The internet may be getting a little more international

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2014 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: Internet, icann, iana, ntia

The root DNS of the internet has been run by National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a division of of the US Government though in truth they contracted out this responsibility to the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and their Internet Assigned Numbers Authority.   This will not really change much in the way that the root DNS has handled but is more a handover of official responsibility as the US Government hands off it's past role as overseer of the internet.  If ICANN and IANA are unfamiliar to you then pop over to The Register for a very brief overview of what they actually do.

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"The US Department of Commerce is ready to leave the keys to the internet's worldwide DNS system in the hands of non-profit net overseer ICANN."

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Source: The Register

GDC 14: OpenGL ES 3.1 Spec Released by Khronos Group

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 17, 2014 - 09:01 AM |
Tagged: OpenGL ES, opengl, Khronos, gdc 14, GDC

Today, day one of Game Developers Conference 2014, the Khronos Group has officially released the 3.1 specification for OpenGL ES. The main new feature, brought over from OpenGL 4, is the addition of compute shaders. This opens GPGPU functionality to mobile and embedded devices for applications developed in OpenGL ES, especially if the developer does not want to add OpenCL.

The update is backward-compatible with OpenGL ES 2.0 and 3.0 applications, allowing developers to add features, as available, for their existing apps. On the device side, most functionality is expected to be a driver update (in the majority of cases).

opengl-es-logo.png

OpenGL ES, standing for OpenGL for Embedded Systems but is rarely branded as such, delivers what they consider the most important features from the graphics library to the majority of devices. The Khronos Group has been working toward merging ES with the "full" graphics library over time. The last release, OpenGL ES 3.0, was focused on becoming a direct subset of OpenGL 4.3. This release expands upon the feature-space it occupies.

OpenGL ES also forms the basis for WebGL. The current draft of WebGL 2.0 uses OpenGL ES 3.0 although that was not discussed today. I have heard murmurs (not from Khronos) about some parties pushing for compute shaders in that specification, which this announcement puts us closer to.

The new specification also adds other features, such as the ability to issue a draw without CPU intervention. You could imagine a particle simulation, for instance, that wants to draw the result after its compute shader terminates. Shading is also less rigid, where vertex and fragment shaders do not need to be explicitly linked into a program before they are used. I inquired about the possibility that compute devices could be targetted (for devices with two GPUs) and possibly load balanced, in a similar method to WebCL but no confirmation or denial was provided (although he did mention that it would be interesting for apps that fall somewhere in the middle of OpenGL ES and OpenCL).

The OpenGL ES 3.1 spec is available at the Khronos website.

Source: Khronos

An SSD Supercomputer?

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2014 - 10:27 PM |
Tagged: supercomputer, solid state drive, NSF, flash memory

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We know that SSD's help any system perform better by reducing the storage bottlenecks we all experienced from hard disk drives. But how far can flash storage go in increasing performance if money is no object?? Enter the multi-million dollar world of supercomputers. Historically supercomputers have relied on the addition of more CPU cores to increase performance, but two new system projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) will try a different approach: obscene amounts of high-speed flash storage!

The news comes as the NSF is requesting a cool $7 billion in research money for 2015, and construction has apparently already begun on two new storage-centered supercomputers. Memory and high-speed flash storage arrays will be loaded on the Wrangler supercomputer at Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), and the Comet supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC).

Check out the crazy numbers from the TACC's Wrangler: a combination of 120 servers, each with Haswell-based Xeon CPU's, and a total of 10 petabytes (10,000TB!) of high performance flash data storage. The NSF says the supercomputer will have 3,000 processing cores dedicated to data analysis, with flash storage layers for analytics. The Wrangler supercomputer's bandwidth is said to be 1TB/s, with 275 million IOPS! By comparison, the Comet supercomputer will have “only” 1,024 Xeon CPU cores, with a 7 petabyte high-speed flash storage array. (Come on, guys... That’s like, wayyy less bytes.)

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Supercomputer under construction…probably (Image credit CBS/Paramount)

The supercomputers are part of the NSF's “Extreme Digital” (XD) research program, and their current priorities are "relevant to the problems faced in computing today”. Hmm, kind of makes you want to run a big muilti-SSD deathwish RAID, huh?

March Madness: Join the PC Perspective Bracket Challenge!!

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2014 - 05:48 PM |
Tagged: march madness, contest

Well, it was a heart breaking game for my University of Kentucky Wildcats, but I'm looking forward to the NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament all the more!  In the past we have run PC Perspective bracket competitions and I had a couple of requests to do the same for 2014.

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If you are interested in joining the gang at PC Perspective for this years March Madness bracket challenge all you have to do is visit our CBSSports.com page and register an account.  You can then make your selections and see how well you predict the college basketball landscape for the tournament.

  • Visit http://www.cbssports.com/fantasy/universal
  • Select "Mayhem" as the sport
  • Input "pcper2014" as the league abbreviation
  • Password: "gobigblue"
  • Sign up for a spot!
  • Pick your bracket after the selection show tonight!
  • Win some stuff!

For the winners we are going to offer up some extra hardware we have here at the office BUT I haven't put together the list just yet.  I'm going to be asking the other editors what we have not being used and I'll update this post as soon as we come up with a final answer.

For now though, sign up, have fun and good luck!!

(Yes, you can enter from ANYWHERE in the world for this!)

Source: CBS Sports

Mozilla Dumps "Metro" Version of Firefox

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | March 16, 2014 - 03:27 AM |
Tagged: windows, mozilla, microsoft, Metro

If you use the Firefox browser on a PC, you are probably using its "Desktop" application. They also had a version for "Modern" Windows 8.x that could be used from the Start Screen. You probably did not use it because fewer than 1000 people per day did. This is more than four orders of magnitude smaller than the number of users for Desktop's pre-release builds.

Yup, less than one-thousandth.

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Jonathan Nightingale, VP of Firefox, stated that Mozilla would not be willing to release the product without committing to its future development and support. There was not enough interest to take on that burden and it was not forecast to have a big uptake in adoption, either.

From what we can see, it's pretty flat.

The code will continue to exist in the organization's Mercurial repository. If "Modern" Windows gets a massive influx of interest, they could return to what they had. It should also be noted that there never was a version of Firefox for Windows RT. Microsoft will not allow third-party rendering engines as a part of their Windows Store certification requirements (everything must be based on Trident, the core of Internet Explorer). That said, this is also true of iOS and Firefox Junior exists with these limitations. It's not truly Firefox, little more than a re-skinned Safari (as permitted by Apple), but it exists. I have heard talks about Firefox Junior for Windows RT, Internet Explorer reskinned by Mozilla, but not to any detail. The organization is very attached to its own technology because, if whoever made the engine does not support new features or lags in JavaScript performance, the re-skins have nothing to leverage it.

Paul Thurrott of WinSupersite does not blame Mozilla for killing "Metro" Firefox. He acknowledges that they gave it a shot and did not see enough pre-release interest to warrant a product. He places some of the blame on Microsoft for the limitations it places on browsers (especially on Windows RT). In my opinion, this is just a symptom of the larger problem of Windows post-7. Hopefully, Microsoft can correct these problems and do so in a way that benefits their users (and society as a whole).

Source: Mozilla

GDC 14: Valve's Steam Controller Is Similar to Dev Days

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | March 15, 2014 - 01:44 AM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 14, valve, Steam Controller

Two months ago, Valve presented a new prototype of their Steam Controller with a significantly changed button layout. While the overall shape and two thumbpads remained constant, the touchscreen disappeared and the face buttons more closely resembled something from an Xbox or PlayStation. Another prototype image has been released, ahead of GDC, without many changes.

valve-DOG_controller_MED.jpg

Valve is still in the iteration process for its controller, however. Ten controllers will be available at GDC, each handmade. This version has been tested internally for some undisclosed amount of time, but this will be the first time that others will give their feedback since the design that was shown at CES. The big unknown is: to what level are they going to respond to feedback? Are we at the stage where it is about button sizing? Or, will it change radically - like to a two-slice toaster case with buttons inside the slots.

GDC is taking place March 17th through the 21st. The expo floor opens on the 19th.

Who wouldn't want a touchscreen enabled version of Excel?

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2014 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, office, office 365, tablet

The newest member of Microsoft's cloudy version of the world's most common productivity software is called Office 365 Personal and it will provide a single license which can be used on a PC or Mac and one tablet.  The subscription will cost less than the current Office 365 Home Premium which allowed up to five devices access but only offered a version of Office dubbed Office Mobile for tablets and phones.  This will not be the watered down version of Office that ships with WinRT on Surface and while The Register was provided some hints on what the new software will look like we won't be seeing any demos until closer to the launch which will take place this Spring.

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"Microsoft will soon debut a new formulation of its Office 365 subscription service aimed at individual consumers, the company said on Thursday, and in the process it hinted that new, touch-centric Office apps may be coming soon."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #291 - EVGA GTX 780 ACX, Building a PC for Titanfall, NVIDIA's 800m GPU Lineup and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2014 - 02:58 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, evga, gtx 780, 780 ACX, acx, titanfall, 750 ti, nvidia, 800m, 860m, razer

PC Perspective Podcast #291 - 03/13/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the EVGA GTX 780 ACX, Building a PC for Titanfall, NVIDIA's 800m GPU Lineup 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
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath,  Allyn Malventano, and Morry Teitelman

 
This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset!
 
Program length: 1:16:42

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:41:35 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Leaving in the middle of podcasts
  5. Closing/outro

 

A quick project to give you all the USB chargers you could want

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2014 - 02:31 PM |
Tagged: usb, charger, DIY

Over at Hack a Day is a guide on how to convert your old chargers for devices you no longer use into a useful charger with a USB plug.  They will need to be of the 5V variety and provide at least 500 mA in order to be useful with today's gadgets with 1A being preferable; don't go so high you are at risk of killing your device though.  Apple fanatics will have to do the usual modifications to convince their iThing to accept a charge but most other devices won't care if the charger is home made or not, they just want the USB.  Do try not to set yourself or any of your possessions on fire by not testing your charger thoroughly before leaving it unattended.

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"If you’re like us, you probably have a box (or more) of wall warts lurking in a closet or on a shelf somewhere. Depending on how long you’ve been collecting cell phones, that box is likely overflowing with 5V chargers: all with different connectors."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

Intel "Wellsburg" Leaks: Haswell-E's X99 Chipset

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Chipsets | March 13, 2014 - 03:35 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Haswell-E, X99

Though Ivy Bridge-E is not too distant of a memory, Haswell-E is on the horizon. The enthusiast version of Intel's architecture will come with a new motherboard chipset, the X99. (As an aside: what do you think its eventual successor will be called?) WCCFTech got their hands on details, albeit some of which have been kicking around for a few months, outlining the platform.

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Image Credit: WCCFTech

First and foremost, Haswell-E (and X99) will support DDR4 memory. Its main benefit is increased bandwidth and decreased voltage at the same current, thus lower wattage. The chipset will support four memory channels.

Haswell-E will continue to have 40 PCIe lanes (the user's choice between five x8 slots or two x16 slots plus a x8 slot). This is the same number of total lanes as seen on Sandy Bridge-E and Ivy Bridge-E. While LGA 2011-3 is not compatible with LGA 2011, it does share that aspect.

X99 does significantly increase the number of SATA ports, to ten SATA 6Gbps (up from two SATA 6Gbps and four SATA 3Gbps). Intel RST, RST Smart Response Technology, and Rapid Recover Technology are also present and accounted for. The chipset also supports six native USB 3.0 ports and an additional eight USB 2.0 ones.

Intel Haswell-E and X99 is expected to launch sometime in Q3 2014.

Source: WCCFTech

NVIDIA Introduces New GeForce Game Bundles

Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2014 - 09:23 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, nvidia, gtx 700, GeForce 800M, game bundle, daylight

NVIDIA recently announced the launch of two new game bundles for purchasers of certain GeForce GTX desktop of GeForce 700M and 800M mobile series graphics cards. The new bundles will offer up a redeemable code for the Unreal Engine 4-powered survival horror game DAYLIGHT to buyers of new desktop cards or a total of $150 of in-game currency in three Free-To-Play titles when buying a system with a new NVIDIA mobile GPU (or as an alternative to the DAYLIGHT bundle with desktop cards).

NVIDIA GeForce Gaming Bundle Daylight.jpg

The DAYLIGHT game bundle is included with certain GeForce GTX 600 and 700-series desktop graphics cards. Users will get a redeemable code for a downloadable version of the game which can be activated on release day (April 8, 2014). Specifically, the eligible graphics cards for this bundle are as follows:

  • GTX TITAN
  • GTX 780 Ti
  • GTX 780
  • GTX 770
  • GTX 760
  • GTX 690
  • GTX 680
  • GTX 670
  • GTX 660 Ti
  • GTX 660

Alternatively, NVIDIA is offering $150 (total) in in-game currency for three free to play games to users that purchase a notebook with a 700M or 800M mobile GPU or as an alternative to the Daylight game bundle when purchasing certain desktop GPUs. The bundle will offer $50 of in-game currency for Heroes of Newerth, Path of Exile, and Warface. Users that purchase a mobile GPU (700M or 800M series) or GTX 750 Ti, GTX 750, GTX 650 Ti, or GTX 650 from a participating e-tailer or system builder will be able to get this game bundle.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX Gaming Bundle Fre-To-Play Games.jpg

According to NVIDIA, both of its new game bundles are available now with cards and pre-built systems from Newegg, Amazon, Tiger Direct, NCIX, et al, and nationwide system builders respectively. NVIDIA has put together a full list of participating partners along with further information on the following bundle information pages:

Source: NVIDIA

GDC 14: Mozilla & Epic Games Run Unreal Engine 4 in Firefox

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 12, 2014 - 09:17 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 14, mozilla, epic games, unreal engine 4

Epic Games has been wanting Unreal Engine in the web browser for quite some time now. Back in 2011, the company presented their Citadel demo running in Flash 11.2. A short while later, Mozilla and Epic ported it to raw JavaScript and WebGL. With the help of asm.js, which is a series of optimizations for JavaScript, Unreal Engine 3 was at home in the browser at near-native speed, with no plugins. Epic's Tim Sweeney and Mark Rein, in an interview with GamaSutra, said that Unreal Engine 4 will take it beyond a demo and target web browsers as a supported platform.

Today, Mozilla teases Unreal Engine 4 running in Firefox, ahead of GDC.

Speaking of speed, asm.js can now reach within 67% of native performance and Mozilla is still optimizing their compiler. While it is difficult to write asm.js-compliant code by hand, companies like Epic are simply compiling their existing C/C++ code through Emscripten into that optimized Javascript. If you have a bit of CPU overhead in your native application, it could little more than a compile away from running in the web browser, possibly any web browser on any platform, without plugins. This obviously has great implications for timeless classics that would otherwise outlive its host platform.

Both Mozilla and Epic will have demos in their booths on the conference floor.

Source: Mozilla

Valve's Direct3D to OpenGL Translator (Or Part of It)

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | March 11, 2014 - 10:15 PM |
Tagged: valve, opengl, DirectX

Late yesterday night, Valve released source code from their "ToGL" transition layer. This bundle of code sits between "[a] limited subset of Direct3D 9.0c" and OpenGL to translate engines which are designed in the former, into the latter. It was pulled out of the DOTA 2 source tree and published standalone... mostly. Basically, it is completely unsupported and probably will not even build without some other chunks of the Source engine.

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Still, Valve did not need to release this code, but they did. How a lot of open-source projects work is that someone dumps a starting blob, and if sufficient, the community pokes and prods it to mold it into a self-sustaining entity. The real question is whether the code that Valve provided is sufficient. As often is the case, time will tell. Either way, this is a good thing that other companies really should embrace: giving out your old code to further the collective. We are just not sure how good.

ToGL is available now at Valve's GitHub page under the permissive, non-copyleft MIT license.

Source: Valve GitHub

Win a GeForce GTX 750 Ti by Showing Off Your Upgrade-Worthy Rig!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 11, 2014 - 09:06 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gtx 750 ti, giveaway, geforce, contest

UPDATE:  We have our winners! Congrats to the following users that submitted upgrade worthy PCs that will be shipped a free GeForce GTX 750 Ti courtesy of NVIDIA! 

  • D. Todorov
  • C. Fogg
  • K. Rowe
  • K. Froehlich
  • D. Aarssen

When NVIDIA launched the GeForce GTX 750 Ti this month it convinced us to give this highly efficient graphics card a chance to upgrade some off-the-shelf, under powered PCs.  In a story that we published just a week ago, we were able to convert three pretty basic and pretty boring computers into impressive gaming PCs by adding in the $150 Maxwell-based graphics card.

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If you missed the video we did on the upgrade process and results, check it out here.

Now we are going to give our readers the chance to do the same thing to their PCs.  Do you have a computer in your home that is just not up to the task of playing the latest PC games?  Then this contest is right up your alley.

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Prizes: 1 of 5 GeForce GTX 750 Ti Graphics Cards

Your Task: You are going to have to do a couple of things to win one of these cards in our "Upgrade Story Giveaway."  We want to make sure these cards are going to those of you that can really use it so here is what we are asking for (you can find the form to fill out right here):

  1. Show us your PC that is in need of an upgrade!  Take a picture of your machine with this contest page on the screen or something similar and share it with us.  You can use Imgur.com to upload your photo if you need some place to put it.  An inside shot would be good as well.  Place the URL for your image in the appropriate field in the form below.
  2. Show us your processor and integrated graphics that need some help!  That means you can use a program like CPU-Z to view the processor in your system and then GPU-Z to show us the graphics setup.  Take a screenshot of both of these programs so we can see what hardware you have that needs more power for PC gaming!  Place the URL for that image in the correct field below.
  3. Give us your name and email address so we can contact you for more information if you win!
  4. Leave us a comment below to let me know why you think you should win!!
  5. Subscribing to our PCPer Live! mailing list or even our PCPer YouTube channel wouldn't hurt either...

That's pretty much it!  We'll run this promotion for 2 weeks with a conclusion date of March 13th. That should give you plenty of time to get your entry in.

Good luck!!

GDC 2014: Crytek's CRYENGINE Adds Linux Support

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 11, 2014 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: gdc 14, crytek, CRYENGINE

The Game Developers Conference (GDC 2014) is getting set for next week in San Francisco and Crytek has an early announcement. Attendees of the event, at presentations and demos in their booth, will see CRYENGINE running natively on Linux. The engine has also been updated to include their enhancements first seen in Ryse, such as "Physically Based Shading".

CE_Character-Individualization-System.jpg

This announcement gives promise to SteamOS as a viable gaming platform because games which license this engine would have an easier time porting over. That said, Unreal Engine has offered Linux compatibility for licensees, to very limited uptake. Sure, Steam could change that trend because a chicken or an egg could happen at some point -- it does not matter which comes first. Still, this is not the first popular engine to be available for Linux.

Their "Physically Based Shading" system is quite interesting, however. As I understand it, the idea is that developers can make (or maybe use) a library of materials and apply it across any game. This should hopefully reduce the number of artist man-hours to produce a generalized optimal shader. It is much slower to tweak specular highlights and vector math than it is to say "you... are gold... be gold".

The official GDC expo will take place March 19th - 21st but I expect news will flood out from now until then.

Source: Crytek

Get to know your network better with Linux

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2014 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: Bandwidthd, Speedometer, Nethogs, Darkstat, iperf, networking, linux

Over at Linux.com is a look at five network monitoring tools that will really help you determine not only what is utilizing your network but also its overall health.  Bandwidthd is a tool for web hosts and LAN admins which tallies up incoming and outgoing bandwidth usage and can present it in a variety of time frames, from usage per day to usage per year.  Nethogs tracks usage per process and Darkstat tracks total usage but comes with an embedded HTTP server which makes it fairly self contained.  Speedometer is fairly self explanatory and to understand iperf you should read the write up here as it is a powerful tool for investigating the quality of your network.

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"In this roundup of Linux network testing utilities we use Bandwidthd, Speedometer, Nethogs, Darkstat, and iperf to track bandwidth usage, speed, find network hogs, and test performance."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Linux.com

Mechwarrior Online Gets DirectX 11 Upgrades

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2014 - 02:39 AM |
Tagged: Mechwarrior

The interesting dilemma about designing a free-to-play game is that you want players to continue playing, else the creek runs dry. It has been nearly a year-and-a-half since the open beta of Mechwarrior Online in October, 2012. The latest patch, released last week, adds a DirectX 11 rendering engine to the game. While specific details are scarce, this will allow MSAA to be applied.

MechwarriorOnline.jpg

In terms of content, two new mechs have been added to the game: BNC-LM Banshee "La Malinche", and CTF-3D Cataphract. The former is an assault mech with a fairly balanced loadout, allowing for energy, ballistic, and missile weapons with double heatsinks, while the latter is a heavy mech with a focus on energy weapons with one ballistic slot for variety. Jump Jets are also tweaked for reduced mobility and incentive to add more than just one.

PC Gamer spoke with the developer and got a little extra information on future patches. First, a new matchmaking architecture is expected to launch in April. They claim it will be a complete overhaul of the whole system. They also expect 3D Vision, "proper" SLi, and TXAA will make appearances in the next couple of patches -- but don't quote them on it (oh, whoops!)

Mechwarrior Online is available now (and has been, for well over a year).

Corsair and Cherry Answer Mechanical Keyboard Questions

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | March 11, 2014 - 02:16 AM |
Tagged: corsair, cherry, Cherry MX, mechanical keyboard

A lot of diverse topics arose from the Corsair blogs, lately. This time, they compiled fan questions and enlisted mechanical switch and keyboard manufacturer, Cherry Corporation, to provide answers. Coming in at over two-thousand words, it is quite lengthy.

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Many of the questions seemed to come from long-term fans of their mechanical keyboards. One person asked whether a specific ergonomic keyboard (G80-5000) would make a return, while another inquired about Cherry-branded Hall Effect switches (presumably for analog controls). In all, if you are interested in mechanical keyboards, it is worth a read. They kept a little secret sauce, secret, but otherwise seemed pretty open in their responses.

Source: Corsair

The fix was in, hope you saved those 14 year old receipts

Subject: General Tech | March 10, 2014 - 04:50 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, micron, Hynix, infineon, nec, toshiba, ram, dirty pool

If you bought RAM between 1998 and 2002 from Samsung, Micron, Hynix, Infineon, NEC, and Toshiba in the USA, you are entitled to a small payout, assuming you have proof of purchase.  The DRAM makers never admitted guilt and chose to settle out of court and you have until August 1st to follow the link in The Inquirer's story to put in a claim.  If you wish to opt out and sue them yourself you have until May 5th to do so but you might be better off taking the $10.

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"Remember getting hosed on those 128MB DIMM RAM sticks back in Y2K? Well, it's time to exact your revenge: with a $10 payout."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

$50 Roku Streaming Stick Is A Google Chromecast Alternative

Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2014 - 02:13 AM |
Tagged: streaming stick, roku, Netflix, media streaming, chromecast

Roku has launched a new Streaming Stick for HD TVs with HDMI inputs. The small USB flash drive-sized device is powered by USB and plugs into the HDMI input of your television. From there, users can access the Roku app store to get thousands of streaming media channels including television, movies, sports, and music. For example, users can access media from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, VUDU, Pandora, and Spotify.

The Roku Streaming Stick can pass up to 1080p video and 7.1 channel digital audio to the TV. It can be controlled via a physical remote or an Android or iOS smartphone application. Roku is using RF for the hardware remote and Wi-Fi direct for the smartphone-to-Streaming Stick connection, which means that line of sight is not necessary (which is important since most TV HDMI ports are recessed on the back panel). Speaking of wireless, the Streaming Stick pulls its media from a Wi-Fi network connection, with support for dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n networks (2.4GHz or 5GHz).

Roku Streaming Stick HDMI Version.jpg

Using the smartphone application, users can browse for and queue content. In general, the Roku stick can go out and fetch media on its own without a smartphone or computer intermediary passing the content. However, it does support limited “casting” functionality similar to Google’s Chromecast. In this mode, users, can pass YouTube, Netflix, and personal (on device) media over to the TV from the smartphone. Roku has stated that casting support for other media streams and casting from a PC is coming in the future.

Roku’s new Chromecast competitor is available for pre-order now for $49.99 with availability expected in April. The price is on the high side, but it does offer access to all of Roku’s channels, a physical remote for basic playback and navigation controls, is able to stream media on its own, and is also able to do media push functionality similar to the Chromecast (but in a more limited fashion at the moment). More devices and competition in this space is a good thing though!

Will you be picking up a Roku Streaming Stick or holding out for something else?

Source: Roku