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It’s a sad day for video game bargain hunters, as Best Buy has ended its Gamers Club Unlocked program in all of its US stores. The news comes via a leaked email surfaced by Wario64 on Twitter, an account known for countless video game deal scoops.

Gamers Club Unlocked entered the world costing $ 99 for a year membership before getting chopped down to $ 29 in March 2015, The Verge reports, offering 20% off the price of new games and more favorable trade-in values.

The shutdown includes all facets of the program from free to paid memberships, and Best Buy will not enroll any new members. Existing members will enjoy the benefits of the program for the remainder of their subscription, and no subscriptions will be renewed. Best Buy has yet to confirm the email leak or the closure.

As The Verge points out, it’s likely that this program was harming the company’s bottom line, as members could quickly and easily make good on their $ 30 investment – perhaps too easily.

Of course, a business’s goal is to make money, so there you have it. It’s still sad nevertheless, but only reinforces the fact that online retail is increasingly where it’s at when it comes to savings on games.

TechRadar: latest computing news

Security researchers at Google and Microsoft have found a new variant of the Spectre security flaw that was first reported back in January this year.

Rumors of the latest CPU bug were disclosed by a German computer science publication earlier this month, but the details of the vulnerability were only officially revealed on Monday, May 21.

Called Speculative Store Bypass (or Variant 4), the new strain exploits similar vulnerabilities as the older Spectre and Meltdown bugs but, according to Intel, uses a different method to access sensitive information.

Partly patched

The new variant can be exploited by running script files (or text files which contain a sequence of commands) on programs like web browsers. If hackers manage to successfully exploit this vulnerability, they’ll be able to get sensitive information off other parts of the program, like another tab in the case of browsers.

Intel, however, has classified the new bug as medium risk, explaining in a blog post that most of the exploits it uses were fixed in the original wave of patches that were rolled out.

“We’ve already delivered the microcode update for Variant 4 in beta form to OEM system manufacturers and system software vendors, and we expect it will be released into production BIOS and software updates over the coming weeks,” said Intel’s vice president of Product Assurance and Security.

Slowing it down

As we saw with previous Spectre and Meltdown patches, these new processor firmware updates could potentially reduce system performance too. Intel says the mitigations will “be set to off-by-default”, meaning users who don’t enable the new protections should not experience the negative impacts of the patch, but obviously won't be protected either.

“If enabled, we’ve observed a performance impact of approximately 2-8 percent based on overall scores for benchmarks like SYSmark 2014 SE and SPEC integer rate on client 1 and server 2 test systems,” Culbertson said.

This puts the proverbial ball into the end user’s court, leaving them to choose between security and speed.

TechRadar: latest computing news

Acer is proudly blazing the trail toward laptops with one of the most widely-used digital assistants across the world: Amazon’s Alexa. The Acer Spin 3 and Spin 5 – its latest mainstream laptops – will be updated with Alexa on May 26 and May 23, respectively. 

This will allow both laptops to carry out nearly 100% of Alexa’s capabilities on Amazon’s Echo speakers from within Windows 10

The laptops will also be the first to ship to retail stores and online retailers with the digital assistant pre-installed.

Of course, Acer has no intention of stopping with these two laptops. The Acer Nitro line of mainstream gaming laptops will feature the tool when they ship later this June, while choice Aspire, Switch and Swift laptops – as well as Aspire all-in-one PCs – will include it as well.

Making good mainstream laptops better

These two laptops were recently updated with the latest in Intel 8th generation processors – Core i3 to i5 for the Spin 3 and Core i5 to i7 for Spin 5 – with the Spin 5 also configurable with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics. 

Both laptops offer up sharp, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) multi-touch displays and microphones powered by Intel Smart Sound Technology, a digital signal processor that handles audio, voice and speech interactions. The Spin 3 and most other Acer laptops achieve this with near-field dual microphones, though the Spin 5 touts four far-field microphones.

This way, you can treat Alexa on your laptop more like you do on a smart speaker, issuing commands from across a room.

Of course, what this all amounts to are the functions of Alexa that you may already be used to from an Echo speaker, if not through Cortana, Microsoft’s own digital assistant built right into Windows 10. That means checking the weather, setting timers and calendar events, playing music, answering questions and smart home device management.

The Acer Spin 3 starts at $ 499 (£549, about AU$ 659) and the Spin 5 at $ 699 (£799, AU$ 999). Even if you’re not interested in these laptops, keep an eye on this space to see how Microsoft responds with Cortana across Windows 10 devices in the coming months.

TechRadar: latest computing news