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Epic Online Services Launches with New Tools for Cross-Play and More

Epic Games today announces the launch of Epic Online Services, unlocking the ability to effortlessly scale games and unify player communities for all developers. First announced in December 2018, Epic Online Services are battle-tested and powered by the services built for Fortnite across seven major platforms (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android). Open to all developers, Epic Online Services is completely free and offers creators a single SDK to quickly and easily launch, operate, and scale their games across engines, stores, and platforms of their choice.

"At Epic, we believe in open, integrated platforms and in the future of gaming being a highly social and connected experience," said Chris Dyl, General Manager, Online Services, Epic Games. "Through Epic Online Services, we strive to help build a user-friendly ecosystem for both developers and players, where creators can benefit regardless of how they choose to build and publish their games, and where players can play games with their friends and enjoy the same quality experience regardless of the hardware they own."

Oculus Connect 7 to be Held as a Digital Event Later This Year

Every year, Oculus Connect brings together developers, content creators, marketers, and more to celebrate the VR industry's momentum and growth. In light of the evolving public health risks related to COVID-19, we've decided to shift Oculus Connect 7 to a digital format later this year.

This was a tough decision to make, but we need to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees, and everyone involved in OC7. Oculus Connect gives us an unprecedented opportunity to connect with our global developer community. OC7 will be no exception, and we look forward to sharing more details about the digital event in the coming months.

Game Developers Conference gets Postponed due to COVID-19 Concerns

Game Developers Conference is perhaps one of the biggest organizations in the gaming industry, covering everything from gaming hardware to games themselves. This year's GDC event was planned to happen on March 16th, however, due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 concerns, the GDC organization has decided to postpone the event. This doesn't mean that the conference will not happen at all. Instead, the GDC organizers plan to host the event sometime "later in the summer", when hopefully the COVID-19 concerns will settle. To add, Facebook also canceled its F8 Developer Conference, along with Open Compute Project (OCP) Global Summit which also got canceled due to virus outbreak fears.

Being that Computex is happening within three months, there are growing concerns that the event may not happen at all, however, we can hope that the situation will be resolved soon and that we can bring you live coverage of the event.

TechPowerUp and Colorful Present SL500 960GB SSD Giveaway

TechPowerUp in partnership with Colorful bring you a sweet chance to win a Colorful SL500 960 GB SATA SSD. One lucky winner from anywhere in the world (where legal) stands a chance to win one of these drives in the icy cool "Glacier Blue" trim. The drive combines a Maxiotech MAS0902 controller with 3D QLC NAND flash memory, and could be a perfect game directory drive, especially with some of the season's AAA titles needing well over 100 GB of disk space. The SL500 offers decent performance measured at 560 MB/s reads with 470 MB/s writes. Open from today, the Giveaway accepts entries till October 25, 2019. To participate, simply fill a short form that lets us contact you if you've won, and Like TPU & Colorful on Facebook. All the best!

For more information and to participate, visit this page.

ZADAK and TechPowerUp Present the Summer DDR4 Giveaway

ZADAK and TechPowerUp bring you a unique opportunity to upgrade your PC's memory with a swanky new ZADAK Spark DDR4-4133 16 GB dual-channel memory kit. This memory kit derives from ZADAK's legacy as a highly sought-after boutique component brand, and a robust enthusiast memory design targeting the enthusiast community. The modules feature heatspreaders crowned by a unique RGB LED embellishment that adds a part-industrial, part-cyberpunk flare to your build. Two lucky winners stand to win a ZADAK Spark DDR4-4133 16 GB (2x 8 GB) dual-channel memory kit, each. To participate, simply fill up a short form that helps us get back to you if you've won, and Like ZADAK HQ on Facebook by clicking on the button in the Giveaway page. The Giveaway is open worldwide, wherever legal, and entries are open till August 16. All the best!

For more information and to participate, visit this page.

Fortnite is Being used as a Money Laundering Venue

The Independent has conducted an investigative report into the underwold's usage of Fortnite as a venue for money laundering. This likely won't come as a surprise - Fortnite has pretty lax acquisition restrictions for its in-game content and V-bucks, and the world's most popular multiplayer game moves millions of players through its servers daily. with such a deep pool of likely buyers for anything Fortnite at under Fortnite-store pricing, the stage is set for an almost untraceable money laundering scheme.

The ZeniMax-Oculus Odyssey is Over - Facebook Settles the Dispute For Undisclosed Sum

Remember the lawsuit ZeniMax threw Oculus' way? Well, that seems to be settled now, after a back and forward that always saw Oculus (even after the Facebook acquisition) having to pay damages to ZeniMax - at first, $500 million, which was then reduced to $250 million.

Now, the litigation seems to have come to an end, as CNBC reports that ZeniMax's CEO has acknowledged that a settlement was reached. The terms of the settlement were undisclosed (and so was the sum that Facebook definitely had to pay ZeniMax), but CNBC got a statement from the ZeniMax CEO Robert Altman that read: "We are pleased that a settlement has been reached and are fully satisfied by the outcome. While we dislike litigation, we will always vigorously defend against any infringement or misappropriation of our intellectual property by third parties." While ZeniMax says they are fully satisfied with the outcome, it's certainly a far cry from the original up to $4 billion and Oculus sales being blocked that the company was after in the initial terms of the lawsuit.

Brendan Iribe Oculus VR Co-Founder Leaves Company

Brendan Iribe, a co-founder of Oculus VR, has announced that he will be leaving the company today in a Facebook post. Having been with the company since its inception in July of 2012, he is now moving on after in his own words "six incredible years." Having been a part of the initial VR push with the Oculus Rift, he has left an indelible mark on an industry that is still growing into its own today.

Calling his tenure at Oculus and Facebook a "transformative experience" Iribe was thankful to the people around him including his team that has been a part of his journey thus far. However, after 20 years he considers now a good time to take a break and "to recharge, reflect and be creative." Even so, it will be interesting to see what he does next, considering he has already co-founded a previous company, Scaleform that was bought by Autodesk in 2011 and then worked for Gaikai before the Sony acquisition in 2012. With a track record in tech that spans multiple industries, it likely won't be long before Iribe is working on the next big thing.

TechPowerUp and Lian Li Present LANCOOL ONE GOLD Limited Edition Giveaway

Lian Li made only five LANCOOL One Champagne Gold limited edition cases, ever. Three of these are up for grabs on TechPowerUp alone! The TechPowerUp Lian Li LANCOOL One Gold Giveaway presents you with a unique opportunity to win a rare Lian Li creation that combines sexy gold bling with legendary build quality and utility. These super-rare cases feature gold finished front panels, accented by matte white main body panels, white interiors, and contrasting tinted black tempered glass panels.

To win one of three cases we are giving away, simply fill up a form that lets us get back to you if you've won. You can add a chance by sharing the contest page on popular social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Google+, or even classic e-mail. Each platform gives you an extra chance, so you can have up to four extra chances. To get extra chances, you not only have to click on the share buttons, on the giveaway page, but also follow through on the appropriate platform (we can tell). The Giveaway is open Worldwide (wherever legal), from today (25th September) till 6th October. Good Luck!

For more information, and to participate, visit this page.

Worldwide Markets Feel Jolt of Tencent's Epic $143 Billion Stock Crash

Tencent Holdings, China's second most valuable tech firm after Alibaba, was mauled at the markets Tuesday (31/07), with its share value dropping 25 percent from its January peak. This translates to a stunning USD $143 billion (yes, billion) in investor wealth being wiped out. The crash has had a domino effect on tech stocks worldwide, as FANG block member Facebook lost an equally stunning $136 billion in market value, over the past three trading sessions. Apparently, buzzwords of the season such as AI and big-data aren't proving enough to keep investors interested in tech stocks as many are beginning to question the stability of the tech industry. All eyes are now on Tencent's August 15 release of its Q2-2018 financial results.

Cambridge Analytica Files for Bankruptcy, or The Permanency of the Status-Quo

So, here's the thing: everyone that has some sort of window to the world around them has been made aware of the Facebook data scandal that's connected to Cambridge Analytica. Rivers of ink have already poured from journalists' metaphorical fountain pens. However, let's be honest: what real impact has this had on peoples' minds and overall level of comfort with debatable practices and data maintenance or access? What real impact is this having in the grand scheme of things, period?

Facebook exited its 1Q 2018 with record-setting numbers, for one. It just goes to show the entrenched fortress that Facebook has become, the efficiency of its advertising machine, the gargantuan state of dependency and the strength of network effects, of traction, as she put it - everyone (well, not this editor) has one, and thus no-one wants to be left out. Even things as simple as how easy it is to login and register for different services by connecting a Facebook account leads people to stay - and thus the status quo is maintained. The $11.97 billion in revenue with $1.69 EPS that Facebook achieved in its Q1 report, alongside the increase in 48M daily active users should give everyone pause. Is this becoming a case of being too big to fail? What would be required for such a scenario to manifest itself? What sort of betrayal of customers' trust?

Oculus Go VR Headset Now Available Starting at $199

Facebook has announced that their Oculus Go portable VR headset is now available in 23 different countries at oculus.com, Amazon, Best Buy, and Newegg. The headset features a cordless design which means that it doesn't need to be connected to a PC or smartphone to function. Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, the Oculus Go boasts a fast-switch LCD display with a 2560 x 1440 WQHD resolution and a pixel density of 538 ppi. The headset is designed to be worn by consumers with or without glasses. However, consumers can purchase compatible VirtuClear prescription lenses and insert them directly into the Oculus Go. The headset also comes with built-in spatial audio and an integrated microphone for communication. The unit is shipped with over 1000 VR games, social applications, and 360° experiences for users to experience. The Oculus Go starts at $199 USD for the 32 GB model and $249 USD for the 64 GB model.

Alliance for Open Media Announces the AV1 Royalty-free Video Format

Consumers' video expectations are being shaped by the brilliant images promised by 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video and beyond. However, the technical-based hurdles and data demands of higher quality video mean that the majority of users only have access to full HD or lower video technology. For nearly three years, the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) has been working in lock-step with its members, the world's best-known leaders in video, to develop a better quality internet video technology that benefits all consumers. Today, the Alliance is proud to announce the public release of the AOMedia Video Codec 1.0 (AV1) specification, which delivers cross-platform, 4K UHD or higher online video, royalty-free - all while lowering data usage.

Whether watching live sports, video chatting with loved ones, or binging on a favorite show, online video is becoming a bigger part of consumers' daily lives. In fact, video is so important to users that by 2021, 82 percent of all the world's internet traffic will be video, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index , 2016-2021. To remove many of the hurdles required by older, optical disc-era, video technologies, AOMedia developed AV1 specifically for the internet video-era, paving the way for companies to make more of the royalty-free, 4K UHD and higher video devices, products, and services that consumers love.

Twitter Reportedly Looking Into Banning Cryptocurrency-Related Ads as Well

After Google has actually announced a change to their financial services-related ad policies that will ban all cryptocurrency-related ads that run through its advertising platform, reports now place Twitter as the next major service to follow suit. According to Sky News, the banning will affect the majority of ads relating to cryptocurrency products, services, and advice, cutting it diagonally and indiscriminately if services are actually legit or fakes. The publication says the decision comes "amid looming regulatory intervention in the sector."

Sky's sources say this ban will enter into effect within the next two weeks. If so, this is now the third major servie (after Facebook and Google) to ban all crypto-related content form its advertisements. That regulatory intervention is looming on the sector is putting it mildly; and it's high time that happened. The cryptocurrency market really is "being chilled", to quote Mike Lempres, chief legal and risk officer at Coinbase. And it's coming from all sides: regulatory bodies, general services, John Oliver shows, mainstream media, and even investors' own risk-assessment. It was bound to happen - the frenzy was getting quite old, really - and is an expected development. Let's hope this is just the beginning of a renewal of sorts for the cryptocurrency and blockchain world.

EU Plans to Add 3% Tax On Tech Giants' Revenue Based on Customers' Location

"Treat equally that which is equal, treat differently that which is different" seems to be the motto of the new EU proposal for increased taxation on tech giants. The proposal, which will be presented just this Wednesday (March 21st), could lead to increased taxation to tech giants that do business with EU customers by as much (or as little, depending on your point of view) as 3% of their gross revenue (the value still isn't final, but should stay within 1% and 5%). It isn't clear how the customer location business will be defined, but it seems that the EU believes its citizens provide increased revenues for companies than other citizens in other parts of the less developed world do.

This move specifically aims to capture real growth and value of digital-first companies, such as Facebook and Amazon. These are types of companies that the EU feels aren't being taxed proportionally (meaning, they currently provide less than they should to public coffers) to the true value they derive from the region. As most EU matters, any tax proposal will need the unanimous approval of all 28 current members before turning into law, so one country alone could block it.

Viceroy Research and CTS-Labs Make Their Positions Known on "AMD Flaws"

In separate interviews with Vice Motherboard, Viceroy Research, the AMD stock short-seller that posted an obituary of AMD, and CTS-Labs, which claims AMD "Zen" architecture is infested with glaring security vulnerabilities; crystallized their financial positions on "AMD Flaws." CTS-Labs and Viceroy Research each went on record to state that they have no financial relationship with each other. "Viceroy [Research] is not a client of CTS[-Labs], and CTS[-Labs] did not send its research to Viceroy [Research]," said Yaron Luk, co-founder of CTS-Labs, but confirmed that his company's business-model involves sharing their cyber-security research with stock research firms (like Viceroy Research), which probably use the information to short tech stocks (a highly unethical though not yet illegal practice). "We are a for-profit company that gets paid for its research by a variety of research clients," Luk stated.

It's becoming increasingly clear that entities other than AMD had access to CTS-Labs' work, at least the report, if not the "research package," greater than 24 hours before public disclosure (i.e. before even AMD could see it), and one such entity, referred to as an "anonymous tipster" in the Motherboard report, "shared" the information with Viceroy Research, which quickly bought itself a shorting position against the AMD stock, and posted a 25-page doomsaying report to accelerate the fall of AMD stock (which isn't quite happening at the time of writing this post). Viceroy Research is brazen about its position on the matter. "We haven't hidden the fact that we short the stock," said Fraser Perring, founder of Viceroy. Cybersecurity guru Alex Stamos, who is associated with Facebook, without taking names, tweeted an ominous warning that short-selling fueled security research "is going to end in tears. Hopefully due to lost money, and not because naive researchers go to prison." Does this foretell new regulation by the SEC that renders Viceroy's position into a black-hole for their money? The SEC has taken a great interest in the behavior of tech corporations and investors around cyber-security research.

Hack Like It's 1998: Sites Still Vulnerable to Revived ROBOT Exploit

Another week, yet another security bulletin in tech news, with yet another vulnerability that joins the fray of both Intel's meltdown and Western Digital's MyCloud hacks. A team of researchers recently wrote a paper they titled "Return Of Bleichenbacher's Oracle Threat (ROBOT)". This paper went on to show how a well-known, circa 1998 exploit is still a viable way to take advantage of websites of even big name companies and services, such as Facebook and PayPal (in total, around 2.8% of the top 1 million sites also tested positive). The ROBOT exploit, a critical, 19-year-old vulnerability that allows attackers to decrypt encrypted data and sign communications using compromised sites' secret encryption key, is still valid. Only, it's 19 years later.

The heart of the issue stems from a vulnerability that was discovered in 1998 by researcher Daniel Bleichenbacher, who found the vulnerability in the TLS predecessor known as secure sockets layer. The attack is dubbed an Oracle threat because attackers can write specialized queries to which the websites and affected systems respond with "Yes" or "No"; as such, it's possible, given enough time, for attackers to build up the amount of disclosed sensitive information and get a clear picture of the protected data. To the flaw's discovery by Bleichenbacher, SSL architects apparently responded in a B-movie type of way, which nevertheless might have been needed to keep all systems green: by designing workarounds on top of workarounds, rather than removing or rewriting the faulty RSA algorithm.

NVIDIA Teases Titan X Collector's Edition Graphics Card

NVIDIA has been doing a great job maintaining its leadership position in the discrete, high-performance graphics segment with its Pascal graphics cards. Rival AMD delivered a somewhat unconvincing effort with its RX Vega graphics cards - to which NVIDIA has already answered the most interesting AMD graphics card in that lineup, the Vega 56, with its own GTX 1070 Ti. As such, corporate bottom lines and profit maximization likely mean that the company is in no rush to introduce its Volta architecture to the gaming market. However, the company's recent tease either marks the first iteration of a halo product based on the company's Volta architecture to the market, or, more likely, a limited edition Titan X graphics card still based on the Pascal architecture - as if the Titan Xp wasn't limited and premium enough, naturally, but I digress.

The short teaser, posted by NVIDIA on its GeForce Facebook page under the "It's coming...a Collector's Edition" tagline, shows a distinguished-looking cooler shroud, which borrows design elements from the company's iconic Founders Edition graphics card, but with some added geometry and detail touches. The card will apparently incorporate RGB elements, seeing as the teaser shows both green and red colors. There's some speculation that this Collector's Edition Titan graphics card could be the first consumer graphics card to leverage GDDR6 memory, upping the ante from today's top of the technological crop, GDDR5X. Time - NVIDIA - will tell.

Facebook, Microsoft Finish Installation of 160 Tbps Subsea Data Cable

It might come as a surprise to some that the actual majority of global communications is done via subsea cables that connect continents - and people - together. This editor remember being dumbfounded at the mere idea of this whilst reading Frank Schätzing's "The Swarm", some 9 years ago. However, the installation of subsea datacables isn't new; in fact, the first ever recorded datacable installation occurred in 1850 - though it was simply used for telegraphy. The times change, though, and nowadays, there are cables that can transmit 160 terabits per second connecting continents. According to Microsoft, that's more than 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection, making it capable of streaming 71 million high-definition videos simultaneously.

One such is the new MAREA cable, laid down across the Atlantic by a Microsoft/Facebook joint operation, which connects Bilbao (northern Spain) to Virginia Beach, in Virginia. The cable is settled more than 17,000 feet (five kilometers for us metric system junkies) below the surface of the ocean and measures more than 4,000 miles (again, 6,400 kilometers) in length. It weighs nearly 10.25 million pounds (around 4,629 tons) and is situated along a route south of existing transatlantic cables, which should ensure more resilient and reliable connections for customers on both sides.

Oculus Shuts Down Its VR-driven Story Studio - The Empire Falters

VR is one of the most important buzzwords in tech, not only for current development, but also for what studios and tech insiders deem to be our entertainment future. Oculus, which paved the way for VR with its Rift headset concept (before being snagged by Facebook), is one of the biggest, most recognizable players in this space. Now, after a series of hurdles such as the Oculus-ZeniMax sonata, which saw the former facing payments of $500 million, and Oculus' founder Palmer Luckey abandoning the company, a house of cards is crumbling. Namely, Oculus' VR-driven Story Studio.

AMD Confirms Vega is Launching this Quarter

Via Facebook, AMD has confirmed that Vega is nearly here - at least, as nearly here as a "this quarter" can be. This means Vega will launch in two-months time (Q2 extends through the months of April, May and June, after all.) Through a post on its Facebook page, AMD replied that Vega will be coming "when it's ready... And it will be this quarter."

According to previous leaks (and our own deep dive on Vega's architecture), Vega should go a long way towards bridging the power/performance gap between AMD and NVIDIA's GeForce series. It will be the first time since Fury that AMD will have a competitive, high-performance graphics design (expectedly, and hopefully, since no-one likes to buy over-priced graphics cards.) The fact that AMD has teased Vega in two different pieces of media that come out in May (Arkane Studios' Prey, which comes out on May 5th, and Alien: Covenant, which also comes out during the month of May.) I've previously posited that AMD wouldn't tease Vega's launch alongside one of the most promising games of the year without giving us the chance to power it through Vega come launch day, but as Prey's release date approaches and there is no more information on Vega (much less an announcement), it's looking increasingly likely that we'll have to wait until we can see that universe in all of its Vega-rendered glory.

NVIDIA Teases Something New, Announcement on April 29th

NVIDIA has been on a roll with product launches lately, with the new GTX 1080 Ti and Titan Xp launches, and it would seem the company isn't putting on the brakes just yet. NVIDIA Italy, through its Facebook page, has put up a teaser which points towards April 29th as being the day of a new showcase or announcement - the nature of which is as yet unclear. However, I think it's safe to rule out a new high-end GPU (rest easy, early Titan Xp users, it's unlikely NVIDIA would supersede their highest-performance GPU so soon after launch... Again.)

A Volta announcement is unlikely at this time, at least on the consumer side of the equation; however, the door is open towards the workstation and server side of the equation. NVIDIA does have other lines of consumer products that aren't graphics cards, though, so a Shield announcement, or even a new materialization of the company's expertise in a new product, are possible.

The Carmack-ZeniMax Odyssey Carries On - Carmack Files $22.5 Million Lawsuit

Tough breakups aren't easy by definition, and the breakup between legendary programmer John Carmack and former employer ZeniMax has probably been one of the most worded of all. Now, Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack has filed a lawsuit against ZeniMax for $22.5 million, money he claims ZeniMax still owes him from id Softwares' $150 million sale to ZeniMax back in 2009. Carmack says the amount he is filling for is part of the $45 million owed to him for the sale, of which he has already been able to convert 22.5 million (the non-missing half) in ZeniMax shares. However, Carmack says ZeniMax is unlawfully withholding the remaining $22.5 million because of "sour grapes".

Carmack claims ZeniMax is holding back the payment as payback for "a series of allegations regarding claimed violations of Mr. Carmack's Employment Agreement", referencing the Zenimax/Facebook lawsuit over the supposed theft of trade secrets. However, Oculus was recently found not guilty of stealing trade secrets, though the court ordered the company to pay $500 million for copyright infringement, false designation and the violation of Palmer Luckey's NDA. Oculus is appealing the case, calling the prior ruling "legally flawed and factually unwarranted."

OSVR Gets Sensics Home Suite - Proximity Alert System, Dedicated Home Screen

One of the things keeping OSVR from becoming a de facto platform for VR is that its software stack, being open source, still hasn't received as much development as Facebook's Oculus or HTC's Vive platforms. However, Sensics, one of the players which has put its stock on the OSVR ecosystem from the beginning, is aiming to gradually change that. Its recent introduction of the Sensics Home Suite brings, in itself, some much-needed quality of life improvements for any VR platform.

Oculus Faces Potential Legal Injunction Over Zenimax VR Code Used in its Products

Earlier this month, Zenimax was awarded $500m when a jury found that VR pioneer Oculus had violated a NDA and illegally used code from the game publisher. That may just be the beginning of the legal ramifications facing Oculus however, as Zenimax has just asked the court to block Oculus from using the code involved in the court case altogether, potentially blocking the sale of a good number of games utilizing the technology of the Oculus VR headset.

Oculus is appealing the case, and calls the prior ruling "legally flawed and factually unwarranted." To their credit, the court did agree that while Oculus had violated a non-disclosure agreement, it did not find that they had committed the larger crime of stealing trade secrets.
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