‘Super Nintendo World’ Amusement Park Previewed By Mario’s 68-Year-Old Creator

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“On Friday, Nintendo and Universal Studios Japan took the veil off a years-in-the-making project: the very first Nintendo-themed theme park,” reports Ars Technica (in an article shared by long-time Slashdot reader mprindle):

And who better to introduce the world to this life-sized walk through of all things Mario than the character’s creator himself, longtime Nintendo developer and designer Shigeru Miyamoto…

Many of the park’s decorations and objects can be interacted with by park visitors who wear a special wristband, dubbed the Power-Up Band, which includes an Amiibo-like NFC chip. Press its sensor near park objects like a Super Mario coin block, and a new virtual item will appear in a synced Super Nintendo World app on your smartphone. Exactly how these virtual items will affect your visit to Super Nintendo World remains unclear, but Miyamoto-san hinted to surprising attractions and hidden interactable panels for park visitors to discover in person. (Additionally, those Power-Up Bands will double as Amiibo for compatible hardware, like Nintendo Switch.)

Only one “ride” received a showcase in the video, albeit a brief one: a Mario Kart race against Bowser. It’s hosted inside a replica of Bowser’s castle, and visitors will sit in one of a series of Mario-styled go-karts that appear to be linked on a rollercoaster-like track, as opposed to freely controllable. Exactly what visitors will see on that ride remains unclear, but previous news about the ride’s augmented reality (AR) elements was reinforced with the first official look at the park’s AR glasses, which come attached to a Super Mario hat.

The park opens in Japan on February 4, 2021, according to Ars, followed by later launches at Universal Studios in in Singapore, and at its U.S. locations in Orlando, Florida and Los Angeles.

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Google Stadia Arrives on iOS

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Google’s cloud gaming service now supports the iPhone and iPad. As expected, the company is using a web app to access the service. From a report: Google also says that you need to update to iOS 14.3, the latest iOS update that was released earlier this week. If you want to try it out with a free or paid Stadia account, you can head over to stadia.google.com from your iOS device. Log in to your Google account, add a shortcut to your home screen and open the web app. After that, you can launch a game and start playing. Most games will require a gamepad, so you might want to pair a gamepad with your iPhone or iPad as well. Apple’s iOS supports Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers using Bluetooth as well as controllers specifically designed for iOS. You can also play with the Stadia controller, but it’s optional. If you just want to check your inventory quickly, Stadia on iOS also supports touch controls.

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Apple’s Fitness Video Service That Competes With Peloton Is Cheaper and Just As Good

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Todd Haselton from CNBC reviews Apple Fitness+, with some thoughts on how it compares with Peloton’s similar app. Here’s an excerpt from his report: Apple’s subscription fitness app, Fitness+, launches Monday. I’ve been using it for the past several days and I think it offers a nice variety of workouts that people will like. You need an Apple Watch to take the prerecorded exercise classes, which are available on iPhones, iPads and the Apple TV. It’s a smart way for Apple to make the Apple Watch even stickier. If people get really into the fitness classes, like I have, it will be yet another way Apple keeps people locked in to its ecosystem of products. Why buy another phone, tablet or watch if you really like Fitness+? It also comes at a great time, when people aren’t in gyms and are at home looking for ways to exercise.

Like other fitness apps, including Peloton’s, which starts at $12.99 a month for classes that don’t need the company’s connected spin bike, you don’t need anything to use it. But, you’ll get more out of it if you have any indoor cycle, treadmill, rowing machine or free weights, since some of the classes require equipment. But you don’t need anything special. I’ve been riding a hand-me-down exercise bike, for example. Fitness+ costs $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year. It’s also part of the Premier Apple One plan, which costs $29.95 per month, and includes other Apple products like Apple Music, Apple TV+ and extra iCloud storage bundled together at a discount.

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‘Cyberpunk 2077’ Players Are Fixing Parts of the Game Before CD Projekt

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Cyberpunk 2077 is here in all its glory and pain. On some machines, it’s a visual spectacle pushing the limits of current technology and delivering on the promise of Deus Ex, but open world. On other machines, including last-gen consoles, it’s a unoptimized and barely playable nightmare. Developer CD Projekt Red has said it’s working to improve the game, but fans already have a number of fixes, particularly if you’re using an AMD CPU. From a report: Fans aren’t waiting for the developer however and over the weekend AMD CPU users discovered that a few small tweaks could improve performance on their PCs. Some players reported performance gains of as much as 60 percent. Cyberpunk 2077 seems to be a CPU intensive game and, at release, it isn’t properly optimized for AMD chips. “If you run the game on an AMD CPU and check your usage in task manager, it seems to utilise 4 (logical, 2 physical) cores in frequent bursts up to 100% usage, whereas the rest of the physical cores sit around 40-60%, and their logical counterparts remain idle,” Redditor BramblexD explained in a post on the /r/AMD subreddit. Basically, Cyberpunk 2077 is only utilizing a portion of any AMD chips power.

Digital Foundry, a YouTube channel that does in-depth technical analysis of video games, noticed the AMD issue as well. “It really looks like Cyberpunk is not properly using the hyperthreads on Ryzen CPUs,” Digital Foundry said in a recent video. To fix this issue, the community has developed three separate solutions. One involves altering the game’s executable with a hex editor, the other involves editing a config file, and a third is an unofficial patch built by the community. All three do the same thing — unleash the power of AMDs processors. “Holy shit are you a wizard or something? The game is finally playable now!” One redditor said of the hex editing technique. “With this tweak my CPU usage went from 50% to ~75% and my frametime is so much more stable now.”

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‘Cyberpunk 2077’ Players Are Fixing Parts of the Game Before CD Projekt

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Cyberpunk 2077 is here in all its glory and pain. On some machines, it’s a visual spectacle pushing the limits of current technology and delivering on the promise of Deus Ex, but open world. On other machines, including last-gen consoles, it’s a unoptimized and barely playable nightmare. Developer CD Projekt Red has said it’s working to improve the game, but fans already have a number of fixes, particularly if you’re using an AMD CPU. From a report: Fans aren’t waiting for the developer however and over the weekend AMD CPU users discovered that a few small tweaks could improve performance on their PCs. Some players reported performance gains of as much as 60 percent. Cyberpunk 2077 seems to be a CPU intensive game and, at release, it isn’t properly optimized for AMD chips. “If you run the game on an AMD CPU and check your usage in task manager, it seems to utilise 4 (logical, 2 physical) cores in frequent bursts up to 100% usage, whereas the rest of the physical cores sit around 40-60%, and their logical counterparts remain idle,” Redditor BramblexD explained in a post on the /r/AMD subreddit. Basically, Cyberpunk 2077 is only utilizing a portion of any AMD chips power.

Digital Foundry, a YouTube channel that does in-depth technical analysis of video games, noticed the AMD issue as well. “It really looks like Cyberpunk is not properly using the hyperthreads on Ryzen CPUs,” Digital Foundry said in a recent video. To fix this issue, the community has developed three separate solutions. One involves altering the game’s executable with a hex editor, the other involves editing a config file, and a third is an unofficial patch built by the community. All three do the same thing — unleash the power of AMDs processors. “Holy shit are you a wizard or something? The game is finally playable now!” One redditor said of the hex editing technique. “With this tweak my CPU usage went from 50% to ~75% and my frametime is so much more stable now.”

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‘This Is a Bad Time to Build a High-End Gaming PC’

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Joel Hruska, writing at ExtremeTech: It’s not just a question of whether top-end hardware is available, but whether midrange and last-gen hardware is selling at reasonable prices. If you want to go AMD, be aware that Ryzen 5000 CPUs are hard to find and the 6800 and 6800 XT are vanishingly rare. The upper-range Ryzen 3000 CPUs available on Amazon and Newegg are also selling for well above their prices six months ago. If you want to build an Intel system, the situation is a little different. A number of the 9th and 10th-gen chips are actually priced at MSRP and not too hard to find. The Core i7-9700K has fallen to $269, for example, and it’s still one of Intel’s fastest gaming CPUs. At that price, paired with a Z370 motherboard, you could build a gaming-focused system, so long as you don’t actually need a new high-end GPU. The Core i7-10700K is $359, which isn’t quite as competitive, but it squares off reasonably well against chips like the 3700X at $325. Amazon and Newegg both report the 3600X selling for more, at $400 and $345, respectively.

But even if these prices are appealing, the current GPU market makes building a gaming system much above lower-midrange to midrange a non-starter. Radeon 6000 GPUs and RTX 3000 GPUs are both almost impossible to find, and the older, slower, and less feature-rich cards that you can buy are almost all selling for more today than they were six months ago. Not every GPU has been kicked into the stratosphere, but between the cards you can’t buy and the cards you shouldn’t buy, there’s a limited number of deals currently on the market. Your best bet is to set up price alerts on specific SKUs you are watching with the vendor in question. There is some limited good news, though: DRAM and SSDs are both still reasonably priced. DRAM and SSD prices are both expected to decline 10-15 percent through Q4 2020 compared with the previous quarter, and there are good deals to be had on both. […] Power supply prices look reasonable, too, and motherboard availability looks solid. If you don’t need to buy a GPU right now and you’re willing to or prefer to use Intel, there’s a more reasonable case to be made for building a system. But if you need a high-end GPU and/or want a high-end Ryzen chip to go with it, you may be better off shopping prebuilt systems or waiting a few more months.

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Should Qualcomm Feel Threatened By Apple’s M1 Macs?

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PCMag.com’s lead mobile analyst calls Qualcomm “a little too unbothered by Apple’s M1 Macs”

Qualcomm executives brushed off a question about Apple’s new M1-based Macs during a question-and-answer session at the company’s Snapdragon Summit today, where Qualcomm announced a new flagship smartphone chipset but no upgrades to its year-old chips for PCs… In general, reviews of Qualcomm-powered laptops such as the Microsoft Surface Pro X have celebrated the devices’ long battery life, but lamented problems with third-party apps that were originally coded for Intel processors. That stands in stark contrast to Apple’s new M1-based Macs, which don’t seem to be slowed down as badly by older software…

“It’s a great validation of what we’ve been doing for the past few years and [Qualcomm’s product line] is just going to get stronger and stronger as we broaden our scope,” said Alex Katouzian, Qualcomm SVP for mobile. Katouzian made sure to subtly call out ways in which Qualcomm’s always-connected PCs are superior to Apple’s newest Macs. The Macs lack 4G connectivity and still have poor-quality, 720p front-facing cameras… Katouzian also pointed out that (presumably unlike Apple) Qualcomm addresses “many tiers…and many price points” with its 7c, 8c, and 8cx laptop chipsets, letting Windows laptop makers drive prices well below the MacBook Air’s $999 list price.

The core problem with Qualcomm’s always-connected PC strategy is one that Qualcomm itself can’t fix. While Qualcomm could, and probably will, soon announce a laptop chip that’s based on the new Snapdragon 888 and has a level of raw power closer to Apple’s M1, it’s really down to Microsoft, as well as peripheral and app makers to solve the platform incompatibilities that have frustrated PC reviewers.

Hot Hardware cites Microsoft’s promises of changes come in future updates to Windows 10, arguing that “with the arrival of x64 emulation and a growing library of native Arm64 apps, Windows 10 on Arm is going to be an even more powerful platform.”
From a performance perspective, while running Windows 10 on Arm, these [Snapdragon 8cx] chips may currently be at a disadvantage to the Apple M1, but some day in the not so distant future that might not be the case. We have no doubt that Qualcomm is likely working on a new Windows PC-centric SoC that is based on Snapdragon 888 or similar architecture. Qualcomm has promised a 25 percent uplift in CPU and a 35% lift in GPU performance over the Snapdragon 865, with the Snapdragon 888, which already offers a big boost over the previous gen Snapdragon 855/8cx. So, Qualcomm has the potential to put up a strong showing against the Apple M1, whenever its next-generation Snapdragon PC chip launches.

That may be, but John Gruber at Daring Fireball argues that currently “M1 Macs embarrass all other PCs — all Intel-based Macs, including automobile-priced Mac Pros, and every single machine running Windows or Linux.”

Those machines are just standing around in their underwear now because the M1 stole all their pants. Well, that just doesn’t happen, your instincts tell you. One company, even a company like Apple, doesn’t just embarrass the entire rest of a highly-competitive longstanding industry. But just because something hasn’t happened — or hasn’t happened in a very long while — doesn’t mean it can’t happen. And in this case, it just happened… M1 Macs completely upend what we can and should expect from PCs. It’s a breakthrough along the lines of the iPhone itself in 2007.

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‘It’s Time For Movie Theaters To Die So Movies Can Live Again’

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Joshua Topolsky, writing at Input Mag: Movies are, by their very nature, good. Movies are one of the best things to have happened to the human race, probably ranking right up there in the top 5 with eating, sex, indoor plumbing, and music. We’ve probably all had formative experiences in one way or another around movies, and for many of us those experiences took place in a classic multiplex, surrounded by other like-minded film fans. But over the last two decades or so, the movie-going experience has been degraded by turns, both in terms of the physical reality of packing hundreds of people into a shared experience with a world of increasing distractions, and in the quality of the “blockbuster” fare being peddled by studios. This pandemic has made us all take a long, hard look at what has really been working for humanity and what hasn’t, and I think the theater experience — at least the massive, multi-screen one we’ve been living with — might be dying at just the right time.

There are myriad contributors to this realization. For me, it starts with the basic reality that a truly epic film-watching experience can now be had in your house, with all the big-screen bombast and overwhelming audio that theaters have long touted as their domain alone. A fairly cheap, big-screen 4K TV, and an accompanying surround sound setup will put you right back in the theater recliner, except you have full control over the experience. Whether that means being able to pause for bathroom and snack breaks, having the option to just switch the film if you don’t like what you’re seeing, or being able to return to something over a period of time, watching at home can not only be as good as watching in a theater — it can be better.

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Apple’s M1 Is Exceeding Expectations

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Reviews are starting to pour in of Apple’s MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and Mac Mini featuring the new M1 ARM-based processor — and they’re overwhelmingly positive. “As with the Air, the Pro’s performance exceeds expectations,” writes Nilay Patel via The Verge.

“Apple’s next chapter offers strong performance gains, great battery and starts at $999,” says Brian Heater via TechCrunch.

“When Apple said it would start producing Macs with its own system-on-chip processors, custom CPU and GPU silicon (and a bunch of other stuff) to replace parts from Intel and AMD, we figured it would be good. I never expected it would be this good,” says Jason Cross in his review of the MacBook Air M1.

“The M1 is a serious, serious contender for one of the all-time most efficient and highest-performing architectures we’ve ever seen deploy,” says ExtremeTech’s Joel Hruska.

“Spending a few days with the 2020 Mac mini has shown me that it’s a barnburner of a miniature desktop PC,” writes Chris Welch via The Verge. “It outperforms most Intel Macs in several benchmarks, runs apps reliably, and offers a fantastic day-to-day experience whether you’re using it for web browsing and email or for creative editing and professional work. That potential will only grow when Apple inevitably raises the RAM ceiling and (hopefully) brings back those missing USB ports…”

“Quibbling about massively parallel workloads — which the M1 wasn’t designed for — aside, Apple has clearly broken the ice on high-performance ARM desktop and laptop designs,” writes Jim Salter via Ars Technica. “Yes, you can build an ARM system that competes strongly with x86, even at very high performance levels.”

“The M1-equipped MacBook Air now packs far better performance than its predecessors, rivaling at times the M1-based MacBook Pro. At $999, it’s the best value among macOS laptops,” concludes PCMag.

“For developers, the Apple Silicon Macs also represent the very first full-fledged Arm machines on the market that have few-to-no compromises. This is a massive boost not just for Apple, but for the larger Arm ecosystem and the growing Arm cloud-computing business,” writes Andrei Frumusanu via AnandTech. “Overall, Apple hit it out of the park with the M1.”

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Six Reasons Why Google Maps Is the Creepiest App On Your Phone

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VICE has highlighted six reasons why Google Maps is the creepiest app on your phone. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the report: 1. Google Maps Wants Your Search History: Google’s “Web & App Activity” settings describe how the company collects data, such as user location, to create a faster and “more personalized” experience. In plain English, this means that every single place you’ve looked up in the app — whether it’s a strip club, a kebab shop or your moped-riding drug dealer’s location — is saved and integrated into Google’s search engine algorithm for a period of 18 months. Google knows you probably find this creepy. That’s why the company uses so-called “dark patterns” — user interfaces crafted to coax us into choosing options we might not otherwise, for example by highlighting an option with certain fonts or brighter colors.

2. Google Maps Limits Its Features If You Don’t Share Your Search History: If you open your Google Maps app, you’ll see a circle in the top right corner that signifies you’re logged in with your Google account. That’s not necessary, and you can simply log out. Of course, the log out button is slightly hidden, but can be found like this: click on the circle > Settings > scroll down > Log out of Google Maps. Unfortunately, Google Maps won’t let you save frequently visited places if you’re not logged into your Google account. If you choose not to log in, when you click on the search bar you get a “Tired of typing?” button, suggesting you sign in, and coaxing you towards more data collection.

3. Google Maps Can Snitch On You: Another problematic feature is the “Google Maps Timeline,” which “shows an estimate of places you may have been and routes you may have taken based on your Location History.” With this feature, you can look at your personal travel routes on Google Maps, including the means of transport you probably used, such as a car or a bike. The obvious downside is that your every move is known to Google, and to anyone with access to your account. And that’s not just hackers — Google may also share data with government agencies such as the police. […] If your “Location History” is on, your phone “saves where you go with your devices, even when you aren’t using a specific Google service,” as is explained in more detail on this page. This feature is useful if you lose your phone, but also turns it into a bonafide tracking device.

4. Google Maps Wants to Know Your Habits: Google Maps often asks users to share a quick public rating. “How was Berlin Burger? Help others know what to expect,” suggests the app after you’ve picked up your dinner. This feels like a casual, lighthearted question and relies on the positive feeling we get when we help others. But all this info is collected in your Google profile, making it easier for someone to figure out if you’re visiting a place briefly and occasionally (like on holiday) or if you live nearby.

5. Google Maps Doesn’t Like It When You’re Offline: Remember GPS navigation? It might have been clunky and slow, but it’s a good reminder that you don’t need to be connected to the internet to be directed. In fact, other apps offer offline navigation. On Google, you can download maps, but offline navigation is only available for cars. It seems fairly unlikely the tech giant can’t figure out how to direct pedestrians and cyclists without internet.

6. Google Makes It Seem Like This Is All for Your Own Good: “Providing useful, meaningful experiences is at the core of what Google does,” the company says on its website, adding that knowing your location is important for this reason. They say they use this data for all kinds of useful things, like “security” and “language settings” — and, of course, selling ads. Google also sells advertisers the possibility to evaluate how well their campaigns reached their target (that’s you!) and how often people visited their physical shops “in an anonymized and aggregated manner”. But only if you opt in (or you forget to opt out).

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Apple Silicon M1 Chip In MacBook Air Outperforms High-End 16-Inch MacBook Pro

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The first benchmark of Apple’s M1 chip shows that the multi-core performance of the new MacBook Air with 8GB RAM beats out all of the 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro models, including the 10th-generation high-end 2.4GHz Intel Core i9 model. “That high-end 16-inch MacBook Pro earned a single-core score of 1096 and a multi-core score of 6870,” reports MacRumors. The MacBook Air with M1 chip and 8GB RAM features a single-core score of 1687 and a multi-core score of 7433. From the report: Though the M1 chip is outperforming the 16-inch MacBook Pro models when it comes to raw CPU benchmarks, the 16-inch MacBook Pro likely offers better performance in other areas such as the GPU as those models have high-power discrete GPUs. It’s worth noting that there are likely to be some performance differences between the MacBook Pro and the “MacBook Air” even though they’re using the same M1 chip because the “MacBook Air” has a fanless design and the MacBook Pro has an new Apple-designed cooling system. There’s also a benchmark for the Mac mini, though, and it has about the same scores. The “Mac mini” with M1 chip that was benchmarked earned a single-core score of 1682 and a multi-core score of 7067.

There’s also a benchmark for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 chip and 16GB RAM that has a single-core score of 1714 and a multi-core score of 6802. Like the “MacBook Air,” it has a 3.2GHz base frequency. A few other “MacBook Air” benchmarks have surfaced too with similar scores, and the full list is available on Geekbench. […] When compared to existing devices, the M1 chip in the “MacBook Air” outperforms all iOS devices. For comparison’s sake, the iPhone 12 Pro earned a single-core score of 1584 and a multi-core score of 3898, while the highest ranked iOS device on Geekbench’s charts, the A14 iPad Air, earned a single-core score of 1585 and a multi-core score of 4647.

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Apple Unveils New M1 Apple Silicon-powered MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and MacBook Pro

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Apple announced three Macs today that are powered by the company’s new M1 chip. They are: MacBook Air: The first Mac that will be powered by the M1 chip is the MacBook Air. According to Apple, the new Air is 3.5x faster with up to 5x graphics performance than the previous generation thanks to the M1 processor. The new MacBook Air doesn’t have a fan, so it’ll be completely quiet at all times. It has up to 18 hours of total battery life when watching videos or 15 hours when browsing the web. You can get it with up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of memory, with the price still starting at $999.

Mac Mini: Additionally, Apple will release an Apple Silicon-powered Mac Mini. It’s the same design Apple used for the DTK, but with the M1 processor. The new Mac Mini starts at $699, a drop in the price of $100, and supports up to a 6K display via USB-C Thunderbolt ports with USB-4 support.

MacBook Pro: Lastly, Apple is updating the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 chip. Again, Apple touted performance gains in the MacBook Pro with 2.8x CPU gains and 5x GPU gains thanks to the M1 in the MacBook Pro. It keeps its cooling system but now gets 17 hours of battery life when browsing the web, or 20 hours when watching video. Apple kept the price of the MacBook Pro at $1,299 starting price.

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Sony Gives Your PS4 a Second Life: Slinging a PS5 To Another Room of Your House

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Sony confirmed today that the existing PS4 will soon let you access your other PlayStation consoles remotely, including the PS5: “We’re updating PS4’s Remote Play feature. Now, in addition to being able to access your PS4 from a PC or a mobile device, your PS4 can access other consoles via Remote Play too, right on your TV. This includes the ability to connect to your PS5 and stream a PS5 game to your PS4 so you can play it there.” The Verge reports: VGC and Eurogamer reported today that a “PS5 Remote Play” app has already popped up on the PS4, offering up to a 1080p stream from your new console to your existing one. Perhaps you’ll hook up your PS4 to the bedroom TV — or the living room if you keep your primary console in the den? You don’t necessarily need a PS4 to stream a PS5 to another room of your house, though, since the PS Remote Play app is getting updated on other platforms as well. The Windows version not only adds PS5 support at 1080p but also HDR. Sony’s PS Remote Play apps for Android and iOS have been updated for the PS5, and we’d be surprised if the Mac version wasn’t ready as well.

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Spaces or Tabs? Microsoft Developers Reveal Their Preferences

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In a new video, Microsoft’s principal cloud advocate and DevOps lead weighed in on that crucial and perennial developer question: which is better, indenting your code with spaces or with tabs?

“This is kind of a loaded question… However, I am very opinionated on this. I happen to be a huge fan of tabs, for a couple of reasons.

Number one, your file size is going to be much smaller, because a tab is just one character. Okay, okay, granted this isn’t a big deal any more, but I’m old as dirt, and I remember when hard drive space was at a premium.

But here’s the real reason: you can customize your indentation width. And this is actually a bigger deal than it sounds like. By using tabs, you now give each individual the ability to see the indentation widths that they want, or even in some cases need. That makes it so much more accessible than spaces, right?
So because of that, for accessibility reasons, use tabs.
Well, I guess that settles that, leaving no need for any further… Wait, there’s more responses from other Microsoft developers on this page, including program manager Craig Lowen. At the end of a video titled WSL2: Code faster on the Windows Subsystem for Linux! he says:
I prefer spaces to tabs, and that’s because tabs don’t actually have a denotation of how wide or short they have to be in indentations. That’s totally done by your IDE, so if you open it up in a different IDE, it might have a different level of indentation. If you use spaces, you’ll always have the same indentation level if you’re using a fixed-width font.

But however, I still use the tab key, and I just make my editor insert spaces for me.

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Are the Best Star Wars Stories Now in Games Like ‘Star Wars: Squadrons’?

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A game critic for the Los Angeles Times remembers his reaction to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. “What a disappointment — if only it had been built for video game consoles.” This leads to this epiphany:
For all the deserved attention “The Mandalorian” series on Disney+ has received, the just-released game “Star Wars: Squadrons” reminds us that some of the best “Star Wars” stories in recent years have been in the video game space…. This is a work, in fact, that doesn’t suffer from an action-focused, little-narrative approach — every second I’ve spent with this game has fulfilled the sort of personal “Star Wars” fantasy that’s enhanced by giving the audience a bit of autonomy. It’s also, for those privileged enough to own a virtual reality headset, the VR experience I’ve had at home that most represents what it’s like to be in a theme park.

Rather than throwing spectacle after spectacle at me, it lets me partake in them, to scratch the itch of being in the center of intergalactic, aerial dogfights. But less than emphasizing awe, “Squadrons” centers on the feel of controlling a ship, making me feel a part of something bigger. Sure, that’s just digital, fictional warfare, but “Squadrons” understands the appeal of “Star Wars” is that it’s open to everyone, and any of us can be ace pilots if given the chance. We don’t admire; we act.

There is nostalgia at play. The game recalls some of the LucasArts spaceflight simulators of yore that I obsessed with in my suburban Chicago basement, but there’s a sense of swiftness and polish that makes this game as appealing as a coin-op arcade machine. And yet it’s also in possession of confidence, a depth that I’ll need to master if I really want to go hard in multiplayer battles. As a solo player without many friends who play multiplayer games — OK, fine, none — I’m not so sure I’ll take the time to learn each individual ship and its advantages or disadvantages. But I’m not sure I need that because “Squadrons” has me smiling throughout, even if I accidentally turn my X-wing into an asteroid. While throwing me into larger-than-life moments — disable a giant, Imperial starship and help lead a capture of it — “Squadrons” succeeds in making them feel livable and conquerable.

In other words, by focusing so intently on the act of spaceflight, I don’t feel like a tourist in the “Star Wars” universe, thrown a litany of “greatest hits” moments. Instead, “Squadron’s” single-focus obsession allows my imagination to run free rather than have to wonder where I am, who I am or what I’m supposed to do now. I can just fly. And shoot. And it feels great.

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PS5 Teardown Video Confirms Faster Wi-Fi and USB Ports Than Xbox Series X

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Sony’s recently-released PS5 teardown video gives us a closer look at the PS5, and confirms that the speed of the console’s Wi-Fi antenna and USB ports are faster than those available in the Xbox Series X. GamesRadar+ reports: As spotted by VG247, the teardown confirms a few new hardware details about PS5. For starters, we know the console’s Wi-Fi antenna supports the new Wi-Fi 6 standard, which allows for a new maximum speed of 9.6 Gbps — more than twice the 3.5 Gbps ceiling for Wi-Fi 5. This doesn’t mean your PS5 will be able to use all of that to send your download speeds through the roof. The practical benefit is that Wi-Fi 6 routers can better distribute all that speed to a bunch of devices at once, and to maintain their performance over time. So if you have a Wi-Fi 6 router and a home full of connected devices, there’s a good chance you will notice the improvement. For reference, the Xbox Series X Wi-Fi antenna supports Wi-Fi 5.

As for the USB ports, we already knew that PS5 has a USB-C port and a USB-A port on the front. The teardown video confirms the type-C port will support 10Gbps transfer speeds, and it confirms that the two USB-A ports on the back will as well. The type-A port on the front isn’t as quick, so if you plan to plug in an external PS5 SSD make sure you use one of the ports on the back. Xbox Series X doesn’t include any type-C ports, and all of its type-A ports run at the standard 5gbps speed. If you know that fast connection speeds will make a big difference to your play experience, you may want to lean toward PS5 — but as always, the biggest deciding factor should be what games you want to play and how well each console plays them. The Verge also notes the PS5 includes removable sides, dust catchers, and storage expansion.

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A New Google Assistant Feature, ‘Hold For Me,’ Waits On Hold So You Don’t Have To

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“In previous years, [Google] launched Call Screen to vet your incoming calls, Duplex for restaurant reservations, and just this month, a feature called Verified Calls that will tell you who is calling and why,” reports TechCrunch. Today, Google introduced a feature called “Hold For Me,” which will make the Google Assistant stay on the line for you when you’re placed on hold, then alert you when someone picks up. From the report: In the short demo of “Hold for Me,” Google showed how a Pixel device owner is able to activate the new feature after they’ve been placed on hold. This is done by tapping a new button that appears on the phone screen above the buttons for muting the call, turning on speakerphone, and the other in-call phone controls. Once activated, you’re alerted with a message that says “Don’t hand up,” where you’re advised that Google Assistant is listening to the call for you, so you can do other things.

A button is also available on this screen that lets you tap to return to the call at any time, and below that an on-screen message says “music playing” to indicate if the Google Assistant is still hearing the hold music. You can also choose to press the red hang up button to end the call from this screen. When a person comes on the line, the device will alert you it’s time to return to the call. Google says the new feature will come to its new Pixel 5 devices, which will soon be followed by its older-generation Pixel phones via the next “Pixel feature drop” roll out.

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Google Announces the Pixel 5 for $699

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Google has officially taken the wraps off of the $699 Pixel 5, its latest Android flagship. From a report: Compared to last year’s Pixel 4, Google is focusing less on dramatic new technology — like the much-hyped Motion Sense gestures on last year’s model — and emphasizing instead the unique features that already help set the Pixel apart, like its stand-out camera software. The Pixel 5 will feature a Snapdragon 765G processor — notably not the top-tier Snapdragon 865 or 865 Plus — complete with Qualcomm’s integrated X52 modem for 5G support (a benefit of the slightly less powerful chipset.) It’s a break from the usual Pixel strategy, which has sought to offer comparable flagship specs to other top Android devices from companies like Samsung or OnePlus — but it also means that Google can offer the new phone at a lower price. Google is calling out a few things that separate out the Pixel 5 from the newly announced Pixel 4A, including IPX8 water-resistance, reverse wireless charging, more RAM, and a stronger Corning Gorilla Glass 6 panel. Notably, it lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack, though, something that its cheaper siblings offer. The display is a 6-inch 2340 x 1080 OLED panel in a 19.5:9 aspect ratio with a 90Hz refresh rate, which features a hole-punch selfie camera. Thanks to the removal of the Motion Sense camera — and the hefty top bezel it required for its radar array — there’s now a full edge-to-edge display this time, with no notch or bezels.

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Google’s Chromecast with Google TV is Its First Real Streaming Contender

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An anonymous reader shares a report: For the better part of the last decade, Google’s Chromecast dongles were the company’s primary homegrown solution for streaming video to your TV. But with the recent explosion in streaming services, even the most sophisticated Chromecast wasn’t really cutting it anymore, which is something the new Chromecast with Google TV is hoping to change in a big way, but bringing an actual streaming device OS to a Chromecast dongle. The big change for this new $50 Chromecast is that it’s not your typical Chromecast at all. Sure, it still plugs in via HDMI and you can still use it to stream videos and content to your TV from your phone. However, instead of being based around the very basic Chromecast interface, this new Chromecast runs on Android TV platform which Google has improved with an enhanced UI and a few new features, which is where the Google TV part of Chromecast with Google TV comes in.

And when you factor in the Chromecast with Google TV’s new dedicated remote these upgrades could completely change how you watch and interact with content. Starting with the hardware, the Chromecast with Google TV consists of two parts: there’s the dongle that plugs into your TV and Google’s included remote. For the Chromecast with Google TV, Google is going with a simple ovular puck that comes in three different colors (Snow, Sunrise, and Sky) and features an attached HDMI cable that plugs into your TV along with a USB-C port and bundled cable that you’ll need to plug in for power. The Chromecast with Google TV comes with support for 4K video at 60 fps with HDR via Dolby Vision, which ticks all the major boxes when it comes to streaming video quality.

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The World’s First Foldable PC Is Now Available To Order From Lenovo

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Last year at its Accelerate 2019 event in Orlando, Lenovo teased “the world’s first foldable PC.” They didn’t unveil the name, price tag, or ship date — just that it would be part of Lenovo’s flagship ThinkPad X1 line and that it would arrive in 2020. Today, the company formally unveiled the device it’s calling the ThinkPad X1 Fold, which is available for preorder now, starting at $2,499. The Verge reports: The idea is that you can use the Fold like a large tablet when it’s fully unfolded (or divide the screen into two adjacent displays). You can prop the Fold up horizontally to use it like a full 13-inch notebook, with an optional detachable keyboard and easel stand. You can fold the thing up 90 degrees, turn it vertically, and use it like a miniature laptop (a touchscreen keyboard pops up on the bottom half). You can turn it horizontally and use it like a book, with an optional stylus. Or you can fold the whole thing up, and easily carry it around without it taking up much space in your bag. In terms of other specs, the production Fold comes with Intel’s Lakefield processors, two USB-C ports and a SIM-card slot, 8GB of RAM, up to 1TB of storage, and a 50Wh battery. It weighs 2.2 pounds and can come with 5G support. Lenovo also announced a bunch of Linux ThinkPads and ThinkStation PCs.

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