The Steam Boy gets a new name and pre-order price

Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2015 - 04:06 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Steam Machine, valve, Smach Zero

The portable Steam machine previously referred to as the Steam Boy is now called the Smach Zero and you can pre-order it starting November 10th for $300.  The device will feature a 5-inch 720p touch screen powered by an AMD Steppe Eagle SoC with a Jaguar-based CPU and GCN-based Radeon graphics.  It will have 4GB of RAM onboard, 32GB of internal storage with more available vis an SD Card Slot and support for USB OTG.  HEXUS was told the device should be able to handle Half-Life 2, Civilization V, Dota 2, Tropico 5, BioShock Infinite or Cities: Skylines on its integral display or outputted via the HDMI port.  Check out more on the Smach Zero here.

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"Smach Zero Steam Machine pre-order availability and pricing have both been confirmed by the device maker. Smach published a press release yesterday saying that the handheld will be available on pre-order from 10th November at a special introductory price of $299."

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Source: HEXUS

Looking at that Ubuntu phone? Hope you don't live in North America

Subject: General Tech | August 12, 2015 - 01:58 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, smartphone, HPSA+, Aquaris E4.5, Aquaris E5 HD

The new Ubuntu powered Aquaris E4.5 and the Aquaris E5 HD are now available but thanks to North America's carriers not supporting HPSA+ properly, or in many cases at all, the best you could hope for on this side of the pond is a 2G connection.  They chips inside the phones are  quad-core ARM Cortex A7's running at 1.3GHz with Mali 400 graphics.  The E5 has a 5" screen with a resolutions of 720 x 1280, the 4.5 is 4.5" in size with a 540 x 960 resolution.  Overall the specs are not awe inspiring and the prices of roughly $190 and $220 seem a bit high but are certainly lower than what you would pay for a new Samsung or Apple product without a contract.  If you are interested then follow the links from The Register to order one.

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"In a Tuesday blog post, Ubuntu maker Canonical said that BQ, its Spanish hardware partner, has opened a new online store where customers around the world can order the Aquaris E4.5 and the Aquaris E5 HD, the two current Ubuntu models."

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Source: The Register

Windows 10 for everything arrives

Subject: General Tech | August 11, 2015 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, iot, raspberry pi 2

The slimmed down version of Windows 10 for devices such as the Raspberry Pi 2 has arrived and it is royalty free for makers, available right here.  The Register describes some problems with the current version, mostly incompatibility with certain peripherals but also include occasional video crashes or networking issues.  Seeing as how this particular incarnation of the OS is designed for creative minds tinkering on custom hardware the issues are not unexpected nor should you consider it proof the OS is not usable if you plan on tinkering with it.  You will need a full PC for development with Windows 10 and Visual Studio 2015 to start using the slimmed down Windows 10, nothing new but certainly worth noting.  Check out more on the Universal Windows Platform and Windows 10 for the IoT at The Register.

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"Microsoft has shipped the public release of Windows 10 IoT Core, the pared-down version of Windows 10 for embedded devices, including the Intel MinnowBoard Max and the Raspberry Pi 2."

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Source: The Register

Running a small Win7 Domain and having bandwidth issues today?

Subject: General Tech | August 10, 2015 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, oops, microsoft

Microsoft promised that Windows 10 would not be pushed out to computers on a Domain, or at least allow you to block the update; a claim which has turned out to be slightly less than accurate.  If you are running a Windows 7 Domain which still relies Microsoft update as opposed to WSUS you may have noticed some serious traffic spikes this morning.  That is because some, perhaps all, of your computers are slurping down the 3GB Windows 10 update.  Check the Register for links to Microsoft and consider blocking Microsoft Update on your firewall until this has been sorted, unless you like a slow network and living dangerously.

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"The problem is affecting domain-attached Windows 7 PCs not signed up to Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) for patches and updates, but looking for a Microsoft update instead."

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Source: The Register

The Intel SMM bug is bad, but not that bad

Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2015 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: fud, security, Intel, amd, x86, SMM

The SSM security hole that Christopher Domas has demonstrated (pdf)  is worrying but don't panic, it requires your system to be compromised before you are vulnerable.  That said, once you have access to the SMM you can do anything you feel like to the computer up to and including ensuring you can reinfect the machine even after a complete format or UEFI update.  The flaw was proven on Intel x86 machines but is likely to apply to AMD processors as well as they were using the same architecture around the turn of the millennium and thankfully the issue has been mitigated in recent processors.  Intel will be releasing patches for effected CPUs, although not all the processors can be patched and we have yet to hear from AMD.  You can get an over view of the issue by following the link at Slashdot and speculate on if this flaw was a mistake or inserted there on purpose in our comment section.

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"Security researcher Christopher Domas has demonstrated a method of installing a rootkit in a PC's firmware that exploits a feature built into every x86 chip manufactured since 1997. The rootkit infects the processor's System Management Mode, and could be used to wipe the UEFI or even to re-infect the OS after a clean install. Protection features like Secure Boot wouldnt help, because they too rely on the SMM to be secure."

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Source: Slashdot

DOTA 2 to Increase Custom Game Mode Player Limit to 24

Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: valve, DOTA 2

MOBAs tend to be focus on gameplay mechanics with three to five players per team. The concept is that a handful of players will need to balance between the various attack paths, and a limited amount of cooperation is possible before you start leaving zones uncovered. It also means that one problematic player can tank an entire team.

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This will not change in the official DOTA 2 game, but Valve is expanding the limit for custom games. At The International 5, Valve announced that those games can support up to 24 players. The first public game was a 10 vs 10 match at the end of the fourth day of the tournament. While I don't play DOTA 2, it sounds like Custom Games in DOTA 2 Reborn are a lot like StarCraft Arcade, where users can create mods like dungeon crawlers and even objective-based games. In this case, an increased player limit would be very useful. I am not sure whether it works for the base game, though -- maybe it works better?

This patch launches next week.

World of Warcraft Legion Announced

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, wow, blizzard

Shortly after Blizzard has released their financial results, they announced “Legion”, a new expansion pack for World of Warcraft. They are arriving more rapidly than they have in the past. The amount of time between Mists of Pandaria's release and Warlords of Draenor's announcement is a little more than a year and a month. A year later, Warlords of Draenor was released and now, nine months later, Legion was announced. I expect that the stream of content is to either stimulate subscriptions or, less likely, finish the narrative before the game fades out.

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Image via PC Gamer

Before we get to the expansion, we'll briefly mention those financial results. In May, Blizzard reported that, while Warlords of Draenor pushed the subscription count to over 10 million, it fell back down to about 7.1 million by the end of the quarter. This is a loss of about 29%. This quarter saw another loss of about 1.5 million subscribers, from 7.1 million to 5.6 million. This is a loss of about 27%. This is a fairly steady, exponential loss of a little more than 25% every 3 months, which is fairly quick. This also means that Draenor was enough to offset about six months. Not much more to say about that -- I just find it interesting.

As for Legion, it will be a fairly sizable boost in content. The level cap has been increased to 110, which will hopefully include new skills and armor leading up to it. A new class, Demon Hunter, has also been added. You will not need to level them up from 1, and they will be capable as either DPS or tank. Of course, new raids will be included. Blizzard seems to have wanted to highlight dungeons, however. The way it was described to PC Gamer makes it sound like they want them to be more interesting as set pieces, with story and an interesting environment.

No pricing or availability information, but we'll probably hear a lot at Blizzcon.

Source: PC Gamer

Wireless productivity, Logitech's MX Master and MX Anywhere 2

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: logitech, mx master, mx anywhere 2, input

Logitech is found on many desktops, both gamer and spreadsheet slaves often choose this familiar name in peripherals.  The Tech Report looks at two wireless mice aimed at those who use their mice to make money as opposed to war, the larger MX Master and the smaller and more portable MX Anywhere 2.  Both these mice can have up to three profiles to let you move between different PCs, letting you save base station or Bluetooth 4 connections and swap them at the press of a button.  Check out how they perform in their duties in the full review.

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"Logitech's MX Master and MX Anywhere 2 mice represent the pinnacle of the company's productivity-oriented pointing devices. We spent some hand time with each one to see whether they're truly the overlords of the office."

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Podcast #361 - Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K, Logitech G29 Racing Wheel, Lenovo LaVie-Z and more!

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: Z170-A, z170 deluxe, Z170, video, Skylake, podcast, nvidia, maxwell, logitech g29, Lenovo, lavie-z, Intel, gigabyte, asus, 950ti, 6700k

PC Perspective Podcast #361 - 08/06/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K, Logitech G29 Racing Wheel, Lenovo LaVie-Z 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!!

Can it Run VR? Crytek and Basemark Join Forces to Create Virtual Reality Benchmark

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 02:14 PM |
Tagged: Basemark, crytek, oculus rift

With the release of Oculus Rift and various other head mounted displays you may be wondering if your current machine is powerful enough for you to use one of these devices or if you need to upgrade before you will enjoy the experience. 

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Basemark and Crytek have joined forces to create a new benchmark to test how your system will fare.  The benchmark will give you information on latency, verify your if hardware is able to run at 60, 75, 90 or 120fps with varying levels of graphics detail and even verify if your audio source can properly provide spacial audio cues.

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Helsinki (Finland) and Frankfurt am Main (Germany) August 6th, 2015 – Basemark and Crytek today announced a new partnership to help create a definitive PC system test for virtual reality gaming.

The new VR benchmark will enable gamers and PC hardware companies to easily assess the level of experience they can expect when running virtual reality content, and will be the first service available that gives users recognizable, real-world metrics to describe their system’s VR readiness with various HMDs out there.

Developed using Crytek’s CRYENGINE technology, the benchmark will provide detailed feedback in areas such as the best graphical settings to use with a variety of VR headsets. Basemark’s expertise in measuring performance standards will be key as they formulate an objective test that evaluates everything from frame rate capabilities to memory consumption, latency issues, 3D audio performance and much more.

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Crytek’s Creative Director for CRYENGINE, Frank Vitz, said: “Basemark is already helping to measure technology standards in other areas of gaming, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with them as we work to establish a user-friendly yardstick for VR performance. We believe CRYENGINE can become a go-to tool for developers looking to create compelling VR experiences, and this partnership means players can also count on CRYENGINE as they evaluate whether their PC is ready for the most advanced, cutting-edge VR content available.”

“We wanted to make a real-world VR gaming benchmark as opposed to a theoretical one and hence we’re very excited to announce this partnership with Crytek, the leading game engine company”, said Tero Sarkkinen, founder and CEO of Basemark, “By using CRYENGINE as the base and vetting the test workloads under our rigorous development process involving all the key technology players, we will forge the definitive benchmark for all PC VR gamers.”

Source: Basemark

Everyone needs an automated elastic band turret

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: DIY, turrent, arduino, 3d nand

With Black Hat in full swing anyone with even half a mind on their systems security is already depressed and likely to be even more so by the wrap up.  That is why you should all stare at this 3D printed, Arduino powered elastic band turret.  At the very least it should cheer you up and at best get you downloading the Thing Files to start printing your own.  The full load of 24 rubbers can be launched in a very short time, either automatically if you program the Arduino appropriately or manually with an optional joystick.  Head on over to MAKE:Blog to see this new step in desk defence.

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"Looking like it would fit in perfectly in the smash hit game Portal, this little turret can launch a barrage of rubber bands on command. Designed by Kevin Thomas, this perky little gatling gun is mostly 3D printed, with an Arduino for a brain."

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Mount & Blade II Bannerlord Progress Update at Gamescom

Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, mount & blade ii, mount & blade

TaleWorlds has a cult classic franchise with Mount & Blade. Warband, the follow-up to the first Mount & Blade but didn't earn its own number, placed right behind Skyrim in Ars Technica's Steam Gauge for “Most Played Older Releases (2012 or Before) on Steam”. It is my most played game by far with over 800 hours recorded, albeit over the course of several years. I also participated in (and even hosted) organized events on a regular basis throughout that entire period, too.

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The new game looks quite interesting, though. While the previous game's mods were more popular than its default content, its Siege mode drew a lot of attention. Armies were able to push siege towers against fortresses and slowly overtake the defenders -- attackers had unlimited respawns, but defenders did not. Eventually they would take a flag. Mods even played with destructible walls and buildings to force the attackers to create their own ways in, and the defenders to adapt in response. It seems like this version is expanding upon that with battering rams, catapults, and other team-controlled devices. While this is not as effective as a Napoleonic-era cannon, this might lead to the same effect.

They also flaunt time and weather rendering effects, and board games. Still no release date (or even publisher). This information is not even on their website yet. They're not known for rushing, at least.

Source: PC Gamer

Corsair Launches New RGB Peripherals

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 5, 2015 - 11:42 PM |
Tagged: corsair, gaming mouse, mechanical keyboard, gaming headset

At Gamescom in Germany, Corsair announced the Strafe RGB mechanical keyboard, the Void RGB headset, and the Scimitar RGB mouse. As you can guess, each of these have colored lighting with a full range of 16.8 million choices. The devices will be trickling out over the coming months, but we should have everything by October and their prices are all competitive.

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First is the Strafe RGB mechanical keyboard. This device comes in three versions: Cherry MX RGB Red and Cherry MX RGB Brown for $149.99, or the “Cherry MX RGB Silent” switch for $159.99. What is a “Cherry MX RGB Silent” switch? No idea. I cannot find anywhere that says whether it is tactile or linear, so who knows. It allows 104 key rollover on USB, which means that you could press any combination of keys and each will be recognized. USB has a limit of about six, but Corsair probably registers the keyboard as several input devices to communicate the extra events. They are scheduled to launch in October.

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Next up are the Void RGB headsets. The analog stereo one is available at $79.99, 7.1 USB raises the price to $99.99, and wireless 7.1 bumps the price up further to $129.99 (or $149.99 for a special Best Buy edition). The analog one doesn't do RGB backlighting, though. They are scheduled for later this month (August).

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Last is the Scimitar RGB Gaming Mouse. This one is more interesting. Basically, Corsair took the number pad layout of the Razer Naga and Logitech G600 and did their own version of it. Its sensor is higher-precision at 12,000 DPI, but that metric has maxed out long ago for basically everyone. The number pad on the thumb side will allow a little more than a quarter inch of adjustment. This means that you can align the buttons slightly to match your grip. Each button is also mechanical, like the Razer Naga 2014, which is good for me because I have a problem with side buttons wearing out. Its price comes in at $79.99 and it will be available in September 2015.

Source: Corsair

LibreOffice 5.0 Released. x86 and x86-64 Builds for Windows.

Subject: General Tech | August 5, 2015 - 10:48 PM |
Tagged: libreoffice 5, LibreOffice

On the same day that Intel released Skylake for mainstream enthusiasts, The Document Foundation has published LibreOffice 5.0. This version brings a 64-bit version for Windows, which is another baby-step in the application's trend toward performance and stability improvements. There doesn't seem to be too many features to point to, besides new branding images, but it's the first release in their 5.0 branch. It is also numbered 5.0.5 because pre-releases don't want us to have nice things.

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Despite having a supported 64-bit version, the 32-bit x86 build is still default when you go to the download page. If you manually select the x86-64 version's installer, it will erase previous, standard installs of LibreOffice 4 x86. I'm not sure if selecting a custom folder will change that, in case you wanted side-by-side installs for some reason, but it is also nice that the installer cleans up the previous version.

You can download it for free from their site. You will need to scroll down for the 64-bit version.

Just imagine the lineup at the spawnpoint for the Falcon, or Slave 1 for that matter

Subject: General Tech | August 5, 2015 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: Star Wars Battlefront, gaming

Thankfully a lineup will not be the problem as you will only be able to upgrade to a hero ship by locating a specific power-up present on the map, one hopes there is some randomness to this as otherwise both teams are likely to ignore each other as they battle their teammates to get to the power-up first.  There will be two main ship types, the X-Wing and TIE Fighters which have traditionally been the dogfighters and are likely to focus on energy weaponry with limited missile capability.  The TIE Interceptor and A-Wing are traditionally faster vehicles intended for scouting or rapid assaults using the A-Wing's concussion missile or the additional laser cannons present on the Interceptor.

According to the links from Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN the rebels will be able to temporarily generate shielding while the Imps will have what is effectively a turbo boost which should vary the tactics used depending on which team you play.  Check out the trailer below for a teaser.

"Twenty players will soar through the skies shouting “Zwap! Zwap!” and making noises like a trumpeting elephant driving a car on wet pavement (true story) in Star Wars Battlefront, backed up by more AI ships, in the newly-announced Fighter Squadron mode."

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It's certainly a hoverboard but you won't be riding it around much

Subject: General Tech | August 5, 2015 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: hoverboard

Yet another version of the hoverboard has appeared but once again it is of very limited usefulness.  This particular model appeared in a car commercial and did not require any special effects, just a lot of money and liquid nitrogen.  By implanting $100,000's of magnets in an area and filling a board containing a pair of powerful magnets which are cooled to superconductivity with liquid nitrogen you can indeed hover for about 10 minutes or so.  After that time you will need to top up the LN2 as the boards magnets will gain enough heat to lose their superconducting magnetic levitation.  The cost to run it does give a better ride than the Hendo board but also requires a much steeper investment.  Still, hoverboard!  Check out videos and more via Hack a Day.

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"It is definitely real: the Jalopnik writer got to ride it himself, and described it as “Unbelievably difficult yet at the same time unbelievably cool, both because you’re levitating and because the board is filled with magnets more than 300 degrees below zero“."

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Source: Hack a Day

Still not worried about security on the Internet of Things?

Subject: General Tech | August 4, 2015 - 01:13 PM |
Tagged: security, scary, iot

Likely you caught at least one news story on the remotely disabled Jeep recently, with the attackers able to control system ranging from annoying to life threatening.  If that didn't rustle your jimmies, how about a drug infusion system used in hospitals which can be remotely controlled?  It is not just that the pump can be used to cut off or overdose a patient on drugs, it is the abysmal security that was put onto the pump. Both telnet and FTP ports were left wide open, two very popular and effective routes into systems you shouldn't necessarily be in and port 8443 which the system uses shipped with a generic password which, like SOHO routers everywhere, was never changed after the pump was installed.  Overall an inexcusable affront to those who think about security and a terrifying glimpse into the utter incompetence of providers of devices which were never network connected until recently.  You can read more about the Hospira horror story at The Register.

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"The US Food and Drug Administration has told healthcare providers to stop using older drug infusion pumps made by medical technology outfit Hospira – because they can be easily hacked over a network."

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Source: The Register

Fan Creates Pip-Boy and Released 3D Printing Models

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 2, 2015 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: maker, fallout 4, DIY

Yvo de Haas, who has a degree in mechanical engineering from Windesheim University of Applied Sciences in Zwolle, Netherlands, creates props, robots, and other objects as a hobby. Previous creations include a joystick-controlled turret from Portal, GLaDOS, and a Fallout 3-style Pip-Boy.

The latest project was a Fallout 4-style Pip-Boy that accepts a smartphone, with an LG Nexus 5 shown in the demo video, above. It also contains a (non-functioning) cassette player at the top, which take Fallout-style tapes... so unfortunately you cannot pretend that your Vault Dweller is obsessed with Thriller. This model is currently available on the website for anyone with time and access to a 3D printer. The work is licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution ShareAlike, so you can use and modify the model however you like, as long as you share your alterations in a similar fashion (and assuming that you also don't violate Bethesda's trademarks in any way -- even though Haas' license permits commercial usage, Bethesda won't).

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A second model (the “Accurate version”) is still in progress. This one is supposedly intended to be used with an embedded computer like a Raspberry Pi. It sounds like you will need to install a bare display and other components to make it work, but that will probably be more clear when it is published.

Source: Ytec3D

Valve's The International 2015

Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2015 - 10:55 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, esports, valve, DOTA, DOTA 2, asus, ASUS ROG

Each year, Valve Software puts on a giant DOTA2 tournament where teams compete for literally millions of dollars. As of this writing, the prize pool currently sits at $17.9 million USD, which is divided between a 6.5 million USD first place prize, down to just under $54,000 USD for 13th through 16th place. Granted, these are per-team prizes, so individual players and their organizations will split the earnings from there how they see fit. It will take place between August 3rd and end with the Grand Finals on August 8th.

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Last year, the event was broadcast on ESPN3. While it does not seem to be mentioned on the official website, although the online streaming WatchESPN is listed, ESPN's calendar has The International on its ESPN3 calendar for all six days. That said, you could always watch it online like you obviously watch every episode of the PC Perspective podcast. Right? Live and participating in the chat?

You can also check out an ASUS RoG contest at the JoinDOTA website. The top prize is an ROG G751 Gaming Laptop, a mouse with mousepad, and t-shirt. Second prize gets the mouse, mousepad, and t-shirt. Third and fourth place gets a different mouse (without a mousepad) and a t-shirt. Fifth place has been there, done that, but only gets a t-shirt.

And for the rest of us, maybe someone will snap a picture of a Valve workstation while they're aren't looking... again.

Source: Valve

PC Gamer Compares Mechanical Keyboards

Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2015 - 10:26 PM |
Tagged: mechanical keyboard, Cherry MX, alps, topre, model m, model f

Purchasing an expensive gaming peripheral is a bit daunting, especially when it (mostly) comes down to how it feels. In these cases, we cannot resort to benchmarks or any other form of objective score. Instead, we need to classify and describe the attributes of each type of keyboard, letting our readers narrow down their choices by saying, “if you like this, choose from these”.

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A couple of days ago, PC Gamer published a breakdown of many types of switches, including a few different types of Alps-style brands. They have force curves for each featured switch, which is challenging to find outside of the Cherry MX brand (as few other companies publish their own that I know of). They also write a short paragraph for each switch to explain what type of use and user they are for, which (as I've said) is the metric that matters most.

For the Cherry MX switches, they have animations to show how they operate from the side, which will give you clues to how it operates. They have been floating around the internet for a while. KeyboardLover is claiming that “Lethal Squirrel” created them before 2011. These animations give a visual explanation for what linear, tactile, and clicky means, to help you imagine how these attributes feel.

Also, of course, we published our own article back in December. Our article includes our own Cherry MX switch animations. They're not quite as good quality as the other ones, but they include synchronized side-on and rear-on cycles. The animations were originally made for a Rosewill keyboard roundup back in early 2012.

Source: PC Gamer