Halo TV show's first look trailer premieres live at The Game Awards

Master Chief? Mind telling me what you’re doing on TV?

It has been announced on the official The Game Awards Twitter account that the first look trailer for the Halo TV show will premiere live during The Game Awards show on Thursday Dec. 9, 2021. The trailer will be shown at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET, and is expected to broadly introduce fans to the show’s characters and basic plot threads. It will also be the first time we see the show’s visual and audio effects in action.

Details about the Halo TV show have been relatively scarce until now, but there’s a decent amount of information that has been revealed in the past. We know that Pablo Schreiber has been cast as the Master Chief and that Jen Taylor (of Halo video game fame) has been cast as Cortana, and we know that the show will take place during the Human-Covenant War. It’s also known that the show will feature a human child being raised by the Covenant. Additionally, Halo game developer 343 Industries has shown fans a close look at the production’s props.

A big week for Halo fans just got bigger.Gear up, Spartans. The first look trailer for #HaloTheSeries premieres LIVE during #TheGameAwards on Thursday night, streaming everywhere at 5p PT / 8p ET / 1a GMT. pic.twitter.com/dxAXYVKRVZ— The Game Awards (@thegameawards) December 7, 2021

The Halo TV show is expected to release in early 2022 and will be available exclusively through the Paramount+ streaming service. The show was originally planned to air on Showtime, but it was moved to Paramount+ earlier in 2021.

Halo TV show's first look trailer premieres live at The Game Awards

New Notepad app with dark mode arrives for Windows 11 Insiders

Notepad finally turns to the dark side.

What you need to know

Microsoft is releasing a new preview version of Notepad.
It includes a brand new UI and a dark mode (finally!)
It’s available now for Insiders in the Dev Channel.

Notepad is an app that has been part of Windows for as long as Windows has been a thing, which means it’s a big deal when it gets updated. Today, Microsoft is releasing the first preview of a new Notepad app built specifically for Windows 11, featuring a new Fluent design interface that matches the rest of the Windows 11 UI, and finally introducing dark mode alongside it!

The new Notepad app is rolling out now for Insiders in the Dev Channel on the latest Windows 11 preview build, 22509. Outside of a face lift, it doesn’t appear there are any new features shipping with today’s preview update. Still, a new face lift is good to see, especially considering the Notepad UI hasn’t been updated since the Windows Vista days.

New version of Notepad is rolling out in the Dev Channel now. It has dark mode! pic.twitter.com/ZTZvdxpUsB— Zac Bowden (@zacbowden) December 7, 2021

Microsoft is slowly, but surely, updating its in-box apps on Windows 11 to align them with the rest of the Windows 11 design language. It’s the first time since Windows 7 and Windows 8 that we’ve seen a consorted effort by Microsoft to align the design language across all Windows apps, which should make for a much more polished user experience when complete.

The new version of Notepad is beautiful in both light and dark mode. It has modern fluid context menus too, though not all of the dialogs and popups have been updated with the modern interface yet. This is just the first preview build, so more updates are expected before it starts shipping to production PCs.

Microsoft recently updated its legacy Paint app with a similar new face lift too, which also aligned it with the Windows 11 design language. Again, no new features have been added to paint yet, as the focus appears to just be on UI. Perhaps this will change down the line.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the new Notepad? Let us know in the comments.

New Notepad app with dark mode arrives for Windows 11 Insiders

Experts give insights on global chip shortage's remainder and ramifications

Some industries will recover faster than others.

The global chip shortage represents one of those rare instances where seemingly everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and has snowballed into a worldwide headache depriving people of new cars, PC parts, and just about everything in between. Entire industries have been pit against one another in fierce competition for chip supplies, technological warfare between the U.S. and China has exacerbated semiconductor tension, and the situation isn’t mending itself fast enough to shield consumers from the fallout.

While some parties would go so far as to say there is something close to a singular cause to the chip shortage, others feel it’s the culmination of a great many global factors conspiring to make life harder for everyone. One of the only things that is an absolute certainty and not subject to opinion or conjecture is that, by and large, it has become vastly more difficult to obtain one of the best graphics cards or any other kind of chip-based tech (of which most everything is).

When can consumers expect the pain to stop, and what unexpected circumstances should they be ready for between now and then? That’s what we reached out to experts to learn about. Here’s what they warned the chip shortage would have in store for everyone between now and its eventual end.

Global chip shortage origins and expectations

Yole Développement Economist Guillaume Assogba shared his predictions on what consumers can expect in the near future. He gave background on the chip shortage’s patient zero as well as what early evidence pointed toward the snowball effect we’re all now caught up in.

“Fundamentally, the shortage of chips that started in cars has spread to all industries using these components (consumer tech, gaming, payment cards, etc.),” he said, mentioning how this has led companies to reduce their production forecasts. “For example, Nintendo has announced a 20% reduction in production; there has been a relative scarcity of the latest consoles from Sony and Microsoft for a few months; even Apple seems to have to reduce its production of the iPhone 13 by several million units.”

He then reiterated that these sorts of actions will mean supply shortages and spiked prices for consumers, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s had to explore the current retail landscape firsthand. But the shortage’s impact extends far past what many are paying attention to. As an example, Assogba pointed to the steel industry, which has seen reductions in sales as fewer cars are produced. This means that even when chips stabilize, the scaled-down steel industry may cause further delays as it takes time to get back in the swing of pre-shortage production volumes.

It’s not all doom and gloom on the forecast, though. Assogba and Yole predict that consumer tech will recover first, by the end of 2022, thanks to tech manufacturers having kept up relations with chipmakers throughout the pandemic. The auto sector, meanwhile, will likely have to hope for 2023, as it did not sufficiently maintain relations.

Global chip shortage expert consensus

Gaurav Gupta, Gartner Vice President for Semiconductors and Electronics, gave similar estimates. “I expect better recovery for display driver and touch sensor ICs,” he said. “Enterprise networking chips recovery would also be towards end of 2022.”

Much like Assogba, Gupta saw some facets of the shortage reaching into 2023. “Power management solution and analog devices will be the last to recover and in some cases shortages might extend to early 2023.” For industries affected by the shortage, Gupta foresaw consumer-facing consequences including higher pricing, a widespread lack of concrete delivery times, and product shortages, delays, and de-speccing based on the limited availability of high-end products.

As to how the situation got to where it is today, Gartner attributes it to a variety of factors all compounding one another. The trade war between the U.S. and China, the pandemic’s lockdown effect, and an emphasis on 5G, among other elements, are cited as contributing to the environment that landed the world’s chip supply shortage in such bad shape.

Global chip shortage big-picture takeaways

Those looking for the “too long; didn’t read” of the analysts’ thoughts can walk away with this simple statement: Expect an easier time getting graphics cards by the end of 2022 and a rebound to normalcy (or close thereto) in the automotive market during 2023, assuming additional pipeline setbacks don’t disrupt that particular space further.

Still, roadblocks of varying magnitudes could crop up. With new strains of coronavirus on the rise and global superpowers fighting for tech and trade superiority, there’s no telling what curveballs could be headed the tech sector’s way throughout 2022 and 2023. The only guarantee is that we’ll all find out whether things are set to get better within the coming months.

Experts give insights on global chip shortage's remainder and ramifications

New Minecraft: Java Edition snapshot includes more fixes for upcoming patch

Minecraft: Java Edition is about to get a new bug-fixing patch update.

What you need to know

1.18 ‘Caves and Cliffs Update’ Part Two was recently released with a ton of new features and changes for players to explore.
Since then, Mojang Studios has been developing and testing the 1.18.1 patch update for Minecraft: Java Edition players.
On Tuesday, the studio released the 1.18.1 Release Candidate 1 snapshot, which may be the build released to the public if no issues are found.
Minecraft: Bedrock Edition players have already received their 1.18.1 patch update equivalent, which also includes bug fixes and tweaks.

Mojang Studios may have finished and released 1.18 Caves and Cliffs Update Part Two to the world, thereby completing the Caves and Cliffs Update, but the work isn’t done yet. On Tuesday, Mojang Studios released Minecraft: Java Edition 1.18.1 Release Candidate 1 to testers everywhere, a snapshot that includes a couple of additional fixes for the upcoming 1.18.1 patch update.

As long as no additional critical issues are discovered in the patch update, this is the build that will be released to all Minecraft: Java Edition players in the near future. Minecraft: Bedrock Edition also got a 1.18.1 patch update, which rolled out to different platforms gradually. When Minecraft: Java Edition 1.18.1 arrives, it will feature primarily quality-of-life improvements and fixes, with no new features or content in sight.

Minecraft is one of the greatest games ever made, and holds on to its title as one of the best PC games by continually evolving with new features and content. The Wild Update, releasing sometime during 2022, will update Minecraft’s Overworld with new mobs, blocks, and more.

In case you missed it, here are all the changes and additions in 1.18 Caves and Cliffs Update Part Two.

The full changelog for Minecraft: Java Edition 1.18.1 Release Candidate 1 includes:

Fixed bugs

Bees inside of beehives / nests sometimes despawn when the world is reloaded
Random nonfatal exceptions in console: Failed to store chunk ConcurrentModificationException
Entity fog doesn’t match the fog of blocks around them

A catalog of games

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

From $1/month at Xbox
$45 at Amazon (3-month subscription)
$15 at Amazon (1-month subscription)

All your gaming needs, in one subscription.

Is the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate the best value in all of gaming? It’s possible. Ultimate bundles your Xbox Live Gold subscription, an Xbox Game Pass subscription for both Xbox consoles and Windows PCs, and Xbox Cloud Gaming for on-the-go. That means access to hundreds of games, with more added all the time, for a single monthly subscription cost.

New Minecraft: Java Edition snapshot includes more fixes for upcoming patch

NVIDIA RTX 2060 re-release is nigh, though we still don’t know its price

The re-released RTX 2060 looks promising for miners but may not be a great choice for gamers.

NVIDIA RTX 2060 12GB from ASUS

What you need to know

NVIDIA re-leaded the RTX 2060 GPU, but it now has 12GB of VRAM.
Reports indicate that the graphics card has better mining performance than the RTX 3060 but is worse for gaming.
While a retail listing shows the RTX 2060 12GB, pricing details have not been shared at this time.

NVIDIA just pulled the lid off the return of the RTX 2060 GPU. That’s not a typo intended to mention a card from the RTX 30-Series. NVIDIA, Zotac, Asus, and the whole gang are reinjecting the RTX 2060 into 2021, though it has some bumped-up specs compared to the original. The new version of the RTX 2060 has 12GB of VRAM, which is double that of the original RTX 2060 and more than that of the RTX 2060 Super (8GB).

Unfortunately for gamers, the launch of the RTX 2060 12GB may be better news for those on the hunt for the best mining GPU than those hoping to play the best PC games. The new graphics card has a better hash rate than the RTX 3060, according to pcmarket’s review.

The RTX 3060 hash rate limitations mean it’s not as efficient for crypto mining. The RTX 2060 12GB has no such limit in place. As a result, the RTX 2060 12GB can mine better than the RTX 3060. Testing by pcmarket saw the RTX 2060 12GB running at up to 31.65MH/s. The RTX 3060 runs at 22.17MH/s but needs more power. It’s worth noting that these results are from one set of tests and that they will need to be compared against upcoming reviews from other outlets.

NVIDIA RTX 2060 12GB from ZOTAC

While the new RTX 2060 has more VRAM than the original, it is still based on NVIDIA’s Turing architecture. As expected, benchmarks for the RTX 2060 12GB indicate that it is worse for gaming than the RTX 3060.

ZOTAC has a listing for the RTX 2060 12GB, but the company does not state a price for the graphics card. There’s a good chance that its retail price will be more affordable than most cards from the RTX 30-Series. Ultimately, the retail price may prove unimportant for general consumers, as the card could sell out too quickly for anyone to even have a solid shot at scoring it.

NVIDIA RTX 2060 re-release is nigh, though we still don’t know its price

Surface Duo 2: Everything that's new in the massive December system update

The Surface Duo 2’s December update is now available, coming in at 258MB with a ton of fixes and improvements.

What you need to know

Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 is receiving its December 2021 update.
The update is 258 MB and brings the build number to 2021.923.272.
The update brings many fixes, including improvements for app animations, touch responsiveness, LDAC Bluetooth, camera usability, and more.
Additionally, there is now the ability to launch OneNote using the Surface Slim Pen and other new features.

The Microsoft Surface Duo 2 hasn’t had a significant update since its October 21 release, but that’s changing with the one for December 6. As we have been talking about on the Windows Central Podcast, this update, coming in at 258MB, is quite substantial, and it has with it a significant changelog.

The update, which is now available for all Surface Duo 2s, addresses many ongoing minor issues:

Addresses scenarios outlined in the Android Security Bulletin—December 2021.
Improves system reliability and stability.
Improves app navigations with added support animations.
Improves camera usability.
Improves touch responsiveness.
Improves support for LDAC enabled Bluetooth devices.
Improves reliability in the Android Auto experience.

In addition to fixing a few things, Microsoft is also adding some new abilities, including:

Enabled launching of OneNote when clicking the top button on Surface Slim Pen. Requires Surface Slim Pen to be paired with Surface Duo 2.
Enabled in Surface Duo features, in Settings, to choose the default screen when folded.
Enabled in Surface Duo features, in Settings, to choose preferences for answering phone calls when folded.

Being able to launch OneNote by clicking the Surface Slim Pen button is something many have been wanting since day one, so it’s nice to see it here finally. We have heard from sources that, down the road, Microsoft may let users customize which app that button can launch. Additionally, inking on the lock screen is also considered for a later release.

To grab the update on Surface Duo 2, follow these instructions:

Connect to a Wi-Fi network.
Select Settings on your Surface Duo 2’s home screen.
Select System.
Select System Update.
Select Check for update.
Select Restart now.

The update is 258 MB, so it may take time to download depending on your current internet speeds.

We’ll have more coverage of this update, including a walkthrough of the features, soon.

Surface Duo 2: Everything that's new in the massive December system update

What should you expect at The Game Awards? Here's what we know.

Dive in and take a look at what should be at the show.

The Game Awards 2021 is the latest installment of the annual awards show hosted by Geoff Keighley. Every year, the show gives awards that have been voted on to a variety of games, with Xbox and Bethesda leading the 2021 nominations. In addition to all the awards, this show is also known for big gaming industry reveals, with updates, teasers and surprises from across numerous publishers and indie developers alike.

If you’d like to get up to speed ahead of the show, we’ve got you covered. We’re tracking everything that’s confirmed (or being teased) for the Game Awards 2021, at least so far. Some of these announcements could end up being some of the best Xbox games available.

Everything teased for The Game Awards 2021

ARC Raiders

Embark Studios, a team in Stockholm led by former EA executives, has teased that its first game, ARC Raiders, will be shown off during The Game Awards 2021.

pic.twitter.com/JPsq7mL4hP— ARC Raiders (@ARCRaidersGame) December 6, 2021

More Game Pass for PC titles

The Xbox Game Pass for PC Twitter account is teasing several new games being added to Game Pass for PC. These games should be announced during The Game Awards 2021.

Thank you, Melissa pic.twitter.com/shmfYt5tCo— Xbox Game Pass For PC (@XboxGamePassPC) December 6, 2021

Improbable’s new game

Studio Improbable is confirmed to be revealing its new game during The Game Awards 2021. Improbable has traditonally worked on large scale multiplayer games that require a lot of online infrastructure.

Very excited to share that we’ll be revealing our game at #TheGameAwards this week! I can’t believe this is actually happening…— Aaryn Flynn (@AarynFlynn) December 6, 2021

The Matrix Awakens

While not technically a game, an Unreal Engine 5 tech demo called The Matrix Awakens will go live during The Game Awards 2021. The tech demo is exclusive to Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PS5, featuring actors Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss.

Something to do with Sonic the Hedgehog

This one’s a bit sketchier, but if this Twitter exchange is anything to go by, a Sonic game might be at The Game Awards 2021.

I see you are thirty and flirty. DM incoming… #TheGameAwards https://t.co/ju3E8V6nMz— Geoff Keighley (@geoffkeighley) December 6, 2021

What won’t be at The Game Awards 2021

While it’s always disappointing knowing that something won’t be at the awards show, it is better to go in with lowered expectations if we know for sure something isn’t going to be present.

Dragon Age 4

BioWare recently confirmed that Dragon Age 4 will have more information shared in 2022, with the phrasing highly implying the game won’t be seen through the rest of 2021.

Activision Blizzard

Besides some smaller nominations for Call of Duty, Activision Blizzard won’t be present at The Game Awards, according to Keighley. There were questions as to whether The Game Awards would take a stance with the company, which has been embroiled in the aftermath of a workplace harassment lawsuit. While Keighley initially said in a Washington Post interview that he was thinking about how to “navigate” the relationship, he announced over the weekend that the company wouldn’t be a part of the event.

Beyond its nominations, I can confirm that Activision|Blizzard will not be a part of this year’s #TheGameAwards— Geoff Keighley (@geoffkeighley) December 4, 2021

The company previously said that upcoming games like Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 had been delayed, so fans weren’t expecting any big announcements.

What are you hoping to see?

Keighley has said in interviews that viewers should expect a number of reveals. In an interview with USA Today, Keighely said “probably six or ten of our games are things that people don’t know exist, but we’re going to reveal them at the show in a fun way.” There’s a lot to look forward to, and we’ll be covering it here at Windows Central.

What should you expect at The Game Awards? Here's what we know.

On Xbox, you'll soon be able to set pics from Edge as your home background

Xbox Insider Program giveth.

What you need to know

The Xbox Insider Program is for testing upcoming Xbox builds and features.
Lead Engineer Eden Marie just shared this nifty update, which lets users set an Xbox dashboard background using a Microsoft Edge picture.
It should hit general availability in the coming weeks, but it’s already live if you’re on the Xbox Insider Program.

The Xbox Insider Program gives testers the ability to dive in and experience unreleased (and potentially buggy) Xbox OS builds, ahead of their availability to the general public. Rolling out soon to insiders as part of the Alpha Skip Ahead ring is a shiny new feature that will make choosing a new Xbox dashboard background a whole lot easier.

Shared by Xbox’s Engineering Lead on Twitter, the new update allows users on Xbox to customize their Xbox dashboard background using the built-in Microsoft Edge browser, which also grabs an update in support of this feature.

Xbox Alpha Skip Ahead Insiders: today’s release should include a new feature in Edge’s context menu for images that lets you set a custom background in Home. Let me know if you try it! pic.twitter.com/hvVrGj3Baa— Eden Marie (@neonepiphany) December 6, 2021

You’ll be able to quickly and easily select an image from your browser, and then instantly set it as a wallpaper background. Not even Microsoft Edge on desktop has this capability (but it totally should).

I just updated my Xbox to the latest build, and it should be included if your Xbox OS version number includes (xb_flt_2202co.21203-2200). Accessing the feature is pretty easy.

Open Microsoft Edge, and update it via the store if needs be.
Press Y to enter an address. We recommend checking out WallpaperHub.app for that.
Find an image you like, then hit the Start Button on your controller (looks like three lines) to open a context menu.
Select Set as background using the A button, and voila.

Recently, Microsoft also added a variety of new animated backgrounds to the dashboard users can play with, including a fiery scene from Wasteland 3’s nuclear Cult of the Holy Detonation expansion, a Halo Infinite vista, and an Xbox 360-inspired concentric rings background. With this latest addition, it’ll become even easier to pull whatever you want from the web and make it your very own background.

On Xbox, you'll soon be able to set pics from Edge as your home background

Microsoft Office 365 price increases are upsetting companies, says report

Say goodbye to the old pricing model.

What you need to know

In August 2021, Microsoft announced it’d be upping the price of Office 365 subscriptions.
Microsoft deemed it the “first substantive pricing update” to the service since its launch.
Now, reports are coming out that companies aren’t happy with either the annual or monthly pricing adjustments.

In August 2021, Microsoft broke the news that it’d be increasing pricing for its Office 365 options. This change will affect users regardless of what Office 365 model they subscribe to, be it annual or monthly. However, there’s the added wrinkle that those who opt for monthly subscriptions will incur an additional Microsoft tax seemingly designed to incentivize the long-term annual route. Those who want to stick with Office 365 on a per-month basis will be facing a 20% price hike, meaning an additional fee atop the initial cost raise.

As reported by CNBC based on internal documentation it saw, Microsoft will expect subscription payments even if the subscriber wants out midway through a term.

In the same report, it’s noted that many companies are none too happy about the situation and its ramifications for those who want or need the flexibility of monthly subscriptions. Microsoft partners such as Intivix have been put in the uncomfortable position of having to be the bearers of bad news, and it’s attracting pushback. According to CNBC’s sources, partners have had “intense meetings” with Microsoft as a direct result of the price increase backlash.

The question is whether the price increase will be enough to drive customers, either existing or prospective, into the arms of rival company Google, which has its own productivity suite. Another risk Microsoft faces is, as a result of its Office 365 bump, scaring off potential cloud customers who see how the company is handling its pricing models and don’t want to risk being affected.

Microsoft Office 365 price increases are upsetting companies, says report

These genuine leather skins from dbrand are perfect for Surface Pro 8, 7, X

If you want to step up your skin game, dbrand’s unique authentic leather skins are for you.

When it comes to skins to protect or customize your hardware, few other brands stand out like dbrand. The company is now running a special, limited-edition skin made from genuine leather, available in three different hues.

We were recently sent in samples for the Surface Pro 8 and, quite frankly, if you’re OK with putting “dead cow” on your 2-in-1, you’re going to love what dbrand has done here.

The skin is uncomplicated. There are three colorways, including black, brown, and tan, with a price tag of $50. That’s more expensive than the typical skins, but these are thicker and made from “100% authentic, full-grain, vegetable-tanned cowhide,” which justifies the cost.

Currently, you can pick up the skin for Surface Pro 8, X, 7, 6, 2017, and Surface Pro 4. There are also skins for the Xbox Series X too. You can also get the skins for your smartphones, including iPhone, Samsung, OnePlus, Google, and more.

Dbrand goes on to note that these skins aren’t like the typical vinyl ones the company sells, providing some installation advice and what to expect:

After installation, take a few minutes to really rub-down the edges with the included color-matched microfiber cloth. This process will smooth down the border of the leather and make it feel like it’s melting into your device. As a result of the leather’s thickness, without smoothing it down, you may find an unpleasant sharp border on the skin. This sharp edge will disappear entirely and permanently – just needs to be rubbed away with the microfiber.
Scratches and marks are normal. Over time, as the leather collects natural oils, these scratches will disappear and form a timeworn patina. Attached are a few images to give you an idea of how that before/after will look. You can kickstart the process by rubbing away at any scratches with your thumb. While we do plan to release a “Leather Care Kit” in the near future, the natural oils from your hand are the key to this patina process.

Putting them on our Surface Pro 8, you can see just how thick the skins are, although it is not something you notice once installed. The texture and smoothness are simply unmatched compared to vinyl as they have a warmer feel.

Installation is super simple. Just align the skin with the camera and microphone holes on top and the Surface logo on the bottom. Dbrand’s use of 3M ensures these will adhere very well after it settles on the device, but if you need to lift it off and correct that is not a problem either. Indeed, I could swap out skins on the fly during the photo shoot without a hitch.

Black and brown on Surface Pro 8 is ?

If you have a black Surface device, my advice is to go with black or brown leather, whereas tan may look better on platinum laptops. Of course, the baller move is to split the skin like in the photo above, where one half is black, and the other is brown.

Overall, these are, pardon the pun, killer skins. The idea that these skins will age and patina just like boots or jeans is also a nice bonus.

We hear dbrand has plans for more devices, too, including Surface Duo 2, which is something we’re looking forward to trying as that is a combo made for each other.

Just remember, you have less than 20 hours to order these before they’re gone, as this is a limited run. Also, please don’t buy these for your vegan friends unless you really hate them.

Dbrand Real Leather Skins

$50 at dbrand.com

LIMITED RUN: If you ever wanted a real leather skin for your Surface Pro device, now is your chance. These 100% full-grain leather skins are in limited quantity, so make sure to act fast.

These genuine leather skins from dbrand are perfect for Surface Pro 8, 7, X