Flexible FinFETs are feasible

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2014 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: FinFET, flexible

We've seen a few examples of OLEDs being used to create flexible displays but they are much slower than their unbending silicon rivals.  With conductive ink and thread it is possible to make wearable technology but again the silicon components remain solid and immobile.  Researchers in Saudi Arabia have been working on flexible technology which retains the speed of silicon transistors but is able to flex up to 0.5 mm which may sound large until you remember the size of a transistor.  They have created these FinFETs by putting a thin layer of a polymer on top of the material they will be etching the transistors into and gently removing the polymer once the process has completed.  This results in a FinFET which retains the power saving and performance attributes common to the 3D transistor but with the ability to bend.  This won't be marketed for a while yet but in the mean time read all about it on Nanotechweb.

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"Researchers at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudia Arabia are continuing with their experiments to transform traditional rigid electronic wafers made from silicon into mechanically flexible and transparent ones."

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Source: Nanotechweb

Raptr's Top PC Games of August 2014

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2014 - 02:11 PM |
Tagged: wow, smite, raptr, pc gaming, lol, DOTA 2, Counter-Strike

The PC gaming utility, Raptr, keeps track of per-game play time across each of their of their tracked titles. Because it is not locked to Valve, Blizzard, Riot Games, Mojang, and so forth, it compares games that are from different publishers and distribution platforms as long as the software is running. Around once each month, the company shares their findings and gives brief explanations for notable results. Again, these are not sales or download figures. This ranking is decided by the number of hours played.

raptr-most-august-2014.png

Note: Diablo III is erroneously listed as losing a rank.
In July, Minecraft was #5 and Diablo III was #6

First, League of Legends continued its reign as most played PC game; in fact, it widened its lead to over one-fifth of all recorded game time (20.55%). This increase was mostly attributed to the game's 4.15 update. Second place, with a significantly less 7.62%, is World of Warcraft. Raptr believes it passed DOTA 2 for two reasons: WoW gained players from their Mists of Pandaria 50%-off promotion and DOTA 2 deflated a little bit after the swell from The International tournament.

Counter-Strike: GO held steady in fourth place and Smith Smite (Update 09/17/2014: Corrected typo), a free-to-play MOBA from Hi-Rez Studios, jumped five places to fifth place.

Source: Raptr

More NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Leaked Details

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 15, 2014 - 08:02 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, geforce, GTX 980

Details and photographs of the GeForce GTX 980 are leaking on various forums and websites. Based on the Maxwell architecture, it is supposed to be faster and more efficient than Kepler while being manufactured on an identical, 28nm fab process. While we were uncertain before, it now looks like the GTX 980 will be its formal name, as seen in leaked photographs, below.

NVIDIA-GeForce-GTX-980-Front-Picture.jpg

Image Credit: Videocardz

As expected, the cooler is a continuation of NVIDIA's reference cooler, as seen on recent high-end graphics cards (such as the GeForce Titan). Again, this is not a surprise. The interesting part is that it is rated for about 250W whereas Maxwell is rumored to draw 180W. While the reference card has two six-pin PCIe power connectors, I am curious to see if the excess cooling will lead to interesting overclocks. That is not even mentioning what the AIB partners can do.

NVIDIA-GeForce-GTX-980-Back-Picture.jpg

Image Credit: Videocardz

Beyond its over-engineering for Maxwell's TDP, it also includes a back plate.

nvidia-gtx-980-display-connectors.jpg

Image Credit: Chip Hell via Videocards

Its display connectors have been hotly anticipated. As you can see above, the GTX 980 has five outputs: three DisplayPort, one HDMI, and one DVI. Which version of HDMI? Which version of DisplayPort? No clue at the moment. There has been some speculation regarding HDMI 2.0, and the DisplayPort 1.3 standard was just released to the public today, but I would be pleasantly surprised if even one of these made it in.

Check out Videocardz for a little bit more.

Source: Videocardz

AMD R9 390X Is Rumored Liquid Cooled

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Cases and Cooling | September 15, 2014 - 05:50 PM |
Tagged: amd, R9, r9 390x, liquid cooler, liquid cooling, liquid cooling system, asetek

Less than a year after the launch of AMD's R9 290X, we are beginning to hear rumors of a follow-up. What is being called the R9 390X, because if it is called anything else, then that was a very short-lived branding scheme, might be liquid cooled. This would be the first single-processor, reference graphics card to have an integrated water cooler. That said, the public evidence is not as firm as I would normally like.

amd-r9-390x-leak.jpg

Image Credit: Baidu Forums

According to Tom's Hardware, Asetek is working on a liquid-cooled design for "an undisclosed OEM". The product is expected to ship during the first half of 2015 and the press release claims that it will "continue Asetek's success in the growing liquid cooling market". Technically, this could be a collaboration with an AIB partner, not necessarily a GPU developer. That said, the leaked photograph looks like a reference card.

We don't really know anything more than this. I would expect that it will be a refresh based on Hawaii, but that is pure speculation. I have no evidence to support that.

Personally, I would hope that a standalone air-cooled model would be available. While I have no experience with liquid cooling, it seems like a bit extra of a burden that not all purchasers of a top-of-the-line single GPU add-in board would want to bare. Specifically, placing the radiator if their case even supports it. That said, having a high-performing reference card will probably make the initial benchmarks look extra impressive, which could be a win in itself.

Add-ons Might Be Included in IE "Spartan"

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2014 - 04:49 PM |
Tagged: spartan, microsoft, internet explorer 12, internet explorer, ie12, extension

The next version of Internet Explorer is said to be codenamed "Spartan". The allusions to Halo from internal Microsoft names are strong this year. One exciting rumor is the ability to run native, x86 code as a browser extension. This is expected to be built upon the Xax browser plugin model, published as a white paper by Microsoft Research six years ago. Its age should be noted when reading how it discusses JavaScript compatibility and performance. A lot has happened since then.

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But why would Internet Explorer need extensions? The first, and most obvious, answer is that Microsoft is trying to win back some enthusiasts to their browser (and its platforms). If Microsoft relaxes certification requirements for extensions, compared to Windows Store, it could also bridge the gap between native app and web app for enterprises, especially smaller businesses, a give them a platform without the burden of sideloading.

We might also see this being used by third parties to contribute to Internet Explorer development. In much the same way as Nokia experiments with WebCL by a Firefox extension, others could use Internet Explorer add-ons as a testing ground. In fact, according to their aforementioned 2008 paper, Microsoft Research already tested an OpenGL rendering stack in Xax.

We will probably find out more about the next IE soon.

Source: ZDNet

VESA Releases DisplayPort 1.3 Standard

Subject: General Tech, Displays | September 15, 2014 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: displayport 1.3, freesync, 5k, vesa, dockport

It is official, DisplayPort 1.3 has finished VESA approval and should be hitting the streets in the near future.  Freesync support came with 1.2a which is why it was not mentioned, however DockPort has been enhanced with the higher 8.1 Gbps link rate for each of the four lanes present which means you can support a 4k monitor using two of those lanes, leaving the other two available for USB, audio or even power.

This also means that 4k and even 5k monitors can function over a single DisplayPort 1.3 cable without any compression and with the use of VESA's Coordinated Video Timing you can have a pair of 4k monitors function in multi-monitor mode ... assuming you have the graphical horsepower to run 7680 x 2160.  It is rather impressive to see this jump to 32.4 Gbps combined link rate that can deliver 25.92 Gbps of uncompressed video data.

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Newark, CA (15 September 2014) The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) announced the release of the DisplayPort 1.3 audio / video (A/V) standard. An update to the widely used DisplayPort 1.2a standard, this latest version increases the maximum link bandwidth to 32.4 Gbps, with each of four lanes running at a link rate of 8.1 Gbps/lane a 50% increase from the previous version of the DisplayPort standard. Allowing for transport overhead, DisplayPort's 32.4 Gbps combined link rate delivers 25.92 Gbps of uncompressed video data.

The increased bandwidth enables higher resolution monitors, including recently announced 5K monitors (with pixel resolutions of 5120 x 2880) using a single DisplayPort cable without the use of compression. It will also enable higher resolutions when driving multiple monitors through a single connection using DisplayPort's Multi-Stream feature, such as the use of two 4K UHD monitors, each with a pixel resolution of 3840 x 2160, when using VESA Coordinated Video Timing.

DisplayPort 1.3 continues to support video conversion to VGA, DVI and HDMI. DisplayPort 1.3 adds support for HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0 with CEC (Consumer Electronics Control), which enhances DisplayPort's utility for television applications, including 4K video with copy protection. The new standard adds support for the 4:2:0 pixel structure, a video format commonly used on consumer digital television interfaces, which enables support for future 8K x 4K displays.

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DisplayPort 1.3 also enhances DisplayPort's value for multi-function interfaces that combine data transport, A/V transport and other capabilities on a single cable. It further refines protocols that enable DisplayPort to share a single cable with other data types. With its higher 8.1 Gbps per-lane link rate, DisplayPort 1.3 can support a single UHD monitor with 60Hz refresh and 24-bit color over two lanes, while assigning the remaining two lanes to increase capacity for alternate data types, such as SuperSpeed USB data, as allowed in DockPort. DisplayPort is the A/V transport standard used by DockPort, Thunderbolt and other wired and wireless multi-function interface standards.

While becoming a mainstream video standard, DisplayPort continues to be at the cutting edge of A/V transport, said VESA Board of Directors Chair Alan Kobayashi, Fellow & Executive R&D Management for DisplayPort Group at MegaChips Technology America. These new enhancements to DisplayPort will facilitate both higher resolution displays, as well as easier integration of DisplayPort into multi-protocol data transports, which will satisfy consumer's desire for simplicity and ease-of-use.

The DisplayPort standard is offered to VESA members without any license fee. For more information about DisplayPort, please visit http://www.displayport.org or connect with us on YouTube.

Source: VESA

Mojang Sells to Microsoft for $2.5 Billion. Founders Leave.

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2014 - 03:23 PM |
Tagged: Mojang, Minecraft, microsoft

Mojang AB, a company with about 22 employees, has been sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. Being that the studio is based in Sweden, I would expect that it was purchased with funds that would be taxed heavily if brought back into the States, so the large sum might not feel as large to Microsoft as if they were purchasing an American company. It should be noted that they did not require that the founders, Notch, Carl, and Jakob, stay on as employees -- and they aren't.

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This, of course, leads to many concerns for die-hard Minecraft fans. First of all, what platforms (if any) will be deprecated? PlayStation? Mac? Linux? Java itself? Second, how will Microsoft change the franchise? Will they remain faithful? Will they reduce or remove third party content?

As for the founders? Only Notch seems to have commented on his next plans: participating in game making competitions and creating "small web experiments". Additionally, he says, "If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I'll probably abandon it immediately." Most of his blog post references issues between Mojang and its community, regarding the EULA, server and mod monetization, possibly the CraftBucket GPL issue, and so forth. Honestly, I like the idea that Notch would spend a significant amount of free time developing web demos. I think he would contribute a lot to Web standards, especially if he is happy doing it.

As for Microsoft? Clearly they are buying Minecraft because they are running out of Halo codenames.

Source: Mojang

Upgrade your selfies to the next level with these new products announced at IDF

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2014 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: idf 2014, sony, Panasonic, Samsung, cameras

At IDF there were a few new cameras on display which caught The Register's attention in amongst the smart appliances and other gadgets.  For the highest quality selfies try the Panasonic HX-500 4K activity cam which is good at depths of up to 3 metres for up to 30 minutes.  Perhaps you would prefer to pair your Galaxy Note 4 with the Samsung Galaxy VR headset to give you an Occulus like look at the world; a 96-degree view which is intended to look like a 175-inch screen seen from 2 metres away.   Samsung users could also pick up the Olloclip for Android, giving you fisheye and wide angle lenses for your Galaxy S4 or S5.  There is more in the article, check them all out here.

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"Image is everything - or so it has been said, and if the gadgets at the recent IFA techfest in Berlin are anything to go by then manufacturers certainly seem to think we’re image obsessed. With selfies being a global compulsion, perhaps they know us better than we know ourselves."

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Source: The Register

Stanford & Berkeley Announce Tiny, Signal-Powered Radios

Subject: General Tech, Networking, Mobile | September 15, 2014 - 02:24 AM |
Tagged: radio-on-a-chip, iot, internet of things

Tiny and passively-powered radios would make for some interesting applications. One major issue is that you cannot shrink an antenna down infinitely; its size is dependent upon the wavelength of EM radiation that it is trying to detect. Researchers at Stanford and Berkeley have announced "ant-sized" radio-on-a-chip devices, fabricated at 65nm, which are powered by the signal that they gather.

stanford-antenna.jpg

The catch is that, because their antenna is on the order of a few millimeters, it is tuned for ~60 GHz. There are reasons why you do not see too many devices operate at this frequency. First, processing that signal with transistors is basically a non-starter, so they apparently designed a standard integrated circuit for the task.

The other problem is that 60 GHz is an Extremely High Frequency (EHF) and, with its high frequency, is very difficult to transmit over long ranges. The 57-64 GHz region, in particular, is a range which oxygen resonates at. While it is possible to brute-force a powerful signal through a sensitive antenna, that defeats the above purpose. Of course, the researchers have been honest about this. Right in their IEEE abstract, they claim a current, measured range of 50cm. In their Stanford press release, they state that this is designed to be part of a network with units every meter (or so). Current bandwidth is a little over 12 megabit.

Simply put, this will not become your new WiFi hotspot. However, for small and connected devices that are in close proximity, this could provide an interesting communication method for when size, cost, and power efficiency trump speed and range.

Source: Stanford

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Is Selling Out?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 15, 2014 - 01:31 AM |
Tagged: surface 3, surface, microsoft

Through their blog, Microsoft claims that their Surface Pro 3 devices are selling out in their recently added, overseas markets. In parts of Australia, all models were sold out early in the first day (we can of course question how many is "some retailers" and how much stock each had). The company expects to have appropriate stock levels in a week or two.

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Honestly, I never quite get these announcements of low stock. While it is better than having too much stock, and these releases might ease the nerves of shy investors, having too low stock is a problem, too. It is often a sign of something lacking: production, confidence, market insight, distribution, and so forth. It can tell an interesting story if these sales figures are immense, see the Nintendo Wii, but often it just raises a critical eyebrow. This is especially true if concrete figures are danced around.

I mean, if someone is at a store and looking for a Surface but none is available, do you really need to let them know that you intend to make more?

Source: Microsoft

Engadget and Ars Technica Reviews Moto 360

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 14, 2014 - 10:11 PM |
Tagged: motorola, moto 360, smartwatch

When I covered the announcement of the Apple Watch, one of our readers pointed out that we had very little smart watch coverage. That is fair critique, and I can see how it appeared to give Apple an unfair slant. As far as I know, we will not be reviewing any smart watch, of any sort, for the foreseeable future (my phone still runs Froyo). Engadget and Ars Technica did, though.

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Android Wear launched with three smart watches: the LG G Watch, the Samsung Gear Live, and (after a little delay) the Motorola Moto 360. The third one is a bit different from the other two in that it features a round screen. Both sites like the design but complain about its use of a TI OMAP3 SoC and its limited battery life. The OMAP3630 is manufactured at 45nm, which is a few process shrinks behind today's 28nm products and soon-to-be-released devices with 20nm and 14nm processors. With a 300mAh battery, a little less than a half or a third of a typical AAA battery, this leads to frequent charging. The question is whether this will be the same for all smart watches, and we don't know that yet. The Samsung and the LG smart watches, under Ars Technica's custom benchmark, vastly outperform it, though.

Engadget also complained about its price, at $250 and $299, which is actually $100 and $50 less than Apple's starting price. Ars Technica neither praised nor complained about the price.

Source: Engadget

Intex Cloud Fx Is a $35 Firefox OS Phone (not for USA)

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 10:12 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, intex, Firefox OS, firefox, cloud fx

If you were on a mission to make the cheapest possible mobile phone, you would probably not do much better than Intex Cloud Fx. Running Firefox OS, it will cost users about $35 to purchase it outright. Its goal is to bring the internet to places which would otherwise have nothing.

Intex-Cloud-FX-2.jpg

I believe the largest concession made by this phone is its RAM -- 128 MB. Yes, I had a computer with 32 MB of RAM and it browsed the internet just fine (on Netscape Navigator 2 through 4). I also had a computer before that (which was too slow to run Windows 3.1 but hey it had a turbo button). This is also the amount of RAM on the first and second generation iPod Touches. Nowadays, it is very little. Ars Technica allegedly made it crash by scrolling too fast and attempting to run benchmarks on it. This leads into its other, major compromise: its wireless connectivity. It does not support 3G. Edge is the best that you will get.

Other than those two points: it has a 1 GHz Spreadtrum SoC, 46MB of storage, a 2MP camera, and a 1250mAh battery. You do get WiFi, Bluetooth, and a microSD card slot. It also supports two SIM cards if necessary.

Again, at $35, this is not designed for America or Western Europe. This is for the areas of the world that will probably not experience the internet at all unless it is through a mobile phone. For people in India and Asia, it is about the lowest barrier to entry of the internet that is possible. You can also check out phones from other partners of Mozilla.

Source: Ars Technica

ChromeOS Gets Android "App Runtime for Chrome (Beta)"

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome os, Android

To some extent...

This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.

chrome-os-android.png

From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?

Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.

Source: Google

Skip tailoring your suit, scan yourself for the perfect fit

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 04:41 PM |
Tagged: Realsense 3D, idf 2014, 3D rendering, 3d printing

There was an interesting use of Intel's Realsense 3D technology displayed at IDF by a company called Volumental.  By using a new product with the new style of camera it would be possible to make a 3D map of your body accurate enough to make clothing patterns from.  The example offered were a pair shoes that could be ordered online with no concerns about the fit as the shoes would be perfect for you.  That is just the beginning though, you would also be able to order a perfectly tailored suit online without ever needing to appear in person for a fitting.  It could also lead to an even worse Fappening in the future; choose your online clothing supplier carefully.  There is more here at The Inquirer.

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"The proof of concept software, called Volume Voice[sic], accurately scans parts of the human body with Intel's Realsense 3D depth cameras, which will soon feature on Intel-powered laptops and tablets. Volumental's cloud-based platform will then allow individuals to create products that are tailored to their own bodies, for example, shoes that fit perfectly without the need to try them on before buying."

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Source: The Inquirer

SanDisk Launches 512GB SDXC Card for $799.99

Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 12, 2014 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: sandisk, sdxc, sdhc, sd card, 512GB

Assuming your camera, card reader, or other device fully conforms to the SDXC standard, Sandisk has developed a half-terabyte (512GB) memory card. Beyond being gigantic, it can be read at up to 95 MB/s and written at up to 90 MB/s, which should be enough to stream 4K video. Sandisk claims that it is temperature proof, shock proof, water proof, and x-ray proof. It also comes with a lifetime warranty and "RescuePRO Deluxe" recovery software but, honestly, I expect people would just use PhotoRec or something.

It should be noted that the SDXC standard covers memory cards up to 2TB so it will probably not be too long before we see another standard get ratified. What is next? SDUC? SDYC? SDALLTHEC? Blah! This is why IEEE assigns names sequentially.

The SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-I SDHC/SDXC 512GB memory card should be available now, although I cannot yet find them online, for $799.99 MSRP.

Source: SanDisk

Grand Theft Auto V PC Delayed Until January 27th, 2015

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: gta5 gta online, delayed, delay, consolitis

We finally got the release date for Grand Theft Auto V PC... and it's delayed. But Scott, how can it be delayed if we just now have a firm date? Well, apart from Rockstar claiming that it will be available in the Autumn of 2014, which January 27th, 2015 is not, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions will be arriving on November 18th, 2014 (which is technically before December 21st). To this I say...

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... I hear it's lovely in the winter...

... meh. It's fine. Unless something comes up, or I find out that the port is awful and broken, I will still buy it. As always, delaying the release of your game risks potential customers growing disinterested in the product. Perhaps they had the plot spoiled by a friend or a Let's Play. Alternatively, perhaps they gained interest in it because of a friend or a Let's Play before it was available for their platform, and forgot about it before it could be purchased.

Hopefully the extra time is put to good use.

Source: engadget

Intel Loves Exponential Trends: Shrinking Mini-PCs

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2014 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: idf, idf 2014, nuc, Intel, SFF, small form factor

A few years ago, Intel introduced the NUC line of small form factor PCs. At this year's IDF, they have announced plans to make even smaller, and cheaper, specifications that are intended for OEMs to install Windows, Linux, Android, and Chrome OS on. This initiative is not yet named, but will consist of mostly soldered components, leaving basically just the wireless adapters user-replaceable, rather than the more user-serviceable NUC.

intel-idf-mini-pc.jpg

Image Credit: Liliputing

Being the owner of Moore's Law, they just couldn't help but fit it to some type of exponential curve. While it is with respect to generation, not time, Intel expects the new, currently unnamed form factor to halve both the volume (size) and bill of material (BOM) cost of the NUC. They then said that another generation after ("Future SFF") will halve the BOM cost again, to a quarter of the NUC.

What do our readers think? Would you be willing to give up socketed components for smaller and cheaper devices in this category or does this just become indistinguishable from mobile devices (which we already know can be cheap and packed into small spaces)?

Source: Liliputing

Fanless Noctua NH-D15 Keeps 150W Xeon E5-2687W Cool

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 12, 2014 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: fanless, passive cooling, noctua, NH-D15

Sure, humans may disagree that 67C (153F) is cool, but it is for a semiconductor. More impressive, it was the temperature recorded on a CPU with a 150W TDP attached to a fanless Noctua NH-D15. Does that mean it was noiseless? Nope. The test kept each of the case fans maxed out at 12V input DC (100%).

noctua_nh_d15_4.jpg

This, without the fans.

Hardwareluxx does not specify how much air gets blown across the passive cooler. Their claim is that the case fans just ensure that the ambient temperature is as low as possible. That seems fair, but I could also, for instance, blow cool air through a 3-inch drier hose attached to a bathroom suction fan stuck out the window. That would certainly keep passive coolers chilled while only being technically fanless.

Theoretically, of course. I'm not saying it's something I did in high school or anything...

Depending on how long of a hose is used, it could even be noise in a different location (rather than case fans in the same PC). Still, cooling 150W is a feat in itself. Then again, with over two pounds of heat fins, it makes sense.

Source: Hardwareluxx

First Apple A8 Benchmarks Show... "Modest" Increase

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 12, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: apple, apple a8, SoC, iphone 6, iphone 6 plus

So one of the first benchmarks for Apple's A8 SoC has been published to Rightware, and it is not very different from its predecessor. The Apple A7 GPU of last year's iPhone 5S received a score of 20,253.80 on the Basemark X synthetic benchmark. The updated Apple A8 GPU, found on the iPhone 6, saw a 4.7% increase, to 21204.26, on the same test.

apple-a8-rightware.png

Again, this is a synthetic benchmark and not necessarily representative of real-world performance. To me, though, it wouldn't surprise me if the GPU is identical, and the increase corresponds mostly to the increase in CPU performance. That said, it still does not explain the lack of increase that we see, despite Apple's switch to TSMC's 20nm process. Perhaps it matters more in power consumption and non-gaming performance? That does not align well with their 20% faster CPU and 50% faster GPU claims...

Speaking of gaming performance, iOS 8 introduces the Metal API, which is Apple's response to Mantle, DirectX 12, and OpenGL Next Initiative. Maybe that boost will give Apple a pass for a generation? Perhaps we will see the two GPUs (A7 and A8) start to diverge in the Metal API? We shall see when more benchmarks and reviews get published.

Source: Rightware

StarCraft II WCS is Changing for 2015

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 02:39 AM |
Tagged: Starcraft II, WCS, blizzard, blizzcon, esports

The StarCraft II World Championship Series is Blizzard's official method of conglomerating numerous tournaments, including their own, into a canonized ranking system. Players get points for winning various Intel Extreme Masters, Red Bull Battle Grounds, DreamHack events, GSL seasons, and so forth. Beyond the prize money of each event, points are awarded to sort a global standings list. These points, beyond bragging rights, lead to an invitation to the year's final tournament at BlizzCon.

wcs-logo-blue.png

The system has drawn some criticism, however. One specific complaint is that players are allowed to partake in any region of their choosing. This seems to lead to tactical placement of players relative to other ones, rather than actual geography. Moreover, this allows players to join in servers that they are not anywhere near to, introducing lag in the online components. If I remember correctly, the rules stated that, unless both players chose to play on a server that was outside the region (ex: a South Korean server for two competitors in WCS America), the server would default to the region (America in the previous example). For 2015, Blizzard is requiring that all players must be legal residents of the region they choose to play in. The reasons for this decision do not seem to be publicly explained, but it should discourage the shuffling of players for logistical advantages.

The other, major change is that all participants of WCS 2015 need to qualify. Previously, if I (again) remember correctly, while points were reset, some placements in leagues carried over. This time, if a player is in any given league, they fought to get there from the very bottom. If anything, I expect this became necessary when the decision was made to change residency requirements.

WCS 2014 isn't over yet, though. It will close with BlizzCon on November 8th.