ARM's new security focused Cortex R-52 for IoT

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2016 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: arm, iot, cortex r52, r-52, cortex, security

ARM's new Cortex R-52 replaces the aging R-5 and they report that it will run 14 times faster than the model it replaces.  It is also the first ARMv8-R based product they have released, it supports hypervisor instructions as well as additional unspecified safety features.  They are aiming for medical applications as well as vehicles, markets which are currently plagued by insecure software and hardware.  In many cases the insecurity stems from companies using the default software settings in their products, often due to ignorance as opposed to malice and ARM intends their default settings to be far more secure than current SOCs.  Unfortunately this will not help with those who use default passwords and ports but it is a step in the right direction.  Pop over to The Inquirer for more information.

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"The Cortex R-52 has been five years in development and is engineered to meet new safety standards as ARM takes aim at the growing market of large-scale smart devices, such as surgical robots and self-driving cars."

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Source: The Inquirer

Netflix's Meridian, an open source benchmark disguised as a original program

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2016 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: netfix, meridian, 4k60

The 12 minute long Netflix Original "Meridian" might not be the most exciting program they've ever released but it is among one of the most interesting.  The program is available to anyone, via the Creative Commons license they attached to it, up to an including competitors such as iTunes and Hulu.  This seemly strange move is because it is actually a benchmark for encoding streamed video and the more people that see it the more information Netflix and others will gain.  It is originally filmed in 4k resolution at 60fps, which is far more than most displays can handle and much larger than residential data infrastructure is used to handling. 

The interesting part will start when new algorithms begin to appear to allow what is likely to be the next high definition standard to stream over the internet without immediately hitting data caps or losing so much resolution as to make it unwatchable.  You can pop over to Slashdot for links to more information about this release.

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"But for Netflix, it's just par of the course. Thanks to its Silicon Valley DNA, Netflix has long collaborated with other companies on cloud computing-focused open source projects. Now, it wants to nudge Hollywood to do the same -- and "Meridian" is only the beginning. This week, Netflix is also open-sourcing a set of tools tackling a common problem for studios and video services."

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Source: Slashdot

All Battlefield 4 Expansion Packs Are Now Free

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2016 - 05:39 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, battlefield 4, dlc

If you claim them before September 19th, you can now get all five expansion packs for Battlefield 4 for free. This comes a month before Battlefield 1 launches, and it hopes to get people hooked further into the gameplay style, wanting more in a month's time. They have occasionally been through the “On the House” promotion in the past, on an individual basis, but this is the first time that they're all free, together.

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It seems to be...

This will probably upset some Battlefield 4 Premium owners, but, even though I'm one of them, I don't think it's that big of a deal. It's fine for EA to give away their own content whenever they like, and, even still, paying customers bought access to it for over three years before it was given away.

I should note that you need to own the game, itself, though. It currently costs $19.99, although it's recently been available for $5, so hopefully you picked it up by then.

Source: EA

A wee little wireless mouse and keyboard combo from Razer, the Turret

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2016 - 01:32 PM |
Tagged: input, razer, turret, wireless mouse, wireless keyboard

The picture below give you a good idea of the size of these two couch combat kits, the Lapdog above it is obviously much larger but is intended for the same use.  The Turret is 7x121x11.6mm and the mousepad portion of the keyboard folds under for easy storage.   The mouse resembles a miniaturized Orochi, a mere 100x66x35mm, which may be a bit small for some hands, Legion Hardware did quickly get used to the size though.  The Turret is not great for hardcore gaming because of its size, but for surfing from the couch or playing casual games it is sufficient and is far easier to store than the Lapdog when not in use.  Check out the review here.

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"On hand or rather in lap is Razer’s new Turret gaming mouse and lapboard, designed for kicking back and relaxing in the living room for some casual PC gaming. The Turret is an all in one solution that provides a quick and easy setup so you can spend more time playing, but is it all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s find out..."

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The artisanal homebrew router faces a new challenge

Subject: General Tech, Networking | September 16, 2016 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: router, DIY, homebrew, openwrt

Ars Technica took router modding to a new level this year; why just flash your router with OpenWRT when you can make one from a mini PC?  The original was a dual gigabit NIC mini-PC with a 1037u Ivy Bridge Celeron from Alibaba, Homebrew 2.0 is sourced from Amazon, has four Intel gigabit LAN ports and runs on a J1900 Bay Trail Celeron.  You simply install an inexpensive SSD is installed in the mini-PC, set up OpenWRT and configure your network settings.  In this latest update Ars compares their homebrew routers to several retail routers to see how they fall in terms of performance.  Check it out to see how they fare and possibly to learn a bit about network benchmarks.

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"Famously around the Ars forums, this problem soon evolved into our homebrew router initiative. In January, I showed my math as a DIY-Linux router outpaced popular off-the-shelf options like the Netgear Nighthawk X6 and the Linksys N600 EA-2750. And in August, I shared the steps necessary to build one of your own."

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Source: Ars Technica

Valve Changes Its Review System on Steam

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2016 - 09:56 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming

A few days ago, Valve changed how user reviews work on Steam. Now, user reviews on the search page and at the top of the product page will only reflect customers who purchased the game from Steam. Other user reviews will still be collected, but only from the product's reviews panel with a more broad filter applied, which must be done manually.

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This change was made because Valve detected some titles where review scores varied greatly between Steam user and outside keys. If the vast majority of reviewers who purchased the content on Steam and the vast majority of reviewers who acquired the game outside of Steam are the same, then random error converges quickly. An average of 1000 reviews should be within 3% of the average opinion of 1,000,000 random customers, for 95% of titles. 99% of titles would be within 4% of the average opinion, given 1000 reviews for a million customers.

Of course, the differences are not always truly random. Keys which were given to crowd-funding backers could be abnormally good, if it well-served the niche audience that helped it get made, or abnormally bad, if it slighted that audience.

In the worst case, developers could be giving away keys to services that flood fraudulent reviews.

As such, Valve took the position that it will (Update: Yeah, I kind-of messed up the grammar on this sentence when I restructured it in editing... read it without the strikethrough, and this update of course) only reviews from their direct customers would be promoted. This upset many developers, although some games received a bump in score, if you trust Steam Spy. Again, if their title was a hit on Kickstarter, Patreon, or other services, then it subtracts their most evangelical users.

On the other hand, from Valve's perspective, they want to promote the opinion that best applies to someone browsing on Steam. This makes sense, since a review should be intended to guide someone who doesn't already have an opinion of the title one way or the other. Again, reviews are designed to be the general consensus of a random group of people -- the expected value of an average user -- but constrainted to a certain set of properties.

Of course, it would be beneficial to Valve to run further experiments to make sure that an average Steam reviewer reflects an average Steam customer for each, specific title. Basically, it's a good hypothesis, but testing isn't done. It could change greatly as it evolves through the Scientific Method.

Logitech Purchases Saitek from Mad Catz

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2016 - 07:34 PM |
Tagged: logitech, saitek

Saitek is pretty much the leading manufacturer of elaborate gaming peripherals. They're the group that makes joysticks with separate throttles, dashboards, and so forth, for flight simulators, driving games, and sci-fi titles. Until now, they were a subsidiary of Mad Catz, which is best known for third-party console controllers, although they also made PC accessories since the DOS era. In case you've never heard of them, Mad Catz also made GameShark.

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Now, Logitech has purchased the Saitek portion of Mad Catz's business, which handles "simulation" accessories. According to their blog post, the company plans to merge Saitek into their Logitech G series of products. That's about all the we know of their plans at the moment, though. This should be interesting to follow over the next few years.

Finance-oriented sources claim that the acquisition totals about $13 million USD, in cash.

Source: Mad Catz

Microsoft Desktop App Converter Now in Windows Store

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2016 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, Windows Store

If you have developed a Win32 or .NET application, and are interested in publishing it for the Windows Store, then Microsoft has released a tool to translate from the one to the other. There are some obvious concerns about this, which I will discuss later in this post, but most of those are more relevant to society as a whole, versus a single person who writes an app. This used to be called Project Centennial, and it's designed to help users enter the UWP platform with little effort, using the APIs they are comfortable with.

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The major concern (from a society standpoint) is that the whole reason why Microsoft doesn't deprecate Win32 is because there's too much of it in use. This conversion process forces the application to only be installed through sideloading, or by uploading it to Windows Store. This is much better than iOS and the now deprecated Windows RT, which don't allow sideloading content, but there's nothing preventing Microsoft from just killing sideloading in five, twenty, or a hundred years. Since that's the only way to express yourself through a native application without a license for Microsoft, you can see what could go wrong if a government tells them that encryption software needs to go away, or a civil rights group attempts to release a controversial work of art.

Again, as I said earlier, this is a society issue, though. For interested developers, the tool is a way to bring your old software to a new distribution method. People like Tim Sweeney will probably say “no thanks” for political reasons, but, if that's not a concern for you, the tool exists.

DesktopAppConverter is free on the Windows Store.

MSI Celebrates 30th Anniversary in Style, a limited edition GTX 1080

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 15, 2016 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: RGB, msi, GTX 1080, EKWB, factory overclocked

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MSI has just turned 30 and to help you join in the festivities they've released a custom GTX 1080 for purchase.  It uses an EK Predator Liquid Cooling Unit, the card is fully covered by a waterblock and a radiator and fan are already attached.  The card comes in a wooden box as a keepsake.

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The card is still two slots high and the GPU is overclocked somewhat, the boost is 1860 MHz.  In addition to the 30th Anniversary and MSI logos on the card, there are of course RGB lights which offer 16.8 million colours controlled by the MSI Gaming App.

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You can check out the full press release here, or the product page here.  Once we spot it on Amazon, Newegg and B&H we will update this post with links and prices.

 

Source: MSI

Podcast #417 - Maximus VIII Forumla, MoCA adapters, GFE logins and more!!

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2016 - 01:58 PM |
Tagged: VR, video, tesla, Silverstone, podcast, nvidia, msi, MoCA, Maximus VIII Formula, MasterLiquid, holodeck, GFE, geforce experience, euclideon, cooler master, asus, actiontec

PC Perspective Podcast #417 - 09/15/16

Join us this week as we discuss the Maximus VIII Forumla, MoCA adapters, GFE logins 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, Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath and Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:36:39
  1. Week in Review:
  2. This episode is brought to you by Casper! (Use code “pcper”)
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  5. Closing/outro

T-Mobile now offers truly unlimited data, whether they like it or not

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2016 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: t-mobile, hack, net neutrality

This probably won't last long, so try it out now if you want or just laugh at the way telco providers completely ignore net neutrality while the debate rages on in courts and government.  It seems that T-Mobile does not count any data used in a speed test against your monthly bill, likely because customers on limited data might become quite irate at a T-Mobile tech blowing through their monthly data.  A bright young kid has found a way to take advantage of this, he discovered any media sent from any folder labelled "/speedtest" will not count against monthly data limits and set up a proxy to allow anyone take advantage of this feature. 

Drop by Slashdot for more information as well as their usual reasoned and well thought our discussion below the story, which may or may not contain numerous other ways to circumvent providers attempts at hiding the ways they circumvent their own billing for data usage.

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"Ajit writes that he then created a proxy server that allows users to access any site with this method. All a T-Mobile user has to do is go to this page and input any URL they want to visit. "Just like that, I now had access to data throughout the T-Mobile network without maintaining any sort of formal payments or contract," Ajit wrote on Medium. "Just my phone's radios talking to the network's radios, free of any artificial shackles."

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Source: Slashdot

AMD Celebrates Anniversary of Radeon Technologies Group

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 14, 2016 - 09:55 PM |
Tagged: rtg, radeon technologies group, Polaris, crimson, amd radeon, amd

It has now been a year since the formation of AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group and the graphics driven division has proven itself rather successful. Looking back with hindsight, AMD's new graphics division has enjoyed several wins with new products and advancements in driver support reclaiming market share from NVIDIA and new initiatives advancing VR, HDR, and open source visual effects.

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Specifically, the Radeon Technologies Group, led by Raja Koduri, has managed to launch its new "Polaris" graphics architecture based on a 14nm FinFET process with the RX 400 series for consumers and the Radeon Pro Duo, Radeon Pro WX series, and Radeon Pro SSG (Solid State Graphics) for professionals. The company asl hit a milestone on FreeSync monitor design wins with a total of 101 displays launched to date.

Along with actual hardware, the graphics division has shaken up branding by rolling out new driver software under the Radeon Crimson Edition brand (with 21 driver releases since release) and dropping FirePro in favor of carrying over the Radeon name to create new Radeon Pro branding for its professional series of graphics cards. Driver support has also been enhanced on Linux and the AMDGPU-Pro driver works for RX 400 series.

Further, the Radeon Technologies Group launched its GPUOpen initiative back in December to foster the creation and advancement of free and open source visual effects and productivity code that developers are free to download, modify, and share.

Speaking of market share, AMD has managed to claw back some discrete GPU market share from a lowly 18% of GPUs in Q2 2015 to nearly 30% last quarter (Q2'16). That is a very respectable jump in just a year's time especially against NVIDIA's successful Pascal launches helped both by the price/performance of RX 400 as well as much needed focus on improving driver quality and timeliness of releases. 

Where does this leave AMD and its RTG? Honestly, the graphics division is in a much better place than it was last year and it is in a decent position to survive and make a difference. There are still many unknowns and just as AMD's processor division is dependent on a successful Zen release, the graphics division will need Vega to be a hit in order for AMD to get wins on the high end and compete with NVIDIA on the flagship and performance fronts. They will further need Vega to update their professional series of cards many of which are still using the company's Fiji architecture which is not as power efficient as Pascal or future Volta (the competition).

With that said, the team had solid wins since their formation and are gearing up for the future. According to the announcement, the Radeon Technologies Group will be focusing on pushing virtual reality (VR) and HDR (high dynamic range) in gaming by working with developers, improving drivers, adding to their GPUOpen software collection, and launching new products.

From the press release:

"We’re passionate about perfecting pixels and delivering an unrivaled gaming experience for our community, and uncompromising power and creative freedom for developers and content creators. And if you think our first year was exciting, wait until you see what RTG has lined up for the future."

In the near future, Raja Koduri told Venture Beat to expect VR backpacks to be on show at CES in January and to look out for mobile Polaris graphics cards. Also, Radeon Crimson Edition may be incorporating features from recently acquired startup HiAlgo who developed software to dynamically monitor gameplay and adjust the resolution to maintain maximum frame rates and prevent overheating during long game sessions. One of their techniques called HiAlgo Switch would allow gamers to switch from full to half resolution (and back again) at the press of a hot-key button so as to keep FPS high if a gamer anticipates they are about to enter a demanding area that would normally result in low frame rates. While these techniques are not very important for desktop gaming (especially the CPU/GPU limiter to prevent overheating), all three would come in handy for mobile gamers using laptops with discrete cards or especially APUs.

I am looking forward to seeing where Raja and the RTG team go from here and what they have in store for AMD graphics.

Source: AMD

Revealing the ghost in the machine, DX12 frame times in Deus Ex

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2016 - 02:16 PM |
Tagged: frame rating, deus ex: mankind divided, dx12, gaming

Just as we do here at PC Perspective, The Tech Report relies on rating frame times to provide accurate benchmarks as opposed to the raw number of frames per second a card provides.  This means that their look at the new DX12 patch for Deus Ex focuses on different data which does not produce the same results as FRAPs would.  This shows in their results, switching to DX12 results in much longer frame times in Deus Ex, with many spikes and a significant amount of frames that take more than 50ms to refresh.  Drop by to see their full look here.

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"An early version of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's DirectX 12 rendering path is available now, and many sites and AMD itself are already producing average FPS numbers using that software. We go inside the second to see what the real story is."

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Eight is enough, looking at how the new Telsa HPC cards from NVIDIA will work

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2016 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: pascal, tesla, p40, p4, nvidia, neural net, m40, M4, HPC

The Register have package a nice explanation of the basics of how neural nets work in their quick look at NVIDIA's new Pascal based HPC cards, the P4 and P40.  The tired joke about Zilog or Dick Van Patten stems from the research which has shown that 8-bit precision is most effective when feeding data into a neural net.  Using 16 or 32-bit values slows the processing down significantly while adding little precision to the results produced.  NVIDIA is also perfecting a hybrid mode, where you can opt for a less precise answer produced by your local, presumably limited, hardware or you can upload the data to the cloud for the full treatment.  This is great for those with security concerns or when a quicker answer is more valuable than a more accurate one.

As for the hardware, NVIDIA claims the optimizations on the P40 will make it "40 times more efficient" than an Intel Xeon E5 CPU and it will also provide slightly more throughput than the currently available Titan X.  You can expect to see these arrive in the market sometime over then next two months.

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"Nvidia has designed a couple of new Tesla processors for AI applications – the P4 and the P40 – and is talking up their 8-bit math performance. The 16nm FinFET GPUs use Nv's Pascal architecture and follow on from the P100 launched in June. The P4 fits on a half-height, half-length PCIe card for scale-out servers, while the beefier P40 has its eyes set on scale-up boxes."

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Source: The Register

Amazon Is Selling Fallout 4 for ~18$. Should You Get It?

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2016 - 01:34 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, fallout 4, bethesda

I don't usually post individual deals, but this is a fairly big drop in price for a very popular game. The physical copy of Fallout 4, for PC of course, is currently a little over $18. Since, digitally, it is still a $60 game, this is about 70% less than the price on Steam.

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I'm guessing that this deal is to clear out stock for an upcoming Game of the Year edition. This is something to keep in mind. The last DLC has just been released two weeks ago, and, if history serves, that means it won't be too long before they release the game with the DLC bundled in. Probably, if you waited this long, you should wait until that gets released (and goes on sale) to pick it up. I doubt that it would arrive before 2017, though, so it's up to you.

Source: Amazon

The holodeck down under, an update from Euclideon

Subject: General Tech | September 13, 2016 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: VR, holoverse, euclideon

It is hard to believe but it was indeed five years ago when Euclideon first started talking about their Unlimited Detail technology and how it can be used to create a holodeck.  You can now visit their first hologram entertainment centre, assuming you can get to Australia where the centre is located.  The video that [H]ard|OCP posted along with their interview looks very impressive, though it is difficult to get a feeling of what it would be like inside the room.

Ryan sat down (virtually) with the CEO of Euclideon, Bruce Dell, to talk about the recent updates to their Euclideon Unlimited Detail engine, the addition of animation capability and the opening of virtual reality hologram entertainment rooms based on the tech.

The technology used to create the rooms is fascinating and very different from the polygon based rendering techniques we are accustomed to.  They have named it Unlimited Detail and describe it as using 'trillions of little computer generated atoms' to create flat images on the wall or 3D holograms inside the room. Their UD engine can also stream 3D graphics from hard drives at a speed which does not need a cache, essentially giving them unlimited video memory which they use to project the equivalent of 20,000,000 converted polygons per square metre.  Check out the article as it is well worth looking at.

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"It's been five years since we last heard from Bruce Dell of Euclideon about its Unlimited Detail Technology and how he saw it changing the gaming world. Since then Bruce has not been sitting on his hands, and are now delivering the Holoverse VR / AR experience to the folks Down Under. And a new video showing this off!"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

A new breakthrough in spine care! Read your book through the cover, or the introduction at least.

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2016 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: mit, terahertz camera, georgia tech

MIT have come up with a camera which radiates EM at terahertz frequencies which can read a bit of a closed book thanks to the difference in reflectivity between ink and paper.  This is less a spy device than a way to read ancient scrolls and parchments which could disintegrate at a touch.  The camera can only penetrate to a depth of about nine pages before the clarity of the image degrades and the text can no longer easily be read.  The software the camera communicates with is able to recognize the letters and words in the images, it is not the scientists who read the manuscripts directly.  The Inquirer points out that this means it is also capable of defeating captchas, an impressive feat in and of itself though one with possible negative repercussions.

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"IMAGINE IF you could read a book like Superman. Well, thanks to research by MIT and Georgia Tech, X-ray vision could be the next big thing in reading after the team created a camera that can read closed books."

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Source: The Inquirer

Humble Store Is Giving Away Tropico 4

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2016 - 07:09 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, Kalypso, humble bundle

Update: Annnnnnnnnnnd it's over. Sorry everyone who just noticed the post. Original below.

If you have heard about the On The House promotion from EA's Origin service, then this will sound familiar. For the next eighteen hours, the Humble Store is giving away Tropico 4 from Kalypso Media Digital. It does not include any of the expansions or DLC, but it normally retails for $17 CDN and you're getting it for free if you redeem it before it expires. Also, according to the Steam page, the game requires that users register a (free) account with Kalypso to login.

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Again, you're getting it for free, though, and I know of a few people that love it. Tropico is a city-building game of sorts, except that, instead of playing as an omnificent being that benevolently rules over a region, you play as an actual dictator. I haven't played it myself, but I just added it to my Steam account, so I'll hopefully get around to it soon.

Source: Humble Store

Adrian Courrèges Discusses DOOM Rendering Techniques

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2016 - 03:52 PM |
Tagged: doom, pc gaming, bethesda

Adrian Courrèges is a software developer who, from time to time, does a break down on rendering techniques for major gaming titles. His latest one is on DOOM, and it explains, in remarkably simple (given the subject matter) terms, how the game draws a frame at a point early in the game. Most of the information was gathered from using debug tools, but a bit was pulled from Tiago Sousa and Jean Geffroy's slide deck at last month's SIGGRAPH conference.

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I obviously cannot really summarize what the article says in this post. You kind-of need to read it for yourself. The post goes into how Vulkan is used for updating Mega-Textures, but it doesn't go into anything like asynchronous compute, though. Most of the figures are animated too, usually by a slideshow of images, but a few WebGL demonstrations are included, too.

The GTX 1050 is scheduled to launch at the end of September but ...

Subject: General Tech | September 9, 2016 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: rumour, nvidia, gtx 1050

DigiTimes have heard that NVIDIA hope to release the GTX 1050 at the end of the month or early in October but there are hints it may be somewhat of a paper launch.  NVIDIA will have some silicon for sale but only a few who are quick enough on the draw will be able to purchase them; similar to the launch of the GTX 1080 and 1070 or even AMD's new cards for that matter.  Both vendors had great difficulty providing retailers with cards to sell at launch, the supply has increased and prices are much closer to the MSRP than they were a month ago but there are still plenty of out of stock models when you start looking for deals. 

Hopefully this situation will resolve soon, but for now patience is recommended for upgraders on a tight budget.

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"Nvidia's Pascal-based GeForce GTX 1080, 1070 and 1060 graphics cards are seeing strong demand from the market and therefore are currently in tight supply. To further expand into the market, Nvidia is planning to release its mid-range GTX 1050 graphics card at the end of September at the earliest."

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Source: DigiTimes