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Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2014 - 01:49 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: TrackIR, TrackIR5, TrackClip, TrackClip Pro
TrackIR is not a poor mans Occulus, it is a way to literally upgrade your POV hat switch by turning your hat into an input device. The picture below shows the passive reflectors and an optional active IR transmitter on a ball cap, the second half of the device is a sensor which sits on your display similar to where you keep your webcam. Once configured it will enable games that support it to track your head movements and change your on screen point of view to match. If you have heard of TrackIR before it is likely you are an ARMA fan as it has been successfully incorporated into the series and those who have used it swear they will never give it up. For space sims like the upcoming Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen it is also a brilliant way to interface with the game. Techgage tested out several other games with both the passive TrackClip and the TrackClip PRO active sensor accessory in this review, check out which of the two they preferred.
"The TrackIR 5 is unique; it provides us the ability to turn our heads and look around our surroundings with no input from our hands. Does this product have the ability to finally change the way we game or are we doomed to keep playing with baby toys for the foreseeable future?"
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- COUGAR 700M Aluminium Gaming Mouse @ Tech ARP
- ASUS Gladius @ HardwareHeaven
- ASUS ROG Gladius @ Kitguru
- Tesoro Gandiva H1L Laser Gaming Mouse @ eTeknix
- Gamdias APOLLO Extension Optical Gaming Mouse @ Bjorn3D
- Roccat Tyon Mouse and Raivo Mousepad @ Kitguru
- OCUK Cherry MX Keycaps and Rubber O-Ring Mod @ eTeknix
- Cougar 700K Mechanical Keyboard @ Hardware Heaven
Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2014 - 12:54 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: stuxnet, manufacturing plant, siemens
There have always been stories floating around the net of viruses which could cause your PSU to short or release the magic smoke from your chips but until Stuxnet those have just been silicon faerie tales. Stuxnet was first detected in 2010 in a uranium enrichment facility in Iran, a full year after the original infection took place and after Stuxnet had caused the physical failure of numerous centrifuges by altering the limits place on their cycling speed. The virus was designed to infect Siemens S7-400 PLCs, as well as the Step 7 and WinCC software and Profibus communication used on PCs to interface with the controllers. It was spread by USB drives as the machines were not connected directly to a network, the attackers went after companies which had maintenance, replacement and other types of contracts with the enrichment facility and who would unwittingly spread Stuxnet to the vulnerable equipment. You can read a brief overview of the Stuxnet sage at Wired, they are promoting a book on the subject which will be released this month and should make for interesting reading for anyone interested in computer security.
"Stuxnet, as it came to be known, was unlike any other virus or worm that came before. Rather than simply hijacking targeted computers or stealing information from them, it escaped the digital realm to wreak physical destruction on equipment the computers controlled."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Windows XP market share FELL OFF A CLIFF in October @ The Register
- Xbox One "Slim" Approaches Thanks to Cheaper, Cooler 20 nm APU From AMD @ DailyTech
- Microsoft gets storage QoS and software-defined storage religion @ The Register
- Netgear Nighthawk R7000 AC1900 Smart WiFi Router Review @ NikKTech
- KitGuru with MSI at Beat IT 2014
- Tech ARP 2014 Mega Giveaway Contest
Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2014 - 10:13 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, onedrive, skydrive, cloud storage, subscription service, subscription
I guess if you are going to take a hit on the enthusiasts by offering a 1TB tier, then you might as well just go all the way. Microsoft has been rolling out an unlimited tier to their various subscription products, starting with Office 365 Home, Personal, and University. OneDrive for Business customers, who are currently limited to 1TB of total storage, will be granted the unlimited tier, starting with "First Release" customers in 2015. It will probably arrive to "Standard Release" customers a couple of weeks later.
The 1TB tier was not around too long. It launched to several different subscriptions in late April, starting at $5 per user per month. Now, the current cheapest option is $7 per user per month, but it comes with a license of Office 365 Personal. Note that the first three tiers, Home, Personal, and University, are each non-commercial licenses. The rapid increase in capacity could mean either that the original initiative was very successful at wooing new customers, or the exact opposite of that. It is even possible that unlimited was the original intent, but they arrived there by way of a 1TB plan, either to shake up competitors, to double-up on media attention, or simply to dip a toe in. Basically, they could have done this for any reason under the sun. We have no idea.
Unlimited storage in OneDrive for Office 365 Personal, Home, and University is currently available, starting at $7 per user per month. OneDrive for Business customers will need to wait until 2015.
Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2014 - 12:59 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: TKL, tenkeyless, roccat, mechanical keyboard, gaming, Cherry MX
Roccat recently launched a slick new mechanical keyboard called the Ryos TKL Pro. The "TKL" in the name stands for "tenkeyless" and signifies the lack of a number pad. The new keyboard features your choice of Cherry MX switches in a glossy black (micro dot finish) frame with raised keys and a large palm rest with thumb buttons. The keyboard further packs in two ARM Cortex processors and 2MB of flash to store up to 470 macros and drive the per-key LED backlighting. Developed and tested by professional StarCraft II gamer HyuN, the Ryos TKL Pro is a cool looking bit of hardware that is available now with a MSRP of $140.
The Ryos TKL Pro measures 23.3 cm x 40.4 cm and holds 91 programmable keys. The keyboard connects via a 1.8 meter braided USB cable. It sits on five rubber feet with two being retractable risers. The mechanical keyboard supports USB report rates of 1000Hz and 1ms response times as well as N-key rollover anti-ghosting technology. The onboard memory allows users to store macros and secondary key functions when using the EasyShift+ and FN keys. The Ryos TKL Pro supports per-key illumination with special effects allowing any number of keys to be lit up while the rest remain dark. It can be configured to illuminate only the keys used in game, for instance.
Roccat has chosen Cherry MX switches for the Ryos TKL Pro like its larger Ryos MK Pro sibling. Specifically, gamers will be able to select models sporting Cherry MX blue, black, brown or red switches.
Other features include support for Roccat R.A.D. software to display game stats and achievements and Roccat Talk to interface with other Roccat gear.
The Ryos TKL Pro incorporates most of the features of the Ryos MK Pro into a more compact design. (You mainly give up the USB/audio hub and dedicated macro keys). If you are looking to ditch your number pad (and while this keyboard looks cool, I could not live without the good ole' num pad!) it might be worth looking into for your next keyboard. It is available now for $140.
Read more about mechanical keyboards at PC Perspective.
Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2014 - 05:55 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: optical, mice, laser mouse, gaming mouse, corsair
Corsair showed off new gaming mice at PAX Australia outfitted with your choice of optical or laser sensors. The new Sabre RGB mice are squarely aimed at PC gamers with a stylish automotive design aesthetic, customizable lighting, programmable buttons, and the choice of sensors. The optical model starts at $60 while the laser sensor variant has an MSRP of $70.
Corsair has packed quite a few features into gaming mouse weighing 100 grams. As the name implies, the Sabre RGB includes four LED-backlit lighting zones that can be set to one of 16.8 million colors. There are eight programmable buttons including two under the thumb on the left side of the mouse and a 1.8 meter (5.9 feet) braided USB cable. The choice of sensor and Omron switches rated at 20 million clicks are traits that competitive gamers should appreciate. The optical sensor tops out at 6400 DPI while the laser sensor can hit 8200 DPI. Corsair is bundling the mouse with CUE software which allows gamers to adjust the DPI, acceleration, smoothing, backlighting, macros, and USB reporting rate (25Hz to 1000Hz). According to Corsair Gaming Product Manager Jason Christian, the Sabre RGB was designed to be a lighter and sleeker mouse that builds upon the company's M65 and M45 series.
The Sabre Optical RGB and Sabre Laser RGB are available now for $60 and $70 respectively. More information along with a chance to win a Sabre RGB mouse, NVIDIA graphics card, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel can be found on the Corsair Gaming website.
Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2014 - 03:56 AM | Scott Michaud
Recently, the W3C has officially recommended the whole HTML5 standard as a specification for browser vendors and other interested parties. It is final. It is complete. Future work will now be rolled into HTML 5.1, which is currently on "Last Call" and set for W3C Recommendation in 2016. HTML 5.2 will follow that standard with a first specification working draft in 2015.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Another body that you may hear about is the "WHATWG". WHAT, you say? Yes, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG). This group was founded by people from within Apple, Mozilla, and Opera to propose their own standard, while the W3C was concerned with XHTML. Eventually, the W3C adopted much of the WHATWG's work. They are an open group without membership fees or meetings, and they still actively concern themselves with advancing the platform.
And there is still more to do. While the most visible change involves conforming to the standards and increasing the performance of each implementation as much as possible, the standard will continue evolving. This news sets a concrete baseline, allowing the implementations to experiment within its bounds -- and they now know exactly where they are.
Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2014 - 12:45 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Octane, gaming mouse, gaming keyboard, cooler master
Building upon the Devastator combo, Cooler Master has unleashed a new and improved keyboard and mouse combo dubbed Octane. The Octane keyboard and mouse are aimed at PC gamers with customizable LED backlighting, anti ghosting, high DPI mouse sensors and other gaming friendly features. It is available now with a MSRP of $59.99.
Sold as a set, the Octane gaming bundle includes a USB keyboard with custom membrane keys and USB optical mouse. As is customary with gaming gear, the kit features lots of sharp edges and angles. The keyboard in particular is heavily stylized. Both devices can be independently assigned colored backlighting with seven colors to choose from (blue, red, green, purple, yellow, cyan, or white). The backighting can be further set to one of several modes including full backlight, pulse, or a breathing mode that gradually cycles through all available color options.
The keyboard is mainly constructed of ABS plastic and uses custom membrane keyswitches. It is a full QWERTY keyboard with a number pad on the right side, a Windows button lock switch, backlight control key, and six dedicated media playback keys along the top. The space bar is a unique triangle/wedge shape (wider on the right side) that differs from a standard keyboard, however. There is a short palm rest with a Cooler Master logo sitting in the center below the space bar. Cooler Master claims that the Octane keyboard supports 19-key anti-ghosting technology along with adjustable repeat rates.
The mouse included in the Octane set uses a AVAGO 3050 optical sensor that supports DPI settings from 500 to 3500. Users can adjust the DPI on the fly to one of four adjustable DPI levels. It is allegedly rated for 10 million clicks over its lifespan. Aside from the two main mouse buttons and the scroll wheel, the gaming mouse has two DPI buttons beneath the scroll wheel and two thumb buttons on the left side of the mouse.
The Octane bundle is an improvement over the Devastator series, at least on paper, though at increased cost. The hardware is shipping now, so reviews should be forthcoming from the usual suspects. The Octane mouse and keyboard bundle is available now with a 2 year warranty for $60 USD.
Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2014 - 12:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: internet2, software defined networking
The Internet2 Network is a project being run by universities to develop or modify TCP/IP for the next generation of connectivity and to take advantage of the benefits of fibre optic transportation. They are also developing monitoring and management tools better suited to handle the huge networks which are becoming commonplace to enable users and machines connected to them to better interface with each other. The Register talks about their newest research and development phase in this story, it seems that Universities have embraced the Cloud and Software Defined Networking in their development of the next generation of networking, likely to the dismay of Cisco. The CloudLab runs a total of 15,000 cores to support the various slices of Cloud that are being implemented, follow the links in the story to get more detailed information on the various projects that are underway.
"The SDN rollout uses the FlowSpace Firewall to slice up segments of connected campuses' 100 Gbps Internet2 connections into discrete slices whose resources are protected from other traffic on the network. That means the 40 attached nodes in America will be able to get their own OpenFlow slices on the network."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- How to Get the Experience You Need for Linux Certification @ Linux.com
- Digitimes Research: Skylake processor delay to weaken Windows 10 notebook demand
- Lenovo completes Motorola purchase for $2.9bn – $10bn less than Google paid for it @ The Register
- Hungary scraps internet tax plans in wake of mass protests @ The Inquirer
- Sony borks fanboi funboxes with dodgy PS4 update @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 07:04 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: online storage, encryption, cloud storage, bitcasa
Bitcasa recently announced that, as of November 15, 2014, the company is discontinuing its "Infinite Drive" and will no longer be offering unlimited cloud storage space. The company made its debut at the start of last year with an infinite storage product (Amazon S3 backend with custom applications and client side AES-256 convergent encryption). Since then, the company has grown to store more than 40 Petabytes of user data. Unfortunately, the unlimited storage space model was not sustainable despite heavily increased pricing several months ago.
According to Bitcasa, less than 0.5% of users stored more than 1TB while 0.1% of users used more than 10TB. The alleged lack of demand coupled with violations of the company's Acceptable Use Policy were the final nails in the infinite storage coffin.
There is a bright side to the announcement, however. Bitcasa has re-engineered the storage backend and is promising faster uploading, downloading, and streaming (over the web interface) of files. Users wishing to stick with Bitcasa will need to transfer files over to the new storage system by the November 15, 2014 deadline. After the deadline, all files that have not been transferred or downloaded will be deleted permanently.
Bitcasa has put together a FAQ that explains the situation and how it will affect each of the account tiers on their website.
Essentially, Bitcasa is shuttering the infinite storage tier completely. Users storing 10TB or less will be allowed to move to the Premium or Pro tiers. The Premium tier remains the same as the old plan at $10 per month for 1TB of storage. The Pro tier has been changed from 5TB for $49 per month to 10TB for $99 per month. Users storing over 10TB will need to reduce their stored files to fit within at most 10TB of space. Of course, users are not required to stay and are free to download their files and move to an alternative service. Finally, the free storage tier has been cut from 10GB to 5GB going forward.
Any existing accounts (so long as they within the lower storage allotments) will be grandfathered in (including pricing on paid tiers) and any"extra" storage space gathered from referrals will remain in effect.
|New Plans||Old Plans|
|Storage Tier||Storage Space||Pricing||Storage Space||
|Premium||1TB||$10/month ($99/year)||1TB||$10/month ($99/year)|
|Infinite||n/a||No longer offered||Unlimited||$99/month ($999/year)|
There are some snags in the transfer process to be aware of though. Past version history on files will not be preserved post transfer and any mirrored folders will have to be recreated. It is possible to move the mirrored folders after the transfer if you do not have access to the original PC(s), but you will have to recreate the mirrors using the applications when you want to keep them in sync again.
Also, Bitcasa notes that iTunes payments for Bitcasa storage will no longer be accepted and Facebook and Twitter logins will not be allowed (you will create new a new login during the transfer process). Finally, streaming to Plex is not currently working with the new storage system, but a fix is being worked on.
Upon receiving the email from Bitcasa yesterday, I logged in and completed the transfer. The process took about five minutes (including downloading my mirrored folders I no longer had access to on my home PC). My free account is grandfathered into the 10GB limit. When the service first came out, I tried it out for awhile and it was decent. At one point I even considered moving to the paid infinite tier, but at the new prices the amount of storage is no longer economical for personal use (>1TB). It is notable that Microsoft started offering unlimited (used to be 1TB) storage to Office 365 subscribers this week, and I wonder how long that will last and if they will run into many of the same problems Bitcasa did.
What do you think about this announcement? Will unlimited storage always be too good to be true (ie an unsustainable business model).
Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 02:59 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: x99 ws, Intel X99, Haswell-E, asrock
ASRock has a Work Station class board for Haswell-E with five PCIe 3.0 slots, support for up to 128GB of RAM which can be ECC if you install an appropriate processor and on the back are four of both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, one eSATA ports, audio and a pair of LAN ports. They also included A-Tuning overclocking software which seems odd for a Work Station but proved to be very important as [H]ard|OCP could not get the system they built with this board to POST at default settings and had to change UEFI settings to get it to boot. Once it did start up the performance was solid and it was one of the better ASRock boards that [H] has reviewed though with a street price over $300 it is hard to recommend.
"ASRock comes to us with its "Work Station" version Haswell-E motherboard. This time our out-of-box experience with its X99 WS was as rock solid as it could be and did leave us with feelings of getting to work with a quality component. As you all know, we are much more interested in how it performs at high clocks while under stress."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- ASRock X99 Extreme11 @ The SSD Review
- ASUS X99-A Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
- MSI Z97 Gaming 9 AC Motherboard Review @ Modders-Inc
- Asus Maximus Vii Hero Motherboard Review @ TechwareLabs
- MSI X99S Gaming 9 AC @ HardwareHeaven
- MSI X99S SLI PLUS On Linux @ Phoronix
- Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 5 @ eTeknix
Podcast #324 - Civilization: Beyond Earth, Consoles Performance Issues, Samsung SSD updates and more
Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 02:10 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: xbox one, video, steiger dynamics, ps4, podcast, nvidia, Mantle, LIVA, Intel, ECS, Broadwell-E, amd, Alienware 13
PC Perspective Podcast #324 - 10/30/2014
Join us this week as we discuss Civilization: Beyond Earth Performance, Consoles Performance Issues, Samsung SSD updates and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the 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: 1:38:13
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Allyn: Tweak your WMC channel guide
Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 01:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: iPad Air 2, apple
There were long lineups of people desperate to get their hands on the new iPad Air 2, regardless of the fact that the internals cost a mere $1 more than the initial model. To be fair that is not the best way to judge the quality of the upgrade, that should rely more on the screen quality ... which is exactly the same in all respects except for a new anti-reflective coating. Apple is also reducing their markup, from 45-61% down to a paltry 45-57% for this generation so at least that $1.00 extra in materials will not raise your purchase price overly. The internals such as the TSMC made A8X and camera match the iPhone 6 to a large extent making it a more powerful phablet than the original, so don't disparage it too much. You can read more on The Register if you are into fruit.
"New iPad Air 2 components cost Apple just one dollar more than the previous model, according to the teardown bods at IHS."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The TR Podcast 164: We get twitchy over Apples, Nexuses, and beefy games
- Hey - who wants 4.8 TERABYTES almost AS FAST AS MEMORY? @ The Register
- Drupal Warns Users of Mass, Automated Attacks On Critical Flaw @ Slashdot
- More Microsoft staffers shown the door in Round 3 of job cuts @ The Register
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 29, 2014 - 06:12 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ubisoft, assassin's creed
Ubisoft has integrated GameWorks into Assassin's Creed Unity, or at least parts of it. The main feature to be included is NVIDIA's Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion Plus (HBAO+), which is their implementation of Ambient Occlusion. This effect darkens areas that would otherwise be incorrectly lit with our current limitations of Global Illumination. Basically, it analyzes the scene's geometry to subtract some of the influence of "ambient light" in places where it is an unrealistic approximation (particularly in small crevices). This is especially useful for overcast scenes, where direct sunlight does not overwhelm the contribution of scatters and bounces.
The other features to be included are Temporal Anti-alising (TXAA), Percentage-Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS), and GeometryWorks Advanced Tessellation. TXAA and PCSS were both included in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, alongside the previously mentioned HBAO+, so it makes sense that Ubisoft continues to use what worked for them. GeometryWorks is a different story. NVIDIA seems to claim that it is like DirectX 11 tessellation, but is better suited for use alongside HBAO+ and PCSS.
Assassin's Creed Unity will be available on November 11th.
Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2014 - 01:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gaming, skyrim, frostfall
Last week RPS engaged in a bit of a theme, reviewing various survival games which is a genre which has really taken off this year. Perhaps the most interesting was this article describing life with mods that make Skyrim into a much colder place to live, with frostbite becoming a serious concern as well as weather effects which are far more than just eye candy. They also chose a mod which disables fast travel and removes dragons and the Dragonborn, instead playing a random outlaw out for an adventure. All told this makes for a very different game than the vanilla and for those really looking for a new experience there is a comprehensive list of survival mods in this post, check out the comments below as well if you want to start counting your calories.
If you prefer survival of the fittest in a multiplayer game, then drop the single player mods and check out what the Fragging Frogs are up to this week.
Drinking also has an effect.
"But more importantly, Meeko kept me warm in Skyrim’s deadly mountain passes. One of the mods I have installed is Frostfall, which gives the player a few extra things to worry about. Exposure can leave you freezing to death, while being wet means you succumb to the cold even faster. You have to keep yourself warm at fires and fill up on hot soups to keep your ‘exposure meter’ from dropping too low. Once, I tried to swim across a small, icy river and before I could get a fire going on the opposite shore I passed out from hypothermia. I woke up in a familiar inn, penniless, frostbitten and with this note in my pocket."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Sunset Overdrive @ The Inquirer
- Wot I Think: Pike And Shot @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Far Cry 4 Kyrat Trailers: Not A Great Holiday Destination @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- The Elitist, Part Three: Picking A Fight @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- No, Not Boo: The Humble InDIE Bundle @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: General Tech | October 29, 2014 - 12:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: arm, microsoft, windows server
The Register does not specify which version this was, likely a recent but highly modified version, but Microsoft has demonstrated their Server OS running on ARM hardware. This will give them another inroad to low cost server builds which don't necessarily have Intel or AMD inside, as well as hedging their bets against Linux. Linux is already happily running on just about any hardware you could want, or will be soon and Microsoft is likely worried about losing share to the open source OS. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft can offer the price conscious shopper to convince them to spend the money on an OS license when Linux is free. The days when the older generations of techs who have grown up with large UNIX servers and through Microsoft replacing it are numbered and they have always been one of the obstacles for the growth of upstart young Linux. The Register also points to the possibility of it being an in house solution to keep the costs of maintaining Microsoft's Cloud applications.
"That's not a stunning feat: having developed Windows RT – a version of Windows 8 running on ARM chippery – Microsoft clearly has the know-how to get the job done. And it's not an indication that Microsoft intends to make Windows Server on ARM a product. It's just a test."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Windows 10 Gets a Package Manager For the Command Line @ Slashdot
- Microsoft shows off spanking Win 10 PCs, compute-tastic Azure @ The Register
- Microsoft Office for Android tipped to arrive in November @ The Inquirer
- Universal Translator @ MAKE:Blog
- Best travel gadgets 2014 @ The Inquirer
- Win an ASUS ROG Swift 144Hz G-Sync monitor @ KitGuru
Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2014 - 06:10 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, disney, lucasfilm
Lucasfilm games (think LucasArts) and Disney Interactive have recently been re-introducing their back catalog to the PC. Earlier this month, Disney unleashed its wrath upon Steam, including Epic Mickey 2, which was not available on the PC outside of a limited, Eastern Europe release. Today, they licensed (different) titles to GOG.com: three Star Wars titles and three point-and-click adventures.
As for the Star Wars titles? Two of them are X-Wing Special Edition and TIE Fighter Special Edition. Both titles include their 1994 and 1998 releases, as well as any applicable expansions. They, along with Sam & Max Hit the Road, have never been sold through digital distribution platforms, prior to today.
Honestly, I never had a chance to play X-Wing and TIE Fighter. I liked space combat games, but I pretty much just played Privateer 1 and 2 as well as some console games, like Star Fox and Rogue Squadron. I was a kid. I played a handful of games to death. I keep hearing that X-Wing and TIE Fighter were, supposedly, the best of the genre. I have no experience with them, though.
These titles are currently the top six best sellers on the service, pulling ahead of The Witcher 3 pre-order as I wrote this post. The press release claims that more titles are on the way "in the coming months".
Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2014 - 03:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: alienware, Alienware 13, graphics amplifier, gaming laptop
The Alienware 13 is a gaming laptop which comes with a very interesting optional product, the so called Graphics Amplifier which is an external enclosure for a desktop GPU. Finally the product which we have been waiting for has arrived, though only for a specific system. The box will cost you $300 but will allow you to connect a GPU to your laptop with a single cord. It does not ship with a GPU but there is a 460W PSU inside. The GPU can be at most a double slot card, larger ones will not fit and it can have a maximum power draw of 375W which is not really an issue as that limit come from the PCIe interface. The single cord you can see coming out of the back of the enclosure in this picture from Gizmodo provides a combined PCIe and USB connection to the laptop and when connected will disable the laptops internal GPU and allow the external desktop GPU to power the system.
You cannot hotswap your GPU, you will need to reboot your system to switch between the external GPU and your internal GPU and SLI an option. You do get to choose between your integral display or an external one connected via HDMI or Mini DisplayPort; the most expensive model of Alienware 13 does ship with a 2560x1440 touchscreen but it is still only 13" in size.
The internals are quite nice with a Haswell Core i5 4210U, a choice of either 8 or 16GB of DDR3-1600, a GTX 860M and either a large HDD or a 256GB M.2 SSD. That is enough power to keep this laptop from lagging behind in performance for the next few years and with the external GPU you could feasibly upgrade your graphics for a few generations which will keep you in the game without needing a whole new system.
From the tests that Gizmodo performed the external GPU functions perfectly when it is enabled which is great news for those of us who have been hoping that PCIe would eventually bring us a product such as this one. The proprietary nature should not be too much of a concern, if Dell has managed to pull it off there is no reason why other companies would not be able to make a version which could work with other laptops which have the proper ports. This certainly changes the biggest issue that gaming laptops have faced; now you can upgrade the laptop through several generations instead of needing to purchase a completely new system every other generation or so.
Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2014 - 01:46 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, win7, inevitable
It is official, at the end of this month consumers will no longer be able to get their hands on a machine with Windows 7 installed, unless they luck into a machine which has been sitting on the shelves for a while. If you buy through a corporate account you will still be able to order a machine with Win7 but that will be the only way to get your hands on the OS which is already almost impossible to find. That puts shoppers in a bit of a bind as Win10 will not arrive for a while yet which leaves Win 8.1 as your only Microsoft based OS. Of course there is always Linux, now that many games and distribution platforms such as Steam support the free OS it is a viable choice for both productivity and entertainment. You can get more details at Slashdot or vent your spleen in the comments section.
"This Friday is Halloween, but if you try to buy a PC with Windows 7 pre-loaded after that, you're going to get a rock instead of a treat. Microsoft will stop selling Windows 7 licenses to OEMs after this Friday and you will only be able to buy a machine with Windows 8.1. The good news is that business/enterprise customers will still be able to order PCs 'downgraded' to Windows 7 Professional."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 Debuts With 'Rock-Solid' Cloud Support @ Linux.com
- Microsoft brings the CLOUD that GOES ON FOREVER @ The Register
- QuarkXpress 2015 to launch early next year with 64-bit speed boost @ The Inquirer
- Lumia 830: Microsoft hopes to seduce with slim 'affordable' model @ The Register
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 27, 2014 - 04:50 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: xbox one, sony, ps4, playstation 4, microsoft, amd
A couple of weeks back a developer on Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Unity was quoted that the team had decided to run both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 variants of the game at 1600x900 resolution "to avoid all the debates and stuff." Of course, the Internet exploded in a collection of theories about why that would be the case: were they paid off by Microsoft?
For those of us that focus more on the world of PC gaming, however, the following week an email into the Giantbomb.com weekly podcast from an anonymous (but seemingly reliable) developer on the Unity team raised even more interesting material. In this email, despite addressing other issues on the value of pixel count and the stunning visuals of the game, the developer asserted that we may have already peaked on the graphical compute capability of these two new gaming consoles. Here is a portion of the information:
The PS4 couldn’t do 1080p 30fps for our game, whatever people, or Sony and Microsoft say. ...With all the concessions from Microsoft, backing out of CPU reservations not once, but twice, you’re looking at about a 1-2 FPS difference between the two consoles.
What's hard is not getting the game to render but getting everything else in the game at the same level of performance we designed from the start for the graphics. By the amount of content and NPCs in the game, from someone who witnessed a lot of optimizations for games from Ubisoft in the past, this is crazily optimized for such a young generation of consoles. This is really about to define the next-generation unlike any other game beforehand.
We are bound from the CPU because of AI. Around 50% of the CPU is used for the pre-packaged rendering parts..
So, if we take this anonymous developers information as true, and this whole story is based on that assumption, then have learned some interesting things.
- The PS4, the more graphically powerful of the two very similarly designed consoles, was not able to maintain a 30 FPS target when rendering at 1920x1080 resolution with Assassin's Creed Unity.
- The Xbox One (after giving developers access to more compute cycles previously reserved to Kinect) is within a 1-2 FPS mark of the PS4.
- The Ubisoft team see Unity as being "crazily optimized" for the architecture and consoles even as we just now approach the 1 year anniversary of their release.
- Half of the CPU compute time is being used to help the rendering engine by unpacking pre-baked lighting models for the global illumination implementation and thus the game is being limited by the 50% remaining performance power the AI, etc.
It would appear that just as many in the media declared when the specifications for the new consoles were announced, the hardware inside the Playstation 4 and Xbox One undershoots the needs of game developers to truly build "next-generation" games. If, as this developer states, we are less than a year into the life cycle of hardware that was planned for an 8-10 year window and we have reached performance limits, that's a bad sign for game developers that really want to create exciting gaming worlds. Keep in mind that this time around the hardware isn't custom built cores or using a Cell architecture - we are talking about very basic x86 cores and traditional GPU hardware that ALL software developers are intimately familiar with. It does not surprise me one bit that we have seen more advanced development teams hit peak performance.
If the PS4, the slightly more powerful console of the pair, is unable to render reliably at 1080p with a 30 FPS target, then unless the Ubisoft team are completely off the rocker in terms of development capability, the advancement of gaming on consoles would appear to be somewhat limited. Remember the specifications for these two consoles:
|PlayStation 4||Xbox One|
|Processor||8-core Jaguar APU||8-core Jaguar APU|
|Memory||8GB GDDR5||8GB DDR3|
|Graphics Card||1152 Stream Unit APU||768 Stream Unit APU|
|Peak Compute||1,840 GFLOPS||1,310 GFLOPS|
The custom built parts from AMD both feature an 8-core Jaguar x86 architecture and either 768 or 1152 stream processors. The Jaguar CPU cores aren't high performance parts: single-threaded performance of Jaguar is less than the Intel Silvermont/Bay Trail designs by as much as 25%. Bay Trail is powering lots of super low cost tablets today and even the $179 ECS LIVA palm-sized mini-PC we reviewed this week. And the 1152/768 stream processors in the GPU portion of the AMD APU provide some punch, but a Radeon HD 7790 (now called the R7 260X), released in March of 2013, provides more performance than the PS4 and the Radeon R7 250X is faster than what resides in the Xbox One.
If you were to ask me today what kind of performance would be required from AMD's current GPU lineup for a steady 1080p gaming experience on the PC, I would probably tell you the R9 280, a card you can buy today for around $180. From NVIDIA, I would likely pick a GTX 760 (around $200).
Also note that if the developer is using 50% of the CPU resources for rendering computation and the remaining 50% isn't able to hold up its duties on AI, etc., we likely have hit performance walls on the x86 cores as well.
Even if this developer quote is 100% correct that doesn't mean that the current generation of consoles is completely doomed. Microsoft has already stated that DirectX 12, focused on performance efficiency of current generation hardware, will be coming to the Xbox One and that could mean additional performance gains for developers. The PS4 will likely have access to OpenGL Next that is due in the future. And of course, it's also possible that this developer is just wrong and there is plenty of headroom left in the hardware for games to take advantage of.
But honestly, based on my experience with these GPU and CPU cores, I don't think that's the case. If you look at screenshots of Assassin's Creed Unity and then look at the minimum and recommended specifications for the game on the PC, there is huge, enormous discrepancy. Are the developers just writing lazy code and not truly optimizing for the hardware? It seems unlikely that a company the size of Ubisoft would choose this route on purpose, creating a console game that runs in a less-than-ideal state while also struggling on the PC version. Remember, there is almost no "porting" going on here: the Xbox One and Playstation 4 share the same architecture as the PC now.
Of course, we might just be treading through known waters. I know we are a bit biased, and so is our reader base, but I am curious: do you think MS and Sony have put themselves in a hole with their shortsighted hardware selections?
UPDATE: It would appear that a lot of readers and commentors take our editorial on the state of the PS4 and XB1 as a direct attack on AMD and its APU design. That isn't really the case - regardless of what vendors' hardware is inside the consoles, had Microsoft and Sony still targeted the same performance levels, we would be in the exact same situation. An Intel + NVIDIA hardware combination could just have easily been built to the same peak theoretical compute levels and would have hit the same performance wall just as quickly. MS and Sony could have prevented this by using higher performance hardware, selling the consoles at a loss out the gate and preparing each platform for the next 7-10 years properly. And again, the console manufacturers could have done that with higher end AMD hardware, Intel hardware or NVIDIA hardware. The state of the console performance war is truly hardware agnostic.
Subject: General Tech | October 27, 2014 - 02:33 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: audio, Takstar, HD5500
Some people still prefer headsets with a simplistic design and understated branding as opposed to models with colours bright enough to pass for emergency beacons and a logo large enough to be spotted from orbit. Takstar understands this and even offers their product for less money than their ostentatious competitors, but that is only half the story as they still need to sound good. It has a variety of connection options, a 1/8" adapter designed for mobile devices as well as a larger 1/4" connection for use on stereos. On a mobile device the bass is lacking, which is more because of the lack of power as the headsets sounded much better on the 1/4" plug from a more powerful source. Do not expect a miracle from $75 circumaural headphones but for the value conscious you should take a look at TechPowerUp's review.
"Takstar is well-known for their bang-for-the-buck headphones, and today, we take a look at their HD5500s. Priced at $74.50, these headphones are for mobile users who want a solid and well-sounding pair of headphones. We take the HD5500s for a spin to see if they can live up to such expectation."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Blackbox M10 SE Active Noise Cancelling Headphones Review @ NikKTech
- Roccat Kave XTD @ HardwareHeaven
- Gigabyte Force H3X Gaming Headset @ eTeknix
- Rikomagic MK902 Network Media Player Review @ NikKTech
- Bass Egg VERB Bluetooth Vibration Portable Speaker Review @ NikKTech