Windows Terminal Is Now Available via the Microsoft Store

Photo Source: MicrosoftPhoto Source: Microsoft

Microsoft announced during the Build developer conference in May that it was rethinking Windows 10’s command line tool. The new utility, which the company unimaginatively dubbed the Windows Terminal, was today released as a “very early preview” on the Microsoft Store.

The new app features an updated interface with support for custom themes, multiple tabs, and numerous other personalization options. Because text is such a core part of the app, Microsoft also included GPU-accelerated text rendering as well as support for multiple fonts and emoji. (Because if there’s anything command line users need in a utility it’s the ability to render the “100” emoji in all its crimson glory.)

Windows Terminal won’t immediately replace Command Prompt. Microsoft told us at Build that it was considering options for making Windows Terminal the new default command line tool, but for now, the company is maintaining the status quo with Command Prompt. That’s partly for compatibility reasons, but it likely stems from the fact that Windows Terminal isn’t exactly ready to make a grand debut.

Microsoft said in the Store description: “This very early preview release includes many usability issues, most notably the lack of support for assistive technology. Much of the internal work to support this is complete and it’s our top priority to support assistive technology very soon.” We suspect that Windows Terminal might not have even been released yet if it wasn’t given a mid-June launch date at Build.

Windows Terminal is being developed as an open source project. Interested users can follow the app’s progress on GitHub or, if they like, contribute to its development themselves. Microsoft hasn’t yet revealed when it plans to release a non-preview version of the program.

Steam Labs Lets You Test Valve Experiments Like Machine Learning

Valve has been hard at work on a variety of new apps and programs behind the scenes, and with the unveiling of the new Steam Labs online hub today, we can have a glimpse at what the developer has been experimenting with.

That’s the idea behind Steam Labs at least. It’s an online home for all works in progress Valve is tinkering with, such as features with codenames like The Peabody Recommender or Organize Your Steam Library Using Morse Code. Users can evaluate these different modules and share feedback. Should Valve continue development? That’s your opinion to share, as well as thoughts on how each feature should change and evolve, if at all.

The first three Labs experiments are Micro Trailers, the Interactive Recommender and the Automated Show. Micro Trailers are a series of six-second game trailers arranged on a page for you to view all at once. You can peruse these new micro trailer collections for builder games, RPGs, adventure games and plenty of other genres.

Credit: ValveCredit: Valve

The Automated Show is akin to in-store programming at GameStop, where a half-hour video showcases some of the latest Steam game launches. It’s meant for you to take in and check out a few hundred games at a time, or leave on as background noise.

Finally, the Interactive Recommender uses machine learning to recommend new titles to you based on games you’re currently into. Using a neural network trained to recommend games based on a user’s playtime history and other collections of data, it analyzes various play patterns, preference and a wide variety of additional information about the games you gravitate toward. 

Interactive Recommender doesn’t require developer optimization. Instead, it works with information gleaned from the Steam community itself. The feature learns about games for itself during training. In fact, the only information it does get is the release date during the preliminary setup process. It’s a hefty undertaking by Valve that’s unlike anything the developer has tackled in the process just yet. You can give it a try here.

For additional Steam Labs experiments coming down the pipeline, you can join the Steam Labs Community Group and keep an eye on when new additions join the hub. For now, you can try out these three intriguing new experiments and share what you think with Valve. Meanwhile, we’ll be watching to see where this all goes.

Steam Proposes Linux Kernel Changes To Improve Multi-Threaded Games

Steam's CPU test. Credit: SteamSteam’s CPU test. Credit: SteamSteam announced this week that it released the first build of Proton 4.11, which is based on WINE 4.11, the Linux utility that allows thousands of Windows games to run on Linux. The new version includes many bug fixes, as well as a new Vulkan-based implementation of Direct3D 9. Additionally, the new release includes functionality that could reduce the CPU overhead for multi-threaded games if Linux kernel developers adopt Steam’s proposed changes to the kernel.

The Steam developers said they forced “a CPU-bound scenario on a high-end machine by reducing graphics details to a minimum” to see the difference between the existing version of Proton and one that included the multi-threading improvement. We can see in the image above that the CPU load decreased by at least 10% in the Tomb Raider game. The developers expect the results to be reproducible on lower-end machines, too.

The new release also includes an experimental replacement for esync, an older WINE feature that could increase the multi-threaded performance for some games. However, according to the Steam developers, this feature comes with some major trade-offs, such as relying on the Linux kernel’s eventfd() functionality. The use of eventfd() can cause some file descriptor exhaustion on event-hungry applications and can result in extraneous spinning in the kernel. 

The Steam team then came up with some changes to the Linux kernel to extend the futex() system call to expose additional core functionality that could be used to support optimal thread pool synchronization. 

Proton 4.11 already includes the fsync() patches that will replace the older esync and take advantage of the new functionality, once the changes to the Linux kernel are made. In the meantime, the Steam team will continue to test its solution on Ubuntu and Arch Linux distributions with custom kernels that contain the above-mentioned patches.

MSI’s Content Creation Laptops Get Comet Lake

Ahead of IFA in Berlin, MSI is introducing a new suite of laptops focused on content creation with Intel’s new tenth generation “Comet Lake” processors. The company didn’t reveal precise specs or release dates, but the new laptops are available for pre-order today through Newegg.

The new laptops are the MSI Modern 14 and the MSI Prestige 14 and 15. The biggest difference is that the Modern will go up to Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics, while the Prestige laptops will go up to GTX 1650 Max-Q. While the Prestige laptops will have 4K options, the Modern will only go up to FHD.

MSI Prestige 14 MSI Prestige 15 MSI Modern 14
CPU Up to 10th Gen Intel Core i7 “Comet Lake” U-Series Up to 10th Gen Intel Core i7 “Comet Lake” U-Series Up to 10th Gen Intel Core i7 “Comet Lake” U-Series
GPU Up to Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q (4GB GDDR5) Up to Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q (4GB GDDR5) Up to Nvidia GeForce MX250 (2GB GDDR5)
RAM Up to 16GB LPDDR3-2144 2x DDR SODIMMs (up to 64GB) 1x DDR4 SODIMM (Max 32GB)
Display 14-inch, up to 4K UHD 15.6-inch, up to 4K UHD 14-inch FHD 1920 x 1080
Storage 1x M.2 SSD slot (PCIe NVMe or SATA) 1x M.2 SSD (NVMe or SATAA), 1x M.2 (NVMe only) 1x M.2 SSD slot (PCIe NVMe or SATA)
Size 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches / 320 x 215.9 x 15.2 mm 14 x 9.2 x 0.6 inches / 355.6 x 233.7 x 15.2 mm 12.7 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches / 322.6 x 221 x 15.2 mm

A number of specs weren’t fully detailed at press time, including exact  storage sizes and amounts of RAM.

The Prestige laptops are being touted as mobile workstations with what MSI calls a “True Pixel” display; that means a 4K panel that covers 100% of the sRGB color gamut with a Delta-E value of less than 2. MSI is claiming 16 hours of battery life on the 15-inch notebook and and 14 hours on the 14 incher.

All three will come in a “carbon gray” color and aluminum chassis. I found the Modern felt a bit more solid than the Prestige options. Additionally, the content creation laptops are getting a new font on the keyboards to separate them from prior models, which shared a font with the gaming machines.

Nvidia Releases Game Ready Driver for Call of Duty Beta

Photo Source: ActivisionPhoto Source: Activision

Nvidia today released the GeForce Game Ready 436.30 WHQL driver with support for the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare open beta. The driver expands support for several other upcoming releases, too, as well as six new G-Sync Compatible gaming monitors. More importantly for some Nvidia graphics card users, the driver has reportedly fixed performance issues found in popular titles after a previous driver release.

Activision will beta test Call of Duty: Modern Warfare across multiple platforms during several “weekends” running from Thursday to Monday throughout September, according to today’s announcement. The PC version’s open beta kicks off September 19 and ends September 23. (Although it’s only “open” from September 21-23; pre-order customers can play earlier.) More details about the game’s beta tests is available on its website.

Nvidia said the GeForce Game Ready 436.30 WHQL driver was also optimized to offer better support for the recently released Gears 5, as well as the following titles that have yet to be released: Borderlands 3, The Surge 2, FIFA 20 and Code Vein. All of those games are set to debut throughout September; don’t be surprised if Nvidia releases other drivers boasting improved support for them in the coming weeks.

This release also expanded support for six new G-Sync Compatible gaming monitors from Acer, Gigabyte and LG. Nvidia included support for several of LG’s OLED TVs, too, which are set to become G-Sync Compatible via a firmware update in the coming weeks. A full list of G-Sync Compatible monitors is available on Nvidia’s site.

Nvidia said in the GeForce Game Ready 436.30 WHQL driver’s full release notes that it also fixed issues affecting Fortnite, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Forza Horizon 7 that were introduced alongside the Gamescom Game Ready Driver in August. The new driver is currently available via GeForce Experience and Nvidia’s website.

Step Into The SSD World With Intel's 1TB SSD 660p For $85

Credit: IntelCredit: Intel

Every computer deserves an SSD, and yours do too. If you have an empty M.2 slot, the Intel SSD 660p 1TB can be your new tenant. The SSD normally retails for over $100, but Newegg has it for $84.99 after applying the EMCTEVC22 promotional code at checkout.

The Intel SSD 660p is an M.2 2280 SSD that will provide you with 1TB of high-speed storage. The SSD communicates with your system through a conventional PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot, which is pretty common on modern motherboards. Whether you need a primary storage device or just a backup drive, the Intel SSD 660p is a nice option.

The Intel SSD 660p unites Silicon Motion’s SM2263 NVMe SSD controller with Intel’s 64-layer 3D QLC (quad-level cell) NAND chips. This unique combination delivers sequential read and write speeds up to 1,800 MB/s. Random performance is rated for 150,000 IOPS reads and 220,000 IOPS writes.

The chipmaker rates the Intel SSD 660p with an endurance level of 200 TBW (terabytes written) and backs the drive with a limited five-year warranty.

Should You Buy This SSD?

As usual, we highly recommend you check out our in-depth Intel SSD 660p 1TB review before investing in this product. 

For more help, you can find everything you need to know about how to buy the right SSD in our SSD Buying Guide. We’ve also curated a list of our favorite SSDs, based on our rigorous testing, on our Best SSDs page.

Bitcoin's Value Passes $11,000 After Libra Announcement

Credit: Shutterstock / SPFCredit: Shutterstock / SPFBitcoin’s value surpassed $11,000 per coin on Saturday morning. The cryptocurrency’s value has stayed around that $11,000 mark in the hours since, according to the Bitcoin Price Index from Coindesk, which also said the coin’s market cap is currently around $193.6 billion as a result of the price bump.

That’s a sharp increase from the $7,600 price Bitcoin fetched on June 9. It’s hard to attribute the cryptocurrency’s value to anything in particular–such is the nature of decentralized money–but many have attributed it at least partly to the Libra cryptocurrency Facebook announced on June 18. Bitcoin and Libra don’t have a direct relationship, but pun intended when we say that the cryptocurrencies are in many ways two sides of the same coin.

Libra differs from Bitcoin in that it’s a “stablecoin” whose value is supposed to remain fairly consistent. Facebook said that Libra “will be backed by a collection of low-volatility assets, such as bank deposits and short-term government securities in currencies from stable and reputable central banks.” The company’s goal is essentially to introduce a blockchain-enabled currency that’s comparable to traditional currencies many people already use.

Bitcoin differs in that it’s not really backed by anything. The cryptocurrency’s value is based on what people are willing to pay for it, not some commodities held in a reserve, which is why the price of a single bitcoin can vary so drastically over a relatively short period of time. Buying into Libra is like exchanging a currency; buying into Bitcoin is closer to investing in a volatile stock with the hope of getting a good return on investment later on.

Those approaches can coexist. (As evidenced by, you know, the modern economy.) Libra’s announcement could also introduce billions of people to cryptocurrencies, and if they decide they’d rather play a given coin like a stock market rather than simply using Facebook’s take on cash, Bitcoin would be the obvious choice. It’s possible that some Bitcoin investors think Libra’s announcement and release will raise the value of all cryptocurrencies.

Passing the $11,000 mark is probably welcome news for Bitcoin owners either way. The cryptocurrency’s value has risen and fell many times over in the last few years. Bitcoin’s value peaked around $19,000 in 2017; in recent months it’s been closer to $7,000. Peaking at $11,190 over the last 24 hours didn’t restore Bitcoin to its former glory, but it showed that at least some of the cryptocurrency market is bullish on its future.

Best Tech Deals 2019

From PC components to gaming monitors, here at Tom’s Hardware we’re always on the hunt for the best deals.

July is here and Amazon Prime Day is slowly starting to rear its head. Generally, we don’t see many component deals on Prime Day. However, if you’re looking to buy PC hardware at Amazon, a new laptop, or upgrade to a 4K TV, chances are high you’ll score some good deals on Prime Day.

But first, Amazon still has a variety of early Prime Day deals on everything from laptops to its Cloud Cam. Some noteworthy Amazon deals include:  

Favorite Deals

Gaming Deals  

What kind of deals do you want to see ?

Smart Home DEALS

Digital Entertainment DEALS

Console Gaming DEALS

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laptop DEALS

Wireless Router DEALS

Cisco to Pay $8.6M for Knowingly Selling Hackable Surveillance Gear to US Government

Credit: CiscoCredit: Cisco

Cisco has settled a lawsuit over claims that it sold video surveillance technology that it knew was vulnerable to a four-year-old flaw. The vulnerability could have allowed malicious parties to hack into cameras that Cisco had been selling to U.S. hospitals, airports, schools, police departments, state governments and federal agencies.

According to a settlement unsealed Wednesday with the U.S. Justice Department, 15 states and the District of Columbia, Cisco learned about the vulnerability for the first time back in 2008, when whistleblower James Glenn came forward and revealed the flaw. However, Cisco waited four years before doing anything about it. In the meantime, the company kept promoting its vulnerable product.

Cisco’s surveillance technology was also connected to door locks and alarms, and those could have also been bypassed due to this flaw.

Michael Ronickher, one of Glenn’s attorneys, said that the flaw was easy to exploit:

“It was like the moment in the heist movies when a person types on a laptop for 30 seconds and says ‘I’m in.'”

Cisco said that there was no evidence that the flaw has been abused. Ronicker agreed with that statement but also noted that it’s possible hackers abused the flaw without being detected.

For its first time, Cisco had to settle under the whistleblower law for not having adequate security protections. The Justice Department learned about the flaw as it was reviewing many of the multi-billion dollar contracts that may not have prioritized cyber security. With the rise of ransomware and it disabling and holding hostage hospitals and police departments, cybersecurity issues have become a much more pressing issue for the U.S. government.

The federal government and the state governments that joined the settlement with Glenn will get 80% of the $8.6 million, while Glenn and his attorneys will get 20%. This should leave Glenn with more than $1 million for his whistleblowing act after fees and expenses, which is still significantly more than what most bug bounties would pay.

Intel Unveils Comet Lake Processors, 14nm Chips Join 10nm in 10th-Gen Lineup

Intel announced eight new Comet Lake processors for the mobile market. These new processors come in U- and Y-Series models for laptops and 2-in-1 designs and slot into the 10th Generation Core series, bumping up the U-series from four to six cores and the Y-series from two cores to four. The U-series models also add support for LPDDR4X. We also have coverage of the new Dell XPS 13 models and MSI’s content creation laptops, so head there for a look at the newest laptops with Comet Lake chips.

Unlike the 10nm Ice Lake chips the Intel began shipping earlier this month, the eight new models come wielding the 14nm process. That creates a confusing mismatch in the company’s 10th-Gen series, as the 10nm Ice Lake models come with a newer manufacturing process, architecture, and beefed up Gen11 graphics, while the 14nm Comet Lake chips come with the aging Skylake architecture and Gen 9.5 graphics. And they’re all lumped under the 10th-Generation branding.

The approach of mixing processes and microarchitectures under a single “Gen” family isn’t entirely new for Intel. The company began the practice with its 9th-Gen chips as it dealt with the fallout of its oft-delayed 10nm process, and has likely decided to continue shipping 14nm processors to assure enough supply of new laptop chips as it continues to ramp up 10nm production.

The tactic is beyond confusing to casual users: Most mainstream users aren’t aware of the finer-grained details of processor technology, so without a very clear product naming convention it would be easy to end up with 10th-Gen processors that don’t come with the expected amount of performance. Intel has revamped its naming scheme, which we’ll cover shortly, but it hardly helps.

Intel’s rationale is that the Ice Lake processors are better suited for light use-cases, like gaming, web browsing and office use, while the Comet Lake processors are better suited for productivity workloads that typically need more threaded horsepower, like multi-tasking and video/photo editing. Comet Lake’s higher core counts deliver more performance in those types of workloads.   The Ice Lake chips have a more efficient microarchitecture and 10nm process, so laptops with the chips will have better battery life. Ice Lake chips also have radically improved Gen11 graphics that offer nearly twice the performance of the older Gen 9.5 graphics found in Comet Lake. Gamers should definitely opt for Ice Lake models.

Intel divides the chips into the standard Core i3, i5, and i7 segments, but while the Ice Lake processors top out at four cores and eight threads, the Comet Lake chips stretch up to six cores and 12 threads. Comet Lake processors also come with higher peak boost frequencies that range up to 4.9 GHz, while Ice Lake tops out at 4.1 GHz. That, again, is going to lead to confusion, as the improved Ice Lake architecture is faster in lightly-threaded work despite its lower clock frequencies. In a similar vein, the Comet Lake processors have up to 12MB of L3 cache, but that comes as a byproduct of the higher core counts and doesn’t equate to faster performance than the Ice Lake models.

In a bid to “simplify” the difference between the two types of processors, Intel points to the “G7” branding (which could also be G4) that denotes the level of Gen11 graphics, as the primary identifier for Ice Lake chips. That makes sense, as the Comet Lake chips don’t come with Gen11 graphics and therefore do not have the “Gx” identifier, but that hardly helps the average consumer.

Conversely, Comet Lake with have a “U” or “Y” identifier at the end of its product string, whereas Ice Lake models will not. In other words, Intel is using its confusing change of product identifiers with the Ice Lake chips (here is a deeper look at what this mismash of numbers means) to help customers identify the difference between the chips.

Intel split up the Comet Lake series into U-Series Core i5 models with 15 and 25W TDPs, and Y-Series Core i7 models with 4.5, 7, and 9W TDPs. OEMs can use Intel’s cTDP (configurable TDP) feature to tailor the chips for either higher or lower performance envelopes with the option of a cTDP increase to 25W for U-series parts. Y-series chips can move up to 9W, or down to 4.5/5.5W. Unfortunately, as per Intel’s standard policy, OEMs don’t have to disclose which cTDP values they use in laptops, so performance among the stack can be a moving and unclear target.

In yet another round of confusion, the Core i7 chips support faster LPDDR4X-2933 and DDR4-2666 memory than the previous-gen models, while the Core i5 models only support LPDDR3-2133. Support for LPDDR4X comes as the byproduct of a new memory controller on the U-series chips, meaning the company has spun a new die for the chips. This addition also bumps maximum memory support up from 16GB in a dual-channel configuration to 32GB and results in lower power consumption with ‘like’ memory capacities.

Both the Ice Lake and Comet Lake processors support Thunderbolt 3 and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, with the latter coming to the Comet Lake series through targeted enhancements to the platform controller hub (PCH). A Wi-Fi 6 MAC is integrated on the chipset, but it still requires a PHY for operation, thus reducing costs and avoiding additional FCC requirements for the chipset. Intel offers its own CNVi module as the other half of the integrated solution. This combination provides up to gigabit speeds wirelessly to increase performance for applications that are sensitive to network latency, like gaming, and enable advanced traffic management features. 

Comet Lake processors do deliver more performance than previous-generation models due to higher clock speeds and enhanced in-silicon security mitigations for the recent wave of security vulnerabilities. Intel shared some of its performance projections for the new processors, with claims of up to 16% more overall performance and 41% better productivity compared to the previous-gen U-series chips. The company also shared data that shows even more explosive gains compared to a five-year-old laptop, which is the typical amount of time consumers use a laptop before splurging for a new model.

Intel also says that “some” 10th-Gen models will come with Dynamic Tuning Technology that uses pre-trained AI algorithms to predictively adapt based on usage patterns, but that is a feature of the Ice Lake processors, so Comet Lake users will not get the feature.

Intel says that more than 90 new laptop designs with the Comet Lake processors will hit shelves at retailers by the holidays.