Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2015 - 10:24 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, Steam Controller, microsoft, E3 2015, E3 15, E3, controller
And, of course, Xbox One... but I can assume who is the bulk of my audience.
Microsoft announced the Xbox One Elite Controller at E3, which includes support for Windows 10. This is part of their initiative to amend relations with the PC gaming industry. They seem to be going about it by focusing on the high-end gamer first. If not, then I wonder why they chose a $150 controller as a leading product.
At that price, you could literally purchase three Steam Controllers from Valve instead of a single one of these, but whether you should... depends. In all honesty, I might end up purchasing both and doing a comparison between them over a variety of games. Of course, my primary input device is the mouse and keyboard for most games, but I occasionally add an early model Xbox 360 wired controller to the mix for Saint's Row, Grand Theft Auto, NASCAR 2003, and a few other titles.
The real disappointment is its D-Pad, though. It just cannot reliably send a single direction without sometimes accidentally sending others. This gets worse in games that are styled in the “8-bit” and “16-bit” era. I actually need to play most of those on a keyboard, which is a terrible experience. Valve's implementation looks interesting with the cross-shaped thumbpad, but Microsoft's new version has options: an old-fashioned cross as well as a nine-sectioned cup, called a “faceted D-pad”.
That leads into the main design of Microsoft's controller: customization. Two switches on the back of the controller allow the range of trigger motion to be limited on the fly. This is designed for games like Grand Theft Auto, where the player wants precise control over throttle and brake, but would prefer to rapidly max-out the trigger as fast as possible when shooting a weapon. With this controller, you flip the switch when you leave the car and, what normally would be some fraction of its range, would be considered “bottoming out” and it would apparently even physically stop the trigger from pushing in further. According to the website, the threshold is user-customizable. I did not use it personally because I wasn't at E3.
Like Valve's controller, it has optional rear paddles near the grips. They are stainless steel apparently, and can be used to compensate for weird button combinations by mapping them to fingers that normally just clutch the device itself. In Valve's version, there is just two while Microsoft's allows for up to four. Microsoft also allows you to detach them, rather than just disable them.
This is when we get to software customization. Valve claims that the Steam Controller can be bound to many events across mouse, keyboard, and gamepad buttons and axises. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be keeping within the range of buttons found on a standard Xbox One controller. This is concerning to me because it means that extended inputs will be redundant, which is fine for an Xbox One game but could be annoying for a PC title that has many independent, simpler commands. This might be a limitation of XINPUT, which supposedly cannot address more than 10 buttons. I thought I remembered that limit being extended, but that seems to be true even in the MSDN documentation. Even still, the driver could address the extra functions as a secondary virtual device (keyboards, etc.) but Microsoft doesn't seem to want to. As a final note, Valve also allows the end of both triggers to be considered a clicky button, while Microsoft just recognizes it as a bottomed-out axis.
The Xbox One Elite Controller will ship in October for $149.99. A wireless adapter for the PC will not be required if you use the included USB Micro cable, but add that to the price if you want it wireless. Add batteries on top of that, because it takes AA. They include a pair of disposable AA, but that is obviously not a permanent solution.
Subject: General Tech | June 11, 2015 - 12:53 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows update, windows 10, microsoft, ISO
Microsoft pushed out the Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10130 to Fast Ring users late last month, and now the company is releasing downloadable ISOs for the build. Microsoft is not yet ready to make this build available to Slow Ring users, but the company is making a special exception in releasing ISO files of the build (Microsoft usually only makes ISOs available after the build has been pushed to the Slow Ring). Specifically, the ISOs are being posted online in response to certain Fast Ring users getting a 0x80246017 error and not being able to upgrade using Windows Update.
Build 10130 will eventually come to the Slow Ring, but the company is still working on fixing several bugs including taskbar flyouts not working properly. For now we will have to wait.
However, if you are on the Fast Ring and are unable to use Windows Update, you can download the appropriate ISO for your language and system (32-bit or 64-bit), mount it, and apply the update by running the installer.
Download the Windows 10 Build 10130 ISO from the Windows Insider website.
Subject: General Tech | June 10, 2015 - 02:32 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: surface hub, microsoft
The Microsoft Surface that we were promised ages ago is finally being released in the form of the Surface Hub. Two models will be available for pre-order at the start of July, a $7000 55" model and a $20,000 84" version with a delivery date in September. The screens can recognize up to 100 touchpoints and are also designed with a stylus in mind so you can use it as a whiteboard or to add comments to your media in real time. The device sports infrared, imaging and depth sensors which can be used to add to your meetings. The smaller model is powered by Intel's HD4600 while the larger model contains an NVIDIA Quadro K2200. Check it out at The Inquirer.
"MICROSOFT HAS ANNOUNCED that an 84in Surface device will go on sale next month at the bargain price of $20,000. Microsoft announced the Surface Hub 55in and 84in touchscreen all-in-one devices in January, and said today that they will be available to order from 1 July."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Adobe Flash malware jumps over 300 percent in first quarter of 2015 @ The Inquirer
- Kaspersky uncovers Duqu 2.0 after state-sponsored malware attacks its systems @ The Inquirer
- Industrial Wi-Fi kit has hard-coded credentials @ The Register
- Intel could also be TSMC customer, says Chang @ DigiTimes
- HGST shimmy shimmy shingles its way to a 10TB spinning rust drive @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2015 - 01:48 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, skype
If you are on the go and need to make a Skype call from a machine you cannot install software on and your mobile device is out of juice or just not big enough, there is a new beta you can try out in the US and UK. Head over to Skype.com or web.skype.com and log into your account, install a plug-in for the supported browsers which are IE, Chrome, Safari and Firefox and make your call. The beta will be coming to everyone soon, a good idea since most usage scenarios would likely involve travellers calling home and you can check out the link to the blog post at The Register.
In addition The Inquirer let us know that the Skype for Windows desktop client will be updated to include the real time translation tool for all users. The release may possibly coincide with the upcoming release of Windows 10, whether that OS will be ready or not is a different question.
"Microsoft has released a beta web browser version of Skype in the US and UK, which will apparently be rolled out worldwide within the next few weeks."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Mad John McAfee: 'Can you live in a society that is more paranoid than I'm supposed to be?' @ The Register
- Galaxy S6 Active arrives with IP58 certification and 3,500mAh battery @ The Inquirer
- What's broken in this week's build of Windows 10? Installing it, for one @ The Register
- Computex 2015 CatFi – The Intelligent Cat Bistro @ Hardware Asylum
- LINKSYS WRT1200AC @ HardwareHeaven
Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2015 - 07:40 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10
Gabe Aul said on Twitter that Microsoft will release Windows 10 Build 10130 to members of the Insider Preview Slow Ring. He did not give a date, but noted that just one blocking fix is preventing the release. This build was released to Fast Ring users last week and had three known issues. Since then, two were patched via Windows Update, leaving just “Flyouts from Taskbar fail to fly out.” Presumably, this is the issue that they are hoping to fix before pushing the build to Slow.
When the update is released to Slow Ring, it is accompanied by ISOs that can be used to clean-install a PC up to that point. While this delay is to force a segment of users to test the in-place upgrade functionality, I expect this also keeps enterprise evaluators on builds that are more polished. Installing Windows from an ISO might not convey the quality-difference of any two neighboring builds like selecting branches in Windows Update would subconsciously portray.
Microsoft seems to be at the merge and polish stage of Windows 10 development. Builds should start feeling more clean than new as the days roll forward toward July 29th. Major new features are probably going to be done in branches for later releases, similar to what we would consider “service packs”. That's just my assumptions, though.
Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2015 - 03:35 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, acer, Lenovo
If you are running Win7 or a flavour of Win8 you have probably seen the pop-up nagging you to reserve your copy of Windows 10 before the official launch on July 29th. That deadline is a little misleading, if it has you concerned, you still have until July 29 2016 to use your free upgrade. What the reminder does do is give Microsoft a chance at a large initial adoption rate of the brand new OS which is rather necessary to restore confidence in them as an investment opportunity after the lukewarm Windows 8 adoption numbers. One question does still remain about the licensing which we are still awaiting an answer to. What does the future after that date hold for those who like to reinstall OSes on a regular basis; if you only possess a Windows 7 serial number and take advantage of the free upgrade before the deadline, will you get a way to install a fresh copy of Windows 10?
If you do have to buy a new license for Windows 10, the prices will remain as they were for Windows 8, Windows 10 Home will retail for $119, Windows 10 Pro for $199 with an upgrade from Home to Pro costing you $99. If you want control over when your updates are installed you might want to get some friends together to invest in a volume licensing agreement as patches are now pushed out and installed immediately. As we have mentioned Windows Media Centre will disappear as will any Windows 7 desktop gadgets you might have installed along the way but one mildly surprising omission that The Inquirer spotted was a change to DVD playback, which will also be an extra feature or else be handled by superior open source players. If for some reason you still use floppy drives, the new Windows will not natively support them but as with the previous version you should be able to locate drivers.
As for hardware, DigiTimes has heard word of very low priced Broadwell based laptops being released by Lenovo and Acer. Acer will be releasing a pair of models, an 11.6" at $169 and a 14" for $199. Lenovo's will be more expensive at $250 but will be a convertible Yoga machine which explains at least part of the premium pricing. It will be interesting to see how these will compete with existing products on the market, including Microsoft's own Surface.
"The Windows 10 notebooks are an 11.6-inch notebook (US$169) and a 14-inch clamshell-type notebook (US$199) from Acer and a 14-inch convertible Yoga notebook (US$249) from Lenovo. These devices will be manufactured by Inventec, and target mainly against Chromebooks."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Intel Compute Stick Performance Surprises Under Ubuntu Linux @ Phoronix
- Intel's Broadwell goes broad with new desktop, mobile, server variants @ The Tech Report
- Fedora 22: Don't be glum about the demise of Yum – this is a welcome update @ The Register
- Intel gobbles up chipmaker Altera in $16.7 BILLION splurge @ The Register
- Tossed all your snaps into the new Google Photos? You read the terms, right? ... RIGHT? @ The Register
- Blackberry Defeats Typo In Court, Typo To Discontinue Sales of Keyboard @ Slashdot
- NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Review @ Hardware Canucks
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 10:00 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: windows 10, reachit, microsoft, Lenovo, cortana
Yesterday during briefings at Lenovo’s North Campus just outside of Beijing, the Contextual Computing group took the opportunity to discuss their unique integration of a technology called REACHit with Cortana on Windows 10.
REACHit is an indexing program that Lenovo has developed which is aimed at helping users find their documents among many different services and contexts. Once you authenticate REACHit with your accounts such as Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, or your local computers, Lenovo makes an index of the files which you keep there to help you more easily locate what you are looking for.
The most unique feature of REACHit comes in how you issue a search query. Lenovo has developed multiple contexts which they think will be useful in locating files, such as File Type, File Actions, Location, Calendar Events, and time frames. They are indexing the files you give them access to for these specific prompts, and hoping to present them in a more useful fashion.
One of the examples we were walked through involved the prompt, “Where is the presentation I was working on at Starbucks last week?”. In this case, Lenovo is looking at the file types (PPT), whether or not a file was Saved/Opened, the geolocation which this occurred at, and the time frame at which these operations took place.
We didn’t see a live demo of these searches working, and haven’t had hands-on time with the software yet so it’s hard to say if Lenovo has succeeded at their goal, but the technology seems like an interesting solution to a common problem.
There are also security concerns about giving Lenovo access to all of your files, and letting them build an index your metadata. We have been told there is encryption being handled on Lenovo’s server side, but they couldn’t get into any further details about this.
REACHit at this point is purely integrated with Microsoft’s Cortana in Windows 10, and there is no other option for running a search or external API access. Lenovo expects REACHit to be available at the Windows 10 launch for Lenovo machines only, and is currently opening sign-ups for the private beta at Cortanareachit.com
Subject: General Tech | May 12, 2015 - 01:48 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: windows 10, win 8.1, translator, Skype Translator, skype, microsoft
The Skype Translator service has been available for users that signed up and were approved by Microsoft for testing. It has now been made available for any and all users of Windows 8.1 or the Windows 10 pre-release. It can translate audio to and from English, Spanish, Italian or Mandarin in real time and can translate instant messages from another 50 languages. You will of course need someone to call who speaks a different language from you to see how bad the eggcorns are but watching live translation is always impressive. You can see it in action at The Inquirer and the link for the software is at the bottom of the article.
"MICROSOFT HAS MADE its Skype Translator Preview available to all Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 users."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Microsoft: Insiders using Windows XP or Vista won't get free Windows 10 upgrade @ The Inquirer
- Windows 8.1 - still a dead duck or worth the move for 4K? @ Kitguru
- Microsoft's run Azure on Nano server since late 2013 @ The Register
- GPU Malware Can Also Affect Windows PCs, Possibly Macs @ Slashdot
- Mildly successful flying car crashes - in mildly successful test flight @ The Register
- Microsoft Is Confident In Security of Edge Browser @ Slashdot
- MediaTek outs Helio X20 10-core chip with three processor clusters for better battery life @ The Inquirer
- Intel RealSense App Challenge Winners @ Intel
No Longer the Media Center of Attention
Gabe Aul, of Microsoft's Windows Insiders program, has confirmed on Twitter that Windows 10 will drop support for Windows Media Center due to a decline in usage. This is not surprising news as Microsoft has been deprecating the Media Center application for a while now. In Windows 8.x, the application required both the “Pro” SKU of the operating system, and then users needed to install an optional add-on above and beyond that. The Media Center Pack cost $10 over the price of Windows 8.x Pro unless you claimed a free license in the promotional period surrounding Windows 8's launch.
While Media Center has been officially abandoned, its influence on the industry (and vice versa) is an interesting story. For a time, it looked like Microsoft had bigger plans that were killed by outside factors and other companies seem to be eying the money that Microsoft left on the table.
There will be some speculation here.
We could go back to the days of WebTV, but we won't. All you need to know is that Microsoft lusted over the living room for years. Windows owned the office and PC gaming was taking off with strong titles (and technologies) from Blizzard, Epic, iD, Valve, and others. DirectX was beloved by developers, which led to the original Xbox. Their console did not get a lot of traction, but they respected it as a first-generation product that was trying to acquire a foothold late in a console generation. Financially, the first Xbox would cost Microsoft almost four billion dollars more than it made.
At the same time, Microsoft was preparing Windows to enter the living room. This was the company's power house and it acquired significant marketshare wherever it went, due to its ease of development and its never-ending supply of OEMs, even if the interface itself was subpar. Their first attempt at bringing Windows to the living room was Windows XP Media Center Edition. This spin-off of Windows XP could only be acquired by OEMs to integrate into home theater PCs (HTPCs). The vision was interesting, using OEM competition to rapidly prototype what users actually want in a PC attached to a TV.
This leads us to Windows Vista, which is where Media Center came together while the OS fell apart.
Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2015 - 03:17 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, Fiji, hbm, microsoft, build 2015, DirectX 12, Intel, SSD 750, freesync, gsync, Oculus, rift
PC Perspective Podcast #348 - 05/07/2015
Join us this week as we discuss DirectX 12, New AMD GPU News, Giveaways and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:27:38