What the Func is special about the HS-260 headset?

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2014 - 03:36 PM |
Tagged: audio, Func, HS-260, gaming headset

The FUNC-HS-260-1ST gaming headset features 50mm drivers, a frequency response of  20HZ to 20kHz and both the cord and the microphone are detachable which makes it a little more portable that it looks like at first glance.  Func moved the volume controls off of the cable and onto the headset its self, which along with the ability to connect the cord to either the left or right side make using these headphones that much more enjoyable. The leather pads and soft touch finish on the earcups were highly praised by Benchmark Reviews but the sound quality is also very important.  Check out their full review to find out how well Func's first headsets performed.

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"On January 27th 2014 Func will start shipping their HS-260 gaming headset, completing a first run of peripherals that started with the MS-3 gaming mouse in February of last year (and the KB-460 mechanical keyboard this past November). Sporting tuned 50mm drivers, detachable audio cables and removable microphone which can switch sides at will, Func brings their focus on functionality to the gaming headset category with their new headset, model FUNC-HS-260-1ST. Benchmark Reviews has a sample on hand, and in this review I’ll do my best to explain my experience with the Func HS-260 gaming headset."

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Audio Corner

Skywind is coming ... still

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2014 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: gaming, morrowind, skyrim, mod, skywind

The long awaited mod is still in development, recreating Morrowind with the improved Skyrim engine.  The alpha is currently available to those who own a copy of both games, Skyrim for the engine and Morrowind for the actual game content.  There is a lot of work to be done uniting the games, skill trees are different as well as the differences in the armour system.  With a complete redo of every texture as well as the incorporation of all of Morrowind's content this is a major project but it seems Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN has good reason to believe this mod will continue being developed as there is quite a bit of action on their forums as well as the preview video they just posted.

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"I'm so used to these modern conversions of old games stalling mid-development, that I immediately approach them with skepticism. There’s now enough here that I’m starting to open up my hope glands and spurt optimism juice all over my clothes. It’s kind of a problem."

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Gaming

AMD's first Syst-ARM on a Chip Opteron will be here soon

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2014 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: SoC, seattle, opteron, arm, amd, A1100

The Opteron A1100 will be the name born by AMD's first SoC, which we knew previously as Seattle and is the first chip which will contain ARM Cortex A57 architecture working in tandem with AMDs.  It will be a full 64bit chip and will sport up to 4MB of shared L2 cache and 8MB of shared L3 cache and it will support of to four DIMMs of either DDR3 or DDR4 in dual channel with ECC.  It will boot using UEFI into a Linux environment based on Fedora and will be optimized to handle web front ends and data centre tasks.  As far as connectivity it will have 8 lanes of PCIe 3.0 and 8 SATA 3 ports. You can follow links from The Register to see the AMD Press Release.

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"CHIP DESIGNER AMD is preparing to sample its 64-bit ARM based server processors codenamed Seattle, which will be the company's first stab at a system on chip (SoC) design for data centre products."

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Source: The Register

These Aren't the Drivers You're Looking For. AMD 13.35 Leak.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 28, 2014 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: Mantle, BF4, amd

A number of sites have reported on Toshiba's leak of the Catalyst 13.35 BETA driver. Mantle and TrueAudio support highlight its rumored changelog. Apparently Ryan picked it up, checked it out, and found that it does not have the necessary DLLs included. I do not think he has actual Mantle software to test against, and I am not sure how he knew what libraries Mantle requires, but this package apparently does not include them. Perhaps it was an incomplete build?

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Sorry folks, unlike the above image, these are not the drivers you are looking for.

The real package should be coming soon, however. Recent stories which reference EA tech support (at this point we should all know better) claim that the Mantle update for Battlefield 4 will be delayed until February. Fans reached out to AMD's Robert Hallock who responded that it was, "Categorically not true". It sounds like AMD is planning on releasing at least their end of the patch before Friday ends.

This is looking promising, at least. Something is being done behind the scenes.

GIGABYTE BRIX Has AMD Discrete Graphics (R9 M275X)

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 28, 2014 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte brix, gigabyte, amd

If you feel a little déjà vu while reading this, it is because this system is identical to the MAINGEAR SPARK. Both devices are powered by an AMD A8-5557M APU backed with an AMD Radeon R9 M275X mobile discrete GPU. They even use the same case with the same color scheme. The only difference that I could find is the MAINGEAR logo on the front versus the GIGABYTE logo on the top. I think we could safely say that both devices are made at the same place. I expect that GIGABYTE was the OEM for MAINGEAR's Steam Machine.

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Check out Tim's post about the SPARK.

Check out GIGABYTE's product page for the BRIX Gaming.

When Tim published his post about the SPARK for CES, back on January 6th, little was known about the R9 M275X (beyond its 2GB of GDDR5). That is still the case. AMD has not said anything further about the mobile GPU. The press release from GIGABYTE claims that it will support DirectX 11.1 (which implies it will not support DirectX 11.2) and OpenGL 4.1 (which implies a lack of support for OpenGL 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4). GIGABYTE also claims that it will support "the latest OpenCL 1.1 standard" (which implies lack of support for OpenCL 1.2).

I seriously doubt that this is true.

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I cannot see AMD regressing that heavily on API compatibility. OpenGL 4.2 has been supported since the HD 5000 (desktop) and HD 6000M (laptop) series. OpenCL 1.2 has been supported since the HD 5000 (desktop) and HD 7000M (laptop) line. One of the main features of OpenCL 1.2 is the ability share resources with DirectX 11 (OpenCL 1.1 shares with DirectX 10). In fact, I cannot find a single chip that AMD produced which supports OpenGL 4.1 and OpenCL 1.1 and fails to support OpenGL 4.2 and OpenCL 1.2.

I would not trust GIGABYTE's press release when it comes to the R9 M275X.

Still nothing on pricing and availability for the GIGABYTE BRIX Gaming. Its product code will be the "GB-BXA8G-8890", which totally rolls off the tongue, so we have that going for us. It is a very interesting device. I wonder if we will see it, and other BRIX entries, find their way into the catalogs of other system builders.

Source: GIGABYTE

More fuel for the rumours that Intel is abandoning smartphones

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: Intel, smartphones, edison

As part of their keynote address at CES 2014 Intel introduced Edison, a dual core x86 machine the size of an SD card.  This chip will be used not for powering smartphones but for wearable technology as well as for the so called 'Internet of Things'.   As it is WiFi enabled it can be accessed wirelessly to allow fridges to order food or as in the provided example, start a baby bottle warming before you arrive with your hungry child.  With this new focus and the poor performance of Intel's smartphones overseas the rumours that DigiTimes are reporting on seem to be probable.  Their deal with Lenovo to provide phones has ended and while they do have a current relationship with Asustek, that could end as soon as 2015.  The chances of North Americans getting hold of a phone with Intel Inside seem to be diminishing.

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"A rumor circulating in the upstream supply chain in Taiwan has Intel reportedly questioning whether it should quit the smartphone market in 2015 if it continues to see weak performance in its handset business in 2014, according to sources from the upstream supply chain, though Intel has not yet commented on the rumor."

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Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Develop for Debian; get free games

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2014 - 02:01 PM |
Tagged: linux, debian, valve, free

Valve has an obvious favourite flavour of Linux as revealed by the free games they will be showering Debian developers with.  Any and all Valve published games, past or future, will be made available to developers for free.  This makes sense as SteamOS is branched from Debian 7.1 "Wheezy", making it very worth Valve's time and money to make friends with developers for Debian.  Maybe it is time to update your coding skills and become a developer; The Register didn't specify that Half Life 3 will be out first on Linux but do you really want to run that risk?

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"Games vendor Valve has offered a surprise present to the Debian Linux community, in the form of subscriptions that give Debian project members free, unlimited access to all Valve game titles – past, present, and future – forever."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register

(HCW) Kaveri Overclocked +1GHz CPU, +300 MHz GPU

Subject: General Tech, Processors | January 27, 2014 - 03:24 AM |
Tagged: overclocking, Kaveri, amd

HCW does quite a few overclocking reviews for both Intel and AMD processors. This time, Carl Nelson got a hold of the high-end AMD A10-7850K and gave it a pretty healthy boost in frequencies. By the time he was done with it, the CPU was operating a whole gigahertz above stock simultaneous with a 300 MHz boost to its integrated graphics.

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Image Credit: HCW

3DMark 2013 Fire Strike scores gained 27%.

One again, they break down tests along a suite of different games of varying engines and add some OpenCL tests to round things out. In real-world applications, the increase was not quite as dramatic as the one seen in 3DMark but still significant. This overclock allowed certain games to jump from 720p to playable at 1080p. Apparently this silicon is a decent little overclocker.

Source: HCW

Four Processors Might Be Slated for AMD's AM1 Socket

Subject: General Tech, Processors | January 26, 2014 - 09:28 PM |
Tagged: AM1, Kabini, amd

Chinese VR-Zone published claims that AMD will have up to four processors planned for AM1. This is the brand of socket designed for the upcoming Kabini APUs that we have discussed since the CES time frame. Three of the upcoming processors will be quad-core with one dual-core for variety. Regardless of core count, all four processors are listed at 25 watts (TDP).

Product Cores CPU
GPU
L2 TDP
A6-5350 Quad 2.05GHz HD 8400 2MB 25W
A4-5150 Quad 1.60GHz HD 8400 2MB 25W
E2-3850 Quad 1.30GHz HD 8280 2MB 25W
E1-2650 Dual 1.45GHz HD 8240 1MB 25W

Kabini pairs Jaguar cores, for x86-based serial processing, with a GCN-based graphics processor supporting DirectX 11.1. Users planning to purchase Kabini for use with Windows 8.1 should expect to miss out on some or all of the benefits associated with DirectX 11.2 (along with everyone on Windows 8 and earlier). Little of value would be lost, however.

These products are expected to be positioned against Bay Trail-D which powers Intel's Pentium and Celeron lines. The currently available products from Intel are classified at 10W TDP and around 2 GHz.

Kaveri and socketed Kabini at CES 2014

AMD is pushing lesser-clocked (and higher TDP) products based on Jaguar against Intel's Silvermont. I am not sure sure how the two architectures compare although I would expect the latter to win out clock-for-clock and watt-for-watt. Then again, cost and graphics performance could be significantly superior with AMD. Ultimately, it will be up to the overall benchmarks (and pricing) to see how they will actually stack up.

Source: VR-Zone

IBM Sells x86 Server Market to Lenovo

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 25, 2014 - 07:42 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, IBM, x86, servers

Lenovo will take (or purchase) the x86 torch away from IBM in the high-end server and mainframe market, too. The deal is worth $2.3 billion of which $2 billion will be cash, the remains will be paid to IBM in stock. IBM walked away from talks with Lenovo last year in a deal that was believed to be similar to this one.

Lenovo, famously, took over IBM's PC business in 2005.

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... which is increasingly not IBM.

x86-based servers have been profitable, even for IBM. This is yet another example of a large company with a desire to increase their margins at the expense of overall profits. This is similar to the situation with HP when they considered getting out of consumer devices. Laptops and desktops were still profitable but not as much as, say, an ink cartridge. Sometimes leaving money on the table tells a better story and that is okay. Someone will take it.

Lenovo will also become an authorized reseller of IBM cloud computing and storage solutions (plus some of their software). IBM will continue to operate their server and mainframe businesses based on their own architectures (such as Power and Z/Architecture).

Approximately 7,500 of IBM's current employees will be hired by Lenovo as a part of this agreement. Unfortunately, I do not know how many current employees are affected. 7,500 could be the vast majority of that workforce or only a small fraction of it. Hopefully this deal will not mean too many layoffs, if any at all.

Source: Ars Technica

Chrome might be less polite than you think

Subject: General Tech | January 24, 2014 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome, snooping, mic

If you have never heard the phrase "Those who eavesdrop hear nothing good about themselves" you are in good company as Google Chrome has not either.  A developer by the name of Tal Ater has discovered that Chrome can enable your microphone when you view certain malicious websites without your knowledge.  According to Google's online documentation, when Chrome enables your microphone you should see both a blinking red light appear in the tab you are viewing and a persistent icon in the system tray.  Unfortunately when The Register saw a test, the site created a pop-under window which displayed the red light and was not visible until the other browsing session was closed or moved, nor was there a system tray icon.  Even more worrying, the initial specification called for recording to be disabled when the tab with access to the mic was not active but was never implemented.

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"A design flaw in the Chrome browser allows malicious websites to use your computer's microphone to eavesdrop on you, one developer has claimed, although Google denies this is the case."

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Source: The Register

NVIDIA still holds the OpenGL crown on Linux; AMD is getting better though

Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2014 - 02:58 PM |
Tagged: opengl, linux, amd, nvidia

If you are a Linux user who prefers to use OpenGL graphics there is still a huge benefit to choosing NVIDIA over AMD.  The tests Phoronix just completed show that the GTX680, 770 and 780 all perform significantly faster than the R9 290 with even the older GTX 550 Ti and 650 GPUs outperforming AMD's best in some benchmarks.  That said AMD is making important improvements to their open source drivers as that is where they are lagging behind NVIDIA.  The new RadeonSI Gallium3D for the HD7000 series shows significant performance improvements when paired with the new 3.13 kernel though still falling a bit behind the Catalyst driver they are now much closer to the performance of the proprietary driver.  For older cards the performance increase is nowhere near as impressive but some certain benchmarks do show this Gallium3D driver to provide at least some improvements.  Pity the Source engine isn't behaving properly during benchmarks which is why no tests were run on Valve's games but that should be solved in the near future.

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"In new tests conducted last week with the latest AMD and NVIDIA binary graphics drivers, the high-end AMD GPUs still really aren't proving much competition to NVIDIA's Kepler graphics cards. Here's a new 12 graphics card comparison on Ubuntu."

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Tech Talk

Source: Phoronix

Podcast #284 - OCZ Vertex 460, ASUS DirectCUII R9 270X and 280X, TITAN Black and GTX 790 and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2014 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, ocz, vertex 460, asus, direcuii, 270X, 280x, titan black, gtx 790

PC Perspective Podcast #284 - 01/23/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the OCZ Vertex 460, ASUS DirectCUII R9 270X and 280X, TITAN Black and GTX 790 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

 
Program length: 1:16:11
  1. Week in Review:
    1. 0:09:50 PC Perspective's Best Hardware of 2013
    2. 0:11:00 Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 and Tablet 10
    3. 0:15:50 ECS GANK DRONE Z87H3-A3X Motherboard Review
    4. 0:18:50 OCZ Vertex 460 240GB SSD Review
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  4. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

 

Even More NVIDIA ShadowPlay Features with 1.8.2

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 23, 2014 - 03:29 AM |
Tagged: ShadowPlay, nvidia, geforce experience

NVIDIA has been upgrading their GeForce Experience just about once per month, on average. Most of their attention has been focused on ShadowPlay which is their video capture and streaming service for games based on DirectX. GeForce Experience 1.8.1 brought streaming to Twitch and the ability to overlay the user's webcam.

This time they add a little bit more control in how ShadowPlay records.

nvidia-shadowplay-jan2014.png

Until this version, users could choose between "Low", "Medium", and "High" quality stages. GeForce Experence 1.8.2 adds "Custom" which allows manual control over resolution, frame rate, and bit rate. NVIDIA wants to makes it clear: frame rate controls the number of images per second and bit rate controls the file size per second. Reducing the frame rate without adjusting the bit rate will result in a file of the same size (just with better quality per frame).

Also with this update, NVIDIA allows users to set a push-to-talk key. I expect this will be mostly useful for Twitch streaming in a crowded dorm or household. Only transmitting your voice when you have something to say prevents someone else from accidentally transmitting theirs globally and instantaneously.

GeForce Experience 1.8.2 is available for download at the GeForce website. Users with a Fermi-based GPU will no longer be pushed GeForce Experience (because it really does not do anything for those graphics cards). The latest version can always be manually downloaded, however.

Is AMD Showing Decent Recovery?

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | January 22, 2014 - 09:41 PM |
Tagged: amd

AMD had a decent quarter and close to a profitable year as a whole. For the quarter ending on December 28th, the company managed $89 million dollars in profits. This accounts for interest payments on loans and everything else. The whole year averaged to a $103 million dollar gain in operating income although that still works out to a loss of $74 million (for the year) all things considered. That said, a quarterly gain of $89 million versus an annual loss of $74 million. One more quarter would forgive the whole year.

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This is a hefty turn-around from their billion dollar operating loss of last year.

This gain was led by Graphics and Visual Solutions. While Computing Solutions revenue has declined, the graphics team has steadily increased in both revenue and profits. Graphics and Visual Solutions are in charge of graphics processors as well as revenue from the game console manufacturers. Even then, their processor division is floating just below profitability.

Probably the best news for AMD is that they plan the next four quarters to each be profitable. Hopefully this means that there are no foreseen hurdles in the middle of their marathon.

Source: Ars Technica

What will survive from Games for Windows Live?

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2014 - 02:58 PM |
Tagged: gaming, microsoft, G4WL

With the ending of Microsoft's Games for Windows Live service many people are understandably worried that they will no longer be able to access games that they have legitimately purchased.  Some games, such as BioShock 2 have been made available via Steam and so will continue to be available but there is a long list of other games for with the future is uncertain.  The list HEXUS provides is far from complete as many companies have yet to respond to inquiries about the future of their games and for quite a few the only thing we know is that the game is not currently slated to be removed.  Check the current list and keep your eyes open for updates.

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"We last mentioned the closure of the Games for Windows Live (G4WL) service back in October when we heard about BioShock 2 being updated and the main game and all its DLC being made available upon Steam so it could continue to be enjoyed."

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Gaming

Source: Hexus

OCZ Technology is dead; long live OCZ Storage Solutions!

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2014 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: ocz, toshiba

Toshiba's acquisition of OCZ has been completed though for many consumers it will not be noticeable as they will retain the OCZ brand name for their storage products.  From what can be inferred from DigiTimes coverage here there will be little change in OCZ's structure and branding, the changes will be behind the scenes and will hopefully lead to a much more profitable company.  As you can see from Al's review, the internals of the new OCZ drives will use Toshiba's flash to provide storage but will keep the familiar Indilinx Barefoot controller.  One can only hope Toshiba can continue to provide some of OCZ's previous purchase incentives.

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"Toshiba has finalized the purchase of all assets of OCZ Technology, making it a wholly-owned subsidiary. Effective immediately, the subsidiary will operate independently as OCZ Storage Solutions specializing in high-performance solid state drives (SSDs) for computing devices and systems."

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Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

(Phoronix) Intel Haswell iGPU Linux Performance in a Slump?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 22, 2014 - 02:12 AM |
Tagged: linux, intel hd graphics, haswell

Looking through this post by Phoronix, it would seem that Intel had a significant regression in performance on Ubuntu 14.04 with the Linux 3.13 kernel. In some tests, HD 4600 only achieves about half of the performance recorded on the HD 4000. I have not been following Linux iGPU drivers and it is probably a bit late to do any form of in-depth analysis... but yolo. I think the article actually made a pretty big mistake and came to the exact wrong conclusion.

Let's do this!

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According to the article, in Xonotic v0.7, Ivy Bridge's Intel HD 4000 scores 176.23 FPS at 1080p on low quality settings. When you compare this to Haswell's HD 4600 and its 124.45 FPS result, this seems bad. However, even though they claim this as a performance regression, they never actually post earlier (and supposedly faster) benchmarks.

So I dug one up.

Back in October, the same test was performed with the same hardware. The Intel HD 4600 was not significantly faster back then, rather it was actually a bit slower with a score of 123.84 FPS. The Intel HD 4000 managed 102.68 FPS. Haswell did not regress between that time and Ubuntu 14.04 on Linux 3.13, Ivy Bridge received a 71.63% increase between then and Ubuntu 14.04 on Linux 3.13.

Of course, there could have been a performance increase between October and now and that recently regressed for Haswell... but I could not find those benchmarks. All I can see is that Haswell has been quite steady since October. Either way, that is a significant performance increase on Ivy Bridge since that snapshot in time, even if Haswell had a rise-and-fall that I was unaware of.

Source: Phoronix

SteamOS Beta Non-UEFI Support & Other Untested Features

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 22, 2014 - 01:27 AM |
Tagged: valve, SteamOS

When Valve launched SteamOS, it was definitely a beta product. Its installer prompted Ryan to make a troubleshooting video on our Youtube channel. It also apparently required a computer equipped with a UEFI which only became common about two or three years ago. It is also very difficult to install as a dual-boot configuration which complicates its coexistence with Windows (because Microsoft will certainly not support it from their end).

steam-os.png

Thankfully, most or all of these issues are being addressed in the latest beta SteamOS ISO... at your own risk. They are very careful to highlight that this beta has not been properly tested. Given that their initial release could nuke a random hard drive full of data, I would take that warning seriously.

These changes come from the project, "Ye Old SteamOSe". I am not sure that it solves the USB overwrite issue that we experienced (unless it was already fixed at some point) but I would expect that custom partitions and dual-boot would be impossible if that bug still existed. The highlighted features, according to the announcement's comments, are:

  • Non-EFI support
  • DVD install support
  • Custom partitions in Expert mode (cannot resize NTFS partitions).
  • Dual-boot in Expert mode.

If you would like to give SteamOS installation another shot, on a machine that you feel comfortable testing software with, then check out the Steam Universe thread.

Finding the best wireless speakers

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2014 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: audio, bluetooth, wireless audio

Wireless speakers are being advertised everywhere, from TV commercials featuring Beats Audio shaped like a pill you really don't want to take to the floors of CES.  Such a glut of products is a good thing for consumers, assuming they are able to determine the best speaker for their usage.  The Inquirer took a look at over 10 different portable speakers, from the Q-bopz Green which uses a suction cup to attach to any glass surface to the Scosche Boombottle which claims to be able to handle any weather you might need to listen to music in.  Most use Bluetooth though NFC is utilized as well, check out which one is right for you and your travels.

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"BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS have replaced the now somewhat redundant 'i-dock', as the market has become saturated with an army of wireless boom boxes in all shapes, sizes and prices due to people prefering to use their smartphones and tablets for audio playback."

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Audio Corner

 

Source: The Inquirer