The Surface Hub 2X might never ship according to a new report

Slow development of Windows Core OS might cause the Surface Hub 2X to never ship.

What you need to know

The Surface Hub 2X is significantly delayed, and potentially cancelled according to a new report.
The Surface Hub 2X is the version of the Surface Hub 2 set to run a version of Windows Core OS.
The development of Windows Core OS might be the cause of the Surface Hub 2X’s delay and potential cancellation.

Microsoft’s upcoming Surface Hub 2X is significantly delayed and potentially cancelled according to a new report by Petri. According to Petri’s Brad Sams, reports that people familiar with the company’s plans indicate that the Surface Hub 2X is at minimum delayed, and potentially might never ship. Sams’ sources also indicate that Windows Core OS, the operating system that powers the Surface Hub 2X might be taking longer to develop than expected, potentially contributing to the delay.

Last December, our senior editor Zac Bowden checked in on the status on the Surface Hub 2. In that report, Bowden states that the version of Windows Core OS that was built specifically for the Surface Hub 2X, codenamed Aruba, is cancelled. Bowden added that the Surface Hub 2X will ship with Windows 10X instead, though Microsoft might not refer to it as Windows 10X when on the Surface Hub 2X.

The Surface Hub 2X is the Windows Core OS variant of Microsoft’s second generation Surface Hub. The Surface Hub 2X was shown off in a video by Microsoft with a lot of fanfare. Notably, that video is now missing from the blog post announcing the Surface Hub 2. In fact, Microsoft appears to have removed all assets and mentions of the Surfacae Hub 2X from the blog post.

Sams reached out to Microsoft regarding the device and received a response that does not directly address if the Surface Hub 2X has been cancelled or delayed. Instead, it focuses on the 85-inch version of the Surface Hub and an OS update to the Surface Hub.

We have an ongoing dialogue with our customers on Hub and are working to align the roadmap to best meet their needs. The top two priorities for Hub in 2020 are deploying the 85″ device and rolling out an OS update that includes many top features customers have been requesting since Surface Hub 2S launched, including improving IT integration, deployment and management capabilities at no cost for all version 1 Hubs and Hub 2S devices. We’ll have more to share in the coming months.

Sams reports that the development of Windows Core OS could be the cause of the Surface Hub 2X’s release. This lines up, at least in part, with our report from last year regarding the Surface Hub 2X. We’ve yet to hear from Microsoft regarding the Surface Hub 2X this year.

The Surface Hub 2X might never ship according to a new report

Madden 20 has some interesting thoughts on who will win the Super Bowl

The wildest Madden 20 sim of the Super Bowl isn’t the one that’s most likely to happen.

As one of the few genuinely must-see events left in this era of TV, Super Bowl LIV is undoubtedly ready to generate some massive viewer numbers on Sunday, Feb. 2, when the San Francisco 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Some surely will only be tuning in for the usual slate of big-budget, big-name commercials, or to see Jennifer Lopez and Shakira light up the halftime show, but for football fans, there’s only one question that matters for the NFL’s Big Game: Who’s going to win?

The sports media has made an entire cottage industry of the build-up to the Super Bowl, so there’s more speculation, informed guesses, and statistical analysis floating around out there than Patrick Mahomes has passing yards. Still, there’s no reason that video games can’t contribute to this time of anticipation, especially when Madden 20 is available to simulate the matchup and see what insight we can glean.

Of course, Madden 20 isn’t exactly a sports sim, but it does have settings that get as close as a console game gets right now. I simmed Super Bowl 54 using the “Simulation” settings, with an accelerated play clock that ran down to 15 seconds after each play that ended with a running clock. I used the most recent roster updates possible, with one manual tweak: I moved 49ers running back Raheem Mostert up to the RB1 spot, as his recent performances suggest that San Francisco will give him more carries than his backfield mates Tevin Coleman (who is playing through a recent injury) and Matt Breida.

Play Super Bowl LIV for yourself

Madden 20

$30 at Amazon

It’s not too late to get in some NFL action this season

Whether your plan is to replay the 2019 NFL campaign or tackle the very popular Madden Ultimate Team mode, Madden 20 offers a variety of ways to play America’s most popular professional sport, and you won’t find a better price on it than right now.

To avoid the bias inherent in running a simulation of the Super Bowl just once (and yes, mathematicians, this is still going to be a very small sample set, I know), I watched one full sim. I then used Madden’s supersim feature to replay the game 99 more times. In one of those purely delightful cases of serendipity, the sample game I watched turned out to be the most wildly entertaining of them all … but the outcome disagreed with what Madden 20 thinks is most likely to happen in Miami.

Intrigued? Then read on, because I’ll break down the full game and follow up with trends from the full body of 100 sims.

Madden 20 Super Bowl LIV sample game simulation

As you’ll notice in the pics accompanying this article, the 49ers were the designated road team (which switches by conference every year), wearing their white jerseys with gold pants. The Chiefs were in their traditional red home jerseys with white pants. Fun fact: This is the first time during the Super Bowl era that the game will be contested between two teams with red as their primary home jersey color.

First quarter

The 49ers won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. On the second play of the game, 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner broke through and sacked Mahomes, suggesting it may be a long evening for the 2018 NFL MVP. Undaunted, he came just a yard shy of converting third down on a pass to Sammy Watkins, and the Chiefs were forced to punt.

San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo fared even worse on his first series, with his third down pass finding its way into the welcoming arms of Kansas City cornerback Bashaud Breeland for the game’s first turnover. The 49ers defense held firm, however, and the Chiefs settled for a 43-yard Harrison Butker field goal.

Garoppolo settled in on the 49ers’ second drive, finding rookie receiver Deebo Samuel not once, not twice, but thrice (yes, that’s a real word) to convert third downs. After a loss of yardage on a first down run from the 3-yard line, Garoppolo lofted a pass for Samuel again, who outjumped Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward for a TD reception.

Mahomes responded quickly with three completions to three different receivers. Still, after a holding penalty on Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Buckner got him down to the turf for the third time, tying the Super Bowl record for sacks in just one-quarter of action.

Score: 49ers 7, Chiefs 3

Second quarter

A second Butker field goal on the first play of the second quarter cut the 49ers lead to a single point. The teams then exchanged three-and-outs, with Buckner recording his fourth sack to set a new Super Bowl record — and plenty of time left to add onto it. He added a fifth sack after the Chiefs got the ball back again, but Mahomes was busy completing 12 of his first 13 passes when he had time to throw. From the San Francisco 40, he kept a play alive with his feet by rolling to his right for a gorgeous 31-yard completion to Watkins, then found running back Damien Williams over the middle of the field on the next play to put Kansas City back in front.

The lead wouldn’t last long, as Garoppolo used play action to find Emmanuel Sanders for 35 yards, then located Kendrick Bourne curiously uncovered on the right side of the field for a 41-yard score. Mahomes responded with a 7-play, 72-yard TD drive capped by a 3-yard pass to tight end Travis Kelce.

Then came the first play that seemed like a turning point: Garoppolo threw to Sanders on a run-pass option, but the receiver was drilled by Tyrann Mathieu. The backwards pass was ruled a fumble, and linebacker Damien Wilson scooped it and ran it untouched for six. Another Butker field goal made it a 30-14 Chiefs lead a few minutes later, and when Breeland picked off Garoppolo to end the half, it felt like the kind of dominance the Chiefs had shown during spurts of their previous playoff games.

Score: 49ers 14, Chiefs 30

Third quarter

The lead grew to 33-14 for Kansas City after Butker proved true again from 33 yards out. Yet Garoppolo dug in and led the Niners on their most impressive drive yet, going 74 yards in 11 plays before the signal-caller connected with Samuel in the end zone for the second time. Mahomes once again had a response up his sleeve, locating Kelce several times on the ensuing drive and completing a 2-yard TD pass to his All-Pro tight end to put KC up 40-21.

His 49ers counterpart, George Kittle, had been strangely quiet to that point in the game, but he made the most important play of the next drive, hauling in a 27-yard catch and run down to the Chiefs 10 on the final play of the third quarter.

Score: 49ers 21, Chiefs 40

Fourth quarter

Though the 49ers had an uphill climb ahead of them, it got slightly easier when Garoppolo found Bourne with 12:37 remaining, and the PAT cut the Chiefs’ lead to 12 points. The Niners forced a three-and-out for the first time in ages, but a booming 56-yard punt meant they had to start their next possession from their own 23-yard line.

Garoppolo came out firing with completions to Bourne and Kittle, but the Chiefs rose to the challenge and forced three straight incomplete passes. The 49ers summoned kicker Robbie Gould to try his luck from 51 yards out and he rewarded their faith, making it a 40-31 game with 9:34 left in regulation.

Still winging it despite their lead, the Chiefs advanced to midfield before Demarcus Robinson came up just short of the sticks at the 50-yard line. Andy Reid called for a punt, which boomed its way into the end zone. That seemed like it might seal the game for the Chiefs, as a deflected pass off the hands of Sanders managed to find Breeland again for his third INT of the game. Kansas City took over with a nine-point lead and only 5:51 to kill. The Chiefs punted again, but after a Tanoh Kpassagnon strip sack recovered by Coleman left the 49ers behind the sticks, a facemask penalty bailed them out. It proved costly, too, as Garoppolo hit Samuel for 36 yards down to the KC 14, then completed a touchdown pass to Bourne to make it a 2-point game.

No onside kick followed as the Niners retained all three timeouts. The two-minute warning stopped the clock after a first down run, but the Chiefs dialed up a play-action pass on second down … and it proved disastrous. Despite entering Super Bowl LIV without an interception in the postseason, Mahomes picked the worst possible time to throw one, with Richard Sherman going the distance for an improbable 45-40 lead.

That still gave Mahomes 1:46 to manufacture a signature championship drive, and he got the Chiefs to the 49ers’ 35-yard line with 25 ticks left on the clock. There was no fairy tale ending in store, as Sherman leaped in front of Tyreek Hill for yet another pick-six, icing the game at 52-40 and sending the 49ers fans into (presumed) virtual hysterics.

Final Score: 49ers 52, Chiefs 40

Madden 20 Super Bowl LIV sample game – MVP and notable stats

For his late game heroics, Sherman was named MVP. If not for the second return TD, the honor almost certainly would have gone to Garoppolo, who finished 32-for-52 passing for 449 yards, five touchdowns, and three INTs. Mahomes had one of the finest performances a losing quarterback could ever have, going 37-for-48 with 486 yards passing and three touchdowns, though his two devastating picks will almost certainly haunt this virtual version of him for the rest of his days (not to mention Andy Reid for calling that fateful play-action pass).

Kelce was also a beast in defeat, racking up 13 catches for 207 yards and two scores. Samuel (10 catches, 165 yards, and two TDs), Watkins (eight catches, 143 yards), and Bourne (9 catches, 99 yards, and three touchdowns) all enjoyed parts in the aerial show as well. Two-star pass catchers had much less impact: Kittle had a good but not great day with six catches for 68 yards, while Hill was nearly invisible, finishing with just two catches for 35 yards.

Along with Buckner’s sack record, Breeland also tied the Super Bowl interception record with three. A feat only pulled off once before by Rod Martin in Super Bowl XV. Not too shabby in a game that would have been the highest-scoring Super Bowl ever if it played out in the real world.

Alas, another 99 simulations by Madden 20 leaves one with the impression that Sunday’s game won’t feature nearly as many points, and probably a different winner, as well.

Madden 20 Super Bowl LIV – What I learned from 100 simulations

Let’s get the most important difference out of the way right off the bat: Madden 20 likes the Chiefs to win Super Bowl 54. The Chiefs prevailed in 59 of the 100 simulations, including the sample game, with an average score of 30-20. There doesn’t seem to be one specific way to beat the Chiefs either, as Kansas City won high-scoring and low-scoring simulations alike, as well as games where Mahomes went wild and others where a rushing attack led by Damien Williams did most of the damage.

Even more disheartening for 49ers fans: Madden 20 thinks there’s a good chance for a close game, with 61 of the 100 sims decided by a single score (meaning eight points or less). However, if there’s a blowout, it will likely go Kansas City’s way — only two of the 100 games featured San Francisco victories by more than 16 points, compared to 10 for KC.

One potential beacon of good fortune could be if the Niners can take the game to overtime. San Francisco had a 10-3 record in the 13 simulations that are tied at the end of four quarters of football.

What Madden 20 (probably) gets right about Super Bowl LIV

Patrick Mahomes will most likely be the MVP

Mahomes was named MVP in 45 of the 100 sims, by far the most of any player on either team. Only Garoppolo (25 times), Damien Williams (seven times), and Tyreek Hill (three times) grabbed the honor in more than two other games. The 49ers were more democratic overall, with 11 players splitting their 41 MVP awards, including all three running backs getting the nod at least once. No losing player was named MVP in any of the games.

Mahomes will also probably throw for 300-plus yards

This seems like a no-brainer, but Madden 20 thinks this is almost an even bet, with the Kansas City QB eclipsing 300 yards 44 out of 100 games and coming within 15 yards eight more times. Certainly, he heads to Miami on a roll, and even the 49ers defense might be hard-pressed to slow him down.

What Madden 20 (probably) gets wrong about Super Bowl LIV

The 49ers rushing attack gets stifled by the Chiefs D

It’s true that Kansas City has played much better on defense during the second half of the 2019 season, but the Niners have been a juggernaut running the ball, combining a three-headed RB monster with timely jaunts by Samuel and others. Madden 20 was unimpressed, however, picking the Chiefs to have more rushing yards in 60 of the 100 simulations (plus two more games where the squads were dead even running the ball). Considering the conventional wisdom is that the 49ers will need to control the ball and run effectively to win, this is a curious stat that could be very important, as unlikely as it appears.

Neither tight end has a shot at MVP

OK, look, Kelce and Kittle might be the two best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL today, and Kittle is a ferocious run blocker to boot. There would seem to be a good argument that both of them would get an MVP at least once in 100 simulations of Super Bowl LIV, right? Not so much. Though both men have some impressive stat lines, most of the games in which they really shine see the MVP trophy go to the player throwing them the ball instead. Modern history suggests that awards are really weighted toward QBs these days, but a complete shutout of these two studs is hard to fathom.

Play Super Bowl LIV for yourself

Madden 20

$30 at Amazon

It’s not too late to get in some NFL action this season

Whether your plan is to replay the 2019 NFL campaign or tackle the very popular Madden Ultimate Team mode, Madden 20 offers a variety of ways to play America’s most popular professional sport, and you won’t find a better price on it than right now.

Madden 20 has some interesting thoughts on who will win the Super Bowl

Here's what developers think of Microsoft cutting UWP ad monetization

Many developers feel frustrated about Microsoft’s communication about the upcoming change to ad monetization.

What you need to know

UWP developers expressed frustration with Microsoft regarding its communication about the Ad Monetization program.
Microsoft announced that the program will shut down on June 1, 2020.
The announcement came in a brief forum post rather than a full-length blog post.

Earlier today, Microsoft announced that the Microsoft Ad Monetization program for UWP apps will shut down on June 1, 2020. Now, developers and UWP users around the web are discussing the status of the Universal Windows Platform and what the changes mean for developers.

While Microsoft directed people to start migrating to other ad platforms, it did not highlight any specific alternatives. Furthermore, the announcement came in a short forum post that led many developers to criticize Microsoft for poor communication.

We reached out to developers and took a look at some of the prevalent opinions appearing online. Here are some of the immediate reactions to the news from the UWP development community.

Sergio Pedri, the developer behind Legere states,

Personally, while I can see how this was a “necessary” thing to do for MS, if maintaining the service was no longer viable for them, I do feel like they’ve lost yet another occasion to show proper communication with developers on their platform. This is once again hurting developers’ trust in the ecosystem, and that’s not good. Also, the lack of alternatives is an issue for lots of small indie devs that heavily relied on ads as their main source of income.

Arlo, the developer behind Spotimo and a well-known UWP Community leader states,

When it comes to the community, the main pain point here is a lack of deeper communication with devs as to why something that seemed essential is getting the axe. There isn’t much for real alternatives, so we feel like a proper explanation is in order, at the very least.

Fons Sonnemans, a Microsoft MVP and UWP developer shared a strong opinion on the change from Microsoft.

As of June 1st 2020, the Microsoft Ad Monetization platform for Window #UWP apps will be shut down. This is a disaster for me and many others. It was the only way to make money. Will I ever develop another UWP game again? #fail #ads #xaml @windowsdev https://t.co/9mA20qFlNT pic.twitter.com/TxzpJ2Ukqm— Fons Sonnemans ?? (@fonssonnemans) January 31, 2020

Yair, the developer behind QuickPad states,

The main issue that bothers me is how this and other recent developments with UWP were communicated. I would reiterate what [others] said, how the lack of proper communication confuses and hurts developers. Revenue from ads themselves are pretty low, and the fill rates have been bad for a long time, many developers just used it to drive in-app purchases, but there needs to be a proper alternative as well as better communication.

Matthew, one of Quarrel’s developers states,

I think it is really disappointing to see Microsoft do this without any proper explanation however there are alternatives, UWP will live on, and I will continue to develop for the platform.

Lance McCarthy, a Microsoft MVP, shared his thoughts on Twitter, including this reaction to the initial news.

?? What ‘other’ platform? Looks like I’m spending the next couple weeks building wrapper controls. https://t.co/gASXbX3Yeg— Lance ? ? ? (@lancewmccarthy) January 31, 2020

Niels Laute, the developer behind Huetro states,

Although I don’t use or like ads myself, they are part of a Store ecosystem and developer story. Pulling the plug (without any clear alternatives) on this doesn’t send an encouraging signal to existing and new developers. And apparently only because of… what, server costs? They run one of the biggest ad platforms in the world with Bing! Weird timing also, just before the launch of Neo and 10X.
And millions of new potential customers that are going to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10. And a few months after they make the developer payout better for devs (from 30-70 to 15-85). We know the Store is far from what the iOS/Android versions are… but this is just weird. And another chapter of the confusing and inconsistent Store/developer story on Windows 10.

A developing story about developers

The news of Microsoft’s change regarding ad monetization is still fresh. We’ll have to see if Microsoft responds to the internet backlash and what it says before we can weigh in fully. For now, developers are in many forums and on Twitter discussing how to move forward with app development and if the upcoming change affects them.

Here's what developers think of Microsoft cutting UWP ad monetization

What's new on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and HBO in February 2020

Sam. Zoë. Jordan. Pacino. Say no more.

Ah, February. The month of Valentine’s Day. And is there really a better way to spend it than with your old pal Samuel L. Jackson?

He’s back in the latest installment of Shaft on HBO. And on Netflix, we’ve got the second season of Altered Carbon, the follow-up to To All The Boys — and every Police Academy movie ever made. (Hope you were sitting down for that one.)

And Amazon’s offering up its new series Hunters, with Al Freaking Pacino.

Here we go.

What’s new on Netflix in February 2020

Look, maybe you’re excited about the second season of To All The Boys. The Netflix Original series was quite the hit its first go-around, and it only makes sense that we get the follow-up — dubbed PS I Love You — just ahead of Valentine’s Day.

But we’d be remiss in not telling you that every single Police Academy movie is on Netflix this February. From the original (and hilarious) installment, to the sequel Their First Assignment (you’ll never look at a candy bar the same way again) to the absolutely forgettable Assignment: Miami Beach, City Under Siege and Mission to Moscow. The first four movies are great. The final three are so bad they’re great.

Or if that’s not your thing, check out Prince in Purple Rain. (Yes, we’re singing it in our head, too.)

And if none of that is your bag, baby, absolutely check out the second season of Altered Carbon on Feb. 27.

See what’s new on Netflix in February 2020

Stream it all

Netflix

From $8.99 a month

Everything you could possibly want

What’s that? You somehow don’t have a Netflix account? Let’s take care of that, shall we? Because it’s got more content than you have hours in your life. Think about that for a minute.

What’s new on Amazon Prime Video in February 2020

When Jordan Peele does something new, we watch it. It’s just the law. We don’t make the rules.

It’s a good thing, then, that Hunters — the Amazon Prime Original on which Peele is an executive producer — looks to be one of the shows to watch in February.

The gist is that Al Pacino heads up a group of Nazi-hunters in 1977 New York City, because a big bunch of bads is looking to build up the Fourth Reich in the United States. And that just can’t happen.

See what’s new on Amazon Prime Video in February 2020

Watch this …

Amazon Prime Video

Free with Amazon Prime

All the video

From countless original series and movies to the best that Hollywood has to offer — plus a deep bench of subscription channels — Amazon Prime Video is a must-have.

What’s new on Hulu in February 2020

High Fidelity is one of those movies that those of us of a certain age just adore. It’s funny, for one. It’s got a great soundtrack, for another. And it’s got John Cusack and Jack Black. Can’t beat that.

Or can you? Hulu’s reboot of the indie favorite features none other than Zoë Kravitz. Daughter of Lenny. A force of nature in her own right.

Will this be the next big hit for Hulu? Let’s hope so. But at the very least it’s going to be a series worth watching in February.

What’s new on Hulu in February 2020

Live & on-demand

Hulu

From $5.99 a month

All the TV you could ever want

Hulu has made a name for itself with a huge back catalog and stellar originals like The Handmaid’s Tale. And now it’s got a large stable of live channels — and it’s fully integrated in the world of Disney and Disney+.

What’s new on HBO in February 2020

Samuel L. Jackson is back in the Shaft follow-up. What else do you need on HBO in February, right?

Well, how about McMillion$, which tells the ridiculous tale of how the McDonald’s Monopoly game was rigged for years. (If you haven’t heard this story before, it’s fascinating. And sad.)

Also, John Oliver is back (thank god), HBO is featuring all the winners from the American Black Film Festival’s HBO Short Film Competition — and so much more.

What’s new on HBO in February 2020

Premium TV

HBO

$14.99 a month

It’s not TV — at least that’s what they say

Even with the end of Game of Thrones, there’s still more than enough quality shows on HBO to easily justify a subscription. Plus it’s available pretty much everywhere.

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What's new on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and HBO in February 2020

How to clean and sanitize your headphones

After a bit of use, any headphones can start looking grimy and dirty. Whether you wear your headphones to the gym, rely on them to get you through long-haul flights, or keep them at home to listen to music while you do chores, it’s natural for germs and gunk to build up. Thankfully, with the proper tools and know-how, keeping your headphones clean is a fairly easy thing to do.

Products used in this guide

Affordable ANC: Anker Soundcore Life Q20 ($60 at Amazon)
Essential cleaner: Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Hand Soap ($11 at Amazon)
Pick-a-size: Presto! Paper Towels ($10 at Amazon)
Germs begone: Swan Isopropyl Alcohol ($13 at Amazon)
Nice and gentle: AmazonBasics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth (From $13 at Amazon)

How to clean your headphones

When it comes to cleaning headphones, you’ll want to make sure you clean both the headphones themselves and, perhaps more importantly, the speaker pads covering them. Starting first with the outside of your headphones, here’s what you’ll want to do:

Remove the earpads on both ends.
Wipe down the exterior of the headphones with a cloth that’s been dampened with soap and warm water.
Dry everything off with paper towels or another cloth.

This part of the cleaning process should be fairly simple, especially since most headphone exteriors are typically made out of plastic. If your headphones happen to have a fabric covering, you’ll want to double-check that it’s OK to clean it with water and soap.

With that done, we can now move on to the pads for your headphones. For this:

Dampen a cloth with a small amount of rubbing alcohol.
Gently wipe the exterior of both pads to clean them.
If you want to go a step further, use a Q-tip soaked in alcohol to get at any small crevices there might be.
Put a small dab of rubbing alcohol on the mesh part of the pads.
Gently rub the mesh together.
Leave everything out to air dry.

The speaker pads are likely the dirtiest part of your headphones, seeing as how they’re what’s pressed against your skin/hair and tend to pick up the most sweat, dirt, etc. You might want to repeat this process a couple of times just to make sure everything is properly sanitized, especially if it’s been a while since you last cleaned them.

Some things to keep in mind

One thing you’ll want to note when cleaning your headphones is the material your padding is made out of. Some use a PU leather (aka plastic), whereas other, more expensive options use genuine leather. If you have headphone pads made out of the real deal, make sure you’re using cleaning products that are safe for use on leather.

While you’re cleaning, you’ll want to make sure you get those pads as pristine as can be. Since these are what comes into contact with you the majority of the time, they’re the biggest carriers of bacteria, germs, and other nasty bits.

Our top equipment picks

Affordable ANC

Anker Soundcore Life Q20

$60 at Amazon

Impressive headphones at a great price

Finding noise-canceling headphones without spending a heap of money can be a challenge, but it’s something the Soundcore Life Q20 absolutely delivers on. Audio quality is great, the active noise cancellation is effective, and the 40-hour battery life is perfect for traveling.

Additional Equipment

Along with a good pair of headphones, you’ll also need stuff to clean them with. If you need to stock up, here’s some stuff we recommend getting:

Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Hand Soap

$11 at Amazon

This soap is made with essential oils, aloe vera, and olive oil — resulting in a thorough clean that’s easy on your skin (and headphones).

Presto! Paper Towels

$10 at Amazon

Amazon’s in-house brand of paper towels is actually pretty great, offering 75% more absorbtion and six “huge” rolls to stock you up.

Swan Isopropyl Alcohol

$13 at Amazon

You can’t go wrong with tried-and-true 99% isopropyl alcohol. It’s an effective disinfectant for first aid treatment or the dirtiest of headphones.

AmazonBasics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth

From $13 at Amazon

Whether you get the sensible 24-pack or the overkill 144-pack, these microfiber cleaning cloths are non-abrasive and easy on all types of surfaces.

How to clean and sanitize your headphones

After earnings, Amazon joins the $1T club as Alphabet dips out

American tech companies almost did something neat today before messing it up.
After reporting earnings yesterday, Amazon’s shares shot higher this morning, pushing the company’s value north of $1 trillion. Its growth and profits proved toothsome to the investing classes, bolstering the Seattle area’s tech pedigree by adding a second trillion-dollar business to its rolls.
Microsoft and Apple, also flush after reporting their own well-received earnings, are also worth north of $1 trillion apiece. Amazon’s ascension would have brought the group of trillion-dollar American tech shops to four, if Alphabet hadn’t gone and spoiled the fun.
Here’s the chart, on which you can spot Alphabet’s dip back under the $1,000 billion mark:

So close, right?
Perhaps Google and its cadre of money-losing subsidiaries will manage to skate back over $1 trillion today, leaving only little Facebook out of the Cool Kid Clubhouse.
Get it together, Zuck! A billion dollars isn’t cool. You know what is? Being yet another trillion-dollar tech company. Gosh.

After earnings, Amazon joins the T club as Alphabet dips out

Even as Microsoft Azure revenue grows, AWS’s market share lead stays strong

When analyzing the cloud market, there are many ways to look at the numbers; revenue, year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter growth — or lack of it — or market share. Each of these numbers tells a story, but in the cloud market, where aggregate growth remains high and Azure’s healthy expansions continues, it’s still struggling to gain meaningful ground on AWS’s lead.
This has to be frustrating to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who has managed to take his company from cloud wannabe to a strong second place in the IaaS/PaaS market, yet still finds his company miles behind the cloud leader. He’s done everything right to get his company to this point, but sometimes the math just isn’t in your favor.
Numbers don’t lie
John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy Research, says Microsoft’s growth rate is higher overall than Amazon’s, but AWS still has a big lead in market share. “In absolute dollar terms, it usually has larger increments in revenue numbers and that makes Amazon hard to catch,” he says, adding “what I can say is that this is a very tough gap to close and mathematically it could not happen any time soon, whatever the quarterly performance of Microsoft and AWS.”
The thing to remember with the cloud market is that it’s not even close to being a fixed pie. In fact, it’s growing rapidly and there’s still plenty of market share left to win. As of today, before Amazon has reported, it has a substantial lead, no matter how you choose to measure it.

Even as Microsoft Azure revenue grows, AWS’s market share lead stays strong

Microsoft will now pay up to $20k for Xbox Live security exploits

Think you’ve found a glaring security hole in Xbox Live? Microsoft is interested.
The company announced a new bug bounty program today, focused specifically on its Xbox Live network and services. Depending on how serious the exploit is and how complete your report is, they’re paying up to $20,000.
Like most bug bounty programs, Microsoft is looking for pretty specific/serious security flaws here. Found a way to execute unauthorized code on Microsoft’s servers? They’ll pay for that. Keep getting disconnected from Live when you play as a certain legend in Apex? Not quite the kind of bug they’re looking for.
Microsoft also specifically rules out a few types of vulnerabilities as out-of-scope, including DDoS attacks, anything that involves phishing Microsoft employees or Xbox customers, or getting servers to cough up basic info like server name or internal IP. You can find the full breakdown here.
This is by no means Microsoft’s first foray into bounty programs; they’ve got similar programs for the Microsoft Edge browser, their “Windows Insider” preview builds, Office 365, and plenty of other categories. The biggest bounties they offer are on their cloud computing service, Azure, where the bounty for a super specific bug (gaining admin access to an Azure Security Lab account, which are closely controlled) can net up to $300,000.

Microsoft will now pay up to k for Xbox Live security exploits

Apex Legends' Revenant is showcased in a new story trailer

Remember when we were all tricked into thinking Forge was the new Apex Legends character a week go?

What you need to know

Apex Legends Season 4 begins on February 4.
A week ago, Respawn revealed what was believed to be the new character, Forge.
Forge was killed off and now it looks like the new character being added to Apex Legends is Revenant.

Respawn is definitely making it fun to keep track of Apex Legends. Only a week ago I was writing about how Forge was the new character coming to the game in Season 4, despite leaks suggesting it would be Revenant. Well as it turns out, it is Revenant.

This trailer serves to give us a glimpse of Revenant’s past, before he became the cyborg he is today. It’s a bit like the Overwatch shorts Blizzard releases in that regard, but nothing so grand.

Revenant’s character is shrouded in mystery, and we don’t actually know much about him other than he’s a cyborg assassin. His abilities haven’t been detailed, but they are apparently “unnatural,” allowing him to “haunt his enemies and defy death.”

A few days ago Forge appeared in a new video being interviewed about qualifying for the Apex games before being abruptly stabbed in the back by none other than Revenant, revealing him as the true new character. Respawn has indicated that Forge really is dead and we shouldn’t be expecting a revival anytime soon, but I think this whole ruse shows we can’t take Respawn for its word.

Season 4

Apex Legends

Free at Microsoft

A new Legend is joining the fun

Apex Legends Season 4 is soon to begin on February 4. If you’ve taken a bit of a break from the game, now’s the time to jump back in with all of the new content on its first anniversary.

Apex Legends' Revenant is showcased in a new story trailer

All Xbox Insiders get simplified home, better storage management, and more

Insiders, be on the lookout!

What you need to know

New features are rolling out to Xbox Insiders today.
All Xbox Insiders will get the new simplified home interface and more.
Anyone can join the Xbox Insider program by downloading the app and registering.
You can purchase and Xbox One S: All-Digital Edition for $175 on Amazon.

Today, Microsoft rolled out new features to all Xbox Insiders instead of simply those in the Alpha – Skip Ahead and Alpha rings. The main feature has to be the simplified home interface that’s going to be available to everyone in February from the looks of it. You can read about everything Xbox Insiders can access now below.

Simplified home

With the February Insider Update we are rolling out the new, streamlined Xbox One Home interface for all Xbox Insiders ahead of its full public release next month… With the new Home experience, we’ve removed the Twists from the top in favor of dedicated rows for Xbox Game Pass, Mixer, Xbox Community, and Microsoft Store with the added flexibility to add or remove rows for a customized experience.

My games & apps

With the February Insider Update, we’re bringing you more ways to keep My games & apps organized! As we recently disclosed, you will now find content grouping for easier navigation and access to your games and apps, as well as labels for trials and demos, and a streamlined settings experience to simplify how you interact with your gaming collection.

Messaging

We’re enabling the ability for you to view images and animated GIFs in messaging conversations with your Xbox Live friends on console, with the ability to also view content in Message Requests based on your message safety settings.

Installations

We’re giving you additional control over which content to install when downloading and playing Xbox Game Pass titles that are part of a larger bundle listing, such as Shenmue I & II. With this update, you will now see an ‘In this bundle’ overview from the install dialog, as well as the option to select which individual title to download and launch.

Notifications

This will bring up a menu that lets you choose a preferred spot from one of six locations on your screen, letting you move them out of the way if they end up blocking something in games or apps. While your preferred location will become the new default, note that certain games may change this during gameplay for the best user experience.

Mixer

You can now manually select the video resolution at which you want to watch content based on your preference.

Storage

In the February Insider Update, we are introducing a ‘Move’ option for users with external storage attached to their console, giving you the choice to either move or remove items to free up the needed space as desired.

You can read more about the update at Xbox Wire. Are you an Xbox Insider? What do you think of the changes? Let us know.

Best of the best

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold in one

Xbox Game Pass gives you access to over a hundred games for one monthly fee. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also adds Xbox Live Gold to the package so you can play online with your friends and access games.

$45 at Amazon $45 at Best Buy

All Xbox Insiders get simplified home, better storage management, and more