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Microsoft unveils full Xbox Series X specs with 1TB expansion cards – The Verge

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Microsoft is revealing the full specs for its Xbox Series X console today, and it includes support for removable storage and much faster load times for games. The software giant will be using a custom AMD Zen 2 CPU with eight cores clocked at 3.8GHz each, a custom AMD RNDA 2 GPU with 12 teraflops and 52 compute units clocked at 1.825GHz each. This is all based on a 7nm process and includes 16GB of GDDR6 RAM with a 1TB custom NVME SSD storage drive.

Microsoft is using two mainboards on this Xbox Series X compact design, and the entire unit is cooled through air being pulled in from the bottom and pushed out at the top via a 130mm fan.

Developers will be using the overall 16GB of memory in two ways: there’s 10GB for fast GPU optimal memory, 3.5GB for standard memory, and 2.5GB reserved by the OS. All of this power will include the ability to expand storage through 1TB expansion cards at the rear of the console, with USB 3.2 external HDD support and a 4K Blu-ray drive. Microsoft is targeting overall performance at 4K 60fps, up to 120fps.

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One of the most obvious improvements that Microsoft is demonstrating with the Xbox Series X today is load times. In one tech demo (above), State of Decay 2 loads a full 40 seconds quicker on the Series X compared to the Xbox One X. That’s a massive improvement over current consoles.

Microsoft is using a solid-state drive on the Xbox Series X, and the focus is on speed and load times for next-gen games. The Xbox maker is using something called “Xbox Velocity Architecture,” that is designed to improve the integration between hardware and software for streaming of in game assets. The result will be seen in large open world games, where developers can use this system to create high fidelity environments that load dynamically using the processing power and SSD of the Xbox Series X.

This new SSD support will also allow Xbox Series X owners to resume multiple games instantly and even resume titles after the Series X is rebooted for a system update. Game states will be saved directly to the system’s SSD, so you can resume days or even weeks later. Microsoft is demonstrating this quick resume feature, using what looks like the existing dashboard for the Xbox One.

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Microsoft is also demonstrating some ray tracing aspects of the Xbox Series X today. Ray tracing will enable more realistic lighting changes to games, with improved shadows and cinematic effects. We haven’t seen enough ray-traced games on the PC side just yet, but Microsoft is showing off how the Xbox Series X can handle ray tracing in titles like Minecraft. Microsoft is also optimizing Gears 5 with higher resolution textures, fog, and particles counts, all running in 60fps in 4K.

The next-gen Xbox will also support 8K gaming and frame rates of up to 120fps in games. Microsoft has partnered with the HDMI forum and TV manufacturers to enable Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) on the Series X as part of its HDMI 2.1 support. “The team has also been working with the industry’s leading TV manufacturers for the past two years to ensure the display ecosystem is ready for the features coming with Xbox Series X,” explains Microsoft’s Will Tuttle.

All of this should reduce latency from when you press a button on an Xbox controller to when you see that movement show up on screen. Speaking of the controller, it’s now USB-C, uses AA batteries, and supports Bluetooth Low Energy. There’s also a new share button for sending clips and screenshots to friends, and existing controllers will work just fine on the new Xbox Series X.

Microsoft has also confirmed the physical dimensions of the Xbox Series X. If used vertically, it measures 301mm tall and 151 mm in depth and width. Today’s spec unveiling comes ahead of Microsoft’s plans to fully detail the console to developers later this week. Microsoft is also planning to unveil more details about the games we’ll see for the Xbox Series X in June.

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Google to release tracking data to help policy-makers evaluate COVID-19 measures – KitchenerToday.com

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Google will start releasing movement tracking reports in a bid to help public health officials determine how successful physical distancing measures have been in the effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The international tech giant says it will compile aggregated and anonymized data to chart movement trends at retail and recreation spaces, groceries, pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces and residential areas.

The frequent reports won’t identify individual mobile devices, but will track fluctuations in the number of visits to each kind of space so politicians and public health leaders can assess whether work-from-home and physical distancing orders are working.

Google says the reports could help shape recommendations on business hours, inform delivery service offerings or indicate the need for more buses or trains, which would help people to stay further apart from one another.

Google will make the reports available in 131 countries and will offer both provincial and national breakdowns in Canada.

To maintain privacy, Google says it will only base the reports on users who have opted in to sharing their location history.

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Zoom is a dumpster fire. Try these two alternatives for video meetings – Chrome Unboxed

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We’re nearly one month into the pandemic that is responsible for millions of employees and students making the move to online work and learning. In that shift, no software has seen a rise in popularity as much a chat and video conferencing apps. As a matter of fact, Google Engineer Justin Uberti proposed that March 17th was very possibly the busiest day for video conferencing in history. The happy side of this story is that there is a bucket full of video meeting platforms out there that have allowed users to quickly and easily make this transition and do so at no cost. Many companies that offer chat software have gone so far as to up the features offered on their free tiers to make meetings more manageable and accessible. That’s especially important for students and consumers who are looking for alternatives for face-to-face meetups.

<!– –>If you have scrolled through Google News, Twitter, Facebook or any other site that “reports” current events, you have likely heard the name Zoom. The video meeting software company has seen an overnight explosion in its user-base thanks to its low barrier of entry, free plan and cross-platform capabilities. We at Chrome Unboxed have even shared a couple of articles on how to best use the chat software. According to a blog post from Zoom, their daily meeting numbers ballooned a whopping 2000% in March compared to December of 2019. More than 200 million free and paid meetings are taking place on a daily basis via Zoom. Sadly, we aren’t living in a perfect world and that truism applies just as much to software as it does anything.

As Zoom’s explosion in growth continues, so does a surmounting list of complaints against the chat software that range from exposed emails to unauthorized installations, stealing Windows credentials and let’s not forget about the absolutely horrid trend of “Zoombombing” that’s exposing our kids to garbage such as porn and uninvited chatroom guests with malicious intent. Now, I am not here to bash Zoom but the outlandish number of reports surrounding the security (or lack-there-of), privacy and grey areas surrounding Zoom’s ToS are enough to make me take pause before letting my kids hop on a video chat. I’ll save the rant for other bloggers but if you’d like to get an in-depth look at all of the questionable issues that Zoom is facing, The Verge’s Casey Newton penned a wonderful piece on the subject that points out exactly where Zoom went wrong and in Zoom’s defense, the CEO did just publish a massive blog post outlining a 90-day plan to improve the platform.

All that said, I am writing with the hopes of creating more awareness of some alternative tools that are available to users that present better security and a similar barrier to entry as Zoom. Both of these platforms have been around for a decade or more and offer cross-platform capability. Not only that, they come from companies that deal with enterprise-level security, (Which is what Zoom claimed they did but that wasn’t exactly true.) Here are two great alternatives to Zoom that will offer you a similar experience and allow you as many as 100 participants in a meeting and are completely free for most users.

Skype

<!– –>Haven’t heard that name in a while, have you? Yes, Microsoft’s messaging platform is alive and well and thank’s to the progressive web, you can use Skype on just about any device. With Skype’s “Meet Now” feature, you can even create a meeting and get your call up and running without an account or the need for your participants to log into anything. Simply create your meeting, share the link and users can join directly from the browser. On a Chromebook, you will get an error message that says Chrome OS can’t open the page. Dismiss the message and click Join as a guest. This room is fairly basic but you can share your screen which is mostly what users need right now. For more functionality, the host can sign up for a free Microsoft account and secure the chat by locking the room when all participants have arrived. Check out Skype at the link below. <!– –>

Skype for Free

Cisco Webex

<!– –>A leader in enterprise network technology, Cisco Systems acquired WebEx in 2007 and since it has evolved into a powerful and versatile web conferencing platform. Currently, Cisco has opened the throttle on their freemium tier and users can connect to as many as 100 participants with no limits on meeting time. The free plan hosts a lot of other great features including cross-platform, browser-based meetings and call-in via VoIP.

  • Up to 100 participants in each meeting (Up from 50)
  • Meet as long as you want (Up from 40 min limit)
  • Call-in for audio (in addition to existing VoIP capabilities)
  • Unlimited number of meetings
  • Desktop, application, file & whiteboard sharing options
  • Video conferencing features
  • Webex Teams collaboration features
  • Mobile features
  • Security features
  • Online support

Cisco Webex<!– –>

The question was posed to me this morning, “would you used Zoom for a meeting today?” My answer is a hard no. That is not to say that I don’t believe that Zoom won’t get their house in order. I simply feel that there are better options available right now while they get their ducks in a row. Ask me again in three months and I have high hopes my answer will be different.

Featured image credit: DreamsTime

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COVID-19: Here's how to boost your internet speed when everyone else is working from home – National Post

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With #StayAtHome and social distancing now becoming a way of life, an increasing number of people are relying on the internet for work, education and entertainment. This has placed greater demand on our network infrastructure, reducing the bandwidth available for each user, and is leaving people frustrated at seemingly slow internet speeds.

While internet service providers may not be able to instantly respond to these changes, there are a few tricks you can use to boost your home internet’s speed.

Why is your internet slow?

There may be many reasons why your internet speed is slow. Internet use requires a reliable connection between your device and the destination, which may be a server that is physically located on the other side of the world.

Your connection to that server could pass through hundreds of devices on its journey. Each one of these is a potential failure, or weak point. If one point along this path isn’t functioning optimally, this can significantly affect your internet experience.

Web servers in particular are often affected by external factors, including Denial of Service (DOS) attacks, wherein an overload of traffic causes congestion in the server, and impedes proper functioning.

While you may not have control over these things from your home network, that doesn’t mean you don’t have options to improve your internet speed.

Wifi signal boost

The access point (wireless router) in your home network is used to connect your devices to your internet service provider. Most access points provide a wireless signal with limited channels, which can suffer interference from nearby signals, like your neighbour’s. A “channel” is a kind of virtual “pipe” through which data is transferred.

Although your devices are designed to avoid interference by switching channels automatically (there are usually 14 available), it may help to check your router settings, as some are set to a single channel by default. When trying different options to reduce interference, it’s advisable to select channels 1, 6 or 11 as they can help to minimise problems (for 2.4GHz wireless).

What else can you do?

There are further things you can try to improve your wifi signal. If your router supports 5GHz wifi signals, switching to this can provide a faster data rate, but over shorter distances. Reposition your router for best coverage (usually a central position).

The difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz wifi signals is they have different data transmission speeds. While 5GHz can transfer data faster (with 23 available channels), 2.4GHz provides a wider range. If you want speed, go for 5GHz. For better coverage, choose 2.4GHz.

Some domestic appliances can cause interference with your router. It’s worth checking if using your microwave oven, cordless phone or baby monitor affects your connection, as they may be using the same frequency as your router.

Using a wifi extender can help with coverage by boosting or extending the signal.

Viruses and malware

To avoid computer viruses, make sure you regularly check for updates on your devices and use antivirus software. It’s also worth rebooting your router to clear specific malware (malicious software designed to damage your device or server), such as VPNFilter – a malware that infects more than half a million routers in more than 50 countries.

You should also check the following:

  • does your router need to be replaced with a newer model? This may be the case if it has been used for many years. Newer models support enhanced functions and faster internet speeds
  • is the firmware of your wireless router updated? You can do this by visiting the device manufacturer’s website. This will help fix problems and allow additional functionality. It’s unlikely this update is done automatically.

Planning your usage

If multiple people are streaming video at your home, which often requires ten times the daytime demand, a limited internet connection will soon be fully used.

Try to plan your and family members’ online activities around peak times. Before the pandemic hit, most internet usage was likely oriented around the early evenings, after close of business. With the shift to remote working and schooling, more internet access is likely during the day, with a 10% usage increase overall, and a 30% increase at peak times.

Outside your home, connectivity is likely to be on a “best effort” plan, which shares a fixed bandwidth with other users. In other words, your mobile internet bandwidth is shared with others in your area when they access the internet at the same time. A shared bandwidth results in slower individual speeds.

You can’t control how many people access the internet, but you can manage your own internet activity by downloading large files or content overnight, or outside of peak hours (when there is less traffic).

How to improve your ISP’s network issues

While you can try to fix issues and optimise the setup inside your home, unfortunately you can’t really influence network performance outside of it. Thus, contacting your internet service provider’s call centre and seeking support is your best option.

All of the above considered, it’s important to remember that when using the internet, we’re sharing a limited resource. Just like buying pasta or toilet paper, there are many who need it just as much as you, so use it wisely.

By James Jin Kang, Lecturer, Edith Cowan University and Paul Haskell-Dowland, Associate Dean (Computing and Security), Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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