Mechwarrior Online Gets DirectX 11 Upgrades

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2014 - 02:39 AM |
Tagged: Mechwarrior

The interesting dilemma about designing a free-to-play game is that you want players to continue playing, else the creek runs dry. It has been nearly a year-and-a-half since the open beta of Mechwarrior Online in October, 2012. The latest patch, released last week, adds a DirectX 11 rendering engine to the game. While specific details are scarce, this will allow MSAA to be applied.

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In terms of content, two new mechs have been added to the game: BNC-LM Banshee "La Malinche", and CTF-3D Cataphract. The former is an assault mech with a fairly balanced loadout, allowing for energy, ballistic, and missile weapons with double heatsinks, while the latter is a heavy mech with a focus on energy weapons with one ballistic slot for variety. Jump Jets are also tweaked for reduced mobility and incentive to add more than just one.

PC Gamer spoke with the developer and got a little extra information on future patches. First, a new matchmaking architecture is expected to launch in April. They claim it will be a complete overhaul of the whole system. They also expect 3D Vision, "proper" SLi, and TXAA will make appearances in the next couple of patches -- but don't quote them on it (oh, whoops!)

Mechwarrior Online is available now (and has been, for well over a year).

Corsair and Cherry Answer Mechanical Keyboard Questions

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | March 11, 2014 - 02:16 AM |
Tagged: corsair, cherry, Cherry MX, mechanical keyboard

A lot of diverse topics arose from the Corsair blogs, lately. This time, they compiled fan questions and enlisted mechanical switch and keyboard manufacturer, Cherry Corporation, to provide answers. Coming in at over two-thousand words, it is quite lengthy.

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Many of the questions seemed to come from long-term fans of their mechanical keyboards. One person asked whether a specific ergonomic keyboard (G80-5000) would make a return, while another inquired about Cherry-branded Hall Effect switches (presumably for analog controls). In all, if you are interested in mechanical keyboards, it is worth a read. They kept a little secret sauce, secret, but otherwise seemed pretty open in their responses.

Source: Corsair

The fix was in, hope you saved those 14 year old receipts

Subject: General Tech | March 10, 2014 - 04:50 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, micron, Hynix, infineon, nec, toshiba, ram, dirty pool

If you bought RAM between 1998 and 2002 from Samsung, Micron, Hynix, Infineon, NEC, and Toshiba in the USA, you are entitled to a small payout, assuming you have proof of purchase.  The DRAM makers never admitted guilt and chose to settle out of court and you have until August 1st to follow the link in The Inquirer's story to put in a claim.  If you wish to opt out and sue them yourself you have until May 5th to do so but you might be better off taking the $10.

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"Remember getting hosed on those 128MB DIMM RAM sticks back in Y2K? Well, it's time to exact your revenge: with a $10 payout."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

$50 Roku Streaming Stick Is A Google Chromecast Alternative

Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2014 - 02:13 AM |
Tagged: streaming stick, roku, Netflix, media streaming, chromecast

Roku has launched a new Streaming Stick for HD TVs with HDMI inputs. The small USB flash drive-sized device is powered by USB and plugs into the HDMI input of your television. From there, users can access the Roku app store to get thousands of streaming media channels including television, movies, sports, and music. For example, users can access media from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, VUDU, Pandora, and Spotify.

The Roku Streaming Stick can pass up to 1080p video and 7.1 channel digital audio to the TV. It can be controlled via a physical remote or an Android or iOS smartphone application. Roku is using RF for the hardware remote and Wi-Fi direct for the smartphone-to-Streaming Stick connection, which means that line of sight is not necessary (which is important since most TV HDMI ports are recessed on the back panel). Speaking of wireless, the Streaming Stick pulls its media from a Wi-Fi network connection, with support for dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n networks (2.4GHz or 5GHz).

Roku Streaming Stick HDMI Version.jpg

Using the smartphone application, users can browse for and queue content. In general, the Roku stick can go out and fetch media on its own without a smartphone or computer intermediary passing the content. However, it does support limited “casting” functionality similar to Google’s Chromecast. In this mode, users, can pass YouTube, Netflix, and personal (on device) media over to the TV from the smartphone. Roku has stated that casting support for other media streams and casting from a PC is coming in the future.

Roku’s new Chromecast competitor is available for pre-order now for $49.99 with availability expected in April. The price is on the high side, but it does offer access to all of Roku’s channels, a physical remote for basic playback and navigation controls, is able to stream media on its own, and is also able to do media push functionality similar to the Chromecast (but in a more limited fashion at the moment). More devices and competition in this space is a good thing though!

Will you be picking up a Roku Streaming Stick or holding out for something else?

Source: Roku

It would seem tenkeyless is now a word thanks to the CM QuickFire Stealth

Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2014 - 04:48 PM |
Tagged: input, cooler master, CM Storm QuickFire Stealth, mechanical keyboard

As you can see in the picture the word refers to the lack of a numpad, which trims down the size of the QuickFire Stealth, though the 2.1lbs weight may surprise you.  You can choose the Cherry switch colour of your choice, a nice touch for the typing purist and it comes with the standard Vengeance key removal tool for customizing your keyboard layout.  The USB cord is completely detachable making this a relatively portable device and it even has a USB to PS/2 adapter if you are that type of person.  Check out The Tech Report's full review here.

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"With a tenkeyless design and "covert" lettering on the key caps, Cooler Master's QuickFire Stealth isn't your average mechanical keyboard. We take a closer look at how it differs from the masses."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Corsair's Vengeance 1400 Gaming Headset and other goodies

Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2014 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: M65 Gaming Mouse, K70 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Corsair Vengeance, corsair, audio, 1400 Gaming Headset

Bjorn3D looks at some new members to Corsair's Vengeance family including a mouse, mechanical keyboard and the 1400 Gaming Headset.  This headset is refreshingly plain considering the bright colours most of the competition is currently using on their headsets.  The 50mm drivers imply decent bass response but unfortunately that was not the experience that Bjorn3D had with this headset, though overall sound was pleasantly clear.  For the $80 asking price you get what you would expect, decent headphones with little in the way of accessories or extras but perfect for gamers on a budget. 

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"Today we have a chance to look at a full gaming gear set from the team at Digital storm which is now a partner with Corsair, so the gear you see here today are all available as accessories to the high-end systems offerings from the team at Digital Storm. This package consists of the Corsair Vengeance M65 Gaming Mouse, the Corsair Vengeance K70 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and the Corsair Vengeance 1400 Gaming Headset."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: Bjorn3D

TSMC scores a big win over Samsung

Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2014 - 02:02 PM |
Tagged: apple, Samsung, TSMC, rumour

According to the inside information that The Inquirer acquired, the next generation of Apple's SoC will be fabbed by TSMC not Samsung.  The A8 will be a 64bit quad-core processor of unknown speed with a GPU described as a four-cluster configuration similar to the PowerVR G6430.  This is not terribly surprising considering the abusive relationship that Apple and Samsung have developed over the past few years and will certainly swell TSMC's coffers.  Even better TSMC will also pick up the manufacturing other parts of a variety of Apple devices, check the (rumoured) list out here.

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"The next generation of Apple's custom system on a chip (SoC) for mobile devices will be manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) rather than Samsung, and so will several other chips to be used in the forthcoming iPhone 6, a report has claimed."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Razer Designs New Mechanical Switches

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | March 6, 2014 - 10:22 PM |
Tagged: razer, Cherry MX, cherry, mechanical keyboard

So Razer has a history of doing the unexpected. The peripheral manufacturer has branched out into other segments, including laptops, tablets, software, exercise equipment, and so forth. Their April Fools announcements are often hilarious but their real products sometimes feel as far-fetched, except that they release and apparently find an audience. If Project Christine comes out then it would be the best example, but Project Fiona and the Razer Blade seemed just as unlikely - and I've seen multiple Blades in the wild.

And yet it is their keyboard announcement which surprises me, today.

It turns out that Razer decided to design their own key switch modules, instead of ordering them off-the-shelf from ZF Electronics (Cherry). Razer will not manufacture these key modules, and they look enough like Cherry MX switches that I could guess who their third party manufacturer is, but they did push their own specifications. Razer claims that the main advantage is a higher actuation point, leading to less latency between when your finger starts moving, and when it has moved enough to activate the button.

Razer has developed two switches: "Green", which is their analogy of the Cherry MX Blue, and "Orange", which is analogous to the Cherry MX Brown. The former is clicky while the latter has a relatively silent bump.

The Green switches are available in the BlackWidow, BlackWidow Tournament, and BlackWidow (with the Orange switches in each Stealth variant). Some models will ship in late March with the rest shipping in April.

Source: Razer

Overclocking an R9 290X is easy; testing it not so much

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2014 - 04:21 PM |
Tagged: xfx, R9 290X, Double Dissipation Edition, amd, overclocking

Overclocking a video card is easier than it ever has been thanks to the various driver level tweaks and third party applications but testing the performance of overclocked cards just keeps getting harder.  Warm up times have become a vital part of testing thanks to both NVIDIA and AMD providing dynamic clock speeds based on load and temperature; doing only a few short benchmarks no longer provides an accurate assessment of performance.  This is why [H]ard|OCP has revisited the XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Edition to see the effects of overclocking.  They tested both single card configurations and Crossfire with default voltage and after bumping the juice up a bit.  Check it all out right here.

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"We have already reviewed the XFX R9 290X DD. It is now time to see how far we can overclock the XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Edition video card. We will be looking at single card performance advantages as well as CrossFire performance advantages by overclocking two XFX R9 290X video cards."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Podcast #290 - Intel SSD 730, ASUS Maximus VI Formula, DirectX 12 and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2014 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: video, podcast, asus, amd, AM1, Maximus VI Formula, Intel, ssd, SSD 730, DirectX 12, GDC, coolermaster, CMStorm, R9 290X, Bay Trail

PC Perspective Podcast #290 - 03/06/2014

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel SSD 730, ASUS Maximus VI Formula, DirectX 12 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

 
This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset!
 
Program length: 1:27:52
  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:41:43 This podcast is brought to you by Coolermaster, and the CM Storm Pulse-R Gaming Headset
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  5. Closing/outro

Be sure to subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube channel!!

An android app you really should install

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2014 - 01:32 PM |
Tagged: security, Android, antimalware, PUPs

Malwarebytes have recently updated their Android app to hunt down and slay PUPs, aka potentially unwanted programs or bloatware.  These are the apps which harvest an excessive amount of personal data without making it clear why they do so as well as those which use questionable tricks to present ads to the user even when they are not actively using those apps.  This is more than security, it will hunt down apps that drain the battery or simply demand more access that they reasonably should.  This could be somewhat of a concern for developers who's apps are flagged as PUPs but the user will get the choice to allow the app to continue to run as it has in the past.  Learn more at The Inquirer.

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"ANTI-MALWARE FIRM Malwarebytes has updated its free mobile security app to protect users from the rise of what it calls "Potentially Unwanted Programs" (PUPs) affecting Android users."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

ASUS Announces AM1M-A and AM1I-A for Socketed Kabini

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | March 5, 2014 - 11:53 PM |
Tagged: motherboards, Kabini, asus

AMD has just released Kabini as a socketed SoC with the AM1 platform. Not far behind is a few motherboards... because who wants a socketed APU without a socket? Chumps, that's who. Since no-one wants to be a chump, ASUS is getting ready to release two options in April. They are designed for low-power desktops and home theatre PCs.

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The two boards are named the AM1M-A (Micro ATX) and the AM1I-A (Mini ITX). Otherwise, the two boards are very similar, but not identical. For instance, the Micro ATX version has two extra USB 3.0 ports while the Mini ITX has an extra COM header. The Micro ATX also has VD... by that, I mean a Realtek ALC887-VD sound card, where the Mini ITX has the ALC887 sound card without the suffix (I do not think there is a difference). The Micro ATX board also has a PCIe x16 slot (although it is electrically PCIe x4) to connect a larger-socketed add-in board (AIB) to it. As far as I can tell, they are basically the same, though.

Both motherboards will be available in April, but we do not yet have pricing information.

If interested, check out ASUS' press release after the break.

Source: ASUS

Microsoft, Along with AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm, Will Announce DirectX 12 at GDC 2014

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 5, 2014 - 08:28 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, nvidia, microsoft, Intel, gdc 14, GDC, DirectX 12, amd

The announcement of DirectX 12 has been given a date and time via a blog post on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) blogs. On March 20th at 10:00am (I assume PDT), a few days into the 2014 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, the upcoming specification should be detailed for attendees. Apparently, four GPU manufacturers will also be involved with the announcement: AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm.

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As we reported last week, DirectX 12 is expected to target increased hardware control and decreased CPU overhead for added performance in "cutting-edge 3D graphics" applications. Really, this is the best time for it. Graphics processors are mostly settled into highly-efficient co-processors of parallel data, with some specialized logic for geometry and video tasks. A new specification can relax the needs of video drivers and thus keep the GPU (or GPUs, in Mantle's case) loaded and utilized.

But, to me, the most interesting part of this announcement is the nod to Qualcomm. Microsoft values DirectX as leverage over other x86 and ARM-based operating systems. With Qualcomm, clearly Microsoft believes that either Windows RT or Windows Phone will benefit from the API's next version. While it will probably make PC gamers nervous, mobile platforms will benefit most from reducing CPU overhead, especially if it can be spread out over multiple cores.

Honestly, that is fine by me. As long as Microsoft returns to treating the PC as a first-class citizen, I do not mind them helping mobile, too. We will definitely keep you up to date as we know more.

Source: MSDN Blogs

AMD just stole the mid-range performance Mantle in BF4

Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2014 - 03:08 PM |
Tagged: gaming, BF4, Mantle, amd

The new Mantle API has arrived for BF4, with quite a few other games waiting in the wings which will also take advantage of this DirectX competitor.  The results that [H]ard|OCP saw were not as impressive as what the marketing would have had you believe but it still offers an improvement over DirectX in some cases.  With high end hardware running at EyeFinity resolutions [H] did not see much improvement, the GTX 780 Ti took the performance crown.  However on a single monitor with a R9 290 or 280X they saw very significant performance increases which left both the GTX 780 and 770 lagging behind in performance.  Mantle will not yet allow mid range GPUs to act like high end cards but there is promise in this new API.

FBMantle.jpg

"AMD's Mantle API has been with us for just over a month now, and we have strapped a variety of video cards to the test bench to see what real world differences are being delivered to gamers within Battlefield 4. We will compare D3D11, Mantle, on various GPUs, looking at highest playable settings, frame times, and discuss our experiences."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

A wee little Linux bug

Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2014 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: linux, security

It would seem that there is a fairly problematic bug in the way that GnuTLS library applies encryption for many Linux users.  According to the story on The Inquirer this bug could allow an improperly setup certificate to be reported as valid and while your connection states it is secure it will not in fact be encrypted.  Red Hat has already issued a patch to solve this problem but the vulnerability would apply to any distro which uses the GnuTLS library.  It would be wise to follow the link from the story to locate a patch for your system before attackers start using it in the wild.

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"THOUSANDS OF LINUX USERS might be vulnerable to hackers after it emerged that a significant certificate checking bug exists in a low level library.

The problem stems from the GnuTLS library that provides an API to enable SSL, TLS and DTLS encryption protocols, as used particularly by web servers."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Microsoft wants you to browse the web ... on your walls

Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2014 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surroundweb

Microsoft is working on a new way to display the web to you, projecting it onto your walls. They make use of Kinect to map your walls so that they can pick where to beam your content.  According to what Microsoft told The Inquirer, they can manage to project sites at 30 frames per second with up to 25 screens and up to a 1440x720 resolution.  They make a nod to security concerns, it seems that the information about what your room contains will not be sent back to the website you are viewing.

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"Called Surroundweb, the software is peddled by Microsoft as an "immersive room experience". However, as far as we can see, it's simply a means of projecting different parts of a web page on different surfaces around a room."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

The Reorganization After Microsoft's Reorganization

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2014 - 10:34 PM |
Tagged: microsoft

According to Kara Swisher at Re/code, two of Microsoft's Executive Vice Presidents are leaving the company. Tony Bates, EVP of Business Development and Evangelism, and Tami Reller, EVP of Marketing, are expected to have their departure announced to the public on Tuesday. Tony Bates joined the company during the Skype acquisition in 2011, while Tami Reller has been with Microsoft since it acquired Great Plains Software in 2001. While Bates is expected to depart immediately, Reller is expected to remain for a while and "help with the transition".

Video Credit: Dilbert Youtube Channel

Seeing the Microsoft reorganization, it should be quite obvious how expensive they can become. They are struggling to find a path for their products that their customers actually want to go down. At the same time, people seem to be flying in every direction. I just wonder if these are the final movements.

Source: Re/code

Speaking of Passive Cooling: Tom's Hardware's GTX 750 Ti

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: passive cooling, maxwell, gtx 750 ti

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti is fast but also power efficient, enough-so that Ryan found it a worthwhile upgrade for cheap desktops with cheap power supplies that were never intended for discrete graphics. Of course, this recommendation is about making the best of what you got; better options probably exist if you are building a PC (or getting one built by a friend or a computer store).

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Image Credit: Tom's Hardware

Tom's Hardware went another route: make it fanless.

After wrecking a passively-cooled Radeon HD 7750, which is probably a crime in Texas, they clamped it on to the Maxwell-based GTX 750 Ti. While the cooler was designed for good airflow, they decided to leave it in a completely-enclosed case without fans. Under load, the card reached 80 C within about twenty minutes. The driver backed off performance slightly, 1-3% depending on your frame of reference, but was able to maintain that target temperature.

Now, if only it accepted SLi, this person might be happy.

CompuLab fit-PC4 Includes AMD SoC/APU... But Not Fans

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 2, 2014 - 02:29 AM |
Tagged: Tamesh, Kabini, fit-PC4, compulab, amd

Passively cooled PCs are an interesting niche, often associated with the need for silence. Be it audio recording or home theater appliances, some situations are just not well suited to having a whirring fan.

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Recently announced is the fit-PC4 is a fanless system, fourth in its lineage. This time the system is using AMD for its CPU and GPU. Two models are available, separated into "Pro" and "Value". Its specifications are broken down into the table below.

  fit-PC4 Pro fit-PC4 Value
Processor AMD GX-420CA (25W TDP, Kabini) AMD A4-1250 APU (8W TDP, Temash)
-    CPU Quad-core (Jaguar-based) @ 2.0 GHz Dual-core (Jaguar-based) @ 1.0 GHz
-    GPU Radeon HD 8400E Radeon HD 8210
RAM Up to 16GB (2 DIMM)
Storage 2.5" HDD/SSD + mSATA + microSD
I/O
2x HDMI 1.4a (1920x1200 max) with CEC support
S/PDIF, line-out, mic-in (I assume 3.5mm)
2x Gigabit Ethernet
mini-PCIe slot for cellular modem
2x USB 3.0 and 6x USB 2.0
WiFi 802.11ac 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 3.0 + HS
Dimensions 16cm x 19cm x 3.7cm 16cm x 16cm x 2.5cm
Price $380 $299

Interestingly, the company considers these devices "ruggedized" as well as fanless. As such, they have a 5-year warranty. It seems to be quite the feature-packed device with two HDMI 1.4 outlets, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and an available slot for a cellular modem. The Pro even has 802.11ac WiFi. I am not entirely sure the intended purpose of this device, but the company claims that the previous generation product was often purchased by video surveillance and digital signage customers. Interestingly, Windows 7 and Linux are the two choices for operating systems.

The fit-PC4 is available now in either a $299 (Value-Barebone) or $380 (Pro-Barebone) model.

Source: CompuLab

Corsair Blogs About... Oh Come On!

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | March 1, 2014 - 09:51 PM |
Tagged: corsair, mining

When mining some form of cryptographic coin, very few components in the system are utilized. A GPU is basically a self-contained massively parallel cruncher with its own memory and logic. The host system just needs to batch the tasks which leads to PCs with dirt-cheap CPUs, a very modest amount of RAM, and quite literally a half-dozen high-end graphics cards.

If you thought that gaming machines skew a little too much towards GPUs, you should see a mining rig with five R9 290X cards fed by a Sempron.

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As you can guess, since many GPUs are double-slot, it might be difficult to fit seven of them in a seven-slot motherboard with a limited number PCIe lanes. To get around this limitation, miners attach their graphics cards to extension cables. Thankfully (for them), mining does not pass a lot of data across the bus to the host system. Even a single PCIe fails to be a bottleneck, apparently.

Anyway, the Corsair blog created an open-air rack which hangs six graphics cards (five HD 7970s and a R9 290X) above a motherboard housing an Intel Celeron G1830. For air, a quartet of Corsair fans suck air upwards and around the graphics cards. For power, of course they use the Corsair AX1500i because why not mine with an arc welding torch. It apparently had more power capacity than the breaker they originally hooked it up to. Whoops.

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While ridiculous, I do hope to see systems with multiple (even mismatched) graphics processors as we move toward batches of general mathematics. PhysX was not entirely successful in teaching users that GPUs do not need to be in SLi or Crossfire configurations to load balance. It is just finding an appropriate way to split tasks without requiring a lot of bottlenecks in setting it up.

I might not mine coins, but I could see some benefit to having 35 TeraFLOPs across seven compute devices. I could also see Corsair wanting to sell me a power supply for said PC.

Source: Corsair