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The best gaming rigs, the fastest graphics cards: PCWorld celebrates glorious...
Your console can't do this

Sad but true: Sony and Microsoft?s so-called next-generation gaming consoles don?t seem very next-gen at all, with a slew of top games locked at 30 fps and still struggling to hit even 1080p resolutions. Even entry-level PC graphics cards can pull that off.

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North Korea reportedly blocks Facebook and Twitter

North Korean authorities have reportedly blocked access to Facebook and Twitter for the few people in the country with open Internet access.

The move came into effect earlier this week, according to a report by the Russian ITAR-TASS news agency, which is one of the few foreign news services to maintain a bureau in the country.

Most North Koreans don?t have access to a computer, and those who do are restricted to a nationwide intranet. Available through universities, libraries and other state-run establishments, the intranet has websites that include government propaganda, information about science, technology and culture, and even cooking recipes.

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FCC eyes new rules to protect consumers as voice networks transition to IP

The Federal Communications Commission will consider new rules to ensure real consumer choice as the U.S. shifts from copper-based networks to IP networks, agency officials said Friday.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will offer a set of proposals aimed at protecting voice customers during the commission?s Nov. 21 meeting, senior agency officials said. In addition to network-sharing rules, the FCC will consider requiring power backup systems on VoIP networks, officials said.

In its consumer-protection proposals, which the FCC would release for public comment, the agency will consider rules for large telephone carriers that are currently required to share their last-mile networks with competitors, often to serve small-business customers. Wheeler?s proposal would require the large carriers to also share their last-mile IP networks, under similar terms and prices to their copper infrastructure, FCC officials said.

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Startup Slack gets $120M infusion to kill email at work

Slack, a cloud startup that?s landed some big name clients for its business communications product, has raised $120 million [m] at an eye-popping $1.12 billion [b] valuation.

The San Francisco company?s funding and early customer wins are signs that venture capitalists and bold CIOs are eager to back entrepreneurs with modern software that can improve business processes, usually by tapping the cloud and mobility and adapting consumer apps for workplace use.

Slack aims to provide a better environment for communications than usually happens over email. A lot of startups demonize email and make it their mission to provide something better. It was an early rallying cry of enterprise social networking (ESN) providers, though many soon realized they would need to co-exist with email. Time will tell whether Slack can overcome the entrenched email corporate culture.

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Microsoft promotes its Band smartwatch platform with plans to license its tec...

Microsoft plans to license its Microsoft Band smartwatch technology to other manufacturers, with an emphasis on the sensors powering them, a company representative said Friday.

Whether Microsoft plans to put in place a formal program, such as it has for Windows Phone, remains unclear. The Band does not run an operating system per se, but on Microsoft?s wearable firmware, optimized for low-power micro devices, the spokesman said in an email.

?Yes on licensing the technology. Particularly the sensors, ? he said.

Right now, the sensors are one of the selling points behind Microsoft?s $199 Band, which unexpectedly launched Wednesday night. Inside the smartwatch/fitness band are ten sensors, including a GPS, accelerometer, microphone, and gyroscope, plus sensors to measure skin capacitance, ultraviolet light, skin temperature, and continuous heart rate. The Band, Microsoft says, not only provides assistance during your workday, with calendar reminders, Twitter updates, the Cortana digital assistant, and the like, but also measures your sleep and exercise routine.

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Dell joins the cheap Windows tablet scrum, launches the Venue 8 Pro 3000 series

Dell is late to the cheap Windows tablet scene, and the $200 starting price for its Venue 8 Pro 3000 series is much higher than that of some competitors, but Dell?s offering boasts some superior specs.

For starters, the Venue 8 Pro has an 8-inch IPS display with 1280x800 resolution, and it packs 32GB of storage. Toshiba?s Encore Mini, for example, is street-priced at just $100, but it has a TN panel that?s limited to 1024x600 resolution and it comes with only 16GB of memory.

Beyond that, the differences between the Dell and other cheap Windows tablets are few. The Venue 8 Pro uses the same processor as the Encore Mini?a Bay Trail-class Intel Atom Z3735G?and it offers the same skimpy 1GB of memory.

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HP and Michael Bastian enter wearables discreetly with a stylish, semi-smart ...

HP and Michael Bastian are betting that style trumps substance for their first smartwatch collaboration.

The MB Chronowing is a 44mm stainless steel watch for men. It has a monochrome LCD display, but with a metallic ring in one corner that encircles a small clock face. The rest of the screen is dedicated to tidbits of information from a paired iPhone or Android phone, while indicators for battery and connectivity sit just outside the right edge of the screen.

The side of the watch has three buttons for navigating the Chronowing's menus and information channels. There are 10 channels to cycle through, including sport scores, stocks, upcoming appointments, text messages and e-mails. The watch can control a phone's music playback as well. In other words, it's sort of like a Pebble Steel, but without third-party apps, customizable watch faces or fitness tracking. It'll last for seven days on a charge.

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Mike Tyson fights himself, Schwarzenegger plays Assassin's Creed, and other g...

San Francisco didn't riot hard enough to burn this city to the ground yet, so I've lived to see another Friday and thus another iteration of your favorite column, Missing Pieces, where we wrap up the week's gaming news.

This week Mike Tyson fights himself, fake-Morgan Freeman and fake-Arnold Schwarzenegger play Assassin's Creed: Unity, and James Cameron poo-poos the Oculus Rift.

Naysaying

For a guy who singlehandedly tried to force us all to wear 3D glasses at the movie theater, James Cameron's "meh" opinion of the Oculus Rift is a bit ironic. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Cameron this week said, "There seems to be a lot of excitement around something that, to me, is a yawn, frankly."

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Starbucks says 1 in 6 payments already mobile

Starbucks says mobile payments are taking off in a big way and it?s already handling almost 7 million a week at its U.S. coffee shops.

That accounts for 16 percent of all transactions at its stores and, the company says, meant it transacted 90 percent of all of mobile payments in the entire U.S. in 2013.

The company?s slice of the national mobile payments market is sure to dip in the years ahead as other retailers start catching up to Starbucks, in part thanks to the recent launch of Apple Pay, but Starbucks says it sees no slow down in consumer adoption of its mobile payments technology.

Starbucks has integrated payments into its its own app, which allows customers to keep a prepaid Starbucks card on their phone, enabled with automatic refills when it gets low on cash, and keep a list of favorite drinks to make ordering easier.

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Resident Evil's past and future: Hands-on with an HD remake and Revelations 2

Just in time for Halloween, I got to go hands on with the future of the Resident Evil series. And the past. The future-past of one of gaming's longest-running horror franchises. Capcom's got two Resident Evil games coming out soon?a re-remake of the original 1996 Resident Evil classic, and then Resident Evil: Revelations 2.

Revisiting Resident Evil

The original Resident Evil is eighteen years old, and before it heads off to college Capcom wants one last tearful moment with its sweet zombie baby. "Look at it, Bob! Look at our baby Resident Evil all grown up, with those fancy HD textures!"

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Oracle's Larry Ellison isn't done building his legacy

Larry Ellison may no longer be CEO of Oracle, but he?s not going anywhere anytime soon. Indeed, as executive chairman and CTO, Ellison is now in a position to focus solely on creating new products and services that will cement his legacy as he enters the twilight of a legendary career in tech.

Oracle declined to make Ellison available for an interview, but here?s a look at some possible goals he has in mind before he finally hangs up his hat for good.

To be number one in applications

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Slender, metal Samsung A3 and A5 bring iPhone-like glitz to Android ecosystem

On Thursday, Samsung said its sales were stalled by iPhone anticipation. On Friday, the company announced its new A3 and A5 phones for the Asia market, with features seemingly designed to counteract the siren song of Apple's fashionable phones.

The A5 and A3 match the all-metal build of the Galaxy Alpha, adding momentum to Samsung's move away from plasticky phones. Their specs sit firmly mid-range otherwise: Both phones sport a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, Super AMOLED display, a 5MP front-facing camera, and 16GB of storage. You can expand that up to 64GB by tossing in an SD card. In another break from Samsung's past, neither phone's battery is removable.

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HP to jolt 3D printer market

3D printing could become faster, cheaper and more efficient with Hewlett-Packard entering the market.

Though it shied away from announcing specific product plans, HP this week shed light on its work in 3D printing technology. The company, with its rich history in the market, will most likely spark growth in 3D printing, a 20-year-old industry marred by technical and support issues.

At an event Wednesday in New York, HP said it expects its first 3D printer to arrive in 2016. The company said its technology will spur competition and speed up the pace of development in the field, reducing costs and leading to faster 3D printer operation.

HP?s 3D printers will be targeted at enterprises, much like the company?s large-format printers, which are used to make billboards and posters. Unlike the current crop of HP printers, however, the upcoming 3D products are being designed to produce a wide range of functional objects and industrial components.

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Ericsson's WebRTC browser available for download from the App Store

Ericsson?s Bowser has been resurrected to make up for the lack of a WebRTC-compatible browser on iOS and is now available for download from Apple?s App Store.

The Swedish telecom vendor said it had resubmitted Bowser to Apple in the beginning of October to help boost the development of more websites and apps that embrace voice, video and messaging features.

WebRTC (Real-Time Communications) is a technology created to help developers add real-time communications features to Web browsers and apps via JavaScript APIs. The technology has so far struggled to find widespread success.

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BrandPost: Avoid these 3 common small business IT growing pains

A small company is bound to make some mistakes as it grows. They might be product errors, or a flawed organizational structure, or a poor long-term growth strategy. The most critical and costly growing pains, however, are often IT-related. Here are some steps you should take to avoid some of the most common SMB tech growing pains.

Smaller organizations can lack some IT resources, and generally need to focus the majority of their energy on just keeping the business running. Backing up data sometimes isn?t even on their radar. The irony is that a server crash or cyber attack can be exponentially more devastating to a small or medium business than a big one. It?s absolutely essential to establish a system early on for frequently backing up important data.

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