Intel's gaming odyssey takes voyage with a slick new Graphics Command Center

Great software makes great hardware truly shine, and it seems like Intel graphics chief Raja Koduri knows it. Shortly after Koduri assumed control of the Radeon Technologies Group at his last job at AMD, the company rolled out a long-overdue revamp of its Radeon Settings application. On Wednesday, at GDC 2019, Intel revealed an overhauled Graphics Command Center app ahead of the hotly anticipated 2020 launch of its “Xe” discrete graphics cards.

The company didn’t disclose any additional information about Xe graphics card hardware itself at its GDC event, the kickoff for its new “The Odyssey” community-building initiative. But Intel provided PCWorld with an early build of its modernized Graphics Command Center app, and it shows that the team is serious about laying the groundwork for a bigger graphics push.

The Intel Graphics Command Center isn’t all about the future, though. Over 1 billion users already have Intel’s HD integrated graphics in their computers, and those gamers can start taking advantage of the new app right away. The Early Access version we tried is expected to be available immediately in Windows 10’s Microsoft store—but note that you’ll need a 6th-gen (2015) or newer Intel processor to use it.

Meet the new Intel Graphics Command Center

Rather than waxing poetic about every minute detail of the new app, we’ll simply show you what it looks like. To start, let’s take a moment to appreciate just how much of an upgrade this is. The current Intel Graphics Control Panel functions well enough, but it definitely feels dated:

intel hd graphics control panel Intel

Now feast your eyes on every inch of the overhauled Intel Graphics Command Center. These images were all taken by my colleague Mark Hachman, and you can click any picture to enlarge it:

intel graphics command center main Mark Hachman/IDG
add games to library Mark Hachman/IDG
fortnite 1 Mark Hachman/IDG

Intel’s graphics app can optimize your games to best fit your hardware’s capabilities. A nice touch: If you hover over the question-mark tooltip next to the graphics options listed in the Advanced Settings for a game, the app explains what that option actually means, using illustrated examples of the feature when it’s on and off. Nvidia’s rival GeForce Experience offers similar guidance, and it’s a great help for gamers who aren’t graphics geeks.

intel optimizations Intel

Unfortunately, only 30 games currently support the Intel app’s optimization feature, though the company says that more will be added “constantly.” Intel’s gameplay site lists graphics optimizations for a vast swath of games that could probably be added to the app in fairly short order.

Let’s continue with the display and video portions of the app, the other sections most likely to interest gamers:

display Mark Hachman/IDG
video 1 Mark Hachman/IDG
video 2 Mark Hachman/IDG

The Intel Graphics Command Center also includes sections devoted to your system configuration, support, and preferences for the app itself. Pro tip: You probably want to disable promotions. 

system Mark Hachman/IDG
support 1 Mark Hachman/IDG
support 2 Mark Hachman/IDG
preferences Mark Hachman/IDG

The future

Those newfangled Xe GPUs aren’t even close to launching yet, and this is just the beginning of Intel’s odyssey with the Graphics Command Center.

While it sure is pretty, the app can’t yet match the robust functionality of established software by AMD and Nvidia, which offer extras like video capture tools, performance monitoring, and per-app overclocking. Those sorts of tools seem better suited for powerful discrete graphics, though, so they could be added closer to Xe’s release in 2020. And while offering auto-optimization options is a huge bonus for gamers playing on integrated graphics, supporting a mere 30 games won’t cut it for long, especially in the face of GeForce Experience’s deep library.  Here’s hoping those promised additions start flying fast, furiously, and soon.

Intel’s pledged to keep improving the app. The future will bring community-created skins to the Graphics Command Center, joining the “Nebula” skin shown above. The company plans to host dedicated community support threads and a Reddit AMA on April 25 for feedback from early adopters. “Expect new features and continued improvements over time,” the final slide of Intel’s press deck declared.

Is there still room for improvement? Sure. But you get only one chance to make a first impression. The modernized Graphics Command Center is starting Intel’s graphics odyssey off on the right foot.

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These 10 Google Chrome extensions will make your life easier

There are plenty of ways to make your Google Chrome experience better.
There are plenty of ways to make your Google Chrome experience better.
Image: Gokhan Balci / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

One of the best and worst things about Google Chrome is the amount of browser extensions you can find in the Chrome store. It’s the best because it gives users almost limitless ways to improve their Chrome experience, but also it’s the worst because you might not know how many great extensions you’re missing out on if you never look for them.

Chrome extensions can do everything, from totally reorganizing your email inbox to filtering out websites with adult content on them. Here’s a small sampling of the more useful Chrome extensions available right now.

Save to Google Drive

Send screenshots to Google Drive instantly with this extension.

Send screenshots to Google Drive instantly with this extension.

Image: Alex Perry / mashable

This one is fairly self-explanatory and basic, but it’s good at what it does. Save to Google Drive puts a little icon in the upper right corner of the browser that will send whatever you’re looking at to your Google Drive account for later viewing. There’s also an option in the right-click menu for greater specificity.

It works for taking screenshots as well as saving images, audio, or video. Again, there isn’t a lot to this extension, but it’s a quick and snappy way to send something to cloud storage for anyone who might need to transfer things between devices.

Sortd

Sortd makes it easy to organize emails into different categories.

Sortd makes it easy to organize emails into different categories.

Image: Alex perry / mashable

People were despondent when Google announced its Inbox by Gmail app would be shutting down, and it was understandable. The productivity-focused Gmail alternative gave its users ways to organize their inboxes and prioritize the things that really mattered to them.

The Sortd Chrome extension might not be a perfect replacement, but it works well enough. It seamlessly integrates with Gmail after installation and allows users to drag and drop messages into custom columns. Sortd also lets you take notes and keep a to-do list in a sidebar. 

The best part is that it’s easy to go right back to the regular Gmail view for any reason, with the click of a button.

Honey

Easily find and sort through coupons using Honey.

Easily find and sort through coupons using Honey.

Image: alex perry / mashable

Honey is one of the more popular and highly reviewed Chrome extensions around, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a fast and simple way to find coupons while shopping online, either through an icon next to the URL or on a centralized website

The internet has made shopping more convenient in a lot of ways, but it can still be difficult to know if you’re getting the best price on something or not. Honey does the work for you and is a helpful tool for saving money.

Download Manager

Download Manager is a better way to sort through Chrome downloads than the default option.

Download Manager is a better way to sort through Chrome downloads than the default option.

Image: Alex perry / mashable

For as many advancements as Chrome has made over the years, downloading things still isn’t the best part of the experience. Trying to look through images, applications or other things you may have downloaded requires opening a separate tab that isn’t especially well-organized. 

Download Manager is a nice alternative courtesy of the extension marketplace. It places a list of all downloads in a drop-down menu that’s accessible on the upper right corner of the browser window. You can search for specific downloads or instantly access the full, default downloads page from that menu.

HTTPS Everywhere

Keep your data locked up.

Keep your data locked up.

Image: Pixabay

Browsing the internet can be a risky proposition in 2019. Your data can be harvested seemingly anywhere at any time, and it can be difficult to know which websites are secure or not.

That’s where HTTPS Everywhere comes in. The simple Chrome plug-in allows you to switch any website from the default “http” to “https,” which in layman’s terms means it’s encrypted and more secure. It’s impossible for one browser extension to solve all of the internet’s problems, but HTTPS Everywhere 

I don’t care about cookies

These kinds of cookies are worth caring about.

These kinds of cookies are worth caring about.

Image: Shutterstock / EvaStar

Plenty of websites use tracking “cookies” to store user information from anyone who happens to be browsing them. European data regulations now require those websites to tell you this and ask for your permission. While that may be a good thing, having to do this regularly can get a little annoying.

This Chrome extension isn’t flashy or complicated, as all it does is basically hit the “I agree” button for you on cookie pop-ups. It’s little more than a time-saver, but one that works.

Dalton colorblindness extension

The Dalton colorblindness extension is a handy tool for the colorblind.

The Dalton colorblindness extension is a handy tool for the colorblind.

Image: alex perry / mashable

Some people don’t have perfect color vision, but the world isn’t built for those people. When objects or images on a website aren’t easily distinguishable for the color deficient, the Dalton Chrome extension is a neat solution.

Situated in the upper right corner of the browser, Dalton brings up a simple menu with options for three different types of colorblindness. Users can pick one and adjust two color sliders to hopefully make whatever website they are looking at more readable. There isn’t a cure for colorblindness, but Dalton might help.

Speedtest

Get a quick glimpse at your internet connection with Speedtest.

Get a quick glimpse at your internet connection with Speedtest.

Image: alex perry / mashable

The internet is faster than ever, but it’s still not perfect. Sometimes you might need to check your connection speed before trying to stream a video or download a big attachment. Thankfully, Speedtest makes that pretty easy.

Just click the “Go” button and Speedtest will perform a fast connection test on whichever network you’re using. There isn’t much to it other than that, but if you have questions about your network speed, Speedtest can give you some answers.

The Great Suspender

The Great Suspender will speed up your Chrome browser.

The Great Suspender will speed up your Chrome browser.

Image: alex perry / mashable

The main problem with tabbed browsing is that it’s easy to fly too close to the sun. It can be tempting to keep dozens of tabs open, which inevitably slows Chrome down to a crawl.

The Great Suspender is a viable solution to that problem. It will automatically suspend any open tabs after a set amount of time to keep things running smoothly. Just go to the tab and click or refresh to bring it back. It also has a decent number of options so it will never suspend tabs you don’t want it to suspend.

Grammarly

Grammarly will correct mistakes for you.

Grammarly will correct mistakes for you.

Image: alex perry / mashable

Grammarly is not a new or obscure Chrome extension, but it is a useful one. Anyone who writes anything knows the terror of unintended typos or grammar mistakes. Grammarly will seek these out and fix them for you.

Obviously, spell-check systems already exist, but it can never hurt to have a more detailed and thorough one.

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Good news everyone, Logan Paul doesn't actually think the Earth is flat

Logan Paul is many things, but thankfully he is not a flat Earther. 

In a 50-minute, 2-second mockumentary that included a torrid affair with a Flat Earther, a betrayal from a roommate, and a rap that rhymes “NASA” with “I think I’m gonna passa,” the YouTube star announced that no, he doesn’t actually think the Earth is flat. 

Sporting a newly grown beard, Logan’s scripted-ish movie takes a deep dive into the Flat Earth International Conference in Colorado. 

During the “filming” of another challenge video, his roommate Mike Majlak pulls him aside in a badly acted out dialogue about whether the earth is flat, and is later caught on camera smashing the various globes that decorate Logan’s sprawling mansion. 

“I want you to be honest with me,” Logan says in a kitchen confrontation with Mike. “Do you think the world is flat?”

In a sit-down interview, Mike claims that he saw the edge of the Earth during a childhood trip to Antarctica. 

“We’ve been lied to,” he rants over CGI footage of mountain ranges surrounded by the cosmos. Then, he attempts to convert Logan to Flat Earther-ism. 

Logan also faux-interrogates a group of children, who all swear on science that the world is round, until he finds a child who reasons that the world must be flat. A literal child manages to convince the 23-year-old YouTuber that the world is flat. 

Logan and Mike then make their way to the Flat Earth International Conference and meet its CEO, Robbie Davidson. Other Flat Earthers include a guy who launched himself into the sky via homemade rocket, a freestyle rapper, and a former employee of Space Systems/Loral (the company that builds satellites). 

“Everybody’s around the globe,” a Flat Earther tells Logan. “The globe’s in your mind.” 

He also meets an Australian Flat Earther and ends up absolutely smitten. It only takes a single date with her to sway him into believing in the conference’s teachings and for him to professes his love for her. In a heart-to-heart with Mike, Logan also declares his belief in the popular conspiracy theory via rap. 

“Ever since my birth, my dick got mad girth,” Mike and Logan rap. “I’m chilling with my people talking ’bout that flat Earth.” 

They may be enlightened, but it doesn’t mean they’re particularly intellectual. 

At Logan’s “coming out” party where he proclaims his newfound beliefs, Mike admits that he’s not actually a Flat Earther, forcing Logan to wonder if the conference and his relationship meant anything at all. 

What exactly was the point of making this? What did Logan hope to achieve?

Which, oddly enough, is exactly how we felt after spending 50 minutes and two seconds on watching this vlog. What exactly was the point of making this? What did Logan hope to achieve? Is he trolling the Flat Earth International Conference, or is this a self-aware middle finger to the skeptical people who are all too ready to dunk on him? 

Logan’s much-hyped video — which was promoted as a documentary but turned out to be more of a narrative movie — raised concerns that the older Paul brother had fallen for the conspiracy theory and would spread the lies to his young audience, which is comprised of mostly children. In a rare moment of maturity, the dude known for peddling merch and making overtly sexual videos that children will definitely watch seems to actually consider the consequences of his actions. We won’t have an army of adolescent Flat Earthers, thanks to Logan Paul.  

Despite the incredibly dumb shit he’s done in the past, Logan at least has some sense. 

“I think that’s the dumbest shit I’ve heard in my life,” he said, before pausing and pulling the most Logan Paul troll he’s pulled so far. “I’m not sure … there is an Earth at all.” 

Cue another impossibly loud rap.

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Behold, the best (and most frightening) Elizabeth Holmes impression

Sorry folks, we already have a winner for the best Elizabeth Holmes impression.
Sorry folks, we already have a winner for the best Elizabeth Holmes impression.
Image: Kimberly White/Getty Images for Fortune

In the aftermath of that HBO documentary about Theranos, a lot of people are thinking about its founder, Elizabeth Holmes.

There’s that thing about how she managed to hoodwink investors into pouring millions into her company, then there are questions over her apparently fake deep voice, and the whole Steve Jobs turtleneck thing.

While you ponder all that, Tavi Gevinson of Rookie fame has the best impression of Holmes we’ve seen so far. It’s terrifyingly brilliant.

By the way, there is already a biopic about Holmes and Theranos in the works, with Jennifer Lawrence set to star.

Although if we were casting the film today, we would happily hand the role of playing Holmes to Gevinson. Just saying.

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Amify raises its first venture round on a promise: to boost revenue for third party sellers on Amazon

Small businesses have a complicated relationship with Amazon . While they fear the company because they have no control over it, Amazon’s platform is also a great way to reach shoppers, particularly small businesses that rise to the top of its results pages.

Amify, a nine-year-old, Alexandria, Va.-based company, says it can get them there, and investors are buying its pitch. As founder and CEO Ethan McAfee tells us, the 60-person company just raised $5.8 million in Series A funding — its first outside round — led by Mercury Fund, with participation from Dundee Venture Capital, CincyTech, SaaS Venture Capital and Capital One cofounder Nigel Morris.

It all started, McAfee says, with a shoestring operation run out of his suburban townhouse.

As a T. Rowe Price analyst straight out of college, McAfee went on to spend 11 years “doing the investment thing” before deciding that instead of investing in companies, he wanted to start his own. It was 2010 at the time, and Amazon was just beginning its evolution from a place to buy books and CDs into the everything store that it has become. At first, McAfee started selling pickleball paddles at the site from his home, before eventually adding various other items. When he’d established that “we’d gotten really good at it,” it occurred to him that he should sell what he’d learned about how to connect with shoppers on the platform, which was growing more crowded by the day.

Fast forward to today, and McAfee says Amify now works with a long line of customers, from brands you might not recognize to household names like Fender guitars and Brooks, the century-old maker of running shoes, all of which pay Amify a percentage of their revenue in exchange for its services.

What these include, says McAfee, is help with product pages (“10 great pictures versus one can increase sales”), advice on what not to sell (“drones are the worst”), management of sponsored ad campaigns, and a big assist with inventory. To wit, customers of Amify send their goods to the startup when they arrive by container ship from China, for example. Amify — which uses warehouses in Las Vegas and Cincinnati —  then sends the the goods on to one of Amazon’s warehouses so that if there is a return, Amazon sends the item back to Amify to deal with it and not the customer. (McAfee says most returns are donated or destroyed.)

It would seemingly get expensive for the companies, which already pay Amazon a 15 percent commission on their sales and up to 30 percent when orders are shipped through its Fulfilled by Amazon program. McAfee says the increase in sales that Amify is able to generate more than helps defray the cost.

Certainly, it’s an interesting proposition, which explains why Amify is hardly alone in chasing it. In addition to many small players trying to insert themselves into the big business of working with third party sellers – –  more than one million of which now make up more than 50 percent of Amazon’s total sales  — Amify’s more established competitors include Netrush and etailz.

McAfee doesn’t mind the other players, though. “It’s a $500 billion market,” he offers. In short, there’s enough to go around.

At least, there’s enough to go around for now. According to a new CNBC report, Amazon is aggressively blocking money-losing products from advertising on its site and telling brand owners that if Amazon can’t sell their products to customers at a profit, it won’t allow them to pay to promote the items.

Asked if he worries about Amazon banishing companies like his or otherwise putting pressure on them, McAfee say he doesn’t. Though he admits to having “had problems with Amazon” owing in part to its “many moving pieces,” he notes the company’s overarching objective is to make customers happy, an objective the two companies share and that Amify proves every day, he insists. Consider, he says, “With Amazon, you have to speak their lingo. You can spend hours on the phone with them to correct mistakes. But we can do it better than someone trying to figure it out for the first time,” which can presumably save both Amazon, and Amify’s customers, time and money.

Amify can also provide something to its stable of clients that Amazon does not, which is customer data and insights. Though Amify doesn’t offer the service today, McAfee says there may well come a time when it helps customers understand in a granular way what’s selling, what’s not, and why.

The new funding should help. On Amify’s own shopping list, says McAfee: a CTO.

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