Anything that is related to space travel and exploration always excites me because outer space is so vast, and you cannot help but wonder if there are any signs of life apart from our beautiful planet.
This month marks an unprecedented event. Three different countries- the United States (NASA), China, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)- are all set to launch their own spacecraft in the hopes of finding more information about the ‘red planet’, Mars.
For those of you who are wondering, there is a reason why July is a special month for space travel and that is because the planet Mars and the Earth will be aligned perfectly, thus allowing for almost seamless travel to the red planet. This is known as the Hohmann Transfer Orbit.
NASA- Will Launch a Rover and Helicopter to Mars
The United States is no stranger when it comes to space travel. In fact, it is the first country to ever land someone on the moon (a truly historical event).
Anyway, NASA is set to launch a helicopter and a rover to the red planet. Let’s talk first about the latter.
The six-wheeled rover is called ‘Perseverance’ and it is about the size of an ordinary car. Its mission is to collect rock samples in the hopes of finding biological DNA that would tell us if there is truly some life on Mars.
While Perseverance will be the first to be deployed, it will later be joined by ‘Ingenuity’, which is the first ‘helicopter’ that will fly on the skies of the said planet to get a bird’s eye perspective.
It is worth noting that Perseverance will be landing on a particular location known as the “Jezero Crater”, which is believed to be full of water.
The rover is equipped with state-of-the-art testing tools and equipment to help analyze any interesting samples it can find.
Because Mars is 400+ million kilometers away, Perseverance and Ingenuity, assuming nothing will hinder their movement, will land sometime in February 2021.
China- Will Launch Three Different Vehicles to Mars
So far, only the U.S. and Russia are battling it out when it comes to space exploration and travel, but China is set to join the fray soon.
The said country will launch the Tianwen-1 which is a spacecraft that contains three different vehicles that are meant for exploring what the red planet has to offer. The name of the spacecraft, when translated, refers to ‘Questions to Heaven’.
Tianwen-1 is set to launch on July 23 and is also expected to arrive sometime in February 2021 as well.
Although very little information was divulged to the public, it is assumed that the Chinese government also wants to explore any signs of life on Mars and that is why it is deploying a rover, an orbiter, and a lander on the red planet.
It would be interesting what these three vehicles will discover on Mars.
UAE- A Chance to Explore the Atmosphere
While China and the U.S. are going to deploy vehicles that will mainly study samples on the surface of the planet, the United Arab Emirates will launch its own spacecraft called Amal (which is Arabic for ‘Hope’) and it will be used mainly to study the planet’s atmosphere.
You see, not a lot of information is known about Mars’ atmosphere and while there is some evidence of methane, some scientists have speculated that the said gas is more concentrated in certain areas than others.
The UAE spacecraft will circle the planet to study what it can about its skies and its atmosphere in general.
What This All Means for Humanity
The three richest countries in the world are set to launch their own spacecraft to Mars sometime in July, but what does this all mean for humanity?
Well, the main objective here is to study and to learn more information about the red planet. The previous rovers have indeed piqued the interest of scientists all over the world, but more information is needed to quantify their initial findings.
What would be interesting here is if the rovers are able to find any signs of life. If it does, then the question, “are we alone in the vastness of space?”, will finally be answered.
Space Launch Dates
UAE: July 14
China: July 23
U.S (NASA): July 30
Xbox Series X- When Will It Be Released and What Does It Bring to the Table?
After months of hype and speculations, the Microsoft Xbox Series X has finally been unveiled to the public and we now know a lot more information about the upcoming game console than ever before.
In this article, I will go over the key points that you need to know about Microsoft’s console, such as release dates, pricing, new features and technologies, and so much more.
Release Date and Pricing
The Xbox Series X will be released on November 10 and pre-orders will start as early as September 22. The price of the said game console will be $499 which is in-line with Sony’s Playstation 5 disc edition.
Unlike Sony where the company has decided to employ a staggered release date for its PS5 consoles, the Microsoft Xbox Series X will be released on the same date worldwide. Of course, there is the challenge of availability considering that we are still suffering from a global pandemic, which is why pre-ordering the console (assuming that you want to get one) makes a whole lot of sense.
Unlike previous Xbox consoles, the Series X will actually have a more tower-like design with some air vents that can be visibly seen on top of the device.
The Series X will also feature a 4K Blu-ray player, so you could say that it is indeed quite similar to what Sony has to offer.
As of the time of writing this article, the console will only be available in black, though with the release of prior Xbox consoles, a white-colored Xbox is not too far off.
The more vertical design of the upcoming gaming machine might prove to be challenging for some people, especially when it comes to desk space. You will need to have adequate space to rest the console on the surface.
- CPU: AMD Ryzen Custom Zen 2, 8-cores/16-threads (via SMT) @3.8GHz (boost) and 3.6GHz (base)
- GPU: AMD Custom RDNA 2 GPU with 52 Compute Units, 12 TFLOPS, and @ 1.825GHz
- Process (nodes): 7nm Enhanced
- Memory: 16GB GDDR6, 320-bit Bus, 10GB @ 560GB/s and GB @ 336GB/s memory bandwidth
- Internal Storage: 1GB Custom NVMe SSD, 4.8 GB/s (read) and 2.4 GB/s (write) (both are theoretical values)
- Storage Expansion: 1TB
- External Storage Support: USB 3.2 External HDD
- Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-Ray Drive
- Performance Target: 4K @ 60 FPS, up to 120FPS (Theoretical)
I am really very excited about the new-gen consoles because they are packed with serious hardware that allows you to play games at 4K resolution without any issues.
Just like the PS5, the Xbox Series X is also powered by a custom AMD Ryzen CPU (using Zen 2 architecture) and a custom AMD GPU (using the new RDNA2 architecture). This performance package should allow you to play games at 4K@ 60 frames per second ‘comfortably’ (at least according to Microsoft Xbox president, Phil Spencer) and it could even give you the right amount of processing power to achieve more than 60 frames per second (up to 120 frames per second, theoretically).
The CPU, according to Digital Foundry, has a base clock of 3.6GHz and it boosts up to 3.8GHz. The good thing is that the boosting algorithms will only kick in when the console needs more horsepower which can be a good thing both from a performance and thermals standpoint.
It is also worth noting that the new Xbox will support ray tracing. Thus, you can enable such a feature in the games that support it and you will not have to worry about any performance penalties at all since the hardware is more than capable.
This new and upcoming game console will also be using a custom 1TB NVMe SSD which is 100+ GB more than what the PS5 has to offer.
While Spencer didn’t mention anything specific, the SSD that comes in the Xbox Series X should be faster than any consumer SSD that you can find on the market up to this point.
This would mean that if you are going to use its expansion slot to add more storage, you will have to buy an SSD directly from Microsoft if you want to get the best performance possible out of a storage drive.
If you are okay with using an external hard drive, it can support one that is using a USB 3.2 Gen 1 cable.
The optical drive is a 4K Blu-Ray player and each game disc can hold as much as 100GB of storage (though it is more likely that each disc can contain an amount lower than that).
The Microsoft Xbox Series X has a lot of nice features up its sleeve. For one, it has the new Velocity architecture that makes good use of the console’s NVMe SSD, thus virtually eliminating load times.
In line with the said technology, you will also get to enjoy the ‘Quick Resume’ feature where you can pick up right where you left off almost instantly thanks to the use of a new DirectStorage API and Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS) technologies.
The Xbox Series X will also have VRR or Variable Refresh Rate and Auto Low Latency Mode or ALLM to provide you with a smooth gaming experience. The former will eliminate screen tearing and improve overall frame rates and the latter will ensure that it will use your chosen display’s lowest latency mode for maximum performance.
Because the Playstation 5 can support 8K resolution, Phil Spencer also said that the Microsoft Xbox Series X can also handle that as well, though it remains to be seen if the gaming experience will be somewhat enjoyable, given how taxing the said resolution can be.
Unlike the DualSense controller that comes with the PS5, not much is known about the Series X’s controller. Spencer did say that it will have a slimmer form factor and its D-Pad is vastly improved (to mimic the Xbox Elite controller which is a 3rd-party peripheral).
The rumble motors are reported to make a comeback, though I do not know if it will be a better implementation than the haptics that are embedded in the DualSense controller.
It seems that lowering the latency is one of the top priorities of the company as Spencer said that it will have a Dynamic Latency Input feature that will significantly reduce the input lag of the said controller. Of course, this will be tested in our review once the unit is available.
It is a bit of a disappointment that Halo Infinite, which used to be a launch title, is delayed until 2021. There are still plenty of different games, however, and here are just some of the most notable ones:
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
- As Dusk Falls
- Battlefield 6
- Borderlands 3
- Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War
- Chivalry 2
- Control: Ultimate Edition
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Dirt 5
- Dragon Age 4
- Dying Light 2
- Far Cry 6
- FIFA 21
- Gears 5
- Hood: Outlaws and Legends
- Hogwarts Legacy
- Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
- New Genesis: Phantasy Star Online 2
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Rainbow Six Quarantine
- Resident Evil Village
- Scarlet Nexus
- State of Decay 3
- Watch Dogs: Legion
Backward Compatibility and Xbox Game Pass
A lot of people were disappointed by the fact that the Playstation 5 only supports PS4 games and is not backward compatible with the older generation Playstation consoles. The Microsoft Xbox Series X is different.
You see, it not only supports all of the games from its predecessor’s content portfolio, but it will also support most of the games of the older generation platforms as well. This means that even the original Xbox games are playable on the new game console which is a really good thing.
You would want to register for the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate so that you can unlock all of the games. It is worth noting that by getting the game pass, you also have the privilege of using the company’s xCloud feature that allows you to play Xbox games while you are on the go. Think of this as an improved version of Google Stadia.
I am really impressed with what the Microsoft Xbox Series X has to offer. Aside from its very powerful hardware, its new features and technologies will certainly improve your gaming experience manifold.
By getting the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you get to enjoy your favorite Xbox games while on the go, while also unlocking all of the possible older-generation games that are playable on the new platform.
It remains to be seen if the new controller is better, but I am eager to find out if the new low latency feature can truly decrease input lag by a lot.
Remember that you can already pre-order your own unit today and the console will be officially released on November 10 in all regions. It costs $499.
TikTok and WeChat Bans- What We Know So Far
It seems that President Trump’s ban on Chinese tech giants are in full swing after one of the most powerful men in the world issued bans on popular Chinese-owned apps: TikTok and WeChat.
TikTok is a popular platform that allows people to record and upload user-generated content, which is essentially a means of uploading viral content over the internet.
WeChat is a chat platform that also includes a payment portal and a news corner. It is a more robust application that could potentially be a problem when it comes to your data and privacy in general, at least, that’s what Trump thinks.
In a previous post, President Trump has given ByteDance, the company that created TikTok, about 45 days for them to reach an agreement with Microsoft. If a deal doesn’t push through, the application will no longer be allowed to operate in the U.S. Apparently, there is a new deal that was made and the stakeholder is a different company now.
Oracle has won the bidding war so instead of Microsoft making a deal with the Chinese-based company, it is now Oracle that will take the helm. The company was supposed to oversee the deal but apparently, it couldn’t reach an accord with ByteDance, which prompted Trump to remind the Chinese company that it only had until November 12 to operate.
In what appears to be an insult to ByteDance, Trump also added that its popular application will no longer be available in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store starting Sunday, September 20.
On a similar note, WeChat also suffers the same fate as the president of the United States have also issued an order for the US-owned mobile operating system giants to remove the said application in their respective app stores.
At the time of writing, both Apple and Google haven’t issued any statements but they did mention in the past that they are going to abide by the laws of the country.
President Trump, on Friday, has issued an ultimatum where the popular Chinese export will no longer be able to operate within U.S. soil if it cannot reach a deal with Oracle.
ByteDance representatives, as well as the Chinese government, were adamant against the decision stating that ByteDance was not given a chance of due process. The Chinese government is mulling over the possibility of doing the same with US-owned companies, so we could see some ramifications of this particular threat made by Trump.
Apparently, the ban on both WeChat and TikTok spawned over fears that the Chinese-owned apps are getting private data from its consumers.
There is some truth to this in the sense that TikTok wants to gain access to a lot of permissions that have no integral bearing on the app’s features, which is kind of fishy when you really think about it.
But, in a statement that was released by ByteDance, the only information that was extracted from users is data that the users are willing to share and nothing else. This is also stipulated in the terms and conditions and if users agreed to this, then the app developer has the right to the data.
ByteDance is probably happy by the fact that it has received quite a number of downloads on Saturday, the supposed last day that American citizens can download the application.
True enough, in a statement that was released by the said company, it had received an 800% surge in users over the weekend- something that was unprecedented in recent times.
Just a reminder, you can still use TikTok on your mobile device until November 12 (or longer, depending on whether or not Oracle and ByteDance will reach an agreement).
An update on the deal: Trump’s administration wants Walmart to join the agreement, which would mean that both Oracle and Walmart will be major stakeholders of ByteDance.
It is also worth noting that both of the US-based companies will only own about 20% of the entire share of the company. That means that ByteDance will still own the vast majority of TikTok and other future applications that are going to be developed.
The move is just to ensure that the Chinese-based company will not overstep its boundaries, especially when it comes to national security.
What About WeChat?
It still remains to be seen whether or not WeChat will be permanently banned in the U.S. or not, but American users will no longer be able to use the said application until further notice.
Judge Laurel Beeler, one of the judges that handled the case, said that the ban has created a lot of serious questions about the First Amendment rights of some Chinese-Americans.
Apparently, WeChat is the only chat application that is allowed to operate within Chinese soil, so banning this application in the U.S. would mean that some Chinese people who are not fluent in English, will have a hard time communicating with their relatives in China.
I think it is precisely because of this reason why Trump and his administration wants to ban WeChat. It apparently has the means of communicating some sensitive data from American citizens that could potentially be used and be weaponized by the Chinese government. Although these claims could potentially be true, there is no tangible evidence to suggest that this is indeed the case.
While TikTok could still be used by Americans until Walmart and Oracle are able to reach a deal, the same cannot be said for WeChat.
The good thing is that there tons of other messaging apps that American citizens can use, but this will certainly not bode well for the Chinese-American community.
Apple Watch 6- What Are the New Things in Apple’s Newest Smartwatch?
Apple has unveiled the new Apple Watch Series 6 (or simply known as the Apple Watch 6) and it is the company’s new flagship smartwatch that brings with it some interesting features.
Today, I am going to be talking about this particular product so that you will have a glimpse of the new things that it can do. Do keep in mind that this is not an actual review of the watch but rather an interesting preview.
Let’s get down right to it: What are the new things that the Apple Watch 6 has to offer? Well, there are only two noteworthy additions and that is the new chipset, as well as the Sp02 blood oxygen sensor. Let’s talk about the latter first.
The new blood oxygen sensor was built into the smartwatch as a means of letting the user know his or her level of blood oxygen whenever they do certain activities, such as hiking, mountaineering, or any other strenuous activities that could potentially affect a person’s blood oxygen levels.
This is also certainly useful, especially since we are in the midst of a global pandemic that can affect a person’s respiratory system as well.
To utilize the said feature, all you have to do is download a specific app and wear the smartwatch wherever you go.
Provided that the watch is still tethered to your iPhone, it will provide you with some information about your blood oxygen levels. While it can do it passively, you can also get a reading any time you want.
To do this, all you have to do is fire the app, press on the active reading feature, and wait for about 15 seconds and the application will give you your current blood oxygen levels.
While this is an interesting feature, the app does tell you that all of the readings are meant just for general fitness purposes only and should not be used as a means of self-diagnosis or information that can be relayed to your physician.
Even though I understand that the watch is incapable of providing 100% accurate results, giving you a glimpse of your blood oxygen levels should remain helpful somewhat. The said warning just makes it appear that the feature is, to put it bluntly, just a gimmick.
Anyway, the new chipset that is placed inside the Apple Watch 6’s chassis should provide you with more power and probably better battery life.
One interesting side effect of the new chipset is that it can automatically adjust the display’s brightness if it detects that you are outside and the sun is shining brightly as ever. While it remains to be seen if this has a huge impact on the battery life of the device, it is interesting that the brightness level is much more powerful than in the Apple Watch Series 5.
Some tech reviewers deem the Apple Watch 6 as an iterative upgrade- both in the features and the design departments. That is because the new watch pretty much looks like its predecessor, albeit you are given some new color options to choose from.
I really like the new red-colored strap. It looks vibrant and lively and I am pretty sure that this color and aesthetic will be much more appealing than the others.
For people that want a subtler look, you also have the option to get either the black graphite variant or the blue aluminum case.
After speaking to an Apple representative, it seems that the company will also be releasing a gold version as well, though I think that the price of that thing is higher than the color options I’ve just mentioned.
The watch is still offered in 40mm and 44mm variants and you also get that always-on display that a lot of people really love about the Series 5.
The Apple Watch 6 is an iterative upgrade, in my opinion. It does provide you with a much better chipset and it also offers a new Sp02 sensor that could potentially be helpful to you more than others, but I don’t think these features would want people to reach for their wallets and buy this thing.
If you ask me, if you have an older Apple Watch Series 3, upgrading to the latest smartwatch just makes sense because it will be considered a huge generational leap.
However, if you are currently using the Series 5, the only reason why you’d get the new product is for its Sp02 sensor and nothing else.
The Apple Watch 6 is also the poster child for the new WatchOS so if you want to get a smartwatch that is already packed with the latest watch operating system from Apple, then it is probably a thing that you can buy today.
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