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By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft Teams recordings to be stored on OneDrive for Business and SharePoint after March 1
by Usama Jawad
Microsoft Teams recordings typically get stored on Stream, a video management platform the company launched for businesses back in 2017. The firm announced in October 2020 that it would be transitioning storage platforms to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, and allowed Government Community Cloud (GCC) customers to opt-out as part of a phased rollout. It has now announced firm dates for this process.
Starting from January 11, GCC Teams recordings will be stored on OneDrive for Business and SharePoint unless the setting has been explicitly set to Stream. However, after March 1, no new meeting recording will be stored on Stream, even if customers have set it as their as their preference. Instead, they will be stored on OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, utilizing existing storage quotas that customers purchased for these services. As such, Microsoft has recommended that customers change their preference before March 1, so they have better control over how and where their recordings are being stored.
The Redmond tech giant has also outlined multiple advantages of this transition including easier setting of permissions and access rights, increased quota, faster availability, and support for bring your own key (BYOK), among other things.
However, there are some limitations to consider as well. Transcription for meetings is not available in GCC, with support available for English closed captioning only. Furthermore, there is no way to prevent people with access to the recordings from downloading them. Finally, customers will not receive an automated email when a recording is ready.
The company has outlined several ways to enable and disable the new storage platforms, and has also described in detail the locations at which recordings will be saved. Microsoft has emphasized that Stream will not be deprecated in the near future and current recordings will remain as-is until they are migrated to OneDrive for Business and SharePoint at a currently unannounced date.
By Usama Jawad96
Here are the five biggest tech surprises of 2020
by Usama Jawad
2020 is almost done and dusted which means that now's a good time to take a look back at some of this year's highlights. In this week, we have already looked at some of the coolest tech innovations and disappointments of 2020. Today, we are going to revisit some of the biggest surprises that were delivered to us in the tech landscape this year.
These surprises refer to products, services, or events that landed upon us without any prior warning and caught us off-guard, fortunately or unfortunately. Needless to say, this is a list based on personal preferences, so maybe some of the items mentioned here won't be as surprising or momentous for you as they were for us. With that out of the way, let's begin!
1 - Microsoft buys ZeniMax Media
Without a doubt, one of the biggest gaming-related news that graced us this year, and it's equally surprising that Microsoft managed to keep it a secret until it was made official. The company, which has faced a lot of criticism in the past few years for its lackluster Xbox exclusives, finally decided to remedy the situation starting this year. The secret ingredient? Buying ZeniMax Media for a whopping $7.5 billion on September 21.
If you're unfamiliar with the name, it's the firm that owns high profile game development studios such as Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios. This essentially brings numerous popular franchises under Microsoft's first-party umbrella, including Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Dishonored, Prey, Quake, and Starfield. It also means that the Xbox Game Studios family has now grown from 15 to 23.
This was a major power move from Microsoft which had been struggling against high-quality PlayStation exclusives as well as the exclusivity deals that Sony has been striking with third-party developers.
While Microsoft stated that it would honor existing agreements of bringing games from these studios like Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo to the PlayStation 5, Xbox head Phil Spencer said that the company does not need to put games on PlayStation to recoup its $7.5 billion purchase. He had previously also confirmed that the release of titles from these studios on other platforms would be decided on a case by case basis.
While this has caused some worry in the PlayStation camp, this is good news for Xbox players, as this acquisition means that they will be able to enjoy upcoming games from ZeniMax Media like the highly anticipated The Elder Scrolls VI on Game Pass on day one without paying an additional cent.
2 - Carl Pei leaves OnePlus
From left to right: Akis Evangelidis, Pete Lau, Carl Pei This is yet another piece of news that caught everyone by surprise back in October when the public face and co-founder of OnePlus Carl Pei suddenly left the company after seven years at the helm. In fact, it is still very much unclear why Pei made this decision, but some reports have indicated that it was likely due to an internal power struggle with the other co-founder Pete Lau.
Carl Pei is best known for being the co-founder of OnePlus alongside Pete Lau back in 2013. The company's first product, the OnePlus One, was highly anticipated for its flagship specifications at a price point that was roughly half that of the competition. The device went on sale at online storefronts in April 2014 and managed to sell over one million units before the end of the year, surpassing its 50,000 units sold target with aplomb.
A recent report has indicated that the executive has now raised $7 million in a seed funding round in his latest hardware-related venture. Not much about this endeavor is known yet, but rumors hint that it is an audio-related endeavor that will see Pei set up an office in London. We'll likely learn more on this front in 2021.
3 - Google getting rid of free unlimited Photos backup
File this under disappointing, but Google announced in November that it is making major changes to storage policies tied to Photos. Primarily, it is doing away with the free unlimited high-quality backups for Photos users, which means that once users hit the 15GB Drive cap, they will need to purchase a storage plan to backup more photos.
While the change in policy will be in effect from June 1, 2021, its sudden announcement last month earns it a spot on this list. After June of next year, users will have a total of 15GB of free storage for data from Drive, Gmail, and Photos.
The change has likely been introduced to encourage more users to upgrade to Google One plans and monetize the Photos backup feature. The entry-level tier starts at $1.99 per month for 100GB of storage. Users that rely heavily on free Photos backups have little more than six months before the policies change, so make sure to check out our handy guide here about how to optimize your storage strategy.
4 - Microsoft quietly cancels its 95% revenue sharing program
Amidst much fanfare and appreciation, Microsoft announced at Build 2018 that it is introducing a new revenue split program under which developers can earn as much as 95% of the revenue from sales from the Store, as long as customers discovered the app through the developer's own promotion. At that time, both Google and Apple provided 60% of revenues to developers, which made Microsoft's offer all the more enticing.
However, it wasn't until March 2019 that Microsoft finally added this change to its developer agreement. This proved to be a very short-lived modification as numerous developers discovered in January 2020 that the company had quietly updated the document again to revoke this offer, and was now offering the standard 85%, also announced at Build 2018 for apps which are discovered using promotion offered by the Redmond tech giant.
To Microsoft's credit, it only canceled the offer due to lack of participation from developers. In a statement to Neowin, the company told us that "due to the small number of developers that took advantage of the 95% revenue share, we’ve made changes to streamline the experience for developers and offer a consistent 85% model". The attractive but apparently not-enough-used program died a quiet death nine months after formal initiation.
5 - Google's massive global outage
Most of you - especially those who rely heavily on Google services - will be able to vividly recall the day when Google faced a global outage earlier in December. The issue affected numerous services including Gmail, YouTube, Drive, News, Translate, Ads, Domain, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) among others.
Millions of people around the globe were unable to access the aforementioned services properly, with no indication from the company as to what was causing the problem, other than Google saying that it was looking into it.
After roughly one hour of the outage - in which people vented about centralized services in meltdown on social media platforms or asking if Google has been hacked - the firm finally managed to fix the issue, and services were slowly restored for users. Google later issued an apology stating that the mishap was due to an "internal storage quota issue" and that it will ensure that it doesn't occur again in the future.
The specific incident is significant because it showed how heavily people are invested in Google services, where a one-hour downtime halted their daily routines and usual activities. This was also the first outage of this extent for Google services, and here's to hoping it doesn't happen again in 2021.
Those were our top picks for tech incidents that caught us off-guard. Are there any others that you think deserve to be on this list and we may have missed? Let us know in the comments section below!
How to free up storage space in your Google account
by Rajesh Pandey
Google announced some major changes coming to its storage policy next year. The modifications are going to have a major impact as it would affect a large majority of existing Google/Gmail account holders. As a part of the change, Google is doing away with the free unlimited High quality photo backup option in Google Photos from June 2021. All new files and documents created in Google Sheets, Docs, Forms, and other Google services will also start counting against your 15GB storage quota from June next year.
These are some major changes from Google and if you heavily rely on various Google services and have been using Gmail and/or Google Photos for a long time, you are bound to hit that 15GB storage quota sooner than later. If you are worried about the upcoming storage policy from Google, you can prepare for it better by freeing up storage space in your Google or Gmail account by deleting junk files and emails. Read our guide below to know how you can easily free up storage space in your Google or Gmail account.
Get an overview of storage used
Before you get around to freeing up storage space in your Google account, it helps to first get an overview of how storage is being used in your account. It is possible that a large chunk of space in your Google account is being taken up by photos or by a few large files that you had uploaded to Google Drive a few years ago and completely forgotten about.
You can head over to this Google One page to get an overview of the storage used across various Google services including Drive, Photos, and family sharing.
Use Google Storage manager
Google itself offers a storage manager that one can use to free up storage space in their Google account. The storage manager provides users with an overview of the amount of space they can free up by deleting emails from Gmail, emptying Spam emails, and removing all the large files occupying space in Google Drive, and more.
Delete old emails manually
If you have been using Gmail for a long time, it is likely that you have accumulated a lot of junk and irrelevant emails with large attachments. Individually, these emails might not matter but add up years of emails and they can easily occupy a couple of gigabytes or more. It is best to delete such emails.
You can search for "has:attachment" in the Gmail search box to filter emails with attachments and then delete all old emails that you don't need. You can also filter large and heavy emails by using "larger:10mb" as a search term. You can change the '10' in the search term as per your requirements. This way you can quickly find heavy emails and delete them to free up space.
You can also export old and important emails from your Gmail account using MailStore, a free email archiving software. Once exported, you can then delete all the old emails to free up storage space in your Google account.
Compress existing photos in Google Photos
If you have been backing up photos to Google Photos in original quality, it is recommended that you switch to 'High' quality mode. This will compress all your existing photos and ensure that they do not count against your 15GB storage quota.
However, this trick will only work until June 2021 though as after that, photos uploaded in High quality will also count against your Google account storage. Regardless, compressing images can free up storage for more pictures, letting the 15GB storage last longer.
To convert your existing photos to High quality, go to the Google Photos website on your PC, click on the cog/Settings icon on the top-right corner, and select the High quality option. You will automatically get a prompt asking if you would like to convert your existing original quality photos to high quality and the amount of storage space you would free up in the process. This will also ensure that all photos and videos you back up to Google Photos going forward are also compressed and stored in High quality.
Alternatively, you can use the Recover storage option to compress your existing photos and videos to high quality as well.
Empty Google Drive bin
If you use Google Drive to share and send files to your friends or family or to back up important files, you should go ahead and check its trash. I managed to free up over 20GB of space by simply emptying my Google Drive bin. Google itself has begun deleting items in the trash that are older than 30 days.
Stop using Backup & Sync
If you use Google's Backup & Sync to backup files on your PC to Google Drive, you should stop using it. Instead, you can use Dropbox for the same purpose. Alternatively, you can also create a separate Google account just to backup files on your PC. If you have a lot of large files on your PC, then this is the ideal solution as it ensures they don't take up space in your primary Google account.
Buy Google One storage
Ultimately, if all the above steps do not help in freeing up enough storage space in your Google account, your only option is to go ahead and buy additional storage for your account using Google One. The good thing is that the pricing is pretty reasonable, with Google charging $1.99/month for 100GB of additional storage. This should be enough for most users. And if you are a power user, Google recently slashed the pricing on its 10TB and higher Google One storage plans by over 50%.
Subscribing to a Google One storage plan entitles you to other benefits as well including priority access to Google support, discounts on hotels and flight bookings, free VPN service, and more. The additional storage you buy can also be used by your family members making it a very cost-effective solution.
How will the change in Google's storage policy impact you? Will you end up buying additional space for your Google account due to this change? Drop a comment and let us know!
Google One plans with higher storage get a 50% price cut
by Rajesh Pandey
Last month, Google announced that it would be ending the free backup storage option in Google Photos in 2021 which is bound to force a lot of users to pay for storage to save their photos. Before that change comes into effect though, Google has announced a massive price cut on higher storage plans of Google One.
In an email highlighting everything that's new with Google One, the company announced a 50 percent price cut on the 10TB, 20TB, and 30TB storage tier plans. Before the price cut, 10TB Google One storage was priced at $99.99/month but now it costs $49.99/month. Similarly, the 20TB and 30TB plans were priced at $199.99/month and $299.99/month previously but now cost $99.99/month and $149.99/month, respectively. Unlike other lower storage plans for Google One, there's no option to pay yearly for these storage options for a higher discount.
Prices in INR Google One storage plans include various perks including 10% cashback in Google Store credit on Google Store purchases, free VPN service, family sharing, priority Google support, and discounts on hotels, flight bookings, and more.
The lower storage tier Google One plans are still priced the same. The cheapest 100GB plan costs $1.99/month or $19.99/yearly. Apart from this, there are two other plans offering 200GB and 2TB of storage space for $29.99 and $99.99 yearly.
Sabrent Rocket Q4 NVMe 4.0 review: Blazing fast performance for a reasonable price
by Christopher White
Old hard drives, or "spinning rust" as some call it, are good for mass storage, but nobody will ever mistake them for high performance. SATA SSD drives are much faster than the old drives, and were a breakthrough over a decade ago, but pale in comparison to today's NVMe SSD drives.
Today, we take a look at Sabrent's 2TB Rocket Q4 NVMe 4.0 SSD drive.
The Sabrent Rocket Q4 utilizes the M.2 2280 form factor, which is standard for these types of drives, has a Phison PS5016-E16 controller, and Micron 96L QLC NV memory. It's available in 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB models. For this review, I'm looking at the 2TB version.
Rocket Q4 1TB Rocket Q4 2TB Rocket Q4 4TB Form Factor M.2 2280 M.2 2280 M.2 2280 Interface PCI 4.0 x4 PCI 4.0 x4 PCI 4.0 x4 Protocol NVMe 1.3 NVMe 1.3 NVMe 1.3 Controller Phison PS5016-E16 Phison PS5016-E16 Phison PS5016-E16 DRAM DDR4 DDR4 DDR4 NV Memory Micron 96L QLC Micron 96L QLC Micron 96L QLC Sequential Read Up to 4,700 MB/s Up to 4,800 MB/s Up to 4,900 MB/s Sequential Write Up to 1,800 MB/s Up to 3,600 MB/s Up to 3,700 MB/s Random Read Up to 180,000 IOPS Up to 350,000 IOPS Up to 350,000 IOPS Random Write Up to 450,000 IOPS Up to 700,000 IOPS Up to 700,000 IOPS Endurance 200 TBW 400 TBW 800 TBW Warranty 5 years (with registration) 5 years (with registration) 5 years (with registration) Performance varies based on the capacity, so the sweet spot appears to be the 2TB model, which roughly doubles the speed of writes. Current Amazon.com pricing as of this writing is $160 for the 1TB model, $320 for the 2TB version, and $750 for the 4TB drive. That equates to roughly $0.16/GB for both the 1TB and 2TB model and $0.19/GB for the 4TB model, making the 2TB version the sweet spot for both price and performance.
Utilizing QLC, the endurance of the drive is rated at 400TB, which shouldn't be a concern for most users. The drive comes with a five year warranty, but requires registration; if you don't register the drive, then the warranty only lasts for one year, which is pretty bad.
The drive requires PCIe 4.0 to run at maximum performance. You can use the Rocket in a PCIe 3.0 motherboard, but will obviously lose some performance by doing so.
It's clear that Sabrent is trying to convey that it is offering a premium product, something that the packaging helps reinforce. While the Samsung and AData NVMe drives I have both came in plastic containers, the Sabrent Rocket Q4 sits inside a copper colored metal clamshell. Inside, the drive itself is nestled in foam padding. While I appreciate the presentation, part of me feels like it's a waste of material. Regardless, it looks pretty nice.
The copper and white coloring is maintained on the drive itself, giving the drive a very elegant and premium look.
Here are the details on the machine that I ran the test on.
Motherboard: Gigabyte X570 Aorus Master CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X Memory: G.Skill Triden Z Neo CL16 2x16GB Video Card: EVGA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER XC GAMING OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Education 64-bit Performance
So we know the Sabrent Rocket Q4 looks good and is reasonably priced, but how does it perform? To test that out, I ran a few benchmarks, including Samsung Magician, CrystalDiskMark, and the Final Fantasy XIV benchmark tool that tests loading times.
Overall, results were very good with a few oddities and some caveats.
The machine I tested on currently has a 1TB Samsung 970 Evo Plus as the boot drive, a 2TB ADATA SX8200PNP for my games, and a 6TB Seagate IronWolf ST6000NE0021 for mass storage of music and photos. Running the Samsung Magician benchmark showed the Rocket with a sizable lead of 60% in sequential reads and 80% in sequential writes versus the Samsung 970 EVO Plus. The read performance was even better compared to the ADATA, but write performance didn't have similar gains - although it was still much better.
After using Samsung Magician, I ran the Sabrent Rocket Q4 through several different CrystalDiskMark benchmarks. In addition to running them on an empty disk, I ran them again when storage was over 70% utilized, to see if there was any performance degradation due to the capacity of the drive.
As you can see from the graphs, performance differences were statistically insignificant regardless of how much storage was being used, which is good. The performance, while not matching the speed shown by Samsung Magician, were still much higher than the other two drives in the test system.
While performance is excellent at 64MiB, read performance drops off considerably at 64GiB. This is especially curious because the ADATA drive performed the SEQ1M Q8T1 test at 3,248MB/s, and the Samsung drive was even better, reading at 3,565MB/s. This means that transferring very large files would have a more noticeable delay on the Sabrent Rocket Q4, although it's still extremely fast.
Comparing the three drives directly, you can see that the Sabrent Rocket Q4 is by far the fastest of the drives at 64MiB when it comes to reading, and is slightly faster than the Samsung Evo Plus at writing. Aside from the aforementioned 64GiB test, the Sabrent Rocket Q4 either tied or beat the other two drives in all of the tests.
In addition to the raw performance tests, I also ran the Final Fantasy XIV loading time benchmark. This gives a real-world idea of how long it takes to load the game from your hard drive. It can also be used to test the overall performance of your system. The loading times for all of the NVMe drives were within a second of each other, while the "spinning rust" drive was more than 3x slower.
During all of the testing, the Sabrent Rocket Q4 maintained a cool temperature, averaging around 47°C. By comparison, the Samsung drive was 54°C and the ADATA was 52°C. Temperature seemed to have little impact on performance, as testing from a cold boot provided similar results as when the machine was running Folding@Home.
Sabrent offers an optional heatsink for the drive as well.
The Sabrent Rocket Q4 offers excellent performance at a great price. However there are three important caveats to keep in mind.
First, the drive utilizes PCIe 4.0. If you have an older system, or a newer system that doesn't support the latest PCI standard, your performance metrics will take a hit. The drive will still run at PCIe 3.0 speeds, but you'd be paying for speed you won't see.
Second, the drive has QLC flash, which means the endurance will suffer, providing only 200 TB of writes per 1 TB drive. For most users, this is probably fine, especially if you use the Rocket Q4 as a gaming drive, but the endurance directly leads to our next consideration.
The warranty requires you to register your drive. If you don't, it's a simple one year warranty which is ridiculously low. This is an easy thing to bypass by simply registering the drive for a robust five year warranty, but make sure you don't overlook that step.
If any of the above three caveats are issues for your particular workloads, then I recommend looking elsewhere. For most people, however, the Sabrent Rocket Q4 is a quality NVMe drive that will provide blazing speeds at competitive pricing, and I can whole-heartedly recommend it.