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Microsoft Asked To Compensate After Windows 10 Update Bricked PCs

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 10:20
Microsoft has been asked to pay compensation to customers who suffered malfunctions on their PCs when upgrading to Windows 10. Several customers have complained in the past one year about issues such as their computer upgrading to Windows 10 without their consent, and high-data usage due to automatic downloads of Windows 10 installation files in the background. The consumer watchdog has told Microsoft to "honor consumers' rights" and compensate those who have faced issues because of Windows 10. From a report:"Many people are having issues with Windows 10 and we believe Microsoft should be doing more to fix the problem," said Alex Neill, director of policy at Which? Of 2,500 people surveyed, who had upgraded to Windows 10, more than 12 percent said they ended up rolling back to their previous version of the operating system. More than half stated that this was because the upgrade had adversely affected their PC. "We rely heavily on our computers to carry out daily activities so, when they stop working, it is frustrating and stressful," Alex Neill, Director of Campaigns and Policy, was quoted as saying.

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Yahoo Is Expected To Confirm Massive Data Breach, Impacting Hundreds Of Millions Of Users

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 09:40
Last month, it was reported that a hacker was selling account details of at least 200 million Yahoo users. The company's service had apparently been hacked, putting several hundred million users accounts at risk. Since then Yahoo has remained tight-lipped on the matter, but that could change very soon. Kara Swisher of Recode is reporting that Yahoo is poised to confirm that massive data breach of its service. From the report: While sources were unspecific about the extent of the incursion, since there is the likelihood of government investigations and legal action related to the breach, they noted that it is widespread and serious. Earlier this summer, Yahoo said it was investigating a data breach in which hackers claimed to have access to 200 million user accounts and was selling them online. "It's as bad as that," said one source. "Worse, really." The announcement, which is expected to come this week, also possible larger implications on the $4.8 billion sale of Yahoo's core business -- which is at the core of this hack -- to Verizon. The scale of the liability could be large and bring untold headaches to the new owners. Shareholders are likely to worry that it could lead to an adjustment in the price of the transaction.

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Uber's Terrifying 'Ghost Drivers' Are Freaking Out Passengers in China

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 09:00
Several Chinese publications are reporting that "ghost drivers" are frightening Uber passengers into paying for trips they didn't take. Passengers in Tianjin, Qingdao, Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou have been canceling Uber rides after seeing creepy driver profile pictures pop up in the app. Quartz reports: Passengers using the ride-hailing app in several Chinese cities have reported seeing their requests picked up by drivers with creepy profile photos of zombie faces. According to Chinese news site Sixth Tone, the point of these ghostly profiles is to scare passengers into canceling the trip, so they are fined for a few yuan (less than a dollar), which goes to the driver. Other passengers have reported seeing their rides accepted, but then their trips were "started" by the driver on the app before they even get to the car. These "ghost rides" last less than a minute, with the driver charging customers between 8 and 15 yuan (about 1 to 2 dollars) for a ride that never happened. Calls to the drivers in these cases are never picked up, according to The Paper, a state-owned media. Passengers can however eventually be reimbursed by Uber China if they lodge a complaint.

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Oversight Orders Reddit To Preserve Deleted Posts In Clinton Investigation

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 08:00
HockeyPuck writes: The House Oversight Committee has ordered Reddit to preserve deleted posts believed to be written by Paul Combetta, an IT technician the committee suspects may have deleted Hillary Clinton emails that were under subpoena. This follows up on an earlier report on reddit users' findings. Reddit users found that Combetta, through the username "StoneTear," requested help in relation to retaining and purging email messages after 60 days, and requested advice on how to remove a "VERY VIP" individual's email address from archived content. The Hill says in its report: "It's unclear what, exactly, the committee will be able to learn from the information Reddit preserves. According to the company's public policy for handling official requests, it maintains basic subscriber information, like IP logs, which identify the computer used to access a site. According to the policy, Reddit can maintain deleted records -- like a user's account -- for 90 days if it receives an official preservation order. Otherwise, the information will be subject to Reddit's 'normal retention or destruction schedules.'"

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Scientists Discover That Horses Can Use Symbols To Talk To Us

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 05:00
sciencehabit writes from a report via Science Magazine: Scientists have discovered that horses can learn to use another human tool for communicating: pointing to symbols. They join a short list of other species, including some primates, dolphins, and pigeons, with this talent. Scientists taught 23 riding horses of various breeds to look at a display board with three icons, representing wearing or not wearing a blanket. Horses could choose between a "no change" symbol or symbols for "blanket on" or "blanket off." The horses did not touch the symbols randomly, but made their choices based on the weather. If it was wet, cold, and windy, they touched the blanket-on icon; horses that were already wearing a blanket nosed the "no change" image. But when the weather was sunny, the animals touched the blanket-off symbol; those that weren't blanketed pressed the "no change" icon. The study's strong results show that the horses understood the consequences of their choices, say the scientists, who hope that other researchers will use their method to ask horses more questions. The report has been published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

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Appeals Court Decision Kills North Carolina Town's Gigabit Internet

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 02:00
MojoKid writes: In early August, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the FCC had no authority to prevent states from imposing restrictions on municipal internet. This was a result of the FCC stepping in last year in an effort to "remove barriers to broadband investment and competition." However, the courts sided with the states, which said that the FCC's order impeded on state rights. In the end, this ruling clearly favored firmly entrenched big brand operators like Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and ATT, which lobbied hard to keep competition at bay. The federal ruling specifically barred municipal internet providers from offering service outside of their city limits, denying them from providing service to under-served communities. The fallout from the federal court's rejection of the FCC order to extend a lifeline to municipal internet providers has claimed another victim. The small community of Pinetops, North Carolina -- population 1,300 -- will soon have its gigabit internet connection shut off. Pinetops has been the recipient of Greenlight internet service, which is provided by the neighboring town of Wilson. The town of Wilson has been providing electric power to Pinetops for the past 40 years, and had already deployed fiber through the town in order to bolster its smart grid initiative. What's infuriating to the Wilson City Council and to the Pinetop residents that will lose their high-speed service is that the connections are already in place. There's no logical reason why they should be cut off, but state laws and the lobbyists supporting those laws have deemed what Greenlight is doing illegal. Provide power to a neighboring town -- sure that's OK. Provide better internet to a neighboring town -- lawsuit

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Smoking Permanently Damages Your DNA, Study Finds

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: Smoking scars DNA in clear patterns, researchers reported Tuesday. Most of the damage fades over time, they found -- but not all of it. Their study of 16,000 people found that while most of the disease-causing genetic footprints left by smoking fade after five years if people quit, some appear to stay there forever. The marks are made in a process called methylation, which is an alteration of DNA that can inactivate a gene or change how it functions -- often causing cancer and other diseases. The team examined blood samples given by 16,000 people taking part in various studies going back to 1971. In all the studies, people have given blood samples and filled out questionnaires about smoking, diet, lifestyle and their health histories. They found smokers had a pattern of methylation changes affecting more than 7,000 genes, or one-third of known human genes. Many of the genes had known links to heart disease and cancers known to be caused by smoking. Among quitters, most of these changes reverted to the patterns seen in people who never smoked after about five years, the team reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics. But smoking-related changes in 19 genes, including the TIAM2 gene linked to lymphoma, lasted 30 years, the team found.

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Trump Opposes Plan For US To Hand Over Internet Oversight To a Global Governance

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 20:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump opposes a long-planned transition of oversight of the internet's technical management from the U.S. government to a global community of stakeholders, his campaign said in a statement on Wednesday. Congress should block the handover, scheduled to occur on Oct. 1, "or internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost," Stephen Miller, national policy director for the Trump campaign, said in a statement. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a former presidential primary foe of Trump's who has refused to endorse the real estate developer, has led a movement in Congress to block the transition, arguing it could cede control of the internet itself to authoritarian regimes like Russia and China and threaten online freedom. Technical experts have said those claims are baseless, and that a delay will backfire by undermining U.S. credibility in future international negotiations over internet standards and security. Publicly proposed in March 2014, the transfer of oversight of the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is expected to go forward unless Congress votes to block the move. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton supports the Obama administration's planned transition to a global community of technologists, civil society groups and internet users, according to policy positions available on her campaign website.

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TV Manufacturers Accused of Gaming Energy Usage Tests

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 20:00
The Natural Resources Defense Council has issued a new report accusing Samsung, LG and Vizio of "misleading consumers and regulators about how much energy high-definition screens devour, alleging that the televisions were designed to perform more efficiently during government testing than in ordinary use." The report "estimates that the collective electricity bills during a decade of watching the high-definition TVs will be $1.2 billion higher than the energy ratings imply," and that "the higher energy usage generates an additional 5 million metric tons of carbon pollution." CBS Local reports: The findings are based on an analysis of high-definition TVs with screens spanning at least 55 inches made in 2015 and 2016. The estimates on electricity costs are based on high definition TVs with screens 32 inches and larger. The study concluded that Samsung and LG have gamed the system during government testing in an effort to get better scores on the "Energy Star" yellow labels that appear on the sets in stores. Those scores often influence the buying decisions of consumers looking to save money on their utility bills. The report said Samsung and LG did not break any laws in their manipulation of the tests, but rather exploited weaknesses in the Department of Energy's system to measure electricity usage. The Samsung and LG sets have a dimming feature that turns off the screens' backlight during part of the 10-minute video clip used in government tests. But that does not typically happen when the sets are being used in homes to watch sports, comedies, dramas and news programming. The analysis also found that Samsung, LG and Vizio disable energy-saving features in their TVs when consumers change the factory setting on the picture, a common practice. The energy-saving feature is turned off, with little or no warning on the screen, sometimes doubling the amount of electricity consumed, according to the NRDC report.

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W3C Set To Publish HTML 5.1, Work Already Started On HTML 5.2

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 19:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Softpedia: Members of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) are getting ready to launch the HTML 5.1 specification and have already started work on the upcoming HTML 5.2 version since mid-August. The HTML 5.1 standard has been promoted from a "Release Candidate" to a "Proposed Recommendation," the last step before it becomes a "W3C Recommendation," and officially replaces HTML 5 as the current HTML standard. As a Proposed Recommendation, HTML 5.1 is practically locked against major changes, and outside small tweaks here and there, we are currently looking at a 99.99 percent version of the upcoming HTML 5.1 standard. The vote to promote HTML 5.1 from RC to PR was approved in unanimity, a clear sign that major browser makers have reached a general consensus on what the standard should look like, and what they should be implementing in their browsers in upcoming versions. You can read more on HTML 5.1 here, the changes and support table here, and the HTML 5.2 specification draft here.

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Reddit Brings Down North Korea's Entire Internet

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 18:40
After a North Korean system administrator misconfigured its nameserver allowing anyone to query it and get the list of the domains that exist for .kp, it was revealed that the secretive country only has 28 websites. That's 28 websites for a country with nearly 25 million people. Naturally, the story was published all across the web, including on Reddit, which resulted in a high number of users visiting North Korea's websites. Mirror.co.uk reports: When a list of North Korea's available websites was posted on Reddit, the surge of visitors to the reclusive state's online offering overloaded the servers. North Korea runs a completely locked-down version of the internet that consists of only 28 "websites" that the population is allowed to view. However, a technical slip-up allowed a GitHub user to work their way into the country's computer network and view the websites from the outside. As the GitHub user puts it: "One of North Korea's top level name servers was accidentally configured to allow global [Domain Name System] transfers. This allows anyone who performs [a zone transfer request] to the country's ns2.kptc.kp name server to get a copy of the nation's top level DNS data." Pretty soon, links to all the websites were posted on Reddit, where thousands of visitors took the opportunity to see what the web looks like from Pyongyang. Reddit's surge of traffic isn't the first time North Korea's internet has been knocked out. In 2014, the country suffered a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that was believed to have originated from the U.S. Redditor BaconBakin points out that while North Korea has 28 websites, GTA V has 83 websites. They added, "I think it's safe to say that San Andreas is more technologically advanced than North Korea."

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With 3D Printer Gun Files, National Security Interest Trumps Free Speech, Court Rules

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 18:00
A federal appeals court ruled this week against Defense Distributed, the Texas organization that promotes 3D-printed guns, in a lawsuit that it brought last year against the State Department. In a 2-1 decision, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was not persuaded that Defense Distributed's right to free speech under the First Amendment outweighs national security concerns. From an ArsTechnica report: The majority concluded: 'Ordinarily, of course, the protection of constitutional rights would be the highest public interest at issue in a case. That is not necessarily true here, however, because the State Department has asserted a very strong public interest in national defense and national security. Indeed, the State Department's stated interest in preventing foreign nationals -- including all manner of enemies of this country -- from obtaining technical data on how to produce weapons and weapon parts is not merely tangentially related to national defense and national security; it lies squarely within that interest.'

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Stop Piracy? Legal Alternatives Beat Legal Threats, Research Shows

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 17:22
An anonymous reader writes: Threatening file-sharers with high fines or even prison sentences is not the best way to stop piracy. New research published by UK researchers shows that perceived risk has no effect on people's file-sharing habits. Instead, the entertainment industries should focus on improving the legal options, so these can compete with file-sharing. Unauthorized file-sharing (UFS) is best predicted by the supposed benefits of piracy. As such, the researchers note that better legal alternatives are the best way to stop piracy. The results are based on a psychological study among hundreds of music and ebook consumers. They were subjected to a set of questions regarding their file-sharing habits, perceived risk, industry trust, and online anonymity. By analyzing the data the researchers found that the perceived benefit of piracy, such as quality, flexibility of use and cost are the real driver of piracy. An increase in legal risk was not directly associated with any statistically significant decrease in self-reported file-sharing.

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Blizzard Is Getting Rid of the Battle.net Name

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 17:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Battle.net name is no more. Today Blizzard announced that it's moving away from using the Battle.net moniker when referring to its online services. "Battle.net technology will continue to serve as the central nervous system for Blizzard games -- nothing is changing in that regard," the company wrote in a forum post. "We'll just be referring to it as Blizzard tech instead." Battle.net originally debuted way back in 1996 alongside the original Diablo, and since then has been used to power iconic games like Starcraft, World of Warcraft, and more recent titles like Hearthstone and Overwatch. According to the company, as online multiplayer has become an expected part of its games -- and as Blizzard expanded to new platforms like Facebook Live -- the name was no longer needed. "When we created Battle.net, the idea of including a tailored online-gaming service together with your game was more of a novel concept, so we put a lot of focus on explaining what the service was and how it worked, including giving it a distinct name," the company explained. "Over time, though, we've seen that there's been occasional confusion and inefficiencies related to having two separate identities under which everything falls -- Blizzard and Battle.net."

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Nokia Says It Can Deliver Internet 1,000x Faster Than Google Fiber

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 16:40
An anonymous reader writes: Verizon Fios has topped Netflix's speed index for quite some time now with its 500 Mbps up and down internet speeds. When compared to dial-up speeds of about 56 Kbps, Fios is roughly 1000 times faster (since 500 Mbps is equivalent to 500,000 Kbps). Google Fiber on the other hand offers 1 Gbps speeds, but it's not as widely available as Fios as of yet. In a statement made to ZDNet last week, Nokia said it has figured out how to deliver internet that is 2,000 times faster than Verizon Fios, or 1,000 times faster than Google Fiber. Their technique is called Probabilistic Constellation Shaping (PCS), which can deliver 1 Tbps speeds over a fiber connection. "The trial of the novel modulation approach, known as Probabilistic Constellation Shaping (PCS), uses quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) formats to achieve higher transmission capacity over a given channel to significantly improve the spectral efficiency of optical communications," Nokia explains. "PCS modifies the probability with which constellation points, the alphabet of the transmission, are used. Traditionally, all constellation points are used with the same frequency. PCS cleverly uses constellation points with high amplitude less frequently than those with lesser amplitude to transmit signals that, on average, are more resilient to noise and other impairments. This allows the transmission rate to be tailored to ideally fit the transmission channel, delivering up to 30 percent greater reach." Nokia's demonstration is described as being achieved in "real-world conditions," though there is no timeframe as to when the technology will be deployed in real networks.

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YouTube Is Looking for Volunteers To Improve Its Site

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 16:00
The video-sharing site is looking for "heroes." YouTube is looking for a few good users who want to be "Heroes." Google's video-sharing site wants volunteers to help moderate its content by flagging inappropriate content, fielding questions in YouTube Help forums, and contributing video captions and subtitles, reports Reuters. From the report:Performing those types of tasks will help users earn points in the site's new crowdsourcing program, called "YouTube Heroes." YouTube announced the "Heroes" program in a post on the site's help channel on Wednesday that included a video showing prospective volunteers how they can participate and the perks they can earn. "You work hard to make YouTube better for everyone and, like all heroes, you deserve a place to call home," YouTube says in the video.

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Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Announce $3 Billion Initiative To 'Cure All Diseases'

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 15:25
Yesterday, researchers on behalf of Microsoft said they will "solve" cancer within the next 10 years by treating it like a computer virus that invades and corrupts the body's cells. Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced a $3 billion initiative to "cure all diseases." VentureBeat reports: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a company created by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan to "unlock human potential and promote equality," today announced "Chan Zuckerberg Science," a $3 billion project that aims to cure, prevent, or manage "all diseases in our children's lifetime." "That doesn't mean that no one will ever get sick," Mark Zuckerberg later said. But the program hopes to eventually make all diseases treatable -- or at least easily manageable -- by the end of the 21st century. "Our society spends 50x more treating people who are sick than on finding cures. We can do better than that," said Zuckerberg. A press release from the Initiative says Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan will provide "at least $3 billion over the next decade to help jumpstart this work." "The plan," as Zuckerberg called it, is to "bring scientists and engineers together, build tools and technology, [and] grow the movement to fund science." That plan includes a program called Biohub, a partnership between Stanford University, Berkeley, and UCSF that "will focus on understanding underlying mechanisms of disease and developing new technologies which will lead to actionable diagnostics and effective therapies." You can watch the full Chan Zuckerberg Science presentation here.

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'Corporate Troll' Wins $3 Million Verdict Against Apple For Ring-Silencing Patent

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 14:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A non-practicing entity called MobileMedia Ideas LLC won a patent lawsuit against Apple today, with a Delaware federal jury finding that Apple should pay $3 million for infringing MobileMedia's patent RE39,231, which relates to ring-silencing features on mobile phones. MobileMedia is an unusual example of the kind of pure patent-licensing entity often derided as a "patent troll." It is majority-owned by MPEG-LA, a patent pool that licenses common digital video technologies like H-264, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. Minority stakes in MobileMedia are owned by Sony and Nokia, which both contributed the patents owned by the company. MobileMedia also has the same CEO as MPEG-LA, Larry Horn. The battle ended up being a long one, as MobileMedia first filed the case in 2010. It went to trial in 2012, and the jury found that Apple infringed three patents. After reviewing post-trial motions, the judge knocked out some, but not all, of the infringed patent claims. Then came an appeal in which a panel of Federal Circuit judges upheld (PDF) some of the lower court's judges and overturned others. A $3 million verdict is hardly going to make an impact on Apple, and it doesn't represent a huge win for MobileMedia, which was reportedly seeking $18 million in royalties from the trial. Still, getting a verdict in its favor does represent some validation of MobileMedia's business model, which was a striking example of technology corporations using the "patent troll" business model as a kind of proxy war. Nokia and Sony were able to use MobileMedia and the licensing talent at MPEG-LA to wage a patent attack on Apple without engaging directly in court. In all, after years of back-and-forth, the ring-silencing patent was the one that MobileMedia had left. While Apple didn't win the case against one of the first "corporate trolls," it was able to severely pare down the scale of the attack and show that it's willing to fight a long legal war of attrition to make its point.

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Lenovo Denies Claims It Plotted With Microsoft To Block Linux Installs

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 13:50
Reader kruug writes: Several users noted certain new Lenovo machines' SSDs are locked in a RAID mode, with AHCI removed from the BIOS. Windows is able to see the SSD while in RAID mode due to a proprietary driver, but the SSD is hidden from Linux installations -- for which such a driver is unavailable. Speaking to The Register today, a Lenovo spokesperson claimed the Chinese giant "does not intentionally block customers using other operating systems on its devices and is fully committed to providing Linux certifications and installation guidance on a wide range of products." Complaints on Lenovo's forums suggest that users have been unable to install GNU/Linux operating systems on models from the Yoga 900S to the Ideapad 710S, with one 19-page thread going into detail about the BIOS issue and users' attempts to work around it.

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Microsoft and Sony Are Debating Over Whose Console Really Offers 'True 4K'

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 13:10
Sony's PlayStation 4, which will go on sales in two months, comes loaded with rendering pipeline and some proprietary upscaling techniques that can improve lower resolution base signals to take fuller advantage of a 4K display. Microsoft is seemingly upset with how Sony is marketing this, and it is not shying from telling people that no amount of upscaling can fill in those missing 4K pixels and the hardware inefficiency to produce native and "true 4K" images that the Project Scorpio, its gaming console that is coming next year can. Microsoft has also said that any game that it will launch during the Scorpio timeframe will "natively render at 4K." But the debate is anything from over because Microsoft keeps reminding everyone that the processor and GPU in its upcoming console is more powerful. As ArsTechnica explains: With Scorpio, Microsoft seems to be arguing that every first-party game at launch will be able to generate and render nearly 8.3 million pixels (four times as many as a 1080p game) at an acceptable frame rate (i.e., at least 30 times a second). That would be quite an achievement. As we noted back at E3, it currently takes pricey, high-end PC graphics cards like the Nvidia GTX 1080 or the AMD R9 Fury X -- cards that run $300 or much higher -- to "barely scrape by" with a native 4K, 30fps game. And those PC cards seem to have significantly more raw power than what is being claimed by Microsoft -- 9 and 8.4 teraflops, respectively, vs. a claimed 6 teraflops for Scorpio (and 4.2 teraflops for the PS4 Pro).Microsoft's head of Xbox planning, Albert Penello said, "I know that 4.2 teraflops is not enough to do true 4K." In an interview with Eurogamer, Penello adds:I think there are a lot of caveats they're giving customers right now around 4K. They're talking about checkerboard rendering and up-scaling and things like that. There are just a lot of asterisks in their marketing around 4K, which is interesting because when we thought about what spec we wanted for Scorpio, we were very clear we wanted developers to take their Xbox One engines and render them in native, true 4K. That was why we picked the number, that's why we have the memory bandwidth we have, that's why we have the teraflops we have, because it's what we heard from game developers was required to achieve native 4K.

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