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Are these the bits and bobs you want to be given?

Subject: General Tech | November 21, 2014 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: christmas

The Tech Report have put together a collection of what they have found to be the most interesting mobile devices you can get your hands on for yourself or to give to others.  With the new Broadwell based Core-M available they've recommended a few convertible laptops for your gifting needs in addition to more traditional style laptops including a very inexpensive Bay Trail powered model.  If you would rather a device which is neither fish nor fowl then their four tablet recommendations which includes NVIDIA's Shield or the recommended phablets would intrigue you more than a convertible laptop.  In keeping with their tradition, no one is recommended to injure themselves or others with the purchase of a Chromebook thanks to the continued draconian limitations on application support on these ChromeOS powered devices.

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"Quite a lot has changed since we spun off the mobile section of the TR System Guide into our first mobile staff picks. In just five months, we've seen the arrival of the Core M, Android 5.0, iOS 8.0, and a fresh batch of Nexus hardware and iDevices. All of this calls for a new edition."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Well done virtual 7.1 surround from Corsair's H1500

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 04:01 PM |
Tagged: audio, corsair, H1500, gaming headset, 7.1 headset

Corsair's H1500 Dolby 7.1 headset has a pair of 50mm drivers with a response of 20Hz to 20kHz which uses software to emulate 7.1 and 5.1 Dolby surround as well as simple 2.0 audio.  The headset comes with software but not a dedicated soundcard which is why they were able to keep the price to $70.  Benchmark Reviews used the headset in Battlefield 4 and found it quite useful in preventing enemies from sneaking up from behind them with a knife though the stiff padding and narrow head band did tire them out after a while.  Music and movies also sounded great after a little tweaking of the equalizer and the noise cancellation feature on the microphone was effective at reducing background noise while speaking into the mic.  Overall if you want a good set of surround headphones are on a bit of a budget the H1500 are worth adding to your short list of possible purchases.

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"Longevity is very important in any industry. It is extremely likely that, when the longevity moniker is affixed to an organization's label, consumers can buy with confidence. Corsair is one of those labels that can has been doing it well since 1994 and in this industry, 20 years is a VERY long time. Whether you are buying a power supply or a gaming mouse, you know that if it wears the Corsair logo, it is a quality device that will withstand the test of time and perform brilliantly."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Only 1920x1080 or better need apply

Subject: Mobile | November 27, 2014 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: 1080p, Chillblast, Prestige i5-4200SH, dell, Inspiron 17 7000, hp, Beats Special Edition, Lenovo, Yoga 2 13, toshiba, Satellite S70-B-10U

Sick of the standard laptop screen resolution of 1366x768, especially on a laptop with a 17" screen?  The Register has collected five laptops which have a 1080p resolution, several of which feature touchscreen capabilities for use with Win 8.1 and range in screen size up to 17.3". There is a variety of quality, the lower cost HP notebook does not feature an IPS display and so is not as sharp as some other models but then again it is not as expensive as the other models either.  There is not much in the way of benchmarks but it is not too hard to estimate performance based on the components which are inside these laptops as they are common among the current generation of laptops.  This review focuses on the screen, much like your eyes do.

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"For the more discerning eye, that’s just not enough, and while we’ll be looking at the more expensive HiDPI laptops soon, full HD laptops are certainly more affordable these days, especially if you’re prepared to trade having a high-performance CPU or a speedy solid-state drive for a crisper, higher resolution image instead."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Source: The Register

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Chooses IBM and NVIDIA for Two Supercomputers, Summit and Sierra

Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 27, 2014 - 08:53 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, IBM, power9, Volta

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been interested in a successor for their Titan Supercomputer. Sponsored by the US Department of Energy, the new computer will be based on NVIDIA's Volta (GPU) and IBM's POWER9 (CPU) architectures. Its official name will be “Summit”, and it will have a little sibling, “Sierra”. Sierra, also based on Volta and POWER9, will be installed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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Image Credit: NVIDIA

The main feature of these supercomputers is expected to be “NVLink”, which is said to allow unified memory between CPU and GPU. This means that, if you have a workload that alternates rapidly between serial and parallel tasks, that you can save the lag in transferring memory between each switch. One example of this would be a series of for-each loops on a large data set with a bit of logic, checks, and conditional branches between. Memory management is like a lag between each chunk of work, especially across two banks of memory attached by a slow bus.

Summit and Sierra are both built by IBM, while Titan, Oak Ridge's previous supercomputer, was developed by Cray. Not much is known about the specifics of Sierra, but Summit will be about 5x-10x faster (peak computational throughput) than its predecessor at less than a fifth of the nodes. Despite the fewer nodes, it will suck down more total power (~10MW, up from Titan's ~9MW).

These two supercomputers are worth $325 million USD (combined). They are expected to go online in 2017. According to Reuters, an additional $100 million USD will go toward research into "extreme" supercomputing.

Source: Anandtech

Microsoft and Yahoo Want to Be Apple's Default Search

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 09:29 PM |
Tagged: apple, safari, google, yahoo, bing, microsoft, mozilla

After Mozilla inked the deal with Yahoo, the eyes turned to Apple and its Safari browser. Currently, the default search engine is Google on both iOS and OSX, although Bing is the primary engine used for other functions, like Siri and Spotlight. Until early 2015, they are tied into a contract with Google for those two browsers, but who will get the new contract?

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Apparently Yahoo and Microsoft have both approached the company for the position, and Apple is not ruling any of the three out. Probably the most interesting part is how Yahoo is genuinely taking the search business seriously. The deal with Mozilla is fairly long-term, and with Yahoo approaching Apple as well, it probably was not just charity on Mozilla's part because no-one else wanted to be Firefox's default. Yahoo would probably need some significant monetary backing for an Apple deal, which suggests the same for their deal with Mozilla.

If both Mozilla and Apple leave Google, it will take a significant chunk out of the search engine. Power users, like those who read this site, will likely be unaffected if they care, because of how low the barrier is to change the default search engine. On the other hand, even the most experienced user will often accept default settings until there is a reason to change. The winning party will need to have a good enough product to overcome that initial shock.

But the money will at least give them a chance when the decision comes into effect. That is, unless the barrier to changing default search engines is less than the barrier to changing default web browsers.

Google will always be default on Google Chrome.

Uplay Black Friday Sale: Buy One, Get One Free

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 10:03 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, black friday

Another quick Black Friday post, this one on Ubisoft's Uplay service. At least in Canada, if you purchase one title of a selected list, you will get a choice of one from a second list, for free. While the headliners are Ubisoft's first-party titles, there are a few from EA, Sega, Telltale, Deep Silver, Bethesda, WB Games, Capcom, Square Enix, and Kalypso to round out the “Buy” list (every free bundle game is from Ubisoft, though).

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The list of “Buy” (full price) games are:

  • Assassin's Creed: Unity (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
  • Far Cry 4 (PC, 360, Xbox One, PS3 – Not PS4???)
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition (PC)
  • Alien Isolation (PC)
  • Assassin's Creed: Rogue (360, PS3)
  • Tales from the Borderlands (PC)
  • Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (PC)
  • Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC)
  • The Evil Within (PC)
  • Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse (PC)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC)
  • FIFA Soccer 15 (PC)
  • The Sims 4 (PC)
  • Football Manager 2015 (PC)
  • Rocksmith (2014) (PC, 360, PS3 – Xbox One is listed by not available in the store???)
  • Just Dance 2015 (360, Xbox One, PS3, Wii)
  • Escape Dead Island (PC)
  • Tropico 5 (PC)
  • Shape Up (Xbox One)
  • Metro: Redux Bundle (PC)

Purchasing one of the above allows you to get one of the following PC titles:

  • Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth
  • Far Cry 3
  • Assassin's Creed III: Deluxe Edition
  • Watch_Dogs
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist
  • Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry
  • Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD
  • Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
  • Anno 2070
  • Might and Magic: Heroes VI (Complete)
  • Rayman Legends

Of course, the first thing that pops into my mind is the AMD "Never Settle" promotion. It is interesting that game publishers are also considering a "build your own bundle" initiative, breaking from the "these two games are shrink-wrapped together" model that was previously dominant. Perhaps this will be something that Valve considers for one of their future promotions?

If you were considering paying full price for one of the first list of titles, than purchasing it through the Ubisoft store might get you an extra game for free. Personally, I've been considering Far Cry 4 and Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag has been given a lot of good publicity. The sale started on the American Thanksgiving season and runs until December 15th, so you have a little time to think.

Source: Ubisoft

Windows 10 Will Support Many New Codecs Natively

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 10:20 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft, flac, mkv, hevc, h.265

Native support for audio and video codecs is helpful for a platform. Software will be able to call upon the operating system's built-in functions, rather than integrating a solution. Of course, some will continue to roll their own, and that's fine, but it is obviously helpful for the foundation to have its own solution (especially in cases where licenses and royalties are required).

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Windows 10 is expected to increase its platform support to include FLAC, MKV, and HEVC (h.265), and more may be coming. The tweet from Gabriel Aul suggests that this will be available starting in the next preview build, coming in early 2015. Hopefully these additions include both encoding and decoding support, possibly allowing audio and video editors to take advantage of these formats.

The next build of Windows 10 Technical Preview is expected for early next year. The full OS is said to launch late that year.

Source: PC Gamer