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Security

Don’t wait to install the June Windows update — it fixes the Follina security flaw

Microsoft has patched a Windows vulnerability that hackers are actively exploiting. If you own a system that uses Windows 7 and up, you’ll want to update your computer as soon as possible (via Bleeping Computer).

The security flaw, called Follina (CVE-2022-30190) by researchers, lets bad actors hijack users’ computers through programs like Microsoft Word. Security researchers have been aware of the threat since late May, but Microsoft reportedly dismissed their initial findings.

In an attack documented by security company Proofpoint, hackers associated with the Chinese government sent malicious Word documents to Tibetan recipients. When opened, these documents use the Follina exploit to take control of the Microsoft Support Diagnostic Tool (MSDT) to execute commands that could be used to install programs, create new user accounts, and access, delete, or change data stored on a computer. The exploit has also been used in phishing campaigns targeting American and European government agencies.

Microsoft’s original warning about the threat offered workarounds to protect against the threat, but this update (KB5014699 for Windows 10 and KB5014697 for Windows 11) should eliminate the need for that. “Microsoft strongly recommends that customers install the updates to be fully protected from the vulnerability,” Microsoft says. “Customers whose systems are configured to receive automatic updates do not need to take any further action.”



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Game

PlayStation fixes PS Plus Premium’s hidden upgrade fees

PlayStation announced that it would no longer charge players who bought PS Plus subscriptions at a discounted rate a higher fee when they upgrade to PlayStation Plus Extra or PlayStation Plus Premium.

This announcement came via the official Ask PlayStation support Twitter account after reports of the PS Plus upgrade issue spread over the past couple of days. “Due to a technical error, players in Asia who have previously purchased a PlayStation Plus membership at a discount have been incorrectly charged for their upgrade pricing,” the tweet says. “This error has been fixed and impacted players will receive a credit. We thank you for your patience.”

Due to a technical error, players in Asia who have previously purchased a PlayStation Plus membership at a discount have been incorrectly charged for their upgrade pricing. This error has been fixed and impacted players will receive a credit. We thank you for your patience.

— Ask PlayStation (@AskPlayStation) May 25, 2022

As that tweet mentions, players trying to upgrade to these new versions of PS Plus were the people who first encountered this issue. The two new tiers of PlayStation Plus debuted in Asian markets on May 23, ahead of a rollout in Japan, North America, and Europe throughout the month of June. As players can convert their previous PS Plus and PS Now subscriptions to get PlayStation Plus Premium or Extra, many players bought PS Plus subscriptions at discounted rates so that they would end up technically paying less overall for the $120 a year service.

Unfortunately, when these players went to upgrade on May 23, the PlayStation Store required them to pay back that discount if they wanted to upgrade. So, if someone got a year of PS Plus for $45 instead of $60, they’d have to pay $15 on top of the already more expensive free for Extra or Premium if they wanted to upgrade. While a VGC report suggested that this move was intentional, Sony is crediting this issue to a “technical error.”

The early days of any subscription service are typically fraught with technical issues like this. Hopefully, Sony can fix PlayStation Plus Premium’s key issues before it rolls it out to new markets like North America. 

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Game

‘Battlefield 2042’ is getting a cleaner UI and a ton of bug fixes

Since it launched last month, Battlefield 2042 has gained a reputation for being a buggy mess, instead of a return to form for the long-running shooter franchise. So it’s not too surprising to see EA rush out with a slew of post-launch fixes — let those problems fester too long, and they risk losing dedicated players to Call of Duty and Halo Infinite. With its third update, which arrives on December 2nd, Battlefield 2042 will get over 150 bug fixes, including some major UI improvements. 

For instance, you’ll be able to more easily see the difference between friends and foes, identify people nearby who you can revive (and vice versa), and also see who needs ammo or health. It’ll also take less clicks to prepare your loadout and Plus Menu, and EA has made it easier to determine which attachments you’re using. Those aren’t groundbreaking changes, to be clear, but they should make the BF 2042 experience smoother when you’re in the heat of battle.

As for other fixes, the new update should make matchmaking more reliable (especially when it comes to crossplay between platforms); make it easier to tell when enemies are firing at you; and menus should be a lot smoother. Looking ahead, EA says next week it’ll start launching Weekly Missions, which will give you XP as you complete them. You know, like very other shooter these days. You can expect to see a cosmetic reward if you plow through all of your challenges.

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Game

GTA Trilogy returns to PC as Rockstar promises performance fixes

It’s been a pretty wild ride for owners of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition on PC. Shortly after the game launched last week, Rockstar pulled both it and the Rockstar Games Launcher offline. While the Launcher came back a day later, the game was down for most of the weekend. The PC version is back now, but there’s still a lot of work left to be done on the game across all platforms.

GTA Trilogy and the story so far

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition launched on various platforms on November 11th. Unfortunately, later that day, Rockstar took both the PC version of the game and the Rockstar Games Launcher offline for maintenance, and the Launcher was offline for more than a day. This was particularly problematic because many of Rockstar’s modern PC games rely on the Launcher to function, even those that aren’t sold directly by Rockstar.

This means that Steam versions of GTA Online and Red Dead Redemption 2 were inaccessible while the Rockstar Games Launcher was offline. At the same time this was happening, Rockstar stopped selling the PC version of the GTA Trilogy, removing the listing for it from its website.

Initially, Rockstar didn’t explain why the GTA Trilogy had been removed from sale, but as the weekend was getting underway, the company’s support account published another tweet saying that it was working to “remove files unintentionally included in these versions.” This was revealed as the Rockstar Games Launcher came back online for PC users. Now the PC version of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is playable once more for those who already own it and available for purchase from Rockstar’s website for those who don’t.

Still a long way to go

If you were planning to buy the GTA Trilogy on PC, you might want to pump the brakes and hold off for now even though the game is up for sale again. Ever since launch, users across all platforms have reported various issues with the game, from remastered character models that are shockingly bad in some cases to performance problems.

These issues seem to exist in the GTA Trilogy regardless of the platform, and it’s led to abysmally low user review scores on Metacritic. Every version of the GTA Trilogy has a user score below 1.0 on Metacritic at the time of this writing, with the Xbox One version sporting the lowest at 0.4.

That, as you might imagine, is not great, but in the tweet announcing the PC version’s return, Rockstar also says that it is “working to improve and update overall performance as we move forward.” There are no concrete details on when Rockstar plans to deliver an update to the GTA Trilogy, but judging by some of the replies to that tweet, there’s a lot to fix. We’ll update you when Rockstar shares more, but for now, it might be a good idea to put the GTA Trilogy down and spend time with other games as we wait on the company to start pushing out fixes.

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Computing

Gigabyte Fixes Major Gaming Problem On Intel Alder Lake

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Although Intel Alder Lake processors have been collecting stellar reviews, some games have had issues running on the new CPUs. The design of Intel’s 12th-Generation processors causes a number of games to be impossible to play.

Gigabyte joins the list of the best motherboard vendors, such as MSI, in providing a fix to these issues that will let users play some, if not all, of the affected titles through the use of its new DRM Fix Tool. Meanwhile, Intel continues working on its own solution alongside game developers.

Intel Corporation

Intel Alder Lake CPUs are generally powerful gaming beasts, in some cases outperforming their competitors by as much as 60%. Unfortunately, there is a fairly long list of games that simply don’t work on the new processors. The reason lies in the hybrid architecture of Intel’s 12th-Gen chips.

The issue is caused by DRM (Digital Rights Management) in these games. As Intel Alder Lake CPUs feature a mix of two types of cores: the Golden Cove P-cores (Performance) and the Gracemont E-cores (Efficiency). DRM identifies these two kinds of cores as two separate systems. This prevents the games from running, even though both the P-cores and the E-cores are all part of the same processor.

Depending on the game, this incompatibility with the latest hybrid CPU technology can either completely prevent it from running, cause crashes and bugs, or simply lower gaming performance. The fix, already utilized by MSI motherboards, is to temporarily disable Alder Lake’s efficiency cores. This is what Gigabyte is offering with its new DRM Fix Tool.

Gigabyte’s new software, targeted at the owners of the vendor’s new Z690 motherboards, switches off Alder Lake’s E-cores. This means that, while gaming, efficiency cores are disabled, and this allows these pre-Alder Lake games to run normally, as they once again recognize the processor as just one system.

Gigabyte motherboards that can use the new DRM Fix tool.

Gigabyte issued a press release to announce the launch of the new tool. The manufacturer promises that its new Windows-based software is easy to control and doesn’t require any complicated installation. Most users won’t have to tinker with their BIOS in order to run Gigabyte’s DRM Fix, but some motherboards may require it.

In the press release, Gigabyte invites customers to download the latest version of BIOS, which is required to run the new tool. A download link for DRM Fix Tool has also been provided, alongside a list of motherboards and the required BIOS version for each model.

Earlier this month, Intel acknowledged this gaming issue and posted a fix to enable Legacy Game Compatibility Mode. However, the solution requires entering the BIOS and covers a few steps, so it’s less than ideal — but it’s better than nothing, at least while more vendors, game devs, and Intel itself work on a permanent solution.

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Game

Happy Home Paradise Fixes Animal Crossing’s Biggest Problem

It’s a huge week for Animal Crossing: New Horizons players. After a disappointing year devoid of meaningful updates, the cozy life simulator has gotten a massive update. That’s thanks to the game’s 2.0 build, which adds a sequel’s worth of features to the game. Perhaps more exciting is the game’s first and only paid DLC, Happy Home Paradise, which is included with a Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscription or available to buy for $25.

Happy Home Paradise is essentially a spiritual sequel to Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, a stand-alone spinoff title that was released for Nintendo 3DS after Animal Crossing: New Leaf. The game was more focused than its freeform mainline counterpart as it only asked players to design houses for villagers. It was essentially a little puzzle game about fulfilling home requests that was charming, though didn’t feel robust enough for a stand-alone title.

It was just one example of the way Nintendo has struggled to capitalize on Animal Crossing’s success. The company tried a few spinoff titles to turn it into a more varied franchise, but nothing stuck. But now, with Happy Home Paradise, Nintendo has found a perfect solution to the series’ fatal flaw: Attach the side games to the main game.

In-game spinoff

Happy Home Paradise quickly whisks players off to a new island that houses a self-contained game. Players are recruited by the Happy Home Academy to walk around the island, take requests from its inhabitants, and design their dream house. Villagers will offer a specific theme, like “sporty,” and ask that a few specific items be included in their home. Once players accept, they’ll be able to freely decorate both the interior and exterior of the house using a curated list of items (players don’t need to own the items to use them in designs).

During a demo, I watched a player create a spa-like dream house complete with starry wallpaper and aromatherapy furniture. A list of other requests showed that players will build anything from a perfect coffee room to a toilet palace (don’t ask me what that means).

It’s a simple little puzzle game that puts players’ decorating skills to good use. They’ll get to design a series of homes, customizing everything from the outer façade to the actual dimensions of the rooms within. They can even adjust the environment the house appears in, seamlessly changing the season or time of day. Any design can be saved and adjusted after the fact, so players can keep tweaking as much as they’d like.

Had this been a stand-alone title like Happy Home Designer, I don’t imagine many people would pick it up. At the end of the day, home designing is one piece of a larger game. Spinning it off into its own side title seems reductive. Nintendo has wised up to that fact this time around, realizing that home decorating works better as a minigame.

A player designs a disco room in Animal Crossing: Happy Home Paradise.

Minigames have long been part of Animal Crossing’s DNA. One could argue that the main game is just a series of smaller games compiled into a life simulator. Fishing is its own little sport, holidays like Bunny Day feature contained side -objectives, and New Leaf’s Roost Cafe (which returns in the 2.0 update) explicitly featured a coffee-making minigame. Going even further back, the main appeal of the first entry was that it included playable NES games, putting games within a game.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf took that one step further with its Welcome Amiibo update, which brought a survival board game called Desert Island Escape and a match-three puzzler to the mix. But Nintendo wasn’t simply content with launching one core game and loading it with free content. Happy Home Designer aimed to expand the formula with mixed success, but the company flew too close to the sun with Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival. The Wii U spinoff was a full board game that utilized amiibo, almost like a Mario Party for the series. It was a total flop, critically and financially. The game reportedly sold less than half a million copies in its lifetime. Ouch.

Happy Home Paradise sees Nintendo accepting the fact that players only care about the core Animal Crossing experience, not the IP as a vague concept. They’ll check out creative new content that expands their island life, but not necessarily shell out for a separate purchase. Part of me wonders if players would actually engage with an Amiibo Festival take two if it was piped into New Horizons. It doesn’t matter how good the content is; it would just be another way to pass the time.

A classroom full of students in Animal Crossing: Happy Home Paradise.

Unfortunately, Happy Home Paradise is said to be the game’s last paid DLC and it won’t get any major free updates either. Players have to hope that it’s enough to keep them going for years to come or that little updates here and there will be enough to keep it alive. That feels like a mistake. Happy Home Paradise is a smart new strategy for the series, solidifying the core Animal Crossing games as a sort of live service hub filled with activities. In a perfect world, New Horizons would continue to get support through the Switch lifespan, with spin-off ideas folded into the game. The game could turn significant updates into paid DLC, getting more money out of the series without the need for side-gambles.

Hopefully, Nintendo has learned its lessons from New Horizons’ whirlwind life cycle and uses it to build the ultimate installment down the line that keeps fans carrying out their cozy digital lives. Animal Crossing is the only metaverse I’d actually want to live in.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Happy Home Paradise is available to purchase today for $25. It’s also included with Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscriptions. New Horizons’ 2.0 update is free for all players.

Editors’ Choice




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Game

Cyberpunk 2077 delays updates, fixes, DLC roadmap to 2022

Shortly after Cyberpunk 2077 released and fans expressed their discontent with the game, CD Projekt Red committed to fixing its various issues. When it made this commitment, it shared a roadmap that detailed its plans for updates, DLC, and the next-gen upgrades for 2021 and beyond. Today, however, we’re learning that the remainder of the roadmap for 2021 has been delayed into 2022, suggesting Cyberpunk 2077 won’t get any more major updates for the rest of the year.

Earlier today, CD Projekt Red updated the original post containing the roadmap and the FAQ regarding the state of Cyberpunk 2077. The new roadmap says that more updates, improvements, and DLCs will be coming in 2022 and states explicitly that the next-gen console update will be landing at some point in Q1. You can check out the updated roadmap below.

Unfortunately, the new roadmap shows patch 1.31 as the final release for 2021. Patch 1.31 went live back in September as a follow-up to the much larger 1.3 update. According to this roadmap, patch 1.31 is the last significant update we’re getting this year.

That doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be any more updates for Cyberpunk 2077 this year, but it does suggest that any other updates coming down the pipeline will likely be smaller in scope. Of course, we already knew some of the information contained within this new roadmap, as CD Projekt Red recently confirmed that the next-gen updates for both Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher 3 had been delayed into next year.

The big question is whether or not we’ll see any more major patches beyond 1.3 at all. Late last year, when Cyberpunk 2077 was still fresh out of the gate and fans were voicing their opinions, CD Projekt Red said that most of the changes for the console version would come in two big patches. Presumably, the company was talking about updates 1.1 and 1.2 there. With updates 1.3 and 1.31, we’ve moved well beyond those first two patches, so it’s entirely possible that CD Projekt Red isn’t planning any other major patches at all.

Assuming that’s the case, we’ll likely see bug fixes ship in smaller (hopefully more frequent) updates. We’ll just have to see what CD Projekt Red announces in the new year. We’ll let you know when those announcements are made, so stay tuned for more.

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Security

OpenSea fixes vulnerabilities that could let hackers steal crypto with malicious NFTs

OpenSea has fixed vulnerabilities in its platform that could’ve let hackers steal someone’s crypto after sending them a maliciously crafted NFT. The issue was found by security firm Check Point Research, which noticed tweets from people claiming they were hacked after being gifted NFTs, according to a blog post. The researchers talked to one of the people saying they were attacked, and found vulnerabilities proving an attack could happen this way and reported the problems to OpenSea. The security firm says the NFT trading platform fixed the issue within an hour and worked with researchers to make sure the fix worked.

While the attackers potentially being able to drain entire wallets is certainly not a good look for OpenSea, it wasn’t a simple matter of just gifting someone an NFT — the exploit needed its target to click on a few prompts first, including one that might include transaction details. While being sent an NFT gift doesn’t require any interaction on your part, the malicious NFTs were harmless if they just sat unviewed in an OpenSea account.

The transfer confirmation message users may see while viewing an infected NFT.
Image: Check Point Research

The potentially dangerous situation occurs when viewing the image by itself (by, say, right-clicking on it and hitting “open in new tab”). For users with a crypto-wallet browser extension like MetaMask installed, it initiates a popup asking to connect storage.opensea.io to their wallet. If the target clicks yes, the attackers could snag the wallet’s information and trigger another popup asking to approve a transfer from the victim’s wallet to their own. If you’re not paying attention or didn’t realize what was going on and confirmed the transfer, you could wind up losing everything in your wallet.

OpenSea says in a statement that it hasn’t found any instances of someone actually carrying out that kind of attack — though it’s still unclear what happened to the people who say they were attacked. As far as I could find, there were only a few people talking about being hacked after receiving a gift NFT.

OpenSea says it’s working with third-party wallet providers to help people recognize malicious signature requests. Still, for the most part, standard internet safety rules apply — don’t click on things that seem out of the ordinary, and definitely don’t confirm any transaction requests unless you’re entirely sure it’s something you want to do.

While this particular attack required a lot of interaction (as well as at least some amount of inattention) from the target, it’s good to see Check Point’s confirmation that OpenSea has fixed it. It’s easy to imagine people new to NFTs potentially getting their wallets drained, and we’ve seen examples of bad actors and scammers in the crypto space. There are those who are willing to steal people’s Ethereum, pretend to be OpenSea support employees, or sell an almost certainly fake Banksy.

OpenSea also announced on Monday that it would hide gifted NFTs from an account’s page by default if they’re from unverified collections and add an option to suspend your account from buying or selling NFTs if you think your wallet has been compromised.

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Computing

This Crucial Windows 10 Update Fixes Gaming Frame Rates

Microsoft has released a long-awaited performance fix related to the Game Mode in Windows 10. The update is meant to solve several gaming-related problems that some people have been experiencing since March.

We now know everything that this Windows update includes, and how to install it on your computer.

How to install the new Windows 10 gaming update

Updating Windows to receive the game performance fix is simple. Simply click the Windows logo in the bottom left corner of your screen or tap the Windows key on your keyboard. Next, type in Update in the search bar and head to the section titled Check for updates.

Windows 10 will search for updates that are available to you. When that’s done, click on the View optional updates link, and then navigate to the update called KB5004296. Lastly, simply Download and install the patch. You’ll have to restart your computer for the changes to come into effect.

While the changes Microsoft introduced aren’t massive and the performance gains aren’t all too impressive, this patch could be the fix that some users have been waiting for. It may be worth trying if you are not happy with how your PC has been faring in games.

The issues that started in March of this year included game stuttering, frame rate drops, and overall frames per second (fps) that were lower than expected. Microsoft has admitted that the performance drop was related to problems with Windows 10, namely the power plans and the Game Mode itself. Game Mode is a feature that was introduced back in April 2017.

What does the Game Mode patch do?

According to Microsoft, Game Mode is meant to “help achieve a more stable frame rate depending on the specific game and system.” What it really does is detect the games present on the computer and prioritize them when distributing the computer’s resources, such as processor and graphics card power.

The company has tried to address the issue with Game Mode by releasing an emergency fix in April. However, the poor performance persisted even through that update. Since then, Microsoft was able to isolate the source of the matter and find a solution, resulting in this month’s quick patch. The update was originally meant to be released with a larger patch later in August, but it’s being pushed as a standalone ahead of time.

Some of the things fixed by this patch include:

  • An issue with power plans and the Game Mode itself
  • Sound problems in certain games when pressing the trigger button on a game controller
  • Virtual private network (VPN) problems, such as Windows not detecting the internet connection when connecting to a VPN
  • A problem that prevents gaming services from launching some games for desktop users

Windows also released a full list of updates found in this release. This is an optional update, meaning that it will not be automatically installed on every device.

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Computing

Windows 11 Fixes Dreaded Update Process in One Important Way

Windows 11 is bringing an important feature involving the update process that a lot of people have been waiting on. You will now be able to see how long an operating system update will take with the help of the estimated time on the screen showing how long it’ll take for the system to restart.

Apart from attempting to make the updates smaller, more meaningful, and less frequent, Windows 11 will also now show the estimated time it will take for a Windows update. This will be in the form of a little icon shown in various places, including the Windows Update screen, the taskbar, and the power button.

Image courtesy of ghacks

Putting the new Windows 11 update feature to test, Ghacks reported that their system said it would take five minutes to update. However, it actually took about 1 minute and 10 seconds, which is very impressive. It’s smart of Microsoft to show more time than it’ll take for it to update instead of going over the given time and bothering its users.

Windows 10 has long been criticized for its updates. Users have complained about their frequency; lack of quality, forcing, pushing, and breaking programs; and not knowing how long they’re going to take. Updates have always been one of the most dreaded features of Windows 10.

The good news is that this is going to change. During the Windows 11 launch, it was announced that Windows updates are going to bring multiple new features. It will now be shifting to the once-a-year update cycle, just like Apple does with its MacOS updates. The hope is that Microsoft will also resolve the performance and stability issues that its updates were often plagued by. There’s also hope that the updates will be more fulfilling, breaking the long streak of pretty average ones. Another piece of good news is that, according to Microsoft, updates on Windows 11 will be 40% smaller, which means they’ll hopefully take less time to download and install.

We’ll have to wait and see how the update process plays out in the final version of Windows 11. But for now, it’s great to see that Microsoft listened to the feedback and took action. We hope that this small but necessary feature can make Windows updates much more convenient.

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