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Subject: General Tech, Systems | December 7, 2013 - 04:04 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: SteamOS, PiixL Jetpack
This is what an open ecosystem does best.
The Jetpack, by British PC developer Piixl, is a computer that can attach to the back of a TV. If your TV stands on its own, the Jetpack clings to the television's unused wall mount point. If you were intending to mount your TV on the wall, the PC can reside between the two. These are the user needs that can only be addressed by allowing organizations (large companies, small businesses, hobbyist groups, and individuals) to explore in the niches either to "scratch their own itch"or differentiate their product.
The computer is branded mostly for SteamOS but can also be installed with a full version of Windows or Linux (which you can then install a Steam Client on). It is looking more and more like Valve is successful in herding OEMs.
The internals of this computer are quite interesting. It looks like they are attaching a 2-wide videocard 90-degrees to a mini-ITX motherboard with the other components spaced out around those two parts. Their official media claims that they will support any GPU (I assume they are not considering ones with extra- thick coolers) which should make future upgrades easy.
I may never purchase a Steam machine but I am excited that they exist. The purpose for the PC ecosystem is that every user with any need can find or create a solution. That is why general purpose computation devices exist: perform whatever information storage or manipulation the user desires. I do not have many of the needs that these boxes satisfy... but some people do and there should be systems available for them.
The Verge claims that the Jetpack will be available in January. I can sense a theme for CES 2014.
Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2013 - 01:33 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Today's Alienware 14 deal is for a 14" 1080p laptop with quite a bit inside of it's compact chassis. A core i7-4700MQ, 8GB DDR3-1600 and a 1GB GeForce GTX 750M offer decent performance and connectivity includes Bluetooth and a KillerNIC handling WiFi. Storage is a 750GB 7200RPM HDD and a DVD Burner you can upgrade to a BlueRay if you so desire. It comes with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit installed.
- Alienware 14 "Haswell" Core i7 1080p Gaming Laptop w/ GeForce GT 750M for $1,149.00 with Free Shipping (normally $3,499.99 - use coupon code: 1PBNCDBWQLQD95).
- Samsung UN40EH5300 40" 120Hz LED Smart HDTV + $125 Gift Card for$497.99 with Free Shipping(normally $529.99).
- ASUS GeForce GTX 760 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express Video Card + FREE Assassin Creed IV + Splinter Cell Game for $239.99 with Free Shipping(normally $269.99).
- TP-LINK TL-WN822N 300Mbps High Gain Wireless-N USB Adapter for $14.99 (normally $24.99).
- Acer G226HQLBbd 21.5" LED-backlight LCD Monitor for $99.99 with free shipping(normally $159.99).
- Seagate 1TB Solid State Hybrid 3.5" Desktop Drive for $79.99 with Free Shipping(normally $109.99).
Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2013 - 12:53 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, R9 290X, leafblower
The Tech Report posted an statement from AMD about the variability that sites have seen when comparing retail 290X's to the press samples sent out to review sites. At this moment they are citing heat issues and the fact that the performance delta is lessened under Uber mode but will be investigating other possible causes. With the pending arrival of third party coolers we will be able to get a better sense of the possible contribution insufficient cooling has on these issues it is also possible that the golden sample theory is also at least partially correct. The big win for consumers is AMD's attitude adjustment and admission that there is an issue worth investigating; if they can get your R9 290X running faster you will be the one who wins after all.
"The range of performance differential is not expected to meaningfully change the user experience but we’ve taken note of recent reports that the degree of variability is higher than expected. Reasonably we would expect the variability to occur both above and below the performance of the press samples, however it appears that most reported performances are biased towards the low side."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- FTC Drops the Hammer On Maker of Location-Sharing Flashlight App @ Slashdot
- Apple Mac Pro could arrive on 16 December @ The Inquirer
- Google lets users slurp own Gmail, Calendar data @ The Register
- Internet Explorer 11 at it again, breaks Microsoft's own CRM software @ The Register
- Livescribe 3 Smartpen @ The Inquirer
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 6, 2013 - 04:13 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: asus, padfone, PadFone Mini
I will be entirely honest with you: every time I need to look up the PadFone to make sure I am not getting it confused with the FonePad.
An older model but it gets the point across.
The upcoming PadFone Mini is expected to be a phone of some size (probably smaller than the 5" Pad Fone Infinity) with a dock of some other unknown size. The phone was briefly mentioned in a China Times article back in September. There it was expected to have a 4-inch display on the handset and a 7-inch display on the tablet dock. According to Engadget's interpretation of the VR-Zone leak (who saw that coming?) that might have changed since then.
The device itself is expected to be based on the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC, run Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), and have a handset resolution of 960x540. That is about all that we have even the slightest clue about at this point.
No word yet on whether this device will even be available in North America though. For that, we will probably need to wait until the actual announcement (or even later).
Subject: General Tech, Storage | December 5, 2013 - 10:23 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, ssd
Computer storage website, Myce, got a hold of a few slides from Intel's SSD division. The semiconductor giant is expected to have (at least) nine active product lines with new SKUs apparently coexisting with certain older models. Two of the PCIe-based product lines, the P3700 series and the P3500 series, are expected to be available in capacities of up to 2TB. They will apparently be available in 2.5" form factor as well.
Image Credit: Myce
Intel has not produced the most mindblowing components over the last 3-4 years but, to my knowledge, they have been effective at wooing the enterprise customers. 2.8 GB/s reads and 1.7 GB/s writes at 450,000 IOPS for reading (150,000 IOPS for writes) seem pretty good, though. Combined with Intel's 5-year warranty and it will probably find its way into a few servers.
Each of the new products will be fabricated on the 20nm process (the older 910 Series and DC S3700 Series, both from 2012, will remain 25nm). Of course Intel has access to smaller processes at this point but, since these are enterprise products, it makes sense for them to use the more tried and true methods for the time being.
If you are interested in enterprise SSDs, keep an eye out in a couple of quarters. Maybe we will even see some stuff coming out of CES in a month.
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 07:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: sony, Data Breach
Sony has detected "irregular activity" on their network and, as a precaution, have initiated password resets for several of their customers. Of course the great PlayStation hack is still fresh in our memory. Beyond the potential reference jokes, this time could be a sign that they learned their lesson.
My hands are still in head-crushing formation.
My gut feeling is that Sony has noticed odd traffic from attackers trying to use break into accounts using information compromised from other sources (such as the recent Adobe hack). I actually received a similar email from Blizzard, just a couple of weeks after the Adobe hack, urging me to reset my password. It does not surprise me that whoever has access to the blob (heck it is probably public by now) would be poking gaming services to extort or troll.
I will give Sony the benefit of the doubt (especially considering how probable it is) and say they have learned from their lesson. This is the same practice used by to good security firms: push the big red reset button whenever something looks fishy and keeps your affected customers informed.
Of course I could eat my words if it is found out that Sony knows of a gigantic problem behind the scenes -- but I doubt it. Congratulations on handling the situation properly, Sony, even if it does open you up to misinformed trolls.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 06:53 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows, microsoft
Peter Bright at Ars Technica is wondering how many operating systems (OSes) Microsoft actually needs and, for that matter, how many they already have. Three consumer versions of Windows exists (or brands of it does): Windows RT, "full" Windows, and Windows Phone. Then again, it is really difficult to divide up what a unique operating system even is. All of the aforementioned "OSes" run on the same base kernel and even app compatibility does not align to that Venn diagram.
In my personal opinion, it really does not matter how many (or what) operating systems Microsoft has. That innate desire to categorize things into boxes really does nothing useful. At best, it helps you create relationships between it and other platforms; these comparisons may not even be valid. Sure, from the perspective of Microsoft's marketing team, these categories help convey information about their products to consumers.
... And if recent trends mean anything: very incorrect and confusing information.
So really, and I believe this is what Peter Bright was getting at, who cares how many OSes Microsoft has? The concern should really be what these products mean for consumers. In that sense, I really hope we trend towards the openness of the last couple Internet Explorer versions (and of course Windows 7) and further from the censored nature of Windows RT.
You can have 800 channels or just a single one but that doesn't mean something good is on.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | December 5, 2013 - 02:47 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: WQHD+, msi, 3K
High resolution displays are very nice to have especially when you are looking at text and symbols (or edges of 3D geometry). WQHD+ is one of the resolutions classified under the 3K moniker with dimensions of 2880 x 1620. It has slightly more pixels than 1440p.
MSI has launched two notebooks with a 15.6" display in this resolution: one gaming and one workstation. Both laptops are remarkably similar except for a few key differences.
Both laptops include:
- Intel Core i7-4700MQ CPU (2.4 GHz w/ 3.4 GHz Turbo)
- 16 GB RAM
- 15.6" 2880x1620 (16:9) display
- 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
- Killer E2200 networking (yes, the workstation too)
- Killer N1202 a/b/g/n wireless (yes, workstation too)
- SDXC card reader
- HDMI 1.4, 2x USB 3.0, etc.
- Backlit Keyboard from SteelSeries
The GT60 2OD-261US (Gaming) also includes:
- Windows 8
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M GPU (4GB)
- Blu-ray reader
The GT60 2OKWS-278US (Workstation) instead includes:
- Windows 7 Professional
- NVIDIA Quadro K3100M (4GB)
- Blu-ray recorder
These laptops are currently available at two price points: $2200 for the gaming version and $2800 for the workstation. Press release after the break!
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 01:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mozilla, webgl
Tools for web developers are pretty astonishing these days. You are able to investigate the driving elements and objects as they are being executed within the browser -- and even modify them. This typically means that you can play around with the various functions and parameters while the app is loaded. You receive immediate feedback about your changes.
Web Standards continue to encompass 3D and other game-related tasks. As a result, developer tools are beginning to take advantage of their browser's managed architecture making it easier to tweak and debug content. In other words: you can poke your 3D scene as it is being rendered.
Now this is quite interesting. Basically all of the GPU's involvement in drawing a 3D scene comes down to two scripts (at least for WebGL 1.0): a vertex shader and a fragment shader. These are operations that run once for every vertex in a scene and once for every pixel an object in a scene occupies, respectively. Together they form a "program" which gives an object's geometry something tangible for users to see.
Here is an example of Unreal Engine 3 being modified at runtime.
The developer tools within Firefox 27 will allow you to modify these scripts at runtime and even turn specific draw calls on or off. This should vastly speed up the rate at which developers modify their effects especially when it comes to fine tuning specific variables such as the rate that waves flow in a water material.
Firefox 27 is expected to be the release version in early February; it is currently in the Aurora channel.
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 01:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Dell has updated their UltraSharp lineup with a professional class 4K IPS monitor, the UP3214Q. It is 32" and features 99% AdobeRGB and 100% sRGB coverage and a claimed 8ms g2g response time which makes it usable for gamers as well though this really is aimed at the graphics professional. HDMI, DisplayPort, mini-DisplayPort, USB 3.0 and a 6-in-1 media card reader round out the features on this display.
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 01:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: sales, pc sales, market share
The PC market has eroded over the past few years to the point where sales are only slightly above what they were in 2008, roughly 300 million sales. Even more worrisome for vendors is the predicted 10.1% decline predicted for the overall sales in 2013. DigiTimes cites a lack of reasons to upgrade being a root cause and to an extent that makes sense, a first generation i5 laptop will still compete with a current generation laptop with an equivalent Haswell model. Another reason is the changing market, with tablets and phones providing good enough connectivity for many who previously would have had to purchase a 'traditional' computer. Commercial sales are not declining as quickly yet but that could change with the spread of the BYOD disease.
"Worldwide PC shipments are expected to fall by 10.1% in 2013, slightly below the previous projection of 9.7%, and by far the most severe yearly contraction on record, according to IDC. Interest in PCs has remained limited, leading to little indication of positive growth beyond replacement of existing systems. Total shipments are expected to decline by an additional 3.8% in 2014 before turning slightly positive in the longer term."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Someone’s Been Siphoning Data Through a Huge Security Hole in the Internet @ Wired
- PS4 @ The Inquirer
- EMC on XtremIO SSD brickup ballsup: Its LIFETIME downtime is under 3 minutes @ The Register
- Exclusive interview with LN2 OC Guru Petri Korhonen @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 03:59 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: GCC, Rust, mozilla
Rust is an interesting language in that it aims to be safe and concurrent. It was discussed frequently at Mozilla Summit back in early October both on its own and in terms of the experimental HTML5 rendering engine, Servo. From how it was describe to me from other attendees, it prides itself on its task-based architecture. Basically, your application is (or, at least, is often) set up like a bunch of tasks that get scheduled concurrently and pass messages to one another if they want to communicate. This concept allow for efficient multithreading because each task is inherently independent.
This may remind you of the experiments John Carmack did with Wolfenstein and Haskell.
Apparently at least one developer from the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) is also paying attention. Philip Herron has been working on the "gccrs" branch to create a GCC front-end for Mozilla's language.
We will need languages like Rust in the near future as processors continue to ramp up in thread count. Just look at the Xeon Phi story from last week: a bootable 288-thread standalone processor based on the Silvermont architecture. If you want this processor to be used efficiently then you better be light on the main thread otherwise your 6 TFLOPs (3 TFLOPs double-precision) will only be quick to behave like an Atom.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 5, 2013 - 03:17 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: linux, nvidia surround, eyefinity
Could four 1080p monitors be 4K on the cheap? Probably not... but keep reading.
Image Credit: Phoronix
Phoronix published an article for users interested in quad monitor gaming on Linux. Sure, you might think this is a bit excessive especially considering the bezel at the center of your screen. On the other hand, imagine you are playing a four player split-screen game. That would definitely get some attention. Each player would be able to tilt their screen out of the view of their opponents while only using a single computer.
In his 8-page editorial, Michael Larabel tests the official and popular open source drivers for both AMD and NVIDIA. The winner was NVIDIA's proprietary driver although the open source solution, Nouveau, seemed to fair the worst of the batch. This is the typical trade-off with NVIDIA. It was only just recent that The Green Giant opened up documentation for the other chefs in the kitchen... so these results may change soon.
If you are interested in gaming on Linux, give the article a read.
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 03:03 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: linux, valve, SteamOS, hsa foundation, hsa
Valve may very well produce one of the near future's most popular non-mobile, consumer, Linux distributions. SteamOS will be marketed for gaming PCs (some very compelling ones at that) starting next year. CES will definitely be interesting. With such a popular distribution, and as an existing member of the Khronos Group, it makes sense for Valve to join the Linux Foundation... and they just did.
It is still unknown to what extent Valve joined Linux (members are classified by level of contribution from Platinum to Silver) and we likely will not know until their list is updated. While they probably will not be hanging out with Intel and others in the platinum category, Silver is not the most noteworthy of statuses... alongside Barnes and Noble (likely because of the Nook) and Twitter.
Another addition is the HSA Foundation. AMD is already a Gold member (y'know... HSA's faja) and ARM is Silver so I cannot see HSA being much more than that. Still, Linux will be an important focus for the heterogeneous computing architectures to endorse: both in terms of back-end server optimization and customer-facing devices.
Of course I am not belittling any contribution. Still, there is that desire to see Valve lead the pack. Ultimately, though, it is not the size of the badge: it is how you wear it.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | December 5, 2013 - 02:38 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, r9 270, Steam Machine, SteamOS
I cannot see how they will be making any money at this but, next year, iBuyPower will launch their first Steam Machine. At the price of $499, the same as an Xbox One, you will get an AMD CPU bundled with a discrete Radeon R9 270 graphics card.
Image Credit: The Verge
Oh, and Valve's controller will be included in that price.
Sure, they can save money on the free operating system, but that still looks pretty awesome. In terms of actual dimensions, the case is said to be between the size of the PS4 and the Xbox one. Frankly, if you like the look of home theater appliances, this could be a nice twist on that aesthetic. It will also come with a 500GB hard drive. Don't worry, though: it is a PC. If there is a USB 3.0 port anywhere on it, you can attach a giant drive for your games.
And the power supply is internal, too!
iBuyPower is expected to ship this device at some point in 2014 along with a wave of other Steam Machines. Prepare for many of these innovations to come out of CES.
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 02:26 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pcga, certification
Okay, so we all know I hate certification. Art platforms should be as open as possible to allow small businesses, hobbyists, and even casual users to share their expressions and ideas. Certification is the basis for my distrust of Windows Store and the "modern" Windows platform altogether. When you have someone between you and sharing, terms will be dictated for every transfer.
I am reminded of Harvest Moon which was pressured with ESRB certification (unclear where the pressure was coming from, however) to remove same-gender relationships in a North American release. If you build censorship, they will come. This is not censorship... but keep that in mind.
That said, the PC Gaming Alliance (PCGA) should only get between you and an advertising logo. They will not prevent you from sharing your app, unlike Windows Store, but rather just not say you have a satisfactory title.
Testing will not be free, of course. A non-PCGA member will need to pay $500 per game to be submit their title for certification; another $2000 will be required to request help with certification from the organization.
Metrics that the certification looks at is whether it runs at a smooth 30FPS at 720p medium settings on some reference platform and whether it supports gamepad and couch use cases (if those users would reasonably expect that environment for the title... ex: StarCraft would probably be exempt).
I can see this being... okay. It is a bit pointless for users who do the slightest bit of research before they purchase a title. That said, under the condition that it will not be a mandatory certification, it might be beneficial for smaller companies to market their goods. Cheap endorsement for small businesses is not a bad thing as long as it does not lock the art, itself, in any way.
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 01:59 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: dice, BF4
DICE has announced that they are working on Battlefield 4, its expansions, Mirror's Edge, and Star Wars: Battlefront 3. Or at least, they have been working on them. For now, Battlefield 4 will be the only product in active development. DICE and EA have acknowledged issues with the game in terms of stability and connectivity. Until that becomes satisfactory, they will pause development on all other titles and expansion packs.
PC Gamer received a statement from an EA spokesperson about these claims. Apparently the China Rising DLC was basically completed before this decision was made; everything else will wait. Really, you just cannot keep bombers and motorbikes sitting on the shelf.
I mean, it is interesting that they say this. Still, I cannot see what this actually means. EA will not pull environment artists and sound engineers to fix these issues. It is a good "commitment to our customers" statement and I applaud them for admitting problems with the game (oddly, I found this version much less error prone than Battlefield 3) but, despite sounding clear, I wonder how much extra resources will result from this. Sure, it was a petty example, but it questions where the line actually is.
Battlefield 4 is available now from multiple retailers (just not Steam).
Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2013 - 01:32 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: elder scrolls online
The Elder Scrolls Online is coming and one of the hooks of the franchise is its character customization. Hours can be spent preparing and building characters into whatever the player desires. Many factors can be tweaked to make the perfect archer, mage, or thief. Some versions even allow the player to be infected with vampirism or lycanthropy to become a vampire or a werewolf.
Bethesda has just released a video outlining various possible customizations. Yes, there will be quests to infect your character with the two aforementioned diseases. I am sure that is what you all really wanted to know.
Basically the levelling system is as follows: when you gain a level you gain a point to add to your stats and another point to add to your skills. Attribute (stats) points let you choose whether to increase your health, magika, or stamina. Skill points allow you to learn spells or abilities; using these skills pushes that skill further down its "line". You can then branch ("morph") that ability's skill tree out in some direction. The example given is a friendly restoration skill: at some point you will be allowed to choose whether to heal three (instead of one) allies or have it replenish some of your magika. A common mechanic but, now, one confirmed in the game.
The Elder Scrolls Online is expected to be released this spring for PC, Mac, PS4, and Xbox One.
Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2013 - 05:10 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, ultrasharp, toshiba, R9 290X, r9 290, podcast, ocz, Kaveri, dell, amd, A10-7850K, A10-7700K, 4k
PC Perspective Podcast #279 - 12/04/2013
Join us this week as we discuss R9 290 Variance Issues, OCZ's Bankruptcy, Kaveri Leaks 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
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Scott Michaud
Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2013 - 02:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: mmorpg, gaming, elder scrolls online
Long time fans of The Elder Scrolls series have not been jumping on the online version in great numbers, partly due to the changes that were made to the game to make it an MMORPG but also because that particular market is rather saturated. Over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN is a short video intended to offer an enticing look at the skills that you can develop over time. They are much more in depth than the constellation of skills available in offline TES games and can be gained in more ways that just levelling up. As well they can be tweaked and modified in such a way as to make your character much more personalized, take a peek and see if it convinces you to give the game a try.
"When I was little, I wanted to grow up to be a fireman and an astronaut and a cowboy and a monster truck and Batman and a shoe and a barn and a machine that could produce infinite popsicles and the head of a moderately successful middle management firm. Eventually, however, I realized that I’d have to settle on just one thing, so I decided that I hated money and became a games journo."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- New PlanetSide 2 Progression Won’t Involve Gear Or Power @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Give It A Trya: Maia Lands On Steam Early Access @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Steam’s concurrent user record breaches 7 million @ HEXUS
- Super Mario 3D World @ The Inquirer
- A Flippin’ Good Time: The Pinball Arcade PC Review @ Techgage
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