Microsoft’s Email Insights finally adds some useful search smarts to Outlook

Email Insights, a new experimental app from the Microsoft Garage, is the answer to a problem Google’s Gmail solved more than a decade ago: how to search Outlook and find exactly what you want.email insights search

Google’s Gmail gained enormous traction in part because it allowed a quick, convenient way to search emails. Today, you can search Outlook, but it arranges the results in order with no real preference given to what might be most relevant.

Email Insights works with both your Microsoft Outlook desktop application as well as Gmail, and attempts to bring the three most relevant results to the top of your inbox via an “intent pane.” The tool also provides contextual autocomplete, spelling correction and a fuzzy name search that will pull up the name of a contact, even if you’re not entirely sure how to spell it.

email insights intent pane

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Microsoft

The “intent pane” within Email Insights brings up relevant search results to the top of your inbox.

Users can open tabs within Email Insights to perform multiple searches. The search box can also be used to fire off a quick, one-line email to a contact, or even set up a quick meeting—functions that are becoming more common in the notifications window within smartphones.

If you’d like, you can even “detach” the Email Insights toolbar from Outlook itself and drag it down to your taskbar, Microsoft said.

 Let’s face it: Gmail is still easier to use than Outlook, at least where everyday email searches are concerned. If Email Insights proves as useful as it sounds, maybe Outlook will incorporate it into a future release. The problem, though, is that this app is being published via Microsoft Garage, Microsoft’s online home for app experiments. If you like Email Insights, encourage others to download it, too. Otherwise, Microsoft could kill it, as it recently did with Cache, its erstwhile Google Keep killer.

Intel’s priciest chip has 24 cores and sells for $8,898

No Intel chip is as expensive as the new Xeon E7-8894 v4 server processor.xeon e7v4 on wafer blue

The US$8,898 Xeon chip has massive horsepower with 24 cores, 60MB of cache and a maximum clock frequency of 3.4GHz. Intel said this is the company’s fastest server chip, breaking enterprise application speed records.

The company’s next expensive chip after the E7-8894 v4 is its other 24-core processor, the Xeon E7-8890 v4, which is priced at $7,174. The chips have similar features except for the base clock speed. The new chip starts at 2.4GHz compared to 2.2GHz for the less expensive chip.

The $8,898 chip even outprices Intel’s fastest supercomputing chip, the Xeon Phi 7290F, which is priced at $6,401. It is also over four times more expensive than the costliest PC chip, the $1,723 Core i7-6950X for gaming desktops.

Some price competition could come from AMD, which is reentering the server market with Zen-based chips in the second quarter. Its initial server chips code-named Naples have up to 32 cores. AMD has not revealed the target market for Naples, but it could be cloud providers.

During an earnings call, AMD indicated Naples chips would be competitively priced, and downplayed its margins expectations. AMD is projecting Zen chips to be high performance, but the company is looking for volume shipments and may not participate in the low-volume market of servers with more than eight sockets.

The Xeon E7-8894 v4, which is based on the Broadwell architecture, is priced high for many reasons. It is targeted at fault tolerant servers used by financial or retail companies which need highly reliable systems for transactions and fraud detection. These companies could lose hundreds of millions of dollars if a server crashed.

The new chip also has features not found in regular PC or server chips, like error correction and RAS (reliability, availability and serviceability), which can diagnose and troubleshoot issues without crashing servers. The chips also have high levels of I/O and networking integration.

Right now server buyers don’t have bargaining power with Intel, which has more than a 90 percent market share in server chips. Intel charges a hefty premium for the performance and adjacent technologies it bundles, including server and networking gear.

The E7 v4 chips aren’t high in volume shipments, and are made in smaller batches. But these are highly profitable chips and fuel revenue for Intel, which is now relying more on data center equipment than PCs for growth in the future.

Server chips already have a high markup, but average prices have been going up in recent years and will continue to rise, said Diane Bryant, executive vice president and general manager of the Data Center Group for Intel, during a speech at a investor day meeting in Santa Clara, California, on Thursday.

Prices have been going up due to new applications like machine learning and analytics and the growth of business cloud services, Bryant said.

“Because they see value in our high-end products, they are buying up the stack,” Bryant said.

But server purchases have stalled after years of growth, and Bryant projected a 5 percent decline in server CPU shipments going into 2021. The company isn’t expecting to grow from server CPU shipments, but from adjacent product shipments to telecom and cloud providers.

Competition from AMD has been worked into the server chip price and shipment projections, Bryant said.

Intel plans more potentially powerful and expensive chips this year. The company will ship a deep learning chip called Knights Mill and a separate chip called Lake Crest that will integrate Xeon with a deep-learning chip based on technology acquired from Nervana Systems.

Hands-on: Running Android apps on a Chromebook could be the best of both worlds

Google wants running Android apps on a Chromebook to feel natural, and to do that, it needs to convert someone like me—someone who’s consciously avoided Android’s legendary malware problems. The better fit for me has been the serenity of Chrome OS, with its regular updates, innate security, and easy recovery tools. That’s why I tote my Chromebook everywhere.android apps samsung chromebook pro

Android apps are coming to Chromebooks this year, though, and the truth is, they need each other. Chromebooks have had mainstream and vertical success (especially in schools), but with few native apps they’re stuck in browser-land. Meanwhile, Android is straining to escape the confines of mobile devices (the few PC-sized Android devices haven’t taken off).

Putting Android apps on a Chromebook could be the best of both worlds, and Google is working hard to ensure that by taking steps to clean up its app store and encourage support for bigger screens. My mission was to see how this melding of ecosystems would feel for a daily Chromebook user. Just remember that Android app support is still in beta on Chrome OS, and even the Samsung Chromebook Pro I used is a prototype (due to ship in late April for $549). Things will likely change—but this is a first taste of an expanding world.

android apps chromebook google play store

Melissa Riofrio

Google’s Play Store is ready to embrace Chromebook users, who will suddenly have access to millions of apps.

I hate trying to do anything useful on my smartphone. Even if it were phablet-sized, I’d still grumble as I squinted at tiny text and slid my fingers around some glassy keyboard impostor. I’m looking forward to using Android apps on a Chromebook simply because I’ll be able to type more or less normally (although the Chromebook Pro’s eentsy Tab and Backspace keys are already bugging me.)

The Samsung Chromebook Pro offers a first for Chromebooks: an integrated stylus for writing and drawing on a touchscreen. I loved this on Lenovo’s Yoga Book (which has an Android cousin) and expect to feel the same about it on Chrome—and oh yeah, Android. The stylus needs no batteries. It slips into a spring-loaded bay and can juggle functions like laser pointer and text selection via its own menu in Chrome’s app tray. It’s very small and skinny, though, which means it’s better suited for jotting notes than penning your next Medium post.

The Chromebook Pro has a 360-degree hinge, so I can flip it around and suddenly have a Chrome tablet. The hard keyboard disables itself once the hinge exceeds 180 degrees, and an onscreen keyboard pops up when needed.

Instagram’s Android app is designed for phones. On a Chromebook, it sticks with a smartphone-sized window.

Despite my professed need for safety, the first thing I did was go off the reservation. Google provided a list of apps we could try, but it lacked the one I really wanted: Instagram. I went to the Google Play Store (after going through a few signup steps), found the app, and installed it. All apps are accessible through Chrome’s App Launcher. Active apps’ icons sit on the App Shelf that runs along the bottom of the Chromebook’s display.

Chromebooks will be able to run any Android app, but some apps, like Instagram currently, will say “Designed for phones” on the app’s download screen. That means when you launch it, it may look like a smartphone-sized window on your Chrome desktop.

android apps chromebook instagram

Instagram’s Android app stays smartphone-sized on a Chromebook display, but such a visual app deserves more space.

Instagram worked fine. I could scroll with my finger, the stylus, or the trackpad (though the app seemed more finicky about the latter method), use the app controls, and even take a photo with the Chromebook Pro’s integrated camera. I wish I could have expanded this richly visual app to fill my display.

android apps chromebook nhl detroit red wings

Not all Android apps stretch well onto a wider screen, as this NHL app for the Detroit Red Wings shows.

On the other hand, if the app supports bigger screens simply by stretching to fit the space, you can get clumsy interfaces like the NHL app for the Detroit Red Wings shown above…

UnderArmour’s MyFitnessPal app overextends itself when viewed on a Chromebook.

 

…or this UnderArmour fitness app here. Using either app on a Chromebook feels like watching a tennis game.

I kept downloading. Here’s another thing to keep in mind: Apps take up space—especially games—and some Chromebooks skimp on storage. The Chromebook Pro’s 32GB is less than most people get on their smartphones. Don’t go crazy if you don’t have the capacity.

android apps chromebook asphalt 8 data

The Asphalt 8 Android game requires over 1GB of storage space, which could tax some Chromebooks’ skimpy storage.

Turning to the apps that were ready for Chrome-time, I started with Asphalt 8, an Android racing game. It took up 1GB of internal storage (gulp). It ran full-screen and worked best in tablet mode, so I could hold the Chromebook Pro as if it were a steering wheel (it has an accelerometer and gyroscope), and tap one side of the screen for brakes, the other for speed.  I wrecked my car a zillion times as I careened around the game’s environment—I can’t blame that all on the occasional hiccup in the game. This is why people use game controllers or a keyboard and mouse. At least I confirmed you can play an Android game on Chrome.

Next up was ArtCanvas, a drawing app. Although it said it was designed for phones, it looked normal on my Chromebook. I love to draw and was eager to see what the Chromebook Pro’s stylus could do. Samsung said it had designed the stylus experience to feel somewhat like pen on paper instead of point on glass. It still felt pretty slippery, but more notably, its pressure sensitivity seemed limited. Pressing harder gave a thicker line, while a lighter touch would give me a thinner one. If I wanted a darker color, I’d have to add layers by going over an area repeatedly. I also tried my finger, which gave me a finger-width line in most cases—and as with the stylus, minimal pressure response. With everything still in beta, I’m not making any declarations here, merely suggesting the stylus might need further refinement.

The stylus excelled at taking notes, though. As much as I treasure real keyboards, sometimes it’s just easier to write than to type, especially if you’re squished into a commuter train or trying to be unobtrusive at a meeting. I used Google Keep to write and store notes—not surprisingly, the beta Chrome OS made this very easy to do. The stylus worked well as a simple pen, and Google Keep did a decent job of interpreting my scrawl and turn it into type.

The key takeaway: The Chromebook Pro (and its lower-end cousin, the Chromebook Plus) show how Chrome can evolve by following the pen-enabled Windows toward more intuitive input methods. That leaves just one platform—MacOS—stubbornly resisting putting pen to PC.

There was a time when merging Android and Chrome seemed crazy. Yet here we are now, poised to throw open the borders and let Android apps pass freely.

After my brief encounter, I can say Android apps on Chrome feel reasonably comfortable (if sometimes odd), and they’re probably safer—at least for now. Android apps may open a lot of opportunities for Chromebooks, but they could also attract bad actors to this fairly pristine platform. We might yearn for the good old days, when only novices and schoolkids cared about Chromebooks.

We can look forward to a slew of new Android-friendly hardware in the coming months. Apparently Google will also try to bring along as many older Chromebooks as it can, though all bets are off for those five years and older. I’m definitely holding onto Instagram and look forward to seeing how it and other Android apps migrate to Chrome.

US chipmaker plans new factory in China

GlobalFoundries will open a new factory to make cheap wireless chips in Chengdu, China, next year.globalfoundries fab 8 cleanroom

The chipmaker, once part of microprocessor designer AMD, also plans to expand production at existing fabrication plants in the U.S., Germany, and Singapore, it said Friday. It makes chips for AMD, IBM, Qualcomm, and Mediatek, among others.

Beginning next year, the new fab in China, a joint venture with the municipality of Chengdu, will produce chips on 300-millimeter wafers using standard manufacturing techniques, the company said.

Sometime in 2019, it will switch to a different manufacturing process, FD-SOI (fully depleted silicon on insulator), which GlobalFoundries calls 22FDX. That process is particularly suitable for the low-cost manufacture of the radio-frequency chips used in smartphones, cars, and the internet of things, the company said.

GlobalFoundries already uses 22FDX at its Fab 1 plant in Dresden, Germany, where it plans to increase capacity by 40 percent over the next three years.

Engineers in Dresden are already working on 12FDX, the successor to 22FDX, so-called because it will produce chips with a 12-nanometer feature size rather than the 22 nm of the existing process. Smaller features typically result in smaller chips with lower power consumption, or higher performance for the same consumption, although the use of more advanced production technologies can increase costs.

GlobalFoundries wants to use 12FDX to manufacture chips for the next generation of mobile phone networks, 5G.

In Singapore, the company will speed up lines using older chip technologies, upping production of 40 nm chips by 35 percent. It will also boost output of 180 nm chips on the older 200-mm wafers that were common before 300 mm became the norm.

GlobalFoundries was keen to emphasize that is investing in the U.S., too. It has plowed US$13 billion into its business there over the last eight years, creating 9,000 jobs at four locations around the country, it said Monday.

Since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump last November, U.S. businesses have found it expedient to promote their investment in U.S. jobs.

Just this week, Intel dusted off a six-year-old pledge to build a new factory in Arizona following a meeting between Trump and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.

GlobalFoundries is not done investing in the U.S. yet. Early next year, it will increase production of 14 nm FinFET chips by 20 percent at its Fab 8 plant in New York, it said. FinFET chips have a three-dimensional structure particularly suited to microprocessors. The company is also developing more advanced manufacturing techniques in New York and expects to begin making chips using a 7 nm process there by the middle of next year.

How to enable WhatsApp’s two-step verification

WhatsApp is adding an extra security feature to help keep its more than a billion users safe from hacks. The company is rolling out two-step verification to its users worldwide.dsc05664

When it’s available you will find it in the messaging service’s app under Settings > Account > Two-step verification > Enable.

WhatsApp’s approach to two-step verification differs from what other online services such as Facebook or Google do. Instead of using an app that generates one-time passcodes, WhatsApp requires you to create your own memorable six-digit passcode. To help you remember your code, WhatsApp will prompt you to enter it from time to time.

During the process to enable two-step verification, WhatsApp will also ask you for an optional email address. It will be used for the purpose of disabling two-step verification. Upon request, a message will be sent to that email address, and, once you click a link, the two-step verification feature will be turned off. During two-step verification setup this email address will not be verified, so make sure you type it in correctly.

The Facebook-owned company also warned that if you get an email to disable two-step verification, but you didn’t ask for one, do not click on any links in that email.

If you ever forget your code, WhatsApp will not allow you to reverify twice within seven days, just in case someone’s trying to take over your account. After that period, you can reverify without a passcode, but any pending messages will be deleted. If you haven’t used WhatsApp for 30 days and then try to reverify without your passcode, your account will be deleted and a new one will be created for you.

When you’re deciding on a passcode for WhatsApp, you want to make it as hard to guess as possible. Six digits from your phone number, for example, would be a terrible choice, as would your birth date or that of anyone in your immediate family. If you use a password manager, it’d be a good idea to store this passcode there in case you forget it.

WhatsApp’s two-step verification system is different from other services in that it relies on two static pieces of information. The first is your phone number and the second is the single passcode that you create. That essentially means you’re just adding a password to your account, and passwords can be guessed if they aren’t original enough. It’s not clear why WhatsApp decided on using static passcodes over one-time codes generated by an app. One-time codes are based on a shared secret stored on both your phone and the corresponding service’s servers. It may be that the company didn’t want to deal with the server overhead such as development time and effort for that kind of two-step verification. That is just speculation, however.

Google might be gearing up to remove millions of Play Store apps next month

Take a look at the digital shelves of the Google Play Store and you’re likely to come across a bevy of so-called zombie apps. These apps typically take the form of a knock-off of a popular game or a sloppy utility that doesn’t quite match its description, and they strategically turn up alongside legitimate apps, which makes them hard to spot if you’re not doing a forensic analysis of reviews while you shop.google play store

Now it looks like something is finally being done about them. In a letter uncovered by The Next Web, Google has begun warning some developers that one or more of their apps has been flagged for a lack of an adequate privacy policy, a common problem among these sort of hastily published and subsequently ignored apps.

google play store warning
Google has begun warning developers to update their apps or face removal from the Play Store.

In the message, Google reiterates its policy, which “requires developers to provide a valid privacy policy when the app requests or handles sensitive user information.” Such permissions include camera, microphone, account, contacts, or phone access, which requires a transparent disclosure of how user data is handled, according to Google’s requirements. It’s unclear how many letters were sent out, but The Next Web estimates it could affect millions of apps.

This is hardly a new policy for Google, but this push could be the start of a tougher new application of it. As Google spells out in its developer guidelines: “If your app collects and transmits personal or sensitive user data unrelated to functionality described prominently in the app’s listing on Google Play or in the app interface, then prior to the collection and transmission, it must prominently highlight how the user data will be used and have the user provide affirmative consent for such use.”

While the lack of a proper privacy policy is most certainly an honest mistake for some developers, it’s just as likely that many will ignore this message and face whatever consequences Google has in store for them.

The email urges developers to update their Play Store listings with a valid privacy policy or remove the offending permissions request from the app. It gives a deadline of March 15 to comply with the request or “administrative action will be taken to limit the visibility of your app, up to and including removal from the Play Store.”

Developers and users have long complained about the Play Store’s somewhat lax rules toward letting these types of apps in, and this could be a sign that Google is finally working to clean things up. The Play Store is littered with apps of questionable repute, and many of them have flown under Google’s radar for too long. This move could negatively impact millions of apps, as well as benefit honest developers, but the effect on users will be even greater, enabling them to seek and find legitimate apps rather than cheap imitations. And by tackling the problem from a privacy standpoint, Google is not only cleaning up the Play Store, it’s also recommitting to the security and protection of its users.

This story, “Google might be gearing up to remove millions of Play Store apps next month” was originally published by Greenbot.

Dauntless hands-on preview: Bringing the thrill of monster hunting to PCs

Those of you who’ve been playing video games for a while now (say, 10-plus years) probably remember a time where people made fun of Capcom’s Monster Hunter series. It was weird, and so very Japanese, and yet now everyone’s taking inspiration from it—The Witcher 3 had some vaguely reminiscent moments, there’s the God Eater ports from last year, Horizon: Zero Dawn on the PlayStation 4 later this month, and (from a much smaller studio) Dauntless later in 2017.Dauntless

I went hands-on with the latter earlier this week and while it’s still very rough—”clipping through the side of a monster’s leg” rough—there’s an undeniable appeal to fighting something much bigger than yourself.

Or two of them, actually. I went back-to-back rounds with the developers, once against the Shrike and once against Pangar. The first is a massive owlbear creature, which you can see in the game’s debut trailer. The second is some sort of lizard-armadillo that rolls around and tries to crush you. Oh, and occasionally if you’re not careful it envelops itself in ice and starts launching icicles at you.

Combat at the moment is mostly three variations of hack-and-slash based around whether you’ve chosen a sword, axe, or hammer (a.k.a. slow, slower, and slowest). Circle behind the animal as best you can, hit it in the back, dodge out of the way, repeat. I’m hoping for more options in the release, with both weapon types and special maneuvers. Or, hell, what I really want is a climbing system similar to Dragon’s Dogma—that game is janky, but sets the bar high as far as monster-fighting games go.

Dauntless is a fine proof-of-concept at the moment though. It’s got localized damage, and we managed to chop off Pangar’s tail during my demo, reducing the breadth of its attacks and giving ourselves a bit of a respite. I was told you can also localize damage to the face or horns for instance, with predictable results.

The Shrike is even more impressive, at least visually. It made for an ominous figure, propelling itself into the air, silhouetted against the sky and with its fifteen-foot wings churning up dust. That sort of dynamism reminded me a lot of The Witcher, with its larger monster battles often moving from arena to arena as the monster strategically retreated, rested up, and returned to combat.

My biggest qualm is how much we haven’t seen of Dauntless still. There’s a whole character customization aspect, both appearance and weapons or abilities, that isn’t in this build. We picked pre-built characters and dove in, which doesn’t give me a good idea of how these battles would be strung together or what else there is to the game.

I was told that players will hang out in a social hub in between fights, with 40 to 60 players breaking off into groups of 4 to go take on monsters. Then you can use bits of each creature to craft new gear, a la Monster Hunter.

Dauntless

But that’s more a sketch, the barest of ideas for how to chain these battles together. We’re going to have to wait to see how that idea fills out prior to release, especially since Dauntless is free-to-play. It’s got a good hook, but it needs to be extra-compelling to get people over the hurdle of “Free-to-play? Ick.”

We’ll see. Dauntless is maybe-sort-of-kinda-possibly scheduled to enter beta sometime in the fall, though anyone at PAX South this weekend will get the chance to go hands-on with the same preview build I saw. It’s rough, sure, but the PC could use a few more Monster Hunter-like games.

Facebook taps into NFC in Android phones for strong account security

We hear a lot about 2-factor authentication these days, an invaluable way to protect your account from someone who has stolen your password, but there’s an inherent wrinkle built into the system: SMS. Most 2FA setups use text messages to deliver a one-time code sent to your phone, but there can be issues with that system. For one, it requires a cell connection, and for another texts can be intercepted.facebook security keys

Granted, this is a small window of opportunity for hackers, but Facebook wants to close it all the way. To secure accounts even further, it has begun rolling out support for security keys into its account login protection, eliminating SMS from the equation and letting users lock down their accounts with a fast, foolproof 2FA method. And for Android users with one of the newer NFC-capable phones, it’s even easier.

“Starting today, you can register a physical security key to your account so that the next time you log in after enabling login approvals, you’ll simply tap a small hardware device that goes in the USB drive of your computer,” Facebook security engineer Brad Hill wrote in a post. “Your login is practically immune to phishing because you don’t have to enter a code yourself, and the hardware provides cryptographic proof that it’s in your machine.”

facebook nfc
If you have an NFC-equipped Android phone, you can use a YubiKey Neo to instantly authenticate your Facebook account.

Since it’s a new feature, it only works with the latest version of Chrome or Opera on a PC, and isn’t yet supported by the mobile Facebook app. However, as xHill writes, if you have an NFC chip in your Android phone, you can download the latest version of Chrome and Google Authenticator in the Play Store to use your key to wirelessly unlock your account.

Yubico’s security keys start at $18, but the NFC-equipped Yubikey Neo costs $50. However, they aren’t just useful for Facebook. Security keys work with a variety of accounts, including Google, Dropbox, and GitHub, though the implementation may vary, especially over NFC.

The impact on you at home: Securing online accounts should be a top priority for anyone who posts and shares personal information over social media or email (which is pretty much everyone), but far too few people understand just how important it is. While it’s unlikely that this method will have an immediate measurable effect on Facebook users, it’s a glimpse at how serious the social media giant is about security, and how two-factor authentication could become much more commonplace in the future.

This story, “Facebook taps into NFC in Android phones for strong account security” was originally published by Greenbot.

New Windows 10 preview build focuses on PC gaming with Game Mode, Beam, Game Settings

This week, gamers on both Windows 10 PCs and the Xbox One will start receiving a boatload of new gaming features that will roll out over the coming days as part of their respective Insider programs.

windows 10 pc gaming game mode

PC gamers arguably have the most to get excited about. A Game Mode to custom-configure your PC for games, a new dedicated Games menu within Windows 10’s Settings, and Beam game livestreaming will form a trifecta of improvements.

Xbox owners have already seen Microsoft roll out more general UI improvements to the Xbox dashboard, plus an aggressive new program to segment Xbox users into four different grades of access. With the new updates, Microsoft has upgraded the Cortana digital assistant with new commands and added a Screentime feature that can manage the time that kids use the Xbox.

While this is all part of the new Creators Update, any time Microsoft releases new features specific to gaming it’s worth getting excited about. More specifically, these new capabilities aren’t necessarily designed to tie the Xbox to Windows—a somewhat controversial subject for PC gamers worried about un-moddable PC games—but instead focus on improving the individual platforms.

In the Silver Age of PC gaming, gamers tweaked HIMEM.sys files and custom-designed AUTORUN.EXE files to turn off anything that wasn’t necessary to run Doom and other DOS games at the highest performance possible. The new Game Mode for Windows 10 looks like it takes the same approach.

windows 10 pc gaming game mode

Microsoft

How much extra performance will WIdows 10’s new Game Mode be able to eke out? That remains to be seen.

“With Game Mode, it’s our goal to now take things a step further to make the gaming experience on Windows even better,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post. “Our vision is that Game Mode optimizes your Windows 10 PC for an improvement in overall game performance.”

In a video, Microsoft explains that the goal is to increase both your PC’s peak frame rate while playing a game, and the average frame rate, too. Eventually, the goal is to trigger Game Mode automatically. But it’s also possible that not every game will work right away, Microsoft adds.

 

To enable it, you’ll need to trigger the Windows Game bar (WIN + G) and enter Settings. At this point, Microsoft says, you can opt in the current game into Game Mode. It appears this setting will be live soon, whenever the new build is released.

Over time, Microsoft has turned Settings into a front page of sorts for tweaking controls for certain tasks—moving display resolutions out of its former home in the Control Panel, for instance. Gaming apparently will receive the same treatment.

PC gamers will need to become familiar with Windows 10’s new Gaming controls.

The Gaming section of Settings uses the familiar Xbox logo. Within it, you’ll find controls for the Game bar, the GameDVR feature, Beam broadcasting, and more. The Gaming section will remain in flux, Microsoft said, as it makes further tweaks. It sounds like you might see specific

Microsoft and its subsidiary, Beam, have been busy discussing the improvements behind their entry into the game-streaming space, competing with Twitch and YouTube. The new 1440p Beam streams are apparently live, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the Game bar to begin streaming from Beam on the PC, with Xbox One support coming soon. According to Microsoft, the streams will have less than a second of delay, meaning that streamers will be able to chat with their fans essentially in real tiwindows 10 pc gaming beam

If you’ve managed how long your kids spend on the Internet with Windows’ existing parental-control features, the new Screentime feature for the Xbox One should look entirely familiar. To prepare for the eventual launch, you’ll need to set up an account with the microsoft.com/family web controls. As shown in the illustration, each child will log themselves in, then be subject to whatever parental controls have been set.

 windows 10 xbox one time limits screen time

Kids can’t argue with an Xbox about screen-tme limits, right?

The Xbox One platform will also receive a few new commands, such as voice controls to play music while users are gaming, Microsoft said.

Because the Creators Update isn’t expected for another month or two, Microsoft isn’t finished. New additions to Beam, the Arena mode, and social improvements are next up. What are they? We should know soon.

This story was updated at 9:33 AM with comments from Microsoft’s Larry Hyrb about the new build’s delay.

Obsidian unveils Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire with a crowdfunding campaign

RPG guru Josh Sawyer is busy these days. Yesterday we wrote about Francis Ford Coppola’s studio turning Apocalypse Now into a video game with Sawyer’s help. And today? After a week of very obvious teasing, Obsidian’s officially announcing a follow-up to its acclaimed Infinity Engine-style CRPG Pillars of Eternity, on which Josh Sawyer served as lead designer.Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Titled Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, it’s also embarking on a crowdfunding campaign today. Obsidian’s hoping to raise $1.1 million through Fig—no surprise there, since Obsidian’s CEO Feargus Urquhart is involved in Fig’s advisory board.

Judging by the description, Pillars of Eternity II will be a direct sequel. The announcement says:

“Eothas has returned. The god of light and rebirth was thought dead, but he now inhabits the stone titan that sat buried under your keep, Caed Nua, for millennia. Ripping his way out of the ground, he destroys your stronghold and leaves you at the brink of death.”

Whether you’ll be importing your character and his or her stats, I’m not sure. Regardless, looks like it’ll dovetail right off the last story, a la Baldur’s Gate and its sequel. You’ll be exploring the new Deadfire Archipelago, which judging by the screenshots and art features everything from jungle to a Petra/Ellora-like structure embedded in a desert cliff.

The announcement also mentions the return of certain companions from the first game (along with concept art for Pallegina, Eder, and Aloth), and promises new ones along the way.

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Most interesting is a section that reads “The people of Deadfire have lives of their own, jobs to do, and appointments to keep. They will carry on with their affairs even when you’re not watching. Quests may even present different opportunities depending on when and where characters and environments are approached.”

This sort of AI modeling has been done in bigger-budget RPGs (think Skyrim) but it’s a huge change from the stagnant, always-in-one-place characters in most isometric CRPGs. I’m interested to see how it changes things.

Cue Urquhart himself, who said:

“Our goal for Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is to improve on what fans loved about the original while adding features our fans want to see, truly living cities, more freedom to explore the open world, and pushing what we do best at Obsidian—letting players define and play the role they want to play.”

People seem to be pretty tepid towards crowdfunding nowadays, but less so when it comes to a studio following up on an earlier title. Hopefully that’s the case here and Deadfire gets funded (and then some) because I’d absolutely love another Pillars of Eternity. And hey, another Tyranny while we’re at it. Keep ‘em coming, Obsidian.