Microsoft's Nano Server, the GUI-less server in the clouds

Subject: General Tech | May 4, 2015 - 02:56 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows server, nano server

Microsoft has really trimmed the fat off of Windows Server to make Nano Server, in fact they may have cut off some of the meat as well.  A Microsoft engineer described it as "a model of 'just enough OS'.", which is why the new Server OS base install is a mere 400MB.  The GUI is gone, you will use Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) or the new Core PowerShell which will resemble the old Powershell, but again in a cut down manner.  Drivers and APIs are minimal which will take programmers some time to adjust to as the DLL that they current use may not exist on Core and the installer you all know and hate, Windows MSI is one of the ones which has been cut.  In order to install drivers and applications which currently rely on MSI, you will need to add them to your image.  Read more about this major change in the way you will manage your Windows servers over at The Register.

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"Engineers from Microsoft's Windows Server team took the stage at the Build developer conference in San Francisco this week to share more details on Nano Server, the upcoming micro-sized version of the OS aimed at cloud deployments."

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Source: The Register

Falcon Northwest's Updated Tiki PC Packs A Punch

Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 3, 2015 - 04:27 PM |
Tagged: z97, xeon e5-2699v3, X99, tiki-z, tiki, SFF, liquid cooling, Haswell-E, falcon northwest, core i7-5960x

Falcon Northwest recently upped the hardware ante on its small form factor Tiki PC. Previously limited to Z97-based hardware, the company is now offering Tiki PCs with X99 motherboards. Even better, the Tiki can be configured with Intel’s Haswell-E Core i7-5000 or Haswell-EP Xeon  chips such as the Core i7-5960X or Xeon E5-2699V3.

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The updated Tiki maintains the same steel and aluminum case measuring 13” x 4” x 13” (HxWxD) with customizable paint work and a removable solid aluminum or granite base as its predecessors (e.g. Tiki-Z). External I/O options include the latest USB 3.1, eSATA, and Dual Intel Gigabit LAN ports. Internally, the Tiki has space for an Intel Z97 or X99 motherboard with a liquid cooled processor, up to 32GB of DDR4 (or 16GB DDR3 with Z97) memory, a dedicated graphics card up to an NVIDIA GTX TITAN X or Quadro and ample storage space in the form of four 2.5” drives or one 3.5” and two 2.5” drives.

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All this hardware amounts to an impressive amount performance in general – much less a small form factor system. At the upper echelon, the Xeon E5-2699V3 offers 18 cores (36 threads with HT) clocked at up to 3.6 GHz paired with 45MB of L3 cache. Paired with a Quadro card like the M6000, that is one powerful workstation!

The updated Tiki is aimed at gamers and workstation builds doing intensive workloads like CAD, 3D animation, and video production.

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The downside to this stylish powerhouse is, of course, pricing – the Tiki is far from cheap and the boutique premium is quite evident here. Available now, the updated Tiki starts at $1,860 for a base level Z97 system with quad core CPU or $2,492 for an eight core X99-based system. Fully loaded, the Tiki tops $10,000. 

It is definitely an extremely niche product, but the engineering and styling is impressive all the same!

Samsung's Galaxy refresh refreshes a bit too often

Subject: General Tech | May 1, 2015 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy s6, Galaxy S6 Edge

No company wants to hear their new flagship product has issues but unfortunately that has become all too common as financially gifted and tattooed Apple fans are well aware.  It would seem that Samsung is also having launch pains as users are seeing problems with RAM allocation.  The Inquirer reports that the phone will use up to 2.5GB for simple tasks, with Chrome being a major memory thief.  The programs do still run and the issue is not causing crashes, instead you can expect to see some stuttering and a lot of refreshes when you return to an app that has lost focus, even for a short time.  Samsung is aware of the problem and working on incremental updates which you can pick up via Update Now under Settings.

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"SAMSUNG HAS ADMITTED that the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are suffering performance problems due to a RAM management fault."

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Source: The Inquirer

BUILD 2015: Windows 10 10074 Released to Fast and Slow

Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2015 - 06:38 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, build 2015, build 10074, BUILD

When Microsoft forked their build numbers into 100xx and 101xx lines, we predicted that they were preparing a version to release at BUILD 2015. We also predicted that it would be heavily tested and pushed to both Slow and Fast simultaneously, which would give a good entry point for developers and probably even enterprise evaluators. I was surprised when Microsoft released 10061 last week, and then updated it just two days ago (why???) with four patches, but we ended up being correct in the end.

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Microsoft has just released Windows 10 build 10074 to both Fast and Slow users. Its comes with a very small list of known issues, and they are much less severe than they were in previous releases. The first issue tells developers that Developer Mode needs to be enabled in Group Policy, rather than the place in Settings that it will eventually be. The next two issues are more severe: some games cannot be played in full screen and the People app is still broken. I am not sure how wide-spread “some games” is, but they plan to patch it via Windows Update “as soon as possible”.

One major fix is that now, when certain applications that play audio are minimized, they will continue to play audio. This bug made many media players, such as a few SoundCloud apps in the Windows Store as well as Microsoft's own Music app, pretty much useless. Until 10074, you would basically need to launch them, then cover them up with other windows if you wanted more screen real-estate.

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If you were a fan of Aero from Windows 7, then you will like the blurred transparency effect of Start and the taskbar. Personally, while I think it looks nice, I was never really attached to that aspect of the Windows UI. Honestly, it used to drive me nuts when it kicked me out of games to complain about how it cannot properly manage 2GB of video memory, despite running perfectly fine if I select ignore. Hopefully that will not come back with it. But, if it is here without causing any problems, it does look pretty. Also, the Start Menu can now be manually resized to better arrange your apps. It also looks like the semi-horizontal layout is a great compromise between the Start Menu and the Start Screen for desktops.

So, as we expected, this build is what happens when Microsoft picks a target and mostly cleans up all of their relevant branches into a solid release. It is still a bit buggy here and there, but it feels better than 10049, which was itself better than 10041. That said, I also upgraded my NVIDIA drivers from 349.90 to 352.63; that could have something to do with it (although I am using the same Intel drivers).

There has not been too many announcements regarding features that are not present in 10074 though. It makes you wonder, at least a bit, how much will be added to the 101xx path until the OS finally launches.

Source: Microsoft

Podcast #347 - AMD Zen Architecture and Roadmap leaks, ARM Cortex-A72, budget Z97 board and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2015 - 02:05 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, pcper, .

PC Perspective Podcast #347 - 04/30/2015

Join us this week as we discuss AMD Zen Architecture and Roadmap leaks, ARM Cortex-A72, a budget Z97 board and more!

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

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Beware of Snapdragons for they are subtle and quick to anger

Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2015 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 810, qualcomm, LG, Samsung

There have been many stories about Qualcomm's difficulties lately, from the court case with NVIDIA to Samsung and LG not using their Snapdragon 810 for their new smartphones.  Qualcomm has struck back at the speculations about problems with this chip that rose from these decisions, pointing out that Microsoft, Xiaomi, Motorola and Sony will all be releasing devices with the Snapdragon 810 in the near future.  LG put in their two cents as well, pointing out their decision to use the 808 chip was made over a year ago and they are still planning on utilizing the next generation Snapdragon 820 in the future, not to mention that they use the 810 in their G Flex 2.  Samsung has also shown their belief in Qualcomm's products considering they will be fabbing the 820.  You can see a short video of an interview with Qualcomm about this topic over at The Register.

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"QUALCOMM HAS DEBUNKED chatter that LG ditched its octa-core Snapdragon 810 chip for the G4 owing to overheating problems."

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Source: The Register

Keep your GTA, there is an island to be 'liberated'

Subject: General Tech | April 29, 2015 - 02:31 PM |
Tagged: gaming, chaos, just cause 3

Sure, pretending to be a gangster can be fun and the many gameplay videos of GTAV certainly make it look entertaining but it pales in comparison to the over the top chaotic gameplay of the Just Cause series.  Watch the trailer below which covers a mix of gameplay, scripted events and cutscenes invoke.  Now decide whether destroying a town with your grapple attached to a bus while flying a helicopter seems like more entertainment than using a mod to drop whales across GTAV's landscape.  The modding community will certainly develop more interesting things to do in GTAV, then again the JC2 modders helped have the multiplayer version of the chaos simulator.  Up to you if you would rather demolish things as a gangster or as a 'liberator'.

Whatever you do remember, only you can stop pre-orders.

"Watching the “gameplay reveal” trailer for Just Cause 3 is like watching the ambitions of every guns, vehicles and explosions game made real. It’s the ludicrously overblown action blockbuster that Uncharted’s scripted events and cutscenes invoke."

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Put some Spring in your step with new peripherals

Subject: General Tech | April 29, 2015 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: freesync, 4k, gsync, keyboard, gaming mouse, input

It has been a relatively quiet year for new CPUs and GPUs as we await new releases apart from the occasional incredibly high priced new product.  On the peripheral side it has been anything but quiet, with numerous gaming mice and keyboards of both mechanical and other types being released.  Not only that but we are finally starting to see both AMD and NVIDIA's variable refresh rate monitors appear on the market as well as new 4k and other more traditional displays.  The Tech Report has some recommendations for all of the above as well as other backup peripherals, audio devices and more in this article here.

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"It's time for our latest roundup of recommendations for monitors, keyboards, mice, and more. We've tied it all together in our April 2015 peripheral staff picks."

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Cirrus7 Shows Off Fanless Nimbini Broadwell NUC PC

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | April 28, 2015 - 08:15 PM |
Tagged: cirrus7, SFF, nuc, broadwell-u, fanless

Next month, German manufacturer Cirrus7 will begin shipping its new Nimbini system. The Nimbini is an even smaller variant of the company’s small form factor Nimbus PC. This time, Cirrus7 has managed to pack a Intel NUC system into a fanless case with multiple layers of stacked laser cut aluminum panels that double as a heatsink for the internals. Even better, the Nimbini supports Intel’s Rock Canyon and Maple Canyon NUC boards, and supports Broadwell-U processors up to the 28W Core i7 models with Iris Graphics (e.g. the two core, four thread, Core i7-5557U with Iris Graphics 6100).

Cirrus7 Nimbini Fanless Broadwell NUC Case.jpg

The Nimbini will come as a complete system (150 x 150 x 87mm) preloaded with Windows or Ubuntu Linux operating systems or as a barebones DIY kit – which at upwards of 90 pieces (per FanlessTech) is not for the faint-of-heart! This case can be customized to add different covers and to vary the thickness of the case by adding or removing layers. The standard configuration leaves room for a 2.5” drive in addition to the usual M.2 SSD used with NUCs. If you aren’t using that second storage drive, you can make the case thinner or expand it for maximum cooling. While also aesthetically pleasing, the best part about the aluminum construction is that it is a fanless design which is perfect for a HTPC (home theater PC) or audio engineering setup. Cirrus7 claims to support up to 28W processor TDPs without any fans.

Cirrus7 Nimbini Fanless Broadwell NUC Case Back.jpg

Rear IO for the Intel Maple Canyon NUC installed in the layered Nimbini chassis.

Cirrus7 will being taking pre-orders in May. Among others, both the Rock Canyon (with its IR receiver and accompanying case window) and Maple Canyon internal hardware (NUC boards) with dual DisplayPort outputs will be on offer. Pricing has not yet been announced, but it looks promising if you are looking for a premium silent SFF PC.

Source: Cirrus7

Windows 10 "Getting Started" Video Updated for Build 10061

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2015 - 07:27 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, BUILD, build 2015

BUILD 2015 begins tomorrow, and I expect we'll learn the last features that Microsoft intends to add to Windows 10 at launch. The conference is targeted at software and web developers first and foremost. We might not see too much on the consumer side, but we should get under-the-hood information that will be relevant to consumers. For instances, some questions about Windows Store, WinRT, and DirectX 12 might be answered. We might even get a public DirectX 12 SDK (and more).

Note: WinRT (API) is not the same as Windows RT (OS).

As we noted earlier, development was forked into a 100xx-branch and a 101xx-branch of build numbers. We assume that, due to the proximity to the conference, the lower build number is getting polished for public presentation while the higher builds will surface later, with more experimental features.

Microsoft published an introduction video, based on the 10061 build, to introduce the new OS to new users. I guess they are expecting a new wave of testers after the conference, probably both developers and enterprise evaluators. It is brief but interesting, although it surprisingly did not mention anything about the “Continuum” interface to switch between mouse/keyboard and touch experiences.

As stated, BUILD 2015 starts tomorrow and we will probably have a bit of coverage for it.

Source: Neowin

Garbage Day on Steam Greenlight

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2015 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming

If you have ever watched the movie Groundhog Day, then the premise of this game should be familiar. Garbage Day borrows its premise and lets the player do whatever they want for a day, and time resets. The game is said to justify the theme with a nuclear power accident, because the average person doesn't understand how nuclear energy works so why not?

In the movie, this gave Bill Murray countless opportunities, literally, to understand the town and figure out what he was supposed to do to move on with his life. This is the core of many video games, such as the Hitman franchise, but it is perceived as repeated failures. The game will supposedly have an end state to allow the player to break the cycle based on their actions. Unlike a stealth-action game however, it looks like it encourages goofing off as a means to soften the repetition.

It's an interesting thought and it's on Steam Greenlight, albeit without a (recent) demo.

Kubuntu drops the old KDE for the new Plasma 5 desktop environment

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2015 - 12:31 PM |
Tagged: plasma, linux, kubuntu

Kubuntu came about when Ubuntu switched to the Unity desktop environment as a KDE based alternative, which as Linux.com points out caused much disgust due to bugs at launch and a less than attractive interface.  The newest version now uses the Plasma 5 environment, the first release to do so, replacing version 4 which has been in use almost decade now.  This distro still uses Dolphin as its file manager but now uses Simple Desktop Display Manager (SDDM) instead of KDM.  It also incorporates systemd, with these two changes users of Arch Linux will feel right at home.  Check out the review for a list of the programs it ships with as well as the ones that Linux.com added after the fact to make Kubuntu work best for their machines.

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"The latest version of Kubuntu, 15.04, aka Vivid Vervet was released last week and it's available for free download. With this release it has become the first major distro to ship Plasma 5 as the default desktop environment."

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Source: Linux.com

Godavari rumours abound

Subject: General Tech | April 27, 2015 - 01:04 PM |
Tagged: Summit Ridge, rumours, Godavari, Bristol Ridge, amd

This morning DigiTimes is reporting on a unconfirmed rumour that AMD's new APU, Godavari, will be arriving towards the end of May of this year.  This goes along with the leak that WCCFtech reported on this weekend, they have information that the chip will be a Kaveri design with up to four Steamroller cores, a GCN 1.1 base GPU with up to 512 stream processors and a dual-channel DDR3 memory in an FM2+ socket.  If their information is accurate you can expect to see models with 65W or 95W TDPs and boost clocks in the 4GHz range depending on the model.  Also worth noting is the rumour that AMD has placed orders with ASMedia Technology for USB 3.1 controller ICs for release in September.

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"AMD will launch Godavari series APUs at the end of May to compete with Intel's Broadwell and Skylake platforms, according to Taiwan-based supply chain makers."

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Source: DigiTimes

Window 10 Technical Previews Will Expire (As Expected)

Subject: General Tech | April 26, 2015 - 07:31 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft

There are still a few users on old Windows 10 Technical Preview builds from 2014. In a few days, there won't be: their computers will refuse to boot. The affected builds that will completely brick themselves on April 30th are 9841, 9860, and 9879. You cannot accuse Microsoft of surprising users though, because Windows has been notifying them since April 2nd and force-rebooting every three hours since April 15th if they didn't take the warnings seriously. The current batch of builds are valid until October.

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WinBeta has linked this policy to Microsoft's rumored piracy policy. My thoughts? No.

This is actually typical of Microsoft when it comes to pre-release operating systems. In fact, the only difference between this and Vista's pre-release (ex: “Beta 2”) expiration is that Microsoft relaxed the reboot time to three hours. It was two hours back in the Vista era but otherwise identical. That policy only applied to the previews then, and I see no reason to believe that it will be extended to released operating systems now.

Granted, with the Windows 10 continuous update structure, it does raise concern about what will happen if/when Microsoft releases a build that users don't want. For instance, imagine Microsoft decides to cut off legacy support for Win32 -- will customers have the ability to opt-out of the upgrade treadmill and continue to use applications that are then unsupported, like practically every Steam game they own?

But I see no reason to think that this policy has anything to do with that.

Source: WinBeta

The new and improved Rosewill RK-9000V2

Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2015 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: rosewill, RK-9000V2, mechanical keyboard, input, cherry mx brown

The Tech Report has had some less than positive experiences with Rosewill's RK-9000, while the actual keyboard is quite functional there have been many issues with the USB connectors.  Rosewill has now released the RK-9000V2, very similar to the original model but with an improved cord and connector.  The model they were sent to review has Cherry MX brown switches, with other flavours available if you prefer a different switch.  Currently the RK-9000V sells at $99.99 for the red, black, and blue variants and $109.99 for the brown, making this an affordable option for those who want a mechanical keyboard.

Scott rightly pointed out that the 9000V2 is the third incarnation of this keyboard, he reviewed the second generation back in 2012.

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"Rosewill's RK-9000 is one of the most popular mechanical keyboards around. Now there's a new version, the RK-9000V2, and we've gotten our hands on one to see how it compares to the original."

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MSE the next generation; Windows 10 Device Guard

Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2015 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, Device Guard, security, microsoft, IOMMU

The Register gleaned some details about Windows 10 Device Guard at RSA but there is still a lot we do not know about it.  It is an optional service that can be enabled by an administrator and it checks every application launched to see if it has been signed by Microsoft as a trusted binary before letting it run.  While certainly good for security it may cause some issues for developers who have not gone through the vetting process to have your app approved for the Microsoft Store.  Device Guard is also separated from the WinX kernel, if your machine does become infected, Device Guard will still not allow unsigned apps to run.  You will need hardware which supports input/output memory management unit (IOMMU) to use Device Guard, thankfully that technology is present on most current PC hardware, though not so prevalent on the mobile front.

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"The details are a little vague – more information will emerge at the Build event next week – but from what we can tell, Device Guard wraps an extra layer of defense around the operating system to prevent malware from permanently compromising a PC."

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Source: The Register

Lost Your Phone? Try Googling For It!

Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2015 - 12:37 AM |
Tagged: remote access, gps., google, Android

Looking for your phone? Well, Google will now let you literally search for it. A recent update to its Android Device Manager service, the search giant now allows users to type "find my phone" into Google search. So long as you have Android Device Manager turned on (and some sort of network connection) and you have the latest version of Google's Search application installed on your Android phone, you will be presented with the phone's location on Google Maps along with options to ring the device at the loudest volume, remotely lock the device with a new password, or remotely wipe it altogether. Note that you will need to be signed into your Google account on the PC to access these options, and you may need to re-enter your password. Hopefully you have a trusted PC (or backup codes) available that you will not have to authenticate with your, well, (lost) phone if you have two factor authentication turned on.

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If your smartphone is nearby you can have Google ring the device at its loudest volume for up to five minutes (once you find it you can stop the ringing by pressing the power button).

Android Device Manager Find My Phone Search Ring Device.jpg

The remote lock is handy if it appears the phone has simply been left behind somewhere relatively secure while the erase option is handy if the phone is on the move and appears to be stolen. If you don't have a backup of your data, you might try calling it first to see if you can get it back, otherwise it is best to erase it, report it stolen to the authorities and chalk it up to a lesson learned (backup, backup, and backup again! Bittorrent Sync makes this easy, btw).

On the phone side of things, you will get a notification card along with a timestamp of when the device was located by ADM. This locate, ring, lock, and erase functionality has been around for a couple of years now, but it is now even easier to use and all you have to do to get to it is run an intuitive Google search of "find my phone". It works well and is definitely a welcome update. More information can be found here.

This has been a public service announcement from PC Perspective. Stay vigilant out there folks!

Source: PC Mag

Podcast #346 - Intel Compute Stick, ASUS X205TA, Samsung PCIe SSDs and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2015 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Intel, compute stick, baytrail, asus, x205ta, SM951, NVMe, XP941, windows 10, SSD 750, acer, XR341CKA, gamebench, ios, Android

PC Perspective Podcast #346 - 04/23/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel Compute Stick, ASUS X205TA, Samsung PCIe SSDs and more!

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

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

 

The brithing of a little silicon baby

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2015 - 12:28 PM |
Tagged: silicon, manufacturing

Over at The Tech Report a guest writer will walk you through on overview of the steps taken to go from block architect's design process straight through to the final product.  If you have never really thought how the magic underneath that heatsink comes about this is a good starting place to understand how semiconductors are made.  If you are somewhat familiar with the process, there is still a lot to be gleaned from the article as it covers a wide breadth of topics and some of the newer procedures.  If you have strong opinions in the debate over the superiority of Verilog or VHDL then you may just want to skip straight to the comments.

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"Have you ever wondered how the chips in PCs, smartphones, and other devices go from initial ideas to final products? Rys Sommefeldt walks us through the entire process, from conception through mass production."

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Need more Star Wars? Check out the Battlefront trailer

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2015 - 03:05 PM |
Tagged: Star Wars, Star Wars Battlefront, frostbite 3

December is a long way off but November 17th is a little bit closer and will give you something to stave off your impatience as that is the release date for the new Star Wars Battlefront.  The Frostbite based game will support up to 40 players in a battle with all your favourite locations, characters, weapons, and vehicles; from various eras in the Star Wars galaxy from what we can gleam.  There will also be a single player mode consisting of what EA is referring to as crafted missions, which may be playable in co-op mode aas well as solo. 

This being an EA game they have already coated it with the repulsive substances, In Game Footage, Pre-Order and DLC.  They claim in this article at HEXUS that "the amount of content in the game has absolutely zero to do with DLC. I can say that with all honesty.", undermined by the fact that if you pre-order you get access to a map called "Battle of Jakku" on December 1st instead of the 8th.  This of course smacks of future preferential treatment for those willing to pay for early access to content everyone else has to wait for.  The trailer below is referred to as being in game footage but we are all smart enough to know that while it is certainly rendered with the game engine it is not representative of what your game will look like while you are playing it.  Can EA do more harm to the series than Jar Jar or is this just a minor inconvenience at the release of a game that will prove to be a fan favourite?

"It’s got all your favourites: the robocow, crossjets, hoverbikes, the notorious Crumpet Eagle, Johnny Rockets, and even that mean black Cylon with his lasersword. I am far more interested in the unreal possibilities of sci-fi face-shooting than humdrum real-world jazz."

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