Opera now comes with a free VPN, Microsoft stops making the Xbox 360, Facebook enables group calling on Messenger, HBO goes free for Game of Thrones weekend, and the emotional power of video games.
Opera Now Has a Free VPN Built In
Opera, a Web browser we actually quite like, now comes with a free VPN (Virtual Private Network). This means Opera users can hide their IP address and bypass firewalls without the need to install a third-party VPN. Which, if it works, is huge.
Right now, the free VPN is only available in the developer version of Opera for Windows or OS X. So, it could be temperamental until the bugs are ironed out. We also don’t know if there are any catches, beyond having to use Opera in order to gain access.
Opera insists this is a “native, unlimited and free VPN client” built “right inside your browser”. It doesn’t even require an account, just the latest version of Opera running on Windows or OS X. Which seems too good to be true, quite frankly.
At launch you can choose a server based in the United States, Canada, or Germany, but Opera is promising that “more countries will appear later”. We will be trying the developer version of Opera 38 for ourselves over the next few days, so keep your browsers pointed at our Browsers section for the full rundown.
Microsoft Ends Production of the Xbox 360
Microsoft will not be producing any more Xbox 360 consoles, with the company deciding to put the hardware out to pasture after a full decade of service. This means that once the inventory of existing Xbox 360 consoles has run out, you’ll only be able to buy one secondhand.
Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, announced the news in a blog post which somewhat buried the lede:
“Xbox 360 means a lot to everyone in Microsoft. And while we’ve had an amazing run, the realities of manufacturing a product over a decade old are starting to creep up on us. Which is why we have made the decision to stop manufacturing new Xbox 360 consoles. We will continue to sell existing inventory of Xbox 360 consoles, with availability varying by country.”
The hardware may now be defunct, but Microsoft has committed to continuing to serve all of those gamers currently using an Xbox 360. To that end, Xbox Live will remain usable, Xbox Live servers will remain online, existing hardware will still be supported, and all of the games will remain available to buy.
This news suggests it’s time for Xbox 360 owners to think about jumping to the current generation of consoles, which means choosing between the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4, and the Wii U. But with Nintendo already planning its next console, and both the Xbox One and PS4 rumored to be getting upgrades in the near future, you may want to hold off for another six months.
Facebook Messenger Adds Group Calling
In 2029 my job will be to sit at the other end of the Guardian’s Facebook Messenger chatbot and pretend to be an AI answering news questions
— Alex Hern (@alexhern) April 18, 2016
You can now participate in group calls on Facebook Messenger, with up to 50 people involved at any one time. The feature is rolling out now, so to gain access you should update Facebook Messenger at your earliest convenience. To initiate a group call just tap the phone icon from within a group chat.
While this is currently limited to voice calls, Facebook is expected to add group video calls in the not-too-distant future. After all, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Line (with up to 200 people) all already offer group video calling, making this one area in which Facebook Messenger is lagging behind the competition.
HBO Is Free to Watch This Weekend
This weekend sees the return of Game of Thrones, with the first episode of the sixth season of the epic show airing on HBO on April 24. And to celebrate, HBO is free for non-subscribers from Friday night until Sunday night. Which is great and all, but also a cynical move from HBO.
HBO knows how huge this show is, and is using Game of Thrones as an opportunity to get people hooked. Unfortunately, anyone who does get drawn in will need to subscribe to HBO to watch the rest of the season. At least if they want to remain on the right side of the law.
This Short Film Will Break Your Heart
And finally, it’s easy to forget/ignore the fact that video games are an artform just like movies and music. Which means they have the power to affect people in lots of different ways. However, it’s rare to hear a story of video games helping someone move on from grief, which is what makes this short film a must-see.
This short film, called Player Two, is based on a comment left on YouTube. It recounts how a son was able to move on from the loss of his father thanks to a ghost car in a driving game. The very idea of which breaks my normally blackened heart. I challenge you to watch this without shedding a tear. [H/T Sploid]
Your Views on Today’s Tech News
Will the lure of a free VPN encourage you to try Opera? Are you sad to see the end of the Xbox 360? Are you likely to use group calling on Facebook Messenger? Will you be watching HBO for free this weekend? Have you ever got emotional while playing video games?
Let us know your thoughts on the Tech News of the day by posting to the comments section below. Because a healthy discussion is always welcome.
Tech News Digest is a daily column paring the technology news of the day down into bite-sized chunks that are easy to read and perfect for sharing.