Windows 10 Anniversary Update makes it harder for admins to remove advertising

Microsoft has been accused of injecting ads and sponsored apps into Windows for quite a while and now they’re taking more direct steps to prevent users disabling them through Group Policies. Several Group Policies will be deactivated with the Anniversary Update, making it harder for IT-pros and system admins to prevent unwanted content.

When the Anniversary Update rolls out to current November Update users, there will no longer be a way to block the obnoxious ads that automatically pin themselves to your PCs start menu when you start it for the first time. In a network with all PCs connected to each other, there is a universal Group Policy that applies to every PC on the network, which means adding a new machine to the family will automatically adjust it; such as disabling the ads and sponsored apps on all new PCs, however, this change will prevent that. By disabling the Policies that take care of the advertising, system admins will have to manually remove the ads from every new PC they get.

This change doesn’t only apply to the start menu. As reported by InfoWorld, the lock screen can only be disabled on certain editions of Windows 10 from August 2nd: Enterprise, Education, and Server SKUs. This seems like an unrelated thing with no context, but Microsoft is actually, quietly, pushing ads to the lock screen too. With things like Tomb Raider and Cortana popping up there occasionally, this may be something users could want to disable but can’t anymore.

We will see how users of Windows 10 react to these changes once the Anniversary Update rolls out on August 2nd.

 

[Source: Winbeta]

Amazon Doubles Down on Dash

amazon-dash-reorder-buttons

azon last week announced that it had increased to more than 100 the number of Dash buttons Prime users can install in their homes to replenish supplies of common household goods.

Dash buttons — which are available only to Amazon Prime members, for whom they’re essentially free — are connected devices that link to a customer’s Amazon account. With the press of a button, consumers can order shipments of whatever product is associated with a given Dash module.

Users can, for example, stick a Gerber Dash near a supply of baby food, a Brawny Dash near paper towels, or a Smartwater Dash near gym equipment. Then they can press a button to replenish baby food, paper towels or water whenever they notice they’re getting low.

Joining the Race

Amazon Dash got its start a year ago, but it wasn’t until last fall that the company fleshed out and beefed up the service with buttons from major players. Early Dash participants included CleverPet, General Electric, Gmate, Oster, Petnet and Samsung.

New members of Dash more than triple the number of available brands. They include Brawny, Charmin, Clorox, Depend, Doritos, Energizer, Gain, Gatorade, Gerber, Glad, Hefty, Huggies, L’Oreal Paris Revitalift, Lysol, Olay, Purina, Red Bull, Slim Jim, Starbucks, Tide, Trojan and Wellness pet food.

“Prime members are using Dash Buttons at an increasing rate. Over the last three months, Dash Button orders have grown by more than 75 percent. Customers are using Dash Buttons more than once a minute,” said Daniel Rausch, director of Amazon Dash.

Dash seems ideal for the most devout Prime customers, brand evangelists and those with loyalties to particular product lines, noted Karma Martell, CEO ofKarmaCom.

“Obviously, Amazon thought there were enough of these customers out there to make this worthwhile,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “I can see where it serves a twofold purpose of almost forcing major brands to join the program and sell through Amazon.”

If you sell detergent and haven’t joined your competitors in Dash, for example, you face a loss, Martell said.

Conversely, brands looking to cross-sell and upsell may find that Amazon’s Dash buttons don’t fit their plans, according to Justin Hamel, CEO ofMastaMinds.

“There is a going to be a specific type of brand that will benefit from these Dash buttons,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “A lot of the brands that are early adopters of the Dash buttons are perfect for these — like Clorox, Tide, Orbitz gum, etc.”

The Price of Convenience

Dash users put a lot of trust in Amazon’s prices, Hamel noted.

“In the long run, I think that consumers will be paying for this convenience,” he said, “but time is money, and saving an hour at the grocery store would be priceless for me.”

Amazon has taken care to avoid prank and paw presses of Dash buttons, requiring account holders to confirm orders on their mobile devices and refilling only the previously purchased amount of product.

Still, there seems to be a good deal of customer confusion about what’s available when they press the button, noted Martell.

“Judging from the user comments, it seems like there are a number of kinks to work out. After all, it’s just a button. It can place one and only one repeat order,” she said. “That’s about as smart as it gets.”

Despite its shortcomings, Amazon Dash changes the game, according to Hamel, who said he loves the concept.

“I’m really digging the idea of less trips to the dreaded supermarket and less time spent making stupid shopping lists,” he said, “not to mention the convenience and wow factor of having a button to reup goods on demand.”

 

 

[Source:- Technewsworld]

Gears of War 4 Almost Makes Me Regret Buying a PlayStation 4

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With excitement for The Coalition’s Gears of War 4 heating up, one Game Rant writer takes a forlorn look at his PS4 and ponders over making another platform purchase.

Microsoft has been pushing exclusive and limited platform releases as huge incentives for the Xbox One in 2016, and it’s hard to disagree. Just this month saw the launch of Quantum Break, and although there have been some issues with the title, particularly when it comes to its PC version, overall the response to the game has been positive. In fact, Microsoft has suggested that the game isthe biggest-selling new Microsoft IP of this generation.

However, there is one Xbox One exclusive that potentially has even more hype surrounding it thanQuantum Break. That title is Gears of War 4, the upcoming sequel to the acclaimed third-person shooter franchise. With the original trilogy in particular taking a place in Xbox gaming history, a lot is expected of this new installment in the series.

The gaming community recently got a fresh look at the title, in the form of a stunning new trailer. Shown during the season two debut of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, this new Gears of War 4 trailer continued the franchise’s trend for fantastic trailers in advance of a game’s release. Giving a look at new protagonist JD, along with cameos of Marcus and Anya, fans of the franchise were left wowed by this brief glimpse at the game world.

gears of war 4 gameplay

As such, plenty of gamers were even more excited for the game’s release, counting down the daysuntil October 11. However, there is one fairly large demographic of console gamers who may be feeling a little left out by the anticipation surrounding Gears of War 4: PS4 owners. After all, the series has always been exclusive to Xbox (with the exception of the original game’s PC port), and PlayStation users have never had the chance to play the games on their platform of choice.

Unfortunately, for the first time in Gears of War history, that group of gamers includes me. In the previous console generation, I was firmly in the Xbox 360 camp, and thoroughly enjoyed the Gears of War series, alongside other standouts like Halo 3 and Forza Motorsport 3. However, when it came to this generation of consoles, I made the jump back over to PlayStation.

gears of war 4 new trilogy the coalition microsoft xbox one

It has to be said that, overall, I am incredibly happy with the PS4. I’ve been able to enjoy the giddy high of the LittleBigPlanet series for the first time of my own accord, while Sony’s dedication to high-quality remastered versions of games from the previous generation has been much appreciated through the likes of The Last Of Us and the Uncharted franchise. There’s a reason why the console is proving to be incredibly popular with gamers.

However, the release of the new Gears of War 4 trailer has definitely left me pining for an Xbox One. Even though the PS4 has proved to be an outstanding platform, the idea of missing out on aGears of War game is a very disappointing thought. Although Gears of War: Judgment was a bit of a misstep, the series has routinely provided fantastic entertainment.

In fact, the Gears of War franchise holds a special place in my heart. Without getting overly sentimental over a series that primarily involves killing hulking subterranean beasts with a chainsaw machine gun, the original trilogy brings back great memories of playing co-op campaigns with my old housemates, sneaking games between university assignments, and generally enjoying the last great hurrah of split-screen gaming.

Gears of War 4: New Enemies and Weapons - Pouncer attacking JD Fenix

It’s not just this feeling of nostalgia that keeps me longing for Gears of War 4, however. The title looks like it’s going to make a strong return to the franchise’s roots, with developer The Coalition suggesting since the game’s inception that those horror themes that fit the game’s atmosphere so well in the first installment would be making a strong return to the fore. Meanwhile, even though split-screen gameplay and couch co-op in general seems to be dropping off the list of needed features on new games, Gears of War 4 will get back to the series staple of 2-player cooperative play.

It’s development choices like this that truly make Gears of War 4 stand out from some of the other Xbox One games that have seen release. The loss of split-screen from Halo 5 was extremely disappointing, particularly for proponents of split-screen as an additional gameplay option. It seems as though The Coalition has eschewed some mainstream design choices in favor of creating a game that truly speaks to Gears of War fans – after all, it’s rare to see a series return to horror themes after taking steps towards set-piece action, as fans of Resident Evil and Dead Space have no doubt found out.

Although having a respect for the previous games in the franchise is undoubtedly a big bonus, some of the additions to Gears of War 4 also seem hugely impressive. New characters such as Oscar and Reyna look set to add a new dimension to the series, while the new trio of JD, Del, and Kait will hopefully prove to be just as strong a set of main characters as Dom and Marcus and the rest of Delta squad from the original games.

Gears of War 4 Has Split-Screen Co-Op - Kait Diaz and JD Fenix

In fact, there’s very little about Gears of War 4 that looks concerning as of yet. Although a number of details surrounding the game have yet to be announced, there has been more than enough for gamers to get a general idea of what to expect. Already, The Coalition has taken a proactive approach to sharing details of the game’s new enemies and weapons, which will hopefully stop the gameplay from feeling a little stale. Even the idea of gore and profanity filters of the title could prove useful for those looking for additional ways to control their content in-game, although exactly how successful a gore filter on a game as violent as Gears of War can be remains to be seen.

All in all, then, Gears of War 4 is nearly enough to make me doubt my PS4 purchase. The franchise has a huge place of importance in my personal gaming history, as well as in the realm of video game shooters as a whole, and it will be a genuine shame to miss it – particularly if The Coalition includes a much-wanted Carmine appearance. Until then, I will be keeping my fingers crossed thatrumors of a possible PC release prove to be true.

 

[Source:- Gamerant]

What Makes A Difficult Game Worth Playing?

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With gamers all over spellbound by the punishing magic that isDark Souls 3, one writer sets out to identify which qualities make these kinds of difficult games enjoyable.

It will come as a surprise to roughly no one that my background as a RPG enthusiast has left me ill-equipped to battle through games like the recently released Dark Souls 3. Some gamers spent their childhoods platforming through Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie while some spent hours running around in circles on an island populated by strange cactus-men in order to make the numbers beside their characters names slightly higher than they were the day before. I fell into the latter camp, and thus I’ve never been particularly attached to any of the more popular skill-testing action titles.

That is, of course, unless those titles go out of their way to punish me for every single mistake I make. For reasons I’ve never been able to adequately put into words, games like Bloodborneand Super Meat Boy have managed to keep me coming back for more despite my obvious lack of affinity for their gameplay mechanics. Although I’ve only scratched the surface of the game myself, every video I’ve watched regarding Dark Souls 3 makes me believe the same will hold true for From Software’s latest iteration of the beloved series as well. That has me wondering, though – just what is it about these kinds of games that makes them so fun to play despite the fact they can be immensely frustrating at any given moment?

At first, it seemed there was a simple answer. All of these games, I reasoned, have a fascinating and unique gameplay system at their core. While many of them borrow elements from other successful games within their respective genres, games like BloodborneSuper Meat Boy, or even the old school Ninja Gaiden titles all fall back on small gameplay decisions that make them a little bit different and a lot more challenging. Yet, upon further inspection, this line of thinking doesn’t necessarily hold up. I’ve played lots of games that did something differently that made the gameplay harder that simply didn’t click with me – some to the point that I swore off every other installment ever made (here’s looking at you, Sonic the Hedgehog 2006).

As it turns out, it isn’t the nuanced gameplay and punishing repercussions for failure that made these games great – that element is the baseline, something that should be expected from IPs that want to set themselves apart for their lack of hand-holding and relatively higher levels of difficulty. The trick is to package that gameplay into something that is aesthetically appealing as well.

dark souls 3 greirat the thief character

Take, for instance, the poster child of the hard-to-beat-harder-to-put-down genre of video games in the modern era. The Dark Souls series, as well as weird step-sibling Bloodborne, both pit gamers against hordes of unforgiving monsters in a setting ripped straight out of the Victorian Gothic era. Dungeons are creepy, light comes at a premium, and the drip of water in a cave is as unsettling as the grim knowledge that noise was likely implemented to distract you from an unseen, lurking enemy ready to end your playthrough prematurely. The world of From Software’s extremely popular franchise is a perfect setting for the brutal gameplay that follows the character creation screen in each game.

Even in a game like Super Meat Boy, where the graphics are largely two-dimensional and cartoony, the setting simply works. Often times, the challenges in truly difficult games feels like going through the meat grinder, and whenever my poor Meat Boy would find himself splatted against a wall or impaled in a pit of spikes, I’d feel like it was the perfect representation of my own emotions being beaten down by the game’s truly beautiful and nefarious level design.

Super Meat Boy captures the essence of how these games push the boundaries of frustration and fun in the industry, and does it while providing gamers with ample physical comedy and sparse dialogue. Evidently, not all games need to have several novels worth of dialogue in order to make their narratives compelling, and, to be quite honest, an entire novel written about Meat Boy would probably read like a mash-up of bad science fiction and a Hamburger Helper recipe. That’s the sublime appeal of it, though – successful and meaningfully challenging games like these don’t try to be anything more than what they are, framed by a story and visuals that provide a little extra variety and appeal to the already exact science that is their gameplay mechanics.

super meat boy animation

Even the old NES version of Ninja Gaiden has the aesthetic appeal to push gamers through its notoriously punishing level schemes. Although the graphics are so dated they look like they were created on an old Nokia cellphone, there’s something to be said for playing the role of the silent, skilled assassin fighting his way through hordes of enemies in pursuit of justice (and, later, romance as well). It’s the kind of game that is synonymous with the kind of nostalgia that has pushed the gaming industry towards making a large quantity of remakes and remasters despite its aged plot and relatively straightforward gameplay.

Ultimately, all of these games also possess the holy grail of game design: detailed and interesting levels that feel different enough from other locations in the same game that there is a real sense of progression, even if that sense stems from a different color background or slightly different looking enemies. After all, there’s nothing like playing through a few hours of Dark Souls, beating a boss after, in my case, several hundred tries, and finding the nearest bonfire before shutting a console down for the night. There’s a tangible level of satisfaction and progression within the best examples of difficult games that makes slowly grinding away at their increasingly maddening boss fights worthwhile in the end.

While that sense of achievement might have been given a visual representation in the age of trophy hunting in video gaming, the pursuit of it has existed long before then. At the heart of each well-loved and difficult video game is the sense that they were well-designed, featured appealing aesthetics to compliment the gameplay, and were fair. Developers aren’t presenting players with insurmountable challenges in these titles, but rather the invitation to develop a skillset that takes time and rewards patience. In an era where the correct length of a video game is always hotly debated, it seems like titles like Dark Souls 3 and Super Meat Boy never really enter that discussion – and there’s a good reason for that.

 

[Source:- Gamerant]

Spoken-language app makes meal logging easier, could aid weight loss

Spoken-language app makes meal logging easier, could aid weight loss

For people struggling with obesity, logging calorie counts and other nutritional information at every meal is a proven way to lose weight. The technique does require consistency and accuracy, however, and when it fails, it’s usually because people don’t have the time to find and record all the information they need.

A few years ago, a team of nutritionists from Tufts University who had been experimenting with mobile-phone apps for recording caloric intake approached members of the Spoken Language Systems Group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), with the idea of a spoken-language application that would make meal logging even easier.

This week, at the International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing in Shanghai, the MIT researchers are presenting a Web-based prototype of their speech-controlled nutrition-logging system.

With it, the user verbally describes the contents of a meal, and the system parses the description and automatically retrieves the pertinent nutritional data from an online database maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The data is displayed together with images of the corresponding foods and pull-down menus that allow the user to refine their descriptions—selecting, for instance, precise quantities of food. But those refinements can also be made verbally. A user who begins by saying, “For breakfast, I had a bowl of oatmeal, bananas, and a glass of orange juice” can then make the amendment, “I had half a banana,” and the system will update the data it displays about bananas while leaving the rest unchanged.

“What [the Tufts nutritionists] have experienced is that the apps that were out there to help people try to log meals tended to be a little tedious, and therefore people didn’t keep up with them,” says James Glass, a senior research scientist at CSAIL, who leads the Spoken Language Systems Group. “So they were looking for ways that were accurate and easy to input information.”

The first author on the new paper is Mandy Korpusik, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science. She’s joined by Glass, who’s her thesis advisor; her fellow graduate student Michael Price; and by Calvin Huang, an undergraduate researcher in Glass’s group.

Context sensitivity

In the paper, the researchers report the results of experiments with a speech-recognition system that they developed specifically to handle food-related terminology. But that wasn’t the main focus of their work; indeed, an online demo of their meal-logging system instead uses Google’s free speech-recognition app.

Their research concentrated on two other problems. One is identifying words’ functional role: The system needs to recognize that if the user records the phrase “bowl of oatmeal,” nutritional information on oatmeal is pertinent, but if the phrase is “oatmeal cookie,” it’s not.

The other problem is reconciling the user’s phrasing with the entries in the USDA database. For instance, the USDA data on oatmeal is recorded under the heading “oats”; the word “oatmeal” shows up nowhere in the entry.

To address the first problem, the researchers used machine learning. Through the Amazon Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform, they recruited workers who simply described what they’d eaten at recent meals, then labeled the pertinent words in the description as names of foods, quantities, brand names, or modifiers of the food names. In “bowl of oatmeal,” “bowl” is a quantity and “oatmeal” is a food, but in “oatmeal cookie,” oatmeal is a modifier.

Once they had roughly 10,000 labeled meal descriptions, the researchers used machine-learning algorithms to find patterns in the syntactic relationships between words that would identify their functional roles.

Semantic matching

To translate between users’ descriptions and the labels in the USDA database, the researchers used an open-source database called Freebase, which has entries on more than 8,000 common food items, many of which include synonyms. Where synonyms were lacking, they again recruited Mechanical Turk workers to supply them.

The version of the system presented at the conference is intended chiefly to demonstrate the viability of its approach to natural-language processing; it reports calorie counts but doesn’t yet total them automatically. A version that does is in the works, however, and when it’s complete, the Tufts researchers plan to conduct a user study to determine whether it indeed makes nutrition logging easier.

“I think logging is enormously helpful for many people,” says Susan Roberts, director of the Energy Metabolism Lab at Tufts’ USDA-sponsored Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. “It makes people more self-aware about the junk they are eating and how little they actually enjoy it, and the shock of huge portions, et cetera. But currently, it is really tedious to log your food. There are any number of programs like MyFitnessPal where you can manually enter it by hand, but even with shortcuts it is tedious and not as user friendly as it needs to be for millions of people to use it really regularly.”

“A spoken-language system that you can use with your phone would allow people to log food wherever they are eating it, with less work,” she adds. “As I see it, we need to come up with something that really isn’t much work, so it isn’t an extra burden in life.”

[Source:- Phys.org]

HPE Makes NVDIMMS Available as Persistent Form of Memory

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While there is no shortage of server vendors lending their weight to the official launch today of the new Intel Xeon E5-2600 v4 processor series, otherwise known by the codename Broadwell, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) is taking advantage of the opportunity to add a new level of persistent memory to its x86 servers.

Susan Blocher, global vice president of marketing for the HPE Servers business unit, says applications will soon be able to take advantage of 8GB of non-volatile DIMMs (NVDIMMs) that HPE will offer on HPE ProLiant Gen9 servers configured with the latest Intel Xeon processor series. The end result is a form of persistent storage that provides a ten-fold increase in I/O performance, which HPE says results in as much as a factor of four improvement in database and analytics application performance.

HPE, says Blocher, expects to be able to provide this capability uniquely for roughly a year after the launch of the Intel Xeon E5- 2600 v4, during which time HPE will continue to increase the amount of NVDIMM capacity it will make available on its servers.

HP ProLiant DL380 Gen9

Couple that with the 22 cores provided by Intel Xeon E5- 2600 v4 series, memory speeds of up to 2400MT/s, and 2TB of solid-state drives (SSDs), and Blocher says the latest HPE ProLiant Gen9 servers represent a lot more than just your average Intel processor refresh.

Competition across the x86 server space is fierce. But for the first time in long while, it looks like server vendors such as HPE are investing in their own innovations versus simply packaging up innovations that Intel makes available across its entire base of x86 server vendor partners.

 

[Source:- Internetnews]