Blizzcon 2014: StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void Announced

Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2014 - 09:22 PM |
Tagged: Starcraft II, starcraft, lotv, legacy of the void, blizzcon 2014, blizzcon, blizzard

Blizzard has been reconsidering what constitutes "a game sale" with StarCraft for quite some time now. They have been slowly carving out its mod platform, StarCraft Arcade, into a standalone, free product. They allow playing multiplayer with limitations, such as forcing free players to choose Terran (except for certain promotions). A few years in to StarCraft II's release, they even added "Spawning" to allow Starter and Wings of Liberty users to play locked content as long as a party member has purchased it, although Starter users are still locked to Terran.

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Today's announcement is a little more conventional -- Legacy of the Void will be a standalone expansion. You can purchase it without owning any earlier content. If you do own Wings of Liberty and/or Heart of the Swarm, then it will behave like an expansion, however.

The game itself will change significantly, too. At the competitive level, you often have a bit of a boring early game, unless one player decides to be a bit cheesy with their tactics. A lot of this is due to how long it takes to get from your initial six workers to being supply blocked. In Legacy of the Void, you start with 12 workers, twice as many as before. Also, each mineral patch has 33% less minerals, requiring bases to be taken more frequently and discouraging a maxed-out army from sitting on a handful of expansions to build a bank.

Many units were added and changed as well. Terran and Protoss are being pushed toward dropping units. The Warp Prism has its pickup range increased, to allow it to grab and reposition units from anywhere within a relatively large army ball, without needing to put the transport unit in danger. On the other hand, Terrans are able to pick up Seige Tanks while they are in Siege Mode. This allows a Terran player, who is paying close attention, to drop a tank for a quick, high-damage, and splashing shot, and then pick it up before it can be attacked. Siege Tanks have large range, slow rate of fire, and a relatively low health. If they are never shot at, though, while they're reloading their main cannon, then that nullifies their weakness, as long as you can keep the Medivac alive, too.

One thing that Blizzard disliked, however, seems to be Swarm Hosts. In Heart of the Swarm, competitions went on for hours, literally hours, as one component turtled in a corner of the map (or surrounded an opponent into a corner of the map) with free units. This was particularly problematic for Protoss, that has a highly efficient, ball-based army, and Zerg, which could counter with their own Swarm Hosts. Battles was commonly wave-after-wave of free units doing zero (or minimal) damage, ad-infinitum.

In Legacy of the Void, they do not spawn Locusts (free units) fast enough to pin someone down, or keep someone out, and these Locusts need to be spawned manually. Instead, they are intended as more of a sieging unit, capable of dropping free units into a base and walking away. They also do not burrow, unless that upgrade is acquired, which will make them easier to attack. On the other hand, the Locusts can fly to their target, where they must land to attack, as normal. The Swarm Hosts do not need to be in a dangerous location, just a potentially dangerous range. Whether Swarm Hosts, if they are upgraded with Burrow, can release Locusts while hidden is unclear. It is not something that I have seen yet. That said, the borrowed, space-control unit is now the Lurker, a Brood War alumnus.

Many other changes have been announced, but it always comes down to user testing.

As usual for a Blizzard title, no official release date has been given. A private beta will be "coming soon" to selected participants. It was also available to play at Blizzcon.

Source: Blizzard

Blizzcon 2014: Blizzard Announces Overwatch (New IP)

Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2014 - 07:59 PM |
Tagged: overwatch, blizzcon 2014, blizzcon, blizzard

Blizzard has announced Overwatch, a new franchise to expand their portfolio. It was unveiled at the Blizzcon keynote with a cinematic trailer followed immediately by gameplay footage. The first video looks significantly different from other Blizzard cinematics. It follows a Walt Disney Animation Studios art style, including exaggerated facial features and animations, versus the game company's normal dulled realism. It would look at home alongside "Bolt", for instance.

The gameplay itself is compared to Team Fortress 2. It is a class-based first-person shooter with an assortment of game types. The first two, announced modes will probably sound very similar to most of our fans: Point Capture and Payload (yes, that Payload). The classes are described more like MOBA heroes, however, but multiple players are (said to be) able to use the same class. Apart from the character design, they seem to be functionally TF2 classes. Maybe the difference is just that their names do not define what they do?

There are several similarities and differences between the two games. The classes seem to borrow from Team Fortress, with a comfortable embrace to magic and abilities. There are at least two engineer-style characters that can build turrets, and at least one of them can build a teleporter. One difference is, there seems to be a bit of a focus on parkour and movement abilities, such as grappling hooks, in particular.

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There are also a couple of guesses about where this game came from. The funny, albeit likely incorrect reason is that, after Valve took the reigns of DOTA, Blizzard decided to take on Team Fortress 2 and push into their turf (although Gabe Newell has described the relationship between the two companies as "friends"). More likely, Paul Tassi published on Forbes some claims that Overwatch was a remnant from Titan, possibly one of its intended PvP modes. If this was a spin-off of Titan, it makes me wonder exactly what kind of engine they were trying to develop, that was developed for an MMO but that could also be comfortable as a first-person shooter. That said, it is not uncommon to see versatile engines in recent years, such as Source and Unreal Engine 4.

Overwatch will be going into a multiplayer beta in 2015, seemingly early in the year. It is interesting to see Blizzard go into a vastly different genre than their usual, especially from a technology standpoint.

Source: Blizzard

Remember the Google Barges? We know why they left

Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2014 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: google, barges, mysterious

Not even Google is able to defeat the enforcement powers of local fire marshals which is why the mysterious barges are no longer anchored off the coast of San Francisco.  It seems that may not have met the fire safety rules required by law and so they have departed for places unknown.  The variety of theories which attempted to explain the barges, from floating data centres to a project to cede from the USA, were far more entertaining than the truth but perhaps we can enjoy a resurgence of entertaining internet hypothesizing now that the barges have disappeared.  The Inquirer did get a chance to speak with Google about the barges and it turns out that they were simply a very unique way to set up a display room to show off Google's newest projects.

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"TWO MYSTERIOUS BARGES moored by Google off the coast of the US last year were apparently moved because coastguards feared they did not conform to fire regulations."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

It's time for another Fragging Frogs VLAN! Saturday November 8 10:00 AM ET - Virtual LAN party #8

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2014 - 04:55 PM |
Tagged: VLAN party, gaming, fragging frogs

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Once again the amazing crew from the Fragging Frogs and our friends at AMD are teaming up to bring you a day of fun, fragging and prizes!  This weekend we also introduce two new friends, Bohemia Interactive Studios, producers of ARMA, DayZ and other games, as well as Innovation Cooling who have both contributed to this event. 

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If you are not already a member of the PC Perspective Forums you will need to register as a member in order to be eligible to win the prizes given away during the VLAN.  The registration thread is right here, sign your name to be eligible and please read through the links to the guides which explain how to log into the Teamspeak channel, the games that will be played and the patches and add-on files that need to be installed to ensure you spend more time playing and less time downloading.  iamApropos will once again be streaming the action live via TWITCH.TV so even if you can't participate for some reason you can have fun vicariously.  Be sure to thank our game hosts, organizers and sponsors as it takes a lot of time and effort to set these events up. 

See you there, in the mean time here is a video to get you even more excited.

FarCry 4, NVIDIA Gameworks and hair products for beasts

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2014 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, far cry 4, ubisoft, gameworks, txaa, hbao+

Check out the video for a look at the various in game enhancements that NVIDIA's new feaures will be bringing to FarCry 4 and gaze in awe at that gorgeous yak featured at 1:37, just look at its hair waving in the breeze and reacting to the motions of the animal.  It is not clear if AMD's TressFX will provide equivalent body and shine to the beasts that HairWorks does but you have to admit that is an impressive amount of work to make meat on the hoof look pretty.  There are two different technologies to improve the look of shadows, Percentage Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS, aka ShadowWorks) softens the edges of shadows based on the distance between the object creating the shadow and the surface the shadow appears on while Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion (HBAO+) is a new and efficient way to render ambient lighting and shadows accurately without paying for it with a big hit in performance.  Temporal anti-aliasing, TXAA is reputed to offer the benefits of MSAA 8x at the performance cost of 4x; while it is hard to judge the accuracy of that in the video you can certainly see it is an effective way of removing jaggies from straight edges.  You can also expect to see God Rays rendered properly, the shot of the sun through the tree near the end makes a rather nice set peice to display that effect.

Below you can see the recommended hardware, it is worth emphasizing that only 64bit OSes need apply on the PC.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif - November 6, 2014 - Ubisoft announces today a new technology PC gaming development partnership with NVIDIA that will bring players closer to their games than ever before.

Thanks to the power of NVIDIA GeForce GTX technology, including the just-released GTX 980 and 970 GPUs, this holiday’s long-awaited FPS, Far Cry 4 will look even more beautiful. By integrating NVIDIA’s GameWorks technologies, such as HBAO+ for realistic shadows, TXAA for cinema quality smoothness, as well as enhanced 4K support, Ubisoft is delivering cutting-edge content that allow PC players to become fully immersed in their gaming environments. In addition, Far Cry 4 also integrates NVIDIA Godrays technology so gamers can feel the sun beating down in the Himalayas, and NVIDIA HairWorks, for rendering the realistic, but deadly adversaries that will be encountered in the game.

Ubisoft also reveals Far Cry 4 PC system requirements:

  • Supported 64-Bit OS: Windows 7 (SP1) x64 / Windows 8 x64 / Windows 8.1 x64 ·
  • Processor: 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5-750 or 3.2 GHz AMD Phenom II X4 955 (2.5 GHz Intel Core i5-2400S or 4.0 GHz AMD FX-8350 or better recommended)
  • RAM: 4 GB (8 GB or greater recommended)
  • Video Card: 1 GB DirectX 11–compliant with Shader Model 5.0 or higher
    • Supported Video Cards at Time of Release: AMD Radeon HD 5850 / 6000 / 7000 / R7 / R9 series
    • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 / 500 / 600 / 700 / TITAN series \
  • Sound Card: DirectX-compatible (5.1 surround sound recommended)
  • DVD-ROM Drive: Dual-layer Hard Drive Space: 30 GB
  • Peripherals Supported: Windows-compatible keyboard, mouse, optional controller (Xbox 360 Controller for Windows recommended)
  • Multiplayer: 256 kbps or faster broadband connection ·
  • Note: This product supports 64-bit operating systems only.

Laptop versions of these cards may work, but are not officially supported. For the most up-to-date minimum requirement listings, please visit the FAQ on our support website at support.ubi.com.

If you are wondering whether or not your PC can run Far Cry 4 smoothly at the highest settings, please run the NVIDIA GPU ANALYZER which detects your graphics hardware and compares it to the developer's recommended GPU specification for Far Cry 4. It's a quick and easy way to see if your graphics hardware will provide you with an optimal experience in Far Cry 4.

With Far Cry 4 players will experience the most expansive and immersive Far Cry ever, in an entirely new, massive open-world. Players will find themselves in Kyrat, a breathtaking, perilous and wild region of the Himalayas struggling under the regime of a despotic self-appointed king. Using a vast array of weapons, vehicles and animals, players will write their own story across an exotic open-world landscape. Developed by Ubisoft Montréal in collaboration with other Ubisoft studios, Far Cry 4 will be available worldwide on November 18 for PlayStation4 and PlayStation3 computer entertainment system, Xbox One, Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC.

Source: NVIDIA

Podcast #325 - Samsung 850 Pro Roundup, MSI's GTX 760 ITX, 8GB R9 290X and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2014 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: video, Samsung, R9 290X, podcast, nvidia, mx cherry brown, msi titan, msi, hawaii, gtx 760 itx, assassin's creed, amd, 8gb, 850 PRO

PC Perspective Podcast #325 - 11/06/2014

Join us this week as we discuss our Samsung 850 Pro Roundup, MSI's GTX 760 ITX, 8GB R9 290X 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!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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

Unlimited photos of your Prime Amazon, and others

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2014 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: amazon prime, cloud storage

If you have Amazon Prime then you have had 5GB of online storage for a while now, whether you knew it or not.  As of yesterday that has been increased to an unlimited amount of photos and videos, as long as you follow certain guidelines.  A single photo cannot be larger than 2GB and videos can be a maximum of 20 minutes in length.  If you have files which do not meet those criteria you can still upload them but they will be kept in your original 5GB of storage, assuming you have the space for it.  There are a few other minor caveats which [H]ard|OCP lists here along with their reassurance that the service is actually everything it claims to be.

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"This is not our usual subject matter, at all. But surely there are a lot of HardOCP readers that are also Amazon Prime members and a lot of us like a good deal. So is Amazon Prime's new free photo storage up to what us [H]'ers would expect. When it is too good to be true is it always too good to be true?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: [H]ard|OCP

AMD Gaming Evolved Goes Beyond Earth with Hawaii

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 6, 2014 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: radeon, r9 295x2, R9 290X, r9 290, R9, hawaii, civilization, beyond earth, amd

Why settle for space, when you can go Beyond Earth too (but only if you go to Hawaii)!

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The Never Settle promotion launched itself into space a couple of months ago, but AMD isn't settling for that. If you purchase a Hawaii-based graphics card (R9 290, R9 290X, or R9 295X2) then you will get a free copy of Civilization: Beyond Earth on top of the choice of three games (or game packs) from the Never Settle Space Gold Reward tier. Beyond Earth makes a lot of sense of course, because it is a new game that is also one of the most comprehensive implementations of Mantle yet.

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To be eligible, the purchase would need to be made starting November 6th (which is today). Make sure that you check to make sure that what your buying is a "qualifying purchase" from "participating retailers", because that is a lot of value to miss in a moment of carelessness.

AMD has not specified an end date for this promotion.

Source: AMD

Squeeze the most out of your SSD with this handy guide

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2014 - 02:29 PM |
Tagged: ssd, Optimization Guide

Tech ARP have updated their handy SSD Optimization Guide which covers a variety of ways to ensure that your SSD has a long life and offers you the best possible performance while it works for you.  Many of the tips such as enabling AHCI mode in your BIOS before installing an OS are obvious to even an SSD newbie but not everyone will be familiar with their GUID Partition Table or proper partition alignment.  The guide is a handy reference for users old and new to make sure that your brand new SSD is performing up to specification.

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"Modern SSDs use a mix of techniques and technologies like overprovisioning of memory cells, wear levelling, a write combine buffer (or on-the-fly data compression), and the Trim command or automatic garbage collection to maintain performance and extend the lifespan of the flash memory cells. However, there's only so much they can do."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: TechARP

Get your old school game on

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2014 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: internet arcade, retro, gaming

Fire up your browser, currently Firefox is the best choice, then load up games you haven't played in over 20 years; or find out what people are talking about when they remininsce about the good old days of arcades.  Using JSMAME the Internet Archive has brought back hundreds of MAME cabinet games going back to the 70's, the majority of which are playable to some degree.  There is a tech support forum as well as a link to contact the curator of the page if you encounter issues with launching or sound and other technical problems.  The one thing that they can't help you with is the games with special controllers that just physically do not translate to mouse and keyboard or gamepad, you might have to think about creating and programming one if you want the rotating joystick from Victory Road.

If you need more modern games to satisfy you, the Fragging Frogs are up to a little something this weekend.

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"The Internet Arcade is a web-based library of arcade (coin-operated) video games from the 1970s through to the 1990s, emulated in JSMAME, part of the JSMESS software package. Containing hundreds of games ranging through many different genres and styles, the Arcade provides research, comparison, and entertainment in the realm of the Video Game Arcade."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

8 GB Variants of the R9 290X Coming This Month

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 5, 2014 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, R9, amd, 8gb

With the current range of AMD’s R9 290X cards sitting at 4 GB of memory, listings for an 8 GB version have appeared on an online retailer. As far back as March, Sapphire was rumored to be building an 8 GB variety. Those rumours were supposedly quashed last month by AMD and Sapphire. However, AMD has since confirmed the existence of the new additions to the series. Pre-orders have appeared online and are said to be shipping out this month.

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Image Credit: Overclockers UK

With 8 GB of GDDR5 memory and price tags between $480 and $520, these new additions, expectedly, do not come cheap. Compared to the 4 GB versions of the R9 290X line, which run about $160 less according to the online retailer, is it worth upgrading at this stage? For the people using a single 1080p monitor, the answer is likely no. For those with multi-screen setups, or those with deep enough pockets to own a 4K display, however, the benefits may begin to justify the premium. At 4K though, just a single 8 GB R9 290X may not provide the best experience; a Crossfire setup would benefit more from the 8 GB bump, being less reliant on GPU speed.

AMD’s 8 GB R9 290X’s are currently available for preorder: a reference version for £299.99 + VAT (~$480) and a Vapor-X version for £324.99 + VAT (~$520). They are slated to ship later this month.

Price versus performance, Dell's Venue 11 Pro tablet

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2014 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: dell, Venue 11 Pro, core m

Dell's Venue 11 Pro 7000 will be a Win8.1, 10.8" tablet with a 1920x1080 IPS touchscreen display, powered by an Intel Core M running at 2GHz and 64GB of local storage with the option to add up to a 64GB SD card for more space.  There will be a dock which comes with the tablet to allow you to connect a display, mouse and keyboard while you are not on the road, with a single USB 3.0 and micro HDMI connectivity when you are mobile.  The tablet is obviously made to compete with the Surface Pro 3, the base model of which sports a better screen and processor but is more expensive than the $700 Dell and does not include the price of the dock which Dell bundles with the Venue 11 Pro.  IT professionals should note that with the inclusion of the optional fingerprint scanner and two factor authentication the Venue is approved for use by the US DoD.  Check out more on the Venue and its competitor on The Inquirer.

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"Announced at the Dell World conference in Austin, Texas today, the Venue 11 Pro 7000 Series tablet will "accelerate productivity for mobile workers and provide secure access to content beyond the corporate firewall for easy IT management", the firm said."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Inquirer

EA's Dawngate Found Itself Out of Its League?

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2014 - 01:23 AM |
Tagged: moba, free to play, ea, dawngate

Just a couple short weeks after VentureBeat reported, and I discussed, that multiple free-to-play games were on track to make over a billion dollars this year, EA has announced that their competing MOBA, Dawngate, is canceled. The servers will be up for about three more months if you would like to get some last-minute play time in before it goes away. Any money that you spent will not go away, though; EA has committed to full refunds for any transactions that occurred during the beta.

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As for employees of the developer, Waystone Games, the open letter thanks them for their dedication, but it does not specifically mention lay-offs or closures. The end of Dawngate could be the beginning of something new, or it could be similar to the recent cancellation of Medal of Honor, where Danger Close was shut down and its employees scattered (many to DICE LA).

Development of Dawngate has ceased, but the game will remain playable until February 2nd, 2015, give or take a few days (depending on how literal they were about "90 days").

Introducing the NVIDIA GeForce GTX "Pick Your Path" Bundle

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2014 - 01:09 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, Pick your Path, game bundle, GTX 980, GTX 970, GeForce GTX 780, GeForce GTX 780 Ti, GTX 980M, GTX 970M

NVIDIA has introduced a promotion to compete with AMD's Never Settle Forever program.  The Pick your Path bundle offers purchasers of GTX 980, 970, 780 Ti, or 780 cards or who have bought notebooks with a GTX 980M or 970M the choice of one of three games.   These titles include The Crew, Far Cry 4 and Assassin’s Creed Unity, all of which feature optimization taking advantage of NVIDIA's new HBAO+ and TXAA technologies, enhanced performance at 4k resolutions and other game specific benefits such as the tessellation in Assassin's Creed.  This promotion will run until the end of the year so if you had planned on upgrading your hardware to play one of these games it makes NVIDIA's solutions a little more attractive.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Nov. 4, 2014— NVIDIA today announced a new technology PC gaming development partnership with Ubisoft that will bring consumers closer to their games than ever before.

Thanks to the power of NVIDIA GeForce GTX technology, including the just-released GTX 980 and 970 GPUs, this holiday’s hottest games, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Far Cry 4 and The Crew, will look simply incredible. By integrating NVIDIA’s superior GameWorks technologies, such as HBAO+ for realistic shadows, TXAA for cinema quality smoothness, as well as enhanced 4K support, Ubisoft is delivering cutting-edge content that allow PC gamers to become fully immersed in their gaming environments.

Part of the “Pick Your Path” promotion which kicks off this week and runs to the end of the year, gamers who purchase a qualifying GeForce GTX GPU, including a GeForce GTX 980, 970, 780 Ti, or 780 graphics card or a notebook with GeForce GTX 980M or 970M get their choice of which title--The Crew, Far Cry 4 or Assassin’s Creed Unity--to add to their library for free.

“NVIDIA has worked hard, hand-in-hand with our development teams, to help provide the best experience for our PC players,” said Jean-Francois St.Amour, Lead Graphics Programmer at Ubisoft Montreal. “Their support and insight is even more important now, as we make a big technological leap into the next-generation of Assassin’s Creed games.”

Assassin’s Creed Unity, the latest installment in Ubisoft’s most successful franchise, will feature HBAO+, TXAA, PCSS and tessellation technologies which allow Ubisoft to realistically render the 16th century game environments, which are set in Paris during the French Revolution.

Another legendary game series getting a massively visual and technology upgrade is Far Cry 4. In addition to HBAO+, TXAA, PCSS and enhanced 4K support, Far Cry 4 also integrates NVIDIA Godrays technology so gamers can feel the sun beating down in the Himalayas, and NVIDIA HairWorks, for rendering the realistic, but deadly adversaries that will be encountered in the game.

And finally, if horsepower, engines and pound per cubic feet rev your receptors more, then The Crew, the ultimate street racing game ever made, may be just the ticket you’ve been waiting for. Motoring through the bustling streets of New York City and Los Angeles, cruising down sunny Miami Beach or trekking through the plateaus of Monument Valley never looked so superb thanks in part to the integration of HBAO+ and TXAA technologies-- all rendered in breathtaking 4K. The Crew even comes with an Android companion app that lets you tinker with your ride before playing it live, chat remotely, browse friend profiles, and send your crew on jobs – all from the road.

Source: NVIDIA

Seagate's Kinect, LAN attached HDD, no server required

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2014 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: Seagate, Kinetic, hdd, openstack

Bringing down the cost of storage is a big focus now as files continue to grow in size and retention becomes more popular with even casual users.  Services like Amazon and Netflix require huge amounts of storage to keep their products on and every penny they can squeeze results in better profits for themselves and shareholders.  Seagate is addressing this with their new Kinect, a type of HDD which connects directly over Ethernet without needing server infrastructure to work.  There is a working demonstration of this technology using Bigfoot JBOD at OpenStack and AOL is at least somewhat interested in testing arrays of these drives.  The Register offers a bit more information here, hopefully more will be forthcoming after the OpenStack conference wraps up.

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"Kinetic is a disk drive directly addressed over Ethernet using Get and Put-style object storage commands using an open source API. The idea is that applications can directly use banks of these drives without having to go through complex filesystem software stacks or block access protocols and storage array controllers."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Register

MSI Also Launches X99S GAMING 9 ACK Motherboard

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | November 4, 2014 - 03:19 AM |
Tagged: msi, X99, motherboard, motherboards, qualcomm, killer, 802.11ac

The MSI X99S GAMING 9 AC motherboard is built for the Haswell-E architecture, and Morry did a review of it just a couple of week ago. He liked it, giving it a gold award. Now MSI has released a new model, the X99S GAMING 9 ACK, which is basically identical except for its wireless adapter. While the original AC-variant had Intel 802.11ac with dual antennas, the ACK comes with Qualcomm Killer-branded 802.11ac.

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Again, for the rest of the motherboard, I will refer you to Morry's review. The only real difference is the Killer NIC and Wireless-AC combo, which is actually more than it seems. If I understand it correctly, "Smart Teaming" will monitor the specific applications using the network and split them between LAN and WiFi, with the more latency-dependent programs getting the wired connection. In theory, this is interesting except that both streams would need to merge in order to get out the internet, which will be your bottleneck. On the other hand, if this works with multiple internet connections, then I could see a use case. For instance, someone has a solid DSL connection alongside their high-bandwidth Cable ISP.

Or, of course, that could not work at all and the outbound internet will, in fact, be your bottleneck.

Pricing and availability is also not available. You can find the original X99S GAMING 9, with the Intel wireless network controller, for about $405. An upgraded wireless adapter should not increase the cost much at all.

Source: MSI

MSI Launches X99S MPOWER Motherboard

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | November 4, 2014 - 01:12 AM |
Tagged: X99, overclocking, msi, mpower, motherboards, motherboard

The X99S XPOWER is MSI's top-of-the-line overclocking motherboard. The company has just introduced the X99S MPOWER to complement it on their product stack. It is a similar motherboard with a smaller price tag that was reduced by removing a few optional features (I will outline the major differences, below). These are basically unrelated to performance and overclocking, minus the buttons to set the base clock on the motherboard itself and a couple of accessories (the XPOWER comes with a free Delid Die Guard and temporary fan stand). It is more things like the number of I/O ports.

msi-2014-10_mpower_image1-1.jpg

The main differences with the MPOWER are:

  • It does not have the fifth, eight-lane PCIe slot, just the four provided by Haswell-E.
  • It has one Intel Gigabit Ethernet adapter, instead of two.
  • It does not have built-in 802.11ac WiFi or Bluetooth.
  • It has two less USB 3.0 ports (external).
  • It has one less USB 2.0 port (internal, seemingly the "Direct USB" port for BIOS updates).
  • It does not come with a Delid Die Guard or fan stand.

There are a few other differences, such as the XPOWER having an I/O port cover and a few extra on-board overclocking switches and buttons, but I cannot see anything that stands out. The current price difference is about 115$ at Newegg, which is a healthy saving if nothing is a deal-killer.

The X99S XPOWER motherboard is available now, although MSI does not provide an expected MSRP. I found it at Newegg for $270 (USD) and at MemoryExpress for $320 (CDN), though.

Source: MSI

TrackIR for those who want to graduate from the POV hat switch

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2014 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: TrackIR, TrackIR5, TrackClip, TrackClip Pro

TrackIR is not a poor mans Occulus, it is a way to literally upgrade your POV hat switch by turning your hat into an input device.  The picture below shows the passive reflectors and an optional active IR transmitter on a ball cap, the second half of the device is a sensor which sits on your display similar to where you keep your webcam.  Once configured it will enable games that support it to track your head movements and change your on screen point of view to match.  If you have heard of TrackIR before it is likely you are an ARMA fan as it has been successfully incorporated into the series and those who have used it swear they will never give it up.  For space sims like the upcoming Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen it is also a brilliant way to interface with the game.  Techgage tested out several other games with both the passive TrackClip and the TrackClip PRO active sensor accessory in this review, check out which of the two they preferred.

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"The TrackIR 5 is unique; it provides us the ability to turn our heads and look around our surroundings with no input from our hands. Does this product have the ability to finally change the way we game or are we doomed to keep playing with baby toys for the foreseeable future?"

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Source: Techgage

Learn more about Stuxnet, the first computer virus with physical symptoms

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2014 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: stuxnet, manufacturing plant, siemens

There have always been stories floating around the net of viruses which could cause your PSU to short or release the magic smoke from your chips but until Stuxnet those have just been silicon faerie tales.  Stuxnet was first detected in 2010 in a uranium enrichment facility in Iran, a full year after the original infection took place and after Stuxnet had caused the physical failure of numerous centrifuges by altering the limits place on their cycling speed.  The virus was designed to infect Siemens S7-400 PLCs, as well as the Step 7 and WinCC software and Profibus communication used on PCs to interface with the controllers.  It was spread by USB drives as the machines were not connected directly to a network, the attackers went after companies which had maintenance, replacement and other types of contracts with the enrichment facility and who would unwittingly spread Stuxnet to the vulnerable equipment.  You can read a brief overview of the Stuxnet sage at Wired, they are promoting a book on the subject which will be released this month and should make for interesting reading for anyone interested in computer security.

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"Stuxnet, as it came to be known, was unlike any other virus or worm that came before. Rather than simply hijacking targeted computers or stealing information from them, it escaped the digital realm to wreak physical destruction on equipment the computers controlled."

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Source: Wired

Microsoft OneDrive Is Moving from 1TB to Unlimited

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2014 - 10:13 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, onedrive, skydrive, cloud storage, subscription service, subscription

I guess if you are going to take a hit on the enthusiasts by offering a 1TB tier, then you might as well just go all the way. Microsoft has been rolling out an unlimited tier to their various subscription products, starting with Office 365 Home, Personal, and University. OneDrive for Business customers, who are currently limited to 1TB of total storage, will be granted the unlimited tier, starting with "First Release" customers in 2015. It will probably arrive to "Standard Release" customers a couple of weeks later.

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The 1TB tier was not around too long. It launched to several different subscriptions in late April, starting at $5 per user per month. Now, the current cheapest option is $7 per user per month, but it comes with a license of Office 365 Personal. Note that the first three tiers, Home, Personal, and University, are each non-commercial licenses. The rapid increase in capacity could mean either that the original initiative was very successful at wooing new customers, or the exact opposite of that. It is even possible that unlimited was the original intent, but they arrived there by way of a 1TB plan, either to shake up competitors, to double-up on media attention, or simply to dip a toe in. Basically, they could have done this for any reason under the sun. We have no idea.

Unlimited storage in OneDrive for Office 365 Personal, Home, and University is currently available, starting at $7 per user per month. OneDrive for Business customers will need to wait until 2015.

Source: Microsoft