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Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 30, 2016 - 01:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, uwp, microsoft, build 2016, BUILD
When a platform vendor puts up restrictions, it can be scary, and with good cause. Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is the successor of WinRT, which, in the Windows 8 era, forced web browsers to be reskins of Internet Explorer, forced developers to get both their software and themselves certified before publishing, and so forth. They still allowed the traditional, more open, Win32 API, but locked them into “the Desktop App”.
Naturally, UWP carries similar concerns, which some developers (like Tim Sweeney of Epic Games) voiced publicly. It's more permissive, but in a brittle way. We don't want Microsoft, or someone like a government who has authority over them, to flip a switch and prevent individuals from developing software, ban content that some stakeholder finds offensive (like art with LGBT characters in Russia, the Middle East, or even North America), or ban entire categories of software like encryption suites or third-party web browsers.
This is where we get to today's announcement.
Microsoft's Phil Spencer, essentially responding to Tim Sweeney's concerns, and the PC gaming community at large, announced changes to UWP to make it more open. I haven't had too much time to think about it, and some necessary details don't translate well to a keynote segment, but we'll relay what we know. First, they plan to open up VSync off, FreeSync, and G-Sync in May. I find this kind-of odd, since Windows 10 will not receive its significant update (“Anniversary Update”) until July, I'm not sure how they would deliver this. It seems a little big for a simple Windows Update patch. I mean, they have yet to even push new versions of their Edge web browser outside of Windows 10 builds.
The second change is more interesting. Microsoft announced, albeit without dedicating a solid release date or window, to allow modding and overlays in UWP applications. This means that software will be able to, somehow, enter into UWP's process, and users will be encouraged to, somehow, access the file system of UWP applications. Currently, you need to jump through severe hoops to access the contents of Windows Store applications.
They still did not address the issue of side-loading and developing software without a certificate. Granted, you can do both of those things in Windows 10, but in a way that seems like it could be easily removed in a future build, if UWP has enough momentum and whoever runs Microsoft at the time decides to. Remember, this would not be an insidious choice by malicious people. UWP is alluring to Microsoft because it could change the “Windows gets viruses” stigma that is associated with PCs. The problem is that it can be abused, or even unintentionally harm creators and potential users.
On the other hand, they are correcting some major issues. I'm just voicing concerns.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | March 30, 2016 - 08:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: U-Verse, opinion, isp, Internet, FTTN, FTTH, editorial, data cap, AT%26T
AT&T U-Verse internet users will soon feel the pain of the company's old school DSL users in the form of enforced data caps and overage charges for exceeding new caps. In a blog post yesterday, AT&T announced plans to roll out new data usage caps for U-Verse users as well as a ('Comcastic') $30 per month option for unlimited data use.
Starting on May 23, 2016 AT&T U-Verse (VDSL2 and Gigapower/Fiber) customers will see an increase to their usage allowance based on their speed tier. Currently, U-Verse FTTN customer have a 250 GB cap regardless of speed tier while FTTH customers in its Gigapower markets have a higher 500 GB cap. These caps were soft caps and not enforced meaning that customers were not charged anything for going over them. That will soon change, and all U-Verse customers will be charged for going over their cap at a rate of $10 for every 50 GB over the cap. (e.g. Even if you use only 1 GB over the cap, you will still be charged the full $10 fee.).
The new U-Verse caps (also listed in the chart below) range from 300 GB for speeds up to 6 Mbps and 600 GB for everything up to its bonded pair 75 Mbps tier. At the top end, customers lucky enough to get fiber to the home and speed plans up to 1 Gbps will have a 1 TB cap.
|Internet Tier||New Data Caps||Overage Charges|
|AT&T DSL (all speeds)||150 GB||$10 per 50GB|
|AT&T U-Verse (768 Kbps – 6 Mbps)||300 GB||$10 per 50GB|
|AT&T U-Verse (12 Mbps – 75Mbps)||600 GB||$10 per 50GB|
|AT&T U-Verse FTTH (100 Mbps – 1 Gbps)||1 TB||$10 per 50GB|
Uverse customers that expect to use more than 500 GB over their data cap ($100 is the maximum overage charge) or that simply prefer not to worry about tracking their data usage can opt to pay an additional $30 monthly fee to be exempt from their data cap.
It's not all bad news though. General wisdom has always been that U-Verse customers subscribed to both internet and TV would be exempt from the caps even if AT&T started to enforce them. This is not changing. U-Verse customers subscribed to U-Verse TV (IPTV) or Direct TV on a double play package with U-Verse internet will officially be exempt from the cap and will get the $30/month unlimited data option for free.
AT&T DSL users continue to be left behind here as they will not receive an increase in their 150 GB data allowance, and from the wording of the blog post it appears that they will further be left out of the $30 per month unlimited data option (which would have actually been a very welcome change for them).
Karl Bode over at DSLReports adds a bit of interesting history in mentioning that originally AT&T stated that U-Verse users would not be subject to a hard data cap because of the improved network architecture and its "greater capacity" versus the old school CO-fed DSL lines. With the acquisition of Direct TV and the way that AT&T has been heavily pushing Direct TV and pushing customers away from its IPTV U-Verse TV service, it actually seems like a perfect time to not enforce data caps since customers going with its Direct TV satellite TV would free up a great deal of bandwidth on the VDSL2 wireline network for internet!
This recent move is very reminiscent of Comcast's as it "trials" data caps and overages in certain markets as well as having it's own extra monthly charge for unlimited data use. Considering the relatively miniscule cost to deliver this data versus the monthly service charges, these new unlimited options really seem more about seeking profit than any increased costs especially since customers have effectively had unlimited data this whole time and will soon be charged for the same service they've possibly been using for years. I will give AT&T some credit for implementing more realistic data caps and bumping everyone up based on speed tiers (something Comcast should adopt if they are set on having caps). Also, letting Internet+TV customers keep unlimited data is a good thing, even if it is only there to encourage people not to cut the cord.
The final bit of good news is that existing U-Verse customers will have approximately four months before they will be charged for going over their data caps. AT&T claims that they will only begin charging for overages on the third billing cycle, giving customers at least two 'free' months of overages. Users can opt to switch between unlimited and capped options at will, even in the middle of a billing cycle, and the company will send as many as seven email reminders at various data usage points as they approach the cap in the first two months as a warning to the overages.
This is a lot to take in, but there is still plenty of time to figure out how the changes will affect you.
Are you a U-Verse or AT&T DSL user? What do you think about the new data caps for U-Verse users and the $30/month unlimited data option?
Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2016 - 07:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: input, Tobii, EyeX, eye tracking
The Tobii EyeX eye-tracking controller is a small USB 3.0 device which fastens to the bottom of your monitor, more or less permanently, to allow you to control some games and programs with your eyes. The reviewer at The Tech Report discovered something unique about himself while conducting this review, while the five people he had try the EyeX the setup was flawless and easy, however his own eyes proved quite problematic. An upgrade to his glasses seems to have mostly mitigated the issue, however it might be worth remembering if you pick one up and have issues during calibration.
Once the EyeX was set up it worked in game, with some small issues which were not game breaking. Of more interest is the final page of the review, combining the EyeX with the Gazespeaker software form a potent duo to help those who have difficulties communicating in other ways. If you play games which benefit from eyetracking or know of someone who could benefit from Gazespeaker you should check out the full review.
"Tobii's EyeX eye-tracking controller promises to add more interactivity to some games by letting players take over certain in-game actions using nothing but the direction of their gaze. We spent some eyes-on time with the EyeX to see how it works."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Cooler Master Sentinel III @ Benchmark Reviews
- Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum @ eTeknix
- Gigabyte XM300 Gaming Mouse Review @HiTech Legion
- Bloody ML160 Commander @ Benchmark Reviews
- Cooler Master Masterkeys Pro S @ eTeknix
- COUGAR Attack X3 Mechanical @ NikKTech
- QPAD MK-90 RGB Pro Gaming @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2016 - 01:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10
As far as Updategate issues go, this one seems less a Microsoft problem and more of a consumer problem; however it does remain a serious problem. For a while now Microsoft have stated that Enterprise Editions of Windows 7 will not be upgraded to Windows 10, nor should they see the nag screens we have all grown to know and despise. The problem is that not every company uses Microsoft's Volume Licensing which is the only way to get the Enterprise Edition and even if they do they often customize the installation which can remove the Enterprise flag which prevents the upgrade prompts from appearing.
In practice what that means is businesses are now starting to see the upgrade nag screens, from doctors offices to roofing companies to large businesses which are not part of the volume licensing. As The Inquirer spotted in one comment, this can be a huge problem as a bronchoscopy cart in a hospital which was needed immediately couldn't be used until Windows Update was finished with it. It has also negatively effected Bootcamp setups or required a system password which no one had used for years. Here we thought U2 giving away music for free was bad; expect to become as bored of this topic as you are of the nag screens over the coming months.
"Qualified computers and devices that are deployed in your organization and that are running Windows 7 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro are eligible for the free Windows 10 upgrade offer and will be able to upgrade through Windows Update."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Electronic Rule-Breakers That Crept into Everything We Use @ Hack a Day
- Verizon plots 28 GHz 5G tests @ The Register
- 3 Challenges Facing Open Networking, and More from Open Networking Summit @ Linux.com
- Truecaller for Android vulnerability put personal data of 100 million users at risk @ The Inquirer
- Amazon issues recipe for baking Alexa speech tech into a Raspberry Pi @ The Inquirer
- iPhone SE vs iPhone 6S specs comparison @ The Inqurier
- Git 2.8 Officially Released @ Slashdot
- Gelid Zentree USB Charging Station @ eTeknix
- Vertagear S-Line SL5000 Gaming Chair Review @ OCC
- Linksys MAX-STREAM EA7500 Router Review @ Hardware Canucks
Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2016 - 01:55 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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).
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 28, 2016 - 11:24 PM | Ryan Shrout
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.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 26, 2016 - 12:11 AM | Ryan Shrout
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!
Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 01:47 PM | Ken Addison
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!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store (audio only)
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader (audio only)
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:33:37
Week in Review:
0:28:00 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintreepayments.com/pcper
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Ryan: Sony A6300 4K Camera
Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 12:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- Boffins find a way to lick batteries by dropping acid @ The Inquirer
- Apple's Lack of Bug Bounty Program May Explain Why Hackers Would Help FBI @ Slashdot
- Hackers hit utility and water systems @ The Inquirer
- Patch Java now, says Oracle. Leave the chocolate until later @ The Register
- NESPi Controller @ Hack a Day
- Streaming now outsells downloads – Recording Industry Ass. of America @ The Register
- Troubled Acer is going to chop itself into three bite sized chunks @ The Register
- AMD Publishes Initial Open-Source Driver Code For Next-Gen Polaris @ Phoronix
Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 03:00 AM | Ryan Shrout
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Subject: General Tech | March 23, 2016 - 01:34 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- Humble Sega Strategy Bundle
- System Shock Meets Open World Survival: P.A.M.E.L.A. @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Bethesda reveals all of DOOM's multiplayer modes @ HEXUS
- Built-A-Bot Workshop: Fallout 4’s Automatron DLC Out @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Ooooh: X-COM Creator Julian Gollop Announces New ‘Turn-Based Tactical Combat Game’ @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: General Tech | March 23, 2016 - 12:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- Your money or your life! Another hospital goes down to ransomware @ The Register
- Azure's wobbly day as three services glitch around the world @ The Register
- Building A Butcher Block Computer Desk To Comfortably Handle Six Monitors @ Phoronix
Subject: General Tech | March 22, 2016 - 02:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- Andy Grove has passed on @ Intel
- TSMC likely to raise 2016 capex @ DigiTimes
- How To Test Solid State Drive Health with GNOME Disks @ Linux.com
- iOS 9.3 now available for iPhones and iPads with CarPlay and Night Shift updates @ The Inquirer
- iOS flaw exploited to decrypt iMessages, access iThing photos @ The Register
- Google slings critical patch at exploited Linux kernel root hole @ The Register
- Intel in 3D and virtual reality dash @ The Register
- OLEDs benefit from organic electron injection material @ Nanotechweb
- Smanos W020i WiFi Alarm System Review @ NikKTech
- 5 Wide and Tall Monitors with Hacked Bezels for Wall of Awesome @ Hack a Day
- Wine Makes It Possible To Run Vulkan Windows Programs On Linux @ Slashdot
- AIDA64 v5.70 released
Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2016 - 02:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro L Keyboard Review: Spectrum Ad Infinitum @ Modders-Inc
- Cooler Master 'Master Keys Pro S' Cherry MX RGB @ Kitguru
- Patriot Viper V760 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review @ NikKTech
- Tesoro Excalibur V2 Illuminated Mechanical Gaming Keyboard @ eTeknix
- GIGABYTE XM300 GAMING MOUSE REVIEW: One Size Fits Many @ Modders-Inc
- QPAD DX-20 Pro Gaming Optical Mouse @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2016 - 01:23 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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:
- A Logic Named Joe: The 1946 sci-fi short that nailed modern tech @ The Register
- Anti-Hack: Free Automated SSL Certificates @ Hack a Day
- Updategate: Microsoft U-turns on Intel Skylake and leaves Lumia owners in the lurch @ The Inquirer
- Meet UbuntuBSD, UNIX For Human Beings @ Slashdot
- ACTIVEON CX Gold @ TechwareLabs
- Facebook, WhatsApp farewell BlackBerry @ The Register
- Critical Software Update for Kindle E-Readers @ [H]ard|OCP
- NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S R7800 AC2600 Wireless Router @ Missing Remoe
Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2016 - 12:53 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 06:37 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 04:36 PM | Tim Verry
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.
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?
Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 02:58 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2016 - 09:26 PM | Scott Michaud
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).
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.