Cloud Gaming, Netflix Growth, Typography, Apple CPUs, Drone Delivery, UFOs are Real

  • Episode 648
  • April 29, 2020
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday April 29, 2020

The video game cloud streaming industry is getting shaken up as Nvidia loses more big names, and Microsoft readies its market killer.

The success of a video game cloud streaming service is all based on content: Where you can – and can't – get your favorite games.

The industry is getting a shakedown as Nvidia’s GeForce game-streaming service has lost four big-name game publishers, with Xbox Games Studios, Warner Bros, Codemasters, and Klei Entertainment pulling their titles by the end of the week.

This comes as Microsoft prepares to launch its own game streaming service, Project XCloud, and high-end streaming company Blade launches a lower-priced version of its Shadow streaming service.

With competitors PlayStation Now and Google Stadia also chasing streaming customers, and Apple pushing its walled-garden games system, the market is entering a new era of competition similar to the movie and TV streaming market a few years ago.

The loss of Xbox and Warner Bros is significant yet buried in an announcement that Nvidia had signed up Ubisoft, whose titles include Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and the Tom Clancy series, for GeForce. It painted the changes as an “opportunity to refine our library” and stressed that “thirty of the top 40 most-played games on Steam already stream on GeForce NOW.”

Gamers pay Nvidia $5 a month (for now) to run games they have already bought at a far higher performance level and speed than their devices can manage. Nvidia runs its own copies of the games on its high-end servers, takes input from peoples’ controllers, processes it, and then streams video back to the user.

While that may seem like overkill, it means ordinary gamers can compete with those on high-end gaming machines, which cost thousands of dollars. With even a microsecond meaning the difference between winning and losing, it is something many are prepared to pay for.

But, as with TV and movie streaming services, content is everything and so there is a tussle going on between game developers and operators of streaming services. Google launched its Stadia service with plenty of fanfare a year ago but has so far disappointed gamers because of its limited selection of games and compatibility issues. It does offer the best resolution at 4K and charges $10 a month, though as we learned last week, you can sign up for a pro account right now to receive it free for two months.

PlayStation Now requires you to have a PlayStation and works only with games that run on the platform (although they are pretty extensive) and also costs $10 a month. Shadow offers a higher-end service that costs $25 a month and from next month will offer a lower-cost but lower-powered $12 a month option.

As for Microsoft’s upcoming Project XCloud service - due to launch anytime soon - it won’t require users to own an Xbox and pricing has yet to be announced.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Netflix has released its first quarter fiscal year results for 2020, and revealed some unusual coronavirus impacts.

Having released its first quarter fiscal year results for 2020, Netflix has revealed some unusual coronavirus impacts.

Made most plain in its Form 10-Q, Netflix said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to an increase in our net paid membership additions relative to our quarterly forecast and historic trends.”

Indeed, the company reported 15.5m new subscribers in the quarter for a total of 182.86 million, almost double recent quarters' subscription growth.

But the filing warns the surge “may not be indicative of results for future periods.”

CEO Reed Hastings’ letter to shareholders opens with “In our 20+ year history, we have never seen a future more uncertain or unsettling” and goes on to explain that on-boarding a rush of new users has actually damaged Netflix’s average revenue-per-user.

The CEO also explained that the pandemic will impact the streamer’s pipeline of new shows, because most film crews worldwide have had to stop working (although animators were quickly back at work and writers mostly just kept writing).

Revenue for the quarter was US$5.7bn and operating income hit $958m, both the best results the company has achieved in recent history. And that’s after taking into account the strength of the US dollar, which reduces the value of subscriptions in other nations.

Hastings also wrote that Netflix’s investment in caching systems appears to have paid off, both in terms of user experience and letting it respond to government request to reduce its impact on networks.

The company has also blogged about its introduction of support for TLS 1.3, which means it can do a full handshake with a device with one roundtrip, or sometimes without a roundtrip at all. That translates into faster starts for streams and less traffic on networks.

Subscribers ought not to expect more new features at this time. Hastings' letter added that while Netflix's devs are now working from home and that transition has gone well, they have temporarily reduced the number of product innovations, while continuing to release features they believe will add meaningful value for members, such as improved parental controls.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Microsoft answers once and for all: Should there be one or two spaces after a period?

With the advent of word processors, we saw a great debate take shape: should you enter a single space or a double space after a period? The double space was a holdover from the days of the typewriter, and even now, some people still do it. If you’re one of them, you might want to prepare yourself for a certain update that’s on the way to Microsoft Word.

Microsoft has decided to drop the mic, siding with those who prefer a single space, as test builds of Microsoft Word now treat a double space after a period as an typo. When you allow the word processor to correct the error, it'll change it to a single space automatically.

According to The Verge, while this feature is only in testing for now, it won’t be long before it rolls out to the entire Word-using audience on desktop. The good news, however, is that you won’t be stuck forever looking at those error lines underneath your double spaces if you don’t want to. In a statement to The Verge, Microsoft’s partner director of program management Kirk Gregersen said that the double spacers of the world will be able to ignore the error flag and continue overusing their space bar, if they so choose.

Gregersen said, "As the crux of the great spacing debate, we know this is a stylistic choice that may not be the preference for all writers, which is why we continue to test with users and enable these suggestions to be easily accepted, ignored, or flat out dismissed."

We wanted to know how the free alternative, LibreOffice, was leaning. In the LibreOffice community forum, user shrankaplooza calls two spaces needless extra work, saying "If you had to take 2 breaths for every one, it'd be a tad laboring, no?" And designer and typographer, Henk C. Meerhof says, "In my part of the European mainland, it was never done, or abandoned over 50 years ago. Double spaces will come back to bite you in some form." As it turns out, LibreOffice already defaults to change double spaces into single spaces and has for the past several versions at least. Though, as Pierre-Yves Samyn points out, it can be changed in the Tools -> AutoCorrect -> AutoCorrect Options menu on the "Options" tab, by checking off "Ignore double spaces."

So, there you have it – Microsoft isn’t quite pushing out the double spacers yet, but they're following LibreOffice's lead, and it feels like a big win for the single spacers.

Expect to see this feature land in Microsoft Word in the months ahead.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson

Apple is preparing to develop its own processors for Mac computers to be rolled out as early as next year.

Until now, Apple had been using Intel processors. But according to a Bloomberg report, the company is preparing to develop its own processors for Mac computers which could be rolled out as early as next year.

Apple is said to be working on three different processors that are based on the A14 chip that will power the next iPhone. According to the report, the first of these new Apple-made chips is expected to be much faster than that of the iPhone's and will arrive in a new computer next year. In taking this step, Apple is likely to be slowly moving towards ditching its dependence on Intel chips altogether.

Apple’s partner for iPhone and iPad processors, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., will develop the new Mac chips. The components will be based on a 5-nanometer production technique, the same size Apple will use in the next iPhones and iPad Pros.

Details are thin at the moment, but we'll be sure to let you know more as specifications are announced.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson

Drones will be used to carry medical supplies to the Isle of Wight.

The UK government has announced that drones will be used to carry medical supplies from Hampshire to the Isle of Wight.

A planned trial of the technology began this week.

In March, the government announced funding for drone tests and a new air traffic control system.

But Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport said there was an "urgent need" for the trial to begin sooner than planned.

Ferry crossings to the Isle of Wight are currently reduced due to the spread of coronavirus.

An unmanned aerial vehicle can make the crossing to the Isle of Wight in about 10 minutes.

The government expects about four flights per day to be made, depending on the needs of the United Kingdom National Health Service.

A spokeswoman told the BBC that the first flights would carry personal protective equipment. However, in future the drone could deliver time-critical supplies such as blood and organs.

The trial will use a gasoline-fuelled Windracers Ultra fixed-wing drone, capable of carrying a 100kg payload for up to 1,000km.

The Department for Transport said the drone would fly autonomously along a fixed route between Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire and Binstead on the Isle of Wight.

Two safety pilots - one at each airfield - will oversee each flight.

A spokeswoman told the BBC that the flight would take around 10 minutes, significantly reducing delivery times between the Isle of Wight and mainland.

After goods have been dropped off at the airfield, they will be delivered to St Mary's hospital on the Isle of Wight by road.

Because this is all happening so quickly, an unmanned traffic-management system cannot be put in place in time, though it will be pursued for the long term. So for now, rather than integrating the drone with regular air traffic, a "temporary danger area" is being set up for 90 days, to separate the drone from other aircraft.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

The Pentagon says the videos of UFOs that were leaked in 2017 are real.

The Pentagon says it can explain three previously leaked videos of supposed UFOs, and the explanation is simple: they’re real, and they’re still a total mystery.

The U.S. government declassified three top-secret videos of “unexplained aerial phenomena” on Monday, confirming that clips that first surfaced in 2017 are legitimate.

That’s not to say that the UFOs are not of this world, but that the Pentagon is unable to identify the objects seen flying in the videos.

Word wizards are making the connection: Unidentified. Flying. Objects. UFOs.

The U.S. Navy has officially released the footage. Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough said on Monday that this is “to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos.”

She said, “After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena.”

In other words, the objects are not theirs.

The announcement is more vindication for Tom DeLonge, the Blink-182 band member and alien enthusiast who released the videos to the New York Times in 2017 through his UFO research organization, To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science.

While the U.S. Navy didn’t acknowledge the videos when they first surfaced in 2017, Joe Gradisher, spokesperson for the deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, confirmed they are real in an interview with CNN last September saying, “The Navy designates the objects contained in these videos as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs)." Gradisher said at the time that transparency around the sightings was important so that pilots won’t feel ashamed to report something that could be dangerous. “For many years, our aviators didn’t report these incursions because of the stigma attached to previous terminology and theories about what may or may not be in those videos.”

All three videos are now available through the Pentagon’s reading room.

The Pentagon did not release any additional footage or content along with the three clips, but it has stoked a flurry of excitement among UFO enthusiasts with its simple acknowledgement that the videos are legitimate.

The truth is out there.


Sent to us by: Bekah Ferguson


Technology TV is On Summer Break

Episode 660 will be live August 12! See you then.

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