cloud gaming

Cloud gaming hits Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on September 15th – Engadget

Project xCloud makes Xbox console games playable on Android smartphones and tablets, streamed in over WiFi or cellular data. It’s been live in beta since October 2019, and it’s proven to be one of the most consistent, steadily-growing streaming services out there.

The standalone Project xCloud preview program will shut down on September 1st, and Microsoft is no longer accepting new testers. From here on, an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership is the only way to try out Microsoft’s cloud-gaming technology.

Game Pass Ultimate costs $15 a month, and it gives members access to a massive game library on Xbox consoles, PC and Android devices, plus Gold multiplayer services. There’s also a basic version of Game Pass for consoles, which costs $10 a month, and a separate version for PC, which is on sale right now for $5 a month. Game Pass went live in 2017, and today there are more than 10 million members on the books, outstripping Sony’s PlayStation Now subscriber count five times over.

Streaming is a critical aspect of Microsoft’s strategy for the future of console gaming. The company is banking on cross-platform subscription services like Game Pass to generate recurring revenue and create an all-encompassing gaming ecosystem for the largest number of players possible. Combined, Game Pass and xCloud streaming will theoretically give players a massive, constantly updated game library that’s accessible on practically any piece of hardware they have, negating the need for a shiny new console. Microsoft has been dismantling the idea of strict console generations for years, and it’s now targeting players on any device.

This inclusive approach comes with its drawbacks. Even though the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 have comparable CPU, GPU, RAM and SSD stats, it’s likely that games are going to look better on Sony’s console for the first few years. Microsoft has promised that all first-party Xbox Series X games will also run on the Xbox One family of consoles for “the foreseeable future,” limiting developers to seven-year-old hardware. That’s one reason Halo Infinite received such a tepid reception after its reveal in July.

Meanwhile, Sony is maintaining rigid divisions between console generations. Games built for the PS5 are free to take advantage of its significant improvements in processing power, graphics capabilities and hardware-driven AI systems. PlayStation Now is lightyears behind xCloud, but Sony is actually partnering with Microsoft to leverage Azure and xCloud technology for its own use.

With xCloud in Game Pass Ultimate, players will be able to seamlessly transition among platforms, starting a game on the console and continuing it on a tablet, or vice versa. Friends list, achievements, controller settings and saved games exist across devices.

XCloud will be available via Game Pass Ultimate in 22 countries at launch, and those are as follows: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

And here’s the list of confirmed xCloud-Game-Pass titles:

• Ark: Survival Evolved

• Bleeding Edge

• Costume Quest 2

• Crackdown 3 (campaign)

• Destiny 2

• F1 2019

• Forza Horizon 4

• Gears of War: Ultimate Edition

• Gears of War 4

• Gears 5 Ultimate Edition

• Grounded

• Halo 5: Guardians

• Halo Wars: Definitive Edition

• Halo Wars 2

• Halo: The Master Chief Collection

• Halo: Spartan Assault

• Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

• Killer Instinct Definitive Edition

• Max: The Curse of Brotherhood

• Minecraft Dungeons

• The Outer Worlds

• Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition

• Ori and the Will of the Wisps

• Quantum Break

• ReCore: Definitive Edition

• Ryse: Son of Rome

• Sea of Thieves: Anniversary Edition

• State of Decay 2: Juggernaut Edition

• Sunset Overdrive

• Super Lucky’s Tale

• Tell Me Why

• The Bard’s Tale Trilogy

• Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut

• Wasteland 3

• Wasteland Remastered

• Yakuza Kiwami 2

Update 8/4 2:30PM: Microsoft announced the closure of the xCloud preview program this morning, and this information has been added to the story.

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cloud Saharan

Saharan dust cloud cloaks U.S. Gulf Coast in choking haze – CBS News

Massive dust cloud to reach the U.S.

What’s been called the most significant dust cloud in 50 years has now shrouded the U.S. Gulf Coast in a thick, dusty haze. The dust layer, which originated in the Sahara desert and drifted across the Atlantic, is forecast to continue moving north and east through the weekend, impacting areas from Texas and Florida all the way up to as far north as the Canadian border.

For most people, the dust will merely be a nuisance, but for many who have breathing issues the extra particulates in the atmosphere can cause complications. The timing couldn’t be much worse, considering that a recent Harvard study shows that long-term exposure to fine particles of pollution in the air, much like dust, may be linked to higher rates of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19.

Currently the dust is thickest from Texas to Florida.

If you are having trouble depicting the #dust among the clouds, I drew a approx outline around it. The dust is the milky hazy gray among the brighter white clouds. #DustStorm #dustcloud

— Jeff Berardelli (@WeatherProf) June 26, 2020

The dust is responsible for the dense haze shrouding Houston’s skyline in the photo below.

Texas Daily Life
Downtown Houston is cloaked in haze as a Saharan dust cloud moves over parts of Texas on Friday, June 26, 2020.

David J. Phillip / AP

Most of the dust layer exists far above the surface — mostly between a few thousand feet above the surface to about 15,000 to 20,000 feet up. However, vertical mixing of the atmosphere and rainfall can bring that dust to the ground, and that’s when it can become harmful to people with respiratory issues.

In some places, like the Southeast, enough dust will settle that odds are people there will be able to see a thin layer of dust on their cars.

Dust watch day 2. Some low clouds moving through then the gray haze of the dust up top. Just too dense for nice sunrise colors. Air quality alert today. #Nola #dust #SaharanDust

— Hank Allen (@HankAllenWX) June 26, 2020


A pilot and @WINKNews viewer sent me this earlier today above Florida at 15,000 ft. Wow! @StormHour @spann @JimCantore

— Matt Devitt (@MattDevittWINK) June 26, 2020

Brown Haze can be seen in the Sky over Corpus Christi this morning indicating the Saharan Dust has arrived. #stxwx

— NWS Corpus Christi (@NWSCorpus) June 26, 2020

2pm update: this isn’t going to go over well ?

— Patrick Ryan (@pmcelligott) June 25, 2020

The dust plume is forecast to break into two chunks due to a split in steering flow in the mid levels of the atmosphere, which will act as a guide. 

One part of the dust cloud will be pulled northward from Texas through the Plains States and Midwest this weekend, and even to the Canadian border on Monday morning. The dust will diffuse and thin out dramatically by the time it reaches the nation’s middle, but cities like Kansas City, Minneapolis and Chicago will see a hazier than normal sky. The dust in the atmosphere will also make for some especially vivid sunrises and sunsets.

The other batch of dust will be thicker and linger in the South, impacting Texas and areas eastward and northeastward into the Tennessee Valley, the Carolinas and Florida. Here the dust will be thick enough to pose breathing risks. It is recommended that people in these areas wear a mask when outdoors.

This NASA animation below shows the progression of the dust through Sunday. The white areas are where dust will be the most dense; the blues and purples show where it will be more diffuse. 

The latest Saharan Dust Layer forecast keeps most of the dust in the SE 1/4 of the nation… but some of the thinner haze will float north through the Plain states, Midwest, Ohio and TN Valley – even areas like Missouri, Iowa, Chicago will see some dust by Sunday – albeit thin.

— Jeff Berardelli (@WeatherProf) June 26, 2020

Now, dust has both negative and positive impacts. 

On the positive side, for millions of years dust has been transported by the east-to-west trade winds from Africa across the Caribbean to Florida, supplying much of the soil, and nutrients in the soil, for growth of vegetation. Scientists believe that the nutrient load in the environment around Florida and the Bahamas is otherwise so poor that without the African dust, the coral reefs would have had a hard time growing and flourishing. Dust plumes also supply much of the nutrients to sustain life in the Amazon rainforest.

NASA | Satellite Tracks Saharan Dust to Amazon in 3-D by
NASA Goddard on

Naturally, due to the severity of this dust cloud, many are wondering if it has any connection to climate change. The evidence is mixed. As to whether this dramatic dust cloud was made worse by climate change, there is no clear answer yet. But the process of dust cloud formation can lend some clues.

Dust forms in the Sahara desert and on the edge of the more lush Sahel — a narrow transition zone between desert to the north and savanna to the south — in north Africa. There is evidence that these areas have been generally drying out and the desert has been expanding lately due partially to natural cycles and partially to human-caused climate change. 

As the Earth warms, evaporation of surface water increases, drying out the Sahara and the northern fringe of the Sahel even more. A 2019 study did indeed find that dust transport increased in the last century compared to the last 2,000 years.

In the future, the climate models project mixed results in terms of decreased rainfall and increased heavy rain events in the area due to climate change. However, it seems virtually certain that even if there is more rain, it will not be enough to counteract the increased evaporation. Thus, the Sahara and Sahel will likely dry out even more. This would theoretically create more dust.

But, on the other hand, a study in 2016 found that the bigger controlling factor for dust clouds may be potential changes in the wind flow. In this case, the study finds in the future the tropical circulation may weaken due to global warming. Weaker winds would stir up less dust from Africa and thus dust clouds in the Atlantic would decrease. 

Decreased dust in the tropical Atlantic may mean a warmer ocean, due to less dust blocking the sun. And less dry-dusty air could mean a better chance for hurricanes to form and intensify. But the jury is still out on that. 

What is clear is that the atmospheric dust plays an important role in our lives, affecting everything from respiratory health to pretty sunsets, and from fertilizing coral reefs and forests to squelching hurricanes. Positive or negative, what this dust cloud episode teaches us, once again, is that everything on Earth is interconnected.

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