[H]ard News

Wednesday May 24, 2017

Pixel Blacklist Update

After spending some more time with Google support today, it seems I finally got someone with a brain! My blacklisted Pixel saga is outlined here/below. Google changed its story and confirmed the phone was blacklisted but not by Google. So maybe my Pixel XL fell off the back of a truck somewhere? Bummer, because it is the best phone I have ever used. Guess we will see how Swappa handles all this.

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Ongoing Discussion

How Virtual Reality will Create a Better Humankind

This guy has some pretty big thoughts about VR and humankind, I figure it is just letting you be a bigger jackass than you likely already are.

Discussion

Google Pixel XL Phones Blacklisted as Stolen

So I awoke this morning with the "Emergency Calls Only" and "Cellular network no available," messages on my Pixel XL phone. Hmmm. Restart. Nada. Restart again, Nada. So I got on a support chat with T-Mobile and they informed me that my phone had been "blacklisted as stolen." Nothing TMobile can do, it explains its hands are tied. I did buy the Pixel XL used, and I purchased it through Swappa. So I got on a chat with Swappa support, as it seems to be very solid with when it comes to working with its customers even though it is just a middleman or escrow company. I explained to Swappa what had happened and this is what they told me.

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Sorry to hear of the complaints. We have seen a great number of Pixel devices becoming blacklisted the past two days. We are still trying to figure out why this has happened to so many devices. We are working to find out the cause of this widespread issue. It would be best for both of you to keep on top of Google and pressing them for an explanation. In one other case, I saw this morning Google agreed to send the buyer a replacement device so that might be an option to look into. Seller please work with the buyer and Google to see if they can get to the bottom of it.

Certainly hearing that this is happening to "so many" Pixel owners is not a good thing, but I could not track down much online pertaining to this issue, but certainly others have seen the same issue in the last couple of days.

From there I hopped on the direct Google Pixel support chat on the phone and explained what TMobile had said about phone being reported stolen.

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Google support explained that what I got was a "spam message." Well, no it was not. They then escalated the issue to another support specialist. She explained that the phone had not been reported stolen, but had been sold through the "Project Fi Team." (FYI, screenshot your support messages as those disappear after the support chat end.) She went on to explain to me that she would have to escalate the issue to the Project Fi team, and I would be contacted via email in 24 hours. And again I was assured the Pixel XL phone was not blacklisted. Well I have to disagree with that assessment. I asked for a support ticket number and she would not give that to me but told me that it would come via email.

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I have had this Pixel XL for a month, and have liked it more than any phone I have ever used, but if it can't make calls or texts, it is not worth much at all. Hopefully a bit of exposure on this issue will help get it fixed, maybe.

Discussion

[H]ardware Roundup

CPU:

Test Processeur AMD Ryzen 5 1600 (French) @ Cow Cot Land

GPU:

ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1080 Ti AMP Edition Review @ The PC Enthusiast

XFX RX 570 4GB RS @ LAN OC Reviews

PSU:

ENERMAX REVOLUTION XT II 750W NETZTEIL TEST (German) @ Overclocked Inside

Cooling:

Noctua NH-D9L U3 CPU Cooler @ Globetrotters

Noctua NH-D15 SE-AM4 CPU Cooler Review @ Think Computers

Cases:

Fractal Design Focus G Review @ Guru 3D

FSP CMT210 Mid-Tower ATX PC Case Review (Auto-roll Techno "Music," WTF) @ Mod Synergy

Cooler Master Cosmos II 25th Anniversary Edition Review @ Guru 3D

Mice & Keyboard:

Corsair Glaive RGB Review @ OCaHolic

Quake Champions – Sorlag Champion Trailer

When you try to bring down your clan’s shaman by spilling a sacred "bowel bowl" filled with steaming guts that is being used to open terrifying windows into "The Other Place," and you just get sucked through the windows into the Realms where you are doomed to spend eternity battling against cruel Champions in the name of glory… you’re having bad day.

Well, alrighty then.

Discussion

Tuesday May 23, 2017

Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. Reports Strong Results for Fiscal Year 2017

Take-Two Interactive has posted strong results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2017. Net revenue increased 52% to $571.6 million on sales from games such as Mafia III, Grand Theft Auto Vآ® and Grand Theft Auto Online, NBAآ® 2K17, WWEآ® 2K17, and Sid Meier’s Civilizationآ® VI. The controversial topic that gamers begrudging spend money on is DLC and microtransactions. Their digitally-delivered net revenue metrics for the fourth quarter grew 43% to $278.7 million of which 50% came from DLC and microtransactions and represented 24% of their total net revenue. This was mainly generated from the DLC stars such as Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online, NBA 2K17, Mafia III, Sid Meier’s Civilization VI, and XCOMآ® 2. Net income for the year increased to $99.3 million compared to the $46.4 million posted last year. Net revenue was up 26% to $1.780 billion and digitally-delivered net revenue grew 32% to $921.7 million. Net cash from operating activities grew by 27% to $331.4 million. The Company has cash and short-term investments valued at $1.392 billion.

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The article goes into much greater detail with breaking down the numbers. I found it amazing how much gamers spent with one corporation on DLC and microtransactions. 50% of their total digital sales was DLC and microtransactions! GTA V never seems to get single player DLC and now we know why! If people will spend that much on online transactions, I would never create single player DLC for my fan base. I wonder what other companies are making off add on microtransactions and DLC. No wonder it was business as usual for them to delay Red Dead Redemption to 2018.

"Consumer demand for our entertainment offerings remained exceedingly strong in the fourth quarter, finishing-off another outstanding year for our organization," said Strauss Zelnick, Chairman and CEO of Take-Two. "During fiscal 2017, we delivered Bookings and cash provided by operating activities that significantly exceeded our original expectations, along with revenue growth and margin expansion. These results were driven by the continued extraordinary performance of Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online, a diverse array of exciting titles from 2K, and record digitally-delivered revenue and Bookings, including our highest-ever from recurrent consumer spending. We invested our capital to grow and diversify our business further, including by acquiring Social Point, a leading free-to-play mobile game developer.

Discussion

Narwhals are Back in the News

We all know that Narwhals are swimming in the ocean, causing a commotion, 'cause they are so awesome. It seems however that there is something to that kickass facial horn. It seems that the gentle giants like to sneak up behind other fish and club the hell out of them so they are a bit stunned before being sucked down that slippery Narwhal gullet. Just don't let'em touch your balls.

Stupid news post, I know, but now you will be singing, "Narwhals, narwhals, swimming in the ocean, causing a commotion," for the rest of the day. Winning!

Discussion

Malicious Subtitles Allow Hackers to Commandeer Devices Running Streaming Software

Researchers from Check Point have discovered a nasty vulnerability in streaming software that allows malicious subtitles to open an attack vector style security breach onto devices running streaming software such as Kodi, VLC, strem.io and Popcorn Time. It is equivalent to clicking "Yes" to installing malicious software from a website without ever seeing the prompt. Check Point researchers note that "We estimate there are approximately 200 million video players and streamers that currently run the vulnerable software, making this one of the most widespread, easily accessed and zero-resistance vulnerability reported in recent years". The vulnerability allows the hacker to have total control of the device.

The Check Point researchers describe the attack vector as a seemingly innocent chain of trust where users choose a subtitle thinking that it is nothing more than a text file. Antivirus developers pay little to no attention to the subtitle file formats as different streaming software may have 25 or more subtitle types that it can access. Each of these different formats opens the streaming software, and thus the user's device, to vulnerabilities. Since it is considered just innocent subtitles, little has been done to patch the security holes over the years.

It is extremely easy to spread the malicious subtitle files as the most popular subtitles are automatically loaded by many streaming media players. Subtitle repositories such as OpenSubtitles.org rank and index subtitles. The Check Point researchers also noted that it was even easier to manipulate the subtitle rankings on these websites to make sure that the malicious files are ranked highest. I would like to thank TorrentFreak for the original article that I referenced.

By conducting attacks through subtitles, hackers can take complete control over any device running them. From this point on, the attacker can do whatever he wants with the victim’s machine, whether it is a PC, a smart TV, or a mobile device. The potential damage the attacker can inflict is endless, ranging anywhere from stealing sensitive information, installing ransomware, mass Denial of Service attacks, and much more.

Which media players are affected?

To date, we tested and found vulnerabilities in four of the most prominent media players: VLC, Kodi, Popcorn Time and Stremio. We have reason to believe similar vulnerabilities exist in other media players as well. We followed the responsible disclosure guidelines and reported all vulnerabilities and exploits to the developers of the vulnerable media players. Some of the issues were already fixed, while others are still under investigation. To allow the developers more time to address the vulnerabilities, we’ve decided not to publish any further technical details at this point.

Discussion

Battlefield 1 Unleashes the Russian Women's Battalion of Death with New DLC

DICE has finally decided to unleash the female soldier onto the multiplayer landscape of its seminal World War I game; Battlefield 1. The Russian Scout class will be represented by it's historically accurate counterparts; the Russian Women's Battalion of Death. Led by Maria Leontievna Bochkareva, the 300 females in her unit fought in the Kerensky Offensive and were involved in a major battle of the war. Even though raped and degraded by her own Russian male soldiers, she found respect after being wounded twice and decorated three times for bravery. She even defeated a German soldier with a bayonet in hand to hand combat to add to her legend. She was a tough woman!

I've been holding off on getting the season pass DLC for Battlefield 1, but this "In The Name of the Tsar" DLC intrigues me as it includes more maps also. I can't wait to shoot some fools in the face with a female character and teabag their bodies. Let the rage quitting commence! What do you think? Do you care if there is a female scout in the game? Do you think that they should have left it out even though it is historically correct?

Battlefield 1 publisher EA has announced the game's first female multiplayer character, to be added via upcoming expansion In The Name of the Tsar. Battlefield's global community manager Dan Mitre shared our first look at the fighter on Twitter last night. The unnamed soldier will be part of the 1st Russian Women's Battalion of Death. The all-female squad was formed in real life in 1917, and was one of several such battalions from Russia to be involved in the war.

Discussion

WannaCry RansomWorm Loves Windows 7

It is very interesting to find out that almost all Windows boxes that fell to the WannaCry RansomWorm were of the 7 variety. It is also just as interesting to find out that Windows XP boxes crashed when trying to run the code, which may have been a good thing.

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Two-thirds of those caught up in the global WannaCrypt/WannaCry ransomware attack were running Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system without the latest security updates, a survey for Reuters by security ratings firm BitSight found.

So what it all comes down to is, if you are going to run legacy operating systems, then you should damn well be sure to make sure your patches are up to date. Microsoft was well ahead of this WannaCry issue, but many did not patch their systems for whatever reasons, be those of sloth or genuine application impacts.

Any organisation which heeded warnings from Microsoft to urgently install a security patch it labelled "critical" when it was released on March 14 are immune, experts agree.

Discussion

Manchester Arena Bombing Tweeted Hours Before

When it comes to technology and privacy, we certainly have a lot of discussion about that around here. No matter where you stand on that, you have wonder how social media companies handle information publicly put out on its own networks. In the past few months there have been all kinds of statements by these companies about how they are going to get better at monitoring threatening activity on their platforms. You have to wonder if this is all bullshit, they don't care, or they are simply unable to do so. I saw these last night and started to write about it then, but I was seriously hoping it was just fake news. While I will not suggest that the Express UK is a tremendously solid source, it is hardly the only news organization discussing that a "warning" was issued on Twitter (Waning: Autoroll Video) that something was happening at the Ariana Grande concert last night.

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However, reports are beginning to emerge there were warnings on Twitter - four hours before the attack.

Discussion

UPDATE: It is now confirmed that this tweet was sent after the bombings.

[H]ardware Roundup II

Motherboard:

The Ultimate X370 Showdown @ Vortez

ASROCK AB350 GAMING K4 AM4 MOTHERBOARD REVIEW @ Modders Inc

Cooling:

Watercooling AIO NZXT Kraken X62 (French) @ Cow Cot Land (HardOCP Review)

Cases:

Cooler Master Cosmos II 25th Anniversary Edition Review @ Guru 3D

Storage:

Lexar JumpDrive 64GB Tough USB 3.1 Flash Drive Review @ Funky Kit

Lexar JumpDrive Tough USB 3.1 Flash Drive Review @ Mad Shrimps

Mice & Keyboard:

GAMDIAS Hermes P1 RGB Review @ aph networks

Tesoro Excalibur SE Spectrum Keyboard Review @ Benchmark Reviews

[H]ardware Roundup

Motherboard:

Biostar RACING X370GT5 Motherboard Review @ Play3r

ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming Review @ Overclockers Club

Gigabyte Z270X AORUS Gaming 7 Motherboard Review @ Mad Shrimps

ASROCK AB350 GAMING K4 AMD AM4 MOTHERBOARD REVIEW @ Overclocked Inside

CPU:

Benchmarking AMD's New AOCC Compiler For Ryzen @ phoronix

AMD Ryzen 5 1400 & 1600 CPU Review @ NeoSeeker

GPU:

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 FTW2 iCX Tested With 11GHz Memory @ Legit Reviews

Polaris, Boosted: A Look At PowerColor’s Radeon RX 570 & RX 580 @ TechGage

Radeon RX 560 Linux OpenGL/Vulkan Benchmarks @ phoronix

ASUS ROG GeForce GTX 1050 Ti STRIX Video Card Review @ Legit Reviews

PSU:

FSP Dagger 600W PSU Review @ aph networks

Cooling:

Noctua NH-L9i L-Type Low-Profile CPU Cooler Review @ Hardware Slave

Watercooling AIO EVGA CLC 120 (French) @ Cow Cot Land

Cases:

Bitfenix Shogun Review @ Tech Power Up

BitFenix Portal Window Case Review @ Play3r

Corsair Carbide Air 240 Arctic White Micro-ATX Chassis Review @ FunkyKit

Storage:

Plextor M8Se 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD review @ Guru 3D

Mice & Keyboard:

ASUS ROG GLADIUS II Gaming Mouse im Test (German) @ HT4U

Razer Blackwidow Chroma V2 Review @ Vortez

COUGAR MINOS X3 Gaming Mouse Review @ NikkTech

Gaming Furniture

Vertagear Triigger 275 Gaming Chair @ Tech Power Up

Dremel Rotary Tool is a Modder's Best Friend

This is far from the top of the line Dremel, but it is likely that you don't need a Dremel that is extremely fancy when getting your latest PC system modifications together. The Dremel 200 (2-speed) is $29 today at Amazon with Prime Shipping. And it comes with enough accessories to get you started, but I highly suggest getting some high quality cut-off wheels as well. These work so much better than the cheap non-reinforced type you are likely used to using. And this of course helps send mankind to the Moon.

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Discussion

Amazon Profit Dollars to Build City on the Moon

Ever wonder where all your money goes? Highly likely a bunch of it might be going to Moon very soon. Just think about it, you have likely been the lifeblood to facilitating the human race leaving our planet. And let's face it, there are a lot of reasons to leave.

Discussion

FSP Debuting Liquid Cooled PSU at Computex

FSP is giving us a sneak peek at its liquid cooled PSU line. There have been liquid cooled PSUs before this from Koolance a couple of times (here and here), both about 10 years ago. It will be interesting to see what interest the market has today.

FSP introduces the new Hydro PTM+ liquid cooled PSU. - The Hydro PTM+ is a unique, and patented liquid cooled PSU created in cooperation with Bitspower, a renowned creator of liquid cooling solutions for PCs, to meet the highest security and safety standards. The Hydro PTM+ is the world's first mass produced liquid cooled PSU with 80 Plus Platinum certificated, with gorgeous LED lighting it combines great looks with amazing performance. The unique liquid cooling system, once enabled, increases the power rating from 1200W to 1400W. But, with an array of integrated sensors, the Hydro PTM+ also excels at efficiency, when running in silent mode (below 50% load) it still delivers 600W without the use of a fan for cooling, and thus it remains in complete silence.

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Discussion

Movie Pirate Service Uses Crawler to Find the Best Quality Streams on the Internet

Movie piracy service Vodlocker has unleashed a new video embedding API that uses a Google like crawler to find the best quality sources of pirated movies on the internet. After entering the desired movie's IMDb code, the service will initiate the crawler to search websites such as Google Drive, Youtube, Openload, etc for the highest quality video in mere seconds. From there, an upcoming pirate movie website owner can embed the movie onto it's pages. If a source goes down, more sources will be instantly available from the menu above the embedded video. Chromecast and subtitle support are readily available via plugin. It will even show the movie's artwork from IMDb while you wait for the stream to start. Seems like an easy solution to facilitate getting locked up with Bubba in the big house. Just remember to not drop the soap!

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The site is already boasting a "massive database" of movies, which will make it of immediate use to thousands of websites that might want to embed movies or TV shows in their web pages. As long as Vodlocker can cope with the load, this could effectively spawn a thousand new ‘pirate’ websites overnight but the service generally seems more suited to smaller, blog-like sites that might want to display a smaller selection of titles. It’s also worth noting that the service uses IFrame tags, which some webmasters might feel uncomfortable about deploying on their sites due to security concerns. The New Vodlocker API demo can be found here, for as long as it lasts.

Discussion

Google DeepMind's AlphaGo Artificial Intelligence Takes Game One Against Top Player

The current number one player in the world was narrowly defeated by the Google DeepMind artificial intelligence in the first of three scheduled matches based in China. The game went to a count and the DeepMind AI won by the closest possible margin of half a point. Demis Hassabis, founder and CEO of DeepMind, commented on Twitter that "Ke Jie is using the ideas #AlphaGo used in the master series of online games in January against AlphaGo smile intriguing to see what it will do." It will be interesting to see what approach Ke Jie uses against the AI for the second match and if it will be more successful.

"Ke Jie fought bravely and some wonderful moves were played," wrote Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis on Twitter. He added: "[The] Game went to a count. #AlphaGo won by just half a point, the closest margin possible." Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and the executive chairman of Alphabet, Google's parent company, has flown in for the event, as has David Silver, the lead programmer on AlphaGo, and Mustafa Suleyman, another one of the DeepMind founders.

Discussion

Monday May 22, 2017

Writing the Next Dragon Age

Eurogamer chatted exclusively with Sunless Sea creator Alexis Kennedy, who revealed his new gig with BioWare: he’ll be providing some of the narrative for the new Dragon Age alongside series mastermind Mike Laidlaw and lead scribe Patrick Weekes. I am not familiar with the guy’s work, but this does serve as additional confirmation that work on the next DA is certainly underway and an official unveil may not be too far off. Inquisition’s Trespasser DLC would suggest a visit to the longest existing human country in Thedas, Tevinter Imperium.

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"What I can say is I have been given considerable autonomy to work on a storyline bit of lore which is well-segregated from other parts of the game," Kennedy teases, "which makes a lot of sense with me being remote. And yes, if you've seen a lot of my work before you will probably not be surprised by the choice of subject matter. It's familiar stuff." Let's face it, a portal through the Fade to Kennedy's familiar beat of steampunk London is probably unlikely. My money, then, would be on something to do with the Qunari race, a group fairly separated from the main Dragon Age races and which Trespasser implied would soon play a larger role.

Discussion

Learning to Let Go of Framerate Anxiety Made Me Love PC Gaming Again

Is your mindset dominated by framerate and other technicalities? This author is urging you to just let it all go. The argument here is that achieving maximum performance and graphics fidelity is a tough task that could actually prove detrimental to the gaming experience. Just enjoy the game, even if it’s running at a subpar level, he says. Do you agree with any of his points, or is he just a console gamer in disguise?

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No matter what level of hardware you own, you’ll never achieve perfection. Accept it. Some games have tiny optimization issues that are never fixed, while others will always stutter no matter how much GPU grunt you throw at them. Can squeezing an extra few frames out of that new shooter be a rewarding meta-game in itself? Occasionally. Yet when the act of overclocking and frame-counting starts to dominate your PC gaming experience, unless you genuinely find that more fun than the games themselves, it’s time to step back. If you’ve suffered with this obsession, take my advice: switch off your framerate counter, forget minor fps fluctuation, and simply enjoy your game running perfectly well a mere 95 percent of the time.

Discussion

WD Adds Helium-Filled 10 TB NAS HDDs to Red Lineup

WD Reds, which seem to be very popular choices for NAS setups, now have two 10 TB versions fans can choose from: the standard Red drive, which comes with a 5400 RPM spindle speed, and the Red Pro, which offers better performance at 7200 RPM. I like the idea of a cooler-running drive, especially when it comes to simple media storage, but the Pro version does carry a more impressive workload stat and longer warranty. No release date is listed, but Newegg suggests 5/30 for the Red ($399) and 6/17 for the Red Pro ($459).

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...Western Digital is refreshing its Red and Purple lineups with more advanced drives offering 10 TB capacity and using seven 1.42 TB platters. The new WD Red and WD Red Pro with 10 TB capacity are based on revamped 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM HelioSeal platforms that can support a higher number of platters. The drives also feature increased areal density and 256 MB of cache, enabling ~17% higher sequential read/write performance compared to its predecessors, as well as a lower power consumption compared to previous-gen helium WD Red hard drives. Other than that, Western Digital does not really disclose the feature set of its platform for helium-filled HDDs for NAS applications.

Discussion

Far Cry 5 Teasers Confirm American Setting, Full Reveal This Week

Ubisoft has released four teasers that officially confirm Far Cry 5's setting: Montana. The scenery appears to be on the modern side, so those rumors of the game taking place in the Wild West may have been a total fabrication. We'll be seeing more of the game on Friday, when the full reveal happens. (For some reason, the teasers on YouTube are blocked in the US, but you can hit up the IGN link to see them.)

...the game will take place in the US - specifically the state of Montana - for the first time in the series' history. The short trailers end with a message saying that the game will be revealed this Friday, May 26. Each one shows an image of rural America, then puncture the peace with an unsettling image (the man being used as a face-based bellringer is pretty unpleasant). They also seem to counter rumours that said the game would take place in a Wild West setting (which would put it in more direct competition with this year's Red Dead Redemption 2) - clothing, weapons and buildings look more modern than the Old West would suggest.

Discussion

NVIDIA GeForce Game Ready 382.33 WHQL Drivers

NVIDIA has released new GeForce drivers that provide the optimal gaming experience for Tekken 7 and Star Trek: Bridge Crew. I am actually looking forward to the former: this is the first time we’re getting Tekken on PC, and the last one came out way back in 2009. Now I just need a new Soul Calibur that is as good as the original. The documentation for the drivers can be viewed here.

Changes and Fixed Issues in Version 382.33

  • [TITAN X][3D Vision][Windows 10 Creator's Update]: The Windows Store does not open when 3D Vision is enabled. [1906805]

  • [GeForce GTX 1080Ti][Prey 2]: Stuttering occurs during gameplay. [1902201]

  • [GeForce GTX 1070][Windows 10 Creator's Update]: In multi-display mode, extended monitors cannot be be put into sleep mode. [1916554]

  • [GeForce GTX 1060]: Blue-screen crash occurs pointing to driver (Nvlddmkm.sys) after the system reboots from sleep mode. [1814559]

  • [GeForce GTX 970][SLI]: SLI cannot be enable unless Norton 360 is disabled or Windows is booted in Safe Mode. [1919094]

Discussion

Uncharted Movie Casts Spider-Man Star Tom Holland as Nathan Drake

What the heck? My thoughts for the Uncharted movie involved an adult Drake, played by Nathan Fillion, but Sony has a completely different idea: the film version of Naughty Dog’s adventure series will actually be a prequel that involves a young Nathan meeting Victor Sullivan for the first time. Can they get Greg Edmonson to score it, at least?

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Sony Pictures is bullish enough on its upcoming Spider-Man Homecoming star Tom Holland that the studio is doubling down on the young actor by building a second major franchise around him. Holland is attaching to star in Uncharted, in what will be redrafted as a prequel to the treasure hunting action story line in the Naughty Dog video game for PlayStation. Shawn Levy is directing a film that will take its inspiration from a sequence in the third iteration of the video game that focused on the young thief Drake, and his first encounter with the professional rogue, Sullivan.

Discussion

If You Bought $100 of Bitcoin 7 Years Ago, You'd Be Sitting on $72.9 Million Now

Talk about a serious case of regret: assuming the math is actually correct, those who were smart enough to buy $100 of bitcoin at the 0.003 cent price on May 22, 2010 are now definitive millionaires. The price of bitcoin hit a fresh record high on Monday nearing $2,200. Seven years ago today, someone spent 10,000 bitcoin on two Papa John's pizzas: this was the first transaction using the cryptocurrency.

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Monday marks the seven-year anniversary of Bitcoin Pizza Day – the moment a programmer named Laszlo Hanyecz spent 10,000 bitcoin on two Papa John's pizzas. More important than the episode being widely recognized as the first transaction using the cryptocurrency is what it tells us about the bitcoin rally that saw it break through the $2,100 mark on Monday. Bitcoin was trading as high as $2,185.89 in the early hours of Monday morning, hitting a fresh record high, after first powering through the $2,000 barrier over the weekend, according to CoinDesk data.

Discussion

Netgear "Fixes" Router with Phone-Home Features That Record IP, MAC Address

This happens to be the same router I am using, of course. I installed Netgear’s latest R7000 firmware the other day, expecting bug and/or security fixes, but the only thing added was an invasive "Router Analytics Data Collection" option that sends sensitive data directly to the company. This seems like a disaster waiting to happen, since a potential exploit could allow for interception. I don’t get why they are introducing this now, and for this specific model, actually. Some users say they can’t even turn it off---on my end, the options are grayed out but the radio buttons still work, so something is definitely buggy.

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Netgear NightHawk R7000 users who ran last week's firmware upgrade need to check their settings, because the company added a remote data collection feature to the units. "Such data may include information regarding the router’s running status, number of devices connected to the router, types of connections, LAN/WAN status, WiFi bands and channels, IP address, MAC address, serial number, and similar technical data about the use and functioning of the router, as well as its WiFi network." The good news is that you can turn it off: the instructions are here. It's probably unlikely that any significant number of users will do so, given the number of people who never get around to changing their default passwords.

Discussion

How a Man Born without Eyes Plays Video Games

Toby Ott is not your average gamer: while he enjoys Final Fantasy, Doom, and other typical titles, he has to play them without being able to see. Mr. Ott was born without eyeballs due to a condition called Bilateral Anopthalmia, but that has not stopped him from gaming since he was a child. With the help of friends, Tony is able to memorize button combinations to navigate menus and relies on sound and cheats to get through games.

This is a short documentary about Toby Ott, a man who was born with Bilateral Anopthalmia, or in other words, without eyes. This didn't stop him from discovering the medium of video games, and his childhood interest grew into a lifelong passion. This is a whole new perspective on video games, from the imagination of someone who has never known what it is to have sight. I was inspired to shoot this documentary when Toby emailed me to express how much he enjoyed the content on my channel. After I learned that he had been blind since birth I wanted to know more, and as our correspondence progressed I felt compelled to visit him to hear his story and share it with the world.

Discussion

HP Spectre x2 Leads Refreshed Line of High-End Laptops

The Cannes Film Festival is not just about movies, as HP has used the event to debut refreshed Envy and Spectre hardware. The latter, I think, is one of the sexiest laptops on the market today and its successor retains the original’s great aesthetics with internal upgrades that include Kaby Lake i5 and i7 processors, a 3,000 x 2,000 resolution panel, two USB Type-C ports, and a 1TB PCIe SSD option. HP has also updated their Envy 13 and 17 laptops for those who want something more traditional.

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...Microsoft obviously doesn’t mind if OEMs copy its basic designs, and the Spectre x2 is a very Surface Pro-like tablet with a kickstand and multi-angle detachable keyboard. The newly refreshed Spectre x2 simply takes what was best about the original model and makes it better. First up is the migration to seventh-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors from the previous generation’s low-power Core M processors, which should help improve performance. HP also increased maximum RAM to 16GB and doubled the maximum storage to a 1TB PCIe SSD. Finally, Intel Iris Plus graphics are an option for a bit more performance in productivity tasks. Weight comes in at 2.49 pounds with the keyboard attached, and thickness is 0.52 inches.

Discussion

Microsoft Clarifies Xbox Scorpio Frame Rate/Fidelity Stance

Xbox engineering lead Mike Ybarra has confirmed that frame rate parity between Scorpio and Xbox One games is totally up to the developer; there is no requirement that they have to be the same. This detail was pointed out after it was suggested the Scorpio would be held back by the original Xbox One. More broadly, Ybarra says that game makers are free to do what they want with the additional power in Scorpio: developers could even choose different framerates for MP games if they wanted to.

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Microsoft is positioning Scorpio as the "most powerful console ever made," so it would be unfortunate if developers had to reign in their visions for games by limiting frame rate and fidelity. Microsoft Studios boss Shannon Loftis thinks developers will keep the frame rate consistent for multiplayer games. All Xbox One games work on Scorpio, though the Scorpio editions can look and perform better, in some cases, if developers want to do that. It is a similar situation with PS4 and PS4 Pro. Microsoft is expected to share more details on Scorpio at E3 or sooner.

Discussion

Samsung Display Showcases Stretchable OLED

Bendable, foldable, rollable---and now there’s stretchable. Samsung will be demonstrating this new form of OLED at an upcoming US display conference, and they say it will be the most advanced flexible type yet. Usage scenarios mentioned include wearables, Internet of Things devices, and automobile displays, but I am having trouble imagining something specific that would need such an extreme degree of curvature.

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"While current flexible OLED is able to be transformed in only one side, this stretchable OLED can be transformed -- whether curved, bended or rolled -- in both sides, above and below" a Samsung Display spokesperson said. When pressed, the stretchable display is dented up to 12 millimeters, like a balloon, and then reverts back to its original shape, the company said. The technology, however, is still in the early stage of research and development so the firm is not sure when it will be commercialized. Although it may take long, the flexible display market -- mostly are curved only now -- will continue to evolve into bendable, foldable, rollable and stretchable in the coming years, London-based research firm IHS Markit predicted.

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