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NVIDIA’s GeForce Now is ready for gamers

Another cloud gaming competitor

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NVIDIA’s game streaming service, GeForce NOW, is ready for gamers looking for alternatives to Google’s Stadia and Microsoft XCloud. NVIDIA is looking at its support for more devices and compatibility with existing game stores as its edge against competitors.

Luring in gamers

NVIDIA GeForce NOW is now available for general audience after it entered beta last year. Starting today, gamers can opt for either of the two tiers: Free and Founders.

Gamers on Free tier have to contend with a one-hour gameplay limit. Plus, they maybe put on a wait list for a certain game if there is too much demand. Meanwhile, gamers on Founders tier have priority access to games, a six-hour gameplay limit, and support for RTX.

Unlike its competitors, NVIDIA’s game streaming service supports more devices. It is available now in Windows, macOS, Android and SHIELD TV platform, with Chromebook support coming in the future.

This game streaming service also works differently than Google’s Stadia and Microsoft’s XCloud. It streams supported games from the Steam library, Epic Games Store, Battle.net, and Uplay.

There is no need to purchase a game as gamers can simply stream it if the service supports it. Smooth gameplay is guaranteed with support of up to 1080 at 60FPS.

Pricing and availability

GeForce NOW is available on all 30 countries across North America and Europe. Beta users are migrated automatically. For those planning to pay for the Founders tier, they will only have to shell out US$ 4.99 per month.

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What you need to know about the new Starbucks Rewards

Collect more stars with a few sips

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Out with the old, in with the new! Starbucks Philippines freshened up its existing Rewards program to make it even more delightful to its customers.

With the new Starbucks Rewards, you can get one star with every PhP 25 spent on everything you buy — food, beverages, merchandise — in stores using your registered card or app.

When you accumulate 100 stars, it will be converted to a reward voucher. You can then choose to redeem a reward befitting your taste: a handcrafted beverage, any pastry, or even a slice of cake!

More benefits await

Starbucks’ new Rewards program brims with exciting benefits that anyone can enjoy. For starters, there’s a Double Star Registration Treat where new members can collect two stars for every PhP 25 spent on all eligible purchases for the first seven days upon successful registration.

The Double Star Days benefit is also back, but it’s not limited to the frantic holiday season. Moreover, Starbucks will offer Bonus Stars so you can collect two stars on their featured and promotional drinks.

Lastly, the Free Birthday Reward is still here and you can now choose between redeeming a food from their bakery/cafe or a complimentary handcrafted beverage.

How to be a member

The new Rewards program is exclusive for registered members only, so you have to join if you want to enjoy this exciting loyalty program. All you need to do is activate and register a Starbucks Card to Starbucks Rewards.

For existing members of My Starbucks Rewards, simply update your old password and add a new Starbucks Card to your account through the website or the updated Starbucks app, which is available on Google Play Store and the App Store.

Unlike before, you can now enjoy cashless payments and new features like automatic reloading through the Starbucks app. No more lining up to load your Starbucks card!

Say goodbye to your old Starbucks cards

FYI! Your previous Starbucks cards will stop working after July 15, 2020. This is to pave the way to the new Starbucks cards linked to the new program.

If you have an existing balance of PhP 100 or more, you can have it transferred to a free, new card. If it’s less than PhP 100, you can get a cash refund. Simply present your cards or your account on your mobile app to display the remaining balance.

The new Starbucks Rewards and Starbucks cards will be available starting July 17, 2020.

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Amazon bans TikTok for employees, reverses decision in a few hours

Everyone’s worried about using TikTok now

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Amazon sent an internal memo to its employees, asking them to remove the TikTok from any mobile device that can access their company email. The memo was picked up by the mainstream media almost immediately and it served as an indication of how American companies are losing trust in the Chinese-backed app.

However, the company soon backtracked and an Amazon spokesperson said the request had been sent out in error and that there was no change to the company’s policies at the moment.

Company spokeswoman Jaci Anderson declined to answer questions about what caused the confounding turnaround or error. The original memo cited “security risks” as the reason for avoiding TikTok.

In response, TikTok failed to understand Amazon’s concerns. It did not receive any communication from Amazon before the email went out.

However, the social media app has received a lot of backlash from authorities due to its poor data privacy history. TikTok is banned in India and recently, the US suggested it’s considering a similar ban on the app.

Furthermore, US lawmakers have been concerned about the app for months now. The US army and navy instructed soldiers to delete the app from military devices in December. The biggest concern regarding TikTok is that its parent company, based in China, is required to share information collected on users with the Chinese government.

“We still do not understand their concerns, we welcome a dialogue so we can address any issues they may have and enable their team to continue participating in our community,” TikTok said.

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4K streaming could be cheaper soon

Thanks to the H.266 format

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Watching 4K videos on YouTube or Netflix is taxing on mobile data, consuming about a gigabyte or more. But a new compression method could change 4K streaming soon.

Developed by Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, the H.266 / Versatile Video Coding format aims to bring a more efficient way of compressing and streaming videos digitally. This new standard is meant to replace two existing standards — the H.264/AVC and H.265 HEVC.

Compared to the two, H.266 can transmit 4K videos at a much lower file size. The institute says H.266 can transmit a 10-minute UHD video at only 5GB of data.

This is almost 50 percent more efficient than the most advanced video format in the market, H.265 HEVC. Right now, HEVC requires 10GB of data to transmit the same 10-minute UHD video. As such, consumers can expect cheaper 4K streams with the H.266 format.

For example, a 25-minute 4K video that clocks in at 4GB can be streamed at a much lower 2GB with the new format. This will drastically reduce data and bandwidth consumption for consumers and companies.

The new video format also tries to solve the patent royalty system that has long plagued H.264 and H.265. Right now, companies have to deal with the messy system of paying licenses and royalties just to include these formats to their apps and websites. H.266 does away with these licenses, promising a better deal than the old formats.

Support and availability

As of right now, support for H.266 is being worked on both the software and hardware level. According to the institute that developed the format, Media Coding Industry Format is working on chip designs that support the new format on a hardware level.

Meanwhile, the institute is working on an encoder and decoder software which will be released this autumn.

It is worth noting, however, that H.266/VVC is not the only format that promises to improve 4K streaming on devices. Most tech companies today are adopting AV1 alongside VP9. These two formats are developed by separate organizations.

Right now, these formats — along with the H.266 — promise a better way of streaming 4K that will ultimately benefit everyone.

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