All of your manuscripts will be illuminated with the SteelSeries Apex M800 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2016 - 09:40 PM |
Tagged: input, steelseries, Apex M800, mechanical keyboard

The Steelseries Apex M800 uses their own QS1 mechnical switches, designed by Kailh and similar in feel to a Cherry MX Red switch.  It uses seperate processors for input and lighting, which allows you to get very creative when using the SteelSeries Engine 3 to program effects. It is also capable of recording macros on the fly, which you can then edit from within the software if you so desire.  Some users will also like the two USB 2.0 ports present on the keyboard, perhaps not for data transfer but handy for charging your phone or if you have USB powered toys on your desk.  Check out the full review including a video of the lighting effects over at Techgage.

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"SteelSeries has always been a heavy hitter in the world of peripherals. With a slew of highly touted mice, keyboards, and headsets, it looks to take things to the next level with the Apex M800 illuminated gaming keyboard. Does it have another winner on its hands, or are thousands of gamer nerds wrong? Read on to find out."

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Source: Techgage

More Tomb Raiding and a new bundle from NVIDIA

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2016 - 06:47 PM |
Tagged: gaming, tomb raider, nvidia, bundle, the division

The benchmarks that Ryan ran on the new Tomb Raider game were popular enough that it seems worth giving you a second opinion, in this case from [H]ard|OCP.  They use version 1.0 build 610.1_64 of the game, along with Crimson Edition 16.1.1 Hotfix and GeForce 361.75 during their testing.  For 1080p performance they tested the R9 380X 4GB against the GTX 960 4GB which saw AMD's card come out on top with similar results when testing the R9 390 against the GeForce GTX 970 at 1440p.  At the top end the R9 390X and GTX 980 performed similarly in single GPU configurations with AMD beating NVIDIA in multi GPU tests.  They also tried the TitanX, Fury and FuryX in single GPU configurations at 4k ... it did not go well.

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Also worth noting is the new bundle from NVIDIA, if you pick up a GeForce GTX 970 or better GPU or purchase a notebook with a GeForce GTX 970M, 980M or 980 the you are eligible for a free copy of The Division.  Click here to redeem your code or to find out how to get one.

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"A new Tomb Raider game is out, Rise of the Tomb Raider. We take RoTR and find out how it performs and compares on no less than 14 of today's latest video card offerings from the AMD and NVIDIA GPU lineups from top-to-bottom using the latest drivers and game patch v1.0 build 610.1_64."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Samsung is showing off some very pretty displays

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2016 - 05:53 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, transparent display, ML32E, TO55F

TechARP just posted a video of two reflective displays from Samsung, the 55" ML55E mirror display which has 55% reflectance and 90% transmittance and displays at 1920x1080 and a 32" model, the ML32E.  These will be used in store displays for now, but soon you may be upgrading your bathroom mirror so you can catch the news while you shave, or your Netflix stream while you take a quick break.

They also showed off the 55" O55F transparent OLED display, again 1080x1920 which is 45% transparent and they claim is able to provide 100% Adobe RGB colour space with 98% DCI color support.  As with the reflective displays you will first see these as store displays but it shouldn't be too long before we will be able to get our hands on them.  You can also see the Samsung PR here, unfortunately it does not specify what material was used in the transparent display but one hopes it is sturdy enough not to have to be protected from scratches and bumps.

Samsung-Electronics-Showcase-Latest-Monitor-and-Digital-Signage-Innovations-at-the-Southeast-Asia-Forum-2016_615,363.jpg

"At the recently-held Samsung Forum 2016, we came across these really cool transparent and mirror displays that Samsung will be bringing to the market shortly. Take a look!"

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Source: TechARP

This new type of Resistive RAM can be flexible and transparent

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2016 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: ReRAM, RRAM, aluminium oxide

Entirely transparent or translucent devices, which are also flexible are becoming less of a dream and coming closer to reality.  We have discussed RRAM quite a bit here on PCPer, most recently another teams research on creating transparent and flexible RRAM out of indium zinc oxide materials.  Nanotechweb have just linked to another set of researchers who are using aluminium oxide to design similar RRAM; great news as more research on the possible materials which will bring us the next generation of RAM the better.  Materials pricing is very important and as we move away from silicon the more choices manufacturers have, the less likely we will have shortages and prohibitive cost increases for production.  Pop over to Nanotechweb for an overview of this particular research if you are so inclined.

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"Among the emerging memories, resistive switching memory (ReRAM) in particular has attracted much attention in recent times owing to its fast switching, simple structure, and non-volatility. Flexible and transparent electronic devices have also attracted considerable attention for making future electronic devices."

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Source: Nanotechweb

Why can't we have nice things? USB Type-C can be as bad as the etherkiller

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2016 - 07:07 PM |
Tagged: USB 3 Type-C

USB 3.0 Type C cables have finally solved the strange physics defying issue of the originals and you no longer need to rotate your USB plug twice before it will connect.  Unfortunately it has introduced more serious problems, in some cases dangerous and expensive problems.  Back in November we posted about a Google researcher who found a variety of cables which did not have the correct resistor installed and which could release the magic smoke from your computer.  He is still at it and may be one of the only reasons to join Google+ as you can follow his findings there.  Unfortunately he won't be posting for a little while as the most recent one, a SurjTech 3M cable, destroyed his test equipment, including a $1499 Pixel 2.

Sadly it is not just cheap off brand cables you need to fear, Apple recently recalled numerous Type C cables which shipped with their products.  The Inquirer mentions a way to tell if your cable is definitely dangerous but this seems a situation where you are better safe than sorry.  Considering these dangers and the fact that in many cases the manufactures are actually using USB 3.0 cables with the Type C connection, it might be worth waiting on upgrading those peripherals.

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"APPLE IS the latest company to fall foul of the messy rollout of USB-C. The company has recalled a bunch of the cables that were official accessories sold separately or included with the most recent MacBook devices that eschewed USB=A and Lightning in favour of a single USB-C port for everything."

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Source: The Inquirer

PSA: Get An Additional 2GB of Free Google Drive Storage by Securing Your Account

Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2016 - 02:56 AM |
Tagged: google drive, google, cloud storage

In honor of Safer Internet Day, Google is offering up 2GB of additional Google Drive storage space for free to users that run a security checkup on their accounts through this Google tool.

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Google will ask you to go through several steps to secure your Google account and verify your information. You will need to confirm your account recovery information and connected devices. The tool will also show you what applications and services have access to your Google account (for me it was only Chrome and Target's Cartwheel app). Further, it will ask you to set up 2-factor authentication and confirm that you still want to leave the listed app passwords active (app passwords are randomly generated passwords used in apps that do not support 2-factor authentication, such as Thunderbird).

After stepping through the security checklist, you will find an addtional 2GB of storage space in your Drive account. Note that native Google Docs do not count against your space, but uploaded copies of things like Excel spreadsheets and Word documents kept in those formats do. Get the free space while it's still being offered!

Also, I hope that you have already locked in your OneDrive storage space as well!

Source: Google

Fancy new Intel powered routers from Wind River

Subject: General Tech | February 12, 2016 - 05:28 PM |
Tagged: Intel, wind river, telecoms

The next dream of telecoms providers is network function virtualization, the ability to virtualize customers hardware instead of shipping them a device.  The example given to the The Register were DVRs, instead of shipping a cablebox with recording capability to the customer the DVR would be virtualized on the telcos internal infrastructure.   You could sign up for a DVR VM, point your smart TV at the appropriate IP address and plug in a USB disk for local storage.

The problem has been the hardware available to the telco, the routers simply did not have the power to provide a consistent internet or cable connection, let alone add virtual devices to their systems.  At the upcoming MWC, Wind River will be showing off Titanium Servers for virtualizing customer premises equipment, with enough processing power and VM optimizations that these types of services could be supported.

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"Intel is starting to deliver on its vision of x86-powered modem/routers in the home , as its Wind River subsidiary releases a server dedicated to delivery of functions to virtual customer premises equipment (CPE)."

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Source: The Register

Just Delivered: Accell DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 Active Adapter

Subject: General Tech | February 11, 2016 - 09:48 PM |
Tagged:

Fabled to be "coming soon" since the launch of the AMD R9 Fury X back in June, today we finally got our hands on our first DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 adapter.

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Coming from Accell, the aptly named DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 Active Adapter is a fairly self explanatory product. This adapter sits inline between your DisplayPort video card and HDMI TV in order to convert between the two interfaces. Previously, the only available adapters supported up to HDMI 1.4a, which only allowed for 30Hz connectivity at 4K.

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Users looking to connect their 4K TV to a PC had their GPU options severely limited to exclude  all current AMD video cards and NVIDIA video cards below the GTX 950.

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A quick test with the Accell DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 adapter with the AMD R9 Nano alongside our trusty Wasabi Mango UHD420 display proved that this adapter did indeed bring full 4K support at 60Hz and 4:4:4 color via HDMI on the Nano. This helps the R9 Nano become more useful in compact, HTPC builds.

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Here we can see 4:4:4 subsampling working as intended

We also went ahead and tried this adapter with a GTX 780 Ti and found the same results. We were able to drive our 42" 4K TV at full refresh rate and color space.

It appears this adapter might not be fully retail available yet, but Accell has it listed on its online store for $37.99 shipping now. For users who have been looking for a way to get the most out of their older GPU (or a Fiji-based AMD part) and a 4K display, this seems like a no brainer.

Source: Accell

Podcast #386 - Logitech G810, Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX, GTX 980 Ti VR Edition and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 11, 2016 - 05:27 PM |
Tagged: vr edition, video, UMC, ue4, podcast, phanteks, nvidia, logitech, GTX 980 Ti, g810, evga, enthoo evolv itx, asrtock, arm, amd, 28HPCU

PC Perspective Podcast #386 - 02/10/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Logitech G810, Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX, GTX 980 Ti VR Edition 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

Program length: 1:30:34

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:36:45 This week’s podcast is brought to you by Casper. Use code PCPER at checkout for $50 towards your order!
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  5. Closing/outro

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

Speaking of Windows Updates... Here's What's Inside Them

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 08:52 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Since the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has been pushing for updates to just happen. They want users to receive each of them, because then it's harder for malware authors to take advantage of known vulnerabilities and it's also easier for Microsoft to update Windows (because it would have fewer permutations of patch levels). These updates would arrive with the useless name “Cumulative update for Windows 10 (some version)” and no further information, besides a list of changed files without any context.

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Now with slightly less blindness...

Microsoft now has a page that lists the general improvements as a bullet-point list. It's not an extensive list of changes, and most of them are related to security and privacy, but that is to be expected now that Windows has moved to a build paradigm. They are broken down by build level, though, which lets you see everything that happened to 10240 since it launched separate from the list of everything that happened to 10586 since it was published.

This is positive. Microsoft should have done this for a while, and I hope they continue indefinitely.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Adds Third Ring to Insider Program

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 08:03 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

The Windows 10 preview program had two settings: Fast and Slow. A third one has been added, called Release Preview, although it sounds a bit different from the other two. According to the blog post, which is supposed to be about a new build of Windows 10 Mobile, Release Preview will grant early access to updates on the current branch of Windows 10. They also call it “updates” instead of “builds”. Fast and Slow, as they have existed, provide builds for the next branch of Windows 10 at the time.

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When the public was on July release, Insider provided builds that ended up in the November update. When Windows 10 1511 was released, Insiders received builds on the “Redstone” branch, to be released at some point in the future. That is, apparently, not how Release Preview ring will work. They will receive 1511 updates early. They might receive the final Redstone-one build before general availability, but that is just speculation.

This might take some pressure off of Slow, which, during the Threshold-two timeframe, only received a single build, 10565, outside of the final 10586 one that was released to the public. Slow ended up being little more than a release candidate ring for the upcoming branch. If they push that to Release Preview, for the build that the public will see, then Slow might receive a few more steps on the upcoming branch, especially now that Fast are receiving more frequent updates. After all, users who are only interested in one or two builds per branch will probably be satisfied with pre-release updates and the final build early (again, if they release the final builds early on Release Preview, which is speculation).

Or Microsoft might just want a few more testers for Windows Update patches. Who knows?

Source: Microsoft

Havok Shuts Down Project Anarchy

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 06:43 PM |
Tagged: Havok, project anarchy, game engine

Annnnnnd now we have one less game engine in the industry.

We posted yesterday about Amazon launching their Lumberyard engine, which is a fork of CryEngine that monetizes by strongly tying itself to Amazon Web Services. Later that day, I found out that Havok shut down their Project Anarchy engine, which was free for mobile development on iOS, Android, and Tizen. It had interesting technology for its supported platforms, when extend down to OpenGL ES 2.0, that combined Havok's middleware into an editor with component-based objects. While this setup is how Unity and Unreal Engine are structured, it's an artist-friendly method. Want something to interact with gravity and collision? Drag a Havok Rigid Body Physics component on it and save.

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That could not be a more blatant parody of Bubs if it tried, which it probably is.

I did not really know too much about the engine, but it was originally released back in 2013. They held a game development challenge in early 2014. The Project Anarchy Mobile Game Development Challenge had a $100,000 top prize, which was won by Cosmonautica from Chasing Carrots. The other two winners were a train simulator and a puzzle matching game.

Source: Havok

Have some happy news for a change; aerogel made from recycled paper

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 05:51 PM |
Tagged: aerogel, nifty

With the depressing news about security holes below the fold it seemed appropriate to post something positive before you get depressed about PDFs, fonts and other such things.  This morning Slashdot posted just such a story, researchers have managed to turn recycled paper into an aerogel.  Aerogels are a relatively new substance, usually created with silica, metals or polymers and are incredibly light, amazing insulators and often have other arcane usages.  Recycled paper might not seem a likely substance to form an insulator, however the polymer resin coated cellulose aerogel still retains that common property.  It is also capable of absorbing up to 90 times its dry weight in spilled oil while completely excluding water, and to allow for the recovery of 99% of that oil for use again. 

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"A team of scientists have successfully turned paper waste into aerogel. Aerogels are used in insulation, and they are usually made out of polymers and silica. But a research team at the National University of Singapore managed to make the highly sought-after product using recycled paper ..."

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Source: Slashdot

Amazon Lumberyard Game Engine (Beta) Announced

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 10:11 PM |
Tagged: amazon, AWS, game engine

Another video game engine has entered the world, this time from Amazon. It is basically a fork of CryEngine that they purchased the rights to sub-license. Amazon states that their engine will diverge over time, as they modify it in-house for licensees and their internal game studio, Amazon Game Studios. It is licensed for free, with full source access, but it has a few restrictions.

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The market is currently dominated with a variety of offerings with different business models. Unreal Engine 4 is free to use, but takes a portion of revenue after some grace amount. CryEngine is available on a relatively cheap subscription, but has no royalty requirements. Unigine offers a few lump-sum options, starting at almost a grand-and-a-half. Unity has a few options, from a cut down free version, to a relatively expensive subscription, to lump-sum payments. Finally, at least for this list, Source 2 is completely free, with the only requirement that published games must be available on Steam at launch.

That last one, Source 2, is basically the business model that Amazon chose with their new Lumberyard engine. The difference is that, instead of requiring games to be published at a certain retailer, they require that games use Amazon Web Services for online interactions, like multiplayer and cloud, unless the developer maintains their own servers. I'm not exactly sure what that distinction ("If you own and operate your own private servers") allows, but I'd assume that Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are big no-nos. On the other hand, single-player experiences and games with local multiplayer, assuming neither has “cloud” features, are completely free to make.

While it would be nice to have a purely open source offering that can compete with these proprietary engines, developers should be able to find a suitable option. Each seems to ask for something slightly different, and they are very permissive otherwise.

Source: Amazon

Speakers and heaphones and DABs, oh my!

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 08:10 PM |
Tagged: portable speakers, OTONE, Inateck, headphones, Fugoo, audio

The Inquirer put together a list of their favourite audio products so far this year, perhaps the list will not match yours but perhaps there is a product named which you have not heard of yet.  From portable speakers to earbuds that wrap around your wrist when you are not using them they cover a variety of products.  Check out the list and see if any of these products are worthy of spending your hard earned money on.

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"THOUSANDS OF NEW audio products are released every year. Sometimes the big names are the best, but at other times there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Here's our guide to the headphones, speakers and other audio gems that will float our boat during 2016."

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Source: The Inquirer

A new Razer Black Widow Ultimate for 2016

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 07:42 PM |
Tagged: razer, input, gaming keyboard, black widow ultimate

Razer has been pushing out updates to their Black Widow lineup of gaming keyboards and this years model just arrived at Kitguru.  This year they are introducing a new type of mechanical switch for their keys, the model reviewed used their Green switches which click when depressed, there is a Razer Orange model for those who prefer to see their keyboard and not hear it.  This is not an RGB keyboard but you can set effects such as wave, ripple, starlight and reactive through the Razer software.  If you are looking for a new mechanical keyboard and want something a little different you should check out the full review.

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"The Razer Black Widow has become very popular over the years, often being touted as one of the finest gaming keyboards around. Today, we are looking at the brand new 2016 edition, using Razer’s own high specification mechanical switches – could this be the best option for gamers in 2016?"

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Source: Kitguru

If you have a Trane thermostat you should update the firmware immediately

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 06:30 PM |
Tagged: trane, iot, security

It is not a good sign when a security team refers to your smart thermostat as "a little malware store", especially when the flaws have been known for some time.  Indeed the original issue of hardcoded SSH passwords has been known since 2014 and the update took a year to be created.  Unfortunately most owners of a Trane Thermostat will not have upgraded their firmware, even if they knew about the update as it is not something which was installed remotely.  Instead you need to download the new firmware onto an SD card and manually install it on the thermostat.  Last month another update was released to address a remote code execution vulnerability in the ComfortLink II, which was not generally known until The Register posted about it today.  If you are using this device you should get an SD card handy and download the firmware.

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"In April 2015, one year after the first alert, Trane fixed the hardcoded password issue with a new release of the ComfortLink's firmware. Cisco then tipped off US CERT about the remaining issues. Trane eventually addressed the flaws in its code in January 2016, but didn't tell its customers that new firmware is available."

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Source: The Register

ASUS Announces ROG Horus GK2000 Mechanical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2016 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: ROG, Republic of Gamers, mechanical keyboard, GK2000, cherry mx red, asus

ASUS has announced a new mechanical keyboard from their Republic of Gamers division, and the Horus GK2000 sports an aluminum upper body, with Cherry MX Red switches under the ABS keycaps.

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The keyboard is a standard 104 key layout, with an additional 5 macro keys to the left, and wheels for volume and backlight control on the right side. It features 1000 Hz polling rate and offers a 2x USB 2.0 hub and 3.5 mm audio passthrough. As mentioned above key switching is handled by Cherry's MX Red, a linear switch which provides a lower actuation force than the MX Black.

In addition to the angular styling and large detachable palmrest, the GK2000 also offers adjustable (red) lighting to further enhance its appearance. We've seen quite a bit of the black/red color scheme for products targeting the gaming segment, and in this case it compliments the design of the company's ROG Swift monitors and other gaming products.

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Specifications:

  • Interface: USB 2.0 (1000Hz) with NKRO (can be disabled)
  • Layout: Standard 104 + 5 macro keys (left) + ROG key (right) + volume and backlight wheels (right)
  • Keyboard switches: Mechanical Cherry MX Red 45 g, 2 mm actuation, 4 mm travel
  • Volume knob: Infinite wheel switch (scroll to increase/decrease backlight)
  • USB hub: 2x USB 2.0
  • Audio pass-through: 1x audio, 1x mic
  • OS support: Windows XP/ Windows Vista /Windows 7/ Windows 8/ Windows 8.1/ Windows 10 32/64 bit
  • Approx. dimensions: 52.65 x 17 x 4.9 cm
  • Palm rest: 47.2 x 8.3 x 2.4 cm
  • Cable: 180 cm braided cable
  • Keycaps: ABS with UV grip coating
  • Materials: 3 mm brushed aluminum, 3 mm sandblasted aluminum, ABS underside 
  • Weight: 1700 g

No pricing or availability information accompanied the announcement.

Source: ASUS

A friendly reminder about your OneDrive storage amount

Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2016 - 10:06 PM |
Tagged: onedrive, microsoft, cloud storage

Remember the good old days when OneDrive moved from offering you 1TB of storage to an unlimited amount?  That did not last too long, they changed their minds and dropped the paid service back to 1TB and the free version from 15GB to 5GB, with a chance to grandfather in the additional storage if you followed up with them.

A viewer recently encountered this for the first time and it seems appropriate to remind everyone about the change.  If you have the paid service and are storing over 1TB you may have already heard from Microsoft but if not then consider this the warning that you have better trim down the amount of data you store on OneDrive as the changes are going to happen in the latter half of this year.  The same goes for free users who have 15GB, or 30GB if you opted into the camera roll service, get the amount of files you have stored on OneDrive under 5GB or risk losing data you would rather keep.  The standalone 100GB and 200GB plans will be reduced to 50GB, the price will remain at $1.99 per month.

The whole situation is reminiscent of a teacher in a classroom full of kids choosing to punish the entire class for the actions of a few individuals; in this case the tiny percentage which exceeded 75TB of usage.  Make sure to clean up your OneDrive as soon as possible, this is not something you want to wait until the last minute to do.

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"If you are using more than 5 GB of free storage, you will continue to have access to all files for at least 12 months after these changes go into effect in early 2016. In addition, you can redeem a free one-year Office 365 Personal subscription (credit card required), which includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage."

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Source: OneDrive

Unreal Editor for Unreal Engine 4 in VR

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | February 5, 2016 - 12:47 AM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 2016, epic games, ue4, VR, vive vr

Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4 at GDC two years ago, and removed its subscription fee at the next year's show. This year, one of the things that they will show is Unreal Editor in VR with the HTC Vive. Using the system's motion controllers, you will be able to move objects and access UI panels in the virtual environment. They open the video declaring that this is not an experimental project.

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Without using this technology, it's hard to comment on its usability. It definitely looks interesting, and might be useful for VR experiences. You can see what your experience will look like as you create it, and you probably even save a bit of time in rapid iteration by not continuously wearing and removing the equipment. I wonder how precise it will be though, since the laser pointers and objects seemed to snap and jitter a bit. That said, it might be just as precise and, even still, it only really matters how it looks and behaves, and it shouldn't even prevent minor tweaks after the fact anyway.

Epic Games expects to discuss the release plans at the show.

Source: Epic Games