Intel Core i9-10900K leak hints that the CPU is ready to lead the charge against Ryzen 3000

Intel’s Core i9-10900K has been the subject of another benchmark leak as we come closer to its release (preceded by a possible unveiling at the end of April), and this fresh result could help to calm fears that Comet Lake chips might just struggle in the face of AMD’s Ryzen line-up.

The Geekbench 5 result was uncovered by Tum_Apisak, who is the source of a lot of leaked benchmarks on Twitter.

The incoming flagship Core i9-10900K managed to record a single-core result of 1,437, and in multi-core the CPU hit 11,390 (assuming this benchmark isn’t fabricated in some manner, of course).

Compared to the processor it will succeed, the Core i9-9900K, that’s a pretty considerable boost – this hit 1,340 in single-core and 8,788 in multi-core (although not in an identical system, so we have to bear that firmly in mind – there may have been different quantities and spec of system memory, for example).

At any rate, in terms of multi-core with this particular comparison, we are looking at an almost 30% leap in performance with the incoming 10th-gen processor.

So yes, that’s impressive, but then we’d expect the Comet Lake offering to outdo the previous flagship, of course. The thing is that some of the previous leaked benchmarks have indicated that we might not get that much of a relative boost, so this would seem to put paid to any of those fears (along with worries that Intel might be struggling to tame the power consumption of the 10900K, perhaps, as we’ve also heard on the grapevine).

As we get closer to the release of the processor, of course it makes sense that any leaked benchmark result would be more in line with the performance we might expect from the finished release version of the CPU (as opposed to engineering samples which are somewhat hampered due to being early versions of the silicon).

Getting more out of 14nm

Given that the 10900K has 25% more cores than the 9900K (10 versus 8), with no other factors coming to bear, you’d expect a roughly similar increase in multi-core performance – so the 30% figure shows that Intel has still been able to squeeze more out of its 14nm process. Of course, upping the maximum boost slightly from 5GHz to 5.1GHz (as per the rumor mill) would help in that regard, but may not entirely account for the extra horsepower, which is presumably due to Intel’s further refinements of 14nm with Comet Lake.

Refinements that must be increasingly difficult to make at this point, given how hard Intel has had to push 14nm (and for so long). Which is another reason why folks were somewhat concerned about the sort of performance we might get with 10th-gen desktop processors compared to current offerings.

Of course, all this remains speculation at this point, so we shouldn’t get carried away with any of this theorizing; but at least the latest indications are more positive than some of the previous buzz we’ve heard.

Intel needs to produce something special to help combat the success of Ryzen 3000 in the desktop arena, which has been storming ahead for AMD. And of course Ryzen 4000 isn’t too far away either, with even bigger potential gains for AMD, which might mean Intel could take action on the pricing front (it has been dropping CPU prices elsewhere in recent times, after all).

Running against that possibility is the fact that Intel isn’t known for coming in from the get-go with competitive pricing in a new product line, but as ever, we shall see when Comet Lake actually launches.

Via Tom’s Hardware

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Supplier worries might mean a delay to the iPhone 12 launch

One minute the iPhone 12 is on schedule for a September launch, the next minute it's likely to be delayed. There's a whole lot of uncertainty around the world right now, and that's being reflected in what we're hearing about Apple's next flagship phone.

The latest report says a delay is likely, and considering it's from Reuters, that gives it some added weight. Apparently the factories that supply Apple are now back up and running – but there's some concern about buyer demand in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Reuters cites insider sources as saying that a planned production ramp-up on the iPhone 12 – the first Apple phone to carry 5G technology – has now been pushed back while the various companies in the supply chain take stock.

"Things are changing on a day by day basis due to supply chain disruptions, so it is difficult to craft any meaningful comment at the moment about both supply and demand," said one of the sources that Reuters spoke to.

To delay or not to delay

With the phone-buying public in so many parts of the world taking a financial hit as the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, it's no surprise that there are some question marks about how many iPhone 12 units Apple is going to be able to shift.

The Reuters report doesn't state categorically that the phone won't launch in the usual September slot – it may be that suppliers scale down their operations but stick to a similar schedule – but it's another question mark.

If the iPhone 12 is delayed though, it may be to doubts about consumer demand rather than any logistical challenges. According to Reuters' sources, Chinese factories have recovered to the stage where they are ready to start churning out devices again, if needed.

We might get more hints when Apple announces its next round of financial results in April. Whether the phone launches in September or not, it should be well worth waiting for – besides on-board 5G, we're expecting to see a significant camera upgrade too.

Via MacRumors

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Why telcos in UAE don’t favour opening of WhatsApp and FaceTime amid Covid-19

Residents in the UAE have been urging telecom operators to further ease restrictions on free video and voice calls over the internet (VoIP) such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype and Apple’s FaceTime due to Coronavirus outbreak.

Even though the telecom operators – Etisalat and du – have provided access to remote learning applications (Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Blackboard and Zoom) on the fixed network and Microsoft Teams, Blackboard and Zoom on the mobile network, they have generally blocked other popular applications.

Karim Yaici, Senior Analyst at Analysys Mason, told TechRadar Middle East that there will likely be a selective and progressive opening of VoIP apps in the UAE to facilitate communications.

He said that there are reasons that have prevented the liberalisation of the voice market in the country, a protective regulatory regime to limit competition and protect operators’ margins as well as licensing and security considerations.

“The regulator and the operators are unlikely to allow all VoIP applications in the market but there will be select applications that will be permitted in the run-up to, and during, Expo 2020. It remains to be seen with these exceptional measures, taken in time of a crisis, will soften the position of the regulator and the operators towards OTT VoIP providers,” he said.

He said that operators have been taken by surprise by the rapid take-up of ToTok in 2019 and expects operators to report a large shift of calls to the application and a significant drop in voice revenue during the first quarter of 2020.

Karim Yaici, Senior Analyst at Analysys Mason

"...The increased data usage, generated by OTT applications, is unlikely to offset the drop in voice revenue. So operators will have to think more creatively about how to further drive data usage and increase spend, for example,  by offering richer video streaming and gaming services, Karim Yaici, Senior Analyst at Analysys Mason, said.

Telcos trying to protect voice revenues

This trend is likely to accelerate as the regulator has now allowed more OTT apps, especially business apps such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, to work for the first time in the UAE from residential lines.

 “These measures are likely to be time-limited but if the crisis is prolonged and people get accustomed to using these apps and businesses start to depend on them, it will be difficult to justify blocking them back,” Yaici said.

As long as the most popular VoIP apps such as WhatsApp and Skype are partially or fully blocked, he said that telcos can still protect some of the revenues from voice services, especially lucrative segments such as international calls and roaming.

 “This is important because the increased data usage generated by OTT applications is unlikely to offset the drop in voice revenue. So operators will have to think more creatively about how to further drive data usage and increase spend, for example,  by offering richer video streaming and gaming services,” he said.

Expo 2020 could offer a silver lining

Yaici also said that the demand for telecoms services will be stronger as a result of the current Covid-19 crisis as voice and data traffic has shifted from businesses to residential lines and from outdoor to indoor usage, so it is undeniable that it will have an impact on mobile revenue with no clear compensation from the fixed business.

“Operators have potentially an opportunity to drive the awareness and take-up of new services such as gaming and encourage the upgrade of broadband services to higher speeds,” he said.

The potential impact of the Covid-19 crisis could be important without significant fiscal and monetary measures because key sectors of the local economy, such as oil, airlines, retail and hospitality, have already been hit hard in the UAE.

“Many businesses will struggle to keep operations afloat and many people will be at risk of losing their jobs and that will have a direct impact on demand for telecoms services. However, Expo 2020 could offer an opportunity to kick-off the economic recovery before year-end,” he said.

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Intel and AMD face an ARM’ed onslaught from this 96-core CPU monster

Hot on the heels of Amazon’s Graviton2, Marvell has announced the launch of the ThunderX3, its third generation Arm server processor.

Anandtech’s Andrei Frumusanu reports that the chip, originally forged by a small startup called Cavium (subsequently acquired by Marvell), has capabilities shared by none of its big rivals.

The ThunderX3 is one of the very few processors that can do more than two threads per physical core. Its 96-core (a very high count for a general processor) offers up to 384 threads on a single socket, with custom-designed Arm v8.3+ cores and speeds that are likely to ramp up to 3GHz.

A server can support up to two sockets and a total of 16 DDR4 memory controllers. Comparisons published by Marvell showed that the TX3 can deliver a much higher performance per watt (up to 120%) than the competition, which in this case includes AMD’s older Rome Epyc and Intel’s Cascade Lake-SP Xeons.

The ThunderX3 is ideal for data centres, cloud computing giants, virtual desktop services and website hosting companies.

What does this mean for businesses? Essentially, greater compute performance for less money. Based on the performance/price metrics Amazon’s Graviton2 delivered, we expect Google and Microsoft to pay close attention to Altera and Marvell.

Unlike the x86 ecosystem, this technology will not trickle down to the B2C market. However, as new CPUs replace older models, the redundant kit usually ends up on eBay, like this 64-core Intel Xeon Phi 7210S on sale for $190.

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Samsung Galaxy S30: what we want to see

The Samsung Galaxy S20 hasn’t been out long at the time of writing, but already we’re dreaming of what Samsung will cook up for the Galaxy S30 range.

These are sure to be some of the most exciting phones of 2021, so hype is already building, and we’re even hearing the first very early rumors.

You’ll find those below, and we’ll be adding to this article any time there’s new information, so make sure to check back regularly if you want to stay up to date.

You’ll also find our wish list for the Samsung Galaxy S30 further down – these are the things that we most want from Samsung’s next Galaxy S phone, in order to make it as good as possible.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The successor to the Galaxy S20
  • When is it out? Probably February 2021
  • What will it cost? Likely upwards of $999 / £899 / AU$1,499

Samsung Galaxy S30 release date and price

Samsung always unveils its new Galaxy S models early in the year, and in recent years it has been announcing them in February, then selling them from March, so it’s very likely it will do the same with the Samsung Galaxy S30 range.

We can’t get much more specific than that, but recently the company has avoided MWC (a trade show which takes place at the end of February) and launched its phones earlier in the month, so that too is likely in 2021.

As for how much the Samsung Galaxy S30 range will cost, the phones will probably be at least as expensive as the Galaxy S20 range, likely meaning a starting price for the basic model of at least $999 / £899 / AU$1,499, with the Samsung Galaxy S30 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S30 Ultra likely costing even more.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 range is very expensive

Samsung Galaxy S30 leaks and news

At the time of writing the only real Samsung Galaxy S30 leak takes the form of a claim from a post on South Korean site Clien (via SamMobile) that Samsung is working on a 150MP camera for smartphones that can combine nine pixels into one, for 16MP shots that can take in a lot of light.

We would however take this claim with a serious side of salt – it’s very early for S30 rumors, the source doesn’t have a track record, and even if Samsung is working on that camera, that doesn’t guarantee that we’ll see it in the Galaxy S30 range.

Beyond that we can take some educated guesses about the Samsung Galaxy S30. For example, it will almost certainly be powered by whatever the top-end Snapdragon chipset is it at that point (likely the Snapdragon 875), with some regions instead getting the top-end Exynos chipset.

What we want to see

We don’t know much about the Samsung Galaxy S30 yet but we know what we want from it, with the following things being top of our list.

1. A more reasonable price

Samsung Galaxy S20

Hopefully the Galaxy S30 won't cost as much as the S20

There’s no getting around how expensive the Samsung Galaxy S20 range is. Even the basic model will set you back a lot, with prices rising compared to the previous year and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra almost creating a new category of ultra-premium phones.

The situation isn’t helped by the absence of a Samsung Galaxy S20e or Samsung Galaxy S20 Lite – though it’s possible one will arrive at some point.

In any case, we’d like to see either a cost reduction for 2021’s models or a Samsung Galaxy S30 Lite alongside the rest of the range. Or better yet, both.

2. 100x zoom across the range

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra has some of the flashiest camera credentials we’ve seen on a smartphone, headlined by its 100x zoom.

So, for the Galaxy S30 range we’d like to see that feature move down to the more affordable models. But we’d also like to see it improved, as in its current form the quality isn’t great, making it more of a party trick than a feature you’ll actually be using a lot.

3. An in-screen camera

We've had enough of punch-holes

Samsung’s current flagships have camera cut-outs in the screen for the selfie camera, and we feel this is a rather inelegant solution, so for the Samsung Galaxy S30 we’d really like the camera to be built into the screen, just like the fingerprint scanner.

That would allow Samsung to deliver a truly all-screen design without having to resort to a pop-up camera (which takes up more internal space and is likely to be more vulnerable).

We’re not confident that we’ll see this – it will likely largely depend on whether the tech is good enough – but it would certainly be a standout feature.

4. A new look

The design of the Galaxy S range didn’t change much with 2020’s models, and other than switching a bezel for a punch-hole camera the design hasn’t changed a whole lot in years, so we’d say it’s time for Samsung to switch things up with the Galaxy S30 range.

One way to do that would be with an in-screen camera, as mentioned above, but one way or another we want the phones to look truly different to the Galaxy S20 range.

5. The same chipset everywhere

Not all Galaxy S20's are equal

One odd feature of the Samsung Galaxy S range is that the chipset differs depending on where you are in the world, with some regions getting Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon chipset of the time, and others getting Samsung’s top-end Exynos one.

The trouble is these chipsets are rarely equal. Whether in terms of performance or battery life, there’s usually a difference. How much of a difference can vary from year to year, and it’s not normally too massive, but there is always a weaker version of the phone.

So going forward we’d like to see Samsung use the same chipset in all regions.

6. 120Hz at QHD+

Another quirk of the Samsung Galaxy S20 range is that you can have a 120Hz refresh rate or a QHD+ screen resolution, but not both at the same time.

That’s rather restrictive, especially when plenty of other phones - such as the OnePlus 7T Pro and Google Pixel 4 XL – have at least a 90Hz refresh rate paired with QHD+, whereas on Samsung’s phones you have to drop right down to 60Hz.

There are rumors that Samsung might remove the restriction with a software update, but whether it does or not, it’s not a restriction we want to see on the Galaxy S30 range.

7. A slicker scanner

The in-screen scanner in the Samsung Galaxy S20 range isn’t bad, but it’s still not as fast or reliable as the best physical fingerprint scanners, so that’s another thing we’d like to see improved for the Samsung Galaxy S30.

We want it to work instantly, every time, while still being secure.

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The next Apple Watch could get Touch ID and sleep tracking

The Apple Watch 6 could be with us at some point this year, assuming the coronavirus outbreak doesn't push its launch back, and a new rumor hints at some of the features it might bring: Touch ID, sleep tracking, and blood oxygen level monitoring.

That's according to Israeli site The Verifier and YouTube channel iupdate, which aren't among the very best sources when it comes to Apple leaks – so treat these leaks with a little bit of skepticism for now.

It's worth noting that blood oxygen saturation monitoring has already been tipped for the next Apple Watch, as has the addition of sleep tracking – these features were spotted in early iOS 14 code and could well be on the way.

Touch ID on Apple's wearable would be a little more unexpected, but we have seen Apple patents exploring this idea. It's not clear yet whether any potential fingerprint reader would be built into the watch screen or the digital crown at the side.

Watch this space

The inside sources speaking to The Verifier and iupdate shared a few more tidbits as well: unsurprisingly, there's going to be no change in the shape of the Apple Watch for the foreseeable future, so we won't be seeing a circular model any time soon.

Meanwhile, the demands of watchOS 7 are likely to be too much for the Apple Watch Series 2. Apple likes to support products with software updates for five years, but the rumor is that the Series 2 is going to get dropped this time around and left on watchOS 6.

The only other bit of advance information we get from this leak is that watchOS 7 is going to be a "big upgrade" – so make of that what you will. Sleep tracking, blood oxygen monitoring and Touch ID would certainly qualify as big as far as we're concerned.

With health and fitness features such a major selling point for the Apple Watch series, it's certain that we'll see more and more of this type of functionality added as the years go by – it's just a question of how much will make the cut for the Apple Watch 6.

Via 9to5Mac

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Avoid The English Game on Netflix, even if you’re desperate for Premier League football

In extraordinary, unprecedented circumstances, my strict Saturday routine is forcibly changed on March 14, 2020. Usually, at 3pm sharp, I’d be tuning in to follow the ups and – more often than not – downs of my club’s chase for promotion from the third tier of English football. Today, however, Portsmouth won’t host Accrington Stanley at Fratton Park. My afternoon is an open goal, as will will be the rest of them for the foreseeable future: football across the United Kingdom has been suspended due to the coronavirus.

After as little as two hours into my football-free time I anxiously twiddle my thumbs and, like many others, look for ways to fill the gap. FIFA and Football Manager are fun, but no replacement for the real thing. To give you an idea of how desperate people like me get for any kind of competition, Southampton FC played Manchester City on Twitter, at noughts and crosses

So Julian Fellowes’ The English Game arrived on Netflix at the best possible time. The drama from the writer best known for Downton Abbey traces the origins of football in the late 19th century. It ticks the only box I need in this trying time: it has football in it, at least an impression of it. But does it offer anything valuable for a sports fan in their time of need? 

Well, no. The English Game sees Fergus Suter (Kevin Guthrie) travel from their Glaswegian home to the Lancashire town of Darwen to play professional football and win the FA Cup, the oldest national football competition in the world, for the working man. The trouble is, in 1879, being paid to play is forbidden by competition rules, in this amateur-only sport devised by gentlemen in the playing fields of elite British public schools.

Its premise isn’t half bad and the familiar shouts from the sidelines, of 22 pairs of boots pounding the turf, are a reassuringly warm blanket at first. The clichés are comforting – “Let the ball do the work,” Suter implores his fellow Lancastrians in his first match – and captain of the Old Etonians, Arthur Kinnaird (Edward Holcroft) even looks a bit like Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud, if you squint.

But this is a world away from the sport I know, and that’s not because midfielders are ‘half-backs’ or that players swarm around the ball instead of occupying space, charging towards their target almost like a wedge formation. I didn’t previously know that teams with five or six forwards in this time could be defensive, but this isn’t football, whatever the century.

It’s hard to put into words how terrible The English Game’s on-pitch action is. I tried to suspend my disbelief, to forget that these are actors pretending to play football, but they sought to doggedly remind me of that fact at every opportunity. Obviously fake tackles and half-arsed attempts at saves are as heavy and laboured as the bright boiled leather ball with which they’re ‘playing’. “Jimmy would’ve got to that,” Fergie thinks to himself as he punts a ball directly into a hedge.

It’s somehow made worse by this weird, guttural chanting during matches. It also materialises during supposedly tense scenes off the pitch to indicate that we should be feeling something. Seriously, two football clubs tactically placing their crests inside a three-by-three grid is closer to the beautiful game than this.

Away from the field is hardly any better with wooden acting, lazy stereotypes of working Northerners from down t’mill pit against cold, corrupt elites, and one of the worst scripts I’ve ever endured on Netflix. “On the football field you’re a genius,” Fergie is told before a match, “away from it you’re a puzzle.” Suter plays football for money and then moves to another club for more money. What an enigma.

But the ridiculous melodrama of The English Game’s subplots are so bad they make me long for a return to the pitch. The actual football is almost entirely absent during the show’s middle episodes preoccupied with problematic class politics, affairs, and... actually the less said on that the better. 

At one stage Darwen players are shocked when its impoverished population pay to support them. But if “people need football,” as hirsute manager James Walsh (Craig Parkinson) explains, why is it relegated to the background as if it were an inconvenience? Then, occasionally, I’m reminded of what football is like in The English Game and regret my question.

Instead we follow relationships and character arcs that are somehow both under-developed and dwelled on for too long. After five minutes in Darwen, Suter has already made friends for life there, apparently, and the kindly Kinnaird almost immediately transforms from odious posho to saccharine saviour of the working man.

Admittedly there is something interesting buried beneath all the rubbish. It’s ham-fisted and heavy-handed, but the show is bookended by attempts to ask the vexed question of who football is for. Is it for the rich who play for fun, or the working poor that cobble together what little they have each week to support their adopted mercenary heroes?

It isn’t long before the gentlemen amateurs start to lose their grip on the pastime they invented as working class professionals threaten to beat them at their own game. The line “Football is a game, not a business,” may be intoned with trademark awkwardness and scenery chewing, but it’s hard not to reflect on the dark side and dominance of money in today’s game as clubs take ever greater risks to have a swipe at the English Premier League, and the lucrative TV money that entails.

While The English Game momentarily encourages football fans like me to reflect on the origins of the game and how it could’ve all been so different, it’s still just awful. Yet I binged it all in one go anyway, and I hate myself for it. On reflection, I’d sooner watch a game of tic-tac-toe on Twitter.

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Star Trek: Picard season 2: release date predictions, story, new cast members and everything we know

Star Trek: Picard season 2 was confirmed before the show even started airing. The first season of the new Trek show is over, and what a finale it was. This was a triumphant return for Star Trek's greatest captain, with a powerhouse performance by Patrick Stewart, and an intriguing, mystery-laden plot that expanded the Trek universe in some interesting, and shocking, ways. But what's in store for the second season? 

It's definitely happening, although details are thin on the ground at the moment, including the release date. But we do know a few things, and can guess some other parts from the finale of Picard. Here's everything we've gathered so far. 

Spoilers follow for season 1, but here's what we know about Star Trek: Picard season 2.

Star Trek: Picard season 2 release date: probably 2021

No official date has been set for season 2 of Star Trek: Picard yet, but the early renewal suggests a 2021 release. However, this may be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which is currently halting the production of all CBS shows. 

Based on how Star Trek: Discovery has been released with more than a year-long gap between seasons, it's likely we'll see Star Trek: Picard season 2 slightly later in 2021. 

Star Trek: Picard season 2 was confirmed before the show started

Even before the first episode of Star Trek: Picard aired on January 23, CBS All Access had announced its renewal for a second series. At the Television Critics Association's winter press tour, it was officially revealed that Patrick Stewart would be returning for another season. “The energy and excitement around the premiere of Picard has reached a magnitude greater than all of us could have hoped for," CBS said. “We’re thrilled to announce plans for a second season."

What will Star Trek: Picard season 2's story be?

At the end of the first season, Picard managed to stop a group of synthetics from summoning a race of mechanical 'higher beings' that would wipe out all organic life in the galaxy. We briefly saw these beings – giant centipede-like machines – but they were sucked back into a portal before they could reach our galaxy.

It seems unlikely that the threat of these creatures will be the focus of season 2, but we will almost certainly return to the fight against the synth-hating Romulan General Oh, who was moments away from declaring all-out war on the Federation. She backed down after a threat from Captain Riker and a powerful Federation fleet, but it's likely she'll be back for revenge on Starfleet, Picard, and the synths whose lives he helped save.

We also know that Picard lives to fight another day, having had his memories implanted into a new synthetic body. Although Alton Soong, who performed the procedure, makes it clear that his new body is identical to his old one, including its ability to age and die. But the brain abnormality that haunted him in season 1 is now gone.

Picard has a full, loyal crew now, including Jurati, Seven of Nine, Elnor, Rios, and Raffi — and a ship, the La Sirena – so he's more than ready to face whatever new adventures are thrown at him in Star Trek: Picard season 2.

There could also be a Star Trek: Picard season 3

Although CBS has yet to confirm it, and won't comment on rumours, the Hollywood Reporter claims sources have revealed that season 3 has been informally given the go ahead – and may be filmed back-to-back with season 2.

Star Trek: Picard season 2 will be more personal

According to co-creator Michael Chabon, the second season of Picard will have more time to spend fleshing out its characters. Speaking to Variety about the relationship between Dr. Jurati and Rios in season one, he said: "It’s about letting people’s identities emerge. I think we’ll have more time for that in the second season than we’ve had in the first season. We just had so many characters and so much story to tell in this first season, that a lot of the sort of more personal aspects of things – including again, like people’s families, and all that stuff – just all got sort of left [behind]."

Guinan will return in Star Trek: Picard season 2

During an appearance on American TV show The View, which is co-hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Stewart formally invited her to join the cast of season 2 of Star Trek: Picard, reprising her role as Guinan. “It was wonderful having you, and we cannot wait to have you with us again one more time," said Stewart. Guinan was a recurring, and fan favourite, character in Star Trek: The Next Generation – an enigmatic bartender on the USS Enterprise who became close friends with Picard. It's unclear what her role in Star Trek: Picard season 2 will be, but it'll likely be an important one.

Star Trek: Picard season 2 will see a showrunner change

According to an interview in Variety, Michael Chabon won't be as heavily involved in season 2 of Star Trek: Picard as he was in the first. He's shifting his attention to developing a TV series for Showtime based on his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. But he will continue to work on Picard season 2 as an executive producer, and give notes to the writers. "I’m still an executive producer on Picard," he told Variety. "I’m writing two episodes. I was there breaking the second season, all the way through. I was engaged, I think, to exactly the same degree as I was on the first season."

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the co-creator of 2015's 12 Monkeys TV series, Terry Matalas, will join Star Trek: Picard season 2 as an executive producer. The source also suggests he was pulled from CBS's MacGyver reboot, as Picard is now a high priority for the studio. Matalas could take over as showrunner from Chabon. 

Star Trek: Picard is available to watch on CBS All Access in the US, Amazon Prime Video internationally.

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Best survival games: build, battle, loot, learn and live

It’s a wild world out there at the moment – grocery shopping has become a lawless pursuit of multipacks of toilet roll and pasta, and even stepping outside your door is an exercise in caution. It’s almost like we all need a little practice in how to survive in this brave new world.

Enter the best survival games! Designed to test your endurance, your ingenuity and, in many cases, your capacity for scares. Collecting resources, taking on – and hiding from – enemies, all while trying to protect your base of operations, they can be brutal, and brutally addictive.

Here’s our pick of the best survival games you should be playing.

The best survival games

Don’t Starve
(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android)

From it’s lovely Tim Burton-esque art style to its deep and engrossing crafting system, Don’t Starve is like a nightmare as conducted by Roald Dahl. Exploring its creepy world is never jump-out-of-your-seat frightening, but you’ll be terrified if you lose all your progress being killed by a marauding spider thing. If you’re stuck indoors, consider picking up the Don’t Starve Together add-on too, which introduces four player co-operative play into the mix.

No Man’s Sky
(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)

There’s a part of us that feels that, after the release and subsequent polishing of No Man’s Sky, all other games should just go home. What’s the point in playing something else when No Man’s Sky offers an entire universe for you to explore? A phenomenal technical achievement, and sci-fi nerds dream, it’s also a great survival sim, as you’ve got to collect resources, craft new gear, upgrade ships and defend against a menagerie of environmental hazards and intergalactic nasties.

Ark: Survival Evolved
(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android)

There’s never really been a good Jurassic Park game, and while it’s not officially licensed, Ark: Survival Evolved might be as good as we’ll get. Waking up on a deserted beach with just your wits and a loincloth, it’s up to you to find shelter, craft tools and weaponry and forge alliances with fellow players on an island teeming with giant aggressive dinosaur inhabitants. It’s a bit rough around the edges, and very unforgiving for newcomers, but getting to the point where you’ve tamed your own ferocious T-Rex still takes some beating.

Conan Exiles
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)

You know what survival games need even more of? Dongs! More dongs! And this time, with a dong-size slider in the character creation screen. Yep – build-your-own dong. And that’s before the game has even properly started. Obviously not one for the kids then, but this barbarian-themed survival game does Arnie proud with brutal combat, lush environments to explore and giant settlements to create. And massive dongs.

Minecraft
(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android)

Perhaps the most famous survival game of them all – although for many that side of Minecraft has slid into obscurity. While many now dive into the friendly build modes, at the heart of Minecraft remains an engrossing survival adventure, seeing you collect resources, build a shelter, and heading into the heart of the Earth to take on the increasingly aggressive inhabitants while hunting for rare treasures.

Subnautica
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Taking the survival genre from terra firma to 20,000 leagues under the sea, Subnautica mixes sci-fi scares with underwater thrills. It’s one of the most polished survival games out there, with a unique world to explore and a great loop of resource gathering, enemy battling and base improvements.

DayZ
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)

The survival daddy in many respects, DayZ started life as a mod before blowing up in such a huge way that it became its own game. Based on military sim Arma 3, it adds that ol’ faithful of videogames, zombies, into the survival mix. However, it’s not the undead you need to be most afraid of, but other players – they roam the maps in makeshift gangs, preying on the weak and stealing your hard earned gear.

The Forest
(PC, PS4)

This one’s great for horror fans – it’s the most out-and-out scary on the list. As a survivor of plane crash landing in that titular forest, The Forest has you evading the wandering mutant cannibals lurking among the trees, while building a fortress up in the branches. A toughie, and most enjoyable with a gang of pals.

Terraria 
(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android)

Like a 16-bit Minecraft, the pixel-art Terraria is one of the most popular survival games out there. Colorful and vast, Terraria lets you take on lots of monstrous foes, digging deep into endless caverns before returning to your home to construct gigantic bases to hone your skills in. It’s a great game, with a cutesy art style that belies its complexity.

Starbound
(PC)

Starbound has a very similar artstyle – and playstyle – to Terraria, but takes the endeavour up to the outer reaches of space. It has the same side-scrolling open world exploration, but has a bit more of a quest system than some of the more free-form entries into this list. A great one for Terraria fans.

Honourable Mention: Battle Royale Games
(Various)

From Fortnite to Apex Legends, you could make a good argument for including the battle royale genre as a whole to this list of survival games. PUBG was born from an Arma mod in the same way Day Z was, and from its success comes Fortnite, Apex Legends and the rest of the pretenders. From collecting your gear to aiming to be the last person standing and, in some cases, some quick fire shelter building too, the heritage is clear. 

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Half-Life 3: release date, news and rumors for Valve’s elusive beast

On 10th October 2007, Valve released Half-Life 2: Episode 2, the continuation of Gordon Freeman’s story as he and his friends fought to free the human race from the oppression of the alien Combine. The ending provided very little in the way of closure, setting up a number of plot points for Half-Life 3. But 13 years later a sequel has still never arrived. 

2020's Half-Life: Alyx, a prequel exclusively for virtual reality, marked the first kick in the franchise for a long time. But it's not a full sequel in the way that fans were hoping for and we're still waiting for a new Half-Life game with a 3 in the title. Fortunately, in a recent interview, Valve's Robin Walker said that the franchise still has a future, stating: "we absolutely see Half-Life: Alyx as our return to this world, not the end of it."

While this isn't a confirmation of definite plans for Half-Life 3, it's enough to give fans renewed hope that this long-dormant series is going to continue in one form or another. Here's everything we know of and hope for in another fully-fledged Half-Life game. 

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The long-awaited, and long-absent, continuation of the Half-Life saga
  • When can I play it? With nothing officially announced it won't be anytime soon

Half-Life 3 or Episode 3? Where has it been?

Back when Valve announced Half Life 2 would be getting episodic sequels, it revealed that there were plans to release three of them over the course of the following few years. They would together form what was essentially a third Half Life game. The idea was that development on an episode wouldn’t take as long as a full sequel, so fans could continue Gordon Freeman’s adventure sooner - albeit in smaller quantities.

Half Life 2: Episode 3 was never released, and over time people eventually just started referring to it as Half-Life 3 - assuming that Valve was working on a fully-fledged sequel rather than a brand new episode. 

In a 2020 interview with IGN, Valve explained why Half-Life 3 never emerged as its own release or a shorter episode. 

After a difficult six-year period which saw Valve developing Half-Life 2 and its Source game engine concurrently, level designer Dario Casali said that the team didn't want to repeat this, stating that “I think our main take away from that is ‘get some stable technology and then build a game on top of it." 

Instead, the team decided to work on smaller, episodic releases, with Episode 1 releasing in 2006 followed by the infamous Episode 2 in 2007. When it came to Episode 3, however, Casali explained that “We found ourselves creeping ever forward toward ‘Well, let's just keeping putting more and more, and more, and more stuff in this game because we want to make it as good as we can, and then we realized these episodes are turning more into sequels.” 

So, why didn't Half-Life episode 3 emerge as a fully-fledged Half-Life 3 sequel as many thought it would? Well, there are two primary reasons. The first is that the team didn't want to work on another Source engine alongside game development again and needed to work on Source 2 before creating another sequel. 

The other reason that goes hand-in-hand with this is explained in another IGN interview with Valve's co-founder Gabe Newell who said that “Half-Life games are supposed to solve interesting problems“ and that the studio doesn't just want to release Half-Life games in order to "make the quarterly numbers." When it comes to a new Half-Life game, then, Casali says that Valve is “looking for what is going to make that next big impact.” Making a big impact would, therefore, require an exciting new technology or a new engine.

Of course, Source 2 wasn't announced until 2015 when Dota 2 was released. And the following five years have been taken up with the VR-exclusive Half-Life: Alyx.

Which takes us to the present day, 13 years after Half-Life 2: episode 2, with no idea what the future holds for the series. 

Half-Life 3 release date—will it ever be made?

It's amazing that after the series had lain dormant for so long, Half-Life fans were still scrambling for another release. While 2020's VR title Half-Life: Alyx was a prequel rather than the full sequel that many were hoping for, it has rekindled some hope and marked the end of a drought. 

In an interview with GameInformer, Valve's Robin Walker said that Alyx is "not the end" for the franchise while writer Eric Wolpaw said in an interview with PCGamer that he's "ready to sign up for the next one". 

So, at the very least we know the series isn't retiring but we still don't know whether its next release will be Half-Life 3, another VR title related to Half-Life Alyx or something else completely fresh in the same universe. Hopefully we won't have to wait quite as long to find out. 

Will it be in VR?

Half-Life: Alyx is a VR-exclusive release and has quickly become a "watershed moment" for the platform, showing its true potential.

If another Half-Life title was to be released, then, would it be on VR? Well, that remains unclear and Valve remains non-committal. In an interview with PCGamer Dario Casali said “At this point, we don't really know what [another Half-Life game] would be—we don't know if it's going to be another VR title. We don't know if it's going to be a non VR title."

With the release of Half-Life: Alyx being so recent (though the game seems to be going down very well) the team is biding its time: “The best thing we can do at this point is to gauge the response to this product. How are people able to enjoy it? How many people can we get into the VR platform? [Are] people saying that VR is now this essential part of Half-Life? We really don't know those answers until we put the game out and we start listening.”

Certainly, at the moment, VR is a more limited platform in terms of its user base and if a fully-fledged Half-Life 3 were to be released it's possible Valve would want to make it available to as wide and audience as possible. This all remains speculation, however, and we won't know for sure what the future holds for the series until Valve confirms its intentions. 

What Valve has told us before 

So, although Valve never released its third episode or a sequel, some information has spilled out over the years. How much of it is still relevant is unclear, but Gabe Newell did confirm that players would retain control of action hero physicist Gordon Freeman. The end of Half-Life: Alyx certainly suggests that this will still be true of the next release. Newell later stated that Gordon would go unchanged in Episode 3, as it was then known, so he would “largely remain an arm and a crowbar”. Newell also confirmed that he will never speak, since his companions are a “more fruitful avenue to explore”.

Doug Lombardi, Valve’s VP of marketing, also confirmed that the story would not return to City 17, and that the developers had put a lot of work into "creating a natural progress of topography and climate".

Newell also confirmed that Episode 3, as it was then known, would finish the story arc that began in Half Life 2. While he spoke of the possibility of a fourth episodic instalment, he confirmed that it would be stand-alone and developed outside of Valve. It was later revealed to have been in development at Dishonored developers Arkane Studios and titled Return to Ravenholme. Unfortunately it was cancelled.

Former franchise writer Marc Laidlaw also confirmed to PC Gamer that Episode 3 wouldn’t have had a definite conclusion, much like Half Life and Half Life 2. The plot summary that he later released appeared to confirm this. 

Instead the game would keep things open so that a new team could eventually develop sequels. Laidlaw also claimed to have “no idea” if the game would ever get released or not.

In August 2017, longtime Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw posted a short story titled 'Epistle 3' on his personal blog. 

Although the writer referred to the post as a 'fanfic' it's pretty clear that the post is a thinly veiled plot summary of what would have been Half-Life 2: Episode 3, albeit with most of the name's changed and everyone's gender's reversed. 

If you'd like to read the post with the name's and gender's corrected then you can do so on GitHub, where someone has transcribed the whole short story. 

Although it's worth reading the post in its entirety, it appears the plot of the game would have followed Gordon and Alyx as they journeyed to the Borealis, which would have been found to be phasing in and out of existence. After a protracted fight they would have eventually have rigged the ship to travel to the heart of the Combine empire and explode, thus freeing the human race from their enslavement. 

Like previous Half-Life games, Gordon would have been left in limbo, saved from the explosion by the Vortigaunts. 

Leaked Concept Art

Despite the fact that Valve has seldom spoken about Half-Life 3, let alone released gameplay material, we have had a fair bit of concept art hit the net over the past 13 years. While it’s not quite the same as in-game renders of a trailer, it’s still something. Normally it might give us some hints at what to expect, but given the amount of time since the art first surface, the nature of the game is likely to have drastically changed.

The first pieces arrived online in 2007 and 2008, showcasing some of the possible settings:

Some more concept art arrived in 2012, and if legit shows off a wide variety of environments the players can explore.Valve has yet to comment on its validity, and since it’s usually quite quick to dismiss fakes this has led some to speculate that this is the real deal.

Counter Strike co-creator Minh Lee has also admitted to seeing some concept art himself. 

"I don't think I can talk about that, to be honest," he said. "I think it's kind of public knowledge that people know that it is being worked on. And so if I were to say that, yeah, I've seen some images, like some concept art of it, that wouldn't be big news to be honest. I guess I could say that I did see something that looked kinda like in the Half-Life universe.

And I mean it wouldn't surprise anyone if I said they're doing it, they're working on it, yeah. So to go out on a limb I'd say I did some concept art for Half-Life 3."

March 2008 also saw the release of what appears to be Alyx Vance concept art on the Picasa page belonging to Valve illustrator Andrea Wicklund. The images were quickly removed, but not before being saved and redistributed elsewhere.

Reddit AMA

In January 2017 Gabe Newell went onto Reddit to take part in an AMA (Ask Me Anything), which fans naturally used to ask some questions about the future of the Half Life/Portal universe. He did answer a few of them, though he didn’t reveal a whole lot.

Half-Life 3 remains unconfirmed

So, now that the Half-Life series has returned to, er, life fans are once again hoping to see a confirmation for that elusive third title. 

From what we've learned of the franchise's development history, though, it's clear that we won't hear about it or see it unless it's just right. Valve doesn’t really need to make a new Half Life game to be successful. Steam is one of the most popular digital storefronts in PC gaming, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and DOTA 2 attract millions of players who in turn purchase in-game items with real cash. That's not to mention VR successes.

But still, now that Half-Life: Alyx is breathing its first breaths, maybe we will see Half-Life 3 in some form or another some day. Certainly, the studio is clearly keen to continue releasing games in the series and we'll be updating this page as soon as some kind of official confirmation is released. 

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These are the five top SIM only deals this weekend: Three, EE, Smarty and more

If you've had it on your to-do list for months to finally get a new SIM plan, make this the weekend you finally invest the time and find the best SIM only deals currently on the market for you.

And while it can normally be a long and arduous affair trying to compare all of the different options, with tabs lining up along your computer, we're here to help try and speed up the process.

Below, we've picked out the top five SIM plans currently available in the UK. With everything from the best EE plan through to the UK's cheapest option and some all-round great pricing, you'll be able to find something that fits what you need.

  • Still looking for a new phone? Check our best SIM-free phone price guide

Our top 5 best SIM only deals this week:

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Apple launches Covid-19 screening tool so you can see if you need testing

Apple has launched a new Covid-19 screening website and iOS app, in partnership with the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

You can use either the site or the app to figure out if you need to be tested for Covid-19 or if you should get in touch with the emergency services. While the contact information and links are geared towards US users, anyone can make use of the tool.

You'll be asked about your current symptoms, any health issues you're living with, and where you've traveled to and from in the last few weeks. Once that's done, you'll be guided towards the most appropriate next steps, like getting tested.

Even if it's unlikely that you've been affected by the new coronavirus, the site and app will still offer up information about how to protect yourself – practising social distancing, washing your hands, and so on. Even if you're pretty sure you don't have Covid-19, it's well worth checking out.

Get the info you need

"The tools do not require a sign-in or association with a user's Apple ID, and users' individual responses will not be sent to Apple or any government organization," Apple points out in its official announcement.

We saw the foundations for this new tool being added to Siri last weekend – if you ask Apple's digital assistant about the new coronavirus or the Covid-19 disease then you get directed to the same information and resources.

You've now got an abundance of options if you need some authoritative, reliable information about the global pandemic we're living through. Google's online coronavirus hub is now online, with links to official health agencies in the US.

As you would expect, the coronavirus outbreak is having a huge impact on the world of tech. We're seeing events canceled and launches delayed, and it's going to be some months yet before everything is able to get back to normal.

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