You can teach a Wolfram Alpha new tricks

Subject: General Tech | May 14, 2015 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: wolfram alpha, stephen wolfram, image identify

You may have had the pleasure of using the Google Goggles image identification app, not so much for its successes as for its often hilarious misses.  There is now a new image identification app from Wolfram Alpha which you can try out.  The Register immediately tried a random picture of Stephen Wolfram who is apparently a podium in disguise but Image Identify seems very fond of capyberas.   Head on over to amuse yourself and of course only use your pictures for proper training as we wouldn't want to reclassify the podium as Daddy, now would we?

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"search your heart ..."

"WOLFRAM ALPHA has released a new site designed to help you identify any image that you throw at it."

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Source: The Register

Firefox 38 Launches with (and also without) DRM Support

Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2015 - 05:06 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox, DRM

Mozilla has just released Firefox 38. With it comes the controversial Adobe Primetime DRM implementation through the W3C's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME). Or, maybe not. If you upgrade the browser through one of the default channels, the Adobe Primetime Content Decryption Module will appear in the Plugins tab of your Add-ons manager on Windows Vista or later (but it might take a few minutes after the upgrade).

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Alternatively, you can use Mozilla's EME-free installer for Firefox and avoid it altogether.

I have mentioned my concerns about DRM in the past. EME does not particularly bother me, because it is just a plugin architecture, but the fundamental concept does. Simply put, copy protection does very little good and a whole lot of bad. If your movie is leaked before it is legally available in consumer's hands, as it regularly does, then what do you expect to accomplish after the fact? It takes one instance to be copied infinitely, and that often comes from the film company's own supply chain, not their customers. Moreover, it is found to reduce sales and hurt customer experience (above and beyond the valid ideological concerns).

Beyond the DRM inclusion, several new features were added. One of the more interesting ones is BroadcastChannel API. This standard allows a web application to share data between “contexts” that have the same “user agent and origin”. In other words, it must be on the same browser and using the same app (even secondary instances of it). This will allow sites to do multi-monitor split screen, which is useful for games and utilities.

WebRTC has also been upgraded with multistream and renegotiation. Even though the general public thinks of WebRTC as a webcam and voice chat standard, it actually allows arbitrary data channels. For example, “BananaBread” is a first person shooter that used WebRTC to synchronize multiplayer state. Character and projectile position is very much not webcam or audio data, but WebRTC doesn't care.

Firefox 38 launched on May 12th with an optional, DRM-incompatible build.

Source: Mozilla

Project Cars is finally here and it certainly is pretty

Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2015 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: gaming, project cars

The Tech Report pulled out their wheel and pedals, tied their chair to their desk and tried out Project Cars, a game which shows off just what a good PC is capable of.  The cars, tracks and weather are all rendered in amazing quality with lifelike reflections and lighting.  Even better is the feel of the game, realistic handling work with the graphics to immerse you fully into the game. Their are options to help the novice driver get their skills up to speed and while there may not be quite as many tracks and cars to choose from as games such as Forza, the realism more than makes up for it.  It will also work with a controller and Steam Big Picture for those who prefer to drive from the couch.

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"In his latest blog post, TR's Geoff Gasior gets behind the wheel in Project Cars, a new PC driving game with realistic handling and jaw-dropping graphics. This may be the best-looking game in any genre, and it feels as real as it looks."

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Epson's new 3D glasses

Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2015 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: Moverio BT-200, epson, 3d glasses

Epson has teamed up with NGRAIN to create the Moverio BT-200 smart glasses for use in industrial design and repair.  The glasses are connected to a controller to minimize the weight of the actual glasses as well as allowing you control options on the 3D view you see through the glasses.  The Register were not overly impressed with the image nor the interface but could certainly see the usefulness in the demonstrations that were conducted.  One benefit the glasses do offer is dual usage, they can be used both to show 3D images as well as augmented reality overlays when looking at physical objects, allowing to use the interface you prefer.

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"You may be really looking forward to 3D glasses but based on the latest tech giant's efforts, it may be some time.

Today we tried out Epson Moverio BT-200 smart glasses at IoT World in San Francisco and were left… underwhelmed."

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Source: The Register

Use your SHIELD to stream games over NVIDIA GRID at 1080p

Subject: General Tech | May 12, 2015 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: gaming, shield, nvidia, grid

Ryan and the crew have tested out NVIDIA's GRID, the cloud streaming service that lets you play games at 720p, as long as you have a 10 Mbps down connection on a network with a NVIDIA GameStream-ready 5 GHz Wi-Fi router and 60 ms or less ping time to a GRID server.  In testing Ryan did notice lag but he still found them playable once he mentally adjusted to the delay.

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Today NIVIDA announced an upgrade to the GRID service, 35 of the 50 games on the service can now stream at a full 1080p and 60fps including Batman: Arkham Origins, Devil May Cry 4 and Dirt 3 Complete Edition.  In order to properly enjoy the HD quality you will need a compatible router from the list linked to above and connection of at least a 30 Mbps down, with 50Mbps being recommended by NVIDIA for best results. 

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The new SHIELD Hub beta is available to SHIELD owners by following the link in NVIDIA's blog post here.  They also announced the addition of Bionic Commando to their library, playable at the new resolution.

Source: NVIDIA

Need another reason to try out Win10? How about live translation on Skype

Subject: General Tech | May 12, 2015 - 01:48 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, win 8.1, translator, Skype Translator, skype, microsoft

The Skype Translator service has been available for users that signed up and were approved by Microsoft for testing.  It has now been made available for any and all users of Windows 8.1 or the Windows 10 pre-release.  It can translate audio to and from English, Spanish, Italian or Mandarin in real time and can translate instant messages from another 50 languages.  You will of course need someone to call who speaks a different language from you to see how bad the eggcorns are but watching live translation is always impressive.  You can see it in action at The Inquirer and the link for the software is at the bottom of the article.

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"MICROSOFT HAS MADE its Skype Translator Preview available to all Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 users."

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Source: The Inquirer

Remote door answering with the Ring

Subject: General Tech | May 11, 2015 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: iot, ring, digital home, smart home

Ryan was impressed with Google's Nest Learning Digital Thermometre and recommended it a few years back as a great holiday gift, which is still true to this day.  A company called Ring is making inroads into the smart home market with their self titled second generation product.  Their original product was Doorbot, which some hated and many liked but which is nowhere near as interesting as the new Ring.  It is a 720p camera, with a motion sensor, microphone and speaker all powered by the small current provided by your existing doorbell circuits and a battery backup good for about a year.  It connects to your house and the Cloud via WiFi and is capable of not only ringing on your iOS7+ or Android 4.0+ phone but also to send the video so you can interact with whoever is at your front door even when you are away.  You may not be able to sign for packages remotely but barring that this can be very handy.  Read more at The Register.

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"Ring is enjoying that classic moment in a company's lifecycle when word has started getting out and orders are coming in at a rate that requires scaling up to the next level. And for good reason too. By all accounts, Ring the video doorbell is an impressive product, successfully navigating the path between hardware, software, smart phones and cloud services to deliver a genuinely innovative product with a real use-case."

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Source: The Register

COUGAR 600M, the gaming mouse that squeaks

Subject: General Tech | May 8, 2015 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: input, Cougar, 600M, gaming mouse

The Cougar 600M Gaming Mouse does well at adding functionality without going to the extremes some other models have. The sensor can be set up to 8200 DPI and you can also adjust the USB polling rate from 125Hz to 1000Hz, a nice feature for those who want to be able to have complete control over their input.  Those who love LEDs will like that the software allows you to toggle the lighting between 16.8 million colours as well as programming the eight buttons as single functions or macros.  How well does it game?  Check out the full review at Overclockers Club.

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"The scroll wheel was an issue I only found from "longer" use, that I probably would not have noticed in a typical review testing time frame. After enough use, it started to squeak a bit, and in general make more noise. However, enough use later, and it's back to no squeak. It seems like it will be something that comes and goes. It still works, and that is most important."

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NVIDIA has mixed results for this first quarter

Subject: General Tech | May 8, 2015 - 12:53 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, earnings, Q1 2015, billion

NVIDIA's reported revenue of $1.15 billion just missed the analysts predictions, they saw an increase of roughly 4% from Q1 2014 but an 8% drop compared to the last quarter of 2014 which saw the release of the GTX 970 and the usual spike in sales from the holidays.  However when you look at net income, there was a drop of 2.2% compared to a year ago.  GPU sales made up the bulk of the income and are doing well as that division increased sales by 14% from last year bring in revenue 4.7% higher than last year.  Mobile Tegra sales saw a similar increase of 4.3% but the same can not be said for their LTE division, the Icera LTE modem unit is now on the chopping block, to either be dissolved or sold off.  You can get more numbers from this story at The Register.

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"Nvidia has reported revenues of US$1.15 billion for the first quarter ended April 26, 2015, up 4% from US$1.10 billion a year earlier, but down 8% from US$1.25 billion the previous quarter."

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Source: DigiTimes

Podcast #348 - DirectX 12, New AMD GPU News, Giveaways and more!

Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2015 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, Fiji, hbm, microsoft, build 2015, DirectX 12, Intel, SSD 750, freesync, gsync, Oculus, rift

PC Perspective Podcast #348 - 05/07/2015

Join us this week as we discuss DirectX 12, New AMD GPU News, Giveaways and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

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

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

AMD has new APUs and new pricing for the ones already on the market

Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2015 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: amd, Carrizo-L, A8-7410, A6-7310, E2-7110, E1-7010, APU

AMD has provided information on their new Carrizo-L based 7000 series of chips featuring the A8-7410, A6-7310 and the A4-7210 as well as the E2-7110 and E1-7010.  The two E series chips replace the low powered Beema APS, the E1-6010 and E2-6110 which were found in All-in-One machines with the new E2-7110 being the first of that series to have four cores.  The other three models are new desktop chips with newer graphics cores, the full feature set you would expect and slightly higher TDPs than the E-Series.

The existing AMD A-Series Desktop APUs have seen a price reduction today with prices for the top end A10-7850K reduced to $127 with the low end A4-7300 costing a mere $42 which helps AMD's positioning as a supplier in the lower end of the market.  You can see the entire price list as well as some information about the new R300 series of GPUs in their post.

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"The AMD A-series APU are also the world’s best SoCs for DirectX 12, as independent testing showed a 41% framerate increase under DirectX 12 – read more in the AMD blog here. Additionally, using DirectX 12 the AMD A-series APU was able to demonstrate an incredible 511% increase in performance per watt.

Finally, with a suitably equipped AMD socket FM2+ motherboard featuring DisplayPort, AMD A-series APUs also support AMD FreeSync to deliver all the incredible experience benefits detailed in our AMD blog here."

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Source: AMD

Raptr's Top PC Games of March 2015

Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: raptr, pc gaming

Raptr is an application that helps PC gamers by optimizing in-game settings, recording and streaming gameplay, and providing a chat service. Each month, they use their community data to compile a list of most played PC games over the previous month. This release concerns the month of March, 2015.

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The top five games rarely move, but the last two months are minor exceptions. In February, Diablo III kicked Smite out of fifth place, leaving League of Legends, World of Warcraft, DOTA 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive untouched above it. In March, DOTA 2 by Valve Software had its third place ranking usurped by their arch nemesis: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive by Valve Software. That is the only change in the top five segment.

Looking at the bottom three-quarters, Dragon Age: Inquisition continued its descent right off the list, allowing PAYDAY 2 and Spider Solitaire to both re-enter the top twenty. (Apparently Spider Solitaire dropping by the list made Raptr “sad”. It has been absent since November 2014.) Battlefield 4 is down and War Thunder is up. Battlefield Hardline was only tracked for the first two weeks after its release, because we ran out of March, but it didn't even come close to the top twenty, placing 49th. It is attributed to Battlefield 4's decline, though.

StarCraft II being the only exception, four of Blizzard's five current titles are in the top ten most played games on the PC. With the Legacy of the Void beta going on, I wonder if they will achieve a five-for-five (or six-for-six if Overwatch is available by then) when the game fully releases, whenever that is.

Source: Raptr

GTA performance part 2 ... GPUs

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2015 - 03:46 PM |
Tagged: gaming, GTAV, 1440p, 4k, crossfire, sli

Last week [H]ard|OCP investigated the performance of GTAV on single GPU systems and this week comes the promised follow up featuring Crossfire and SLI, including the expensive Titan X.  With these high end setups, they tested 1440p and 4k performance as running these GPUs at 1080p is a crime against silicon.  At 1440p, the GTX 980 in SLI could handle more than a single Titan X though nowhere near what that card managed in SLI while on the AMD the 295X2 could keep up frame wise, but at the cost of some graphical extras.  At 4k resolutions, not even the mighty Titans could manage to run with all graphics options turned up, though it certainly did provide the best performance. AMD's GPUs lagged behind in performance however in scaling they were significantly better than NVIDIA's offerings, though there is still some room for improvement.  The real battle is at the $650 mark, you can choose between a pair of GTX 970's or a single R9 295X2 as they offer relatively similar performance but if you want the most out of GTAV you are going to have to pay much more than that.

You should also make sure to free up your calendar at the end of the month for the Fragging Frogs Virtual LAN Party #10 is coming up on the 30th!

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"This is Part 2 of our full evaluation of Grand Theft Auto V's video card gaming performance. In this part we dive into NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFire highest playable gameplay settings and apples-to-apples at 1440p and 4K resolutions. We find out just what it takes to get the most out of GTA V at its highest settings."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

The Oculus Rift is coming in early 2016, preorders before the end of the year

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2015 - 02:37 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift, Oculus, crescent bay

Finally we have a release date for the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, some time in Q1 of 2016.  The 2012 Kickstarter lead to the first and second Developers kits which have been out for a while now but not generally available. The most recent news was back in September when John Carmack and others showed off the prototype Crescent Bay model.  The Dev Kit 2 model was provided for a cost of $350 to those who qualified which gives a rough benchmark of the cost of the consumer model when it goes on sale.  At this point Oculus has not provided much in the way of technical specifications but those will be coming in the very near future.  You can see quite a bit of information on the Oculus page about the current version, if you want to tease yourself before news about the consumer package is officially released.

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"The Oculus Rift builds on the presence, immersion, and comfort of the Crescent Bay prototype with an improved tracking system that supports both seated and standing experiences, as well as updated ergonomics for a more natural fit, and a highly refined industrial design. In the weeks ahead, we’ll be revealing the details around hardware, software, input, and many of our unannounced made-for-VR games and experiences coming to the Rift. Next week, we’ll share more of the technical specifications here on the Oculus blog"

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Source: Oculus

Say goodbye to Patch Tuesday

Subject: General Tech | May 5, 2015 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: patch tuesday, microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft is showing off some of the new security features of Windows 10 and one of the announcements heralded the end of Patch Tuesday for everyone but Enterprise customers.  For consumers any device running Windows 10 could receive a patch at any time Microsoft approves it and pushes it out, apparently a shot across the bows at Google and their less than regular update schedule for mobile devices.  This could lead to some interesting and unexpected behaviour for devices if the patches cause problems on some systems as has happened in the past.  The patches can be distributed via peer-to-peer which will help those with limited bandwidth and time constraints, which you can read about at The Register along with information on the new Advanced Threat Analytics.

The Inquirer touches briefly on Windows Update for Business which will replace current patch distribution for the Enterprise and allow far more control on what gets updated, with which patches and when the installations will occur.

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"Ignite 2015 - Microsoft has shown off some of the new security mechanisms embedded in Windows 10, and revealed a change to its software updates."

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Source: The Register

HP Reinvents the AMD Desktop GPU line ... or at least leaks it

Subject: General Tech | May 4, 2015 - 06:19 PM |
Tagged: R9 380, R7 A360, R7 A330, leak, gpu, amd

HP announced their upcoming line up of desktops, including new Pavilions, ENVYs and a Spectre studio display with 4K resolution.  An astute reader noticed something else that they announced unintentionally, the models of three unreleased AMD GPUs.  The machines will be available starting on June 10th which even gives us a rough release time line.  The pricing does not reveal all that much as they reference the base models and so it is hard to know what, if any discrete GPU is in the base model.  

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The HP Pavilion All-in-One PCs will sport USB 3.0 and your choice of an AMD Radeon R7 A330 or an R7 A360.  As these are all in one PCs such as the one below you can expect these cards to represent the mid-range of AMD's upcoming lineup, though they could still put out a decent amount of power as the cooling in these systems is effective enough that HP offers models with Intel i7 and AMD A10 chips.

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What most people will likely get excited about is in the HP ENVY and HP ENVY Phoenix Towers, the R9 380 which is offered as an alternative to the GTX 980.  These machines also offer USB 3.0 as well as an option for a 512GB SSD as opposed to a 3TB HDD.  The R9 380 will be powerful enough to handle the new 32" HP Spectre Studio Display, a 4K display with built in speakers and a viewing angle of 178° which implies an IPS display, albeit with an unknown refresh rate.

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That is about all we know for now, but you can keep an eye out for more news about the R7 A330, R7 A360 and R9 380 right here.

Source: HP

Microsoft's Nano Server, the GUI-less server in the clouds

Subject: General Tech | May 4, 2015 - 02:56 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows server, nano server

Microsoft has really trimmed the fat off of Windows Server to make Nano Server, in fact they may have cut off some of the meat as well.  A Microsoft engineer described it as "a model of 'just enough OS'.", which is why the new Server OS base install is a mere 400MB.  The GUI is gone, you will use Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) or the new Core PowerShell which will resemble the old Powershell, but again in a cut down manner.  Drivers and APIs are minimal which will take programmers some time to adjust to as the DLL that they current use may not exist on Core and the installer you all know and hate, Windows MSI is one of the ones which has been cut.  In order to install drivers and applications which currently rely on MSI, you will need to add them to your image.  Read more about this major change in the way you will manage your Windows servers over at The Register.

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"Engineers from Microsoft's Windows Server team took the stage at the Build developer conference in San Francisco this week to share more details on Nano Server, the upcoming micro-sized version of the OS aimed at cloud deployments."

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Source: The Register

Falcon Northwest's Updated Tiki PC Packs A Punch

Subject: General Tech, Systems | May 3, 2015 - 04:27 PM |
Tagged: z97, xeon e5-2699v3, X99, tiki-z, tiki, SFF, liquid cooling, Haswell-E, falcon northwest, core i7-5960x

Falcon Northwest recently upped the hardware ante on its small form factor Tiki PC. Previously limited to Z97-based hardware, the company is now offering Tiki PCs with X99 motherboards. Even better, the Tiki can be configured with Intel’s Haswell-E Core i7-5000 or Haswell-EP Xeon  chips such as the Core i7-5960X or Xeon E5-2699V3.

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The updated Tiki maintains the same steel and aluminum case measuring 13” x 4” x 13” (HxWxD) with customizable paint work and a removable solid aluminum or granite base as its predecessors (e.g. Tiki-Z). External I/O options include the latest USB 3.1, eSATA, and Dual Intel Gigabit LAN ports. Internally, the Tiki has space for an Intel Z97 or X99 motherboard with a liquid cooled processor, up to 32GB of DDR4 (or 16GB DDR3 with Z97) memory, a dedicated graphics card up to an NVIDIA GTX TITAN X or Quadro and ample storage space in the form of four 2.5” drives or one 3.5” and two 2.5” drives.

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All this hardware amounts to an impressive amount performance in general – much less a small form factor system. At the upper echelon, the Xeon E5-2699V3 offers 18 cores (36 threads with HT) clocked at up to 3.6 GHz paired with 45MB of L3 cache. Paired with a Quadro card like the M6000, that is one powerful workstation!

The updated Tiki is aimed at gamers and workstation builds doing intensive workloads like CAD, 3D animation, and video production.

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The downside to this stylish powerhouse is, of course, pricing – the Tiki is far from cheap and the boutique premium is quite evident here. Available now, the updated Tiki starts at $1,860 for a base level Z97 system with quad core CPU or $2,492 for an eight core X99-based system. Fully loaded, the Tiki tops $10,000. 

It is definitely an extremely niche product, but the engineering and styling is impressive all the same!

Samsung's Galaxy refresh refreshes a bit too often

Subject: General Tech | May 1, 2015 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy s6, Galaxy S6 Edge

No company wants to hear their new flagship product has issues but unfortunately that has become all too common as financially gifted and tattooed Apple fans are well aware.  It would seem that Samsung is also having launch pains as users are seeing problems with RAM allocation.  The Inquirer reports that the phone will use up to 2.5GB for simple tasks, with Chrome being a major memory thief.  The programs do still run and the issue is not causing crashes, instead you can expect to see some stuttering and a lot of refreshes when you return to an app that has lost focus, even for a short time.  Samsung is aware of the problem and working on incremental updates which you can pick up via Update Now under Settings.

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"SAMSUNG HAS ADMITTED that the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are suffering performance problems due to a RAM management fault."

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Source: The Inquirer

BUILD 2015: Windows 10 10074 Released to Fast and Slow

Subject: General Tech | April 30, 2015 - 06:38 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, build 2015, build 10074, BUILD

When Microsoft forked their build numbers into 100xx and 101xx lines, we predicted that they were preparing a version to release at BUILD 2015. We also predicted that it would be heavily tested and pushed to both Slow and Fast simultaneously, which would give a good entry point for developers and probably even enterprise evaluators. I was surprised when Microsoft released 10061 last week, and then updated it just two days ago (why???) with four patches, but we ended up being correct in the end.

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Microsoft has just released Windows 10 build 10074 to both Fast and Slow users. Its comes with a very small list of known issues, and they are much less severe than they were in previous releases. The first issue tells developers that Developer Mode needs to be enabled in Group Policy, rather than the place in Settings that it will eventually be. The next two issues are more severe: some games cannot be played in full screen and the People app is still broken. I am not sure how wide-spread “some games” is, but they plan to patch it via Windows Update “as soon as possible”.

One major fix is that now, when certain applications that play audio are minimized, they will continue to play audio. This bug made many media players, such as a few SoundCloud apps in the Windows Store as well as Microsoft's own Music app, pretty much useless. Until 10074, you would basically need to launch them, then cover them up with other windows if you wanted more screen real-estate.

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If you were a fan of Aero from Windows 7, then you will like the blurred transparency effect of Start and the taskbar. Personally, while I think it looks nice, I was never really attached to that aspect of the Windows UI. Honestly, it used to drive me nuts when it kicked me out of games to complain about how it cannot properly manage 2GB of video memory, despite running perfectly fine if I select ignore. Hopefully that will not come back with it. But, if it is here without causing any problems, it does look pretty. Also, the Start Menu can now be manually resized to better arrange your apps. It also looks like the semi-horizontal layout is a great compromise between the Start Menu and the Start Screen for desktops.

So, as we expected, this build is what happens when Microsoft picks a target and mostly cleans up all of their relevant branches into a solid release. It is still a bit buggy here and there, but it feels better than 10049, which was itself better than 10041. That said, I also upgraded my NVIDIA drivers from 349.90 to 352.63; that could have something to do with it (although I am using the same Intel drivers).

There has not been too many announcements regarding features that are not present in 10074 though. It makes you wonder, at least a bit, how much will be added to the 101xx path until the OS finally launches.

Source: Microsoft