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Security

Microsoft upgrades Office security by blocking VBA macros by default

There’s been a bit of back and forth since the change was originally announced, but this week Microsoft started rolling out an update to Microsoft Office that blocks the use of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros on downloaded documents.

Last month, Microsft was testing the new default setting when it suddenly rolled back the update, “temporarily while we make some additional changes to enhance usability.” Despite saying it was temporary, many experts worried that Microsoft might not go through with changing the default setting, leaving systems vulnerable to attacks. Google Threat Analysis Group leader Shane Huntley tweeted, “Blocking Office macros would do infinitely more to actually defend against real threats than all the threat intel blog posts.”

Now the new default setting is rolling out, but with updated language to alert users and administrators what options they have when they try to open a file and it’s blocked. This only applies if Windows, using the NTFS file system, notes it as downloaded from the internet and not a network drive or site that admins have marked as safe, and it isn’t changing anything on other platforms like Mac, Office on Android / iOS, or Office on the web.

Microsoft:

We’re resuming the rollout of this change in Current Channel. Based on our review of customer feedback, we’ve made updates to both our end user and our IT admin documentation to make clearer what options you have for different scenarios. For example, what to do if you have files on SharePoint or files on a network share. Please refer to the following documentation:

• For end users, A potentially dangerous macro has been blocked

• For IT admins, Macros from the internet will be blocked by default in Office

If you ever enabled or disabled the Block macros from running in Office files from the Internet policy, your organization will not be affected by this change.

While some people use the scripts to automate tasks, hackers have abused the feature with malicious macros for years, tricking people into downloading a file and running it to compromise their systems. Microsoft noted how administrators could use Group Policy settings in Office 2016 to block macros across their organization’s systems. Still, not everyone turned it on, and the attacks continued, allowing hackers to steal data or distribute ransomware.

Users who try to open files and are blocked will get a pop-up sending them to this page, explaining why they probably don’t need to open that document. It starts by running through several scenarios where someone might try to trick them into executing malware. If they really do need to see what’s inside the downloaded file, it goes on to explain ways to get access, which are all more complicated than what happened before, where users could usually enable macros by pressing one button in the warning banner.

This change may not always stop someone from opening up a malicious file, but it does provide several more layers of warnings before they can get there while still providing access for the people that say they absolutely need it.



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Game

‘Cyberpunk 2077’ PS5 and Xbox Series X/S upgrades delayed until 2022

Despite CD Projekt Red at the beginning of September it was still on track to release the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of  and  by the end of the year, that’s no longer the case. The developer now to ship the console and PC upgrades for Cyberpunk 2077 in the first quarter of 2022 (i.e by the end of March), and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt in Q2 (between March and June).

“Based on recommendations supplied by teams supervising the development of both games, we decided to postpone their releases until 2022,” CDPR on Twitter. “Apologies for the extended wait, but we wanted to make it right.”

In a it published in January after the game’s last December, CDPR said the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions would drop in the second half of 2021. The studio revealed at WitcherCon in July that the current-gen update for The Witcher 3 was too.

In its financial report for the first half of 2021, CDPR included a chart suggesting that around a third of its development staff was working on Cyberpunk 2077 support and the current-gen version as of June 30th, though it’s gradually transitioning the team to new projects. Developers are still working on the game’s first expansion too, following the lackluster first DLC in August that really only added a few cosmetic items and a car.

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Computing

Razer Keycap Upgrade Kit Hands-on: Keycap Upgrades For All

Customized mechanical keyboards are taking the world by storm, whether it’s easy keycaps swaps or building your board from the ground-up. Razer is already a leader in the keyboard space, and today, the company has announced the Razer Keycap Upgrade kit. It’s a simple way to customize and upgrade your keyboard without needing expensive tools or extensive knowledge.

I got a chance to play with the upgrade kit and keycaps myself to see how successful they are at bringing keyboard upgrades to the masses.

The Razer Keycap Upgrade kit experience

Inside the Razer Keycap Upgrade Kit box.

Depending on the solution you choose, the keycap upgrade kit comes with a number of items inside the box. Our pink keycap upgrade includes a keycap removal tool to pry out your existing keycap, a color-matched coiled USB-C to USB-A cable, optical and mechanical keyboard stabilizers, and an assortment of keycaps to fit U.S. and U.K. keyboard layouts. The beauty of this upgrade is you can swap out as many keys as you want to create a custom keyboard with colored keycaps.

If pink isn’t to your liking, the new PBT keycaps are also available in other colors — black, white, and green. Minimalists can choose a more covert look with a Phantom keycap kit, available in either black or white, where the caps appear to be blank when the Razer Chroma RGB backlighting on your keyboard is turned off. When the RGB keyboard lighting is turned on, you’ll see the individual letters, numbers, or characters on each key. This black- or white-out look, depending on the keyboard option you choose, can add a level of stealth and minimalism to your desk setup.

The company said that to achieve this look, it laser-etched the keycaps from the bottom, rather than the top.

“Unlike regular keycaps which are layered from the top, this method ensures legends won’t wear off and features brighter shine-through legends thanks to a thinner layer between the keycap and light source,” the company said of the process.

Razer's phantom keycaps are etched from the bottom.

Razer’s other keycap upgrades have the keycaps inscribed and visible whether the Chroma RGB lighting is turned on or off. The standard PBT Keycap Upgrade Set, priced at $29, comes with 120 keycaps. Razer also offers an upgraded PBT Keycap and Coiled Cable Upgrade Set, priced at $49, which comes with a coiled USB-C to USB-A cable that matches the Quartz Pink, Mercury White, Razer Green, or Classic Black caps. The stealthy Razer Phantom Keycap Upgrade Set, priced at $34, is only available in black or white tones and comes with 128 keycaps.

Razer claims that the company’s keycap upgrade is compatible with most cross-shaped axis switches on standard bottom row U.S. and U.K. keyboard layouts. In terms of Razer’s own keyboards, these PBT Keycap Upgrade kits work with 60%, 65%, tenkeyless, and full-sized keyboards, Razer stated.

I tested the upgraded keycaps on Razer’s Blackwidow v3 Mini Hyperspeed, which is a wireless mechanical keyboard that features a 65% key design, meaning you won’t find a 1o-digit keypad on the right side of this keyboard nor a dedicated row of function keys.

Our Blackwidow already shipped with the Phantom keycaps in black, meaning the keycaps are stealth when the Chroma LED lighting is off, so if you’re looking for phantom keys, you won’t need an upgrade kit. Some of the symbols, however, are printed discretely on the front-side of the keyboard, like the symbols for the Function keys and those to adjust keyboard backlighting, for example.

Razer keycap removal tool in place.

How to use the Razer Keycap Upgrade kit

To remove the cap, use the keycap removal tool inside the box. You’ll want to just insert the tool directly onto the keys on the keyboard so that the clamp attaches to the top and bottom sides of the key. The tool acts as a set of pliers or tweezers, and then you just gently pull upward and the keycap will pop out.

If you’re replacing keycaps on a Razer-made keyboard, you may not need to use the mechanical or optical stabilizers, though these can come in handy if you’re trying to retrofit keyboards from other brands.

Pulling the Razer keycap off.

Once the keycaps are off, find the matching keycap from the upgrade set and press the new keycap firmly down in place — you don’t need the removal tool for this step. We recommend you do the replacement one key at a time to ensure you’re putting the proper keycap upgrade in place.

Upgrading the number row.

Since the keycaps contain U.K. and U.S. key layouts, be sure to find the appropriate replacement key. For example, the alternate character on the “3” key for U.S. keyboard layouts is the hashtag, or #, sign, while the corresponding alternate character for U.K. layouts is the British pound sign.

The process is fairly simple and really requires no technical knowledge whatsoever. The hardest part is finding the corresponding key in the plastic packs. Razer did a great job making the keycap replacement process easy. Combining sets together could add multiple pops of color if that’s your style.

One thing to note with our particular keyboard setup is that since the keys on the number rows can also be used as Function keys, the replacement keycaps don’t include the corresponding function key — like the “F1” — marker on the front side, as the original keycap on the keyboard did. Razer stated that the kit with the coiled cable isn’t intended for 65% keyboards, like ours, as evident with the lack of function key markers. That said, the keys fit and functionality isn’t impacted. The Phantom kits would be a more suitable upgrade in this case.

Razer keycap upgrade kit for the number row.

Given how great of a job Razer had done with the keycap upgrade, I do hope the company eventually branches out from its gaming roots and into adjacent segments with a similar upgrade kit for creators. A keycap upgrade set for Adobe shortcuts for Photoshop and for Premiere would be wonderful to have for photo or video editing.

If you opt for the Keycap Upgrade kit with the coiled cable, it’s worth noting that the cable inside is a USB-C to USB-A. The USB-C end connects directly to the keyboard, while the USB-A end hooks up to your laptop or PC. I do wish Razer would offer a future-proof solution and deliver a kit with a USB-C to USB-C coiled cable as an option.

Razer ergonomic wrist rest.

In addition to the keycap kits, Razer also launched its ergonomic wrist rests that fit a number of its keyboards. The wrist rests are wrapped in a supple leatherette material and come with memory foam padding for comfort, and, in use, I like the way that the leatherette feels — it doesn’t get as warm compared to leather, so your wrist doesn’t get sweaty after prolonged use. The memory foam padding could be a bit thicker, but the overall experience with the wrist rest is very comfortable.

The wrist rest costs $19 and is available in different sizes to fit mini, tenkeyless, and full-sized keyboards. Razer also sells an upgraded full-sized wrist rest with heat transfer fabric for $34. That model comes with cooling gel-infused memory foam to keep your wrists cool during long gaming sessions.

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

Timely Android upgrades are even more critical today – here’s why

Samsung’s bold promise last year to provide three years of Android upgrades was warmly received. In contrast, OnePlus’ revelation that its Nord series phones are only getting one year’s worth was heavily criticized. Fragmentation has always been a problem on Android, but it was something only advanced users and developers used to worry about. These days, however, even regular consumers have become more discerning about what Android version their phones are running and when they will get the next update. As a result, manufacturers, especially the big ones, have to step up their Android upgrade game because of user demand and because it has never been more important to deliver the latest version of Android to everyone as soon as possible.

Android upgrades and security updates

The rather sorry state of software updates on Android really came to light in 2015 with the disclosure of the Stagefright bug. It highlighted how manufacturers and Google itself were ill-equipped to handle fast releases of security patches and bug fixes. A lot has changed in the Android landscape since then, with Google’s monthly Android security bulletins and similar monthly releases from some manufacturers. Unfortunately, that’s no longer enough.

There are two kinds of software updates in Android, matching most release strategies in other major pieces of software, like Apple’s iOS and macOS. First, there are minor maintenance updates that have adopted a monthly cadence, at least as far as Google is concerned. Those include patches to plug up security holes and fixes to some bugs that can be addressed without significant changes to the underlying platform.

And then there are the major Android upgrades released every year, the ones that used to have dessert nicknames. These bring more substantial changes to the operating system, even if users don’t always notice it. While Google has more or less released a new Android version every year like clockwork, it has always been a guessing game for owners of devices made by other companies, and that has to change for the better quickly.

Under the hood

Every new Android version has brought visible changes to the user experience, but not all of them have completely revamped the UI as others. Android 9 Pie, for example, introduced the gesture-based navigation system that moved away from the years-old three-button system, and subsequent releases only refined the implementation without breaking compatibility. Android 5.0 Lollipop introduced Material Design in 2014, which only got minor improvements over the years. Android 12 will be making the first big leap since then with Material Design 2.0, a.k.a. “Material You,” later this year.

That said, every Android release always brings significant changes under the hood, even if they don’t break backward compatibility. Old systems are changed or removed while new ones are put in place. All of these are intended to adapt Android to the latest trends and needs in the mobile market.

The permissions system is probably one of the biggest examples of important changes to Android’s foundations. Almost every new version fine-tunes Android’s permissions, giving users more power to protect their privacy and limiting the damage that malicious apps might be able to do. These changes are often implemented in response to the times, and the times are changing faster than ever before.

Patches are not enough

Google releases security fixes every month, and, thankfully, some manufacturers are trying to keep up. Those patches, however, only address problems that can or need to be fixed quickly without massive changes to Android’s code. Unfortunately, not all bugs are like that.

There will always be bugs that require significant changes to the platform that could break things if not implemented properly. Although Google tries as much to preserve compatibility with older Android versions, a new release is an opportunity to introduce a new solution. Until users receive this particular Android upgrade, they remain vulnerable to whatever security holes the older versions have open.

There are also outdated features or concepts that can only be replaced with a more pervasive and invasive release. Changes to the permissions system, multimedia frameworks, and even the software upgrade system itself require heavier changes to the operating system that can’t be delivered quickly to phones in monthly patches. While it’s understandable that it takes time to test and roll out these massive changes, manufacturers and carriers sadly take too much time to do so.

It’s complicated

The speed of adoption of new Android releases is always compared to that of iOS. In an ideal world, Android upgrades would happen like iOS, rolling out almost immediately to compatible devices with only a few weeks’ delay at most. For better or worse, Android operates in a completely different world, and things work differently there.

Android’s journey begins at Google, but there are so many players involved that the pipeline can stall at any time and at any given point. A lot of the blame is laid on manufacturers and carriers, but even chipset makers like Qualcomm and MediaTek also play a role in the development, testing, certification, and distribution of a new Android release.

Android is nearly 13 years old, and, unfortunately, it hasn’t solved that problem completely just yet. Google has been working on new systems to improve that situation, but, unfortunately, it’s still far from the ideal.

The need for speed

This fragmentation isn’t just egg on Android users’ faces; it also leaves them vulnerable to security flaws and bugs that can’t be fixed with small patches. More than not having the latest features and shiniest new UIs, it also means they aren’t getting the most optimized version of an operating system for today’s devices.

A lot of emphasis has been given to privacy these days and, on mobile, that is often exposed through permissions and other privacy-related frameworks, like indicators when a camera or GPS is being used. Security trends and practices are changing faster than ever today, and Android needs to keep up with those to better protect users. Unfortunately, that agility becomes moot if users are left running versions of Android from 2019 or earlier.

Android upgrades also bring performance improvements, not just from Android itself. More often than not, new releases also include updates from component makers that fix bugs and improve the operation of the hardware. Until users get these upgrades, they won’t be getting the most out of their phones and tablets, at least as far as the latest capabilities that are enabled by their manufacturers.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Fortunately, Google is well aware of this problem and has been working to fix that situation, at least from its end. Efforts like Project Treble and Project Mainline try to make the process easier by splitting up the pieces of the platform or relocating them where it would be easier to push major updates without having to wait for a new Android version. Unfortunately, these efforts don’t seem to be progressing at a fast rate, even if Project Treble has been a requirement for new Android phones for years now.

Part of the problem still lies on the other points along the way, namely with manufacturers and carriers. All the improvements that Google tries to make from the platform side won’t help if OEMs and network operators don’t improve their own processes. Even with Treble and Mainline, the bottlenecks remain the same as before.

Final Thoughts

Many consumers and businesses avoid Android because of the platform’s inconsistency and fragmentation when it comes to software versions and upgrades. Some manufacturers actually take advantage of that by doing their own thing and making their own set of commitments, but only for a small selection of their phones. Even within the same brand, lower-tier phones get a different treatment when it comes to upgrades, simply because they are not a priority.

This situation has to change soon, and not because it’s getting embarrassing. The number of Android devices in the market isn’t going to decrease any time soon, and it will get worse if left unhandled. Consumers need to be more discerning and more vocal about their demand for faster and more regular Android upgrades, even for mid-range or entry-level phones. And then, perhaps, we can start dreaming about phones that get Android upgrades for five years.

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Game

Nintendo Switch (OLED model) revealed: All the upgrades

Ever since the Switch launched, it feels like we’ve been hearing rumors about an incoming Switch Pro model. Early on, those rumors were often paired with reports of a less-expensive, handheld-only Switch model, which eventually materialized with the reveal of the Switch Lite, leading some to believe that a Switch Pro announcement was just a matter of time. Today, Nintendo officially revealed the Nintendo Switch (OLED model), and while it may not have everything that was rumored for the Switch Pro, it does have several sizable upgrades in tow.

The biggest upgrade comes in the display. Nintendo Switch (OLED model) comes with a 7-inch OLED display, which is slightly bigger than the standard Switch’s 6.2-inch LCD. Nintendo promises “vivid colors and crisp contrast when you play on-the-go,” with the Switch OLED, so if one of your complaints about the standard Switch is display quality in handheld mode, this new model might solve those issues.

The Switch (OLED model) will also come with a more robust kickstand. While the kickstand on the back of the standard Switch can feel undersized for the device it’s meant to support, the Switch OLED’s kickstand spans the entire device. In addition, the Switch OLED’s kickstand can also be adjusted for multiple viewing angles. If you play in handheld mode frequently, all of this is probably music to your ears.

The new Switch comes with a redesigned dock that not only looks different from its predecessor but comes with some extra functionality as well in the form of a built-in LAN port. Those with a standard Switch have to use a USB LAN adapter if they want a wired connection, so to have a built-in LAN port right on the dock is a big improvement. Nintendo Switch (OLED model) will come with 64GB of internal storage (compared to the 32GB we get with the standard Switch) along with improved speakers that will deliver enhanced audio, according to Nintendo.

Nintendo says that all existing Switch games and Joy-Cons will work with the Switch (OLED model), so we don’t have to worry about compatibility issues on that front. However, one big question is whether or not the OLED model is compatible with the standard Switch dock or if it needs the new dock to play on a TV. We’ve asked Nintendo for clarification on the matter and will update this article if we hear back.

While the Switch (OLED model) does offer a few key upgrades over the standard Switch, this is probably not the device that those holding out for the rumored Switch Pro were hoping for. While the tech specs for the new Switch aren’t specific about the CPU at the core of this device – they simply say the Switch OLED uses an “NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor” – it’s safe to assume that this is either the same or similar to the CPU in the standard Switch.

In handheld mode, the Switch OLED will still run at a max resolution of 720p, while the TV mode’s resolution maxes out at 1080p. Those are the target resolutions for the standard Switch, too, so we aren’t getting any upgrades in that regard. Battery life is quoted as 4.5 to 9 hours depending on the game you’re playing, but that’s the same as the standard Switch too.

So, this is not the Switch Pro that many were likely hoping for, even though it has the OLED display often rumored for the Switch Pro. Nintendo Switch (OLED model) will run $349.99 and will be offered in two configurations: one with white Joy-Cons and one with neon red/blue Joy-Cons. It’ll be out in the US on October 8th, which is the same day Metroid Dread launches.

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Game

Ubisoft Details Snowdrop Engine Upgrades For Avatar Game

Even though it came out all the way back in 2009, Avatar’s world is still technically impressive, and that fidelity is going to be reflected in the game Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. Announced at Ubisoft’s Forward E3 press conference with a technically impressive trailer, much of the game is still a mystery. However, Ubisoft has put out a new trailer, and while it doesn’t talk about gameplay or the game’s story, it does detail the changes that had to be made to Ubisoft’s Snowdrop engine to make the game visually stunning.

According to Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora‘s technical art director Sebastian Lindoff, some “major upgrades and big improvements” had to be made to the Snowdrop Engine, which has previously powered both of Tom Clancy’s The Division games, plus Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and South Park: The Fractured But Whole, among others. The result of these upgrades is a vast and varied Pandora, with “deep, dense jungles on the ground” and “grand vistas high up in the skies.”

The Snowdrop engine’s microdetail system has also been put to work, fleshing out every scene with thousands of different assets. According to senior technical artist Kunal Luthra, that means there will be more “highly detailed environments for Pandora.”

Ray tracing will also play a big part in the visuals of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. With ray tracing on, the light from bioluminescent plants and animals will reflect around areas realistically, and lighting overall will give the game a more photorealistic look.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora is set to launch sometime in 2022 for the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Stadia, and Amzaon Luna.

Editors’ Choice




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Tech News

Vivo X phones will get three years of Android upgrades

Android has long been criticized for its fragmentation, especially when it comes to OS updates. New iOS versions are almost always installed within just weeks after its release while some Android phones are still left with versions two or three years old. Of course, part of the problem lies with manufacturers that updated slowly or even rarely. Recently, however, these companies have been stepping up their commitments and Vivo is the latest to promise three years of major Android OS upgrades, at least for its flagship phones.

There was a time when manufacturers only guaranteed two major Android releases but most couldn’t even keep up with that. Others offer an extra year after that but only for monthly security updates. For the past months, however, some Android manufacturers have been promising three or even four years of updates, both OS and patches, almost outdoing Google’s commitment to its own Pixel phones.

Chinese brands are also notorious for dropping the ball on such updates but Vivo is trying to change that perception. It has just proudly announcing that it is committing to providing three years of Android OS upgrades but, as always, there’s an important catch to this seemingly generous promise.

That commitment only applies to its X series of flagship phones and even then only those that will be launched starting July 2021 onwards. This definitely makes its phones more attractive for long-term use but it sadly doesn’t say anything about its other phones already in the market. It doesn’t even include the Vivo X60 Pro+ pictured above that it just launched last March.

To be fair, it’s still a big leap for a company that may not have the best track record when it comes to Android updates. OPPO has also been reported to make a similar new promise but that applies to an even narrower range of phones, only the Find X3 series this year.

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Computing

Apple upgrades processors in MacBook Pro, 8-core 15-inch model now available

Apple  announced on Tuesday that the MacBook Pro is getting a speed boost. The company revealed that the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is now available with eight-generation Intel processors, while the 15-inch MacBook Pro now sports ninth-generation CPUs, including the first 8-core Mac laptop.

Apple also said that the 2019 MacBook Pro features changes to the butterfly keyboard mechanism that should help prevent the problems that users have experienced in previous MacBook models. The new models are also included in Apple’s Keyboard Service Program, which means that the company will repair the keyboard for free up to four years after purchase.

Apple is offering the new MacBook Pro models at the same price points as those released in July 2018.

15-inch MacBook Pro

The $2,799 15-inch MacBook Pro could be the fastest Mac laptop ever, with its ninth-generation 8-core 2.3GHz Core i9 processor, with Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz. Apple says the new MacBook Pro is two times faster than a quad-core MacBook Pro, and 40 percent faster than the 6-core model that was introduced last July. Other specs include 4GB Radeon Pro 560X graphics, 16GB of 2400MHz DDR4 memory, and a 512GB SSD.

The $2,399 15-inch MacBook Pro now has a ninth-generation 2.6GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 processor, an upgrade from the eighth-generation 2.2GHz 6-core Core i7 CPU that was introduced last year. Other specs include 4GB Radeon Pro 555X graphics, 16GB of 2400MHz DDR4 memory, and a 256GB SSD.

13-inch MacBook Pro

As for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the $1,799 and $1,999 standard configurations get new eighth-generation quad-core Core i5 processors.

The $1,799 model now has an eighth-generation 2.4GHz quad-core Core i5 processor, which replaces an eighth-generation 2.3GHz quad-core Core i5 processor in the model released last July. The rest of the key specs remain unchanged: integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655, 8GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory, and a 256GB SSD.

The $1,999 13-inch MacBook Pro has the same eighth-generation 2.4GHz quad-core Core i5 processor, integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655, and 8GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory as the $1,799 model. The extra cost is for a 512GB SSD.

The $1,299 and $1,499 models remain unchanged with seventh-generation 2.3GHz dual-core Core i5 CPUs. These models were introduced in 2017.

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Computing

Surface Book 2 firmware fixes Nvidia GPU bug blocking Windows 10 upgrades

Microsoft has apparently fixed an issue with its Surface Book 2’s discrete GPU that prevented it from receiving the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, supplying new firmware to solve the problem.

As part of a new Surface firmware update released Friday, Microsoft apparently has fixed both a bug affecting the Surface Book 2’s discrete GPU as well as a separate issue that caused its CPU clock speed to slow to a crawl. Thurrott first reported the story. 

Microsoft originally blocked the Surface Book 2 from receiving the May 2019 update in July, after the discrete Nvidia GPU either failed to show up in Device Manager, or that games that would use it failed to run—or both. Microsoft said at the time that it applied a “compatibility hold on Surface Book 2 devices with Nvidia dGPUs from being offered Windows 10, version 1903, until this issue is resolved.”

That hold came after I had already updated my test Surface Book 2 to the May 2019 Update, though I wasn’t able to run even basic games that required some sort of acceleration, such as Broforce.

Since then, however, I had noticed that the dGPU was showing up regularly, allowing me to play 3D games like Prey without issue, and for prolonged periods of time. It’s the end for a somewhat embarrassing period for Microsoft, since its flagship detachable notebook couldn’t receive its latest Windows 10 OS update. 

In any event, if you own a Surface Book 2 (or just a Surface) you should be able to download the latest firmware via Windows Update, or you my have it already. We can’t help but wonder if someone at Consumer Reports is taking notes. 

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Tech News

iPad Pro in April could come with significant upgrades

Years ago, market analysts and tech pundits have declared tablets to be dead. They probably didn’t foresee Apple reviving and then conquering that market with the release of the iPad Pro line. From a new tablet-oriented iPadOS to ditching Lightning for USB-C, Apple has been continuously redefining its iPads from top to bottom. The next iPad Pros will definitely fit the bill, at least according to this latest info dump, and it won’t just be because of a mini LED display.

Rumors and insider tips have long talked about what this year’s iPad Pros would bring. Most of those focused on the switch to a mini LED screen, at least for the larger 12.9-inch model. Just recently, there have also been talks about the processor that will go inside both Apple tablets, and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman just added fuel to the fires of excitement.

According to the journalist, the processor in the new iPad Pros will be on par with the Apple M1 found in the new breed of ARM-based Macs. He doesn’t specifically name the processor, though, but some have already named it the Apple A14X. Gurman’s insider sources, however, don’t end there.

The iPad Pros will also make a switch to Thunderbolt, which would still be compatible with USB-C that the tablets just embraced. This upgrade would put it more in line with the MacBook Pros and offer faster data transfer rates. This will be perfect not just for external hard drives but also for the growing number of Thunderbolt monitors in the market.

These changes definitely take the iPad Pros closer to their MacBook cousins but Apple hasn’t forgotten about their non-Pro siblings either. The same report says that the base iPads will be getting thinner and lighter bodies this year and the iPad mini will even get a larger screen, though probably still in the same physical dimensions and overall design. The new iPad Pros are expected to debut in April but there are now rumors that it might not come with 5G yet.

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