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Steam "Store Within a Store" at GameStop, GAME UK, and EB

Subject: Systems | October 5, 2015 - 07:39 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam os, steam machines, steam, pc gaming

According to SteamDB, Valve has struck deals with GameStop, GAME UK, and EB Canada to create “store within a store” areas in North American and UK locations. The article does not clarify how many of stores will receive this treatment. It does note that Steam Controller, Steam Link, and even Steam Machines will be sold from these outlets, which will give physical presence to Valve's console platform alongside the existing ones.


The thing about Valve is that, when they go silent, you can't tell whether they reconsidered their position, or they just are waiting for the right time to announce. They have been fairly vocal about Steam accessories, but the machines themselves have been pretty much radio silence for the better part of a year. There was basically nothing at CES 2015 after a big push in the prior year. The talk shifted to Steam Link, which was obviously part of their original intention but, due to the simultaneous lack of Steam Machine promotion, feels more like a replacement than an addition.

But, as said, that's tricky logic to use with Valve.

As a final note, I am curious about what the transaction entailed. From what I hear, purchasing retail space is pricey and difficult, but some retailers donate space for certain products and initiatives that they find intrinsic value in. Valve probably has a lot money, but they don't have Microsoft levels of cash. Whether Valve paid for the space, or the retailers donated it, is question that leads to two very different, but both very interesting in their own way, follow-ups. Hopefully we'll learn more, but we probably won't.

Source: SteamDB

Ars Technica Reviews Android 6.0 (Marshmellow)

Subject: Mobile | October 6, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: google, android 6.0, Android

Android 6.0 was launched yesterday, and Ars Technica has, so far, been the only outlet to give it a formal review. That said, it is a twelve-page review with a table of contents -- so that totally counts for five or so.


The main complaint that the reviewer has is the operating system's inability to be directly updated. There is a large chain of rubber stamps between Google's engineers and the world at large. Carriers and phone manufacturers can delay (or not even attempt to certify) patches for their many handsets. It is not like Windows, where Microsoft controls the centralized update service. In the beginning, this wasn't too big of an issue as updates were typically for features. Sucker, buy a new phone if you want WebGL.

Now it's about security. Granted, it has always been about security, even on the iPhone, we just care more now. If you think about it, every time a phone gets jailbroken, a method exists to steal admin privileges away from Apple and give them to... the user. Some were fairly sophisticated processes involving USB tethering to PCs, while others involved browsing to a malicious website with a payload that the user (but not Apple) wanted to install. Hence why no-one cared: the security was being exploited by the user for the user. It was only a matter of time before either the companies sufficiently crush the bugs, or it started to be tasty for the wolves.

And Google is getting bit.

Otherwise, Ars Technica mostly praised the OS. Be sure to read their review to get a full sense of their opinion. As far as I can tell, they only tested it on the Nexus 5.

Source: Ars Technica

Microsoft Buys Havok from Intel

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: physics, microsoft, Intel, Havok

Microsoft has just purchased Havok from Intel for an undisclosed price. This group develops one of the leading physics engines for video games and other software. It was used in every Halo title since Halo 2, including Halo Wars, and a fork of it drives the physics for Valve's Source Engine. It has been around since 2000, but didn't really take off until Max Payne 2 in 2003.

And the natural follow-up question for just about everything is “why?”


Hopefully this isn't bad taste...
Photo Credit: Havok via Game Developer Magazine (June 2013)

There are good reasons, though. First, Microsoft has been in the video game middleware and API business for decades. DirectX is the obvious example, but they have also created software like Games for Windows Live and Microsoft Gaming Zone. Better software drives sales for platforms, and developers can always use help accomplishing that.

Another reason could be Azure. Microsoft wants to bring cloud services to online titles, offloading some of the tasks that are insensitive to latency allows developers to lower system requirements or do more with what they have (which is especially true when consoles flatten huge install bases to a handful of specifications). If they plan to go forward with services that run on Azure or Xbox Live, then it would make sense to have middleware that's as drop-in as possible. Creating a physics engine from scratch is a bit of a hassle, but so is encouraging existing engines to use it.

It would be better to just buy someone that everyone is using. Currently, that's Havok, an open-source solution that is rarely used outside of other open-source systems, and something that's owned by NVIDIA (and probably won't leave their grip until their fingers are frigid and lifeless).

That's about all we know, though. The deal doesn't have a close date, value, or official purpose. Intel hasn't commented on the deal, only Microsoft has.

Source: Microsoft
Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications



Courtesy of GIGABYTE

As the flagship board in their Intel Z170-based G1 Gaming Series product line, GIGABYTE integrated all the premium features you could ever want into their Z170X-G1 Gaming motherboard. The board features a black PCB with red and white accents spread throughout its surface to make for a very appealing aesthetic. GIGIGABYTE chose to integrate plastic shields covering their rear panel assembly, the VRM heat sinks, the audio components, and the chipset and SATA ports. With the addition of the Intel Z170 chipset, the motherboard supports the latest Intel LGA1151 Skylake processor line as well as Dual Channel DDR4 memory. Offered at at a premium MSRP of $499, the Z170X-Gaming G1 is priced to appeal to the premium user enthusiasts.


Courtesy of GIGABYTE


Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE over-engineered the Z170X-Gaming G1 to take anything you could think of throwing at it with a massive 22-phase digital power delivery system, featuring 4th gen IR digital controllers and 3rd gen IR PowerIRStage ICs as well as Durable Black solid capacitors rated at 10k operational hours. GIGABYTE integrated the following features into the Z170X-G1 Gaming board: four SATA 3 ports; three SATA-Express ports; two M.2 PCIe x4 capable port; dual Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2400 NICs; a Killer™ Wireless-AC 1535 802.11AC WiFI controller; four PCI-Express x16 slots; three PCI-Express x1 slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, ECO, and CPU Overclock buttons; Dual-BIOS and active BIOS switches; audio gain control switch; Sound Blaster Core 3D audio solution; removable audio OP-AMP port; integrated voltage measurement points; Q-Flash Plus BIOS updater; integrated HDMI video port; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.

Continue reading our review of the GIGABYTE Z170X-Gaming G1 motherboard!

Dell UltraSharp UP3216Q: 31.5-inch 4K Monitor with 99.5% Adobe RGB

Subject: Displays | October 3, 2015 - 09:12 PM |
Tagged: UP3216Q, ultrasharp, UHD, monitor, ips, HDMI 2.0, display, dell, calibration, Adobe RGB, 4k

While not officially launched in the U.S. just yet, on Thursday Tom's Hardware reported news of a trio of upcoming UltraSharp monitors from Dell, the largest of which - the UP3216Q - I was able to locate on Dell's Bermuda site.


For anyone looking for a 4K display for photo or video editing (or any other color critical work) the new Dell UltraSharp UP3216Q looks like a great - and likely very pricey - option. Just how much are we talking? The existing 31.5-inch 4K UP3214Q carries a $1999 MSRP (though it sells for $1879 on Dell's site). For this kind of money there are probably those who will never consider a 16:9 option (or ever give up their 16:10 30-inch displays), but the specifications of this new UP3216Q are impressive:

  • Diagonal Viewing Size: 31.5 inch
  • Aspect Ratio: Widescreen (16:9)
  • Panel Type, Surface: In-Plane Switching
  • Optimal resolution: 3840 x 2160 @ 60Hz
  • Active Display Area (H x V): 273,996 sq-mm (424.7 sq-inches)
  • Contrast Ratio: 1000 to 1 (typical), 2 Million to 1 (dynamic)
  • Brightness: 300 cd/m2 (typical)
  • Response Time: 6ms fast mode . GTG
  • Viewing Angle: 178° vertical / 178° horizontal
  • Adjustability: Tilt, Swivel, Height Adjust
  • Color Support: 1.07 billion colors
  • Pixel Pitch: 0.182 mm
  • Backlight Technology: LED light bar system
  • Display Screen Coating: Anti-Glare with 3H hardness
  • Connectivity: DP, mDP, HDMI (MHL), 4 x USB3 with one charging port, 1 x USB3 upstream, Media Card Reader

With the 60 Hz 4K (UHD) IPS panel offering full sRGB and 99.5% Adobe RGB, and a factory calibration that promises to be factory color calibrated with a deltaE of less than 2, the UP3214Q sounds pretty much ready to go out of the box. However for those inclined to strive for a more perfect calibration Dell is offering an X-Rite i1Display Pro colorimeter as an optional accessory, providing their own Dell UltraSharp Color Calibration Solution software.

A couple of points of interest with this monitor, while it offers DisplayPort and mini-DP inputs it also supports 4K 60 Hz via HDMI 2.0. Color support is also listed as 1.07 billion colors, but it's not specified whether this indicates a 10-bit panel or if they are implementing 10-bit color processing with an 8-bit panel - though if it's in the $2k price range it would probably safe to assume this is a 10-bit panel. Lastly, in keeping with the UltraSharp branding the monitor will also carry Dell's Premium Panel Guarantee and 3-Year Advanced Exchange Service warranty.

Source: Dell

AMD Releases Catalyst 15.9.1 to Fix Several Issues

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 5, 2015 - 07:13 AM |
Tagged: graphics drivers, amd

Apparently users of AMD's Catalyst 15.9 drivers have been experiencing issues. Specifically, “major memory leaks” could be caused by adjusting windows, such as resizing them or snapping them to edges of the desktop. According to PC Gamer, AMD immediately told users to roll back when they found out about the bug.


They have since fixed it with Catalyst 15.9.1 Beta. This subversion driver also fixes crashes and potential “signal loss” problems with a BenQ FreeSync monitor. As such, if you were interested in playing around with the Catalyst 15.9 beta driver, then it should be safe to do so now. I wish I could offer more input, but I just found out about it and it seems pretty cut-and-dry: if you had problems, they should be fixed. The update is available here.

Source: PC Gamer

GOM eXP Shuts Down and Sells GSL to afreecaTV

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 07:32 AM |
Tagged: starcraft 2, starcraft, pc gaming, esports

I'm not really seeing anyone pick up this news in English outside of StarCraft II forums, so I'm not sure whether this news will be fresh, or completely irrelevant to anyone's interests. Either way, GOM eXP was one of the leading broadcasters of StarCraft tournaments in South Korea. They operated GSL, which was one of the three Blizzard-endorsed leagues for StarCraft II.


Image Credit: Wolf Shröder via Twitter

They have just shut down, but their GSL tournament will not.

afreecaTV, a video streaming service, has bought out the tournament. For viewers, this means that high quality, 1080p streams will be available for free. Previously, GOM was a bit strict about forcing Twitch subscriptions for anything other than Low quality. The quality was bad enough that you often couldn't even read the on-screen text, such as how many units or resources each player has.

Beyond hosting the 2016 GSL tournament, they will also have a couple of StarCraft II show matches and even a StarCraft: Brood War league. I wonder how the original StarCraft holds up for viewers after we have gotten used to the sequel's updated graphics. Hmm.

Source: TeamLiquid

Windows 10 IoT Core Starter Pack for the Pi 2 Released

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 5, 2015 - 08:01 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, iot

Microsoft has released the Windows 10 IoT Core for the Raspberry Pi 2. It retails for 75$ without the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, or $115$ with it. Apart from the optional Pi, it is basically a pack of electronic components and an SD card that's pre-loaded with Windows 10 IoT. It is available at the Adafruit store, although both packs are currently out of stock... because of course they are.


Beyond jumper wires, a case, breadboards, resistors, LEDs, switches, and sensors, the pack also comes with a WiFi module. Interestingly, Adafruit claims that this will be the only WiFi adapter for the Raspberry Pi 2 that's supported by Windows 10 IoT. This is weird, of course, because Windows is kind-of the go-to when it comes to driver support. It makes me wonder whether Microsoft changed anything under the hood that affects hardware compatibility and, if it did, whether Windows 10 IoT loses its major advantage over Linux and other OSes in this form factor.

The kit is currently sold up, but retails for $75, or $115 with a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B.

Source: Microsoft

The Enermax ETS-T40F-W; a cooler of a different colour

Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 5, 2015 - 02:29 PM |
Tagged: air cooling, enermax, ETS-T40F-W

Have you recently bought a white motherboard and a matching case to go with it?  Are you now bemoaning the fact that your cooler just isn't matching rhe Storm Trooper vibe that you have going on in your case?  Enermax has a solution, the ETS-T40F-W cooler, 610 grams of glowing white cooling standing 139x93x160mm (5.5x3.7x6.3").  The Thermal Conductive Coating does seem to work effectively, though the cooler is not among the best that [H]ard|OCP has reviewed.  They also recommend running the fan at low speed as high speed does not increase the cooling as noticeably as it increases the fan noise.  Then again, at $50 and being the only coloured cooler on the market does place it in an interesting niche market.


"Enermax comes to us with its new compact size model, the ETS-T40F-W CPU air cooler also referred to as the "Fit" series cooler. This model is decked out in its best Storm Trooper white garb which is actually what Enermax calls its "Thermal Conductive Coating." Do the Fit's dual 12cm fans have what it takes to make a good CPU air cooler?"

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:


Source: [H]ard|OCP

Star Wars Battlefront Shouldn't Have Microtransactions?

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 06:24 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, ea, battlefront

So I'm reading PC Gamer and I see an article that says, “Star Wars Battlefront Will Not Use Microtransactions”. Given the previous few Battlefield games, this surprised me. Granted, these titles weren't particularly egregious in their use of payments. Everything (apart from expansion packs of course) could be achieved through a reasonable amount of play. That said, it takes a lot of restraint for a developer to not just ratchet the requirements further and further to widen their net, so I can see the problem.


Regardless, by the third paragraph I notice that the representative never actually said that they won't (according to the snippets that PC Gamer quoted). The phrase is simply, “not part of the core design of how it works”. Granted, I would expect that EA would poke PC Gamer to correct them if they did intend to release a game in about six weeks, so I feel like their interpretation is correct.

That doesn't change that, according to the quotes, the only thing they promised is for the currency system to be fully accessible without payments. I'm not fully convinced that it will only be accessible without payments, though.

Source: PC Gamer

New Lightweight LG Gram Notebooks Hit US Market

Subject: Mobile | October 2, 2015 - 02:02 AM |
Tagged: LG, ultrathin, Broadwell, ips display

Earlier this week, LG revealed three new notebooks under its Gram series that are set to compete with Apple’s Macbook Air (The Verge has a photo comparison of the two) and various Ultrabooks from other manufacturers (e.g. Lenovo and Asus). The new series includes one 13-inch and two 14-inch laptops that weigh in at 2.16 pounds and are 0.5” thick. The LG Gram with 13” display is the smallest of the bunch at 11.9” x 8.4” x 0.5” and the chassis is constructed of magnesium and polycarbonate (plastic). Meanwhile, the two notebooks with the 14” display measure 12.8” x 8.94” x 0.5” and feature a body made from a combination of carbon-magnesium and lithium-magnesium alloys. The difference in materials accounts for the larger notebooks hitting the same weight target (2.16 lbs).

LG Gram 14 Thin and Light Notebook.jpg

The 14-inch LG Gram 14 (gram-14Z950-A.AA4GU1) notebook.

LG is packing every Gram notebook with a 1080p IPS display (13.3 or 14 inches), dual mics, a 1.3 MP webcam, six row island-style keyboard, and a spacious track pad. External IO includes two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, micro SD card slot, and a micro USB port that (along with the included dongle) supports the 10/100 Ethernet network connection.

The base Gram 13-inch comes in Snow White while both Gram 14-inch notebooks are clad in Champagne Gold.

LG Gram 13.jpg

The LG Gram 13 Broadwell-powered laptop (gram-13Z950-A.AA3WU1).

Internally, LG has opted to go with Intel’s Broadwell processor and its built-in HD 5500 GPU. The LG Gram 13 uses the Intel Core i5-5200U (2 cores, 4 threads at 2.2-2.7GHz). The 14-inch models can be configured with an Intel i5 or an Intel Core i7-5500U which is a dual core (with HyperThreading for four threads) processor clocked at 2.4 GHz that can boost to 3.0 GHz. Additional specifications include 8GB of DDR3L memory, a solid state drive (128 GB on the Gram 13, up to 256 GB on the Gram 14), Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and rated battery life of up to 7.5 hours (which is not great, but not too bad).

The Gram 13 starts at $900. Moving up to the base 14” model will cost $1,000. Finally, the top-end Core i7-powered Gram 14 has an MSRP of $1,400.

The Gram series is LG’s first major thin-and-light entry into the US market, and while there are some compromises made to get the portability, the price points are competitive and seem to be priced right. Interestingly, LG is aiming these notebooks as Macbook Air competitors, allegedly offering you a larger, yet lighter, notebook. It is not actually the lightest notebook on the market, however. Below is a brief point of (weight) comparison to some of the major recent thin-and-lights, the Gram is going up against:

  • 12” Apple MacBook: 2.03 lbs
  • 11” Apple MacBook Air: 2.38 lbs
  • 13” Apple MacBook Air: 2.96 lbs
  • 13.3" ASUS Zenbook UX305FA (Core M): 2.65 lbs
  • 13.3" ASUS Zenbook UX301LA (Core i7): 3.08 lbs
  • 13.3” LaVie Z: 1.87 lbs
  • 13.3” LaVie Z 360: 2.04 lbs
  • 12.2" Samsung ATIV Book 9: 2.09 lbs

We will have to wait for reviews to see how the build quality stacks up, especially the 14-inch models using the lithium-magnesium bodies which, while light, may not be the sturdiest flex-wise. If they can hold up to the stress of the daily commuter, the retail pricing is far from exorbitant and if you can live with the compromises fairly attractive.

Source: LG

Podcast #369 - Fable Legends DX12 Benchmark, Apple A9 SoC, Intel P3608 SSD, and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2015 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, fable legends, dx12, apple, A9, TSMC, Samsung, 14nm, 16nm, Intel, P3608, NVMe, logitech, g410, TKL, nvidia, geforce now, qualcomm, snapdragon 820

PC Perspective Podcast #369 - 10/01/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Fable Legends DX12 Benchmark, Apple A9 SoC, Intel P3608 SSD, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:42:35

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:54:10 This episode of PC Perspective is brought to you by…Zumper, the quick and easy way to find your next apartment or home rental. To get started and to find your new home go to http://zumper.com/PCP
  3. News item of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Humble Bundle Launches Humble Monthly Bundle

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 08:31 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, humble bundle

Humble Bundle is an organization that sells games for charity. It started with a service that let users pay pretty much whatever they want for DRM-free titles, and let them choose how much went to the developers, the organization, and the selected charities of the moment. They have branches out since then, sometimes with praise, sometimes with concerned murmors.

Humble Bundle mumble, if you will.


Now they have created a subscription service. Basically, on the first Friday of every month, subscribers will receive the game that is promoted. In other words, it is a service that acts similar to what we're used to, except that you don't know what you're getting ahead of time, you cannot select how much you pay for it, and you cannot choose the proceed distribution. Unless it leads to a unique palette of games that are decidedly better than the typical bundles, I cannot see how this is anything more than a restrictive subset for the sake of it.

Still, that doesn't mean said subset isn't worth your money (be careful of the double-negative). If it is, then you can subscribe now and pick up Legend of Grimrock 2. The title is apparently available on Steam for $24, so this would be a half-price deal if it was something that you were interesting in buying.

I guess that's a decent first impression.

Linux turns 24 in time for the party in Dublin

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: LinuxCon Europe, linux, open source

LinuxCon Europe has just kicked off and there are some interesting projects being discussed at the event.  ARM, Cisco, NexB, Qualcomm, SanDisk and Wind River have formed the Openchain workgroup to bring some standardization to Linux software development, such as exists in Debian, to ensure that multiple companies are not attempting design their own wheels simultaneously.  The Real-Time Linux Collaborative Project is developing software for application in robotics, telecom, and aviation and includes members such as Google, Texas Instruments, Intel, ARM and Altera.  They will be working towards developing Linux applications for those industries where shaving a few milliseconds off of transaction times can be worth millions of dollars.  The last major project announced at the convention will be FOSSology 3.0 which will enable you quickly and easily run licence and copyright scans, something near and dear to the heart of the Free and Open Source Software community.  Check out more at The Inquirer.


"Tim Zemlin, chief executive of the Foundation, said in his opening remarks that this year's opening day falls on the 24th anniversary of Linux itself and the 30th of the Free Software Foundation, giving credit to delegates for their part in the success of both."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk


Source: The Inquirer

Curious just what is special about the AMD Pro line of APUs?

Subject: Processors | October 5, 2015 - 04:48 PM |
Tagged: amd, PRO A12-8800B, Excavator, carrizo pro, Godavari Pro

AMD recently announced a Pro lineup of Excavator based chips which match their Carrizo and Godavari current lineup as far as the specifications go.  This was somewhat confusing as there were no real features at first glance that separated the Pro chips from the non-Pro cousins in the press material from AMD or HP.  Tech ARP posted the slides from the reveal and they note one key feature that separates the two chip families and why businesses should be interested in them.  These are hand-picked dies taken from hand picked wafers which AMD chose as they represent the best of the chips they have fabbed.  You should expect performance free from any possible defects which made it past quality control and if you do have bad enough luck to find a way to get a less than perfect chip they come with a 36 month extended OEM warranty.

In addition to being hand picked, machines with an AMD Pro chip will also come with an ARM TrustZone Technology based AMD Secure Processor onboard.  If you use a mobile device which has TPM and a crypto-processor onboard you will be familar with the technology; AMD is the first to bring this open sourced security platform to Windows based machines.  Small business owners may also be interested the AMD PRO Control Center which is an inventory management client which will not cost as much as ones designed for Enterprise and in theory should be easier to use as well.

This news is of lesser interest to the gamer you never know, if you can secure one of these hand picked chips you may find it gives you a bit more headroom for tweaking than your average run of the mill Godavari or Carrizo would.


"We will now only show you the presentation slides, we also recorded the entire conference call and created a special video presentation based on the conference call for you. We hope you enjoy our work."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:


Source: Tech ARP

Microsoft to Announce New Windows 10 Devices

Subject: Systems | October 5, 2015 - 05:16 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, surface, Surface Pro, surface pro 4, hp, Lenovo, dell, asus, acer, toshiba

Tomorrow at 10 am ET, Microsoft will host a live stream to announce “new Windows 10 devices from Microsoft”. It's pretty obvious that we'll get at least one new Surface device announced, which rumors suggest will be the Surface Pro 4 with a low-bezel, 13-inch display. W4pHub, via VR-Zone, goes a bit further to claim that the display can shrink to 12 inches when in tablet mode, giving a frame for the user to hold. If true, I wonder how applications will handle the shift in resolution. Perhaps the only problem is a little flicker, which will be hidden by the rest of Continuum's transition?


Image Credit: VR-Zone

The Microsoft Blog post also lists the announcement dates of their partners. Here's the rundown:

  • October 7th -- HP
  • October 8th -- Dell
  • October 9th -- ASUS
  • October 12th -- Acer
  • October 13th -- Toshiba
  • October 19th -- Lenovo

While the rush of Windows 10 devices have missed the Back to School season, despite Microsoft's attempts to rush development with a July release, it looks like we might get a good amount of them for the holiday season. I was a bit worried, seeing how slowly Threshold 2 seems to be advancing, but they seem to have convinced OEMs to make a big deal out of it.

Then again, it could be holiday fever.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Book 2-in-1 with Skylake with NVIDIA Discrete GPU Announced

Subject: Mobile | October 6, 2015 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: video, surface book, surface, Skylake, nvidia, microsoft, Intel, geforce

Along with the announcement of the new Surface Pro 4, Microsoft surprised many with the release of the new Surface Book 2-in-1 convertible laptop. Sharing much of the same DNA as the Surface tablet line, the Surface Book adopts a more traditional notebook design while still adding enough to the formula to produce a unique product.


The pivotal part of the design (no pun intended) is the new hinge, a "dynamic fulcrum" design that looks great and also (supposedly) will be incredibly strong. The screen / tablet attachment mechanism is called Muscle Wire and promises secure attachment as well as ease of release with a single button.

An interesting aspect of the fulcrum design is that, when closed, the Surface Book screen and keyboard do not actually touch near the hinge. Instead you have a small gap in this area. I'm curious how this will play out in real-world usage - it creates a natural angle for using the screen in its tablet form but also may find itself "catching" coin, pens and other things between the two sections. 


The 13.5-in screen has a 3000 x 2000 resolution (3:2 aspect ratio obviously) with a 267 PPI pixel density. Just like the Surface Pro 4, it has a 10-point touch capability and uses the exclusive PixelSense display technology for improved image quality.

While most of the hardware is included in the tablet portion of the device, the keyboard dock includes some surprises of its own. You get a set of two USB 3.0 ports, a full size SD card slot and a proprietary SurfaceConnect port for an add-on dock. But most interestingly you'll find an optional discrete GPU from NVIDIA, an as-yet-undiscovered GeForce GPU with 1GB (??) of memory. I have sent inquiries to Microsoft and NVIDIA for details on the GPU, but haven't heard back yet. We think it is a 30 watt GeForce GPU of some kind (by looking at the power adapter differences) but I'm more interested in how the GPU changes both battery life and performance.


Keyboard and touchpad performance looks to be impressive as well, with a full glass trackpad integration, backlit keyboard design and "class leading" key switch throw distance.

The Surface Book is powered by Intel Skylake processors, available in both Core i5 and Core i7 options, but does not offer Core m-based or Iris graphics options. Instead the integrated GPU will only be offered with the Intel HD 520.


Microsoft promises "up to" 12 hours of battery life on the Surface Book, though that claim was made with the Core i5 / 256GB / 8GB configuration option; no discrete GPU included. 


Pricing on the Surface Book starts at $1499 but can reach as high as $2699 with the maximum performance and storage capacity options. 

Source: Microsoft

The headphones of choice on Aiur; Corsair's VOID

Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2015 - 01:43 PM |
Tagged: corsair, VOID Wireless, gaming headset, 7.1 headset

On paper these headphones are impressive, wireless performance out to 40' with 16 hours of charge, frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz on the 50mm drivers and 7.1 surround sound.  There have been many previous software emulated 7.1 directional gaming headsets which have disappointed users but in this case Benchmark Reviews quite liked the performance of the VOID while gaming and listening to music.  The noise cancelling microphone, dubbed an “InfoMic” as it has LED lights which can be illuminated in different ways depending on your preferences and even the game you happen to be playing.  You can also sync the lights with other Corsair RGB devices using the Cue software if you are so inclined.  Check out the full reivew right here.


"In the world of computer peripherals and hardware, most of us are well aware of Corsair’s existence. This is an organization that has well-earned reputation for producing quality components; components that are going to be high-performing, intelligently designed, and very likely to provide its owners with years of service."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner


This mouse goes to 12000! The ROCCAT Nyth

Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2015 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: roccat, Nyth, gaming mouse, input

That is no typo, the Twin-Tech Laser Sensor R1 on the Nyth really does go all the way up to 12000 DPI and it also has an adjustable lift-off distance.  There are also 18 buttons, with the shift key function they can all be assigned a second function as well.  The Swarm software used to program the mouse is rather impressive, not only can you assign profiles to games you can program a light show into your mouse if you so desire.  It will set you back $120 but if the price tag does not scare you off you can see how it performs in MadShrimps' review.


"ROCCAT Nyth is like a breath of fresh air in the already crowded gaming mice market which sports quite a modular design with replaceable right side panel, no less than four different sets of buttons, a smooth durable plastic texture, catchy LED light effects and a comfortable shape for lengthy gaming sessions."

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Source: Mad Shrimps

Google your local nuclear plants infrastructure? That's not terrifying at all.

Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2015 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: nuclear, security

Stuxnet hit the news five years ago when it was discovered infecting the industrial Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition systems of factories all across the world, up to and including nuclear plants.  The breadth of the attack was a bit more than what Israeli intelligence and the NSA originally intended but they did succeed in severely damaging their actual target which was an Iranian uranium enrichment plant.  Unfortunately it seems the development of Stuxnet might have been somewhat of a waste of resources as they could probably have achieved the same results with a simple man in the middle attack. 

The  Chatham House recently released a report on the state of security in nuclear power plants and facilities across the globe and the results are horrifying to say the least.  From the overview that The Register provides the level of security present in many of these facilities is commensurate with your average high school.  The idea that these plants are air-gapped is a fallacy and the code for the control systems can be easily altered remotely without the need to design a complex virus to infect them.  Thankfully it is very difficult to cause a nuclear plant to go critical but these vulnerabilities can still cause damage to machinery and interfere with the plants ability to provide power to customers.  You may not want to read the whole story if you want to sleep well tonight.


"The report adds that search engines can "readily identify critical infrastructure components with" VPNs, some of which are power plants. It also adds that facility operators are "sometimes unaware of" them."

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Source: The Register