Tech News Feed

Amazon Luna Can Now Play Games You Own On PC, No Channel Subscriptions Required

SlashDot - Tue, 2022-12-06 17:40
Amazon Luna is one of the better cloud gaming options if you play a lot of Ubisoft titles, and it's getting a big upgrade this week. You can now sync purchases on Luna to PC and play without a subscription. 9to5Google reports: Since its launch, Amazon Luna has worked solely on a subscription model. Players can access games through "channels," each of which includes a rotating selection of games. One of those channels is Ubisoft+, which has a selection of Ubisoft games for $17.99/month that can share that subscription cost with other platforms such as PC. But the one downside of Luna is that you always need one of those subscriptions -- that is, until now. Available starting today, Amazon Luna will allow players to stream Ubisoft games they've purchased on PC without any channel subscriptions needed. You just need accounts from Amazon and from Ubisoft and to purchase compatible games. The only subscription required is Amazon Prime. By syncing Ubisoft Connect with Luna, players can stream their purchases instantly with no downloads and on more devices, such as Chromebooks and smartphones. But unlike other cloud platforms that have allowed purchases, such as Stadia, these games can also be downloaded and played on PC. Amazon notes that once your accounts are linked, future purchases from the Ubisoft Store will automatically appear in Luna.

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HBO Max Again Launches on Amazon Prime Video Channels - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2022-12-06 17:32
Prime customers can pay for both streaming services through Amazon.

Dead Island 2's latest trailer blends zombies and Alexa voice commands

Engadget - Tue, 2022-12-06 17:29

When Dead Island 2 remerged earlier this year after a lengthy absence, publisher Deep Silver announced it would be the first title to support Amazon’s Alexa Game Control, a feature that allows you to use your voice to play a game. On Tuesday, the company shared a trailer showcasing the functionality, albeit one that offers a staged view of things.

The trailer opens with a group of zombie apocalypse survivors finding a playable build of Dead Island 2. “What a weird coincidence,” says one of the characters, commenting on the meta-narrative. “What’s Alexa Game Control?” asks the leader of the group. As one of their friends goes outside for a smoke, the video shows how certain voice commands will trigger actions within the game. “Hey zombie,” for example, draws the attention of the nearest undead. You can also say, “get me my ax” to cause your character to, well, switch to their ax.

Not every voice command that’s in the game is shown off in the trailer. An Amazon spokesperson told The Verge you’ll be able to use your voice to do things like set waypoints and greet other characters. Alexa Voice Control doesn’t require an Echo device. All you need is a headset with a microphone. We’ll get a chance to see how well the voice commands work when Dead Island 2, after nearly a decade of development, finally arrives on April 28th.

Apple Loosens Grip On App Store Pricing With 700 New Price Points

SlashDot - Tue, 2022-12-06 17:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Apple is loosening its requirements around how developers have to price their apps as legal and regulatory pressure over its tight control of the App Store intensifies. The company announced today it's expanding its App Store pricing system to offer developers access to 700 additional price points, bringing the new total number of price points available to 900. It will also allow U.S. developers to set prices for apps, in-app purchases or subscriptions as low as $0.29 or as high as $10,000, and in rounded endings (like $1.00) instead of just $0.99. Similar new policies to reduce restrictions around price points will roll out in global markets, alongside new tools aimed at helping developers better manage pricing outside their local market. The changes will initially become available starting today, Dec. 6, 2022, for auto-renewable subscriptions. They'll become available to paid apps and in-app purchases in Spring 2023. U.S. consumers may have noticed some App Store prices already ended in other digits besides just $0.99. But that's because auto-renewing subscriptions had access to a slightly wider range of price points than other consumables -- including the ability to set their prices as low as $0.49. But these same rules did not apply to non-subscription app pricing, which added to consumer and developer confusion. The new system is looking to simplify the pricing so it's more consistent across the board. For U.S. apps in the lowest tiers, price points can increase in $0.10 increments up to $10.00 going forward. These price steps become less granular when you move into higher price points. For example, between $10 and $50, they then can increase by $0.50 increments. Between $50 and $200, the price steps would be $1.00, and so on. In addition to the updated pricing policies, Apple is also now rolling out tools to help developers better manage currency and taxes across storefronts. Starting today, developers will be able to set their subscription prices in their local currency as the basis for automatically generating pricing across the other 174 storefronts and 44 currencies, or they can choose to manually set prices in each market. When pricing is set automatically, pricing outside a developer's home market will update as foreign exchange and tax rates change. This functionality will expand to all other apps beyond subscription apps in Spring 2023. Also coming in 2023, developers with paid apps and in-app purchases will be able to choose to set local territory pricing, which isn't impacted by automatic price adjustments based on the changes in taxes and foreign exchange rates. And all developers will also be able to define the availability of in-app purchases by storefront.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

'Harry & Meghan' Netflix Series: How to Watch, Royal Racism Controversy, When Will Episodes Drop - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2022-12-06 16:58
Move over, The Crown: six episodes of royal dish and gossip begin Thursday.

Apple's future iPhones and Macs will use TSMC chips made in Arizona

Engadget - Tue, 2022-12-06 16:45

You didn't have to wait long for confirmation of Apple's domestic chip plans. Company chief Tim Cook has revealed that Apple will buy chips made at TSMC's upcoming factory in Phoenix, Arizona. While Cook didn't say just how those chips will be used, the 4- and 3-nanometer parts are expected to find their way into next-generation iPhones, Macs and other key products. Apple is currently TSMC's largest customer.

The Phoenix facility is expected to start production in 2024. A follow-up plant is expected in 2026 due to increased demand. Combined, they'll make about 600,000 chip wafers per year. TSMC is spending $40 billion on the factories, but they'll be partly subsidized by the government through the CHIPS and Science Act meant to incentivize US semiconductor manufacturing.

Intel is also building factories in Arizona and Ohio. It's planning to serve as a foundry for other companies looking to outsource chip production, and has expressed interest in making Apple's components. Whether or not that happens may depend on Intel's ability to keep up with foundries like TSMC, which frequently leads the push towards next-generation chip manufacturing processes.

The output will represent just a tiny portion of TSMC's total capabilities. CNBC notes the Taiwan firm made 12 million wafers in 2020 alone. The National Economic Council estimates that should be enough to fulfill US demand, though. That could alleviate chip shortages, create jobs and reduce American dependence on foreign production.

While the plants won't come online for two years, news of the expansion comes at an appropriate time. Apple has warned of iPhone 14 Pro manufacturing setbacks due to China's COVID-19 policies. In theory, American facilities would have reduced the impact of those restrictions. Although many parts could still be made overseas even after TSMC's expansion, there could soon be a greater chance of Apple devices reaching your door in a timely fashion.

How Water Made Fire in an Indonesian Volcano

Scientifc America - Tue, 2022-12-06 16:30

Heavy rains may have set off an outpouring of ash and gases from Indonesia’s volcano Semeru “like uncorking a soda bottle”

Telegram Premium Tops 1 Million Subscribers

SlashDot - Tue, 2022-12-06 16:21
Telegram Premium has amassed over 1 million subscribers, less than six months after the popular instant messaging app launched the paid offering and began a serious effort to monetize the business. From a report: Pavel Durov shared the update on his Telegram channel Tuesday, calling the milestone "one of the most successful examples of a social media subscription plan ever launched." The subscription, however, still "represents just a fraction of Telegram's overall revenue," he shared in the same update, optimistically hoping that one day Premium will rake in just as much money as ads.

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The Linguistics of Swearing Explain Why We Substitute Darn for Damn

Scientifc America - Tue, 2022-12-06 16:15

Languages from Hindi to Korean tone down swear words by inserting gentler consonants into speech. Here’s how “Let’s go Brandon” got started

Spotify Review: Still the Best Music Streaming Service - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2022-12-06 16:06
From Spotify Connect to one of the biggest music catalogs available, this is the streaming service to choose.

These Plant-Eating Dinosaurs Whacked Each Other With Sledgehammer-Like Tails - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2022-12-06 16:01
The danger-tails on spiky ankylosaurs likely weren't just for predators.

Apple's revamped App Store pricing allows $0.29 software

Engadget - Tue, 2022-12-06 15:58

Apple is expanding developers’ options for pricing their App Store apps. The company announced 700 new price points and tools today in what it describes as the App Store's biggest pricing upgrade in its 14-year history. Additionally, devs can now set regional costs automatically in response to exchange rates.

The App Store’s new structure lets developers choose from 900 price points for their apps, nearly 10 times what was previously available. Pricing now starts at $0.29 and can go as high as $10,000 upon request. (If you’re old enough to remember the I Am Rich app, you can imagine that developer salivating over this higher cap.) Additionally, app prices can now go up incrementally across different ranges. For example, they can now increase every $0.10 up to $10, every $0.50 between $10 and $50 and so on.

Apple is also adding different pricing conventions for all 175 regional storefronts. Deves can now use two repeating digits (like ₩110,000) and rounded dollar amounts ($10.00 instead of $9.99).

The update also makes it easier for devs to deal with global exchange rates. Apple uses the example of a Japanese game developer who gets most of their business from Japanese customers. Now they can set their price for the Japan storefront and see global pricing change automatically based on exchange and tax rates. Previously, developers had to do that manually.

Apple says the new pricing structure is available today for apps offering auto-renewable subscriptions. They will arrive for all other apps and in-app purchases in the spring of 2023.

Amazon is Offering Customers $2 Per Month For Letting the Company Monitor the Traffic on Their Phones

SlashDot - Tue, 2022-12-06 15:41
Some Amazon users will now earn $2 dollar per month for agreeing to share their traffic data with the retail giant. From a report: Under the company's new invite-only Ad Verification program, Amazon is tracking what ads participants saw, where they saw them, and the time of day they were viewed. This includes Amazon's own ads and third-party ads on the platform. Through the program, Amazon hopes to offer more personalized-ad experiences to customers that reflect what they have previously purchased, according to Amazon. "Your participation will help brands offer better products and make ads from Amazon more relevant,"Amazon wrote in its Shopper Panel FAQ. The $2 reward only applies to Amazon users invited to participate in the program, though customers who didn't get invited can get added to a waitlist and potentially join later, an Amazon spokesperson told Insider. The spokesperson declined to tell Insider how the company decided who to invite.

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Polestar 2 gets a 68HP power boost through a paid update, no subscription required

Engadget - Tue, 2022-12-06 15:27

Polestar is delivering a not-so-subtle snub to Mercedes' subscription performance upgrade. The automaker has released an update that gives the Polestar 2's long range dual motor variant a 68HP power boost (plus 15lb. ft. of torque) in the US and Canada for a one-time $1,195 fee. That's far from a trivial expense, but it's a decidedly better value than Merc's $1,200 annual fee for EQS and EQE acceleration improvements.

The software tuning gives the Polestar 2 a total 476HP with 502lb. ft. of torque. That's enough to cut the 0-60MPH time to 4.2 seconds (normally 4.5), and it shaves half a second off the 50-70MPH dash (now 2.2 seconds). Polestar says you'll mainly notice the added grunt in the 44MPH to 80MPH range, so this update may be most helpful when you're overtaking someone on the highway.

You can buy the update through the Polestar web shop, and it will apply over the air. It's included with a new vehicle if you opt for the $5,000 Performance pack. You won't have to visit a store, then. There's no word of a comparable upgrade for the single motor Polestar 2 variant, or availability in other regions.

The patch won't suddenly give the Polestar 2 an edge over the Model 3 Performance (0-60 in 3.3 seconds) or other particularly quick EVs. And while this is a one-off purchase, you're still paying for something your car could technically handle before — it just wasn't available when the sedan was new. You're ultimately compensating Polestar for development time, not components, and this won't be thrilling if you preferred the days when paid upgrades were directly connected to better hardware.

This does make the Polestar 2 easier to justify if you crave speed, though. And importantly, you won't have to buy the extremely rare BST edition 270 just to get additional output. While you won't get as many track-ready features, you also won't have to receive an invitation (or, more likely, buy a used model at a premium) to get behind the wheel.

Apple Reportedly Taps the Brakes on Its Self-Driving Car - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2022-12-06 15:20
The vehicle is now slated to debut in 2026 with fewer capabilities but a lower price tag.

'Wednesday' Is Netflix's No. 5 Most Watched Show Ever, in Any Language - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2022-12-06 15:00
Netflix says that in 12 days, Wednesday has been watched for 752.5 million total hours. That's more than Bridgerton racked up in twice as much time.

Intel's Take on the Next Wave of Moore's Law

SlashDot - Tue, 2022-12-06 15:00
The next wave of Moore's Law will rely on a developing concept called system technology co-optimization, Ann B. Kelleher, general manager of technology development at Intel told IEEE Spectrum in an interview ahead of her plenary talk at the 2022 IEEE Electron Device Meeting. From a report: "Moore's Law is about increasing the integration of functions," says Kelleher. "As we look forward into the next 10 to 20 years, there's a pipeline full of innovation" that will continue the cadence of improved products every two years. That path includes the usual continued improvements in semiconductor processes and design, but system technology co-optimization (STCO) will make the biggest difference. Kelleher calls it an "outside-in" manner of development. It starts with the workload a product needs to support and its software, then works down to system architecture, then what type of silicon must be within a package, and finally down to the semiconductor manufacturing process. "With system technology co-optimization, it means all the pieces are optimized together so that you're getting your best answer for the end product," she says. STCO is an option now in large part because advanced packaging, such as 3D integration, is allowing the high-bandwidth connection of chiplets -- small, functional chips -- inside a single package. This means that what would once be functions on a single chip can be disaggregated onto dedicated chiplets, which can each then be made using the most optimal semiconductor process technology. For example, Kelleher points out in her plenary that high-performance computing demands a large amount of cache memory per processor core, but chipmaker's ability to shrink SRAM is not proceeding at the same pace as the scaling down of logic. So it makes sense to build SRAM caches and compute cores as separate chiplets using different process technology and then stitch them together using 3D integration. A key example of STCO in action, says Kelleher, is the Ponte Vecchio processor at the heart of the Aurora supercomputer. It's composed of 47 active chiplets (as well as 8 blanks for thermal conduction). These are stitched together using both advanced horizontal connections (2.5 packaging tech) and 3D stacking. "It brings together silicon from different fabs and enables them to come together so that the system is able to perform against the workload that it's designed for," she says.

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First 'Vampire Survivors' DLC coming later this month

Engadget - Tue, 2022-12-06 14:45

A little over a month after it arrived on Xbox consoles, the addictive roguelike shoot ‘em up Vampire Survivors will get its first DLC. The $2 Legacy of Moonspell expansion launches on PC via Steam and Xbox on December 15th.

The new content includes a new map that developer poncle describes as the game’s “biggest stage yet.” The new level, Mt. Moonspell, adds an abandoned castle, a snow-covered mountain and a Yokai-infested village. Additionally, the DLC adds over a dozen new weapons, including an ancestral wind force, orbs that unleash the power of seasons, a dark summoning weapon and an enchanted kimono. It also adds eight extra playable characters and six music tracks.

“In eastern lands, a clan has fallen,” the DLC’s story description reads. “The Moonspell, once vigilant guardians of a sorcerous valley nestled in the mountains, have been overrun by hordes of yokai and oni. Though treacherous, this hive of spectral activity may provide some clue as to the location of a vampire. If not, at least it’ll be entertaining to defeat thousands of wayward spirits in the process.”

 Legacy of Moonspell' DLC.Luca Galante

Vampire Survivors is a casual game that, over time, reveals more complexity than you’d expect from its simple 2D character sprites. Your character auto-fires weapons, leaving you to control their movement and loadout while dodging fire and snagging enemy drops. The goal is to stay ahead of the curve: As wave after wave of enemies approach, it may remind you as much of tower defense as the roguelike games from which it draws inspiration. Once you get the hang of it, it can become an almost meditative experience, which helps explain its standing as the most-played Steam Deck game month after month.

The base Vampire Survivors game is available for $5 on Steam and Xbox Series X/S; it's also available via Game Pass for PCs and consoles.

Apple's rumored electric car may not be fully self-driving after all

Engadget - Tue, 2022-12-06 14:37

Apple isn't done scaling back its plans for an electric car, apparently. Bloombergsources say the EV, codenamed Project Titan, is no longer a fully self-driving machine. It will reportedly have a conventional wheel and pedals, and will 'only' drive itself on highways. The company has also pushed the launch back by a year to 2026, the tipsters claim.

The rumored vehicle will supposedly offer enough autonomy that you can play games or watch video on the highway, but ask you to take control when it's time to drive on city streets or through adverse weather. Apple may debut the hands-free tech in North America at first and expand access "over time," the insiders add.

Apple has already declined comment. Titan has been in development for years, and has suffered numerous setbacks as well as major strategy shifts. The tech firm may have had doubts as early as 2015, and was said to have scuttled the vehicle in 2016 in favor of a licensed self-driving platform. Executive shuffles and layoffs didn't help, either. While the company did return to making a full-fledged vehicle, according to rumors, it had little success courting production help from brands like Hyundai.

More modest ambitions wouldn't be surprising. Full Level 5 autonomy (where a vehicle can drive itself in any circumstance) still isn't a practical reality, and even Waymo's robotaxis are only allowed to operate in good weather in California. There's also the question of legal permissions. While states are increasingly receptive to self-driving cars, there isn't yet a framework that would let the general public use completely autonomous vehicles. Even if Apple solved all the technical challenges, it couldn't realistically sell a truly hands-off car any time soon.

A switch to a semi-autonomous design could lead to fiercer competition. While Tesla has long been considered Apple's main rival, the EV market has grown rapidly in recent years. Brands like Ford, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Rivian have all made capable electric rides. Apple would be entering a crowded field, and there's no guarantee the company will stand out.

Amazon reportedly agrees to treat sellers better to end EU antitrust probes

Engadget - Tue, 2022-12-06 14:24

The European Commission and Amazon have reportedly come to an agreement that will allow the retail giant to avoid a fine for allegedly misusing seller data. According to The Financial Times, the company has pledged to give rival products equal treatment in the Buy Box section of its website, a move that should theoretically increase the visibility of the merchants selling those goods. Amazon also agreed to create alternate featured offers for customers less concerned about getting their purchase as quickly as possible, as well as give sellers free rein to decide on the company they want to deliver their goods.

According to The Times, the European Commission plans to announce the agreement on December 20th, though that date could shift. What won’t change are the terms of the deal. “There’s very little to discuss,” a source told the outlet. Once the agreement is formalized, Amazon will be required to honor its commitments for at least five years.

Amazon did not immediately respond to Engadget’s comment request. In July, when the company promised it would take steps to make its seller program fairer, Amazon said it felt it was being “unfairly” targeted by legislation like the Digital Markets Act. At the same time, the retailer said it was "engaged constructively" with regulators to address concerns about its business.

A deal with the European Union would give Amazon the chance to put to rest at least one aspect of a long saga. The European Commission began probing the company’s use of merchant data in 2019, almost a full year before The Wall Street Journalpublished a report alleging that Amazon had used seller data to design competing products. However, the company would still need to mollify US lawmakers and regulators. In April, the Securities and Exchange Commission reportedly began investigating the company’s use of third-party data. Before that, the Senate asked the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Amazon over the possibility of criminal obstruction.