You got air in my LiOn battery! Oh wait ...

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2015 - 12:48 PM |
Tagged: Li-air, battery

Many great discoveries happen accidentally, when a scientist is attempting to create a new material or upgrade an existing one, only to stumble upon something different or to achieve the desired results in an unexpected way.  Such was the case for K M Abraham who was trying to improve the performance of LiOn batteries when one of his batteries sprung a leak and allowed air into the cells.  Over the past twenty years we have barely managed to triple the power of batteries so any advancement in battery technology is welcome even ones which seem at first to have serious drawbacks.  The problem with this particular battery design is in the formation of Li2O2 deposits as the battery discharges which will eventually render the battery nonchargeable and useless.   Read on at The Register to see how that problem has been overcome and the possible uses of this new type battery.

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"Rather than try to fix the leak, Abraham investigated and discovered the first rechargeable lithium-air (Li-air) battery. So far this discovery hasn’t led to any technically viable products, but a paper published in Science from a University of Cambridge research group may be about to change that."

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Source: The Register

Be careful where your USB Type-C cords come from

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2015 - 03:53 PM |
Tagged: USB 3 Type-C

The introduction of USB 3 Type C has been welcomed by everyone who has to twist a USB cable three times before it will plug in but that reversible functionality could also pose a risk.  An engineer from that Alphabet company warns that because the new plugs and cords provide 3A power supply the cords have to have the correct resistor present to make sure that the correct amount of power flows through the cord.  After testing a variety of cables from Amazon, Benson Leung discovered some of the cheaper cables consider that resistor optional, skipping it or putting one in which cannot handle that amount of amperage.  This results in magic smoke being released from your shiny, new and expensive machine at worst and flaky connections at best.   Catch up with his testing at The Inquirer and make sure you are picking up cables with a reputable name attached to them.

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"A GOOGLE ENGINEER has warned people to beware of cutting corners with the purchase of the new USB Type-C cables which are set to become the standard over the coming years."

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Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #374 - Cases for the R9 Nano, Thrustmaster T150, The End of AMD Catalyst and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2015 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, r9 nano, Lian-Li, q30, q33, Thrustmaster, T150, amd, catalyst, radeon software, crimson, game ready, GFE, ECS, LIVA X2, Braswell, Intel, fallout 4, CRYORIG

PC Perspective Podcast #374 - 11/05/2015

Join us this week as we discuss cases for the R9 Nano, Thrustmaster T150, The End of AMD Catalyst 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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:21:59

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:35:50 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintree­payments.com/pcper
  3. News item of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Ryan: Coin 2.0
    2. Jeremy: Rebel Galaxy … soon to be on sale
    3. Allyn: Key Ring (stop carrying around bar codes)
  5. Closing/outro

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

Steam Launches "Item Stores"

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: valve, steam, Rust

Team Fortress 2 switched from a paid game, first seen in The Orange Box bundle, to a free-to-play title. Financially, you could say that it was supported by tips... ... tips of the hat. Some responded with a wag of their finger, but others with a swipe of their credit card. Where was I going with this? Oh right. This game put Valve on the path of microtransactions, which fuels games like DOTA 2 that aren't supported in any other way.

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Each of these item payments are done in game however, even Valve games, except for one. Rust has been chosen to introduce Item Stores on Steam. If you go to Rust's store page, you will see a category called “Items available for this game”. Clicking on it brings you to “Rust Item Store”, where you can buy in-game clothing, weapons, and sleeping bags with real money. This feature is not even available on Team Fortress 2 or DOTA 2.

While there has been some parallels drawn between this and the backtracked paid mods initiative, I don't see it. This is not attempting to take third-party content, some of which was plagiarized from free, existing mods, and sell it. This is an attempt to provide a platform for in-game purchases that already exist. If there's a story, I'd say it's how the initiative launched with a third-party game, and not one of Valve's two, popular, free-to-play titles.

Source: PC Gamer

Bethesda Blogs Fallout 4 Graphics Features

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 4, 2015 - 09:37 PM |
Tagged: fallout 4, bethesda

Fallout 4 is just a few days from release, and the hype train is roaring into the station. Bethesda titles are particularly interesting for PC hardware websites because they tend to find a way into our benchmarking suites. They're relatively demanding, open world titles that are built with a unique engine, and they are popular. They are very, very popular. Skyrim is still in our lineup even though it launched four whole years ago (although that is mostly because it's our last DirectX 9 representative).

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Being a demanding, open world title means that it has several interesting features. First, it has full time-of-day lighting and weather effects, which were updated in this release with enhanced post processing effects. A bright, daytime scene will have blue skies and a soft fog that scatters light. Materials are developed using a “Physically Based Shading” model, which is more of an artist feature, but it tends to simplify asset creation and make it much more consistent.

They also have “dynamic dismemberment using hardware tessellation”. In other words, GPUs will add detail to models as they are severed into smaller chunks. Need I say more?

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A lot of these features are seen in many other engines lately, like Unreal Engine 4, so it shouldn't be too surprising. Bokeh Depth of Field is a blurring technique to emulate how camera apertures influence out-of-focus elements. This is most obvious in small highlights, which ends up taking the shape of the camera's aperture. If a camera uses a six-blade aperture, then blurred point blooms will look like hexagons. This is very useful to emulate film. They also use “filmic tonemapping”, which is another post process effect to emulate film.

Fallout 4 seems to be making use of high-end DirectX 11-era features. While this means that it should be about the best-looking game out there, it also holds a lot of promise for mods.

As you're well aware, Fallout 4 ships on November 10th (and screenshots have already leaked).

Source: Bethesda

Fallout 4 PC Screenshots Leaked (1080p Ultra)

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 03:32 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, fallout 4, bethesda

Someone on NeoGAF got their hands on Fallout 4 screenshots. These ones are from the PC, captured at 1080p with supposedly Ultra settings. I can believe it.

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Image Credit: RoboPlato on NeoGAF

Not much to be said about these, apart from “go to NeoGAF to see the rest of them”. From the spoilers side of things, near the bottom of the page, there's an image that lists a bunch of perks. It's small enough that you cannot read it unless you right-click and “view image”, so don't worry about accidentally seeing it. Otherwise, there isn't really any spoilers on that page, although I didn't check the other ones. Be careful if you start browsing the other pages of the thread.

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Image Credit: RoboPlato on NeoGAF
(See the rest of the screenshots there)

They posted their system specs, but it's kind-of irrelevant. We don't know how old their build is.

Fallout 4 launches on Tuesday (the same day as StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void -- which is irrelevant to this post, but I want you all to know my pain).

Source: NeoGAF

Welcome to the Inner Sphere; Battletech makes it

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: gaming, battlefield, harebrained schemes

This will not be the Mechwarrior of old, the new Battletech game will be turn based and resemble the tabletop version of the game in more ways than the faster paced Mechwarrior and Mech Commander series.  As mentioned in the interview by Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN with Jordan Weisman, the main creator of this world the turn based play allows you to delve far deeper into managing your mechs heat, ranges, and armor exposure in combat .  Battles will also focus more on mixed forces with crunchies and quite possibly air support present on the theater in addition to your mechs.  Read the full interview for more information on what this game will look like.  It has been fully funded and all the extra tiers were reached, including an extended single player campaign and PvP battles in the Arenas of Solaris VII, you can still get in on the action on their second chance pledge page.

"This is a turn-based game, and that allows us to dive a little deeper into what makes a mech a mech. When you’re real-time, you have to kind of… not allow the player to dive into that kind of depth because there’d be too much information overflow and decision paralysis,” Weisman said."

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The fight for a wireless power standard is down to two

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: Qi, wireless power, Airfuel Alliance, Wireless Power Consortium

We have seen several solutions for wirelessly charging your mobile devices emerge recently which cause some to worry this would create an ecosystem of incompatible solutions.  Today two of the major players in Wireless Power merged to form the Airfuel Alliance.  Those two players were supported by Broadcom, Intel, Samsung and several others while the WPC is backed by big names such as Microsoft, Motorola, Philips and Qualcomm.  WPC's branding is Qi, while AA's members use a mix of magnetic resonance and induction systems with Rezence being their widest known branding.  Currently there are products such as the Apple watch which use Qi, with Intel prototyping charging stations using AA's solutions.  With only two major players left there is much less chance of this particular market fragmenting and becoming frustrating for consumers.  Read on at The Register for more.

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"The battle for wireless power supremacy is now a straight fight between two groups following the merger of the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) into the Airfuel Alliance."

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Source: The Register

Roccat Kiro Is Very Ambidextrous

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 07:32 AM |
Tagged: roccat, gaming mouse

While it used to be next-to impossible to find ambidextrous mice with thumb buttons, it's fairly common these days. This is coming from a left-handed PC gamer. We now have several options, including a few options that are exclusively for south paws. This one is a little different, though. Roccat decided to make an ambidextrous mouse with removable covers for the thumb buttons. This change allows the user to convert the mouse from left-handed thumb buttons, to right-handed thumb buttons, to both, to neither.

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Unfortunately, Roccat doesn't say exactly how many buttons there are. I'm looking specifically at the front middle. It looks like a simple scroll wheel with a single button behind it. Roccat calls the wheel a “2D Titan Wheel” but, as far as I can tell, and I've searched for quite a while about this, it's just their brand name for a high-quality, one dimensional scroll wheel. Physically speaking, a “2D scroll wheel” should have tilt, but it doesn't seem to. 2D is up, down, left, right; 1D is up and down; 0D is a point, which I guess would be a button?

Anyway, the customization feature sounds nice, but I'm not sure how useful it is in practice. It could be nice for a family, where some users are right-handed and others are left-handed. A single person is going to stick with a single handedness, though. This makes me consider other uses cases, where a single user would want to adjust their button layout for reasons other than handedness. Perhaps the user doesn't want to feel buttons under their pinky and ring finger when playing certain genres, but want it for some reason (DPI adjustment?) in other games. It's a struggle, but maybe there's a potential market for it.

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This is the same mouse as above, just with its sides replaced.

On the other hand, Roccat plans to release “3D print support”. Maybe the draw was never intended to be the four included panels. Perhaps the goal is to provide a platform for users to create their own sides, and the ambidextrous nature was just the default for non-enthusiasts (or until the user gets around to making their own)?

Pricing and availability have not been announced on their website, but Tom's Hardware seems to think it's $49.99, and available November 27th. It's probably in a newsletter or press release that I missed.

Source: Roccat

Microsoft Updated Windows End of Sales Dates

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 07:05 AM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, windows 8, Windows 7, windows 10, microsoft

Officially, the only version of Windows that you can purchase standalone is Windows 10. Sales of Windows 7 ended on October 31st, 2013, and retail availability Windows 8.x ended on September 1st. Unofficially, you can find SKUs available on Amazon and elsewhere for both of these versions, and in several different editions.

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PCs with Windows pre-installed follow their own calendar, though. Almost two years ago, Microsoft announced that Windows 7 PCs will be available until October 31st, 2014, with an extension for Windows 7 Professional that will be at least 12 months after... whenever they decide to announce the date. They announced the date a few days ago and, you guessed it, it's 12 months from then: October 31st, 2016. They also announced that PCs with Windows 8.1 pre-installed will have the same end of sales date.

So basically, you can only purchase Windows 10 now, and PCs will only have it pre-installed after October 31st, 2016... officially.

Source: Microsoft

Another Video About the Early Days of PC Audio

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 09:22 PM |
Tagged: sound blaster 16, Sound Blaster, pc gaming, Creative, audio, ad lib

About two weeks ago, we highlighted a video by “The 8-Bit Guy” about the earliest computer audio implementations. It focused on the engineering side, how a series of channels, made up of square waves, triangles waves, noise, and occasionally PCM recordings, could be mixed to generate sound.

This video discusses a similar era from a slightly different perspective. Beep is a documentary video and book series that started on Kickstarter. This segment is an interview with Rich Heimlich, the person behind the company Top Star. They did third-party QA for video game companies. He was approached by Martin Prevel, a professor at Université Laval in Quebec, who had the idea of an add-in sound card. It used the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip, which you might remember from The 8-Bit Guy's video.

The interview delves into the more business aspects of the industry, though. For example, one of Ad Lib's biggest issues was that PCs did not have a lot of room for expansion. It was difficult to convince the consumer to give up a whole ISA add-in slot for audio. Heimlich remembers a strong consumer backlash against dedicated audio that they needed to overcome. Gamers needed to choose between sound, clock, storage, and so forth. Beyond that, the PC, with software like LOTUS 123, brought hardware that wasn't just considered “a toy” into the home. It brought a huge wave of hardware in, but it wasn't considered a serious gaming platform until titles like Myst came out for them.

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At some point, Creative noticed this whole situation. They contacted Rich Heimlich and showed them the “Killer” (later “Sound Blaster”) card. The switch in power from Ad Lib to Creative was interesting, which Heimlich says had nothing to do with the digital audio feature, since that was not even used until two years after Creative surpassed Ad Lib in market share. He attributes it to the initial problem, which is a lack of add-in card real estate. The Sound Blaster had a GamePort, which let users justify filling that socket with both audio and a joystick port, which would be two sockets with Ad Lib's solution. It was also cheaper than the Ad Lib.

The interview goes on to discuss the Ad Lib vs Creative war to their next-generation product, Ad Lib Gold vs Sound Blaster 16. He alleges that, since Creative had better connections within Yamaha, they kept Ad Lib's card out of certification until Sound Blaster 16 was in the market. It then continues to talk about reverse-engineering “Sound Blaster-compatible” and so forth. It then continues for a while, even talking about OS/2 at the end of it.

It is definitely worth a view.

Source: Beep

Meet Windows Universal Apps, they'll run on anything

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Microsoft Store, windows 10, Windows Universal Apps

Microsoft is really opening up their app store for people to develop software for users to pick up with what they are calling Windows Universal Apps.  These apps will run on any Windows device and are not locked into the infamous tile interface once known as Metro.  Even more interesting is that you will not need Visual Studio to develop these, you can use assets imported from other available resources to build your app.  They also have a simulator to allow you to run your app in full screen while still in development mode as well as allowing you to manage the contents of an app collection without committing a change, giving you a chance to screw up by the numbers without negatively affecting anything outside of your test environment.  This could really help grow the Microsoft Store app ecosystem with interesting new applications and of course the inevitable detritus which clutters any and all app stores.  Check out the full story at The Inquirer.

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"MICROSOFT HAS RELEASED a major update to the Windows App Studio which will allow users to become developers without a lick of code, and without going via Visual Studio."

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Source: The Inquirer

Actually, Microsoft Wants LESS of Your Data?

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: onedrive, microsoft, cloud storage

They apparently want, at most, 1TB of it.

Last year, almost to the day, I wrote about Microsoft upgrading their 1TB OneDrive offer to unlimited. Granted, I was about a week late in my reporting of their announcement, but the November 2nd publish date is still amusing none-the-less. Regardless, they have reverted this decision. Unlimited plans will be reduced to 1TB, and free plans will be reduced from 15GB to 5GB. The 15GB “camera roll” bonus will also be removed. These changes will take effect in “early 2016”.

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Officially, the change was prompted by users who stored whole movie collections and DVR recordings to the cloud, using up over 75TB of storage. Interestingly, they say that this is “14,000 times the average”. This means that “the average” user stores about 5.4GB of data on OneDrive. Granted, mean values are somewhat skewed by outliers, as the 75TB example suggests. If 14,000 users were on the service, of which only one person used it at all, but that one person put 75TB on it, then the average would be the same. It's a data point nonetheless, though.

After these changes occur, you will have about 12 months before Microsoft will force you to cull the storage that you are using. You just will not be able to add to it until then. Afterwards? Well, I'm not sure how Microsoft will know what is most important to delete. Probably best to do it yourself.

Source: Microsoft

Awesome Games Done Quick 2016 List Announced

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming

Games Done Quick, a charity that speedruns games on video for donations, has just published their list of submissions for their upcoming session. The PC is well represented with its exclusive titles and ports from other platforms. Awesome Games Done Quick 2016 will take place in early January, from the 3rd to the 10th, and raise money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

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The list of “green” games is quite diverse, from Mirror's Edge to Alien Swarm, Shovel Knight, Super Meat Boy, Tony Hawk's Underground 2, and Half Life 2. The previous event, Summer Games Done Quick 2015, supported Doctors Without Borders and brought in $1,233,844.10 USD. The Winter events tend to do a little better, though. Maybe this one can cross $2 million?

If you're interested, check out the list.

Windows 10 Market Share Report and Other Thoughts

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2015 - 09:56 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

According to NetMarketShare, Windows 10 now makes up around 7.94% of all desktop PCs. For comparison, all versions of Mac OSX combined total about 8% on this survey. It is behind Windows 8.1 and Windows XP though, which sit at 10.68% and 11.68% respectively. Windows 7 is still the overwhelming majority at 55.71%.

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The OS has a few controversies associated with it, though. Some are warranted, some are not, and still others lay between. The first issue is that the reservation application has been known to download Windows 10, even without permission to do so (and redownload the several-gigabyte file if removed). This isn't counted on the market share survey of course, since the OS isn't actually installed, but it can be annoying for users will small main drives or metered internet connections. For people with satellite broadband, this will probably ruin your whole month.

Microsoft has also just announced that Windows 10 will be pushed to Windows Update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.x at some point in 2016. It will not automatically install, you will need to accept the EULA, but it will automatically download. Intentionally.

There's also some (many) concerns about privacy and data collection policies. Part of it is because Microsoft is pushing a free operating system without a clear business model, which leaves a lot of room to speculate what the value actually is. Many of these concerns aren't really possible, if only because too many people would need to be involved for the lack of leaks, but some level of concern is useful. For instance, there has yet to be a sufficient explanation of what “AutoLogger-Diagtrack-Listener.etl” does, precisely and specifically. Does it pipe everything you do to every advertiser and government acronym in the world?

No. Of course not.

It is an area that Microsoft, and basically all of their competitors, should improve upon, though.

Treyarch Plans Mod Support in 2016 for Black Ops III on PC

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2015 - 08:39 PM |
Tagged: treyarch, call of duty, Activision

It's always good when a major franchise decides to add (or re-add) mod support. This time it's Call of Duty. Treyarch, who developed just under half of the titles in the main series, will bring the feature to Call of Duty: Black Ops III for the PC. An unranked dedicated server will also be available, because ranking players using modded content is not exactly... fair... for any reasonable mod tool set, across all possible creations.

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They intend to allow custom maps and game modes, which leaves a few open questions. Are custom assets a part of “custom maps and game modes”? What sort of scripting options will be available? Does this mean that users cannot add custom weapons (or even vehicles)? Then you can get into more specific questions, like HUD possibilities and such. Thankfully, we have enough options for “Total Conversion” mods these days, with Unreal, Crytek, Unity, and others letting just about anyone access top-tier tools, in a variety of languages and platforms.

Treyarch is planning to release a closed alpha of the mod tools in March.

Source: Treyarch

The sad tale of the refresh that failed to quench the desires of Windows users

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2015 - 12:31 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, market share

Of the total PC market Windows holds just over 90%, Linux 1.57% and Mac around 8% which is about what it was a year ago.  The release of Windows 10 has not created a surge in Microsoft users, nor has it caused the migration to Linux that so many claimed they would do after the EoL of Windows XP.  Worse news for Microsoft is that there are more people using Windows 7 than there were 12 months ago, 55.71% compared to 53.05%.  Even Windows 8 users are not shifting in any significant amount, 13.22% compared to 16.8% last year.  Even with the dearth of new hardware to spur an upgrade cycle the numbers show that consumers have little to no interest in updating to Microsoft's newest platform.  Perhaps the negative press surrounding some of the contentious features which Microsoft introduced in the new OS have harmed the upgrade cycle in addition to the lack of a driving reason to do a full system upgrade.  For more on these interesting times in the PC market you can check the original story at The Inquirer.

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"Things are almost stagnant elsewhere, which is a worry because it seems that, although Windows 10 is gaining ground, very slightly, it doesn't seem to be at the significant expense of anything else."

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Source: The Inquirer

Batman: Arkham Knight Refunds Extended Through End of 2015

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2015 - 09:45 AM |
Tagged: Warner Brothers, Warner Bros Games, steam, refund, console port, batman arkham knight

In a move that does nothing to inspire confidence in the future of console ports to PC, Warner Bros. has issued a statement apologizing for the continuing issues with Batman: Arkham Knight, announcing the availability of full refunds for anyone who purchased the game on Steam through the end of this year.

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The refund offer has no restrictions on play time, allowing those who purchased the game at any time to get their money back. This unprecedented move, coming after the removal of the PC game for sale on Steam and subsequent re-release last week, dooms the PC port of Batman: Arkham Knight. With the announcement Warner Bros. Games appears to be withdrawing support, as they previously had been promising fixes for the problems plaguing the game.

It remains to be seen if Warner has simply decided to cut their losses and rely on console sales for the latest entry in the Batman franchise. The question going forward will be whether Warner attempts to port the next installment to the PC at all after this disastrous release.

It's not Logitech, it's not RAM, it's the G.SKILL Ripjaws MX780 gaming mouse

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2015 - 07:03 PM |
Tagged: input, MX780 RGB, G.Skill, ripjaws

Trying to keep branding straight in your mind is not an easy task, especially when companies mix old branding from competitors with their own current branding for a completely different type of product.  Branding aside, the G.SKILL Ripjaws MX780 sports eight fully customizable buttons and the height, length and width of much of the mouse can be adjusted via screws as we first saw back in the Cyborg Rat 7 and other similar devices.  The software from G.SKILL allows you to program the buttons, polling rate, DPI sensitivity and the seven different LEDs on the mouse.  Check out how well the mouse performs at Overclockers Club.

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"The main problem I found with this mouse is with using cloth mouse pads – lifting the mouse would cause it to stop working momentarily when sat back down as if it were recalibrating. Using a hard surface the mouse worked perfectly. I used a Ratpadz hard pad, an XTracGear Ripper cloth pad, and a Corsair Gaming Mouse Mat cloth pad. Only the hard plastic pad worked reliably when lifting the mouse and setting it down."

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Google to merge Chrome and Android into their One True OS

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2015 - 01:25 PM |
Tagged: chrome, Android, google

It has been long suspected that eventually Google would merge their two operating systems into one and we now have a rumoured date, 2017.  An Android runtime for the Chrome OS already exists and almost any Android app can be modified to run on a Chrome powered device but we now have confirmation that the two will finally merge under the Android brand.  The new OS will remain open sourced and programmers may be enticed into programming more applications as they would only need to make one application instead of needing to write two versions.  Pop by The Inquirer for more speculation.

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"ALPHABET SUBSIDIARY Google (still sounds weird, right?), is reportedly planning to merge Chrome OS and Android into a single platform."

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Source: The Inquirer