T-Mobile now offers truly unlimited data, whether they like it or not

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2016 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: t-mobile, hack, net neutrality

This probably won't last long, so try it out now if you want or just laugh at the way telco providers completely ignore net neutrality while the debate rages on in courts and government.  It seems that T-Mobile does not count any data used in a speed test against your monthly bill, likely because customers on limited data might become quite irate at a T-Mobile tech blowing through their monthly data.  A bright young kid has found a way to take advantage of this, he discovered any media sent from any folder labelled "/speedtest" will not count against monthly data limits and set up a proxy to allow anyone take advantage of this feature. 

Drop by Slashdot for more information as well as their usual reasoned and well thought our discussion below the story, which may or may not contain numerous other ways to circumvent providers attempts at hiding the ways they circumvent their own billing for data usage.

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"Ajit writes that he then created a proxy server that allows users to access any site with this method. All a T-Mobile user has to do is go to this page and input any URL they want to visit. "Just like that, I now had access to data throughout the T-Mobile network without maintaining any sort of formal payments or contract," Ajit wrote on Medium. "Just my phone's radios talking to the network's radios, free of any artificial shackles."

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Source: Slashdot

AMD Celebrates Anniversary of Radeon Technologies Group

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 14, 2016 - 09:55 PM |
Tagged: rtg, radeon technologies group, Polaris, crimson, amd radeon, amd

It has now been a year since the formation of AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group and the graphics driven division has proven itself rather successful. Looking back with hindsight, AMD's new graphics division has enjoyed several wins with new products and advancements in driver support reclaiming market share from NVIDIA and new initiatives advancing VR, HDR, and open source visual effects.

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Specifically, the Radeon Technologies Group, led by Raja Koduri, has managed to launch its new "Polaris" graphics architecture based on a 14nm FinFET process with the RX 400 series for consumers and the Radeon Pro Duo, Radeon Pro WX series, and Radeon Pro SSG (Solid State Graphics) for professionals. The company asl hit a milestone on FreeSync monitor design wins with a total of 101 displays launched to date.

Along with actual hardware, the graphics division has shaken up branding by rolling out new driver software under the Radeon Crimson Edition brand (with 21 driver releases since release) and dropping FirePro in favor of carrying over the Radeon name to create new Radeon Pro branding for its professional series of graphics cards. Driver support has also been enhanced on Linux and the AMDGPU-Pro driver works for RX 400 series.

Further, the Radeon Technologies Group launched its GPUOpen initiative back in December to foster the creation and advancement of free and open source visual effects and productivity code that developers are free to download, modify, and share.

Speaking of market share, AMD has managed to claw back some discrete GPU market share from a lowly 18% of GPUs in Q2 2015 to nearly 30% last quarter (Q2'16). That is a very respectable jump in just a year's time especially against NVIDIA's successful Pascal launches helped both by the price/performance of RX 400 as well as much needed focus on improving driver quality and timeliness of releases. 

Where does this leave AMD and its RTG? Honestly, the graphics division is in a much better place than it was last year and it is in a decent position to survive and make a difference. There are still many unknowns and just as AMD's processor division is dependent on a successful Zen release, the graphics division will need Vega to be a hit in order for AMD to get wins on the high end and compete with NVIDIA on the flagship and performance fronts. They will further need Vega to update their professional series of cards many of which are still using the company's Fiji architecture which is not as power efficient as Pascal or future Volta (the competition).

With that said, the team had solid wins since their formation and are gearing up for the future. According to the announcement, the Radeon Technologies Group will be focusing on pushing virtual reality (VR) and HDR (high dynamic range) in gaming by working with developers, improving drivers, adding to their GPUOpen software collection, and launching new products.

From the press release:

"We’re passionate about perfecting pixels and delivering an unrivaled gaming experience for our community, and uncompromising power and creative freedom for developers and content creators. And if you think our first year was exciting, wait until you see what RTG has lined up for the future."

In the near future, Raja Koduri told Venture Beat to expect VR backpacks to be on show at CES in January and to look out for mobile Polaris graphics cards. Also, Radeon Crimson Edition may be incorporating features from recently acquired startup HiAlgo who developed software to dynamically monitor gameplay and adjust the resolution to maintain maximum frame rates and prevent overheating during long game sessions. One of their techniques called HiAlgo Switch would allow gamers to switch from full to half resolution (and back again) at the press of a hot-key button so as to keep FPS high if a gamer anticipates they are about to enter a demanding area that would normally result in low frame rates. While these techniques are not very important for desktop gaming (especially the CPU/GPU limiter to prevent overheating), all three would come in handy for mobile gamers using laptops with discrete cards or especially APUs.

I am looking forward to seeing where Raja and the RTG team go from here and what they have in store for AMD graphics.

Source: AMD

Revealing the ghost in the machine, DX12 frame times in Deus Ex

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2016 - 02:16 PM |
Tagged: frame rating, deus ex: mankind divided, dx12, gaming

Just as we do here at PC Perspective, The Tech Report relies on rating frame times to provide accurate benchmarks as opposed to the raw number of frames per second a card provides.  This means that their look at the new DX12 patch for Deus Ex focuses on different data which does not produce the same results as FRAPs would.  This shows in their results, switching to DX12 results in much longer frame times in Deus Ex, with many spikes and a significant amount of frames that take more than 50ms to refresh.  Drop by to see their full look here.

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"An early version of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's DirectX 12 rendering path is available now, and many sites and AMD itself are already producing average FPS numbers using that software. We go inside the second to see what the real story is."

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Gaming

Eight is enough, looking at how the new Telsa HPC cards from NVIDIA will work

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2016 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: pascal, tesla, p40, p4, nvidia, neural net, m40, M4, HPC

The Register have package a nice explanation of the basics of how neural nets work in their quick look at NVIDIA's new Pascal based HPC cards, the P4 and P40.  The tired joke about Zilog or Dick Van Patten stems from the research which has shown that 8-bit precision is most effective when feeding data into a neural net.  Using 16 or 32-bit values slows the processing down significantly while adding little precision to the results produced.  NVIDIA is also perfecting a hybrid mode, where you can opt for a less precise answer produced by your local, presumably limited, hardware or you can upload the data to the cloud for the full treatment.  This is great for those with security concerns or when a quicker answer is more valuable than a more accurate one.

As for the hardware, NVIDIA claims the optimizations on the P40 will make it "40 times more efficient" than an Intel Xeon E5 CPU and it will also provide slightly more throughput than the currently available Titan X.  You can expect to see these arrive in the market sometime over then next two months.

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"Nvidia has designed a couple of new Tesla processors for AI applications – the P4 and the P40 – and is talking up their 8-bit math performance. The 16nm FinFET GPUs use Nv's Pascal architecture and follow on from the P100 launched in June. The P4 fits on a half-height, half-length PCIe card for scale-out servers, while the beefier P40 has its eyes set on scale-up boxes."

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Source: The Register

Amazon Is Selling Fallout 4 for ~18$. Should You Get It?

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2016 - 01:34 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, fallout 4, bethesda

I don't usually post individual deals, but this is a fairly big drop in price for a very popular game. The physical copy of Fallout 4, for PC of course, is currently a little over $18. Since, digitally, it is still a $60 game, this is about 70% less than the price on Steam.

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I'm guessing that this deal is to clear out stock for an upcoming Game of the Year edition. This is something to keep in mind. The last DLC has just been released two weeks ago, and, if history serves, that means it won't be too long before they release the game with the DLC bundled in. Probably, if you waited this long, you should wait until that gets released (and goes on sale) to pick it up. I doubt that it would arrive before 2017, though, so it's up to you.

Source: Amazon

The holodeck down under, an update from Euclideon

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2016 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: VR, holoverse, euclideon

It is hard to believe but it was indeed five years ago when Euclideon first started talking about their Unlimited Detail technology and how it can be used to create a holodeck.  You can now visit their first hologram entertainment centre, assuming you can get to Australia where the centre is located.  The video that [H]ard|OCP posted along with their interview looks very impressive, though it is difficult to get a feeling of what it would be like inside the room.

Ryan sat down (virtually) with the CEO of Euclideon, Bruce Dell, to talk about the recent updates to their Euclideon Unlimited Detail engine, the addition of animation capability and the opening of virtual reality hologram entertainment rooms based on the tech.

The technology used to create the rooms is fascinating and very different from the polygon based rendering techniques we are accustomed to.  They have named it Unlimited Detail and describe it as using 'trillions of little computer generated atoms' to create flat images on the wall or 3D holograms inside the room. Their UD engine can also stream 3D graphics from hard drives at a speed which does not need a cache, essentially giving them unlimited video memory which they use to project the equivalent of 20,000,000 converted polygons per square metre.  Check out the article as it is well worth looking at.

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"It's been five years since we last heard from Bruce Dell of Euclideon about its Unlimited Detail Technology and how he saw it changing the gaming world. Since then Bruce has not been sitting on his hands, and are now delivering the Holoverse VR / AR experience to the folks Down Under. And a new video showing this off!"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

A new breakthrough in spine care! Read your book through the cover, or the introduction at least.

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2016 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: mit, terahertz camera, georgia tech

MIT have come up with a camera which radiates EM at terahertz frequencies which can read a bit of a closed book thanks to the difference in reflectivity between ink and paper.  This is less a spy device than a way to read ancient scrolls and parchments which could disintegrate at a touch.  The camera can only penetrate to a depth of about nine pages before the clarity of the image degrades and the text can no longer easily be read.  The software the camera communicates with is able to recognize the letters and words in the images, it is not the scientists who read the manuscripts directly.  The Inquirer points out that this means it is also capable of defeating captchas, an impressive feat in and of itself though one with possible negative repercussions.

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"IMAGINE IF you could read a book like Superman. Well, thanks to research by MIT and Georgia Tech, X-ray vision could be the next big thing in reading after the team created a camera that can read closed books."

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Source: The Inquirer

Humble Store Is Giving Away Tropico 4

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2016 - 07:09 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, Kalypso, humble bundle

Update: Annnnnnnnnnnd it's over. Sorry everyone who just noticed the post. Original below.

If you have heard about the On The House promotion from EA's Origin service, then this will sound familiar. For the next eighteen hours, the Humble Store is giving away Tropico 4 from Kalypso Media Digital. It does not include any of the expansions or DLC, but it normally retails for $17 CDN and you're getting it for free if you redeem it before it expires. Also, according to the Steam page, the game requires that users register a (free) account with Kalypso to login.

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Again, you're getting it for free, though, and I know of a few people that love it. Tropico is a city-building game of sorts, except that, instead of playing as an omnificent being that benevolently rules over a region, you play as an actual dictator. I haven't played it myself, but I just added it to my Steam account, so I'll hopefully get around to it soon.

Source: Humble Store

Adrian Courrèges Discusses DOOM Rendering Techniques

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2016 - 03:52 PM |
Tagged: doom, pc gaming, bethesda

Adrian Courrèges is a software developer who, from time to time, does a break down on rendering techniques for major gaming titles. His latest one is on DOOM, and it explains, in remarkably simple (given the subject matter) terms, how the game draws a frame at a point early in the game. Most of the information was gathered from using debug tools, but a bit was pulled from Tiago Sousa and Jean Geffroy's slide deck at last month's SIGGRAPH conference.

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I obviously cannot really summarize what the article says in this post. You kind-of need to read it for yourself. The post goes into how Vulkan is used for updating Mega-Textures, but it doesn't go into anything like asynchronous compute, though. Most of the figures are animated too, usually by a slideshow of images, but a few WebGL demonstrations are included, too.

The GTX 1050 is scheduled to launch at the end of September but ...

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2016 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: rumour, nvidia, gtx 1050

DigiTimes have heard that NVIDIA hope to release the GTX 1050 at the end of the month or early in October but there are hints it may be somewhat of a paper launch.  NVIDIA will have some silicon for sale but only a few who are quick enough on the draw will be able to purchase them; similar to the launch of the GTX 1080 and 1070 or even AMD's new cards for that matter.  Both vendors had great difficulty providing retailers with cards to sell at launch, the supply has increased and prices are much closer to the MSRP than they were a month ago but there are still plenty of out of stock models when you start looking for deals. 

Hopefully this situation will resolve soon, but for now patience is recommended for upgraders on a tight budget.

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"Nvidia's Pascal-based GeForce GTX 1080, 1070 and 1060 graphics cards are seeing strong demand from the market and therefore are currently in tight supply. To further expand into the market, Nvidia is planning to release its mid-range GTX 1050 graphics card at the end of September at the earliest."

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Source: DigiTimes

The Blender Foundation Releases Cycles 2016 Demo Reel

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2016 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: Blender

The Blender Foundation maintains the most popular, free, open-source 3D suite, Blender. One major component of any 3D application is the chunk that turns 3D geometry into one or more 2D images. This is often passed to third-party software, like mental ray or Pixar Renderman, but basically everyone has their own internal ones.

About five years ago, Blender released a new rendering engine, called Cycles, whose just-released 2016 demo reel is embedded above. Not being held back by history, they swung for the fences with it. It supports multiple GPUs (albeit mostly NVIDIA, even to this day, due to CUDA vs OpenCL at the time -- but AMD might be commissioning development soon) and integrates tightly with the editor. It produces great images, although it's very slow for cartoonish imagery (but Blender is working on a viewport renderer for that sort of content anyway).

Also, Blender with Cycles is what we used for our recent animation projects. Version 2.78 is currently in release candidate mode, and should be released very soon.

Google Continues Clamping Down on HTTP

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2016 - 11:02 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome, http, https

Many software vendors want to impose security and encryption basically everywhere. Google and Mozilla are two of the more vocal organizations about it, and they have been slowly implementing ways to discourage insecure HTTP (in favor of HTTPS). Some of these make sense, like preventing insecure sites from accessing your webcam so the video stream cannot be intercepted, while others seem a bit pushy, like lowering HTTP-based sites down in search results.

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This announcement's change is technologically benign, but is designed to make HTTP feel a bit uncomfortable. Rather than just promote HTTPS sites with a secure padlock symbol, Google Chrome 56 and later will begin to add a “not secure” label to HTTP sites. At first, Google claims that it will only mark sites that transmit sensitive data, like passwords and credit card info. They intend to expand this to all HTTP websites going forward.

Again, this has pros and cons. The main benefit of encryption is that it's much harder to view or manipulate what flies across the data stream. One major disadvantage is that the content needs to be authenticated, which is a concern for truly anonymous expressions. Google Chrome treats local, offline content as secure, but that use case could be easily forgotten, and that could have terrible rammifications, especially in areas controlled by oppressive governments that massively censor art.

Source: Google

Adam Jensen gets an upgrade and so does your AMD Driver - DX12 Deus Ex

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2016 - 04:27 PM |
Tagged: gaming, dx 12, deus ex: mankind divided, Crimson Edition 16.9.1, amd

As of today you can now try out Deus Ex: Mankind Divided with DX12 enabled if you enable beta content in the game. The fifth patch offers several bug fixes but it also allows you to try out DX12 on your system.  You can see where to head on your Steam client if you have never played with beta settings before.  Once you have enabled beta content and Steam has synced, you will see a DirectX 12 option in the game's Display Options, assuming your card supports it.

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For AMD users this should bring performance improvements as long as you first upgrade to the newly released Crimson Edition 16.9.1 driver which you can grab right here.  The release notes from Edios/Square Interactive state that 'There are no visual or gameplay differences between the two DirectX versions.' so you will not see new features in your game.  The new patch also states that it does not support multiple GPUs in DX12 so ensure you are only using a single card.

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We have not been able to test the new patch or driver as of yet, however Guru of 3D did post some quick results in an update to their review of the game.  AMD's RX 480, R9 390X and Fury X all see some improvements in 1080p and 1440p but at 4k the card's performance is already topped out.  NVIDIA's cards all showed a slight drop at lower resolutions and like AMD, 4k performance is unchanged.  The new DX12 patch is not enough to unseat the TITAN X and GTX 1080 as the top performers though.

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If you have any issues when playing the game simply disable DX12 and get back to your game.  We should see more patches in the near future as the game developers and the two GPU providers work on improving compatibility.

Source: AMD

Shove some aluminium in your ears, Kennerton's Audio Laguz earbuds

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2016 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: laguz, audio, Kennerton, earbuds

Though they somewhat resemble tiny microphones, these Kennerton Audio Laguz are indeed in-ear headphones.  They may not work on the new iPhone without an adapter but for anything else the standard plug will work just fine.  These $110 earbuds have tiny 8mm dynamic driver with a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz.  The metal body and stress relief should ensure these headphones last a while but the price is somewhat steep, then again TechPowerUp didn't seem to find that price off-putting.

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"Kennerton Audio's newest mid-end offering, the Laguz, is put to the test. Priced at $110, it will face fierce competition from the Brainwavz S5 and HiFiMAN RE-400. The Laguz is absolutely tiny and features a rugged aluminum design that is pretty unique."

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Audio Corner

Source: TechPowerUp

Podcast #416 - Intel SSD 600p, Leaked Zen Performance, new iPhone and PS4 and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2016 - 01:28 PM |
Tagged: Zen, VR, video, ssd, sony, qualcomm, ps4 pro, ps4, prodigy, power9, podcast, phanteks, logitech, iPhone 7, Intel, IBM, gtx 1050, geekbench, Enthoo, corsair, carbide, amd, a10, 600p

PC Perspective Podcast #416 - 09/08/16

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel SSD 600p, Leaked Zen Performance, new iPhone and PS4 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!

Hosts:  Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath and Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:48:53
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. Razer PAX 2016
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  4. Closing/outro

McAfee Antivirus is effective against its own death

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2016 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: mcafee, Intel, antivirus

In a strange turn of events it seems that McAfee has risen once again to appear on the marketplace in a move reminiscent of a certain Uncle Duke story line.  Intel has sold their majority stake, worth $3.1bn in cash, to a private equity firm called TPG.  Intel retains 49% of the shares, not quite breaking even on the purchase they made back in 2010 but having seen solid profits from that business while they were running it.  TPG has now renamed itself McAfee and Chris Young, the general manager of Intel Security will be a part of the new team.  Pop by The Register for more on the antivirus company that just keeps coming back, but there is no word as of yet from the company's namesake.

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"Intel is selling off a majority stake in its security software arm – formerly known as McAfee – to private equity firm TPG, which will rename itself to, er, McAfee."

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Source: The Register

Sony Announces the New PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro

Subject: General Tech | September 7, 2016 - 09:18 PM |
Tagged: sony, ps4, ps4 pro, microsoft, Project Scorpio, xbox

At today's media briefing event, Sony announced two new versions of their PlayStation 4 console. The first is not even given a new name; they are just referring to it as the “new slimmer and lighter PS4” in their marketing material. It replaces the current version with one that is about 30% smaller, 16% lighter, and 28% more power efficient, according to a press release provided by AMD.

This update will be sold for $299.99 USD ($379.99 CDN) starting on September 15th.

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The main topic of discussion was the PlayStation 4 Pro, though. Like Microsoft is doing with Project Scorpio, Sony wants the PS4 Pro to be compatible with the same catalog of titles, but do so at higher resolution and color depths. Sony claims that this generation is basically maxing out what can be done with 1080p. PC developers do not seem to have a problem using performance for new features, but the point that development costs are quickly becoming the limiting factor is valid to some extent.

In terms of specifications, while the CPU got an unspecified speed bump, the main upgrade is a new GPU, which is rated at 4.2 TFLOPs. This is about 30% slower than Microsoft's announced Project Scorpio (6 TFLOPs) but it also will arrive a year sooner. Will this lead time matter, though? The software catalog is already being built up by both companies, and it has been since each console launched in 2013.

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Did they ever explain the extra ring on the case?

Also, because Microsoft started with a weaker console, scaling up to 4K resolution should be easier for their game developers. Project Scorpio is about 4.6x faster than the Xbox One, and it intends to draw four times the number of pixels. The gap between the PS4 and the PS4 Pro is just 2.3x. That could be a problem for them. (Meanwhile, us PC gamers can strap multiple 10+ TFLOP GPUs together for true 4K at decent frame rates, but that's another discussion.)

Granted, theoretical is different than real-world. We'll need to re-evaluate the industry in a couple of years, once an appropriate amount of hindsight is available. Also, Sony claims that PlayStation VR will still be available for both consoles, and that it will be a good experience whatever you choose. This is clearly aimed at Microsoft requiring Project Scorpio for their upcoming VR initiative, although likely to prevent confusion in their own fan base, rather than prodding their competitor.

Again, the PlayStation 4 Pro is launching this year, November 10th, and is expected to retail for $399.99 USD ($499.99 CDN). It's not a big jump in performance, but it's also not a big jump in price, either. In fact, I would consider it priced low enough to question the value of the regular PS4, even at $299.

What are your thoughts? Is this actually priced too low for pro?

Source: Sony

Onward Mil-Sim; more VR game testing

Subject: General Tech | September 7, 2016 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: gaming, onward, VR, htc vive, Downpour Interactive

Next up in [H]ard|OCP's series of VR game testing is Downpour Interactive's Onward, currently in early access and only available on the HTC Vive.  As with previous testing this is not about benchmarking the greatest GPU for the game but focuses on the experience you will have playing the game on different GPUs.  Frames dropping out or lagging on a monitor is mildly annoying but can completely ruin your day when using a VR headset.  This one turned out to be quite a challenge, even the GTX 1080 had significant frame reproductions.

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"Downpour Interactive is the company behind the Early Access Game, Onward. It is a self-proclaimed Mil-Sim shooter title. The big thing about this is it looks to be the first VR game that has solid support for multiplayer missions. HTC Vive currently required. What video card do we need this time around for best performance?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

If you thought IoT security was already bad ...

Subject: General Tech | September 7, 2016 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: iot, security, ssh, idiots

The research that SEC Consult has conducted shows that almost half of all IoT devices, from your router straight through to devices in hospitals and factories use public SSH host keys and X.509 certificates.  Since these keys are known far and wide it is depressingly easy to break the encryption on any communications from these devices and harvest passwords and other data or even to change the contents of that package on the fly.  Imagine a heart monitor which reports a strong heartbeat long after the patient has died or a large machine in a power plant being given different readings to allow it to exceed safety margins and destroy itself.  This is only getting worse, as many companies creating these IoT devices are either trying to save money by using packaged software or in some cases are totally ignorant of the effect of reusing keys.

If you can, change your keys to be device specific and isolate them on your network.  As The Register unhappily points out, this is not something your average consumer or purchasing department is aware of, let alone proficient enough to change keys on their devices.

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"Millions of internet-facing devices – from home broadband routers to industrial equipment – are still sharing well-known private keys for encrypting their communications."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Europeans: Epic Games Is Hosting a VR Game Jam

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2016 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, epic games, valve, htc, vr funhouse, vive

So Epic Games, NVIDIA, and HTC (with Valve) are hosting a game jam aboard the MS Bleichen ship in Hamburg, Germany. The purpose is to develop mods for VR Funhouse. Nothing says a fun VR experience like room-scale experiences on a boat. Hopefully it will be firmly docked to prevent judges from getting sea-sick... or not. Maybe that will make the carnival games even better?

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The jam takes place between September 24th and September 26th. Epic, NVIDIA, and Valve will be donating prizes to the event. Tickets cost 16.67 Euros, although I'm guessing that doesn't include food or a place to sleep -- they don't say one way or the other. The general public can also buy tickets for the last day, to experience the creations.

Source: EventBrite