Get your pirated Windows a letter of marque

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2015 - 04:03 PM |
Tagged: WinHEC, windows, microsoft

If you know a friend that has a friend that might have picked up a copy of Windows from a site of ill repute they still have a chance to redeem their soul.  At WinHEC today Microsoft announced that any eligible version of Windows running on hardware compatible with Windows 10 can also upgrade to a new and fully licensed version of Windows 10 when it is released.  This is an interesting move by Microsoft but there is sense behind the move as it will increase their customer base for purchasing apps from the Microsoft Store and any licensing which may come into effect after the free year they offer.  It also gives them more accurate data on the number of users of Windows and possibly other metadata as well.

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"Microsoft will make Windows 10 available as a free upgrade even to pirated copies of other Windows operating systems in China. Terry Myerson of Microsoft's operating systems unit made the announcement at the WinHEC technology conference in Shenzhen, China, and then told Reuters, "We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10.""

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Source: Slashdot

d'IE!

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2015 - 07:43 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, IE, project spartan

First of all, this is possibly the shortest title we have ever made at PC Perspective. I guess I win something? Either way, WinBeta claims that Microsoft has finally said, on the record, that the Internet Explorer branding will not be applied to Project Spartan. The quote is from Chris Capossela, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft.

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And Web Developers say...?

We’re now researching what the new brand, or the new name, for our browser should be in Windows 10," said Capossela. "We’ll continue to have Internet Explorer, but we’ll also have a new browser called Project Spartan, which is codenamed Project Spartan. We have to name the thing.

This quote still seems a little vague for me. While it clearly separates “the new brand” from “Internet Explorer”, it does not definitively say that Project Spartan will not be derived from it (pardon the double-negative). Of course, I think it is safe to say that it will be a wholly new brand, but I don't think this quote changes anything.

By the way, may I recommend “PhoIEnix”? I'm pretty sure no-one tried that name for a web browser before being immediately disputed by Phoenix Technologies. Wow, that's oddly specific to not be a reference to anything, at all, ever...

Source: WinBeta

NVIDIA Announces DIGITS DevBox - 28 TFLOPS, 1300 Watts, $15k

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | March 17, 2015 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, DIGITS

At GTC, NVIDIA announced a new device called the DIGITS DevBox:

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The DIGITS DevBox is a device that data scientists can purchase and install locally. Plugged into a single electrical outlet, this modified Corsair Air 540 case equipped with quad TITAN X (reviewed here) GPUs can crank out 28 TeraFLOPS of compute power. The installed CPU is a Haswell-E 5930K, and the system is rated to draw 1300W of power. NVIDIA is building these in-house as the expected volume is low, with these units likely going to universities and small compute research firms.

Why would you want such compute power?

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DIGITS is a software package available from NVIDIA. Its purpose is to act as a tool for data scientists to manipulate deep learning environments (neural networks). This package, running on a DIGITS DevBox, will give much more compute power capability to scientists who need it for their work. Getting this tech in the hands of more scientists will accelerate this technology and lead to what NVIDIA hopes will be a ‘Big Bang’ in this emerging GPU-compute-heavy field.

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More from GTC is coming soon, as well as an exclusive PC Perspective Live Stream set to start in just a few minutes! Did I mention we will be giving away a Titan X???

**Update**

Ryan interviewed the lead developer of DIGITS in the video below. This offers a great explanation (and example) of what this deep learning stuff is all about:

HSA Version 1.0 arrived today

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2015 - 01:18 PM |
Tagged: hsa foundation, hsa, amd, arm, Samsung, Imagination Technologies, HSAIL

We have been talking about the HSA foundation since 2013, a cooperative effort by AMD, ARM, Imagination, Samsung, Qualcomm, MediaTek and TI to design a heterogeneous memory architecture to allow GPUs, DSPs and CPUs to all directly access the same physical memory.  The release of the official specifications today are a huge step forward for these companies, especially for garnering future mobile market share as physical hardware apart from Carrizo becomes available.

Programmers will be able to use C, C++, Fortran, Java, and Python to write HSA-compliant code which is then compiled into HSAIL (Heterogeneous System Architecture Intermediate Language) and from there to the actual binary executables which will run on your devices.  HSA currently supports x86 and x64 and there are Linux kernel patches available for those who develop on that OS.  Intel and NVIDIA are not involved in this project at all, they have chosen their own solutions for mobile devices and while Intel certainly has pockets deep enough to experiment NVIDIA might not.  We shall soon see if Pascal and improvements Maxwell's performance and efficiency through future generations can compete with the benefits of HSA.

The current problem is of course hardware, Bald Eagle and Carrizo are scheduled to arrive on the market soon but currently they are not available.  Sea Islands GPUs and Kaveri have some HSA enhancements but with limited hardware to work with it will be hard to convince developers to focus on programming HSA optimized applications.  The release of the official specs today is a great first step; if you prefer an overview to reading through the official documents The Register has a good article right here.

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"The HSA Foundation today officially published version 1.0 of its Heterogeneous System Architecture specification, which (if we were being flippant) describes how GPUs, DSPs and CPUs can share the same physical memory and pass pointers between each other. (A provisional 1.0 version went live in August 2014.)"

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Source: The Register

It has been a long time since we saw a gaming chair review

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2015 - 01:03 PM |
Tagged: input, gaming chair

A few years back Ryan reviewed the Nerdytec COUCHMASTER, even longer ago The Tech Report played with the SumoSac and there are still ButtKickers out there for sale.  Now you can pick up the brightly coloured AKRACING AK-6011 Gaming Chair which is style after the bucket seats found in many sports cars.  Neoseeker picked one up and assembled it to see just how comfortable it and the two included pillows actually are.   After two months of usage they are quite happy with the comfort and sturdy design of the chair, so if you really want to make a statement you can pick one up from Amazon, there are different colour schemes available if the only thing that you find odd about this product is the shade of green they used.

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"While we aren't strangers to reviewing gaming peripherals, we haven't yet had the chance to take one of AKRACING's premium gaming chairs for a spin. The brand might ring a bell for readers familiar with eSports. Modeled after the seats used in race cars, AKRACING looks to blend fast lane sensibilities with the ergonomic features that users come to expect from any comfortable chair. On our review today is the AKRACING AK-6011 in a two-tone black and green color scheme with two extra pillows to better customize proper sitting posture. See what over $300 for a chair ought to get you."

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Source: Neoseeker

Star Citizen Keeps Getting Bigger. Literally.

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: star citizen, rsi

When the game is finished, Robert Space Industries is expecting the Star Citizen game client to be 100GB in size. The company was given $75 million USD from fans over the last two and a half years, and they seem to be using it for content. Individual patches are expected to be in the 2 to 6GB range, but could extend to 20GB if an architecture change requires updating old assets to some new system.

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I guess this is a case of “be careful what you wish for”. When you praise a developer for producing a gigantic experience with tonnes of content, it will need to be stored somewhere. At the same time, I wonder when games from typical publishers will match this bar. Say what you like about crowd-funding, but Star Citizen seems to be an example of the business model done right (although their budget is astronomical and that probably helped).

Star Citizen is slowly being released, piece by piece, with a 2016 shipping date.

Source: PC Gamer

GDC 15: Valve's GDC VR "Aperture Science" Demo

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 14, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: vive vr, vive, valve, re vive, Portal 2, Portal, mwc 15, MWC, htc, gdc 15, GDC

At the recent Game Developer Conference and Mobile World Congress events, Valve had a demo for HTC's Vive VR system that was based in the Portal universe. The headset is combined with two controllers, one for each hand, which sound like a cross between Valve's Steam Controller and the Razer Hydra.

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When HTC briefed journalists about the technology, they brought a few examples for use with their prototype. C|Net described three: a little demo where you could paint with the controllers in a virtual space, an aquarium where you stand on a sunken pirate ship and can look at a gigantic blue whale float overhead, and a Portal-based demo that is embedded above. I also found “The Gallery” demo online, but I am not sure where it was presented (if anywhere).

Beyond VR, the Source 2 engine, which powers the Portal experience, looks good. The devices looked very intricate and full of detail. Granted, it is a lot easier to control performance when you are dealing with tight corridors or isolated rooms. The lighting also seems spot on, although it is hard to tell whether this capability is dynamic or precomputed.

The HTC Vive developer kit is coming soon, before a consumer launch in the Autumn.

Source: YouTube

Windows 10 Preview Build Stuff and Stuff

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

So we have been on Build 9926 for a while and Microsoft is aware that we want something new. They started out this Technical Preview claiming that we will see the OS evolve as it is built. While we have, for the most part, been given builds frequently enough to influence the development, the last couple of updates have been about half of their expected interval.

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For this release, Microsoft claims that there is just a single blocking bug that is preventing a public release. They also state that users who want a more stable preview build, such as those who installed it to a production machine (not naming any names... sigh), should switch their update schedule to “Slow”. Users on the “Fast” lane will get new builds much quicker. The words “Daily Builds” appeared on an internal document, but was quickly clarified as an internal memo.

Microsoft is also considering a third tier that pushes updates faster than both “Fast” and “Slow”.

There are two opposing forces when it comes to the update speed of preview software. While you end up with more stability if you are extra careful with troubleshooting, you will not catch every bug. For that matter, there are still bugs that I can point to in Windows 7 that will never be fixed at this point (there is one bug with resizing windows on vertically-separated multiple monitors that still exists in Windows 10 -- although other multi-monitor interfaces that are not in Windows 7 give plenty of workarounds room).

When the update speed is low, you are stuck with bugs that feel excruciating for what feels like forever. Add that to the slow, bursty roll-out of new features and it gives some extra merit to the fast release model. That is, unless you get so quick that you run into bluescreens and other, more critical failures. It is a tough balance that I can sympathize with and empathize to.

It's tough, so I have personally flipped my machine over to “slow”. I figure that I could keep on the more stable builds for a short period of time and wait to hear what the community thinks about each new release before flipping to the fast track.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

HiFiMAN's HE-400i Planar Magnetic Headphones for those with the ears to hear

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2015 - 01:40 PM |
Tagged: audio, hifiman, HE-400i

When HiFiMan refers to the single-sided planar magnetic driver in the HE-400i headset they are describing the positioning of the magnets within the drivers, single sided only have magnets on the side of the driver that is facing away from your ear.  As you might expect from this design decision this is not an inexpensive gaming headset but a high end audiophile headset and the $500 price tag further emphasizes this.  TechPowerUp had a chance to don these earphones and try them out, connected to JDSLabs C5D and O2 headphone amps and were more than impressed.  Indeed the bass reproduction of the HE-400i came near to matching the HE-560 which is twice the price.  If you have a decent headphone amp and discerning ears then HiFiMan is brand to take under consideration.

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"HiFiMAN has always been known to produce some pretty interesting high-end headphones. Today, we take a look at the new HE-400i. It uses the same magnet array technology HiFiMAN introduced with the critically acclaimed HE-560."

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Audio Corner

Source: techPowerUp

Even Intel is feeling the pinch, to the tune of a billion dollars

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2015 - 12:48 PM |
Tagged: Q1, Intel, earnings, billions

Earlier in the week came distressing news from many manufacturers of PC components and now Intel has made their financial state a little clearer.  The Register has posted the numbers, predicted earnings for Q1 of this year have dropped from USD13.7 billion +/- $500 million, down to USD12.8bn +/- $300 million.  Losing about a billion dollars in profit is going to hurt anyone, even the mighty Intel.  The drop in the PC market comes from a variety of sources but two of the most likely candidates are the lack of cash in consumers pockets to upgrade and a lack of competition driving an urge to upgrade.  Once many gamers would willing live on ramen noodles for a time so that they could afford the next GPU or CPU upgrade thanks to the impressive performance increases the next generation offered.  Now new releases tend to offer a small incremental performance increase and occasionally new features which are impressive but nowhere near what an upgrade 10 years ago offered.  Certainly part of the issue is the difficult of coaxing a bit more performance out of silicon and with the reduced competition it is less financially attractive to fund expensive and risky R&D projects than it is to work on small incremental increases in efficiency and performance.

Here's hoping for a change to this market in the coming years.

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"Intel has lowered its revenue forecast for the first quarter of its fiscal 2015 by nearly a billion dollars, citing a weaker than expected PC market."

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Source: The Register

Asus Launches Premium ROG G501 Gaming Laptop

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 13, 2015 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: haswell, GTX 960M, gaming laptop, g501, ASUS ROG, asus

Today Asus unveiled the Republic of Gamers (ROG) G501 gaming laptop. The G501 is a 4.54 pound 15.6” laptop that packs high end hardware into a thin aluminum shell.

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The ROG G501 features a dark gray 0.81” thick aluminum chassis with a brushed metal finish and red bezel accents. A 15.6” matte IPS display dominates the top half of the PC with a resolution of 3840x2160 (UHD). The lower half includes a red backlit keyboard (1.6mm key travel) with colored WASD keys and a number pad as well as a large trackpad.

External I/O on this gaming machine is extensive and includes:

  • 1 x Thunderbolt
  • 3 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x Audio combo jack
  • 1 x SD
  • 1 x 1.2MP webcam
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0

Asus is using the latest mobile technology with the G501 including a 47W Intel Haswell Core i7-4720HQ (4c/8t) processor, NVIDIA GTX 960M (4GB) graphics card, up to 16GB of DDR3 memory, and an impressive 512GB PCI-E x4 solid state drive (rated at 1,400MB/s reads). The laptop also supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Asus claims that its Hyper Cool technology will keep the system running cool by using copper heatpipes and giving the CPU and GPU their own heatsink and fan which can be independently controlled to maintain a balance of heat and noise. The laptop is powered by a 96Wh Lithium Polymer battery.

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This beastly gaming laptop will be available next month with an MSRP of $1,999 (with the configuration listed above). More information can be found at gseries.asus.com

In addition to the ROG G501, Asus’ GL551 and G751 series are also being refreshed to include NVIDIA’s new GTX 900 series graphics. The GL551JW will get the GTX 960M while the G751JL will use the GTX 965M.

Source: Asus

Podcast #340 - News from GDC 2015, FreeSync Release Date, Vulkan and Mantle, and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2015 - 02:09 PM |
Tagged: western digital, vulkan, video, SSD 750, Re+, raptr, r9 390x, podcast, nvidia, Mantle, Intel, imagination, gtx 960, gsync, gdc 15, freesync, Broadwell, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #340 - 03/12/2015

Join us this week as we wrap up news from GDC 2015, FreeSync Release Date, Vulkan and Mantle, 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, Allyn Malventano, and Paul Heimlich

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

 

Beware strange USB drives, they can be killers

Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2015 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: usb, flash drive

It is not easy to kill something via USB as the plugs deal with all sorts of devices that are off spec but it can be done.  If you short ground and power the plug disables itself, TVS diodes prevent static electricity from damaging anything and excessive RF is bled off by the inline filtering beads.  That didn't stop this Hack a Day reader from figuring out a way to make a killer USB drive with a inverting DC-DC converter and capacitor bank.  The drive uses the power provided by the USB port to charge the capacitors to -110VDC which then discharges that to the data pins, enough to overcome the protection on the port and it repeats until the USB port is no longer capable of delivering power.  Considering many USB ports are integrated onto your CPU at this point, this is not a very nice thing to do; we present this as a warning and do not recommend this or similar projects be undertaken by our readers.

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"[Dark Purple] recently heard a story about how someone stole a flash drive from a passenger on the subway. The thief plugged the flash drive into his computer and discovered that instead of containing any valuable data, it completely fried his computer. The fake flash drive apparently contained circuitry designed to break whatever computer it was plugged into."

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Source: Hack a Day

Waiting for a date with USB 3.1?

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2015 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: usb 3.1, Superspeed+, Superspeed Plus, asus, Z97-A/USB 3.1

Not too long ago Al and Ryan had a chance to play with a prototype USB 3.1 enclosure from ASUS and an add-in card with a controller from ASMedia.  The Tech Report also received the prototype USB 3.1 enclosure with two mSATA drives running in RAID-0 mode but they happened to have an ASUS Z97-A/USB 3.1 motherboard which has a built in port and ASMedia controller.  Their CrystalDiskMark results showed a ~75% boost in sequential read and write performance with 4K random write speeds also vastly increased.  That is not the highlight of their review however; ASUS provided a list of upcoming USB 3.1 releases from multiple vendors so you can now get an idea when you might want to upgrade to a board with USB 3.1 on it.

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"Today, we're going to take our very first look at some USB 3.1 gear. Asus has supplied us with a drive enclosure and a matching motherboard, which will help us gauge the kinds of performance gains users can expect."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

More shiny zombies; Dying Light is brought to you by a similar engine to Dead Island

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2015 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: gaming, zombies, dying light, Chrome Engine 6

Dead Island used Chrome Engine 5 and Dying Light will use the sixth version of this engine which should give you an idea of the look and scope of this game.  As for performance, look no further than this article from [H]ard|OCP which details the performance of the game on NVIDIA cards ranging from the GTX 750 Ti to the GTX 980 as well as Radeons from R9-285 through the 290X.  This engine proved to love VRAM, at 4K the GTX 980 and R9 290X stuttered at points and the three 2GB cards showed the same problems at 1080p.  It would seem that even though the 970 never used more than 3.6GB of VRAM the card performed better than either of AMD's top offerings.  Pity about the lack of multiple GPU support.

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"Dying Light is out on the PC and we are liking it. Today we evaluate performance on many video cards to find out what kind of gameplay experience to expect. We will also compare graphical settings and find out which ones are the most demanding and what level of video card you need for this game."

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Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Hey Cortana, your father is 20 now! Hope you fare better than BOB

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2015 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, fail, bob

For those who have seen the interface in the YouTube video before; we apologize for the mess you just made on your floor but the younger generations should be reminded of what has come before.  Microsoft Bob was released 20 years ago yesterday and most of it died very shortly afterwards as Windows 95 did not need a replacement GUI for the File Manager, the only way to interface with your Windows machine previously.  The saddest part is that File Manager grew up to become Windows Explorer while what remained of Bob were only seen when you encountered a machine that did not have the Search Buddy turned off.  You may recognize that giant waste of CPU cycles, Rover, as that Search Buddy but he also stalked you throughout the Bob GUI, though back then he would roll over if you scratched him.  You can find Bob and Win3.1 on the net in seconds but The Register was also nice enough to link to an .OVA file so you can relive one of the more painful memories of both Microsoft users and executives.  Let's hope Cortana doesn't suffer as horrible a fate as her predecessor.

"Tuesday, 10 March 2015, is a day of infamy, for on that day in 1995 Microsoft gave the world Bob, the “social interface” for Windows 3.x and 95."

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Source: The Register

It has been a rough quarter for the tech industry

Subject: General Tech | March 10, 2015 - 12:36 PM |
Tagged: Q1, gigabyte, earnings, msi, TSMC, amd, Intel, nvidia

There is quite a bit of news on how various component manufacturers have fared at the beginning of 2015 and not much of it is good.  Gigabyte has seen revenues drop almost 20% compared to this time last year and a significantly higher overall drop and while MSI is up almost 4% when compared to this quarter in 2014, February saw a drop of over 25% and over the total year a drop of nearly 8%.  TSMC has taken a hit of 28% over this month though it is showing around 33% growth over the past year thanks to its many contract wins over the past few months.  Transcend, Lite-On and panel maker HannStar all also reported losses over this time as did overseas notebook designers such as Wistron, Compal and Inventec.

Intel is doing well though perhaps not as profitably as they would like, and we know that NVIDIA had a great 2014 but not primarily because of growth in the market but by poaching from another company which has been struggling but not as much as previous years.  The PC industry is far from dead but 2014 was not a kind year.

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"Gigabyte Technology has reported consolidated revenues of NT$3.216 billion (US$101.93million) for February 2015, representing a 39.31% drop on month and 26.75% drop on year.

The company has totaled NT$8.515 billion in year-to-date revenues, down 18.47% compared with the same time last year."

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Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

The ROCCAT Tyon; this mouse is nubbed for your pleasure

Subject: General Tech | March 9, 2015 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: input, gaming mouse, tyon, roccat

Counting the different mouse wheel directions and the Easy-Shift button alternate pressing you can program up to 32 different buttons on the Roccat Tyon mouse.  As even the mouse wheel can be programmed to function completely differently between scrolling directions, this should count as long as your game supports it.  Not only do you get a ridiculous amount of customization, the nub you see on top of the mouse can function just like the throttle slider on your joystick, an interesting feature considering the number of space sims launching in the near future.  Hardware Asylum really like the mouse though they did dock points for not being usable by sinister types, check out the full review and the software suite right here.

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"The Tyon has innovative buttons just where you expect them without becoming overwhelming. Maybe the best part is you don’t even notice them when you don’t want to use them."

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Meet Intel's low powered Broadwell based Xeon D

Subject: General Tech | March 9, 2015 - 12:23 PM |
Tagged: Xeon D, Intel, Broadwell, 14 nm trigate

Intel's new entry into the low powered server chip market will be called the Xeon D and will be 14-nm process with tri-gate transistors and a TDP ranging from ~25-45W.  The chip will use Broadwell cores with 64K of combined L1 cache and 256K of L2 per core as well as 1.5MB of a shared pool of 12MB of L3 cache, aka last level cache.  The chip itself will have 24 lanes of Gen3 PCIe as well as a pair of 10Gbps NICs and the I/O controller that shares space on the chip will add six SATA3 ports, another eight lanes of PCIe Gen2, and USB support.  The Tech Report only had frequencies for two chips, the 8 core Xeon D-1450 has a base clock of 2GHz, an all-core Turbo peak of 2.5GHz, and a single-core Turbo peak of 2.6GHz while the Xeon D-1520 hits 2.2GHz base frequency, 2.5GHz all-core Turbo, and a 2.6GHz single-core peak.  Check out more in the full review here.

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"The Xeon D is Intel's pre-emptive strike against upcoming ARM-based competition in the server market. Built on 14-nm process tech and fortified with Broadwell cores, this single-node processor looks like the future of the Xeon lineup."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Windows 10 (Enterprise) Build 10031 Sighted

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 06:29 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft

WinBeta found a new screenshot of an internal Windows 10 build. They originated from the same group, Wzor, that leaked almost every other image from unreleased Windows 10 builds. The only real feature that is shown is a translucent start menu. To make the transition a little less jarring, you are able to partially see the content behind it.

microsoft-windows10-10031.jpg

Image Credit: WinBeta and Wzor.

This feature should be especially useful for the full-screen start menu, so that it looks like an overlay, rather than: “Your computer is doing something totally different now!” You can still see, if only a little bit, what you were doing. It should feel a lot more like the Steam Overlay rather than a full context switch.

The build is also not labeled Microsoft Confidential, so it might be on the branch that is designed for public release. We are due for a new build, so it should only be a matter of days before consumer previewers, and apparently enterprise ones too, get pushed forward... ... after about five-or-so reboots.

Source: WinBeta