Politics welcome

Welcome to your new Politics Minute. Are you ready for the messiest election in US history? – The Guardian

Hello and welcome to the US Politics Minute. The last Politics Minute was at the end of the 2018 midterms, and now were back for the 2020 election cycle. And this time, were doing things a little dif…
Read More

generation welcome

Welcome to the next generation of gaming – The Verge

There’s never been a better time to buy a new game console or PC. While consoles have typically been held back by weaker CPUs, spinning hard drives, and average GPU performance, the next-generation PS5 and Xbox Series S / X are promising some big leaps in performance that will put them beyond even average gaming PCs. Nvidia, meanwhile, is claiming it will deliver the “biggest breakthrough in PC gaming since 1999” with its new RTX 3000 series of graphics cards.

The stage is set for a next generation of games that can take advantage of powerful CPUs, GPUs, and SSD storage across consoles and PCs.

We’re now starting to get a good idea of what this next generation will cost and when it will arrive. Microsoft is launching its Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles on November 10th, priced at $499 for the X and $299 for the S. Sony hasn’t provided a release date or pricing for the PS5 just yet, but it’s almost certainly arriving in November. And if you’re already interested in a PS5 or Sony’s first-party games, then you’re probably willing to pay whatever the final price is.

Sony’s PlayStation 5 consoles.
Image: Sony

While Microsoft, Sony, and Nvidia are promising big things for the next generation of gaming, they’re all delivering a big amount of choice.

Microsoft and Sony are each offering two options. Microsoft is releasing a $299 Xbox Series S console that’s less powerful than the larger Xbox Series X, as it’s designed for people with 1080p TVs or 1440p monitors. The Series X is promising 4K gaming at up to 120fps. Sony is also launching two next-gen consoles: the PS5 with its traditional disc drive and a disc-less digital edition. This will give PS5 buyers a cheaper option, with the same performance and specs for both consoles. Although they appear similar, Sony and Microsoft’s approaches to the next-gen are very different, especially around hardware choices.

Sony has opted for a blisteringly fast SSD, promising to radically change the future of game design and reduce or even eliminate load screens. The potential for this SSD tech has been demonstrated with the Unreal Engine 5 and even in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney thinks the PS5’s SSD technology will also push PC gaming forward, but this is likely many years away and how developers utilize it fully is still a big unknown.

Sony is also promising 10.28 teraflops of performance, which is nearly 15 percent less than the Xbox Series X. There are also some fundamental differences in cooling and architecture, allowing Sony to deliver variable GPU and CPU speeds, with Microsoft sticking to the more traditional fixed speeds. Which design will offer the best experience for playing games still remains to be seen, but it’s reasonable to assume both will be very close in 4K performance. Either way, all gaming fans are winning here as a result of this big hardware push.

Both consoles will significantly reduce load times, provide higher frame rates in games, and deliver better visuals. The CPU and SSD improvements alone are significant for game development, and if fully utilized, they could even push PC games to start requiring SSDs. It’s also encouraging to see both Sony and Microsoft prioritize up to 120fps, instead of trying to market these consoles as 8K capable.

Nvidia’s RTX 3080 graphics card.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

We’re also on the cusp of an era of gaming that includes real-time ray-tracing effects. Nvidia pushed this two years ago with its RTX 2000 line of graphics cards, but game developers weren’t ready, consoles definitely weren’t ready, and pricing was a big issue. All three next-gen consoles are promising ray-tracing support, and we’ve started to see more and more games support it. Call of Duty: Warzone, Fortnite, and Minecraft are some of the big additions, and there’s bound to be a lot more throughout 2021.

While console gaming is getting the hardware boost it desperately needed, PC gaming is certainly not being left behind. Nvidia’s RTX 3080 promises twice the performance of the RTX 2080 for $699, all while delivering 29.7 teraflops of GPU performance. If Nvidia’s numbers deliver a big performance jump — which has been demonstrated in Doom Eternal so far — then 4K gaming could become more affordable in the PC world.

Nvidia is even trying to move beyond 4K, with its monster RTX 3090 graphics card promising 8K gaming for PCs. AMD is also preparing to launch its next Radeon line of cards, which will be based on the RDNA 2 architecture that includes hardware-accelerated ray tracing and variable-rate shading. This is the same architecture that powers the Xbox Series X / S and PS5. AMD could help push the price of 4K PC gaming down, but we won’t know until October.

All of this next-generation hardware is an exciting end to a challenging year for the gaming industry and the world at large. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has reshaped how we all work and socialize. Games have provided an important way to stay connected to friends, family, and co-workers and are a useful escape from the stresses of an unusual year.

We’re just a few days away from the next generation of PC graphics cards and exactly two months until the Xbox Series X / S launch. It’s now up to Sony to price and date the PS5 and Nintendo to lead the Switch toward 4K. Welcome to the next generation of gaming.

Read More

Social welcome

Welcome Home Bob & Doug: Social Media Welcomes #LaunchAmerica Astronauts Home – NASA

Welcome Home Bob & Doug: Social Media Welcomes #LaunchAmerica Astronauts Home – NASA
Read More

Dutch welcome

Dutch welcome new ideas on EU recovery fund but deal far off – Reuters

WARSAW/ROME (Reuters) – A stand-off between EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Saturday threatened to derail plans for a massive stimulus fund to breathe life into their coronavirus-hammered economies.

“We are in an impasse now. It is more complex than what was expected,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a video on Facebook as the 27 European Union leaders neared the end of a second day of talks. “There are many issues that remain unresolved.”

The budget commissioner of the bloc’s executive reminded the leaders – who wore masks and kept their distance from each other – that COVID-19 was still among them and they needed to act.

“Just a solemn reminder: the Corona crisis is not over: infections on the rise in many countries,” Johannes Hahn tweeted. “High time to reach an agreement which allows us to provide the urgently needed support for our citizens+economies!”

With the pandemic dealing Europe its worst economic shock since World War Two, leaders gathered on Friday to haggle over a proposed 750 billion euro ($856 billion) recovery fund and a 2021-27 EU budget of more than 1 trillion euros.

But a group of wealthy and fiscally “frugal” northern states led by the Netherlands have blocked progress in the first face-to-face EU summit since spring lockdowns across the continent.

They favour repayable loans rather than free grants for the hard-hit indebted economies mostly on the Mediterranean rim, and they want control over how the funds are spent.

Hopes for an agreement grew earlier on Saturday when the summit’s chairman, European Council President Charles Michel, proposed revisions to the overall package that were designed to assuage the Dutch concerns.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte speaks with Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during a meeting on the sidelines of the first face-to-face EU summit since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium July 18, 2020. Francisco Seco/Pool via REUTERS


Under the new proposals, the portion of grants in the recovery fund would be reduced to 450 billion euros from 500 billion and an ‘emergency brake’ on disbursement would be added.

But hopes that this would be enough to get a deal faded quickly.

“The chance is very slim that an agreement will be reached tonight. Very slim,” a diplomat from an EU member state said.

The diplomat said “frugals” were pressing for deeper cuts to the fund and bigger rebates for net payers into the core EU budget, among other demands.

Other countries had their own demands in negotiations criss-crossing different regional and economic priorities, putting in doubt an unprecedented act of solidarity for the EU under which the European Commission would borrow billions of euros on capital markets on behalf of them all.

The EU is already grappling with the protracted saga of Britain’s exit from the bloc and has been bruised by past crises, from the financial meltdown of 2008 to feuds over migration.

Another economic shock could expose it to more eurosceptic, nationalist and protectionist forces, and weaken its standing against China, the United States or Russia.

Slideshow (4 Images)

The exact size of the EU’s long-term budget and how far to use payouts as leverage for reforms, or whether to withhold money from countries that fail to live up to democratic standards, were still unresolved on Saturday evening.

Hungary, backed by its eurosceptic, nationalist ally Poland, has threatened to veto the whole package over a new envisaged mechanism to freeze out countries flouting democratic principles.

As leaders huddled in groups to find a way forward, an EU diplomat said that Michel would come up with another revision to the package before they gathered for dinner.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Francesca Landini; Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels and Andreas Sytas in Vilnius; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Hugh Lawson

Read More