Intel's clock is not just skipping a beat, it is definitely getting slower

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2015 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: kaby lake, Skylake, Cannonlake, Intel, delay

Last week Scott shared all that we can find out about Kaby Lake, Intel's asynchronous Tock between Skylake and Cannonlake.  Don't hold your breath for their release, nor for Cannonlake if DigiTimes sources are accurate.  If true, consumers will not see Kaby Lake for at least a year with enterprise waiting even longer which will push back the scheduled release of notebooks and PCs using the processors likely not showing up for a month or so afterwards.  Skylake should be finally appearing in time for Fall and in theory products using it should be available at that time as Skylake's delay was the initial cause of these delays.  As for Cannonlake; it is going to be a while.

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"Following the delay of Skylake processors, Intel's next-generation Kaby Lake processors, which were originally scheduled for early 2016, reportedly will be pushed back until September 2016 for the consumer version and January 2017 for the enterprise one."

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Source: DigiTimes

Final Fantasy XIV for Mac Sales Pulled Temporarily. PC's Fine.

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: square enix, pc gaming, mac os x, final fantasy xiv, final fantasy

When Final Fantasy 14 launched on the PC, it was plagued with bugs and gameplay problems. It led to Square basically remaking the game and relaunching it as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. The relaunch was highly successful, as Square learned from their inexperience with the PC. They recently decided to expand to the Mac alongside the release of their new expansion pack, Heavensward, for the PC. The published system requirements for the Mac version were later retracted by Square... and you can see where this is going.

They have since temporarily pulled game sales and offered full refunds. The game will go back on sale when they update “information on the product, system requirements, and screen resolution”.

square-2015-ff14-mac-cards.jpg

The Mac will get the MMO, but Noctis time. Ignis wasn't in the cards.

I guess you could say they'll get on it Prompto? Yes I know I'm punning the wrong title...

In the forum post, Square lists a few reasons for the error. First, a handful of customers were accidentally provided a pre-release build ahead of the official launch, due to a “miscommunication with retailers”. As mentioned though, the official release had performance issues and Square blames that on OpenGL and how it tied into their project. They claim that Final Fantasy 14 developed for Mac OSX's implementation of OpenGL would perform 30% worse than Microsoft's DirectX counterpart. They quickly clarify that OpenGL is not 30% slower than DirectX, but that factor applies to OpenGL on Mac, DirectX on Windows, and specifically for Final Fantasy 14.

An interesting note is that Square claims to have outlined several system requirement candidates, and was waiting on QA and final engineering to “select the correct one”. Yikes. Talking about software coming in hot, they did not even know their target hardware until into the shipping process, if you take their word at face value.

Square intends to ship a functional Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn to OSX at some point.

Source: Square Enix

Faster than fast ring; Windows 10 RTM spotted?

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2015 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, rtm, build 10176

Windows Insider members are currently on 10162, the third release in four days.  This new release offers you a chance to download an ISO to test a completely fresh install although you can install it as an in place update as well.  The new version also allows you to buy WiFi from the Microsoft Store as well, you may start to see WiFi networks in the USA and perhaps North America wide which you will be able to connect to after buying time and perhaps data from the Microsoft Store. 

We've also heard rumours via Slashdot that build 10176 will be the RTM version which may be sent out as soon as Thursday.  This implies that there will not be many changes to the new OS between now and the release date, as providing differing versions to the manufacturers and current customers would not be a good business decision.  As well, if purchasers of new hardware will form a very negative opinion if they have to go through a long series of updates simply to be able to use their new machine.  Ready or not, Windows 10 is just about ready to go.

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"Mark Wilson reports that the first RTM candidate for Windows 10 has been spotted: build 10176. Leaks and sources have suggested the company intends to finalize the operating system later this week, perhaps as early as July 9th. This would give Microsoft almost three weeks to distribute it to retailers and devicemakers before the July 29th launch date."

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Source: Slashdot

Almost NoScript Exploits Whitelist Vulnerabilities

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: noscript, javascript, firefox

I do not really believe in disabling JavaScript, although the ability to control or halt execution would be nice, but you can use an extension to remove it entirely if you want. I say this because the upcoming story talks about vulnerabilities in the NoScript extension, which locks down JavaScript and other, non-static content. By “vulnerabilities”, we mean the ability to execute JavaScript, which every major browser vendor defaults on because they consider it safe for their users on its own.

NoScript.png

This is like a five-year-old figuring out how to unlock a fireworks case full of paper crackers.

Regardless, there are two vulnerabilities, both of which have already been updated. Both of them take advantage of the whitelist functionality to ignore malicious code. By default, NoScript trusts a handful of domains, because blocking every script ever would break too much of the internet.

The first problem is that the whitelist has a little cruft, some of which including domain names that are useless, and even some that have expired into the public domain for sale. To prove a point, Matthew Bryant purchased zendcdn.net and used it to serve his own JavaScript. The second problem is similar, but slightly different. Rather than finding a domain that expired, it found some whitelist entries, such as googleapis.com, that had sub-domains, storage.googleapis.com, which is a service that accepts untrusted user scripts (it is part of Google's Cloud Platform).

Again, even though JavaScript is about as secure as you can get in an executable language, you should be allowed to control what executes on your machine. As stated, NoScript has already addressed these issues in a recent update.

My Take on July 29th Reservations

Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2015 - 06:00 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

A couple of days ago, Paul Thurrott wrote an editorial about Microsoft's Windows 10 reservation system. His point was that, while Microsoft claimed users of Windows 7 or 8.1 could upgrade on July 29th, they might not get it until later. Upgrades will start rolling out on the 29th of July, but the actual queue is expected to take several days. According to Microsoft's blog post, which shows blatant disrespect for the Oxford Comma, “Each day of the roll-out, we will listen, learn and update the experience for all Windows 10 users.”

windowsupdate.png

Paul linked this backtrack to an episode of Seinfeld, one where Jerry reserves a rental car; his reservation was held, but a car was not. He stated that the availability date was clearly stated as July 29th, and not everyone will get it then. I can see his point, and I agree with it. Microsoft really should provide what they claim on the date that they claim it.

On the other hand, it is possible that Microsoft saw the whole reservation system as reserving your spot in line. That is, it might be that upgrade requests will be processed in reservation order, at least mostly, when devices are available. I imagine a “take a number” system where slots will be assigned for anyone below a threshold that increases as upgrades are fulfilled. Again, this is hypothetical, but I cannot really see any other reason for a reservation system in the first place, apart from pure marketing.

Either way, some may need to wait until after July 29th to experience Windows 10, and Microsoft botched their announcement.

Source: Thurrott.com

Microsoft Releases Several Windows 10 Builds This Week

Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2015 - 04:20 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Early this week, Microsoft released a pair of new builds into the Windows Insider Fast Ring. Back to back, Build 10158 was released on Monday and 10159 followed it on Tuesday. These two updates fixed several hundred bugs, officially branded Project Spartan as Microsoft Edge, introduced the new default wallpaper to the desktop and lock screen, and tweaked a few more interface elements since 10130. After an uneventful Wednesday, Build 10162 arrived on Thursday with ISOs released later that evening, which was great for me because I couldn't get the build through Windows Update. Sad face.

windows-10.png

I was a Slow Ring user for the last few releases, and I honestly intend to continue with that pace going forward. This is my production machine, but switching to Fast was tempting in hopes that the new build would fix the few problems that I had. Namely, StarCraft II was flickering terribly since 10074 when played in windowed mode. Thankfully, StarCraft II can reliably alt+tab without crashing, but it excludes playing a slow-paced Arcade mod in another monitor while doing something else. Mount & Blade: Warband had similar issues, especially when the monitor and game are set to 120 Hz. It seems to be just DirectX 9 titles, too. Either way, they are still unfixed for me. Some of our viewers may want to know my experience.

microsoft-2015-windows-10-10159-upgrade.png

The first thing that I noticed was a seemingly new upgrade screen between asking to reboot and actually rebooting. This was something that I only remember experiencing with Windows Updates, not whole new Windows builds. Perhaps this was a big one for some reason? It did try to install an anti-malware definition alongside it, so maybe it was just a weird interaction between Windows Update and the Windows 10 in-place build upgrade. Maybe it's something new though.

microsoft-2015-windows-10-10159-lock.jpg

The lock screen is the next obvious change. It contains the new Windows branding that was announced a couple of weeks ago. The slanted window was made out of glass, fog, and projected light. Even though it fits the previous branding, Microsoft made a big deal out of it.

The major change occurs once logged in. Microsoft Edge is no longer referred to as “Project Spartan”, and it is basically a full-fledged web browser now. Its performance is great, and it is nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to browser compatibility. I do feel that the interface is kind-of ugly, though. Granted, the soft fonts are probably easier to scale between high and low DPI monitors, but I would prefer something more crisp. Likewise, the big, featureless, rectangular UI elements are likely a compromise for touch displays, but I've always thought they were placeholder during development builds. Then again, I find basically every browser to be bland, so there's that.

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Other UI elements were altered as well. For instance, while I don't pay too much attention to elements in the notification tray, I am pretty sure that Quiet Hours and the OneNote shortcut are new. While “Note” is obvious, it opens OneNote, Quiet Hours apparently gives a toggle to disable notifications. This is not a new feature, dating back to Windows 8 and Windows Phone apparently, but it has a new home in the notification area.

We're getting close to the July 29th “release” date and might see several builds before then, too. Builds are mostly merging work into a stable core at this point. According to BuildFeed, fbl_impressive, the branch of Windows 10 that is given to Windows Insiders, is up to build 10164, which was created on July 1st. We're not going to see every build of course, some are destined to partners for instance, but the distance between QA-approved builds is shrinking. Unless something is broken that you hope Microsoft will fix or you can afford the time to upgrade, it might be useful to switch to slow until launch. You could always flip to Fast if something cool comes up, although there is sometimes a lag before Windows Update changes your branch if you do that.

Source: Microsoft

Windows 10ish, coming July 29ish

Subject: General Tech | July 3, 2015 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

No rumours this Friday but more confusion out of Redmond as Microsoft announces that the July 29th launch date for Windows 10 may or may not apply to you.  Brave members of the Windows Insider program will be able to install the new OS on that date but others may see their date moved into August as the OS will be rolled out in waves.  Even more interesting is that many may see a message recommending you reach out to an application provider or device manufacturer before upgrading if the tool identifies something on your machine that may not be compatible with Windows 10.  You will still be able to upgrade if you wish but you might want to double check which hardware is being flagged.  Check the story at The Register for the current list of applications which will not survive the upgrade process, including Windows Media Centre as Scott reported on.

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"We already knew the OS will start shipping to members of the Windows Insider program on July 29. On Thursday, however, Microsoft OS boss Terry Myerson explained in a blog post that not everyone should expect to receive their updates on that date."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #356 - Fury X Pump Whine, ASUS MG279Q FreeSync Monitor, GTX 980 Ti STRIX and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2015 - 02:39 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, fury x, pump whine, asus, mg279q, freesync, strix 980ti, gtx 980ti, seasonic, snow silent, zotac, zbox

PC Perspective Podcast #356 - 07/02/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Fury X Pump Whine, ASUS MG279Q FreeSync Monitor, GTX 980 Ti STRIX 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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More fancy new memory, STT-RAM from Avalanche

Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2015 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: STT-MRAM, Avalanche, pram, RRAM, non-volatile RAM, NRAM

STT-MRAM, Spin Transfer Torque Magnetic Random Access Memory, actually uses the spin of an electron to record a 1 or 0 making it quite scalable, though Avalanche's current proof of concept is built on a 55nm process.  Avalanche is hoping that their use of the common Serial Peripheral Interface bus and standard CMOS 300mm process will make this type of RAM easier to adopt than some of the other types of non-volatile RAM being developed such as RRAM, NRAM and Toshiba's STT-MRAM.  STT-MRAM can be incredibly fast, scale down well below 10nm and will not need multiple layers, which will reduce the heat produced even in extremely high densities.  Check out more on how they have designed their version of STT-MRAM over at The Register.

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"Startup Avalanche is sampling an STT-RAM chip offering DRAM/SRAM speed, persistent storage, unlimited endurance and scalability beyond 10nm."

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Source: The Register

Stories of Mel; a Portal 2 mod of decent length and better pricing

Subject: General Tech | July 1, 2015 - 03:49 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Portal 2, Stories of Mel

Stories of Mel is a Portal 2 mod which takes place between the two games, with a length that sounds similar to the original game.  There is new music, voice acting and even a redesigned Portal gun all available for free for owners of Portal 2 on Steam.  The embedded video below gives you a sense of the ambience you can expect from the game without giving away many hints as to the content.  If you already have the Portal games then head over to Steam to pick up the mod, which installs as a separate game and if you don't then you owe it to yourself to pay the ~$30 to pick up both games.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN has links for Steam as well as the projects homepage if you want to show your thanks.

"Mel brings a new protagonist with a new companion sphere, boasting over 300 new voiced lines, an hour of original music, and 22 levels that its creators say may take anywhere from four to twelve hours to complete depending on how well you think with portals. It looks quite pretty. And it’s entirely free (if you own Portal 2, natch), available direct through Steam."

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WiFi Password sharing, a little known Windows Phone feature is about to hit the big time

Subject: General Tech | July 1, 2015 - 03:25 PM |
Tagged: Wi-Fi Sense, _optout, windows 10

Wi-Fi Sense has been a feature on phones running Windows 8.1, entering in your password on the phone would allow a computer logged in with the same Microsoft account to connect to your own wireless, with the password stored and encrypted on a Microsoft server.  It looks as though this feature will be available on all Windows 10 devices, sharing your wireless passwords with all of your Outlook, Skype and even Facebook contacts if you enable it.  This is certainly handy for when visiting as you will not need to ask for the wireless password at a friends house but does raise some security concerns.  If you happen to have Outlook contacts on your work machine which are not necessarily co-workers, they would be able to access your corporate network, as unfortunately would their contacts and even worse so could anyone who had compromised any of those accounts or machines.  The password is encrypted and not easy to access directly and the application does seem to limit access to WAN, somehow blocking access to the LAN even with proper credentials.  As The Register rightly points out, if a password is the totality of your access management protocols, you are already doing it wrong but this is something all users should be aware of.

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"A Windows 10 feature, Wi-Fi Sense, smells like a security risk: it shares Wi-Fi passwords with the user's contacts."

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Source: The Register

A new type of switch on the Matias Tactile Pro

Subject: General Tech | June 30, 2015 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: input, matias, tactile pro 4

The Matias Tactile Pro is made by a mysterious entity called The Keyboard Company but is branded as Matias.  It uses their own type of switches which they mention are ALPS inspired and MadShrimps found them to be almost as loud as a typewriter but without the ringing noise present in their previous switches.  This is a working keyboard as opposed to a gaming keyboard, worth looking at if you spend a lot of time typing or if you have a close office neighbour you want to drive insane.

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"The Keyboard Company has just started to bring in the Matias Tactile Pro and has lots of stock for potential enthusiast buyers. The newer v4 version is featuring re-engineered Matias Click switches compared to v3 and are meant to eliminate the ringing sound of the previous Fukka."

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Source: Mad Shrimps

A fun day in the world of fibre connectivity

Subject: General Tech | June 30, 2015 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: fibre optics

Two records were recently made with fibre optic connections, one for speed and one for length.  Researchers at Huawei and Proximus, who operate out of Belgium, recently transmitted data over a 1,040km fiber link at 1.4Tbps using Proximus' optical backbone.  Even more impressive for the network geeks out there was the spectral efficiency of the transmission, at 5.7 bits per second per Hertz, a new record for these researchers to be proud of.

Not to be out done, and putting Ryan's Ethernet run to shame, is a link that spanned 12,000 km (7,456 miles) without a repeater.  Certainly not at the speeds in the aforementioned link but a huge step in extending the reach of fibre based networks without the problems associated with simply increasing the strength of the signal.

fiber_optics.jpg

"Proximus and Huawei have successfully trialled a super-channel optical signal, flinging out information at up to one terabit per second (Tbps)."

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Source: The Register

Samsung Publishes Battery Enhancement Tech with Silicon

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 26, 2015 - 04:53 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, battery

When I was in my Physics program, there was a running joke that the word “Nano” should be a red flag when reading research papers. This one has graphene and nanoparticles, but it lacks quantum dots and it looks privately funded by a company, so we might be good. Kidding aside, while I have little experience with battery technology, they claim to have surrounded silicon anodes for lithium batteries with a layer of graphene.

samsung-2015-nature-battery-graphene.jpg

Image Credit: Samsung via Nature

This addition of graphene is said to counteract an issue where silicon expands as it is used and recharged. The paper, which again is the first source that I have seen discuss this issue, says that other attempts at using silicon adds vacant space around the anode for future growth. If you can keep the material at the same volume over its lifespan, you will be able to store more electricity in smaller devices. I wonder why Samsung would want something like that...

Source: Nature

Windows Hololens is headed to space

Subject: General Tech | June 26, 2015 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, hololens

The new Windows Hololens will be headed to the ISS to let the NASA ground crew see through the eyes of astronauts onboard and even to annotate the view in real time.  Instead of using cameras and audio instructions, an astronaut could look at a peice of equipment and the engineer on the ground could overlay a visual of what repairs or changes would need to be completed, or text annotations giving details of the equipment.  One can only hope that the public might one day get a chance to see the ISS through the eyes of someone onboard.  The Inquirer also mentions several other projects the Hololens will be used in, from virtual tours of Mars to use in an underwater training facility to make the illusion of being in orbit even more convincing and valuable as training for future astronauts.  These devices will be wonderful for gaming but there are many other applications that they will be used for.

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"Early demonstrations of Hololens included scenarios involving NASA researchers walking virtually on the surface of Mars through a sister project called OnSight, but now the idea has been extended to real-life interaction with ISS astronauts."

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Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #355 - AMD R9 Fury X, Sapphire Nitro R9 390, Batman: Arkham Knight and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 25, 2015 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, fury x, Fury, Fiji, nvidia, gtx 980ti, maxwell, gm200, batman, arkham knight, gameworks, r9 390, sapphire, nitro, Intel, Braswell, Cherry Trail, Lenovo, thinkcentre

PC Perspective Podcast #355 - 06/25/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD R9 Fury X, Sapphire Nitro R9 390, Batman: Arkham Knight 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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The rumours of ECS's withdrawl were greatly exaggerated

Subject: General Tech | June 25, 2015 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: msi, rumour

In response to the news yesterday that ECS would be withdrawing from the DIY motherboard market, Sunny Yang, President of ECS released a statement denying any accuracy to that rumour.  He cites their participation in Computex where they showed off some of their new LEET gaming motherboard in addition to the LIVA mini-PC which received far more attention from the press.  They will still have a lot of struggling to do to take market from ASRock, Gigabyte and ASUS, not to mention MSI.  Here is to hoping their new products stand out and that their Dragon gaming Ethernet solution really does help with latency.

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Source: ECS

Warner Bros. Suspends Arkham Knight PC Sales

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | June 24, 2015 - 10:10 PM |
Tagged: batman, wb games, consolitis, gameworks, pc gaming, nvidia, amd

Over the last few days, the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight has been receiving a lot of flak. Sites like PC Gamer were unable to review the game because they allege that Warner Brothers would not provide pre-release copies to journalists except for the PS4 version. This is often met with cynicism that can be akin to throwing darts in an unlit room with the assumption that a dartboard is in there somewhere. Other times, it is validated.

wbgames-2015-batman-arkham-knight.jpg

Whether or not the lack of PC review copies was related, the consensus is that Arkham Knight is a broken game. After posting a troubleshooting guide on the forums to help users choose the appropriate settings, WB Games has pulled the plug and suspended the game's sales on Steam until the issues are patched.

TotalBiscuit weighs in on the issues with his latest "Port Report".

No-one seems to be talking about what the issue is. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don't have the game myself so I cannot look and speculate based on debug information (which they probably disabled from the released game anyway). I could wildly speculate about DX11 limits from the number of elements on screen, but that is not based on any actual numbers. They could be really good at instancing and other tricks to keep the chunks of work being sent to the GPU as large as possible. I don't know. Whatever the issue is, it sounds pretty bad.

Source: WB Games

Samsung Laptops Disable Windows Update Automatically

Subject: General Tech | June 24, 2015 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: windows update, Samsung, notebook, Malware

A report from Paul Thurrott draws an uncomfortable comparison between the behavior of Samsung's notebook software and the recent Superfish controversy, and should be cause for concern for anyone using Samsung laptops with factory software.

SW_Update.jpg

Image credit: Samsung

The behavior is rather malware-like, as Thurrott point out: "In disabling Windows Update, the Samsung utility is behaving like malware—is, in fact, malware—which of course opens this event up to a comparison with Lenovo’s Superfish fiasco."

This behavior is apparently designed to prevent Microsoft drivers from installing over Samsung's proprietary versions, but this obviously has significant security implications. The fact that this happens automatically in the background is a signifant breach of trust for consumers. This discovery was initially made by a Microsoft MVP, Paul Barker, who posted this response from Samsung on his blog:

“When you enable Windows updates, it will install the Default Drivers for all the hardware no laptop which may or may not work,” he was told. “For example if there is USB 3.0 on laptop, the ports may not work with the installation of updates. So to prevent this, SW Update tool will prevent the Windows updates.”

There are instructions for disabling this software, but it might just be time for all of us to go to the trouble of creating our own official restore media and starting fresh with a clean install of Windows.

Source: Petri

ECS getting out of the retail motherboard business?

Subject: General Tech | June 24, 2015 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: ECS, motherboards, rumours

According to rumours DigiTimes has heard, ECS motherboards may no longer be sold by themselves and will only be found in OEM builds.  With the slowdown in the DIY PC market, arguably caused in part by a lack of reasons to completely upgrade gaming systems, ECS may be withdrawing from the market.  This bears to reason as their motherboard families have been much smaller than the competitions for a while now and you do not see much marketing for them on sites recently. It is always sad to see the marketplace shrink, hopefully this will give them the ability to focus more on their tablets and laptops and make those products more competitive; though that market is even tougher to succeed at than the motherboard business.

ecs-elitegroup_f.png

"Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) has announced that it will no longer actively market own-brand DIY motherboards but will undertake ODM/OEM production if clients have demand, and this is the equivalent of a gradual withdrawal from the global own-brand DIY motherboard market, according to Taiwan-based supply chain makers."

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Source: DigiTimes