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UK set to enable Emergency Alerts after a trial period
by Paul Hill
The UK government has launched a new Emergency Alerts page on its website explaining that it's testing the service on Android and iOS devices before rolling it out across the whole country. Once it has been rolled out across the country, it'll alert users about nearby disasters so they can respond appropriately.
The types of incidents users will be notified about include severe flooding, fires, explosions, terrorist incidents, and public health emergencies. Alerts will be sent by the emergency services, such as the police, and government departments, agencies, and public bodies that deal with emergencies. The government believes the chance of you getting such an alert will be low.
To see these alerts, you must be using an iPhone or iPad running iOS 14.5 or later or an Android phone or tablet running Android 11 or later. Earlier versions of Android may receive these alerts if the Emergency Alerts feature was included on the device’s software. As an additional condition, only users on 4G and 5G will receive the alerts while those or 2G or 3G networks won’t be notified.
The government said that Emergency Alerts can be switched off but should be left on for your own safety. If your device is turned off or in aeroplane mode, it won’t be possible for messages to get through to you. If you stayed opted in, no data will be collected or shared about you, your device, or the location where you got the alert and the government doesn’t need your phone number to send messages.
All messages will be sent to you based on your current location rather than based on where you live or work. You do not need to sign up for anything nor download any apps and any alerts you receive will be free of charge. According to BBC News, the first trial will be held in East Suffolk on May 25 when residents will get a test alert. A second test will take place in Reading on June 15. If all goes to plan, the system will be rolled out around the country.
How to enable the refresh rate overlay on Android 11
by Anmol Mehrotra
The last couple of years have seen a rise of smartphones with high refresh rate displays as well as gaming focused smartphones. However, as high refresh rate displays use more battery, most manufacturers use adaptive refresh rate wherein the smartphone dynamically changes the refresh rate based on the content that is being displayed on the screen. If you are curious about your phone's refresh rate or want to track your refresh rate in real-time then you are in luck. With the introduction of Android 11, Google has added a new feature that lets you add a refresh rate overlay on the top of the screen.
To use this feature, you will need an Android 11 smartphone and you can enable it by following the steps below:
Open Settings and navigate to About Phone > Software information. Tap on the Build Number seven times or until you see a popup saying, “You’re now a developer”. Do note that the content of the popup could change based on the phone manufacturer. Once Developer mode is enabled, go back to Settings and scroll down to Developer options. Again, the placement of Developer options could change based on the manufacturer so if you are unable to find it then use the search bar on the top of the settings menu. Open Developer options and scroll down to the debugging section. Under this section look for the “Show refresh rate” option. Flip the toggle beside the option to turn it on and you should see your current refresh rate on the top left corner of the screen. The feature may look familiar to PC gamers who have similar option available from Nvidia as well as a host of other third-party services. Most smartphone manufacturers use adaptive refresh rate so you will see it fluctuate depending on the content. On my Galaxy S21, 60Hz refresh rate is shown in red text while 120Hz is shown in bright green text. The same will apply to all Android 11 smartphones with the lower refresh rate in red while the higher refresh rate will be shown in the green colour. With the feature enabled, you will be able to see refresh rate change in real-time.
Utilizing this, you will be able to see what apps or games can take advantage of the high refresh rate display. A higher refresh rate will be beneficial for gamers as long as the game can run at high FPS (Frames Per Second). You can turn it on for a couple of days to test-drive the feature and if it gets boring or annoying then you can go back to the Developer options and disable it.
Chivalry 2 open beta begins on May 27 with cross-play across all platforms
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Torn Banner Studios today announced its intentions to open the doors of its upcoming medieval fighting game Chivalry 2 for everyone. The launch is still several weeks away, but an open beta will begin on May 27 inviting all who are interested to join in on the chaotic first-person battles and sieges.
Like the closed beta from April, the new open beta program is touting cross-play support. Players from PC (Epic Games Store), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 will be running around together in battles as both friends and foes.
The open beta will feature three team objective maps - The Slaughter of Coxwell, The Battle of Darkforest, and The Siege of Rudhelm - involving objectives such as burning of villages, stealing gold, pushing siege equipment, capturing key locations, and others that will be familiar to players of the original. The deathmatch maps Tournament Grounds and The Battle of Wardenglade will also be included in the beta for both team-based and free-for-all modes.
There will also be appearance customization options, that you unlock via progression, for blinging out your medieval warrior. One of the new features included in the beta, dueling servers, is specifically for PC players only, enabling participants to hone their skills in one versus one bouts.
Regular servers will offer both 60- and 40-player options, with Torn Banner saying the former delivers high-intensity battles while the latter enables more strategic contests. This may not go as exactly as described though.
The Chivalry 2 cross-play open beta will run from May 27 through June 1, and players will receive pre-download access on May 26 to get prepared. The full game launches on June 8.
Clubhouse announces global launch of Android app this week
by Subir Kathuria
Clubhouse launched in March of 2020 as an invite-only social media app for iOS where users communicate in voice chat rooms that accommodate groups of up to 5,000 people. The audio-only app hosts live discussions, with opportunities to participate through speaking and listening.
After launching its Android app last week in beta, the social audio platform announced it will roll out to more countries in the coming week. The launch will be staggered one, starting with Brazil, Japan, and Russia on Tuesday, India, and Nigeria by Friday, and the rest of the world by end of the week.
Clubhouse was only available on iOS devices at launch and remains an invite-only social media platform. Despite this restriction, it has grown to over 10 million users in just a year since its launch. Its success has also prompted other dominant social media platforms like Twitter and Discord to introduce Clubhouse-like features in their apps. Twitter introduced Spaces and Discord has Stage Channels.
It is used by many famous celebrities like Oprah, Drake, Elon Musk, among others. Elon Musk even invited Russian President Vladimir Putin for a discussion on Clubhouse a few months ago, which apparently never happened. Having such high profile user base has led to the platform been valued at over $4 billion dollars after the latest round of funding.
Elon Musk is quite active on Clubhouse and keeps having discussions with celebrities. It was in one of his Clubhouse conversations where he had stated his support for Bitcoin, following which the prices of the cryptocurrency soared. Just recently Elon Musk announced that Tesla would stop accepting Bitcoin as a payment method which lead to the cryptocurrency losing almost 10% of its value overnight.
Source: Clubhouse via TechCrunch| Image source: Penplusbytes
Microsoft Weekly: Patch Tuesday, better Quick Resume, and productivity enhancements
by Florin Bodnarescu
In the past seven days, we’ve seen the usual set of Patch Tuesday updates, a number of productivity improvements for Teams, and even a confirmation from The Coalition that it’s working on multiple projects using Unreal Engine 5. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of May 9 - 15.
Microsoft, right on cue, decided to release its latest set of Windows updates. For some variants of Windows 10, it also means their last update before EOL. This would be the April 2018 Update (1803) which as of this week is no longer supported. For the October 2018 Update (1809), folks can still get updates if they’re in the Long-Term Servicing Channel, while the November 2019 Update (1909) is set to still be supported for those running Enterprise, Education, or IoT Enterprise flavors until May 2022.
Flipping over to versions still supported, we have 2004 and 20H2 (May 2020 Update and October 2020 Update, respectively), both of which get a cumulative update. Details for this can be found in KB5003173, with the update bumping the build numbers up to 19041.985 and 19042.985, respectively.
Home and Pro users of Windows 10 1909 (November 2019 Update) also got an update, more details for which can be found in KB5003169. It brings the build number up to 18363.1556 and like the other updates above, contains a number of security and Bluetooth enhancements.
Last but not least, we have updates for variants of Windows 10 supported in specific SKUs. These are:
October 2018 Update (1809): KB5003171, build 17763.1935 – supported for Enterprise, Education SKUs. April 2018 Update (1803): KB5003174, build 17134.2208 – supported for Enterprise, Education SKUs. Anniversary Update (1607): KB5003197, build 14393.4402 – supported in the Long-Term Servicing Branch. Windows 10 RTM (1507): KB5003172, build 10240.18932 - supported in the Long-Term Servicing Branch. Of course, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 (for those paying for ESUs) are still supported, so here’s what you need to be on the lookout for in terms of updates:
Windows 8.1: KB5003209, KB5003220 (security only) – contains a number of security updates, and the same known issue that’s been plaguing the OS for months. Windows 7 SP1: KB5003233, KB5003228 – contains a number of security and SMB enhancements, with the same known issues being present too. Microsoft also released Windows Holographic version 21H1, which added the Chromium-based Edge browser, among other features. Additionally, build 21382 made its way to testers in the Dev Channel of the Windows 10 Insider program, bringing HDR improvements for Photoshop, font, and folder icon updates, as well as a respectable list of fixes.
Last but not least, if you’re on either Windows 10 2004 (May 2020 Update) or 20H2 (October 2020 Update) and use 5.1 audio, you may hear a high-pitched noise if you have KB5000842 installed. This seems to only be affecting certain configurations, and is not present when using stereo. The firm stated that it’s working on a fix for this problem.
Better Quick Resume
When it comes to games, there’s been a pretty steady stream of news coming out of Redmond, and this week is no exception.
Starting with the platform updates, the Xbox May 2021 Update adds passthrough audio and improved Quick Resume on console, and coincides with the beginning of the rollout of Dolby Vision HDR on Xbox Series X|S. This is essentially in the testing phase, and is available to Xbox Insiders in the Alpha ring, with a global rollout targeted for later this year. Also available for Insiders are new accessibility features in Xbox Party Chat, including speech transcription and text-to-speech.
And since we’re focusing on games, it’s worth highlighting some of them, including Ace Combat 7, Asura’s Wrath, Halo 5: Guardians, Lost Planet 3, and others, all of which are part of the latest crop of Deals with Gold. Speaking of latest, the latest and greatest DLC for Minecraft Dungeons, dubbed Hidden Depths, is set to surface May 26 both as a standalone expansion and as part of the Minecraft Dungeons Season Pass.
Looking out a bit further than May 26, The Coalition has confirmed that it’s working on multiple next-gen projects, and is set to use Unreal Engine 5 for said projects. The studio emphasized that a move to a new engine is “a big undertaking”, and made it clear that no new projects will be announced for “some time”.
In the third major section of this column, I thought we should highlight some productivity improvements made to Microsoft products and services this week.
For one, if you use the Office app on Android, it now supports voice recordings with transcription. You do need to be in the beta program and running version 16.0.14026.20172 to be able to use the feature. In case any errors are made in the transcription process, you can edit the text after the fact.
And speaking of editing, Customer Key, a method for organizations to protect their data, - allowing for the development of personalized Data Encryption Policies -, is now generally available in Teams. Also hitting the GA phase are Teams Webinars, which allow for the creation of highly interactive Teams meetings with up to 1,000 attendees.
As far as features in the pipeline are concerned, Teams will soon let you restart a live event that accidentally stopped. The capability is in active development and is targeted for GA on both desktop and web clients globally in July.
Azure Blockchain Service will be shutting down in September. GitHub now supports video uploads. The May firmware update for Surface Studio 2 is now available. Microsoft Threat Vulnerability Management now has support for Linux. PowerToys v0.37.2 is out, fixing explorer.exe freezes, and more. The latest Edge Dev build is now out, adding a number of minor features, though not for Linux just yet. Edge Canary adds support for Coupons on Android. Logging off
We end this week’s column with a mix of good and bad news.
First off, the bad, as the Colonial Pipeline hack was allegedly caused by the company running an outdated version of Microsoft Exchange. As you may remember, on-prem Exchange Servers were the target of a widespread attack, which began being more widely publicized at the beginning of March. As the patches were released, an impressive number of servers were updated, but if the forensic report is to be believed, the unpatched Exchange server is partly to blame for Colonial Pipeline’s woes.
Staying on the subject of Microsoft services but this time switching to the desktop version of Outlook, a bug surfaced earlier this week which prevented users from seeing email contents. As per the Redmond giant, the issue was isolated and a fix deployed within hours of the issue being observed.
Moving onto the good news, Microsoft has partnered with Darktrace to help folks combat cyber threats via the use of AI. This is especially helpful given the increase in high-profile cyber attacks in recent times.
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