How exactly does one kickstart a Battlemech?

Subject: General Tech | July 29, 2015 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Mechwarrior, battletech

BattleTech is coming back baby!  Harebrained Schemes who have successfully rebooted the Shadowrun RPG system on PC and who are in the final steps of releasing the third game in that world have just announced plans to start a new Kickstarter campaign.  This time it will be a trip to the world of Battletech, the details are slim but we can expect to see both the larger view of the Battletech galaxy and the Houses that populate it as well as mech management and combat.  From what Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN were told this will be turn-based, not the FPS style of the Mechwarrior series of old.  No matter, this news is still exciting so keep your eyes peeled for more information.

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"Harebrained Schemes is pleased to announce their return to Kickstarter this Fall to partner with backers in co-funding the creation of BATTLETECH. Jordan Weisman, the creator of BattleTech and MechWarrior, is back with the first turn-based BattleTech game for PC in over two decades."

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Stagefright not causing butterflies anymore

Subject: General Tech | July 29, 2015 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: google, stagefright, security

The Stagefright media player vulnerability on Android powered Nexus devices which allowed the possibility of running remotely execute code via an MMS containing a specially crafted media file.  It made headlines everywhere even though it is incredibly unlikely the bug was ever used in an attack.  Regardless, you no longer need to worry as Google has crafted a patch and has released it to the carriers.  You should keep an eye out this week and next for the update and if you do not see it apply you should reach out to your carrier.  More at The Inquirer.

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"GOOGLE HAS SAID THAT THE STAGEFRIGHT PROBLEM is well in hand, and that it rushed to sort out the Android OS jitters before anything bad happened."

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Source: The Inquirer

RTM? Satya don't need no steenking RTM

Subject: General Tech | July 28, 2015 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

With not many hours left until launch, Windows 10 is still very obviously a service that is sill being serviced and the pressure is on at Microsoft.  NVIDIA users have discovered that having a clearly drawn display is not something they are likely to have by launch day, much to the amusement of us AMD users.  Until this week those used to uninstalling programs with the Control Panel as opposed to the new procedure of heading to Settings -> System -> Apps & features will find they are punished for their temerity with a Windows Explorer crash, certainly an interesting choice to reinforce the new behaviour.  Less common, though still frequent enough for The Register to make note of and for a patch to be released yesterday is a similar crash if you were to disable an active network connection manually.

Surface users may have noticed new firmware arriving to mitigate some of the compatibility issues Windows 10 testers have used, though there is not that much time left to test them en masse, the fact that the tablets were built by Microsoft should help ensure the updates are stable and useful.  Not so much for other tablets as The Register shows in this story.

Creating a new version of an OS is a non-trivial task and for the most part Windows 10 should be ready for a consumer release this week.  Microsoft have changed a lot about the look and function of Windows and made even more changes to their business model and licensing.  The real hurdle is Enterprise, the huge customer base that ignored Windows 8(.x) and to a lesser extent Windows 7.  With the stability and functionality of the OS already in question, will the poorly communicated changes to the licensing models of Windows 10 mean that we will once again see extremely slow or non-existent adoption in Enterprise and even SMB for that matter?

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"Build 10240, which was released to the Windows Insider program two weeks ago, is widely considered to be the "release to manufacturing" (RTM) build, even though Redmond itself says the RTM concept doesn't apply in its brave new world of Windows as a Service."

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Source: The Register

Don't want Win10 patches? We have a patch for that

Subject: General Tech | July 27, 2015 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft's decision to push out updates to non-enterprise Windows 10 without user intervention or even notification has been a bit of a hot topic recently.  While those of us who have been supporting machines for a while have all seen a bad Windows update or 10 which render machines unusable, however we have also seen machines over 100 updates behind that are completely riddled with malware, trojans and other nasties which would have been blocked if those updates had been applied.

Whichever side of that debate you fall on, thanks to the nosy reporters at The Register you now can have a choice.  They've posted a link to the "Show or hide updates" troubleshooter package in this recent article, a tool from Microsoft which would allow you to hide certain updates before they were installed and ensure that they are not installed in the future.  Patch Tuesday is gone but there will still be people keeping track of which updates are released so that if you encounter an issue you can roll back and hide that update.  Of course, that assumes you enabled System Restore, which is has been disabled by default in Windows 10.

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lifted from securityaffairs.co

"MICROSOFT HAS QUIETLY released a tool to stop Windows 10 downloading and installing everything it finds in Windows Update."

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Source: The Register

Zounds, the Amiga is 30 years old?

Subject: General Tech | July 24, 2015 - 03:59 PM |
Tagged: commodore, amiga

30 years ago Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry's voice introduced a computer which had people dropping their ZX Spectrums and Commie64's in awe, the original Commodore Amiga.  It had such incredible specifications, 256KB of RAM which was upgradable to 512KB, a Motorola 68000 CPU that could handle both 16 and 32 bit addressing and OCS graphics which could manage an unheard of 640×400 resolution with 12 onscreen colour or 4096 at  320x400.  There was one problem though, they were rarer than hen's teeth as Commodore vastly underestimated demand and overestimated their production capability.  If you happen to be in California then check out the link at The Inquirer for there is a celebration this weekend and you might still be able to score tickets.  It is amazing how far we have come in a mere generation.

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"1980S BEDROOM BRILLIANCE the Commodore Amiga computer has reached the ripe old age of 30 and is still blazing in the hearts and minds of anyone who took keyboard and joystick in hand and shut the door on their parents."

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Source: The Inquirer

Skyleak!

Subject: General Tech | July 24, 2015 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: Intel Skylake, Intel

As always you should take these leaks with a bit of salt but if they are accurate Skylake may well offer enough enhancements to make a convincing argument for buying a new machine.  The GPU portion of the high end mobile processors will be 34-41% faster than the models available now, with the desktop seeing a moderate 28% jump for those who do not have an add-in card.  The low powered mobile model's performance is not much improved over the previous generation but the claimed 80% reduction in power usage is more than enough to make up for that.  

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SPECint benchmarks show that Skylak will offer a performance boost a bit over 10% but the added 1.4 hours of battery life is rather impressive, even the desktop part is more efficient with a 65W TDP.  As for accessories, Skylake will support 4k cameras and new and improved RealSense 3D cameras, Wake on Voice support and improved touch sensors.  You can see the other two leaked slides at FanlessTech.
 

Source: Fanless Tech

Podcast #359 - AMD R9 Nano, 4TB Samsung SSDs, Windows 10 and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 23, 2015 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, r9 nano, Fiji, Samsung, 4TB, windows 10, acer, aspire V, X99E-ITX/ac, TSMC, 10nm, 7nm

PC Perspective Podcast #359 - 07/23/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD R9 Nano, 4TB Samsung SSDs, Windows 10 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
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  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

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

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

Interested in a $250 smartphone compatible mass spectrometre?

Subject: General Tech | July 23, 2015 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: tricorder, spectrometer, SCiO

If you are leery of building your own Tricorder and need more that just biometric information about yourself then check out SCiO, unless you contributed to the Kickstarter and already have one.  It is a tiny mass near-infrared spectrometer which will allow you to scan objects to determine their chemical makeup and transmit the information to your phone; finally a way to compare apples and oranges!  The site also suggests you should be able to monitor the health of plants, get nutritional information on food items and even prove that there is absolutely nothing in that homeopathic snake oil other than C6H12O6 and H2O.  Other uses just suggest themselves, such as determining if jewellery is authentic or how degraded the rubber on your tires is.  Scanning an item will add it to a database hosted at SCiO, they describe it as "the world's first database of matter" others might use the phrase baseline sample.  Check it out right here if you use an iOS or Android device and there are educational kits for schools as well.

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"SCiO is the world's first molecular sensor that fits in the palm of your hand. Scan physical objects and receive instant and relevant information to your smartphone."

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Saitek's X-55 Rhino has a HOTAS

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2015 - 04:07 PM |
Tagged: input, saitek, X-55 Rhino, Mad Catz

With the revival of space sims recently, joysticks and HOTAS peripherals are once again being updated and selling.  If you are looking for more than just a joystick then check out Nikktech's review of the Saitek X-55 Rhino.  Not only do you get a joystick you also get a nifty looking dual throttle with seven 3-way toggle switches and a pair of rotary buttons and to top it off they use separate USB cables so you can put one away when not in use to save on desk space.  The joystick ships with four removable springs to allow you to choose the relative stiffness of your stick, or you can pull the spring out completely if you happen to swing that way.  At $160 is for those who really do plan to get a lot of use out of it but many people have already paid far more than that to get a fancy ship in Star Citizen so the market is certainly there.

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"If you were a teenager in the 90's then you probably know that compared to that time combat flight and space simulators are almost non-existent today mainly because this particular genre doesn't have as many fans as it used to (perhaps age has something to do with that). You see back then we had the joy of playing not one but several space simulators like the entire Wing Commander series (I/II/III/IV/V/Privateer), Frontier: Elite II and Frontier Wars, Tie Fighter, X-Wing, X-wing VS Tie Fighter, Starlancer, Freelancer and Decent: Freespace I/II along with many regular combat flight simulators like Strike Commander, F-14 Fleet Defender, Jane's ATF, Jane's IAF: Israeli Air Force and of course Falcon 4.0."

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Source: Nikktech

Bringing the Elder to Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, more Skyblivion progress

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2015 - 02:28 PM |
Tagged: gaming, elder scrolls, skywind, skyblivion

While Morrowind is obviously superior to Oblivion there are those who would rather explore Cyrodiil in the middle of Tamriel.  Either way, it will be more pleasant to explore your old hunting grounds with the improvements to the engine made in Skyrim.  Not only are we now waiting on the brilliant modders behind Skywind to wrap up now the same group are also getting tantalizingly close to wrapping up Skyblivion.  If you don't have both games in your Steam inventory yet you should keep an eye out for deals.  There is a second trailer you can watch over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

"Recent videos show many, many minutes of progress on Skyblivion, trotting around the province of Cyrodiil, leaping into Oblivion gates, and pottering about the Shivering Isles. It looks a lot like Oblivion but in Skyrim, which is sort of the goal of the whole thing. Skyblivion!"

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Microsoft Office shows up in Google Drive

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2015 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: google, google drive, microsoft, office

As has happened recently with Dropbox, Box and Apple iCloud, Google Drive has adopted the Microsoft Office API which was released not to long ago, bringing Office Suite compatibility to their cloud.  As anyone who has actually tried it knows, the compatibility between Google's applications and Microsoft's Office Suite was more theory than fact.  This new plug-in will allow you to save Office files on your Google Drive and open and edit them from within your browser, as long as you are not using the Office 2016 preview which is not compatible. If this interests you then follow the links from The Inquirer to learn more.

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"GOOGLE HAS BECOME the latest big player to integrate with rival Microsoft's Office suite."

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Source: The Inquirer

I'll bet you've never heard of this stacked phone

Subject: General Tech | July 21, 2015 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, marshall, flac

Marshall has managed to do something almost no other company has been able to recently, kept a brand new product completely secret.  They have just released a brand new Android smartphone with an internal soundcard which allows you to play lossless FLAC audio files, something not common amongst the smartphones on the market.  The branding is immediately obvious and there are some unique additions such as the use of brass on the two headphone jacks and a volume wheel as opposed to a rocker switch.  The hardware is not terribly impressive, a 720p 4.7" display powered by a Snapdragon 410 with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of local storage.  This phone is more about the audio, how high a resolution do you want for your equalizer anyways?  Check out more at The Register.

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"The iconic guitar amplifier outfit''s headphones division managed something that Apple hasn't: it's developed a smartphone without having it leaked to a fan-site. So the launch of the London smartphone managed to catch the world somewhat by surprise."

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Source: The Register

AMD's hopes for the second half of 2015

Subject: General Tech | July 20, 2015 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: amd, lisa su

It has not been a pretty year for AMD with overall sales of $942m representing 34.6% drop from this time last year and even the graphics portion seeing a 54.2% drop which resulted in loss of $147 million.  In part this is because all PC component companies have been suffering recently; in part because of a lack of incentive to upgrade high end components and to a larger extent because the general public is not going to pick up a new machine just before the release of a new Windows version.  Lisa Su did have some good news, sales of FX processors and A-series APU have been increasing and the second half of the year is historically better for sales.  It was suggested to The Register that AMD is not currently planning on reducing their workforce even more at this time but the possibility of future cuts was not completely ruled out.

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"AMD has confirmed it is slipping back into cost-cutting mode after its annus horribilis, caused by tanking demand for consumer PCs in a quarter described by CEO Lisa Su as the “revenue trough” for 2015."

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Source: The Register

Huh. Someone Installed Windows 7 on an ASUS ZenFone 2.

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2015 - 09:04 PM |
Tagged: zenfone2, zenfone, asus

So this is kind-of cool. The ASUS ZenFone 2 is based around an Intel Atom processor, which uses an x86 processor. Its performance is not comparable to a Haswell PC with discrete graphics, but the machine language will correctly guide voltages through the appropriate logic and end up in the proper memory locations. This means software that doesn't require high performance (or access to more advanced hardware) can run without translating the instruction set, which is harsh on performance.

Note that “more advanced hardware” could refer to something as simple as a floppy drive, which is not required to be classified as an x86 device but might be required for seemingly trivial software.

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In this case, someone decided to load Windows 7 on ASUS' smartphone. It technically runs in an emulator but, as stated before, it does not need to translate the underlying instruction set. Even though it's a cute project, I wonder if it's possible to boot some version of Windows on an Intel mobile platform. Of course, it's not enough curiosity to make me research the BIOS standards and make an actual informed statement.

Windows 10 Supported Until 2020, Extended Until 2025

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2015 - 09:16 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft announced the upgrade strategy of Windows 10 in their January consumer press conference. If the promotion is claimed within the first year, the new operating system would be a free upgrade to users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.x “for the supported lifetime of the device”. The internet combined “the first year” with “for the supported lifetime of the device” to speculate that Microsoft would charge a license or subscription from then on.

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The bandaids will keep coming until 2020 (features) or 2025 (security)

Now, less than two weeks before launch, Microsoft has released an official statement on the matter. Windows 10 will be supported until 2020 with extended support reaching out to 2025.

This does not mean that every device will be supported until then, though. In order to receive new updates, the user needs to install every update prior to that update, because they are cumulative. If a device is incompatible with an update, and the affected manufacturer is not willing to fix the problem, then Microsoft will not make a special support branch just for you.

But if an OEM has stopped supporting a device, yet Microsoft updates don't break anything, then you can still receive updates for Microsoft. Again, the clause is just for the case where Microsoft's updates are incompatible with your device -- it is not Microsoft's responsibility to keep giving you updates for the manufacturer's problems until the OS gets end-of-lifed.

This does lead to some concerns, though. Imagine that Microsoft pushes a build which disables developer sideloading and Win32 support, locking Windows 10 down to a Windows RT state. If you are even capable of blocking that update, Microsoft will likely not allow you to receive security patches. On the other hand, I don't exactly blame Microsoft for branching the operating system for each individual milestone. Doing something like killing support for Win32 would also be pretty brazen, although it looked like Windows 8.x was on that trajectory when it relegated the Desktop as an “app”... and one which all Win32 software required to survive.

So freedom advocates will have some things to think about, but those concerned about “free as in beer” can sleep a little easier. They will continue updating you for as long as the hardware supports it, until at least 2020 for features (at least 2025 for security). Beyond that time, it depends on whether Microsoft will charge for upgrades to whatever the next version is. Will it be a free milestone (think service pack)? Or will it be classified as Windows 11 with an upgrade or subscription fee? Who knows.

Source: ZDnet

A world without SIMs?

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2015 - 03:36 PM |
Tagged: SIM, Samsung, apple, Vodafone, AT&T, orange, Deutsche Teleko

If you hate trying to read the numbers off of your SIM card and are sick of their continual shrinking then Apple and Samsung's plan to make the SIM card extinct may be good news.  If you have a phone with dual SIMs or remove the SIM when you travel to ensure no roaming charges will be applied to you then perhaps you are less than happy to hear these companies want to replace the physical SIM with a software one.  It will make changing providers and phones easier but making it a permanent part of the phone could have some drawbacks.  Those of you who have a new iPad Air and iPad Mini may already be familiar with the soft SIMs, if you want to read more you can catch up at The Register.

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"Smartphone goliaths Apple and Samsung are reportedly confabulating at a high level regarding plans for hardware which would replace SIM cards in mobile devices - this technology would be embedded in phones, tablets etc and would not be exchangeable to different devices."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #358 - AMD R9 Fury, Fury X Multi-GPU, Windows 10 and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2015 - 02:04 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, Fury, fury x, sli, crossfire, windows 10, 10240, corsair, RM850i, IBM, 7nm, kaby lake, Skylake, Intel, 14nm, 10nm

PC Perspective Podcast #358 - 07/16/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD R9 Fury, Fury X Multi-GPU, Windows 10 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!

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

 

Win10 RTM must be official as HP plans to start selling devices with the new OS on the 29th

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2015 - 01:54 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, hp

The Register has heard from HP and the rumours are indeed true; you will be able to pre-orderd devices from them with which will arrive with Windows 10 installed on July 29th, they will even cover shipping within the US for you.  Retail stores are unlikely to have them that early, more likely you will see them arriving the following week depending on when the store's scheduled shipping date is.  The mid-August into October date that was quoted is specifically for business customers and does not apply to the stores or the website.  The tight turn around gives you a look at how desperate computer retailers are, and Microsoft as well for that matter, to increase flagging sales.

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"HP got on the phone with The Register on Wednesday to shed light on how it plans to roll out PCs with Windows 10 preinstalled. The IT giant said you can expect at least some of its hardware to be available with the new OS on the day that it launches – July 29."

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Source: The Register

Total War offers you the Catbird seat, Warhammer style

Subject: General Tech | July 15, 2015 - 03:28 PM |
Tagged: warhammer fantasy, waauuugh, total war, gaming

It looks like Total War:Warhammer will be teasing us with animations of some of the units we will see in the new game, starting with the Demigryph a smaller and ride-able version of that worlds Griffons, which you do not want to annoy.  You can expect a number of trailers as the game gets closer to release; this Friday you can expect to see another video showing the Demigryph in game.  The Empire does certainly have some nice troops which will be fun to learn about but like Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN it is the greenskin troop movies I am looking forward to seeing.

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"There’s a more pressing matter though. Did Games Workshop tell Creative Assembly that the Warhammer Fantasy world would be dead before Total War: Warhammer was released? It seems unlikely that the game has been planned as a eulogy of sorts but that would be a beautiful thing."

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Don't go burning your motherboards but do be aware of this UEFI rootkit

Subject: General Tech | July 15, 2015 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: uefi, security

Yet another revelation has come from the Hacking Team leak, a UEFI based rootkit which can infect computers and will survive AV scans and even a drive replacement.  The rootkit is designed specifically for the BIOS designed by Insyde which are found primarily in laptops; Dell and HP for example.  TrendMicro suggested to The Register that this rootkit could also infect AMIBIOS designed UEFI, the type you are familiar with from desktop motherboards but that has not been confirmed.  As well Trend Micro intimates that the rootkit could be installed remotely but so far the evidence suggests physical access is required ... as flashing a BIOS tends to do.  Using UEFI SecureFlash, or even flashing to the newest version will also remove the kit, although depending on the solution your motherboard uses you may see error messages about updating an unexpected or corrupt previous version.  Keep safe out there and maybe keep the Flash to your BIOS for now.

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"Hacking Team RCS spyware came pre-loaded with an UEFI (‬Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) ‪BIOS rootkit to hide itself on infected systems, it has emerged following the recent hacking of the controversial surveillance firm.‬"

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Source: The Register