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Tech News

'Ghost Recon Wildlands' adds a hardcore permadeath mode

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Ubisoft

Ubisoft isn’t just relying on cameos from aliens and iconic game characters to inject extra life into Ghost Recon Wildlands. When the Special Operation 2 pack arrives on July 24th, it’ll include a Ghost Mode that adds some high-stakes realism. For one, death is permanent — if your character falls in battle and isn’t revived in time, all your hard work will amount to nothing. Friendly fire is also a real risk. And you’ll want to be conservative with your shots, since you’ll only have one primary weapon (you have to swap at ammo boxes or when looting) and will lose any unspent ammo in a given clip when you reload. If regular Wildlands seemed too soft, you won’t have that problem from now on.

The mode is available for every difficulty setting and will be available to everyone for free, although Year 2 Pass holders will get first crack. You’ll have to wait until July 31st if you don’t want to pay extra.

There’s more than just a no-forgiveness option, of course. Ubisoft is adding two player-versus-player maps, and it’s revamping its Prestige economy to both let you earn credits in the regular campaign (not just Ghost War) and spend it on Prestige Packs that include customization. You’ll also find an eSports- and stream-friendly Observer Mode for watching custom matches, a new victory screen to let you celebrate your triumphs and a True Solo mode that turns off AI teammates.

Ubisoft is still keeping some details close to the vest (such as player-versus-environment missions, new themes and new classes). However, it’s evident that the developer is following a strategy like the one that keeps Rainbow Six: Siege thriving: it’s treating Wildlands as a continually growing service, rather than a one-and-done release.

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Tech News

Mark Zuckerberg: CEO, billionaire, troll

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

We imagine the scene at Facebook right now is like Kim Jong-il’s funeral. Employees weeping in hallways, dripping anguished snot onto keyboards, beating their chests with unsold Facebook phones in an orgy of anguish at the injustice of media coverage regarding Mark Zuckerberg’s unprompted defense this week of giving Holocaust deniers a voice on the platform.

But I think we’ve finally figured out what’s going on at Facebook after all.

You know that guy. The one who pops into a chill online community and makes everyone miserable. The one who says he’s “just asking questions” about women able to do math, black people and evolution, shooting victims and paid actors, the validity of the Holocaust.

He’s the one that mods have to kick out for “JAQing off” (“Just Asking Questions”) because he clearly has bad intentions to harm the community and recruit hate. The troll who feigns naïveté and uses free speech as a foil.

This week we learned that if you give that guy a platform for his voice, he’ll out himself real fast. Right now, headlines blare Zuckerberg in Holocaust denial row and Fortune 500 C.E.O. Says Holocaust Deniers Must Be Given “a Voice”.

To be clear, on Tuesday Zuckerberg gave a wandering kid-glove interview with Kara Swisher of Recode, the same day Facebook’s representatives went to the mat to avoid telling the House Judiciary Committee exactly how InfoWars gets to stay on Facebook while it pretends to decry hate speech.

Zuckerberg told Recode that Facebook won’t ban Holocaust deniers or race-war conspiracy propagators like InfoWars just because they’re “getting it wrong.” Also, booting them would go against his and Facebook’s “responsibility” to “give people a voice.” Even in his next-day backtracking, Mr. Zuckerberg and his company doubled-down on giving that guy a safe space, a voice, and a platform.

As Matt Ford at The Atlantic tweeted, in the original interview Zuckerberg wasn’t even asked about his company’s policy of fostering Holocaust denial, “he just said he’d keep it on Facebook on his own.”

So, I guess that was Zuckerberg’s last podcast? pic.twitter.com/niUS5NPuQR

— Mat Honan (@mat) July 19, 2018

Then came the headlines. Quickly followed by Mark Zuckerberg pulling a Trump, telling his softball interviewer that he misspoke. “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” he wrote in a warm personal email to Kara Swisher.

We imagine loyal Facebook employees on the floor in the breakroom, tearing up chunks of rubber floor mats and chewing them, swallowing through their own howls and moans, sobbing. “No one understands what Mark really means,” they cry.

But we all know that one way to double-down is to split hairs. It’s the hallmark of trolling. It’s what that guy is really good at.

Nowhere is this more clear than this week’s Channel Four (UK) Dispatches episode Inside Facebook: Secrets of the Social Network. The episode

Tech News

Magic Leap’s lackluster AR demo proves hardware is still hard

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Magic Leap announced last week that its mixed reality glasses — which have been shrouded in mystery and hype for almost four years — will be available later this summer. What should’ve been exciting news unfortunately fell flat. In a developer chat on Twitch that same day, the company showed off a less-than-impressive pre-recorded demo of a small rock golem throwing some rubble around. Compared to earlier videos of a crashing whale in the middle of a gym and a floating solar system, this just came off as disappointing. Was this all there was?

The next day, Magic Leap co-founder Rony Abrovitz went on Twitter to explain that the video was a teaching tool for the creator and developer community. “Any video or 2D medium (photos) is completely inadequate to actually deliver the experience of a digital lightfield on ML1,” he tweeted, saying that the Magic Leap hardware is tuned to the way the human eye works, and is not designed for camera sensors. In short, it’s better if you try it.

While that might be true, it’s clear from the backlash that the public’s patience for Magic Leap has grown thin. Over the past four years, the company raised over $2.3 billion in funding, with a chunk of early investment from Google all raising our expectations. The company also released those aforementioned teaser videos, where it really seemed as if it could conjure up virtual creatures and have them interact with the real world.

DEMO MOVIE2 #magicleap #magicleaplive #マジックリープ pic.twitter.com/3jrbIcjqtg

— Sadao Tokuyama@MagicLeaper.unity (@tokufxug) July 11, 2018

As great as it seemed, the company has been incredibly secretive, letting only select media try it first hand. There were also reports that some of those early videos were fake, and created with special effects. Combine that with the lackluster golem demo and the fact that it’ll be an AT&T-exclusive and Magic Leap seems like an overhyped mess.

Which, unfortunately, casts doubt on the state of augmented reality in general. While virtual reality is slowly gaining popularity, AR just doesn’t seem to have succeeded in the same way. Google couldn’t make Glass work despite its deep well of resources, and Microsoft’s HoloLens is still very much in the developer stage. Even Apple, which is said to be making its own AR glasses, apparently won’t have anything to show until 2020 at the earliest. What is it that makes AR so difficult? And why hasn’t it taken off?

Except, it sort of has… in the enterprise world, that is. “There are actually over 50 smart glass manufacturers out there in the market now,” said Ori Inbar, the founder of Augmented World Expo and partner of Super Ventures, a venture fund that focuses on augmented reality.

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Those manufacturers include Vuzix, ODG, Meta, Solos, Epson and Atheer to name a few, and almost all of them make some kind of AR headset, primarily for businesses — helping technicians fix a

Tech News

'Stardew Valley' multiplayer arrives on PC, Mac and Linux August 1st

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Stardew Valley

We’ve been waiting on Stardew Valley multiplayer for awhile now, and now we finally have a release date. According to the developer’s Twitter account, it will arrive on PC, Mac and Linux on August 1st. There’s also a new trailer to enjoy.

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Eric Barone, the solo game developer of Stardew Valley, answered some questions in the replies to this original tweet, so feel free to take a look if you have additional concerns. There is currently no date for the Nintendo Switch or other console multiplayer versions, though they are in the works. Split screen will not be supported. If you played the beta multiplayer version, you won’t notice any significant changes — most of the tweaks are bug fixes.

If you decide to fish, farm and mine with your friends, your money, world and farm updates will be communal. Inventories, relationships with NPCs and skill levels will remain separate. Group chat will, of course, be enabled. friends will be allowed to marry NPCs or one another. All in all, it looks like a great update to an incredible game.

Tech News

PlayStation and Xbox sales discount 'Fortnite' and 'Shadow of War'

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Jerritt Clark via Getty Images

Summer tends to have few new video game releases, but that also tends to have an upside: loads of discounts. Both Microsoft and Sony are running limited-time sales on games that promise some steep price drops, and not just on old titles. Microsoft’s Ultimate Game Sale, for instance, is promising up to 67 percent off Xbox One games between now and July 30th. You won’t get that cut on the biggest games, but there are still some solid offerings. A Fortnite Standard Founder’s Pack is 40 percent off (down to $24 in the US), while Assassin’s Creed Origins is 40 percent off ($36). And if you missed out on Titanfall 2, you can get the Ultimate Edition for 75 percent off ($10). And this is before the Xbox Live Gold discount, so you can expect better bargains if you’re paying to play online.

Sony’s Flash Sale only lasts until July 23rd at 11AM Eastern and tends to focus on older titles, but there’s some definite gems. For one, this might be your chance to try Middle-earth: Shadow of War now that Monotlith has removed all the microtransactions that arguably hurt its gameplay — it’s 60 percent off ($20). It’s also a good time to be a Telltale fan, as Back to the Future and Guardians of the Galaxy have dropped from $20 each to $6 and $8 respectively. Other notable breaks include Human Fall Flat (down to $6) and Warhammer Vermintide‘s Ultimate Edition (half-price at $25).

These discounts may only have so much appeal if you’re saving your money for sequels and seasonal updates. With that said, there are some good offers if you’re determined to keep your gaming schedule full during the summer doldrums.

Tech News

The best wireless mouse

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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By Justin Krajeski and Kimber Streams

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full wireless mouse guide here.

After researching 60 mice for the latest update to this guide, testing 17 top contenders, and consulting with a panel of experts and laypeople, we found that the Logitech Marathon Mouse M705 is still the best wireless mouse for most people because it’s more comfortable, reliable, and affordable than any other wireless mouse we considered. The majority of our testers—with varying hand sizes and grips—preferred the Marathon’s size, shape, and smooth movement over the competition, especially praising its button selection and placement.

How we picked and tested

In 2015, we surveyed readers to find out what makes a great wireless mouse. Most of our readers prioritized comfort (which includes grip, how the mouse glides across a surface, and overall feel), sensor performance and type, connection type and dongle size, button placement and variety, useful software, battery life, and warranty coverage.

The three main computer mouse-grip styles are fingertip grip, palm grip, and claw grip. Video: Kimber Streams

Based on our survey feedback, this is what you should look for in a wireless mouse:

Comfort: Size: Comfort can vary based on hand size, so we sought out average hand measurements for adults. Using hand anthropometric data collected by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (taken from studies conducted in 2002 and 2008), we combined men’s and women’s hand measurements to find that the average palm size is 4 inches, and the average middle finger length is 2.95 inches. Grip: Among our survey participants, the most common mouse grip was fingertip at 48 percent, followed by palm at 35 percent, and claw at 13 percent. Handedness: We found that 94 percent of our respondents use their right hand to operate a mouse, even though only 87 percent of the readers surveyed said they were right-handed. Sensor: A mouse’s sensor should be able to register motion correctly and precisely—it shouldn’t stop or jump around the screen. It should also work on a variety of surfaces, primarily desks, hard and soft mouse pads, wood, and fabric. Connection: The wireless signal shouldn’t cut out during ordinary use across short distances. Connection options: Some mice can connect only via a 2.4 GHz radio-frequency (RF) USB wireless receiver—aka a dongle—others connect via Bluetooth only, and some mice support both. Dongle size: If your mouse uses a wireless receiver to connect to your device, that dongle should be as unobtrusive as possible. Buttons: Every wireless mouse should have the standard right- and left-click buttons. Useful software: Many wireless mice come with bundled software that allows you to track battery life and customize buttons, sensitivity, acceleration, scroll speed, and more. Battery life: A great wireless mouse should last a few months on a charge, at the very least.

Tech News

Toshiba's flash chips could boost SSD capacity by 500 percent

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Toshiba has started building prototype sample flash memory with the highest capacity yet, 1.33 terabits (166GB) per chip. The 96-layer 3D NAND flash chips have four bits per cell, as compared to its current-gen three-bit tech, which allowed for chips with “only” 32GB. A typical package for flash storage, containing 16 of the chips, would have an astonishing 2.66 TB capacity, opening up new possibilities for faster, higher density SSDs and memory cards.

Western Digital said it expects to start shipping consumer SanDisk products using the chips later this year. The firm still has a partnership with Tohiba despite the latter’s acquisition by Bain Capital, a consortium that includes Apple, Dell, Seagate and Kingston.

Despite constantly improving NAND flash tech, prices for SSDs and memory cards had been rising until recently because of a shortage of chips. They’re reportedly falling again because of lower demand for PCs, smartphones and cryto-mining equipment. That’s great news for consumers, so hopefully Toshiba’s new higher-capacity, faster chips will keep that trend going.

Tech News

iFixit puts the MacBook Pro's anti-debris keyboard to the test

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

MacLife Magazine via Getty Images

Users have complained that the butterfly switch keyboard that comes with newer MacBook and MacBook Pro models is too sensitive to crumbs and dust, with difficult-to-repair keys becoming “sticky” overtime. But when iFixit took a look inside Apple’s newest MacBook Pro, it discovered silicone barriers around the keyboard switches — a new addition that a MacBook Pro service document states is to “prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism.” Now, iFixit has put those barriers to the test in order to see how effective they really are at keeping particles from damaging the keyboard.

To test the silicone barriers, iFixit exposed the 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard to a fine, powdered paint additive and the team observed that the dust remained at the edges of the membrane and away from the switch. However, adding more particulate and throwing in some “aggressive typing” caused the dust to penetrate beneath the clips and get to the switch. Taking it a step further, iFixit added some sand to the keyboards and found that doing so caused keys to stop working. So it looks like the the barriers do a decent job protecting against dust, at least in the short term, but larger particles may still be an issue.

Apple has faced lawsuits over its butterfly switch keyboards and last month, it finally acknowledged the issue by launching a repair program for certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models. It’s good to see that the company is making some effort to fix the issue in newer models, but as iFixit notes, only time will tell how long these silicone membranes hold up.

Tech News

Google's Fuchsia OS could start replacing Android in five years

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Reuters/Stephen Lam

Google has been willing to acknowledge the existence of its Fuchsia operating system for a while, and has made rough versions available on everything from mobile devices to PCs. But is it just an experiment, or are there grander ambitions? We might have a better idea. Bloomberg sources have asserted that Fuchsia is ultimately intended to replace the company’s existing platforms, including Android and Chrome OS. While executives haven’t formally committed to roadmaps, engineers reportedly want to put Fuchsia on connected devices (like Home speakers) within three years, move on to “larger machines” like laptops, and put it on smartphones in the “next half decade.”

As we’ve seen through previous software clues, the OS would represent Google’s chance to start from scratch and eliminate the baggage that comes with existing software. Both Android and Chrome OS are based on Linux, for example, which carries technology that Google might no longer need. Android in particular still has some elements of Java (currently through OpenJDK) that Google might want to jettison in light of its ongoing legal battles with Oracle. Fuchsia is also expected to scale more consistently across device types, include better hooks for voice commands and provide faster security updates than on Android.

It’s far from certain that Google would make that timetable. It’s a daunting feat to ask Samsung and other hardware brands to throw out legacy app compatibility, rewrite custom software and otherwise pour massive amounts of time and money into supporting an untested platform. Just ask Microsoft how well things went when Windows Phone 7 rendered existing Windows Mobile know-how obsolete. Google would have to both ensure a rich catalog of Fuchsia-native apps and convince manufacturers that the OS is worth using on mainstream devices that would attract wide audiences. It wouldn’t be shocking if Fuchsia took much longer than five years to completely supplant Android, if just because the existing platform is so deeply entrenched.

Tech News

Apple's slim MacBook Pro design could be holding back its i9 CPU

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Dana Wollman/Engadget

The 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro lets you crank up the processor power by swapping in an Intel 2.9GHz six-core Core i9 CPU for an extra $300. But the chip seems to be struggling when it’s handling power-hungry tasks, to the point where the average clock speed is vastly below the advertised performance of the CPU. Some tests even showed that it fared worse than the i7 model.

That i9 processor can supposedly Turbo Boost to 4.8GHz, but some users are noticing that the chip is struggling when it is under heavy load. YouTuber Dave Lee’s testing showed average speeds of around 2.2GHz when the i9 system is running Adobe Premiere Pro, which is a demanding application. Render times were slower with the i9 than the i7, though the i9 configuration operates when kept cool (in this case by putting the computer in a freezer). The reason for the lackluster performance seems to be the laptop’s design, and more specifically, how it handles cooling.

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Intel’s thermal design point (or TDP) regulates how hot a processor can get to when it is unboosted, and guides manufacturers on their computer designs so they can keep the CPU cool enough. Desktop computers have more physical space in which to move air around, so they can handle a processor with a higher TDP, but the thinner chassis of laptops means it’s harder to keep components cool, and the TDP of their processors is typically lower than in desktops.

The i9 has a TDP of 45 watts, the same as the i7, according to Intel. That means the chips should, in theory, operate with the same effectiveness using the same cooling system at their base clocks. As long as a processor stays cool, it can exceed its normal clock speed and venture into Turbo Boost territory. But doing so increases the temperature, and as the CPU gets hotter, it slows down to aid the cooling system in dispersing heat.

The i9’s Turbo clock is 4.8GHz, which will generate a lot more heat than the i7’s 4.4GHz. As these Turbo speeds aren’t factored into the TDP, the confined spaces of a MacBook Pro are clearly causing problems for Apple at the higher clock rates.

It’s common for any computer to throttle performance when the internal temperature hits a certain point. Keeping machines and people safe is ultimately more important than completing tasks faster. However, the CPU and GPU share the same cooling system in a MacBook Pro, so if you’re using a graphics-heavy app, performance might stutter even more.

But not all hope is lost for those with an i9 configuration who are frustrated with the sluggish performance. If it chooses to, Apple could resolve or mitigate the issue with a firmware update that kicks in the fans sooner, regulates how long the CPU can stay overclocked or tweaks