Xbox Live is down for many (Update: It’s back up)

Xbox Live is down for many (Update: It’s back up)

5:09am, 3rd September, 2019
If you were trying to sneak in a quick game on Xbox Live during your Friday afternoon lunch break and found that you can’t get online: don’t worry, you’re not alone. While still says all things are good to go (Update: Microsoft’s status page has now caught up with the outage, and says that it’s impacting sign-ins, account creations and searches), reports are pouring in of an outage keeping many users from logging in. Microsoft acknowledged the problem on Twitter, saying that they’re “looking into it now.” Update, 2:30 PM: It’s back up! The status page shows all lights as green again, and a Microsoft spokesperson says that services have been fully restored. We're aware that some users are unable to sign in currently & our teams are looking into it now. We'll update when we have more info to share. Thanks for all the reports! — Xbox Support (@XboxSupport)
13 ways to screw over your internet provider

13 ways to screw over your internet provider

5:03am, 3rd September, 2019
Internet providers are real bastards: they have captive audiences whom they squeeze for every last penny while they fight against regulation like net neutrality and donate immense amounts of money to keep on lawmakers’ good sides. So why not turn the tables? Here are 13 ways to make sure your ISP has a hard time taking advantage of you (and may even put it on the defensive). Disclosure: Verizon, an internet provider guilty of all these infractions, owns TechCrunch, and I don’t care. 1. Buy a modem and router instead of renting The practice of renting a device to users rather than selling it or providing it as part of the service is one of the telecommunications industry’s oldest and worst. People pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars over years for equipment worth $40 or $50. ISPs do this with various items, but the most common item is probably the modem. This is the gadget that connects to the cable coming out of your wall, and then connects in turn (or may also function as) your wireless and wired router. ISPs often provide this equipment at the time of install, and then charge you $5 to $10 per month forever. What they don’t tell you is you can probably buy the exact same item for somewhere between $30 and $100. The exact model you need will depend on your service, but it will be listed somewhere, and they should tell you what they’d provide if you ask. Look online, buy a new or lightly used one, and it will have paid for itself before the year is out. Not only that, but you can do stuff like upgrade or change the software on it all you want, because it’s yours. Bonus: The ISP is limited in what it can do to the router (like letting other people connect — yes, it’s a thing). 2. Avoid service calls, or if you can’t, insist they’re free I had an issue with my internet a while back that took them several visits from a service tech to resolve. It wasn’t an issue on my end, which was why I was surprised to find they’d charged me $30 or so every time the person came. If your ISP wants to send someone out, ask whether it’s free, and if it isn’t, tell them to make it free or ask if you can do it yourself (sometimes it’s for really simple stuff like swapping a cable). If they charge you for a visit, call them and ask them to take it off your bill. Say you weren’t informed and you’ll inform the Better Business Bureau about it, or take your business elsewhere, or something. They’ll fold. When someone does come… 3. Get deals from the installer If you do end up having someone come out, talk to them to see whether there are any off the record deals they can offer you. I don’t mean anything shady like splitting cables with the neighbor, just offers they know about that aren’t publicized because they’re too good to advertise. A lot of these service techs are semi-independent contractors paid by the call, and their pay has nothing to do with which service you have or choose. They have no reason to upsell you and every reason to make you happy and get a good review. Sometimes that means giving you the special desperation rates ISPs withhold until you say you’re going to leave. And as long as you’re asking… 4. Complain, complain, complain This sounds bad, but it’s just a consequence of how these companies work: The squeaky wheels get the grease. There’s plenty of grease to go around, so get squeaking. Usually this means calling up and doing one of several things. You can complain that service has been bad — outages and such — and ask that they compensate you for that. You can say that a competing ISP started offering service at your location and it costs $20 less, so can they match that. Or you can say your friend just got a promotional rate and you’d like to take advantage of it… otherwise you’ll leave to that phantom competitor. (After all, we know there’s often little or no real competition.) What ISPs, and, more importantly, what their customer service representatives care about is keeping you on as a customer. They can always raise rates or upsell you later, but having you as a subscriber is the important thing. Note that some reps are more game than others. Some will give you the runaround, while others will bend over backwards to help you out. Feel free to call a few times and do a bit of window shopping. (By the way, if you get someone nice, give them a good review if you get the chance, usually right after the call or chat. It helps them out a lot.) Obviously you can’t call every week with new demands, so wait until you think you can actually save some money. Which reminds me… 5. Choose your service level wisely ISPs offer a ton of choices, and make it confusing on purpose so you end up picking an expensive one just to be sure you have what you need. The truth is most people can probably do pretty much everything they need on the lowest tier they offer. A 1080p stream will work fine on a 25 Mbps connection, which is what I have. I also work entirely online, stream high-def videos at a dozen sites all day, play games, download movies and do lots of other stuff, sometimes all at the same time. I think I pay $45 a month. But rates like mine might not be advertised prominently or at all. I only found out when I literally asked what the cheapest possible option was. That said, if you have three kids who like to watch videos simultaneously, or you have a 4K streaming setup that you use a lot, you’ll want to bump that up a bit. But you’d be surprised how seldom the speed limit actually comes into play. To be clear, it’s still important that higher tiers are available, and that internet providers upgrade their infrastructure, because competition and reliability need to go up and prices need to come down. The full promise of broadband should be accessible to everyone for a reasonable fee, and that’s still not the case. 6. Stream everything because broadcast TV is a joke Cord-cutting is fun. Broadcast TV is annoying, and getting around ads and air times using a DVR is very 2005. Most shows are available on streaming services of some kind or another, and while those services are multiplying, you could probably join all of them for well under what you’re paying for the 150 cable channels you never watch. Unless you really need to watch certain games or news shows as they’re broadcast, you can get by streaming everything. This has the side effect of starving networks of viewers and accelerating the demise of these 20th-century relics. Good ones will survive as producers and distributors of quality programming, and you can support them individually on their own merits. It’s a weird transitional time for TV, but we need to drop-kick them into the future so they’ll stop charging us for a media structure established 50 years ago. Something isn’t available on a streaming service? 100 percent chance it’s because of some dumb exclusivity deal or licensing SNAFU. Go pirate it for now, then happily pay for it as soon as it’s made available. This method is simple for you and instructive for media companies. (They always see piracy rates drop when they make things easy to find and purchase.) This also lets you avoid certain fees ISPs love tacking onto your bill. I had a “broadcast TV fee” on my bill despite not having any kind of broadcast service, and I managed to get it taken off and retroactively paid back. On that note… 7. Watch your bill like a hawk Telecoms just love putting things on your bill with no warning. It’s amazing how much a bill can swell from the quoted amount once they’ve added all the little fees, taxes and service charges. What are they, anyway? Why not call and ask? You might find out, as I did, that your ISP had “mistakenly” been charging you for something — like equipment — that you never had nor asked for. Amazing how these lucrative little fees tend to fall through the cracks! Small charges often increase and new ones get added as well, so download your bill when you get it and keep it somewhere (or just keep the paper copies). These are really handy to have when you’re on the phone with a rep. “Why wasn’t I informed my bill would increase this month by $50?” “Why is this fee more now than it was in July?” “Why do I pay a broadcast fee if I don’t pay for TV?” These are the types of questions that get you discounts. Staying on top of these fees also means you’ll be more aware when there are things like mass refunds or class action lawsuits about them. Usually these have to be opted into — your ISP isn’t going to call you, apologize and send a check. As long as you’re looking closely at your bill… 8. Go to your account and opt out of everything When you sign up for broadband service, you’re going to get opted into a whole heap of things. They don’t tell you about these, like the ads they can inject, the way they’re selling this or that data or that your router might be used as a public Wi-Fi hotspot. You’ll only find this out if you go to your account page at your ISP’s website and look at everything. Beyond the usual settings like your address and choice of whether to receive a paper bill, you’ll probably find a few categories like “privacy” and “communications preferences.” Click through all of these and look for any options to opt out of stuff. You may find that your ISP has reserved the right to let partners email you, use your data in ways you wouldn’t expect and so on. It only takes a few minutes to get out of all this, and it deprives the ISP of a source of income while also providing a data point that subscribers don’t like these practices. 9. Share your passwords Your friend’s internet provider gets him streaming services A, B and C, while yours gives you X, Y and Z. Again, this is not about creators struggling to get their content online, but rather all about big media and internet corporations striking deals that make them money and harm consumers. Share your (unique, not reused!) passwords widely and with a clean conscience. No company objects when you invite your friends over to watch “Fleabag” at your house. This just saves everyone a drive! 10. Encrypt everything and block trackers One of the internet companies’ many dirty little deals is collecting and selling information on their customers’ watching and browsing habits. Encrypting your internet traffic puts the kibosh on this creepy practice — as well as being good security. This isn’t really something you can do too much to accomplish, since over the last few years encryption has become the rule rather than the exception, even at sites where you don’t log in or buy anything. If you want to be sure, download a browser plug-in like HTTPS everywhere, which opts you into a secure connection anywhere it’s available. You can tell it’s secure because the URL says “https://” instead of “http://” — and most browsers have other indicators or warnings as well. You should also use an ad blocker, not necessarily to block ads that keep outlets like TechCrunch alive (please), but to block trackers seeded across the web by companies that use sophisticated techniques to record everything you do. ISPs are among these and/or do business with them, so everything you can do to hinder them is a little mud in their eye. Incidentally there are lots of ways you can protect your privacy from those who would invade it — . 11. Use a different DNS Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch On a similar note, most ISPs will usually be set up by default with their own “Domain Name Service,” which is the thing that your browser pings to convert a text web URL (like “techcrunch.com”) to its numerical IP address. There are lots of these to choose from, and they all work, but if you use your ISP’s, it makes it much easier for them to track your internet activity. They also can block certain websites by refusing to provide the IP for content they don’t like. TechCrunch doesn’t officially endorse one, but lots of companies offer free, fast DNS that’s easy to switch to. ; there are big ones (Google, Cloudflare), “open” ones (OpenDNS, OpenNIC) and others with some niche features. All you need to do is slot those two numbers into your internet configuration, following the instructions they provide. You can change it back at any time. is another option for very privacy-conscious individuals, but it can be complicated. And speaking of complicated… 12. Run a home server This is a bit advanced, but it’s definitely something ISPs hate. Setting up your home computer or a dedicated device to host a website, script or service seems like a natural use of an always-on internet connection, but just about everyone in the world would rather you sign up for their service, hosted on their hardware and their connection. Well, you don’t have to! You can do it on your own. Of course, you’ll have to learn how to run and install a probably Unix-based server, handle registry stuff, install various packages and keep up to date so you don’t get owned by some worm or bot… but you’ll have defied the will of the ISP. That’s the important thing. 13. Talk to your local government ISPs hate all the things above, but what they hate the most by far is regulation. And you, as a valued citizen of your state and municipality, are in a position to demand it. Senators, representatives, governors, mayors, city councils and everyone else actually love to hear from their constituency, not because they desire conversation but because they can use it to justify policy. During the net neutrality fight, a constant refrain I heard from government officials was how much they’d heard from voters about the issue and how unanimous it was (in support, naturally). A call or email from you won’t sway national politics, but a few thousand calls or emails from people in your city just might sway a local law or election. These things add up, and they do matter. State net neutrality policies are now the subject of national attention, and local privacy laws like those in Illinois are the bane of many a shady company. Tell your local government about your experience with ISPs — outages, fees, sneaky practices or even good stuff — and they’ll file it away for when that data is needed, such as renegotiating the contracts national companies sign with those governments in order to operate in their territories. Internet providers only do what they do because they are permitted to, and even then they often step outside the bounds of what’s acceptable — which is why rules like net neutrality are needed. But first people have to speak out.
Monitor vs TV – What are the Differences?

Monitor vs TV – What are the Differences?

5:15am, 3rd September, 2019
When shopping for the best extension monitor for your laptop or the for your next picnic, consider the similarities and differences, so you know what you’re looking for. Just because you play games on your TV or watch shows on your computer monitor doesn’t mean they are the same thing. TVs and monitors have very different designs and features. However, there are also a few things they have in common. Size Monitors generally have a smaller screen than TVs. A 30-inch monitor is significant, while a 42-inch HDTV is on the low end of the spectrum. People sit closer to their computer than to the TV, so it doesn’t need to be visible from a distance. Ports There isn’t much of a comparison in a monitor vs. TV when it comes to ports. They both support HDMI, VGA, USB, and DVI. You could use either to connect a multitude of other components like DVD players, Roku, Chromecast, flash drives, and much more. Types Each device serves its unique purposes, but these may overlap. For instance, there are LCD TVs and plenty of smart TV options that allow you to stream your content while we generally use monitors for gaming. However, a TV can be used for gaming, too. Modern monitors and TVs have flat-panel displays, and you would rarely find a new CRT monitor or TV. It’s possible at exclusive stores that cater to the types of gamers who prefer CRT setups, but unlikely. Keep in mind that monitors and TVs have a very different refresh rate, aspect ratio, resolution, and display specifications. A gaming monitor is likely your best bet when it comes to gaming on a screen. You can still have a pleasant gaming experience on a TV with a high Hz refresh rate, though, even if you’re doing console gaming. Buttons In their most basic form, monitors and TVs have buttons and screens. At the very least, you’ll find power buttons and menu buttons, but a TV usually also has a remote with buttons, whereas a monitor does not. HDTVs and more complicated devices have additional buttons that help you control brightness and other settings. This control can improve your image quality or picture quality. Speakers All TVs have built-in speakers, but only some monitors do. However, you can upgrade or attach different speakers to either to improve your sound quality. For monitors that do have built-in speakers, they are generally basic and don’t sound nearly as good as TV speakers do. Interchangeability Monitors and TVs are interchangeable when doing many things, including gaming, photo editing, or streaming shows. The important things to keep in mind are the kind of ports you need to connect your components. If you need an HDMI port to connect your Amazon Fire Stick, make sure you purchase either a TV or a monitor with that kind of connection. TVs are for comfort and visibility, so the viewing angles are broader and more conducive to a living room setting. However, the refresh rate is much slower, making it hard to game in certain situations. The post appeared first on .
The spectacle of Gen Con, the country’s largest (and possibly friendliest) tabletop game convention

The spectacle of Gen Con, the country’s largest (and possibly friendliest) tabletop game convention

11:50am, 4th August, 2019
Your intrepid Seattle-based gaming correspondent Tim Ellis (that’s me) hit the road this weekend to visit Indianapolis, home of , the nation’s largest and oldest tabletop gaming convention. The main Expo Hall at Gen Con The convention spreads out across the entire Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts), and the ballroom space of several large nearby hotels. More than 60,000 attendees crowd the venues, seeking out classic games, tabletop role-playing, brand new releases, upcoming titles, and prototypes of games still being developed. The scene at the con is crowded, but super friendly. Even in the jam-packed hallways waiting for the main expo hall to open, the crowd is upbeat and joins together in a cheerful chant of “here we come!” Although people come from all over the country (and world) to attend Gen Con, the famous really comes through as you interact with your fellow attendees. Strangers will strike up a conversation with you in the elevators! I sat down to play a demo of one two-player game and the company rep running the demo had no problem at all getting a random passer-by to happily join me. As I played through another game demo, a stranger came up and started asking me questions about it! These are all experiences I don’t think I’ve ever had at the similar Seattle-based gaming convention West, where the Seattle freeze seems to extend into the convention center. A giant game of Catan takes place at Gen Con Speaking of PAX, the expo hall at Gen Con is focused on low-tech physical games made mostly of cardboard, wood, and plastic, and thus has a very different feel from the equivalent space at PAX (which includes tabletop gaming but is dominated by video games). The Gen Con expo hall is bright and relatively quiet. Rather than a cacophony of game demos blasting at your ears from every direction, there’s just the quiet murmur of the crows. It also lacks the giant displays, massive props, and enormous video screens that make up the bulk of the vendor booths in the PAX expo hall. There are a few traces of video gaming at Gen Con, including a classic arcade room and an appearance from the controversial arcade gaming legend Billy Mitchell, of “King of Kong” fame, the classic documentary that pitted him against Seattle-area teacher Steve Wiebe. Mitchell is here to make a live attempt at a “perfect game” on Pac-Man. Controversial arcade gaming legend Billy Mitchell, of “King of Kong” fame, attempts a “perfect game” on Pac-Man at Gen Con Many Seattle-based game companies also made the trip out to Indianapolis to show off their latest, including Funko Games, Ravensburger, , and many small indie game publishers and developers like and (run by former ). Even Penny Arcade (creators of PAX) have a small booth focused on . Here’s a look inside the show this weekend, for everyone who isn’t here in Indianapolis:
Roblox hits 100 million monthly active users

Roblox hits 100 million monthly active users

10:44am, 4th August, 2019
Roblox is big. Bigger than Minecraft big. The massively multiple online title has been around since 2006, but the game has been achieving a crazy amount of momentum of late. On Friday, it announced that it’s grown past 100 million monthly active users, pushing past Minecraft, which is currently in the (still impressive) low-90s. Here’s the service’s dizzying growth since February 2016, who it was hovering around 9 million players. That’s more than 10x growth in a three and a half year span. User-Generated content is a big part of that number, and the company notes that it has around 40 million user created experiences in the game at present. Sources: TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Roblox “We started Roblox over a decade ago with a vision to bring people from all over the world together through play,” founder and CEO David Baszucki said of the big new round number. “Roblox began with just 100 players and a handful of creators who inspired one another, unlocking this groundswell of creativity, collaboration, and imagination that continues to grow.” The company behind the game has also been pumping some big money into development. It paid $30 million in 2017 and $60 million in 2018. Next week, it will be hosting hundreds of attendees at its fifth Roblox Developer Conference. Per the new numbers, around 40 percent Roblox users are female, with players spread out across 200 countries.
This week in games: E3 rumors start springing forth, EA doubles down on loot boxes

This week in games: E3 rumors start springing forth, EA doubles down on loot boxes

12:30pm, 11th May, 2018
We’re entering that weird period before every E3 where the “leaks” start appearing and it’s impossible to know what’s real or not. Case in point: Pretty much all the news this week.Look for rumors about Rage 2, Splinter Cell, and “Forza Horizons 5” (?) below, plus EA’s Andrew Wilson reiterating support for loot boxes, Rusty Lake making a short film, a trailer for a snazzy looking shooter called Atomic Heart, and details on Red Sox pitcher David Price’s Fortnite ban.The Free in the Flood I don’t know what exactly is tied to. Not May Day, nor Easter, nor Groundhog Day, nor the equinox, or any other obvious spring event. Regardless, it means cheap games for you—and one free game, too. , a (their words) “rogue-lite river journey through the backwaters of a forgotten post-societal America.” Basically, you float down a river on a raft and try not to die. Grab it before mid-day Saturday and it’s yours to keep, with a Steam key included.
Monitor vs TV – What are the Differences?

Monitor vs TV – What are the Differences?

5:15am, 3rd September, 2019
When shopping for the best extension monitor for your laptop or the for your next picnic, consider the similarities and differences, so you know what you’re looking for. Just because you play games on your TV or watch shows on your computer monitor doesn’t mean they are the same thing. TVs and monitors have very different designs and features. However, there are also a few things they have in common. Size Monitors generally have a smaller screen than TVs. A 30-inch monitor is significant, while a 42-inch HDTV is on the low end of the spectrum. People sit closer to their computer than to the TV, so it doesn’t need to be visible from a distance. Ports There isn’t much of a comparison in a monitor vs. TV when it comes to ports. They both support HDMI, VGA, USB, and DVI. You could use either to connect a multitude of other components like DVD players, Roku, Chromecast, flash drives, and much more. Types Each device serves its unique purposes, but these may overlap. For instance, there are LCD TVs and plenty of smart TV options that allow you to stream your content while we generally use monitors for gaming. However, a TV can be used for gaming, too. Modern monitors and TVs have flat-panel displays, and you would rarely find a new CRT monitor or TV. It’s possible at exclusive stores that cater to the types of gamers who prefer CRT setups, but unlikely. Keep in mind that monitors and TVs have a very different refresh rate, aspect ratio, resolution, and display specifications. A gaming monitor is likely your best bet when it comes to gaming on a screen. You can still have a pleasant gaming experience on a TV with a high Hz refresh rate, though, even if you’re doing console gaming. Buttons In their most basic form, monitors and TVs have buttons and screens. At the very least, you’ll find power buttons and menu buttons, but a TV usually also has a remote with buttons, whereas a monitor does not. HDTVs and more complicated devices have additional buttons that help you control brightness and other settings. This control can improve your image quality or picture quality. Speakers All TVs have built-in speakers, but only some monitors do. However, you can upgrade or attach different speakers to either to improve your sound quality. For monitors that do have built-in speakers, they are generally basic and don’t sound nearly as good as TV speakers do. Interchangeability Monitors and TVs are interchangeable when doing many things, including gaming, photo editing, or streaming shows. The important things to keep in mind are the kind of ports you need to connect your components. If you need an HDMI port to connect your Amazon Fire Stick, make sure you purchase either a TV or a monitor with that kind of connection. TVs are for comfort and visibility, so the viewing angles are broader and more conducive to a living room setting. However, the refresh rate is much slower, making it hard to game in certain situations. The post appeared first on .
Xbox Live is down for many (Update: It’s back up)

Xbox Live is down for many (Update: It’s back up)

5:09am, 3rd September, 2019
If you were trying to sneak in a quick game on Xbox Live during your Friday afternoon lunch break and found that you can’t get online: don’t worry, you’re not alone. While still says all things are good to go (Update: Microsoft’s status page has now caught up with the outage, and says that it’s impacting sign-ins, account creations and searches), reports are pouring in of an outage keeping many users from logging in. Microsoft acknowledged the problem on Twitter, saying that they’re “looking into it now.” Update, 2:30 PM: It’s back up! The status page shows all lights as green again, and a Microsoft spokesperson says that services have been fully restored. We're aware that some users are unable to sign in currently & our teams are looking into it now. We'll update when we have more info to share. Thanks for all the reports! — Xbox Support (@XboxSupport)