PC Gamer Compares Mechanical Keyboards

Subject: General Tech | August 1, 2015 - 10:26 PM |
Tagged: mechanical keyboard, Cherry MX, alps, topre, model m, model f

Purchasing an expensive gaming peripheral is a bit daunting, especially when it (mostly) comes down to how it feels. In these cases, we cannot resort to benchmarks or any other form of objective score. Instead, we need to classify and describe the attributes of each type of keyboard, letting our readers narrow down their choices by saying, “if you like this, choose from these”.

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A couple of days ago, PC Gamer published a breakdown of many types of switches, including a few different types of Alps-style brands. They have force curves for each featured switch, which is challenging to find outside of the Cherry MX brand (as few other companies publish their own that I know of). They also write a short paragraph for each switch to explain what type of use and user they are for, which (as I've said) is the metric that matters most.

For the Cherry MX switches, they have animations to show how they operate from the side, which will give you clues to how it operates. They have been floating around the internet for a while. KeyboardLover is claiming that “Lethal Squirrel” created them before 2011. These animations give a visual explanation for what linear, tactile, and clicky means, to help you imagine how these attributes feel.

Also, of course, we published our own article back in December. Our article includes our own Cherry MX switch animations. They're not quite as good quality as the other ones, but they include synchronized side-on and rear-on cycles. The animations were originally made for a Rosewill keyboard roundup back in early 2012.

Source: PC Gamer

NVIDIA SHIELD; Feeling Hot! Hot! Hot!

Subject: General Tech | July 31, 2015 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, shield tablet, recall

NVIDIA SHIELD tablets which were sold over the past 12 months are being recalled by NVIDIA as there is a risk that the battery could overheat, possibly posing a fire hazard and of course proving they should never be used on a re-entry vehicle.  You will need to ensure that your SHIELD is running the newest OS, if not you will need to run the tablet long enough to update as older OS versions do not report the serial number, which you need to enter if you want a free replacement from NVIDIA.  Visiting www.nvidia.com/support/tabletrecall will give you the steps to request a replacement if you want one.  So far there do not seem to be any reports of flaming NVIDIA users but you should probably not risk it.

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"NVIDIA today announced a voluntary recall of its SHIELD 8-inch tablets that were sold between July 2014 and July 2015, which the company will replace. NVIDIA has determined that the battery in these tablets can overheat, posing a fire hazard. The recall does not affect any other NVIDIA products."

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Source: NVIDIA

Microsoft Rolls Out Windows SDK for Build 10240

Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2015 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10, visual studio

July 29th started the official roll-out of Windows 10 and, for Windows Insiders, was pretty much “Wednesday”. We already had everything of relevance by Monday on the OS side of things, and not even a security patch landed in our Windows Update queue. It was not the only thing that Microsoft launched today, though. While Visual Studio 2015 was released last week, it said that it was not compatible with pre-10240 SDKs and would delete them during the installation process and you will be unable to develop SDK apps until the one for 10240 launches on July 29th.

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So, coincident with the OS release, Microsoft finally published the 10240 Windows SDK. Now, if you run Visual Studio 2015's installer, it will install the new SDK directly. You do not need to download it from a secondary source. These headers and libraries are placed in the “Windows Kits” folder of your 32-bit Program Files directory... ironically, without deleting the previous SDKs that it threatened to, when run before July 29th. Go figure.

Also, even though DirectX 12 has been in the Windows SDK for quite some time, Microsoft has, also, finally released code examples and they put them on their GitHub page. These samples teach you how to do things like draw a triangle, manage DirectX 11-era contexts alongside DirectX 12 ones in your application, and create an n-body gravity simulation. They welcome pull requests for fixes, although they might appreciate new samples as well.

Source: Microsoft

Podcast #360 - Intel XPoint Memory, Windows 10 and DX12, FreeSync displays and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2015 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Intel, XPoint, nand, DRAM, windows 10, DirectX 12, freesync, g-sync, amd, nvidia, benq, uhd420, wasabi mango, X99, giveaway

PC Perspective Podcast #360 - 07/30/2015

Join us this week as we discuss Intel XPoint Memory, Windows 10 and DX12, FreeSync displays 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!

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

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Powercolor has a soundcard; check out the Devil HDX

Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2015 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: devil hdx, powercolor, audio, sound card, opamp

Yes, PCIe soundcards are still being made and Powercolor's Devil HDX is up for review on Overclockers Club.  As with most new cards this one features three OPAMPs which can can be removed and swapped with another to change the sound that is sent to your headset or speakers.  On the back are a 124db rated 6.3mm headphone jack, left and right RCA jacks, Coax output, and an optical output.  The daughtercard sports 5 standard analog 3.5mm jacks to give you 7.1 surround sound support if you have the speakers for it.  It is about $160 so make sure you have ears that are good enough to deserve high end sound, for many users this might be a bit of overkill.

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"Setup as a stand alone solution, the Devil HDX gets to play in the best of both worlds with 124dB rated performance from the parent card and the option of running 7.1 sound through the addition of the daughter card. Here is my only beef with the Devil HDX. I know these are options that add cost, but when cultivating a brand it would just add to the package."

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Happy Sysadmin Day, now put Win10 on my work lappy immediately

Subject: General Tech | July 30, 2015 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: windows 10

You are nowhere near as fed up with Win10 stories as you will be in a week or so sit down and get reading.  So far the biggest new issue has been those who have over 512 apps in their Start menu, not inconceivable but certainly not common.  Over at The Register a story has been put up covering Win10 by a person who admits to having 4,000 open browser tabs and sending the machine into hibernation in that state.  Their experiences show that Win10 doesn't care and even likes this sort of abuse as long as it is on an SSD.  That is not to say all is good, for there is still the technicolour yawn which is the new Start menu and the disturbing tendency for the OS to call on mom more often than Norman Bates.  Read the full article to see the good, bad and bothersome.

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"It's Windows 10 day. That means it's time for a completely biased and in-no-way-even-remotely-objective assessment of Windows 10."

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Source: The Register

How exactly does one kickstart a Battlemech?

Subject: General Tech | July 29, 2015 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Mechwarrior, battletech

BattleTech is coming back baby!  Harebrained Schemes who have successfully rebooted the Shadowrun RPG system on PC and who are in the final steps of releasing the third game in that world have just announced plans to start a new Kickstarter campaign.  This time it will be a trip to the world of Battletech, the details are slim but we can expect to see both the larger view of the Battletech galaxy and the Houses that populate it as well as mech management and combat.  From what Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN were told this will be turn-based, not the FPS style of the Mechwarrior series of old.  No matter, this news is still exciting so keep your eyes peeled for more information.

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"Harebrained Schemes is pleased to announce their return to Kickstarter this Fall to partner with backers in co-funding the creation of BATTLETECH. Jordan Weisman, the creator of BattleTech and MechWarrior, is back with the first turn-based BattleTech game for PC in over two decades."

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Stagefright not causing butterflies anymore

Subject: General Tech | July 29, 2015 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: google, stagefright, security

The Stagefright media player vulnerability on Android powered Nexus devices which allowed the possibility of running remotely execute code via an MMS containing a specially crafted media file.  It made headlines everywhere even though it is incredibly unlikely the bug was ever used in an attack.  Regardless, you no longer need to worry as Google has crafted a patch and has released it to the carriers.  You should keep an eye out this week and next for the update and if you do not see it apply you should reach out to your carrier.  More at The Inquirer.

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"GOOGLE HAS SAID THAT THE STAGEFRIGHT PROBLEM is well in hand, and that it rushed to sort out the Android OS jitters before anything bad happened."

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Source: The Inquirer

RTM? Satya don't need no steenking RTM

Subject: General Tech | July 28, 2015 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

With not many hours left until launch, Windows 10 is still very obviously a service that is sill being serviced and the pressure is on at Microsoft.  NVIDIA users have discovered that having a clearly drawn display is not something they are likely to have by launch day, much to the amusement of us AMD users.  Until this week those used to uninstalling programs with the Control Panel as opposed to the new procedure of heading to Settings -> System -> Apps & features will find they are punished for their temerity with a Windows Explorer crash, certainly an interesting choice to reinforce the new behaviour.  Less common, though still frequent enough for The Register to make note of and for a patch to be released yesterday is a similar crash if you were to disable an active network connection manually.

Surface users may have noticed new firmware arriving to mitigate some of the compatibility issues Windows 10 testers have used, though there is not that much time left to test them en masse, the fact that the tablets were built by Microsoft should help ensure the updates are stable and useful.  Not so much for other tablets as The Register shows in this story.

Creating a new version of an OS is a non-trivial task and for the most part Windows 10 should be ready for a consumer release this week.  Microsoft have changed a lot about the look and function of Windows and made even more changes to their business model and licensing.  The real hurdle is Enterprise, the huge customer base that ignored Windows 8(.x) and to a lesser extent Windows 7.  With the stability and functionality of the OS already in question, will the poorly communicated changes to the licensing models of Windows 10 mean that we will once again see extremely slow or non-existent adoption in Enterprise and even SMB for that matter?

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"Build 10240, which was released to the Windows Insider program two weeks ago, is widely considered to be the "release to manufacturing" (RTM) build, even though Redmond itself says the RTM concept doesn't apply in its brave new world of Windows as a Service."

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Source: The Register

Don't want Win10 patches? We have a patch for that

Subject: General Tech | July 27, 2015 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft's decision to push out updates to non-enterprise Windows 10 without user intervention or even notification has been a bit of a hot topic recently.  While those of us who have been supporting machines for a while have all seen a bad Windows update or 10 which render machines unusable, however we have also seen machines over 100 updates behind that are completely riddled with malware, trojans and other nasties which would have been blocked if those updates had been applied.

Whichever side of that debate you fall on, thanks to the nosy reporters at The Register you now can have a choice.  They've posted a link to the "Show or hide updates" troubleshooter package in this recent article, a tool from Microsoft which would allow you to hide certain updates before they were installed and ensure that they are not installed in the future.  Patch Tuesday is gone but there will still be people keeping track of which updates are released so that if you encounter an issue you can roll back and hide that update.  Of course, that assumes you enabled System Restore, which is has been disabled by default in Windows 10.

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lifted from securityaffairs.co

"MICROSOFT HAS QUIETLY released a tool to stop Windows 10 downloading and installing everything it finds in Windows Update."

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Source: The Register

Zounds, the Amiga is 30 years old?

Subject: General Tech | July 24, 2015 - 03:59 PM |
Tagged: commodore, amiga

30 years ago Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry's voice introduced a computer which had people dropping their ZX Spectrums and Commie64's in awe, the original Commodore Amiga.  It had such incredible specifications, 256KB of RAM which was upgradable to 512KB, a Motorola 68000 CPU that could handle both 16 and 32 bit addressing and OCS graphics which could manage an unheard of 640×400 resolution with 12 onscreen colour or 4096 at  320x400.  There was one problem though, they were rarer than hen's teeth as Commodore vastly underestimated demand and overestimated their production capability.  If you happen to be in California then check out the link at The Inquirer for there is a celebration this weekend and you might still be able to score tickets.  It is amazing how far we have come in a mere generation.

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"1980S BEDROOM BRILLIANCE the Commodore Amiga computer has reached the ripe old age of 30 and is still blazing in the hearts and minds of anyone who took keyboard and joystick in hand and shut the door on their parents."

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Source: The Inquirer

Skyleak!

Subject: General Tech | July 24, 2015 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: Intel Skylake, Intel

As always you should take these leaks with a bit of salt but if they are accurate Skylake may well offer enough enhancements to make a convincing argument for buying a new machine.  The GPU portion of the high end mobile processors will be 34-41% faster than the models available now, with the desktop seeing a moderate 28% jump for those who do not have an add-in card.  The low powered mobile model's performance is not much improved over the previous generation but the claimed 80% reduction in power usage is more than enough to make up for that.  

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SPECint benchmarks show that Skylak will offer a performance boost a bit over 10% but the added 1.4 hours of battery life is rather impressive, even the desktop part is more efficient with a 65W TDP.  As for accessories, Skylake will support 4k cameras and new and improved RealSense 3D cameras, Wake on Voice support and improved touch sensors.  You can see the other two leaked slides at FanlessTech.
 

Source: Fanless Tech

Podcast #359 - AMD R9 Nano, 4TB Samsung SSDs, Windows 10 and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 23, 2015 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, r9 nano, Fiji, Samsung, 4TB, windows 10, acer, aspire V, X99E-ITX/ac, TSMC, 10nm, 7nm

PC Perspective Podcast #359 - 07/23/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD R9 Nano, 4TB Samsung SSDs, Windows 10 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!

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

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

Interested in a $250 smartphone compatible mass spectrometre?

Subject: General Tech | July 23, 2015 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: tricorder, spectrometer, SCiO

If you are leery of building your own Tricorder and need more that just biometric information about yourself then check out SCiO, unless you contributed to the Kickstarter and already have one.  It is a tiny mass near-infrared spectrometer which will allow you to scan objects to determine their chemical makeup and transmit the information to your phone; finally a way to compare apples and oranges!  The site also suggests you should be able to monitor the health of plants, get nutritional information on food items and even prove that there is absolutely nothing in that homeopathic snake oil other than C6H12O6 and H2O.  Other uses just suggest themselves, such as determining if jewellery is authentic or how degraded the rubber on your tires is.  Scanning an item will add it to a database hosted at SCiO, they describe it as "the world's first database of matter" others might use the phrase baseline sample.  Check it out right here if you use an iOS or Android device and there are educational kits for schools as well.

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"SCiO is the world's first molecular sensor that fits in the palm of your hand. Scan physical objects and receive instant and relevant information to your smartphone."

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Saitek's X-55 Rhino has a HOTAS

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2015 - 04:07 PM |
Tagged: input, saitek, X-55 Rhino, Mad Catz

With the revival of space sims recently, joysticks and HOTAS peripherals are once again being updated and selling.  If you are looking for more than just a joystick then check out Nikktech's review of the Saitek X-55 Rhino.  Not only do you get a joystick you also get a nifty looking dual throttle with seven 3-way toggle switches and a pair of rotary buttons and to top it off they use separate USB cables so you can put one away when not in use to save on desk space.  The joystick ships with four removable springs to allow you to choose the relative stiffness of your stick, or you can pull the spring out completely if you happen to swing that way.  At $160 is for those who really do plan to get a lot of use out of it but many people have already paid far more than that to get a fancy ship in Star Citizen so the market is certainly there.

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"If you were a teenager in the 90's then you probably know that compared to that time combat flight and space simulators are almost non-existent today mainly because this particular genre doesn't have as many fans as it used to (perhaps age has something to do with that). You see back then we had the joy of playing not one but several space simulators like the entire Wing Commander series (I/II/III/IV/V/Privateer), Frontier: Elite II and Frontier Wars, Tie Fighter, X-Wing, X-wing VS Tie Fighter, Starlancer, Freelancer and Decent: Freespace I/II along with many regular combat flight simulators like Strike Commander, F-14 Fleet Defender, Jane's ATF, Jane's IAF: Israeli Air Force and of course Falcon 4.0."

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Source: Nikktech

Bringing the Elder to Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, more Skyblivion progress

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2015 - 02:28 PM |
Tagged: gaming, elder scrolls, skywind, skyblivion

While Morrowind is obviously superior to Oblivion there are those who would rather explore Cyrodiil in the middle of Tamriel.  Either way, it will be more pleasant to explore your old hunting grounds with the improvements to the engine made in Skyrim.  Not only are we now waiting on the brilliant modders behind Skywind to wrap up now the same group are also getting tantalizingly close to wrapping up Skyblivion.  If you don't have both games in your Steam inventory yet you should keep an eye out for deals.  There is a second trailer you can watch over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

"Recent videos show many, many minutes of progress on Skyblivion, trotting around the province of Cyrodiil, leaping into Oblivion gates, and pottering about the Shivering Isles. It looks a lot like Oblivion but in Skyrim, which is sort of the goal of the whole thing. Skyblivion!"

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Microsoft Office shows up in Google Drive

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2015 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: google, google drive, microsoft, office

As has happened recently with Dropbox, Box and Apple iCloud, Google Drive has adopted the Microsoft Office API which was released not to long ago, bringing Office Suite compatibility to their cloud.  As anyone who has actually tried it knows, the compatibility between Google's applications and Microsoft's Office Suite was more theory than fact.  This new plug-in will allow you to save Office files on your Google Drive and open and edit them from within your browser, as long as you are not using the Office 2016 preview which is not compatible. If this interests you then follow the links from The Inquirer to learn more.

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"GOOGLE HAS BECOME the latest big player to integrate with rival Microsoft's Office suite."

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Source: The Inquirer

I'll bet you've never heard of this stacked phone

Subject: General Tech | July 21, 2015 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, marshall, flac

Marshall has managed to do something almost no other company has been able to recently, kept a brand new product completely secret.  They have just released a brand new Android smartphone with an internal soundcard which allows you to play lossless FLAC audio files, something not common amongst the smartphones on the market.  The branding is immediately obvious and there are some unique additions such as the use of brass on the two headphone jacks and a volume wheel as opposed to a rocker switch.  The hardware is not terribly impressive, a 720p 4.7" display powered by a Snapdragon 410 with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of local storage.  This phone is more about the audio, how high a resolution do you want for your equalizer anyways?  Check out more at The Register.

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"The iconic guitar amplifier outfit''s headphones division managed something that Apple hasn't: it's developed a smartphone without having it leaked to a fan-site. So the launch of the London smartphone managed to catch the world somewhat by surprise."

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Source: The Register

AMD's hopes for the second half of 2015

Subject: General Tech | July 20, 2015 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: amd, lisa su

It has not been a pretty year for AMD with overall sales of $942m representing 34.6% drop from this time last year and even the graphics portion seeing a 54.2% drop which resulted in loss of $147 million.  In part this is because all PC component companies have been suffering recently; in part because of a lack of incentive to upgrade high end components and to a larger extent because the general public is not going to pick up a new machine just before the release of a new Windows version.  Lisa Su did have some good news, sales of FX processors and A-series APU have been increasing and the second half of the year is historically better for sales.  It was suggested to The Register that AMD is not currently planning on reducing their workforce even more at this time but the possibility of future cuts was not completely ruled out.

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"AMD has confirmed it is slipping back into cost-cutting mode after its annus horribilis, caused by tanking demand for consumer PCs in a quarter described by CEO Lisa Su as the “revenue trough” for 2015."

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Source: The Register

Huh. Someone Installed Windows 7 on an ASUS ZenFone 2.

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2015 - 09:04 PM |
Tagged: zenfone2, zenfone, asus

So this is kind-of cool. The ASUS ZenFone 2 is based around an Intel Atom processor, which uses an x86 processor. Its performance is not comparable to a Haswell PC with discrete graphics, but the machine language will correctly guide voltages through the appropriate logic and end up in the proper memory locations. This means software that doesn't require high performance (or access to more advanced hardware) can run without translating the instruction set, which is harsh on performance.

Note that “more advanced hardware” could refer to something as simple as a floppy drive, which is not required to be classified as an x86 device but might be required for seemingly trivial software.

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In this case, someone decided to load Windows 7 on ASUS' smartphone. It technically runs in an emulator but, as stated before, it does not need to translate the underlying instruction set. Even though it's a cute project, I wonder if it's possible to boot some version of Windows on an Intel mobile platform. Of course, it's not enough curiosity to make me research the BIOS standards and make an actual informed statement.