Realistic Landscapes in Unreal Engine 4

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2016 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine, epic games, art by rens

This work was featured on Unreal Engine's GDC sizzle video as "Photogrammetry", but I've only just now found out where it came from. The creator, Rense de Boer, goes by the consistent online branding of Art by Rens. He worked at DICE from 2011 through 2014, working on the Battlefield franchise, and now he seems to be doing his own thing.

The environment work is stunning. The snow, slightly thawed and refrozen, covers the rocks and leaves in a way that looks absolutely real. Some of the rocks look partially moss-covered, with the plant seemingly breaking it down, and coming up through the cracks. There's only so many ways that I can describe it, but it's definitely worth a look. He targets four Titan-class video cards, but he's aiming for 4K.

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He hasn't announced any product yet, so we're not really sure why he's doing it. He did receive a grant from Epic Games, though. I'm not sure exactly how much, just that $500,000 USD was split 30 ways, but not uniformly (some received more than others).

Source: Art by Rens

Video Perspective: Retail Oculus Rift Day One - Setup, Early Testing

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 28, 2016 - 11:24 PM |
Tagged: pcper, hardware, technology, review, Oculus, rift, Kickstarter, nvidia, geforce, GTX 980 Ti

It's Oculus Rift launch day and the team and I spent the afternoon setting up the Rift, running through a set of game play environments and getting some good first impressions on performance, experience and more. Oh, and we entered a green screen into the mix today as well.

Video Perspective: HTC Vive Pre First Impressions

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 26, 2016 - 12:11 AM |
Tagged: VR, vive pre, vive, virtual reality, video, pre, htc

On Friday I was able to get a pre-release HTC Vive Pre in the office and spend some time with it. Not only was I interested in getting more hands-on time with the hardware without a time limit but we were also experimenting with how to stream and record VR demos and environments. 

Enjoy and mock!

Podcast #392 - Samsung 850 EVO V2, VR Build Guides, the End of Tick-Tock, and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: western digital, VR, vnand, vive, video, Samsung, podcast, Oculus, hgst, He8, CRYORIG C7, 8tb red, 850 EVO

PC Perspective Podcast #392 - 03/24/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Samsung 850 EVO V2, VR Build Guides, the End of Tick-Tock, 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!

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

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

It turns out mouldy batteries might be a good thing

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 12:36 PM |
Tagged: battery

It would appear that red bread mould is capable of far more than ruining a good sandwich.  Researchers are investigating its ability to recover rare metals from electronics and to extend the life of batteries.  Indeed, from what Hack a Day could glean from the research papers adding specially treated mould to lithium ion cells and supercapacitors is quite effective, with a test battery still able to charge beyond 90% of its original charge after 200 discharges.  If that isn't strange enough for you the wonderfully titled link from The Inquirer just below will teach you about a new type of solid state lithium battery, no liquid inside and a charging rate similar to a supercapacitor.

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"Researchers used the carbonized fungal biomass-mineral composite in both lithium ion cells and supercapacitors. The same team earlier showed how fungi could stabilize toxic lead and uranium."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

Just Delivered: Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum Wireless Ambidextrous Mouse

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: wireless, mouse, logitech g, logitech, g900, chaos spectrum

While attending GDC last week and catching up on the world of VR that will be in our laps this spring and summer, I spent some time with Logitech to learn about the company's latest in gaming hardware. We already told you about the G610 keyboards using Cherry keyswitches but today Logitech is revealing a brand new wireless gaming mouse. 

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First, I know that a lot of gamers, both those in the professional spaces and those that strive to that level of competition, are going to have concerns about this being a wireless mouse. Logitech believes and has convincing evidence that they have built the best and fastest wireless implementation of any option on the market today. I'll go over some of their testing below, but first let's dive into the mouse itself.

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Much to the delight of left handed users and anyone looking for a ambidextrous mouse, the G900 Chaos Spectrum is built for you! The design is balanced on both sides and even has a unique button configuration to permit thumb use for both lefties and righties. I have been mousing with it for the last three days, and as a right handed user, am completely comfortable with the design. As the name implies, the G logo on the mouse is completely controllable with RGB LEDs through the Logitech Gaming Software suite.

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On the bottom of the G900 you'll find the on/off switch and sync button. Logitech tells us that you will be able to get at least 24 hours of continuous use out of a single charge of the mouse, 32 hours if you turn off lighting, and charge time is going to be around 2 hours. That's actually very good battery life for a high performance sensor like the PMW3366!

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On the front is a micro USB port used for charging, which I'll touch on in a minute. The buttons on the G900 are unique as well, using a new mechanical pivot button design. Logitech claims they were built for "crisp, clean clicks". With the pivot point moved back towards the center of the mouse, engineers were able to reduce the travel distances between the buttons and switches and keep the amount of force required for the click to a minimum. 

Continue reading our first look at the Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum!!

Death is merely another resource; meet Warhammer Total War's Vampire Counts

Subject: General Tech | March 23, 2016 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: warhammer fantasy, total war, gaming

To the undead those map markers denoting where a huge battle took place are more than just a reminder of a great battle, they are a harvestable resource which provides them with skeletons and zombies, their lowest tier troops.  Dead troops can also be summoned back to fight for you in battles and even if the unthinkable happens and your entire army and hero are slain, there is a way to reanimate that dead hero.  Being undead does have its disadvantages, wandering beyond provinces you own will cause massive attrition as your army starts to decay and disintegrate around you and as Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN discovered, zombies are rubbish.  You can read about their experiences when giving the Vampire Counts factions a test as well as see a video of the Master Necromancer right here.

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"The undead don’t behave like any faction previously seen in a Total War game. That makes sense. They shouldn’t. Even the most militant and war-ready hordes can’t repopulate the ranks of their warriors quite as efficiently as an army capable of raising the dead and commanding them to fight."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

 

Samsung's tiny BGA based SSD, destined for your tablet and smartphone

Subject: General Tech | March 23, 2016 - 12:10 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, ssd, BGA

Instead of the standard pin grid array, Samsung's PM971 SSD uses BGA which allows them to for a much smaller overall size, albeit at the cost of it being permanently soldered to a circuit motherboard.  The three models, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB, will each be smaller than an SD card which is why these SSDs will be able to be used in future generations of small mobile devices.  This not only foretells of a significantly higher storage capacity for your phone but also a faster one as Samsung's PR describes sequential read speeds of up to 1500MBps and sequential writes at 600MBps, or if you prefer, 190K random read IOPS and 150K random write IOPS.  They haven't really given any details beyond those stats but you can try to glean some more information from the Japanese language article which The Inquirer links to in their story here.

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"SAMSUNG HAS been showing off what it believes is the answer to the question of how to squeeze even more out of smartphone and tablet form factors. And with blazing speeds of 1500MBps it's hard to argue."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer

It's all in your Imagination; Apple is not on an expensive shopping trip

Subject: General Tech | March 22, 2016 - 02:39 PM |
Tagged: apple, Imagination Technologies, rumours

Various sites have been abuzz this morning with rumours of Apple seeking to acquire the manufacturer of the PowerVR graphics chips they utilize, Imagination Technologies.  Apple has now flatly denied this rumour; which means simply that they have denied that they are making an offer at this time.  That makes sense regardless of the truth of the rumour, driving up the stock price makes the acquisition more expensive for Apple so a public denial makes financial sense whether they do plan to buy the company in the future.

It does make some sense to own your hardware provider and their patents, but it is not as advantageous as it once was.  Many companies have found outsourcing their manufacturing to make more sense financially, preferring to buy out competitors to gain market share and patents instead.  We will keep an eye out for any new developments but it does not seem likely that we will see a deal go through in the near future. 

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"From time to time, Apple talks with companies about potential acquisitions. We had some discussions with Imagination, but we do not plan to make an offer for the company at this time."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Mac Rumors

The Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro L and Pro S come Gozer approved

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2016 - 02:37 PM |
Tagged: coolermaster, Masterkeys Pro L, Masterkeys Pro S, mechanical keyboard, input, Cherry MX, cherry mx rgb

The difference between Cooler Masters Masterkeys Pro L and Pro S lies in the numpad, the Pro L has it and the Pro S is, as they say, tenkeyless.  Apart from that the boards are very similar, using your choice of Cherry MX RGB switches, Brown, Red, or Blues.  You do not need software to program the lighting or macros, they can be adjusted with the use of the Function key in concert with one of the F1-F12 keys but Cooler Master does also offer software which allows you to adjust your lighting.  The Tech Report liked these boards, finding them every bit as good as the major competition, with one notable exception; the prices of the MasterKeys are a bit lower which can make a big difference when you are purchasing a glowing, clicky keyboard.

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"Cooler Master's MasterKeys Pro L and Pro S keyboards put Cherry MX RGB switches in no-nonsense chassis. They also expose most of their customization mojo through on-board shortcuts. We put our fingers to the keycaps to see how these boards perform."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Would you like some fresh Steaming Raspberry Pi?

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2016 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, kick ass

Not only is powering a Raspberry Pi with a steam engine incredibly impressive, its make a lot of sense to use during the winter in Sweden.  A pair of propane blowtorches is used to heat the water to steam and the pressure created is used to turn a simple two cylinder engine which in turn is used to turn a simple DC electric motor which then powers the Pi.  If the power goes out you might not be able to browse the internet on it, but this Pi will keep running as long as you have water and propane.  You can follow the link from The Register for videos and notes, although they are in Swedish, hopefully Skype add that language to their instantaneous translation service soon.

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"A Swedish schoolboy has built a miniature steam engine to power his Raspberry Pi. It is a piece of absolute engineering beauty."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops Arrives March 29th

Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2016 - 12:53 PM |
Tagged: blizzard, starcraft, Starcraft II

Blizzard is adding three new mini-campaigns to StarCraft II, with three missions each, to give more content for fans of single-player. The first one, StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops, puts players in the shoes of Nova, who was created as the main character of the canceled third-person shooter, StarCraft: Ghost. Blizzard announced that this three-mission pack would be available on or before June 19th.

March 29th is, indeed, before June 19th.

blizzard-2016-nova.jpg

Before I end, I should probably mention the price. If you pre-purchase, the three packs (nine missions total) bundled together will cost $14.99 USD; that price will raise to $22.47 USD after launch. This is about $5 per DLC, which is reasonable. On the other hand, three-mission story arcs can be... light... for strategy titles. I'm not really the type to value art based on the time it takes up of my life. There is intrinsic value other than how big of a tiny fraction between birth and death this content fills, but that is a legitimate concern for some of our readers. It's likely a fine price, but it feels weird in the context of the free co-op maps, free Whispers of Oblivion, and relatively cheap expansion launch prices.

Whether you take it from the standpoint of cost-value or intrinsic art, though, it all depends on the missions. Three levels isn't a lot of time for an engaging story arc, and Whispers of Oblivion and Into the Void weren't exactly must-have life experiences. That said, I'm not going to underestimate what Blizzard can pull off. We'll see, and we'll see soon.

Unfortunately, you'll only find out after the 33%-off promotion.

Source: Blizzard

Blender 2.77 Released

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 06:37 PM |
Tagged: Blender

Speaking of open-source animation software, the Blender Foundation has just released Blender 2.77. This is a relatively minor update, maintaining compatibility and structure with other 2.7x versions, but it has some interesting aspects to it. While there will probably be other 2.7-level updates before then, 2.8 is internally described as “the Workflow release,” which is also starting to be discussed by the foundation.

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The headline feature is improved Cycles ray traced rendering, especially on GPUs. Both quality and performance get a bump, and a few particle effects are now GPU-aware. Personally, I am very interested to see how the “Edit-mode boolean tool” will work. I started 3D modeling with a NURBS-based CAD tool, and booleans were pretty much your first choice to get anything done. I then transitioned to Maya, which had the worst boolean tools I've ever seen, choosing to delete both objects if it couldn't figure out how they combine (and that was basically anything other than two plain primitives). It was liberating going to Blender, where I had a boolean tool that mostly worked, but it still causes a few glitches here and there. I'm hoping that, now that it's a default tool, it will continue to grow in robustness.

This is also the first release that (officially) ends Windows XP support. I mean, it's open source. Compile it for whatever platform you like. But you will not be able to upgrade to 2.77 with the official builds, and there's no telling how complicated back-porting will become going forward.

Sony Bringing PS4 Remote Play To Windows and Mac PCs With Next Update

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 04:36 PM |
Tagged: windows, sony, remote play, ps4, game streaming

Sony will be opening up its Remote Play feature to include Windows and Mac PCs with the next system update, version 3.5. In its current form, Remote Play allows users to stream games from their PS4 to certain Sony devices including Xperia phones, Vita handhelds, and the PlayStation TV "microconsole". The new update will let users stream games from the game console to PCs over your home network.

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PS4 System Update 3.5 is set to release later this month. While a beta is available, the beta build does not include the streaming feature. It does add support for live streaming to Dailymotion, updates to the social platform (e.g. planned parties), and an incognito mode that allows user to appear offline (how has it taken Sony this long to support that??).

Sony opening up the streaming is a welcome move as it puts it more in line with Microsoft's offering by not requiring specific hardware. Actually, it may be a bit better since users might be able to get away with using older Windows operating systems (Xbox One is limited to Windows 10) as well as streaming to their Macs. Further, Ars is reporting that Sony stopped shipping its PlayStation TV hardware in the US and Europe at the end of 2015. Thus, that may be one of the reasons Sony is moving away from streaming only to Sony hardware. I'm interested in trying out the Remote Play game streaming to see how it compares to the Xbox One to Windows 10 streaming which has worked pretty well so far for me in streaming Forza to my desktop!

Game streaming is proving to be popular and it is interesting to see both popular gaming consoles will soon allow you to stream games from the living room to your computers while at the same time Valve and others are pushing for solutions (e.g. Steam In-Home Streaming) to stream games from your PCs to the living room. Exciting times, especially if you're able to used wired network connections!

What do you think about Sony's plans for expanding Remote Play? Did you use the PS TV?

Digital Video and Dwango "Create" OpenToonz

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 02:58 PM |
Tagged: toonz, studio ghibli, opentoonz, dwango, digital video

This is a bit of a complicated situation to condense into a single headline. Digital Video is a research and software development studio out of Rome, who specializes in computer graphics (as their name suggests). One of their applications, Toonz, is the animation tool that Studio Ghibli used to create their video content. If you haven't heard of them, they created Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Ponyo, and the cutscenes for the Ni no Kuni video game franchise, among others. In fact, Princess Mononoke was the original use case for "Toonz Ghibli Edition" back in the mid 90s.

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Today's news is that Digital Video will be open sourcing Toonz, including some or all of the enhancements made by Studio Ghibli, into a product called “OpenToonz”. This is because a Japanese media publisher, Dwango, purchased the rights to the software and wanted it to be a community project. Rather than selling the product directly, Digital Video will transition into installation, training, and support. They will also have their own version, called Toonz Premium, which they claim will be for companies to request specific customizations. It will be available for both OSX and Windows.

While a lot of studios are turning to 3D applications, like Maya and Blender, for their 2D art, and Blender is 100% open source, more is better. The software will be “presented” at Anime Japan (March 26 and 27) but they don't clarify whether that means released, demoed, on the show floor, or unveiled. Could be worth checking out for any animators in our audience.

Mozilla to Preview Servo in June

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2016 - 09:26 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, servo, Rust

Mozilla, the open-source creators of Firefox and Thunderbird, have announced that their Servo project will reach public alpha in June. Nightly builds will be available, presumably around that time, for Linux, OSX, Windows, and Android. Servo is a browser engine that is built in Rust, which emphasizes security and high performance (especially in multi-threaded scenarios).

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The technology is really interesting, although it is still quite early. Web browsers are massively single-threaded by design, which limits their potential performance as CPUs widen in core count but stagnate in per-thread performance. This is especially true in mobile, which is why Samsung has been collaborating on Servo for almost all of its life.

Rust, being so strict about memory access, also has the advantage of security and memory management. It is designed in such a way that it's easier for the compiler to know, at compile time, whether you will be trying to access data that is no longer available. The trade-off is that it's harder to program, because if your code isn't robust enough, the compiler just won't accept it. This is beneficial for web browsers, though, because basically everything they access is untrusted, third-party data. It's better to fight your compiler than to fight people trying to exploit your users.

Again, it's still a way off, though. It might be good for web developers to keep an eye on, though, in case any of their optimizations implement standards either correctly, but differently from other browsers and highlights a bug in your website, or incorrectly, which exposes a bug in Servo. Making a web browser is immensely difficult.

Source: Mozilla

Accessorize your PC for Spring!

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2016 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: peripherals

Over at The Tech Report you can read through six pages of their favourite PC peripherals currently on the market.  Adaptive refresh monitors take up a respectable amount of the article as you might suspect, a mix of Freesync and G-Sync monitors are represented with all but two running at 1440p or 4k resolutions.  They also cover numerous keyboards, mice and gamepads, though they leave the wheel recommendations to Josh.  Check out those recommendations and the other various devices that received a nod right here.

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"In this edition of our peripheral staff picks, we dive deep into the world of monitors, keyboards, mice, and other useful add-ons for PCs to bring you the best of what's around right now."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Podcast #391 - AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 11:07 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, XConnect, gdc 2016, Vega, Polaris, navi, razer blade, Sulon Q, Oculus, vive, raja koduri, GTX 1080, msi, vortex, Intel, skulltrail, nuc

PC Perspective Podcast #391 - 03/17/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

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!

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

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

I love it when a bad guys plan doesn't come together

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 01:25 PM |
Tagged: ransomware, Malware, security, idiots

With the lousy news below the fold, up to and including yet another StageFright exploit, here is a bit of amusing news to balance out the bad.  A recently unleashed ransomware program seems to have been developed on stolen code and the original developer has taken offence to this.  His original program, EDA2, was designed to illustrate how ransomware works and he intentionally included a backdoor to ensure that the data could be unencrypted. 

He has used that backdoor to break into the program and has obtained the complete list of decryption keys and posted them to the net, The Register has a link to that list right here.  It is good for the soul to see incompetent bad guys every once and a while.

Vault door.jpg

"A software developer whose example encryption code was used by a strain of ransomware has released the decryption keys for the malware."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Logitech G Announces Orion 610 Brown and Red Mechanical Keyboards

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 07:48 AM |
Tagged: orion 610, mechanical keyboard, logitech g, logitech, gaming keyboard, cherry mx red, cherry mx brown

Logitech has announced a pair of new mechanical keyboards today, with the Orion 610 Brown and Red. Those familiar with mechanical keyboards will probably guess from their names that these are using Cherry MXswitches, with the MX Brown and MX Red switches in the respective models.

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The keyboards also offer customizable LED backlighting, and while they are not RGB (these keyboards are white LED backlit), each individually-backlit key can be customized with different brightness levels. There are also options to change the lighting patterns and synchronize with other Logitech G products using the Logitech Gaming Software.

Here are the specs from Logitech G:

Product Specifications

  • Dimensions (L x W x H): 153 mm x 443.5 mm x 34.3 mm                    
  • Weight: 1.2 Kg (without cable)
  • Cable length: 6 feet    
  • Cherry MX Key Switches:
    • Actuation distance: 2mm
    • Actuation force: 45g
    • Total travel distance: 4mm

System Requirements

  • Optional LGS download works with Windows 7 and higher
  • Powered USB port
  • Internet connection for optional LGS download

Warranty

  • 2-year limited hardware warranty

Logitech G610_TopDown_FOB__WhiteGlow.jpg

Macro functionality is available via customization of the F1 - F12 keys, and the keyboards feature dedicated media controls as you would expect. So how much will these cost? Retail for the Orion 610 Brown and Red will be $119.99.

Source: Logitech G