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Lenovo for those who don't care about security

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2015 - 12:57 PM |
Tagged: superfish, Malware, Lenovo

Since 2014 Lenovo has been selling consumer laptops installed with an innocuously named program, Superfish.  For those not in the habit of wiping their laptop and installing the OS fresh to avoid the bloatware generally present on consumer products, you have been sharing the exact same SSL certificate as every other Lenovo owner and the icing on the cake is that it is self signed by Superfish, not a certificate authority.  This means any and all transmissions done on a browser (apparently other than Firefox) could have easily been unencrypted by anyone who captured your wireless transmissions since the SSL key you were using is well known seeing as it is present on every recent Lenovo machine. 

Lenovo is downplaying the security issue and emphasizing that Superfish was just intended inject ads into your browser based on history and that it could be disabled manually or by not agreeing to the terms and conditions when you turn on your laptop for the first time.  As the commentors on Slashdot rightly point out, that argument is disingenuous and exposing your customers to a man in the middle attack just so you can serve them up some targeted advertising is a gross oversight.  Samsung has not seen much success with the argument that their monitoring software could be manually disabled either.  The program is no longer bundled on Lenovo laptops, as of this year.

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"... doesn't mention the SSL aspect, but this Lenovo Forum Post, with screen caps, is indicating it may be a man-in-the-middle attack to hijack an SSL connection too. It's too early to tell if this is a hoax or not, but there are multiple forum posts about the Superfish bug being installed on new systems. Another good reason to have your own fresh install disk, and to just drop the drivers onto a USB stick."

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Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Specifications

Flagship. Premium. Best in class. These are the terms that Dell and Intel muttered to me during a conference call to discuss the new Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet. It’s a bullish claim and one that would likely have been received with a sideways eye roll or a shrug had I not been able to get a short amount of hands on time with the device at CES in January. The idea that Dell would develop an Android tablet that bests what more established brands like Nexus and Samsung have created, AND that that same tablet would be powered by an Intel processor rather than a Qualcomm, NVIDIA or Samsung chip would have seemed laughable last year. But after a solid three weeks with the Venue 8 7000 I am prepared to make the statement: this is my favorite tablet. Not my favorite Intel tablet, not my favorite Android tablet: just plain favorite.

The Venue 8 7000 combines style, design, technology and visuals that are simply unmatched by anything else in the Android word and rivals anything that Apple has created to date. There are a couple of warts that center around the camera and gaming performance that won’t drop your jaw, but for the majority of use cases the user experience is as exceptional as the looks.

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Maybe best of all, this tablet starts at just $399 and is available today.

Dell Venue 8 7000 Specifications

Let’s begin the review by looking at the raw specifications of the Dell Venue 8 7000. Even though hardware specifications don’t tell a complete story of any device, especially a tablet that is based so much on experience, it is important to get a good baseline expectation.

  Dell Venue 8 7000 (Model 7840)
Processor Intel Atom Z3580 Quad-Core 2.33 GHz
Graphics PowerVR G6430
Memory 2GB LPDDR3-1600
Screen 2560x1600 OLED 8.4-in (359 ppi)
Storage 16GB eMMC
MicroSD Slot (up to 512GB)
Camera 8MP Rear + Dual 720p Depth
2MP Front
Wireless Intel 7260 802.11ac 1x1 Dual Band
Bluetooth 4.0
Connection USB 2.0 (power and data)
Headphone jack
Battery 21 Whr
5900 mAh
Dimensions 215.8mm x 124.4mm x 6mm
8.5" x 4.88" x 0.24"
305g (10.76oz)
OS Android 4.4.4
Price $399 MSRP

The center of the Venue 8 7000 is the Intel Atom Z3580 quad-core processor with a peak clock rate of 2.3 GHz and a base clock rate of 500 MHz. The Z3580 is a 22nm processor based on the Moorefield platform and Silvermont architecture. I first got information about the Silvermont architecture back in May of 2013 so it seems a bit dated in some regards, but the performance and power efficiency is still there to compete with the rival options from ARM.. The Venue 8 7000 includes an LPDDR3-1600 controller and there is 2GB of memory; a decent amount but we are seeing quite a few smartphones with more system memory like the OnePlus One.

Continue reading our review of the Dell Venue 8 7000 Android Tablet!!

Corsair H105 AiO watercooler - double the fans, hold the lights!

Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 18, 2015 - 05:39 PM |
Tagged: corsair, H105

Last April Sebastian reviewed Corsair's H105 AiO watercooler granting it a Gold Award for its performance and the ease of installation.  It has been almost a year and during that year a lot of new AiO watercoolers have arrived on the market so it is worth popping by [H]ard|OCP to see how this cooler stacks up against the new competition.  It is still selling for around $110 and remains at the top of the charts for its cooling ability, unfortunately it also remains near the top of the dBA lists as well for those of you wanting a quiet system.  The overall performance of the cooler, especially on overclocked processors helps it retain its Gold standing but keep an eye out for the new Corsair H110i GT AiO which you should be hearing about soon!

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"For those of you wanting a double fan radiator for your CPU cooling needs, Corsair has its Hydro Series H105 240mm Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler. This new H105 cooler does not sit at the top of the Corsair Hydro Series, and therefore might save you a couple dollars, but we really want to know, how well does it cool you CPU?"

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CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

You can't stop the undead; check out the mods that exist for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2015 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: gaming, vampire the masquerade

Just because White Wolf and the World of Darkness were purchased by Icelandic studio CCP Games who are now doing nothing with the IP doesn't mean you can't explore the world with your favourite clan of vampire. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines which was originally released in 2004, gained a massive following of players many of whom are skilled modders who have been cranking out patches and mods over the years.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN has just posted about two of the newest, one which unlocks Bloodlines Antitribu clans allowing you to play a far wider variety of clans and use their particular Disciplines.  That particular team is currently working on Sabbat storylines for the game as well.  In addition a new version of The Final Nights is available with a huge list of changes, additions and improvements.  Even if you have no Humanity left you should check out the work that has gone into keeping this game vibrant and interesting.

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"I’ve been conservative with Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. The only modding I do is boshing on ye olde unofficial patch, without even enabling the optional new bits, and maybe replacing my character model with a nicer NPC model. I might be bolder next playthrough, as apparently we’re spoilt for choice with Bloodlines mods at the moment."

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Gaming

AT&T is late to the gigabit game, but you can pay them for "privacy"

Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2015 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: irony, Privacy, google, gigabit broadband, AT&T

Kansas City got Google Fiber back in 2012 and not surprisingly a lot of users jumped to this ~$70 service from their current ISPs the moment they could.  Two of the incumbent ISPs suddenly came to the realization that there was demand for broadband at this speed and turned on some of their already laid and configured fiber connection so they could start to offer actual broadband and now several years later AT&T discovered that they would need to do the same to be able to attract customers in that market.  The fiber has lain dormant for quite some time as most ISPs have argued that there was no demand for that level of connectivity; at least until Google offered it and customers left them in droves proving that the demand had always been there.

From The Register we hear that AT&T now offers $70 for a1Gbps connection, an additional $50 will get you TV and you can even bundle home service into the deal if you wish.  For an additional $29 per month AT&T also offers not to log everything you do on the web over their connection, something which Google does not offer.  This makes for an interesting discussion as most surfers no longer blink at Google the search engine tracking what they do online, but what about Google the ISP; does that create a different gut reaction?  Then again considering AT&T's loose definition of unlimited, what do they mean by privacy or even gigabit for that matter?

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"We've moved quickly to bring more competition to the Kansas City area for blazing-fast Internet speeds and best-in-class television service," said John Sondag, president of AT&T Missouri, without apparent irony."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Crucial's DDR4-2666 prefers 2400

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2015 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: crucial, Ballistix Elite, ddr4-2666

Make sure to visit your UEFI after installing Crucial's Ballistix Elite DIMMs' as this 16GB kit defaults to the JEDEC profile of DDR4-2400 @ 16-16-16-39.  One quick click later to XMP and you will hit the advertised DDR4-2666 16-17-17-36.  This kit ships with the Crucial Ballistix M.O.D. utility to give you temperature readings in real time, see exactly what frequencies and timings you are running at in Windows and for those kits which sport LEDs, the ability to program a lightshow.  Hardware Canucks spend some time overclocking this kit and found the best performance to be with DDR4-2750 @ 12-12-12-26-1T.  It is a good kit of DDR4 but remember it will cost you, in this case about $335.

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"Enthusiasts have been waiting for Crucial's Ballistix Elite to hit the market and it is everything we could have wanted; overclocking headroom, performance and a lifetime warranty...it's all here."

Here are some more Memory articles from around the web:

Memory

Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Features

Our first Corsair power supply up for review in 2015 is the CS Series Modular 850W PSU; the CS850M. Corsair's CS Series Modular PSUs are designed for basic desktop use and light to moderate gaming where low energy use, low noise, simple installation, and good value are important. The Modular CS Series now includes five models; the CS450M, CS550M, CS650M, CS750M, and the new CS850M.  All of the power supplies in the CS Series feature modular cables, high efficiency (80 Plus Gold certified) and quiet operation. In addition, Corsair continues to offer a full line of high quality power supplies, memory components, cases, cooling components, SSDs and accessories for the PC market.  

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Here is what Corsair has to say about their CS Series Modular PSUs: “The CS-M Series is designed for basic and midrange PCs, but offers features and performance traditionally reserved for higher-end models. 80 Plus Gold efficiency and a thermally controlled fan ensure quiet operation and lower energy use, and the modular, detachable cable set makes installations and upgrades faster and better looking.”

 “80 Plus Gold efficiency reduces operating cost and excess heat. Since it generates less heat, the fan doesn’t need to work as hard, and you’ll enjoy near silent operation. The flat black modular cables with clearly-marked connectors make installation fast and straightforward, with good-looking results.

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Corsair CS Series Modular PSU Key Features:

•    Five Models: 450W up to 850W
•    Compliant with the latest ATX12V v2.4 and EPS 2.92 standards
•    Backward compatible with ATX12V 2.2, 2.31 and ATX12V 2.01 systems
•    4th Generation Intel® Core™ processor ready (Haswell & Z87 motherboards)
•    80 Plus Gold certified for high efficiency (=90% under real world loads)
•    Modular cables (only use the cables you need)
•    Low-profile, flat modular cables reduce air friction and maximize airflow
•    Active PFC with Universal AC input (100-240VAC)
•    Multi GPU ready
•    Safety: OVP, UVP, SCP, OPP, and OTP
•    Approvals: FCC, ICES, UL, CUL, TUV, CCC, CE, RCM, CB, EAC, KC, BSMI, ROHS, WEEE
•    3-Year warranty and lifetime access to Corsair’s tech support & customer service
•    MSRP: $139.99 USD

Please continue reading our Corsair CS850M power supply review!!!

Ignorance may be bliss but it will cost you $600 per Server 2003 installation

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2015 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, server 2003, idiots, EoL

If you ever feel ignored when offering technical advice to executives or anyone ranking above you in your business then this statistic about Server 2003 that The Register quotes will come as no surprise, "47 percent of 1,000 Fortune 500 IT executives had no idea that end-of-life was coming".  Of course this does not signify that they were never told nor that Microsoft obfuscated the EoL date, it shows that they completely ignored the professionals that work for them and warned them.   Now they will have a choice, they can run servers that no longer receive security updates nor support from Microsoft or they can pay $600 per server for a year of extended support, with that amount likely increasing every year.  It does not make business sense to migrate to every new server or client platform that is released but postponing that upgrade for over a decade in the assumption that your supplier will never cut you out is bordering on idiocy.   Just to add to your frustration, none of those supposed IT executives are likely to be fired as a direct result of this poor planning and on the off chance one does leave; the severance they pick up will likely be worth more money than you have made since the release of Server 2003.

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"MICROSOFT HAS PUT a price on extended support for servers running Windows Server 2003 after it reaches end-of-life this summer."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Just what kind of lining can you expect on the Kingston HyperX Cloud II headset?

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2015 - 06:29 PM |
Tagged: kingston, HyperX Cloud II, audio, gaming headset, dsp

As regular subscribers of the PC Perspective Podcast are aware, not every headset is created equally and while poor to moderate sound reproduction on the speakers can be ignored to a certain degree, poor sound capture quality on the microphone cannot.  Kingston's original HyperX Cloud was not too bad for sound capture and most of the ears which were attached to people that reviewed the headset found it quite enjoyable.  Techgage tried out Kingston's follow up product the stereo Cloud II with inline DSP to allow virtual 7.1 surround sound recently, focusing more on the audio reproduction than capture.  From their review it does indeed sound like Kingston has put out another audio winner but as they did not do much testing of the audio capture quality we are not sure if this product might make it onto a podcast near you.

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"Sequels… they’re either blockbusters (The Empire Strikes Back) better than the original or busts (Caddyshack II) that should have never seen the light of day. In the world of PC peripherals, it’s rare when we see a direct follow-up to a product. Kingston, though, bucks the trend with its new HyperX Cloud II gaming headset. Is it a blockbuster, or a bust?"

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Audio Corner

Source: Techgage

An ARC 100 is down, 300TB past the warranty

Subject: Storage | February 16, 2015 - 04:48 PM |
Tagged: ocz, ARC 100, endurance

The sample size for the tests at KitGuru to see how well the OCZ ARC 100 SSDs stand up to their warranty are only five drives, now four as one has failed.  The ARC 100 is rated for 20GB/day of host writes for 3 years, a total of 21.9TB and this one made it to about 322TB of writes before succumbing to errors.  The other four are still going strong which lends credence to the claimed improvements that the Toshiba owned OCZ has made with their new SSD controllers.  Even if you do suffer the death of a drive during the warranty period of three years the new hassle free ShieldPlus Warranty makes it very easy for you to get a replacement.

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"The drives all passed the warranty figure of 300TB on 3rd February 2015 – but one of them has just failed with 322TB showing before failure."

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Storage

Source: KitGuru

Bring back the mobile overclock NVIDIA, but stick a warning on it

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2015 - 01:09 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gtx 900m, overclocking, responsibility

It seems that the recent ability to overclock the GTX 900M on laptops was a bug and not a feature, according to the response of an NVIDIA representative on this thread, to the many reasonable and well thought out posts on the thread on their forums.  This started in the 347.29 release and continues into the current 347.52 release which supports the newly released Evolve as well as overclocking on desktop components. 

It would be very nice to see the restoration of the ability to overclock mobile NVIDIA chips so that users can decide if they wish to or not but perhaps it is worth reminding those who want to overclock that they are doing so at their own risk.  This does not mean the voiding of the warranty which will happen but refers more to the actual risk of damage to the GPU and the laptop it is in, by exceeding the thermal design of the laptop you risk destroying the expensive machine you just bought.  Laptops have nowhere near the thermal flexibility or compartmentalization of a desktop, not only can you not pop the side off or slap in a new fan, the heat from the GPU is bleeding directly into other components in the laptop as their is no significant air gap between components. 

Restoring the ability to overclock either natively or through third party applications is something that would be very appreciated, however there should be a strong warning presented to users if they do chose to.  If you are running GPU enabled BOINC or Folding@Home on an overclocked laptop which you then leave unattended, it is your fault if the damn thing catches fire not NVIDIA's so do not go suing.

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"Nvidia has removed the ability of users to overclock their GeForce GTX 900M series GPU equipped laptops in a recent driver update. The driver in question is the GeForce R347 driver (version 347.29). Before the update users of the laptops in question had no problems overclocking or even underclocking their GPUs."

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Tech Talk

Source: HEXUS

ASUS Announces GTX 960 Mini - A New Small Form-Factor Graphics Card

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 16, 2015 - 11:04 AM |
Tagged: SFF, nvidia, mini-ITX GPU, mini-itx, gtx 960, graphics, gpu, geforce, asus

ASUS returns to the mini-ITX friendly form-factor with the GTX 960 Mini (officially named GTX960-MOC-2GD5 for maximum convenience), their newest NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 graphics card.

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Other than the smaller size to allow compatibility with a wider array of small enclosures, the GTX 960 Mini also features an overclocked core and promises "20% cooler and vastly quieter" performance from its custom heatsink and CoolTech fan. Here's a quick rundown of key specs:

  • 1190 MHz Base Clock / 1253 MHz Boost Clock
  • 1024 CUDA cores
  • 2GB 128-bit GDDR5 @ 7010 MHz
  • 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x DVI output

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​No word on the pricing or availability of the card just yet. The other mini-ITX version of the GTX 960 on the market from Gigabyte has been selling for $199.99, so expect this to run somewhere between $200-$220 at launch.

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ASUS has reused this image from the GTX 970 Mini launch, and so have I

The product page is up on the ASUS website so availability seems imminent.

Source: ASUS

Raptr's Top PC Games of January 2015

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2015 - 11:00 AM |
Tagged: raptr, pc gaming

If you are interested in the top five most played PC games, according to Raptr, then the rank order has not changed much. Each of them bled a lot of mind share though. In January, the top twenty games accounted for 61.93% (give or take rounding error) of total time, with 44.05% of total time dominated by the top five. In December (2014), the top twenty games had 78.41% of total play time, or 57% for just the top five. This means that PC gamers, at least those using Raptr, were spending a lot more time playing a diverse spread of less-popular games last month.

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The biggest change (by rank) was Warframe, which lost six ranks and 43.2% of its play time, even though that was only 0.6% of Raptr's total. The second-largest change in the bottom fifteen games is Diablo III, which climbed up five ranks due to a major update that was released halfway through the month. The third-largest change is Dragon Age: Inquisition, which lost almost half (43.3%) of its play time, resulting in a drop of three ranks.

Even though the ranking had a few big movements internally, all twenty were also on last month's list.

Source: Raptr
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Crucial

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Micron's Crucial brand has been cranking out some great low cost SSDs for the past several years now. While their early drives pushed into the SATA 6Gb/sec interface before most of the competition, their performance was inconsistent and lagged behind some of the other more nimble solutions available at that time. This pattern was broken around the time of the M550 and MX100 launches. Those two drives were heavily competitive in performance and even moreso in pricing. Actually the pricing is probably the bigger story - when they launched, one of our readers caught a 512GB MX100 on sale for $125 ($0.24/GB)! We are coming up on a year since the MX100, and at CES 2015 Micron launched a pair of SSD models - the BX100 and MX200. Today we are going to look at the BX100 series:

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Crucial aims to make the BX100 as their lowest cost/GB SSD ever - even cheaper than the MX100. Since Micron makes the flash, the best way to drive costs down is to use a lower cost controller. The Silicon Motion SM2246EN is cheaper to procure than the equivalent Marvell part, yet still performs rather well.

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The Silicon Motion SM2246EN SSD controller

This is a great controller, as we have seen in our prior review of the ADATA SP610, Corsair Neutron LX, and Angelbird SSD WRK. From the specs, we can see that Micron has somehow infused their variant with increased write speeds even though it appears to use the same flash as those competing models listed above. We'll see how this plays out as the review progresses.

Read on for the full review!

ASUS Introduces Ultra-Slim ZenBook UX305 Notebook with Core M and 1080p IPS for $699

Subject: Mobile | February 16, 2015 - 03:54 AM |
Tagged: zenbook, UX305, ultraportable, ips display, core m, asus, 5Y10

ASUS has announced the availability and pricing for the ZenBook UX305, and the specifications are quite exceptional for the price. Not content to compete on hardware specs alone the design of the notebook is a miniscule 0.48” thick, making the UX305 the world’s thinnest ultraportable notebook according to ASUS.

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As impressive as the slim profile of the aluminum design might be, it is more impressive to look over the main specifications of the $699 UX305:

  • Intel Core M 5Y10 processor
  • 8GB of LPDDR3 memory
  • 256GB SSD
  • 13.3-inch 1920x1080 IPS display (matte finish)

I'll let that sink in for a moment. Quite an impressive list given the MSRP for these specifications is, again, only $699. At this price it's going to be very difficult to beat the UX305 considering what’s under the hood, as this configuration contains double the memory and storage space compared to many ultraportables in this price class. And 1080p IPS on top of everything is just icing on the cake. Battery life should be very good considerin the processor the heart of this is Intel's newest low-power Broadwell-based Core M (the 5Y10), which features HD 5300 graphics and a TDP of just 4.5W. Moreover, the processor is passively cooled and the notebook features a completely fanless design for silent operation.

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Since there are no fans to expell heat ASUS has made it a point to promise that the palm rest will always stay cool thanks to their “IceCool technology” (whatever that is - but I really hope it’s an ice cube cooling system). The UX305 is powered by a 45Wh Lithium Polymer battery that has a claimed 10-hour battery life, and the notebook features 802.11ac wireless, three USB 3.0 ports, and includes a USB Ethernet adapter (a nice touch). ASUS is also touting a premium sound system with this notebook, employing a B&O ICEpower amplifier and enhanced with their proprietary “SonicMaster audio”. Rounding out the feature list is an SD card reader and 720p webcam.

The notebook weighs in at 2.6 Lbs, and this configuration of the UX305 is available immediately (listed on their official store). With the surprisingly low MSRP it sounds like this ZenBook will be a solid choice for anyone looking for the latest notebook tech on a budget, and depending on performance and real-world battery life it could just be that mythical MacBook Air "killer" (if you're ok with Windows 8 over OS X, of course).

Source: ASUS

Ubisoft Discusses Assassin's Creed: Unity with Investors

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 15, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: ubisoft, DirectX 12, directx 11, assassins creed, assassin's creed, assasins creed unity

During a conference call with investors, analysts, and press, Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft, highlighted the issues with Assassin's Creed: Unity with an emphasis on the positive outcomes going forward. Their quarter itself was good, beating expectations and allowing them to raise full-year projections. As expected, they announced that a new Assassin's Creed game would be released at the end of the year based on the technology they created for Unity, with “lessons learned”.

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Before optimization, every material on every object is at least one draw call.

Of course, there are many ways to optimize... but that effort works against future titles.

After their speech, the question period revisited the topic of Assassin's Creed: Unity and how it affected current sales, how it would affect the franchise going forward, and how should they respond to that foresight (Audio Recording - The question starts at 25:20). Yves responded that they redid “100% of the engine”, which was a tremendous undertaking. “When you do that, it's painful for all the group, and everything has to be recalibrated.” He continues: “[...] but the engine has been created, and it is going to help that brand to shine in the future. It's steps that we need to take regularly so that we can constantly innovated. Those steps are sometimes painful, but they allow us to improve the overall quality of the brand, so we think this will help the brand in the long term.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. When the issues first arose, it was speculated that the engine was pushing way too many draw calls, especially for DirectX 11 PCs. At the time, I figured that Ubisoft chose Assassin's Creed: Unity to be the first title to use their new development pipeline, focused on many simple assets rather than batching things together to minimize host-to-GPU and GPU-to-host interactions. Tens of thousands of individual tasks being sent to the GPU will choke a PC, and getting it to run at all on DirectX 11 might have diverted resources from, or even caused, many of the glitches. Currently, a few thousand is ideal although “amazing developers” can raise the ceiling to about ten thousand.

This also means that I expect the next Assassin's Creed title to support DirectX 12, possibly even in the graphics API's launch window. If I am correct, Ubisoft has been preparing for it for a long time. Of course, it is possible that I am simply wrong, but it would align with Microsoft's Holiday 2015 expectation for the first, big-budget titles to use the new interface and it would be silly to have done their big overhaul without planning on switching to DX12 ASAP.

Then there is the last concern: If I am correct, what should Ubisoft have done? Is it right for them to charge full price for a title that they know will have necessary birth pains? Do they delay it and risk (or even accept) that it will be non-profitable, and upset fans that way? There does not seem to be a clear answer, with all outcomes being some flavor of damage control.

Source: GamaSutra

No one has talked about mouse mats in a while

Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2015 - 05:09 PM |
Tagged: mouse, gaming mat, input, XTracPads, Carbonic, Ripper, Ripport XXL

They are not the most glamorous of peripherals but they do save your desk and can help you with your accuracy, so pop over to Overclockers Club to take a look at XTracPads.  They offer three different sized gaming mats from the paper sized Carbonic at 8.5" x 11" x 1/8" to the Ripper at a larger 11" x 17" x 1/8" to the immense Ripper XXL at 36" x 18" x 1/8" which is going to cover a goodly piece of your desk.  They are priced at roughly $15, $22 and $35 so it is not a major investment to pick up and well worth it if you are looking to replace an old mat which has seen better days.

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"From a casual gamer perspective, I am sure someone who can game competitively will likely notice a greater improvement than I. Personally, I have had trouble with mouse pads that were too hard, not stiff, but solid cutouts of plastic (I don't even know if they are made anymore really). I have also had issues with mouse pads that accumulate a bunch of gross after a bit of use. I can live with poor or cheap mouse pads, but now that I have had a taste of the other side I really don't want to anymore."

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Tech Talk

Subject: Networking
Manufacturer: Thecus

Introduction: This Is Not a NAS

The new WSS NAS series from Thecus contains some very interesting devices, and particularly so at the entry-level price with the unit we’re looking at today. WSS is the abbreviation for Windows Storage Server (in this case it’s 2012 R2), and this provides a huge increase in functionality compared to a standard NAS, as you might imagine.

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Need a server? Just add a keyboard, mouse, and monitor

It’s really quite remarkable what Thecus is doing in partnership with Microsoft here in terms of value, as this entry 2-bay unit costs just $350. While this may seem high for a dual-bay NAS, we  really aren’t talking about a NAS at all with this - which will be readily apparent to the user upon first powering it up. We are talking about a full-scale server here, replete with Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials goodness. Of course a savvy user could easily deploy a small server in a home or office, and there are many advantages to managed solutions beyond the simple NAS appliances. But the advantage of a NAS is just that: it is significantly less complex and accessible for a consumer. The W2000 presents a very interesting option due to one particular aspect of its own accessibility: price. At $350 you are getting a very compact server with internal hardware much more akin to a standard desktop than you might imagine, and it ships installed with Microsoft's Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials.

What is “Storage” Server Essentials?

Ok, so I was a little confused as to the specific difference with the Storage version of the Server OS, unless it was simply a licensing distinction. My research first brought me to this quote from Microsoft:

“Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 Essentials is based on Windows Server 2012 R2. In fact, when it comes to functionality, you get key some features that aren’t included in these first two editions.”

After looking through the available documentation it appears as though Storage Server Essentials is, essentially, just Server Essentials with the distinction of being licensed differently. Microsoft TechNet defines it further:

“A computer that runs Windows Storage Server is referred to as a storage appliance. Windows Storage Server is based on the Windows Server operating system, and it is specifically optimized for use with network-attached storage devices. Windows Storage Server offers you a platform to build storage appliances that are customized for your hardware.”

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Continue reading our review of the Thecus W2000 Windows Storage Server NAS!!

Seagate and Micron become super best friends

Subject: Storage | February 13, 2015 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: Seagate, micron

The large storage companies have been teaming up for a while now, not simply through mergers and takeovers but also joint ventures between those who were once competitors.  It is debatable if consumers will see much cost benefit from this cooperation but at least the products do seem to improve as specialties are combined.  In this particular case we will see the traditionally disk based Seagate working with the flash memory maker Micron develop SAS products as well as SSDs for Enterprise customers.  The idea of Serial attached SCSI SSDs is certainly interesting but in the current business environment you have to wonder how many companies will have the budget to invest in large scale migrations to flash based storage.  It is far more likely this will bring new hybrid storage servers to the market, with SSDs in the front to provide bandwidth to frequently accessed data with HDD behind them for backups and cold storage.  You can get a quick refresher on the other companies which have started cooperative ventures in the article at The Inquirer.

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"SEAGATE AND MICRON have announced that they will join forces to work on projects together over a number of years."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Background

We first got a peek of USB 3.1 at CES 2015. MSI had a cool demo showing some throughput figures including read and write speeds as high as 690 MB/s, well over the ~450 MB/s we see on USB 3.0 options shipping today. 

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We were of course eager to play around with this for ourselves, and MSI was happy to oblige, sending along a box of goodies:

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Stuff we will be testing today (Samsung T1 was not part of the MSI demo).

For those unaware, USB 3.1 (also known as Superspeed+), while only a 0.1 increment in numbering, incorporates a doubling of raw throughput and some dramatic improvements to the software overhead of the interface.

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Don't be confused between the USB 3.1 standard and the new USB Type-C connector - they are unrelated and independent of each other.

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Yes, you’re all going to have to buy *more* cables in the future.

Type-C connectors will enable more simple cable design and thinner connections going forward but USB 3.1 will exist in both Type-A/B and Type-C going forward. Our benchmarking today will utilize Type-A.

Read on for some more detail and speed tests of this new specification.