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NVIDIA proves the cloud can replace a high-end gaming rig

On the Surface Laptop -- a great ultrabook marred only by its weak integrated graphics -- running over our office's WiFi, PUBG felt almost as smooth as it does on my dedicated gaming rig. It ran at a steady 60 frames per second, even though I cranked the graphics settings to Ultra and the resolution to 2,560 x 1,400. After a few minutes of running around the game's apocalyptic European town and taking out other players, I almost forgot I was playing something that was running on a server hundreds of miles away.

The game's excellent audio design also survived: I had no trouble pinpointing people sneaking around a house while wearing headphones, and the bomb strikes in "Red Zones" still rattled my skull. Mostly, though, I was surprised that I didn't feel any lag while I was using the Surface Laptop's keyboard and a Logitech wireless G903 gaming mouse. Moving the camera around and aiming my weapons felt incredibly responsive, and I was surprised that I was able to outgun some players in some heated shootouts.

That lack of latency was even more impressive with Overwatch, an even faster-paced game. Characters like Tracer and Genji, both of whom would be tough to play with any noticeable lag, felt as nimble as they do on my desktop. I didn't even have trouble landing shots with snipers like Hanzo and Ana. I was simply able to enjoy playing the game as I normally do. And even more so than with PUBG, I was impressed by how well GeForce Now handled Overwatch's vibrant and colorful graphics. Gorgeous maps like Ilios and Dorado appeared as detailed as ever, and the same goes for the game's imaginative character models and costumes.

GeForce Now easily handled graphically intensive titles like Destiny 2 and The Witcher 3, which felt even more impressive to play on the Surface Laptop. Both games managed to run at 60 FPS at a 2,560 x 1,400 resolution (the service supports up to 2,560 x 1,600), with all of their graphics settings turned all the way up. Even though Destiny 2 isn't exactly a fast-paced shooter, it still benefited from the service's low latency, which helped me mow down waves of enemies without much trouble. And with the Witcher 3, I was impressed that its graphically rich world didn't lose any fidelity while being streamed. Perhaps because these games are particularly demanding, I occasionally experienced connection hiccups while playing them. They only lasted a few seconds, but if I were fighting against tough bosses, they could have easily led to my doom.

Those disruptions also made it clear that your experience with GeForce Now will depend largely on your internet connection. I had a mostly trouble-free experience in our office and at home, where I have 100 Mbps cable service. But if you don't have a steady 25 Mbps connection, Ethernet access or strong wireless reception, you'll likely see more gameplay-disrupting issues. I wasn't able to run any games at Starbucks locations around NYC, and based on my terrible experiences with hotel WiFi, I'd wager you'd have trouble using GeForce Now while traveling too. (The service is only supported in the US and Europe at the moment.)

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/31/nvidia-geforce-now-pc/

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GoPro’s Plus service will replace your busted camera

While device replacement is definitely Plus' biggest new feature, GoPro has also tossed in a couple more perks. In the past, auto-backup for photos and videos to the Plus cloud service was only possible from a GoPro camera or a computer, but soon you'll be able to upload your stuff directly from a mobile device. If you have an iPhone, you'll be able to take advantage of the feature as soon as February 20th, but you'll have to wait till spring if you're an Android user. You now also get unlimited photo storage and 35 hours of video storage (around 250GB) with a subscription, whereas you were previously limited to 250GB of cloud backup overall.

GoPro is likely hoping that these features can make the service look more enticing, so it can boost that revenue stream. Although the company finally became profitable again last quarter, its struggles aren't over: it recently had to cut 300 jobs after it quit making drones and exited the market entirely. Whatever GoPro's reason is, the addition of device replacement could make Plus look a lot more appealing, especially to veritable daredevils. Even better? The service still costs $5 a month, and you're covered by device replacement even if you're just trying it out for free for 30 days.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/31/gopro-plus-device-replacement/

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Twitter now says 1.4 million users interacted with Russian spam accounts

In a company blog post, Twitter said the increased number included interactions they hadn't previously considered: That 1.4 million encompasses users who retweeted, quoted, replied to, mentioned, or liked those accounts or content produced by them during the 2016 election. (It also includes those who opted out of email notifications and weren't included in Twitter's initial wave of outreach emails.) The social network pointed out that this tally still doesn't include every user ever who was exposed to messages from the Russian-backed accounts -- for example, those who saw their tweets but didn't otherwise interact.

But it's worth pointing out that Twitter didn't expand its pool of spam producers -- it's still only considering content from the 3,814 accounts linked to the Russia-backed Internet Research Agency (IRA) that it had previously suspended. The social network will reach out to those in the revised 1.4 million total who it hadn't already emailed.

But as Ars Technica reporter Cyrus Farivar noted in a tweet, the social network duly informed him that he'd interacted with a Russian-backed account...but didn't identify which one, nor any details about the interaction. Which calls into question how useful these outreach efforts really are for informing users so they can avoid such accounts in the future.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/31/twitter-now-says-1-4-million-users-interacted-with-russian-spam/

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We spend less time on Facebook, but it still makes loads of money

And well, today during its Q4 2017 earnings report, Facebook revealed that even though users are indeed spending less time on its site, it is making more money than ever. The company raked in a record revenue total of $12.97 billion last quarter, a 47 percent year-over-year increase. It's also a notable jump compared to the $10.3 billion from Q3 2017. In a statement about the latest results, Zuckerberg said "2017 was a strong year for Facebook, but it was also a hard one." He added that, in 2018, the focus won't just be to ensure Facebook is fun to use, but also "good for people's well-being and for society."

Zuckerberg said Facebook is already doing that by "encouraging meaningful connections between people rather than passive consumption of content," referring to the recent News Feed tweaks. "Already last quarter, we made changes to show fewer viral videos to make sure people's time is well spent," he said. "In total, we made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day." That's a huge chunk of user engagement down the drain, which will likely be a cause for concern for investors.

Still, Zuckerberg doesn't seem to be too worried about the drop in consumption, noting that by "focusing on meaningful connections, our community and business will be stronger over the long term." That's something he keeps emphasizing as Facebook seems to be dealing with an identity crisis, which may have come as a result of the Russian debacle from 2016 and 2017.

Last year Facebook pledged to sacrifice profit for better security, as a result of growing concerns of how Russian-sponsored trolls and bots used its platform to interfere in US politics. Zuckerberg said back then that, even though Facebook's community was continuing to grow (with more than 2 billion users), none of that matters if it couldn't protect them. "We're serious about preventing abuse on our platforms," he said. "We're investing so much in security that it will impact our profitability. Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits."

During today's earnings report call, Zuckerberg said that Facebook now has 14,000 employees manually monitoring the site for any potential dubious content, including fake news. That's more than the double the amount of people the company had the previous year. At the same time, he said, Facebook is also focused on developing new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to help track down things like suicide posts and remove content from terrorist organizations including ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

At the end of the day, Zuckerberg said, the goal is to make Facebook a safe and interactive place, and that's something he hopes to accomplish in 2018. Not just by changing features such as the News Feed, but also by developing future products and interfaces based on that idea.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/31/facebook-q4-2017-earnings/

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Trump reportedly seeks massive budget cuts to clean energy research

The draft budget documents viewed by Washington Post staff showed that the president is looking to cut the Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) budget to $575.5 million, down from the current $2.04 billion level. Included in the budget cuts are funds for programs researching fuel efficient vehicles, bioenergy technologies, solar energy technology and electric car technologies. Additionally, the draft budget proposal seeks to cut jobs, dropping staff levels from 680 down to 450. One EERE employee told the Washington Post, "It shows that we've made no inroads in terms of convincing the administration of our value, and if anything, our value based on these numbers has dropped."

Since taking office, Donald Trump has rolled back Obama-era climate policies, withdrawn the US from the Paris climate change agreement, removed climate change from the US national security strategy and instituted tariffs on imported solar panels. He has also continuously referred to mythical "clean coal" saying earlier this year that he would "end the war on coal and have clean coal, really clean coal." All of this is done despite overwhelming evidence and widespread agreement among the scientific community that climate change is happening and is almost certainly caused by humans.

According to the Washington Post's sources, the Energy Department had requested less extreme spending cuts, but the Office of Management and Budget pushed for the more substantial ones found in the draft proposal. However, the proposal could still be changed before being released in February and Congress could restore some or all of the slashed funding later on.

In a statement sent to the Washington Post, the White House said, "We don't comment on any leaked or pre-decisional documents prior to the release of the official budget."

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/31/trump-seeks-budget-cuts-clean-energy-research/

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Microsoft’s cloud business just keeps growing

The "Productivity and Business Processes" group, which includes Office 365 and its cloud apps, saw its revenues increase by 25 percent. Azure revenue jumped by 98 percent, leading to a 15 percent increase for Microsoft's "Intelligent Cloud" group. That more than makes up for the relative stagnant 2 percent growth in the "Personal Computing" segment, which includes Windows, Xbox, Bing and Surface. It's particularly surprising that Surface revenues only increased by 1 percent, given the 12 percent increase we saw last quarter. I'd expect more of a jump for the holidays, especially now that the Surface Laptop and Pro are on the market.

The quarter wasn't entirely rosey for Microsoft, though. The company posted a $6.3 billion loss, which it attributes to a $13.8 billion charge for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). That figure also doesn't reflect the full accounting for that bill, which Microsoft is still in the process of calculating. Without the TCJA charge, Microsoft would have seen a profit of $7.5 billion for the quarter.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/31/microsoft-q2-earnings/

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Square Cash now allows anyone to buy and sell bitcoin

The feature is available to most everyone who uses Cash App, unless they're in New York, Georgia, Hawaii or Wyoming. The company promises that it's working on it. This does seem to be a pretty simple way to get into owning Bitcoin, though Square warns that the cryptocurrency's price is "volatile and unpredictable." While the company won't add additional fees when you purchase Bitcoin through its app, it calculates the price when buying based on a quoted mid-market price and margin, which could be different when selling. You'll also be limited to up to $10,000 worth of Bitcoin per week, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/31/square-cash-buy-sell-bitcoin/

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Comcast adds Super Bowl-specific voice cues to Xfinity X1 service

Comcast has been expanding entertainment options Xfinity X1 platform, from fantasy football to Jackbox games on its cable boxes. But in anticipation of Americans' most entertaining weekend, the company has added new voice commands to help fans catch up on news before -- and during -- the Super Bowl.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/31/comcast-xfinity-x1-super-bowl-voice-commands/

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Apple Music adds exclusive DJ mixes from Steve Aoki and more

Spotify and Apple Music partnered up with Dubset, a rights-management and distribution platform for DJs and remixers, a couple of years ago. Sony Music and independent record company Merlin also partnered with the company to make sure samples in remixed songs are monetized, as well. Dubset's MixBANK system makes sure both artists being sampled and those creating mixes get the royalties they deserve. Now, the company is bringing hundreds of DJ mixes to Apple Music, with three exclusive DJ sets from Steve Aoki, Sigala and DJ Suss One.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/31/apple-music-exclusive-dj-mixes-dubset-steve-aoki/

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AT&T’s big DirecTV Now update arrives this spring

The introduction could arrive at a critical time. ATT added a net 161,000 American video subscribers in the fourth quarter of the year, but that's only because DirecTV Now racked up 368,000 new subscribers to reach nearly 1.2 million. Do some back-of-the-napkin math and that means ATT would have lost 207,000 US customers if Now's numbers had been perfectly flat. The network doesn't just benefit from internet-only viewers, it needs them.

We'd add that this still puts it ahead of at least some of its rivals. Sling TV is believed to be ahead with more than 2 million subscribers, but Hulu and YouTube TV have 'just' a few hundred thousand viewers each. The telecom still has an edge in the streaming TV wars -- it's just a question of whether or not it can keep that lead.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/31/att-next-gen-directv-now-launches-spring-2018/

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