Pulkit Chandna

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PC Gaming is in Rude Health, Concludes PC Gamer PAX East Panel


PAX East PC Gamer Panel

Panel discussion delves into the future of PC gaming

Our sister publication PC Gamer on Friday convened a star-studded, four-man panel at the ongoing Boston PAX East conference to discuss the future of PC gaming (see video below). The starry quartet, comprising Nvidia director of technical marketing Tom Petersen, Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey, PlanetSide 2 creative director Matt Higby and Star Citizen creator Chris Roberts, touched on a wide range of issues, including the prospects of streaming games and Microsoft’s role in the future of PC gaming.

The first thing to come up for discussion was the rise of cloud-based streaming games and its implications for traditional gaming. Nvidia’s Tom Petersen was of the view that the general direction of PC gaming’s evolution is towards it becoming a “much more cloud-oriented experience,” with both public and personal cloud game streaming gaining in popularity in the future.

The panel moderator, Evan Lahti (US editor-in-chief of PC Gamer), evoked widespread laughter from those in attendance when he jokingly asked Petersen if he was suggesting that people “won’t have to buy a graphics card in the future.” Meanwhile, Luckey and Roberts were equally unconvinced. Identifying latency associated with remotely rendered games as a major deal breaker, Roberts, an avowed 4K aficionado, said he as a PC gamer wants the best experience possible and that is something he doesn’t see cloud gaming delivering anytime soon.

The panel then proceeded to discuss some of the obstacles to delivering better gaming experiences on the PC. According to Higby, overcoming hardware fragmentation remains one of the biggest challenges from a developer’s standpoint. However, he also credited this variety — a byproduct of the immense control PC owners wield over their hardware — for making the PC a truly special gaming platform.

The PlanetSide 2 dev then broached the topic of piracy, noting that it continues to decline as digital distribution becomes more widespread. Others on the panel concurred, attributing the decline to the fact that it is now becoming more convenient to buy a game than to pirate it. Of course, the lesser the piracy, as Higby put it, “the more you can run a company off of the games you’re making.” Speaking of the economics of PC gaming, Petersen pointed out that it is currently estimated to be a $24 billion a year industry.

As soon as Lahiti asked the panel if they thought PC gaming would continue to be essentially Windows gaming, Luckey quipped, “Yeah, don’t you remember Games for Windows Live?” This prompted a discussion on Microsoft’s contribution to PC gaming.  While Petersen and Rogers lauded Redmond for some of things it is doing with DX12, the general consensus was that it needs to do a lot more to prevent gamers from abandoning Windows for Linux.

Image Credit: PC Gamer

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YouTube’s Rumored Paid Music Service Allegedly Delayed


YouTube Music Streaming Service

Was originally rumored for a late 2013 launch

YouTube has been rumored to be prepping a premium on-demand music service since October 2013. Initially rumored for a late 2013 release, there is still no sign of the music streaming service. According to Billboard, which was the first to report on the yet unconfirmed service last year, the launch has been pushed back to “the second quarter or later”

The delay, per a senior label executive Billboard talked to, is on account of YouTube’s refusal to launch anything short of a great product. "They feel that there's just too much scrutiny of this product, and that they need to get it right out of the gate," the executive was quoted as saying by Bloomberg Thursday.

Chief among the challenges YouTube is grappling with are: figuring out the best possible way of dealing with songs that have no official videos and, more importantly, getting people to pay for something they’re used to getting for free. As for the visual treatment of video-less songs, the company is currently gravitating toward “art videos” — those made up of random pictures and videos. But with YouTube allegedly hoping to charge users up to $10-a-month for the premium service without it impacting the way non-paying users currently use the site, the latter is clearly a lot trickier.

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Facebook Paid Out $1.5 Million in Bug Bounties in 2013


Facebook Bug Bounty

Highest number of valid bug reports came from India, followed by the U.S. and Brazil

Facebook on Friday published an update on the progress of its four-year-old bug bounty program, revealing that it paid out $1.5 million in bounties last year to take the program’s lifetime payouts beyond $2 million.

Total submissions in 2013, according to the social networking giant, rose 246 percent from the year prior to reach 14,763, the vast majority of which were found to be invalid. The $1.5 million it paid out in 2013 were distributed among 330 researchers around the globe, with the average reward being $2,204. Further, most of the bugs brought to light under the program were “in non-core properties, such as websites operated by companies we've acquired.”

“We're grateful to all the researchers around the world who have taken the time to evaluate our services and report bugs. Researchers in Russia earned the highest amount per report in 2013, receiving an average of $3,961 for 38 bugs,” the company said in a note. “India contributed the largest number of valid bugs at 136, with an average reward of $1,353. The USA reported 92 issues and averaged $2,272 in rewards. Brazil and the UK were third and fourth by volume, with 53 bugs and 40 bugs, respectively, and average rewards of $3,792 and $2,950.”

The company is particularly pleased with its handling of high-severity bugs, having managed to bring down “the median fix time for high-severity issues down to just 6 hours.”

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Office for iPad: Possible to Activate More Than Five Devices with Single Subscription


Office for iPad

Company ‘trusts’ users to voluntarily stay within bounds

On Thursday, Microsoft took the unprecedented step of launching a dedicated version of its Office productivity suite for the Apple iPad, giving all iPad users the ability to view Office documents on the go for free, and those willing to pay $100 per year for an Office 365 subscription the power to edit and create them. There’s a slight problem, though.

Although when Microsoft announced Office for iPad it said that an Office 365 subscription could only be used for a maximum of five tablets (in addition to up to five PCs), it turns out that the limit isn’t being enforced strictly at the moment. According to Cnet, which discovered this loophole after “tinkering with numerous devices,” a single Office 365 subscription can, in fact, be used with more than five tablets.

"Similar to our commercial use rights, we do not strictly enforce the limit on tablet installations, but trust that our users respect and understand the device limits outlined in the EULA [end user rights agreement]," Microsoft told CNET when asked about the loophole.

So to sum it up, while it is technically possible for you to use a single subscription with more than five iPads, it is something Microsoft would like you to avoid in keeping with the EULA.

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Microsoft Corrects Stance on Email Scanning



Revises its email scanning policy again following ‘uncomfortable’ criticism

Microsoft came under severe criticism after it emerged last week that in 2012 the company had peeked inside the Hotmail account of an employee suspected of leaking Windows 8 trade secrets. Within 24 hours of the revelations, the company thought it behooved it to “provide additional context and describe how we are strengthening our policies.” But the
"strengthened" policy did not go down too well with the critics either.

After being heavily criticized for the revised policy that simply required the company to rely on the judgment of “a legal team separate from the internal investigating team” to determine whether reading a customer’s email was justified or not, Microsoft has backtracked on the issue. According to a blog post it published on Friday, the company spent the week following the first policy revision “reflecting further on the issue.”

Here’s the harvest of all that reflection and the talks it held with advocacy groups and other experts: “Effective immediately, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves. Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required. In addition to changing company policy, in the coming months we will incorporate this change in our customer terms of service, so that it’s clear to consumers and binding on Microsoft.”

“We’ve entered a ‘post-Snowden era’ in which people rightly focus on the ways others use their personal information. As a company we’ve participated actively in the public discussions about the proper balance between the privacy rights of citizens and the powers of government. We’ve advocated that governments should rely on formal legal processes and the rule of law for surveillance activities,” the company said, adding that although it was well within its legal rights to do what it did, it has realized “that we should apply a similar principle and rely on formal legal processes for our own investigations involving people who we suspect are stealing from us.”

Image Credit: Flickr (opensource.com)

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