Faith in Humanity Declining: Camera Mice.

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | January 18, 2014 - 08:44 PM |
Tagged: camera, mouse, camera mouse, Japan

Have you ever been sitting at your laptop or desktop thinking, "I really need a selfie right about now and this webcam simply will not do"? I have no idea what is wrong with you. Do you not have a cellphone if spontaneous self-photography means that much?

But at least a Japanese company has your back... or is it front?

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For the love of... it's even being held the wrong way!!!

Introducing the Camera Mouse. It is a mouse with a camera in it. It is useful if you want to take pictures of things with your mouse. It will be sold by King Jim Co., LTD. which is one of the largest office supplies manufacturers in Japan.

While I have been thinking about this news story, I have been thinking about legitimate use cases. It has been a struggle. I just cannot understand why someone would want to purchase a 1600x1200 camera which is hard-wired to their computer. Thus far, I have only come up with a single possibilities (although it would require significant software development resources that I doubt they intend to provide). The only way I could see myself purchasing this mouse is if it came with OCR and translation software so that I could point it at my monitor and automatically translate any text on screen.

Even then, I expect the vast majority of foreign language content would be in a web browser and two of those automatically translate text anyway. It would help for text in images or text in videos but otherwise I could not see the point even then. Moreover, all of this assumes the software even exists in a reasonable package (Bluestacks running Google Translate is probably no more useful than a cell phone).

But who knows. I could be missing the bigger picture. I could be missing the subtle nuances of their target audience. Maybe I just need to see things at two megapixels from under a sweaty palm.

Source: King Jim

Intel Reports 2013 Financial Results, Plans to Cut 5% of Workforce

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2014 - 12:49 AM |
Tagged: quarterly earnings, Intel, financial results, earnings

Intel has released financial results for the full year and fourth quarter of 2013. According to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, the company had a "solid fourth quarter." Although full year revenue and net income fell, there was a slight increase in Q4 net income and revenue YoY compared to Q4 2012.

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In 2013 Intel had $52.7 billion in total revenue along with $12.3 billion operating and $9.6 billion net income. Compared to the previous year (2012), Intel's revenue fell 1% while operating income and net income fell 13% and 16% respectively. Specifically of interest to the PC Perspective readers, the PC Client Group had 2013 revenue of $33.0 billion which was down 4% versus 2012.

  Quarterly Comparison   Yearly Comparison  
  Q4 2012 Q4 2013 YoY Change 2012 2013 YoY Change
Revenue $13.5 $13.8 +3% $52.7 $53.3 -1%
Operating Income $3.2 $3.5 +12% $12.3 $14.6 -16%
Net Income $2.5 $2.6 +6% $9.6 $11 -13%
Gross Margin 58% 62% +4 62.1% 59.5 -2.3

All $ figures are in billions (USD).

As far as the previous quarter (Q4 2013) alone, Intel made revenue of $13.8 billion which was a 3% increase versus the same quarter in 2012. Quarterly net income also increased 6% YoY to $2.6 billion.

Looking forward into 2014, Intel estimates revenue for the first quarter (Q1 2014) to be $12.8 billion. Unfortunately, Intel plans to cut approximately 5,000 jobs (specifically 5% of its workforce) in 2014 despite the "solid" company performance.

You can find more information in this Intel press release.

Source: Intel

Is 2014 the year you play with the penguin?

Subject: General Tech | January 17, 2014 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: Xubuntu, TAILS, SUSE, Red Hat, Lubuntu, linux, DouDou, Bodhi

If you've never tried Linux or are looking for a new distro to try then check out Linux.com's top 7 distro list for 2014.  If beauty is what you seek then Bodhi is a good choice as it has modified the Enlightenment window manager into something a little more manageable. For Ubuntu users there are two variants you could try, Xubuntu for desktops and Lubuntu for older less powerful laptops.  For the security conscious there is TAILS, which automatically routes traffic through TOR and constantly deletes any tracking info from local storage as well as being specifically designed to run from a bootable USB drive.  For the geeky parents out there, or for those looking for a very simple to understand distro is DouDou.  It comes preloaded with an array of childrens learning software and Dan's Guardian to somewhat limit internet sites of a nature unsuited for the very young. 

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"The Linux avalanche is rolling and gathering mass and momentum. Linux won, so what's next? Amazing growth is what's next: we're at the bare beginning of the Linux juggernaut rolling into existing markets and blazing into new ones. All this growth and progress is the result of years of hard work by tens of thousands of people and billions of dollars of investment. It has reached critical mass and there is no stopping it."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Linux.com

SteelSeries Siberia Elite headset, pricey but respectable

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2014 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: audio, steelseries, siberia elite, gaming headset

The Siberia Elite USB Gaming Headset replaces the familiar Siberia V2 but has a lot of work cut out for it considering it's $200 price tag.  It uses Dolby Pro Logic IIx to create virtual 7.1 surround sound and has a response range of 16Hz to 28 KHz and ships with a USB Soundcard V2 accessory for those who do not already possess a decent audio codec.  One unique feature that Benchmark Reviews pointed out is the 3.5mm jack present on the headphone which allows you to daisy chain headphones together so you can share music with a friend; some would choose to just use speakers but to each their own.  The headset isn't perfect but overall Benchmark Reviews left with a positive attitude and a recommendation to pick these up if you are in the market for decent quality gaming headphones.

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"SteelSeries peripherals and headsets are well known for their sleek design, high quality and excellent functionality among enthusiasts and gamers alike. Today Benchmark Reviews will be taking a look at the newest line from SteelSeries; The Siberia Elite Gaming Headset (model# 51151). We will put them through their paces in a variety of scenarios including watching films, listening to music, and of course – gaming."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Oculus Rift gets even more impressive

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2014 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift, crystal cove, not fair

The Tech Report got a chance to play with the new Oculus Rift prototype called Crystal Cove, proving once again life is anything but fair.  The 720p LCD has been replaced with a 1080p AMOLED display with significantly reduced pixel response times which should reduce the nausea and vertigo experienced by users of the previous prototype.  That is not the only upgrade, they've created a low persistence mode which helps mitigate the ghosting present on previous models and implemented variable refresh rates though they declined to discuss the technology used to acheive that effect.  Check out more in the full article but expect to end up jealous.

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"The absolute highlight of last year's CES was getting a first look at an Oculus Rift prototype. Strapping on a Rift for the first time is a mind-blowing experience. It will change your view of what's possible in gaming in the next 5-10 years.

Naturally, then, when it came time to plan for CES 2014, I made sure to schedule some time with the folks at Oculus to see what they—and especially new Oculus CTO John Carmack—have been doing."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Steam Controller Is Changing?

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 16, 2014 - 03:19 AM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Dev Days, Steam Controller, CES 2014, CES

Valve has always been a company based on experimentation and it looks like the Steam Controller is not the lighthouse which guides SteamOS through the fog. Just a week after presenting the prototype at CES, a 3D mockup of a new one makes not-insignificant changes. Gone is the touchscreen and the first revealed button placement. Frankly, just about the only things untouched on the front face are the twin touchpads and the palm grips.

SteamControllerV2.jpg

Image Credit: Leszek Godlewski (Twitter)

To fully understand the breadth of the changes, the announcement image is included below. There is basically no discussion about the back so that aspect might be untouched.

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The changes were apparently made to assist compatibility with games ported from more traditional input schemes. Looking at the original prototype, there was no obvious mapping from a Sony or Microsoft-based controller to those buttons spread out for both the left and right thumbs to access. The new setup is the typical four face buttons on the right and four more buttons on the left as a surrogate directional pad. If they continue to iterate down this path I hope that the directional pad is more effective than most from the last two generations. It looks like the four directions are separated from one another which does not inspire confidence.

There are two stories which entangle on this one. The first is that Valve is willing to perform rapid iteration until they achieve what they consider a maximum. That is the method to quickest success especially since it allows cross-pollination between designs.

The second is that it also makes the public a little bit nervous.

Source: VR-Zone

NZXT H440 Is A Water Cooling Friendly Case Without Optical Drive Bays

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | January 16, 2014 - 02:42 AM |
Tagged: water cooling, nzxt, h440, fn v2, 140mm

NZXT unveiled a new mid-tower chassis called the H440 that eschews the archaic 5.25” drive bays in favor of improved cooling and a simpler design. The PC case comes in two color schemes: white with black accents and black with red accents.

NZXT H440 PC Case (4).jpg

The new H440 measures 220mm x 510mm x 475.3mm (approximately 9” x 20” x 19”) and features a sleek design with a shrouded PSU and ample cable routing grommets. There are no 5.25” bays, but users can install up to eight 3.5” or 2.5” drives in removable sleds. There is a large cutout for installing aftermarket CPU coolers up to 180mm tall, seven PCI expansion slots, filtered vents on the front and rear, and support for up to seven fans. A massive side panel window shows off the hardware while hiding the PSU and hard drives along with the majority of cables coming off of the PSU. Users can install graphics cards up to 294mm with the hard drive sleds intact or 406.2mm with the drive sleds removed.

NZXT H440 PC Case (5).jpg

On the cooling front, NZXT is including one 140mm and three 120mm FN V2 fans with the case. The FN V2 fans are NZXT's latest design and driven by the company's fan controller. The case can support water cooling radiators on the top, front, and rear of the case or users can add to the included front and rear fans by installing up to three 120mm (or two 140mm) fans on the top of the case.

NZXT H440 PC Case (1).jpg

The NZXT H440 case has a flat front case panel, but there are filtered vents along the left and right side of the front panel to draw in air. The front IO panel consists of two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and two audio jacks. There is an LED-lit power button the left-front side of the H440.

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The black and red SKU in particular looks rather sharp, and offers up useful features at a decent price.

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Specifically, the new H440 will be available soon in two SKUs (CA-H440W-W1 and CA-H440W-M1) with a MSRP of $119.99 USD. The case comes with a 2 year warranty.

Source: NZXT

Podcast #283 - AMD Kaveri APU Launch, Gigabyte's New Slim Gaming Notebook, and CES 2014 Wrapup!

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2014 - 12:26 AM |
Tagged: video, R9 290X, podcast, msi, Kaveri, gsync, gigabyte, freesync, benq, amd, a8-7600, 290x

PC Perspective Podcast #283 - 01/16/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD Kaveri APU Launch, Gigabyte's New Slim Gaming Notebook, and CES 2014 Wrapup!

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: 1:13:50

AMD Officially Launches R5, R7, R9 M200 Mobile GPU Series

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2014 - 11:56 PM |
Tagged: r9 m290x, r7 m265, r5 m230, mobile gpu, GCN, amd

AMD recently took the wraps off of its latest mobile GPU series in the form of the R5 M200, R7 M200, and R9 M200 series. Currently, there is one GPU in each respective Rx M200 series including the AMD Radeon R5 M230, R7 M265, and R9 M290X. Do not get too excited, however. All of the new mobile GPUs are based on desktop versions of Volcanic Islands and not AMD's new Hawaii GPUs. As such, the Rx M200 series are essentially rebrands of the Radeon HD 8000M series (which was in turn OEM rebrands of the HD 7000M series) based around AMD's Graphics Core Next 1.0 architecture and specifically the Pitcairn GPU implementation.

All of the Rx M200 series support DirectX 11.2 Tier 1, up to 4GB GDDR5 memory, and at least 320 GCN shader cores. Informatin on the mid-range R7 M265 is scarce, but AMD has released information on the low and high end chips. Further, Computer Base has managed to put together specifications for the R5 M230 and R9 M290X. In short, the R5 M230 is a rebranded HD 8570 with higher clockspeeds and support for more memory while the R9 M290X is a rebranded HD 8970M with official support for DirectX 11.2 Tier 1 (the HD8970M technically supports it as well). A more detailed breakdown is as follows.

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The R9 M290X features 1280 shaders clocked at 850MHz/900MHz (base/boost), 80 texture units, and 32 ROPs. OEMs can pair the GPU with up to 4GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 1,200 MHz on a 256-bit bus.

The R5 M230 has 320 shaders clocked at 855MHz, 20 texture units, and 4 ROPs. This GPU can support up to 4GB of GDDR5 memory at 1,000MHz over a 64-bit bus.

Users will be able to get the new Rx M200 series graphics cards in mobile systems from Alienware, Clevo, Lenovo, and MSI. Other manufactures should pick up the new GPUs soon as well. The new series is not terribly exciting being nearly identical to the existing HD 8000M counterparts, but it does update the lineup to AMD's new naming and branding scheme. Notably, should AMD release a Hawaii-based mobile GPU, it has not left itself much room as far as naming goes (R9 M295X?).

Source: AMD

AMD looking to take up the Mantle of huge scale games

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2014 - 03:50 PM |
Tagged: Star Swarm, Oxide Games, Nitrous, Mantle, gaming, amd

Without having seen Frostbite run in Mantle there is still some supposition as to the true effect of the new technology; will it increase the performance of high end PCs and allow lower end ones to do things they cannot under DirectX?  Engadget has a video of a different Mantle based engine called Nitrous, displaying a demo called Star Swarm which can display thousands of objects simultaneously on screen.  In the video they switch to DirectX to show you how much the demo slows down and what effects need to be disabled to be able to make it perform as it does under Mantle.  If this translates to real game performance Mantle could totally change RTS and most other types of games by a huge margin.  Let's hope it arrives soon now that Kaveri is out!

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"Some RTS games set the limit at 50-70 units, while others can cope with as many as 500, but a new game engine called Nitrous takes things up a level: It uses AMD's Mantle programming tool to speed up communication between the CPU and GPU, allowing up to 5,000 AI- or physics-driven objects (i.e., not mindless clones or animations) to be displayed onscreen at one time."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: Engadget

Spilling what happened in Vegas

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2014 - 12:55 PM |
Tagged: CES 2014

If you have read all of our coverage of CES 2014 and are in need of more then The Tech Report can help you get your fix.  This roundup has dozens of links all broken down by category.  From Cases and Cooling through Input devices there should be just about everything you could need to know about.  There are even a good half dozen links covering one of the hottest recent topics, the Steam Machine.

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"We did this last year, and you guys seemed to enjoy it, so we've done it again. Here's a handy, shortbread-style list of every single news item we posted for this year's Consumer Electronics Show. Old news stories can normally be found here in our archive, but isn't this much nicer?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Steam In-Home Streaming Closed Beta First Wave Begins

Subject: General Tech, Networking | January 15, 2014 - 02:27 AM |
Tagged: valve, SteamOS, pc game streaming

In-Home Streaming could be the feature most likely to kick-off SteamOS adoption. This functionality brings existing PCs to televisions without requiring the user to actually bring the box to their living room. Likewise, to justify purchasing a SteamOS behemoth, it seems likely to me that Valve will allow streaming back to Steam client from Steam Machines.

Video Credit: Devin Watson (Youtube)

Obviously the catalog of Windows games is the most obvious usage for In-Home Streaming but, in some years, maintaining just one high-end computer might dominate.

We will soon find out more about how it works. Valve has just allowed the first wave of development partners (and apparently many others) to the In-Home Streaming closed beta. Youtube videos are already beginning to leak out, or not-leak out depending on the NDA if one exists, which show it in action. The video, embedded above, is of a Lenovo T410 with an Intel Core i5 and integrated graphics streaming DayZ over Wireless-G. It looks pretty good at, they claim, without any noticeable lag.

The floodgates are open. Now, we wait with our umbrellas.

Source: Steam

The FCC has painted itself and net neutrality into a corner

Subject: General Tech | January 14, 2014 - 01:27 PM |
Tagged: net neutrality, legal, FCC

The US FCC has been told they do not have the authority to enforce its Network Neutrality rules as they have defined the Internet as something unique and therefor not covered under the existing common carriage regulations.  These regulations have evolved for over 100 years from when they first referred to actual physical carriages transporting goods and have since expanded to less physical services such as cable TV.  That has allowed government agencies to regulate providers and transporters of goods and services by accounting for almost any business practice that has been used since this regulations inception.  Unfortunately as the FCC has chosen to define broadband internet as a distinct service the ruling today does make legal sense, there are no legal statutes on the books specifically about Net Neutrality and now the debate should shift to whether it is wiser to attempt to create a brand new set of regulations or if the FCC should attempt to change its stance and attempt to have common carrier regulations apply to broadband suppliers and their negotiations with both edge providers and end users.  It is worth following the link from Slashdot to the ruling, it is 80 pages long but contains a lot of the history of the legal decisions that have lead to this point as well as containing some amusing analogies.  After all, it is not like at least one mobile provider is already set to take advantage of the current unenforceable nature of net neutrality regulations. 

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"According to a report from Gizmodo, a U.S. Appeals Court has invalidated the FCC's Net Neutrality rules. From the decision: 'Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

If it didn't work the first dozen times just keep doing it anyways; Win 9 will be Modern too

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2014 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: win 9, win 8.1, threshold, microsoft, dumb

Even if one literal definition of insanity is to repeat the same process exactly while expecting different results, that doesn't prevent that strategy from occasionally being effective when working with PCs.   It is not always the best way to deal with all issues however, something Microsoft may not be willing to admit if the rumours about Windows 9 are true.  What was once going to be a major update to Win 8 may now be released as a newly named version of Windows according to the info at The Inquirer.  The rebranding of the Win 8.1 Service Pack implies that the changes made to the OS will be mostly cosmetic; though a facelift to the GUI would be good the chances that Microsoft will drop their new Modern interface are quite slim.  At least Microsoft is still able to claim this release did not go as badly as Vista.

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"We reported on Friday that the Threshold project was being tipped as a major update for Windows 8, however according to Winsupersite it will instead be billed as a new Windows operating system version slated for release in April 2015."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

DisplayPort Adds DockPort Extension to Royalty-Free VESA Standard

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2014 - 01:26 PM |
Tagged: amd, vesa, dockport

One of AMD's pet projects will be seeing the light of day in the very near future, one that could put another nail in Thunderbolt's overpriced coffin.  AMD in association with several other VESA members have developed an update to DisplayPort called DockPort that will provide USB 3.0 power and data over the cable at the same time it transmits up to 21.6 Gbps of DisplayPort Video.  This will be of great usage when connecting your machine to a docking station, with one cable you get a lot of connectivity options and could also mean much smaller and less expensive docking stations are possible.

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INTERNATIONAL CES, LAS VEGAS (7 January 2014) – The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA®) announced today that DockPort will be added as an official extension to the existing DisplayPort standard. DockPort is an emerging technology that enables high-speed USB 3.0 data over the existing DisplayPort connector. Originally developed by AMD, Texas Instruments, and other VESA member companies, the DockPort extension will allow notebooks, tablets and other small form factor computers to aggregate the display, data and power interfaces into a single convenient connector.

Computers and other smart devices require high-speed I/O ports to share high-resolution video with external displays, high-bandwidth data with external storage and other peripherals, and power for battery charging. As notebooks and tablets become thinner and more portable, consumers want to combine these three common interfaces into a single port on their mobile device. With a single DisplayPort connection using the new DockPort extension and enhanced power capabilities under development, consumers will be able to attach their computers or tablets to a docking station and have instant, hassle-free access to a wide array of external resources.

“Consumers are happiest when they can personalize their electronics systems and reduce the number of cables they need to deal with at the same time,” explained Steve Belt, AMD’s corporate vice president of strategic alliances. “We identified DisplayPort as an ideal starting point and began collaborating with other industry leaders to create DockPort as an extension of DisplayPort’s capabilities. With just one inexpensive connector, users can now access power, a mouse, keyboard, external optical and hard disk drives, printers, gaming controller, and up to four external monitors. That’s a lot of capability from a single, standardized connector.”

AMD’s Discovery Tablet reference design, which utilizes DisplayPort with the DockPort extension to enable video, data and power over one connector, won two 2014 CES Innovation Awards.

“VESA’s decision to augment the popular DisplayPort standard with the single-connector capabilities of TI’s innovative DockPort controller is a win for end equipment designers and consumers,” said Wes Ray, systems and applications manager for Consumer and Computing Interface at Texas Instruments. “As an open standard, DockPort will be readily available for designers to implement, and more quickly deliver, the convenience of a single connection in devices such as tablets, notebooks, docking stations and dongles.”

DisplayPort is the world’s most advanced, high data rate video interface standard. It connects computers and other video sources to televisions and displays, while maintaining backward compatibility with VGA, DVI and HDMI. The global standard is backed by more than 200 technology leaders worldwide.

Designed to be robustly ‘future proof’ as well as backward compatible, DisplayPort allows a video source to drive up to four displays, and it is the only video interface that can support 4K UHD TVs and displays with deep color at 60 frames per second. DisplayPort with the DockPort extension will continue to be a royalty-free standard. DisplayPort-certified systems are available from every leading display manufacturer, and consumers purchase millions of DisplayPort products every year.
“Being a modern, high-speed, packet-based digital interface, DisplayPort was designed to be extensible while also providing backward compatibility,” said Craig Wiley, Sr. Director of Marketing for Parade Technologies, and Chair of the VESA Board of Directors. “Similar to Thunderbolt and MyDP, the new DockPort extension will utilize the flexibility of DisplayPort technology to create a single display, data, and, in the near future, power connector, while still being backward compatible with all other DisplayPort devices. We expect the DockPort feature will appear in main-stream products since its performance is tailored for standard connectors and passive cables.”

Source: VESA

Zotac Shows Off Spherical ZBOX 01520 SFF PC

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 12, 2014 - 03:08 AM |
Tagged: zotac, zbox 01520, zbox, SFF, CES 2014, CES

Zotac unveiled a number of products at CES 2014 in Las Vegas including several small form factor (SFF) PCs. In addition to the ZBOX Steam Machine, Zotac showed off a ZBOX 01520 computer in a spherical form factor. The ZBOX 01520 comes in bare-bones and PLUS SKUs, similar to the other, existing, Zotac ZBOX computers.

On the outside, the new PC is a small black orb with straight edges on the back and bottom to support it. Inside, Zotac has fitted a tiny motherboard, an Intel Core i3-4010U dual core processor clocked at 1.7 GHz, two SO-DIMM slots (up to 16GB), a spot for a single 2.5" hard drive. The motherboard further includes one mSATA slot for a solid state drive and wireless radios for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Zotac-ZBOX-01520.jpg

Greek tech site Tech Blog managed to snap photos of the new Zotac PC.

Rear IO on the ZBOX 01520 orb includes four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI video output, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and a single 4-1 card reader slot.

The bare-bones kit includes the motherboard, CPU, and case while the PLUS version adds 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 500GB hard drive. Users can add their own mSATA drive for increased performance.

Beyond the basics, details are scarce on the new Zotac PC. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more details on the SFF PC as it becomes available.

Are you interested in the spherical ZBOX 01520?

Coverage of CES 2014 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2014 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: TechBlog

SimCity Modding is Slightly Hypocritical

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 11, 2014 - 12:13 AM |
Tagged: SimCity, ea

Maxis and Electronic Arts recognize the hefty portion of SimCity's popularity as a franchise is due to its mod community. The current version could use all of the help it can get after its unfortunate first year. They have finally let the community take over... to some extent. EA is imposing certain rules upon the content creators. Most of them are reasonable. One of them can have unforeseen consequences for the LGBQT community. The first rule should apply to their expansion packs.

Starting at the end, the last three rules (#3 through #5) are mostly reasonable. They protect EA against potential malware and breaches of their EULA and Terms of Service. The fifth rule does begin to dip its toe into potential censorship but it does not really concern me.

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No-one can be "Best Friends" in North America.

The second rule, while mostly condemning illegal activity, does include the requirement that content remains within ESRB 10+ and PEGI 7. The problem with any content certification is that it limits the dialog between artists and society. In this case, references to same-sex topics (ex: Harvest Moon) in games may force a minimum T or M rating. A mod which introduces some story element where two Sims of the same gender go on a date or live together (again, like Harvest Moon) might result in interest groups rattling the ESRB's cage until EA draws a firm line on that specific topic.

EA is very good with the LGBQT community but this could get unnecessarily messy.

The first rule is a different story. It says that mods which affect the simulation for multiplayer games or features are not allowed (despite being the only official mode). They do not want a modification to give players an unfair advantage over the rest of the game's community.

You know, like maybe an airship which boosts "your struggling industry or commercial [districts]" and also brings in tourists and commuters without causing traffic on your connecting highway?

Maxis is still, apparently, exploring options for offline SimCity experiences. Even if they allow a server preference to not affect the global economy, mods would be able to be quarantined to those areas. Great, problem solved. Instead, it is somewhat left up to interpretation what is allowed. To make matters worse, the current examples of mods that we have are purely cosmetic.

SimCity is nowhere near as bad as Halo 2 Vista for its mod functionality (those mod tools were so hobbled that its own tutorial was impossible). It could actually be good. These are just areas for EA to consider and, hopefully, reconsider.

Source: Maxis

Just a reminder of the state of Hawaii

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2014 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, r9 290, hawaii, catalyst, amd

Confirming the results that Ryan and other sites have seen are the results of [H]ard|OCP's testing of two different retail R9 290X GPUs against a pair of press sample cards.  Much as with Ryan's findings even using the newer Catalyst 13.11 Beta 5 driver, Quiet mode performance varies far more than Uber mode does but even Uber mode displays some differences between models.  However they draw a slightly different conclusion based on their experiences, determining that the variance is not just a matter of press samples versus retail cards but a variance between any and all 290X GPUs.  The complexity of this huge chip is such that the differences in manufacturing process and tolerances are to blame and some cards will simply be better than others.  They also are disappointed by AMD's marketing team, citing that the key is 'With NVIDIA GTX 600 and 700 series the video cards are "running faster than advertised" and with AMD R9 290X the video card is running "slower than advertised."'

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"The AMD Radeon R9 290X arrived recently with a high level of performance, and a high level of controversy. There have been reports of performance variance between Radeon R9 290X video cards. We have two purchased retail cards today with stock cooling that we will test and see if performance variances exist."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Intel has some good news for GLOFO

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2014 - 12:18 PM |
Tagged: UMC, SoFIA, Intel, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, atom, 28nm

GLOBALFOUNDRIES will be the primary supplier of Intel's 28nm baseband chips according to this unconfirmed report at DigiTimes.  It seems that Intel really is moving towards a new business model and will be outsourcing some of their upcoming chips to both GLOFO and UMC.  Their 28nm PolySiON process will be used to make the next generation of baseband transmitter chips and the new Atom SoC for cellphones and phablets will use TSMC's 28nm HKMG process.  The higher end Broxton SoCs will remain at Intel and use their FinFET process.  This is a big win for GLOFO and could mean the beginning of a lasting partnership with what was once an AMD asset.

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"Intel has contracted Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to manufacture its forthcoming Atom mobile processor series codenamed SoFIA, and also placed orders for entry-level baseband chips with Globalfoundries and United Microelectronics (UMC), according to industry sources."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

CES 2014: Intel Keynote with Their Dual OS and Edison

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2014 - 03:32 AM |
Tagged: Transformer Book Duet, Intel, CES 2014, CES, asus

Monday, the opening day of CES, was full of keynotes and announcements from Audi to Valve (Yahoo! was the day after). Okay, so that is probably not the complete alphabetical range, but keep reading regardless. The Intel speech had a few surprises including Gabe Newell re-announcing Steam Machines just a couple of hours after his own keynote.

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Possibly the most surprising to me was the "Dual OS platforms" announcement. Frankly, I am fine with using BlueStacks for whatever little Android use that my desktop experiences. I did see a demo of the ASUS Transformer Book Duet, however, which was able to switch between Android and Windows 8.1 with the touch of a button and about 3 seconds of black screen. It seems to be more than emulation and it is pretty clearly not rebooting.

To be clear, the following is speculation (and not even confident at that). I am hypothesizing... not reporting. Unfortunately, Intel (and ASUS) have been very silent on the actual implementation as far as I can tell. Since this is clearly branded as "Android and Windows can be friends", it would not surprise me if this was a baked solution for the two platforms and maybe even special hardware.

One possibility is that hardware or software loads both operating systems into memory or hibernation state. In this way, when the user signals their desire for a change, the former operating system is slept (or hibernated) and the processor is then pointed to the others memory space.

Video credit: PCMag

If the above is the case then I hope popular Linux distributions can get their hands on it. Rebooting is far too annoying for me to try out alternative operating systems and virtualization is also too problematic (at least for now). If I can just suspend and switch, especially with native performance on either end, then I will definitely be willing to play around. Honestly, how expensive are RAM and storage these days?

But, if it is user-accessible, then it would be a major consideration for a future upgrade.

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The other cute little announcement is Edison, a dual core PC in an SD card form factor. The hope is that this device will power wearable computing and make other devices smarter. It is based on 22nm silicon and even includes WiFi. One use case they presented was a bottle warmer which warms the milk before you even get your child.

Despite the late coverage, it was a very interesting keynote. Ars Technica still has their live blog published if you would like to skim through a play-by-play.

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Source: Ars Technica