface of the opportunity this new model brings to the industry and what we can deliver to our fans. We firmly believe Xbox Game Pass will be a catalyst to create new opportunities for game developers and publishers to innovate in the way games are developed and delivered, leading to entirely new ways to play.

“We’re truly humbled by the incredible response we’ve received to date for Xbox Game Pass, and we look forward to offering an unprecedented choice and value with Xbox Game Pass this spring and beyond.”

Microsoft Stops Installing Spectre Patch After Bug Reported

January 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Computing

This pastweekend, Microsoft released an update that disables a patch to IntelCPUs after reports that the patch — meant to fix a design flaw known as Spectre — caused unexpected reboots and other problems. Intel called a halt to installations of the patch one week ago, but Microsoft’s new update goes a step further and disables the patches on any computers that already had them installed.

It’s the latest development in the rocky recovery process from the Spectre flaw. Researchers revealed in early January that hundreds of millions of chips made by Intel and AMD or built on Arm designs were designed in a way that could allow hackers to access sensitive information, such as passwords and encryption keys, essential to the security of a computer and its contents. That included the Spectre flaw as well as a similar flaw called Meltdown.

Since then, some updates to chips made by Intel and AMD were revealed to cause their own problems. What’s more, Intel faces concerns that the updates, even if implemented correctly, will slow down computer performance.

Microsoft’s new update, released Saturday, comes on the heels of Intel’s quarterly financial disclosures. On Friday, Intel wrote in a press release that patches to its chips “may result in adverse performance, reboots, system instability, data loss or corruption, unpredictable system behavior, or the misappropriation of data by third parties.”

In its announcement of the disabling update, Microsoft urged users to stay informed about the status of a patch for Spectre. “We understand that Intel is continuing to investigate the potential impact of the current microcode version and encourage customers to review their guidance on an ongoing basis to inform their decisions,” Microsoft said.

Intel’s Mobileye Software Going In Millions Of Vehicles

January 10, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Intel Corp Chief Executive Brian Krzanich announced 2 million vehicles from BMW, Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Volkswagen AG would use its unit Mobileye’s autonomous vehicle technology to crowdsource data for building maps that enable autonomous driving.

The world’s largest chipmaker bought Israeli firm Mobileye last year to compete with peers such as Qualcomm Inc and Nvidia Corp and tap the fast-growing market of driverless cars.

Intel will also tie up with SAIC Motor Corp Ltd, which will use Mobileye technology to develop cars in China, the chipmaker said.

Krzanich also said Intel had not received any information of customer data being compromised so far after the company confirmed last week that the security issues reported by researchers in its widely used microprocessors could allow hackers to steal sensitive information from computers, phones and other devices.

Security researchers had disclosed two security flaws exposing vulnerability of nearly every modern computing device containing chips from Intel, Advanced Micro Devices Inc  and ARM Holdings.

Does CryptoCurrency Have Staying Power

January 4, 2018 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Cryptocurrency bitcoin has seen its value fall by 26 percent from in December 2017.

That comes as regulators in South Korea are threatening sanctions against cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.

The value of bitcoin fell below $14,000 today. That, according to Bloomberg, is compared to the $19,000 plus figure on December the 18th.

Many financial analysts see bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as bubbles which are ready to pop, leaving traders with a hole in their pocket. The South Korean moves follow concerns from other countries around the world, which wonder where the adoption of cryptocurrencies is going to end.

Meanwhile, according to CNBC, the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth described bitcoin as wild, uncontrollable and dangerous.

William Galvin said that investors in cryptocurrencies are playing with fire because of the way they can be manipulated. He said that the “wild” values showed how bitcoin is “entirely speculation”.


Is The Popularity Of HBM2 Becoming More Popular

January 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Computing

Analyst at Digitimes Research have added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and worked out that HBM2 (second-generation high bandwidth memory) have been becoming more popular.

Th researchers found that the reason has been due to the adoption of such products by Nvidia’s Tesla P100 accelerator and Quadro GP 100 graphics card as well as AMD’s Radeon Vega chip.

In addition to HBM-based products, there is a variant version of HMC (hybrid memory cube) chips. While both HBM and HMC solutions are made with a similar vertical stacking process to integrate multilayer DRAM devices on a base logic die, the HBM is more like a 2.5D stacked-die packaging solution, and the HMC is closer to a 3D stacked-die packaging process.

SK Hynix and Samsung Electronics are using wafer-level packaging (WLP) process to fabricate HBM2-based chips, TSMC is using chip-on-wafer-on-substrate for HBM2 devices. Micron Technology and Chipzilla focus mainly on HMC-based products.

Intel’s deep-learning chip, Lake Crest, which came following its acquisition of Nervana, has come with HMB2. This indicates that HBM-based architecture will be the primary development direction of memory solutions for HPC solutions by GPU vendors, Digitimes Research things.

The high packaging cost and compatibility are likely to continue to affect the applications and popularity the HBM2 chips, Digitimes Research added.


AMD To Open Vulkan

December 21, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD’s Vulkan Linux driver which was initially going to be closed-source and open-sourced when it was finished, is now totally open sourced.

AMD has released the source code to its official Vulkan Linux driver, just in time to make the Christmas best sellers’ list.

Apparently open-sourcing is going to occur, it will likely be within a few days and appears to have been timed around the date of the Adrenalin driver release.

The code is being opened under the “GPUOpen” umbrella and will be promoted as accelerating open-source Vulkan development on Linux, quick support for new AMD hardware, support for the Radeon GPU Profiler, easy integration of AMD’s own Vulkan extensions, and it will support third party contributions to their driver.

This will be AMD’s “official” Vulkan driver as found for Linux users already within the AMDGPU-PRO driver. It’s also the shared code base to its Vulkan Windows driver. It’s the full-fat Vulkan driver that AMD has been developing for the last two years.

The AMD Vulkan driver lives in its own code base and is not using or dependent upon Mesa/Gallium3D but rather just interfacing with libdrm / AMDGPU DRM / LLVM directly.

AMD hasn’t yet finalized on any new “name” for this driver besides “Radeon Open Vulkan” to better distinguish it from the RADV Vulkan driver.

The only downside is that this is not being set up to run on Microsoft Windows and is not open for Windows integration.


Does Samsung Have A Windows 10 On ARM Device In The Pipeline

December 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Qualcomm executives have told Fudzilla that Asus, Lenovo, and HP won’t be alone in their efforts launching the Windows 10 on Snapdragon, and that certain phone manufacturers are working on their designs.

A Fudzilla trusted source who likes his privacy has confirmed to us that one of the mobile outfits is Samsung. Currently, there is no ETA on the launch or availability, but manufacturers who have the experience with the phone PCB are likely to do a better job with the smaller form factor.

In Q1 2018 we expect to see Asus, Lenovo and HP devices, with everyone else launching a bit later. Qualcomm has high hopes in its debut to the Windows platform, and Windows 10 will face a big test in the consumer interest.

The excellent battery life powered by constant LTE connectivity is a reasonable value proposition, especially as these machines don’t need annoying fans. They are completely quiet, something that we appreciate. We had a chance to spend some limited time with an HP Envy 2 two-in-one and the Asus NovaGo. Both were a bit bulkier than we would want them to be. There is space for thinner and lighter, and mobile phone manufacturers such as Samsung can make such a thing a reality. 

Samsung will likely announce Windows 10 on Snapdragon device at a later date and on its own terms. Mobile World Congress in late February or a Galaxy S9 phone launch could well be the launch opportunity.


Is AMD’s RX 560 A Re-branded Card

December 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

AMD has admitted that the Radeon RX 560 which is in the shops now is essentially a rebranded older model.

Yesterday we revealed that AMD had changed the Radeon RX 560 so that it had a similar spec to older cards. Unfortunately, it had mixed the downgraded cards with the older ones which meant you had to be a real geek to spot the difference.

What made the whole thing worse was that it had carried out the change after all the reviews were out and it failed to tell anyone about it.

Now AMD has released a statement which confirmed that there were hobbled versions of the Radeon RX 560 with 14 Compute Unit (896 stream processors) and 16 Compute Units (1024 stream processors) released onto the market.

“We introduced the 14CU version this summer to provide AIBs and the market with more RX 500 series options”, AMD said.

However, now AMD said that it had “come to our attention that on certain AIB and etail websites there’s no clear delineation between the two variants.

“We’re taking immediate steps to remedy this: we’re working with all AIB and channel partners to make sure the product descriptions and names clarify the CU count so that gamers and consumers know exactly what they’re buying. We apologize for the confusion this may have caused.”

So basically, it is saying that there is a Radeon RX 560 which got all the reviews and a Radeon RX 560 which is a rebranded earlier model and it is difficult to tell them apart. It is having a word with its partners to make sure that they are branded correctly. No mention of giving people their money back if they bought the wrong card.


HDMI v2.1 Standards Finally Set

December 4, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

The HDMI Forum has officially published the latest HDMI v2.1 specification, paving the way for up to 10K resolutions, dynamic HDR, and support for variable refresh rate.

According to details provided by the HDMI Forum, the new HDMI v2.1 specification will be backward compatible with all previous HDMI standards but will also need the new ultra high-speed HDMI cable for those new upgrades.

As for those upgrades, the HDMI v2.1 standard will offer 48Gbps of bandwidth, which is a significant improvement over 18Gbps of bandwidth on the HDMI 2.0. It will also bring higher resolution reaching 8K@60Hz without the Display Stream Compression (DSC) and 10K@120Hz with DSC. It also features the new Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM).

Another big novelty for HDMI is support for Dynamic HDR as well as the Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) technology, which should reduce lag, frame stutter, skipping and freezing as well as deal with that pesky frame tearing. Unfortunately, HDMI Forum did not provide a lot of details regarding the VRR technology and we are not sure how different it is from AMD FreeSync.

In addition, the HDMI v2.1 standard will also include eARC, as well as Quick Media Switching (QMS), which eliminates the delay that can result in a blank screen before content is displayed and the Quick Frame Transport (QFT) feature which also aims to reduce latency in gaming and real-time interactive virtual reality content.

According to the press release, the HDMI v2.1 Compliance Test Specification (CTS) will be published in stages from Q1 to Q3 2018 and will notify the HDMI adopters as it becomes available.


Is Gaming Growing The GPU Market

November 28, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Overall GPU shipments increased 9.3 percent from last quarter, AMD increased eight percent Nvidia rose 30 per cent and Intel, increased by five percent, according to figures from Jon Peddie Research.

 The desktop gain is attributed to gaming and cryptocurrency which mainly helped AMD and Nvidia gain market share.

The third quarter is typically the strongest from the previous quarter in the seasonal cycles of the past. For Q3’17 it increased 9.3 percent from last quarter and was below the ten-year average of 9.52 percent.

AMD’s overall unit shipments increased 7.63 percent quarter-to-quarter, Intel’s total shipments rose 5.01 percent from last quarter and Nvidia’s increased 29.53 percent. The attach rate of GPUs (includes integrated and discrete GPUs) to PCs for the quarter was 144 percent which was down -1.28 percent from last quarter.

Discrete GPUs were in 39.55 percent of PCs, which is up 4.18 percent. The overall PC market increased 10.31 percent quarter-to-quarter, and decrease -2.06 percent year-to-year.

Desktop graphics add-in boards (AIBs) that use discrete GPUs increased 29.05 percent from last quarter. Q3’17 saw an increase in tablet shipments from last quarter.

The normal seasonality has returned to the PC market, albeit in a slowly declining way, the report said.

GPUs are traditionally a leading indicator of the market, since a GPU goes into every system before it is shipped, and most of the PC vendors are guiding cautiously for the fourth quarter.

The Gaming PC segment, where higher-end GPUs are used, was the bright spot in the market in the quarter. AMD’s shipments of desktop heterogeneous GPU/CPUs, i.e., APUs, increased 7.1 percent from the previous quarter.

AMD’s notebook APU shipments were up 2.2 percent. Desktop discrete GPUs increased 16.1 percent from last quarter, and notebook discrete shipments increased 5.2 percent. AMD’s total PC graphics shipments increased 7.6 percent from the previous quarter.

Intel’s desktop processor-graphics shipments increased from last quarter by 5.0 percent, and notebook processors increased by 5.9percent, and total PC graphics shipments increased 5.0 percent from last quarter.

Nvidia’s discrete desktop GPU shipments were up 34.7 percent from last quarter, and the company’s discrete notebook GPU shipments increased 22.4 percent, and total PC graphics shipments increased 29.5percent from last quarter.

Total discrete GPUs (desktop and notebook) shipments for the industry increased 23.3 percent from the last quarter and increased 11.7 percent from last year.

Sales of discrete GPUs fluctuated due to timing, memory pricing issues, new product introductions, and the influence of integrated graphics.

Only one percent of Intel’s non-server processors don’t have graphics, and over 66 percent of AMD’s non-server processors contain integrated graphics; AMD still ships integrated graphics chipsets (IGPs).


Xbox One X Beats PS4 PRO In The UK

November 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The first week sales of Xbox One X is over 80,000 in the UK, can reveal.

Retailers have shared data that reveal that Microsoft’s new super-powered console has sold as many units in its first week as Nintendo Switch did in March (hardware figures are up-weighted 20%. Xbox One X raw data is at 67,000).

It’s first week sales are also well ahead of PS4 Pro, which did a little over 50,000 back in November 2016. Indeed, it took PS4 Pro four weeks to reach the same number.

Of course, stock shortages of both PS4 Pro and Switch will have impacted the performance of those machines.

The majority of sales were for the special Project Scorpio version of the machine.

It’s a pleasing performance for Microsoft, which has had a quiet year in terms of new Xbox products so far.

The best-selling Xbox One game of the week was Call of Duty: WWII, followed by Assassin’s Creed Origins (which was promoted with the system), FIFA 18 and the Forza duo: Forza Motorsport 7 and Forza Horizon 3.

Is Sony’s PSVR Taking Off

November 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

Sony is increasing the production of its motion-sensitive PlayStation Move controllers ahead of an anticipated deluge of new titles.

Speaking at Develop:VR in London today, Stuart Whyte – Sony London Studio’s director of VR product development – said Sony is tracking the number of players who own Move controllers, and hopes to increase this as the PSVR userbase grows.

“Currently, two thirds of the games released so far on PlayStation VR are Move-compatible or require Move,” Whyte told attendees. “As we see more Oculus and Vive titles come to PSVR, we’re expecting this number to increase. Sony is increasing the Move production capacity to [cater] to this.”

PlayStation Move first launched in 2010 as a response to the huge popularity of Nintendo Wii, but struggled to match that console’s success. However, the tech has been given a new lease on live thanks to its use in PlayStation’s virtual reality titles.

It’s a safe bet that more Oculus and Vive developers will bring their titles to PlayStation’s platform given that it is currently the market leader in VR with over 1m headsets sold. Whyte shared more learnings from the first year of PSVR, revealing that PS4 Pro users are more likely to own the device.

“The ratio of PS4 Pro attachment for PSVR is high,” he said. “One in five PS4s sold now are Pros, but that ratio [for PSVR] on PlayStation Pro is higher again.

“It’s definitely worth supporting the extra power available on Pro when you’re developing for PSVR, but it’s still also super important to run on a base PS4.”

Since PlayStation VR first launched in October 2016, more than 140 titles have been released for us and 75% of this content are games rather than less interactive experiences. Whyte predicts games will continue to be the main sales driver for virtual reality, citing the fact that they already provide 70% of revenue for mobile app stores.

“This is going to be true for VR,” he added.

He continued: “We’re currently sitting at five games sold per headset, so we’re seeing a really strong attach rate from our first year. Many of those games to date are smaller experiences, they’re experiences that we as developers [use to] get to know the platform built around one or two mechanics.

“We feel that for VR to get to the next level, we need bigger, built from the ground up VR AAA experiences.”

Sony London’s answer to this is Blood & Truth, a new VR shooter that is inspired by the London Heist section of last year’s launch title PlayStation VR Worlds. The game will be optimised for PlayStation Move, although Whyte said the team hopes to include standard controls as well.

Are Xbox One X Sales Higher Than Anticipated

November 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

At $499, the new Xbox One X isn’t going to attract people in droves, but it’s going to fare better than some might expect. Feedback on pre-orders has been encouraging and analysts are upgrading their forecasts. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter recently told us that he’s upping his Xbox One X sales forecast from 1 million to 1.5 million for 2017, and now IHSMarkit has raised its numbers as well.

“Feedback on pre-order volume for both the limited-edition Project Scorpio Xbox One X and for the standard version of the X console has led us to increase our 2017 sell-through forecast for Xbox One X,” said IHSMarkit’s Piers Harding-Rolls. “The Project Scorpio limited edition pre-order strategy has been particularly effective in driving what is expected to be a robust launch week in key sales territories. IHS Markit has therefore increased its 2017 forecast from 500,000 to 900,000 units. At this level, Xbox One share of total Q4 2017 Xbox One console family sales will be close to 20 percent, similar to the performance of PS4 Pro at launch. If Microsoft outperforms and delivers sales in excess of this forecast it will be considered a major launch success.”

Harding-Rolls even thinks some PlayStation fans could switch to Xbox One X: “A small share of PS4 Pro gamers that are keen to have the most powerful hardware for playing third-party published games are likely to shift their usage across to the new console, which may moderately shift the sales share of games between the two competing platforms.”

The extra sales for Xbox One X aren’t about to tip any scales in Microsoft’s favor, however: “Xbox One X is poised to give the company a boost in its ambition to compete more effectively with PS4 Pro in strategically important markets of the USA and UK. Other select markets, such as Germany in Europe with its PC gaming heritage, are also forecast to deliver solid launch traction. Overall, however, IHS Markit does not expect Xbox One X to have a dramatic impact on market share between Sony and Microsoft in continental Europe as the market’s current momentum is well entrenched. IHS Markit currently forecasts the Western Europe installed base of PS4 family of consoles to reach 26 million by the end of 2017 compared to 8 million for the Xbox One family of consoles.”

Importantly, while Microsoft is not selling Xbox One X hardware at a profit, the platform should help the company’s bottom line. Harding-Rolls adds, “Sales of the more expensive Xbox One X console will also help mitigate the fall in Xbox One S hardware average sales price which in recent fiscal quarters has undermined the positive impact felt by Microsoft of increased revenues from software and services. As such, Microsoft’s games business-related revenue is expected to increase year-on-year in Q4 2017.”

Are Digital Games Catching Up With Physical Media Games

November 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Gaming

The tipping point for digital in the UK console space is approaching faster than previously expected.

Confidential digital data, shown to, reveals that the digital-to-physical split on some AAA console games now exceed 45% in the UK.

Last year, the split was estimated at between 15% and 25%, depending on the game.

GfK data, which only counts physical sales, showed that some recent games have sold below their predecessors – titles such as Destiny 2, FIFA 18, Wolfenstein II, The Evil Within 2, Forza Motorsport 7 and Assassin’s Creed Origins. However, according to the data shown to us, some of these games were actually up over their previous titles due to the significant increase in downloading.

It’s a potential blow to the physical retail market, although one publisher told us that it’s the lack of discounting from retailers that may have resulted in this rapid switch.

“UK retailers have been selling new games closer to their RRP, so although digital titles are still quite expensive, they’re now closer to their physical counterparts in terms of price,” a senior source said. “Some consumers have clearly found that the convenience of digital offsets the now slight premium – whereas before they were paying upwards of £15 more for the privilege, that’s not the case this year.”

Another publishing boss said: “The challenge retailers face is how they react to this. To protect their revenue, the temptation may be to keep prices high, but this might only cause the digital acceleration to speed up further.”

EA’s financials this week showed that 36% of their PS4 and Xbox One sales are digital on a global basis, and that includes territories with lower broadband penetration. Last year that number was 30%. The firm says that 25% of FIFA 18’s sales have been digital after three weeks, whereas FIFA 17’s number was just 16%. Madden’s download share is also up 9% to 34% of total sales.

EA believes its games may have a lower download penetration generally, with its sports title being more mainstream and therefore appealing to consumers that perhaps don’t use download services.

“We were very pleased and a bit surprised at the strength of digital downloads, both for FIFA and Madden,” said CFO Blake J. Jorgensen in EA’s latest financial call. “FIFA, in particular, since it’s such a global game and sold in many markets where digital is not as strong as it is in some of the more mature markets. So it’s great to see the movement towards digital. And we attribute that to some digital-only promotions that we did, some special digital packages, as well as the continued involvement of everyone with Ultimate Team, which is 100% digital, and I think that’s driving the adoption.”

Meanwhile, the latest UK stats from October show that physical software sales were down 16% compared with the year before. However, early reports state that physical pre-orders for upcoming titles such as Call of Duty: WWII and Star Wars: Battlefront II are strong, and coupled with continued demand for Nintendo Switch and the upcoming Xbox One X, the expectation is that Christmas 2017 may still prove to be a strong one for physical stores.

Are Optical Audio Options Dying

November 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Optical cable, which was the digital audio transfer method of choice for decades, is starting to die out as Toslink is replaced by HDMI.

Through the ’90s and 2000s, the optical cable was near ubiquitous with it being the best way to get Dolby Digital and DTS from your cable/satellite box, TiVo, or DVD player. But now it is starting to disappear from hardware.

The latest Roku and Apple TV 4K, don’t bother and you can’t find it on many TVs. Chromecast Audio uses an optical connection because of space constraints any technical reason. The Chromecast Audio uses the mini-Toslink variant which fits inside a 3.5mm
analog jack.

This is mostly because it has been eclipsed by HDMI with ARC, even if in theory the optical has more bandwidth. However, as CNET points out, the optical audio connection is far more limited. It can’t transmit the high-resolution audio formats that came out with Blu-ray more than a decade ago, such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio.

HDMI has expanded its capabilities significantly over the brief time it’s been available and since no-one could be bothered upgrading optical because HDMI received greater acceptance the tech was toast.

Fibre technology will still be around as the backbone of the world wide wibble, but chances are you will not see it in your home in a few years.


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