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Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2014 - 03:23 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Mojang, Minecraft, microsoft
Mojang AB, a company with about 22 employees, has been sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. Being that the studio is based in Sweden, I would expect that it was purchased with funds that would be taxed heavily if brought back into the States, so the large sum might not feel as large to Microsoft as if they were purchasing an American company. It should be noted that they did not require that the founders, Notch, Carl, and Jakob, stay on as employees -- and they aren't.
This, of course, leads to many concerns for die-hard Minecraft fans. First of all, what platforms (if any) will be deprecated? PlayStation? Mac? Linux? Java itself? Second, how will Microsoft change the franchise? Will they remain faithful? Will they reduce or remove third party content?
As for the founders? Only Notch seems to have commented on his next plans: participating in game making competitions and creating "small web experiments". Additionally, he says, "If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I'll probably abandon it immediately." Most of his blog post references issues between Mojang and its community, regarding the EULA, server and mod monetization, possibly the CraftBucket GPL issue, and so forth. Honestly, I like the idea that Notch would spend a significant amount of free time developing web demos. I think he would contribute a lot to Web standards, especially if he is happy doing it.
As for Microsoft? Clearly they are buying Minecraft because they are running out of Halo codenames.
Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2014 - 03:00 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: idf 2014, sony, Panasonic, Samsung, cameras
At IDF there were a few new cameras on display which caught The Register's attention in amongst the smart appliances and other gadgets. For the highest quality selfies try the Panasonic HX-500 4K activity cam which is good at depths of up to 3 metres for up to 30 minutes. Perhaps you would prefer to pair your Galaxy Note 4 with the Samsung Galaxy VR headset to give you an Occulus like look at the world; a 96-degree view which is intended to look like a 175-inch screen seen from 2 metres away. Samsung users could also pick up the Olloclip for Android, giving you fisheye and wide angle lenses for your Galaxy S4 or S5. There is more in the article, check them all out here.
"Image is everything - or so it has been said, and if the gadgets at the recent IFA techfest in Berlin are anything to go by then manufacturers certainly seem to think we’re image obsessed. With selfies being a global compulsion, perhaps they know us better than we know ourselves."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Get 1 TB of Military Grade Online Backup For $19 From iDrive @ Gizmodo
- Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around @ The Register
- Brando Nexus 7 II Protective Accessories Presentation @ Madshrimps
- Sandberg Credit Card 850mAh Powerbank Review @ NikKTech
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Mobile | September 15, 2014 - 02:24 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: radio-on-a-chip, iot, internet of things
Tiny and passively-powered radios would make for some interesting applications. One major issue is that you cannot shrink an antenna down infinitely; its size is dependent upon the wavelength of EM radiation that it is trying to detect. Researchers at Stanford and Berkeley have announced "ant-sized" radio-on-a-chip devices, fabricated at 65nm, which are powered by the signal that they gather.
The catch is that, because their antenna is on the order of a few millimeters, it is tuned for ~60 GHz. There are reasons why you do not see too many devices operate at this frequency. First, processing that signal with transistors is basically a non-starter, so they apparently designed a standard integrated circuit for the task.
The other problem is that 60 GHz is an Extremely High Frequency (EHF) and, with its high frequency, is very difficult to transmit over long ranges. The 57-64 GHz region, in particular, is a range which oxygen resonates at. While it is possible to brute-force a powerful signal through a sensitive antenna, that defeats the above purpose. Of course, the researchers have been honest about this. Right in their IEEE abstract, they claim a current, measured range of 50cm. In their Stanford press release, they state that this is designed to be part of a network with units every meter (or so). Current bandwidth is a little over 12 megabit.
Simply put, this will not become your new WiFi hotspot. However, for small and connected devices that are in close proximity, this could provide an interesting communication method for when size, cost, and power efficiency trump speed and range.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 15, 2014 - 01:31 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: surface 3, surface, microsoft
Through their blog, Microsoft claims that their Surface Pro 3 devices are selling out in their recently added, overseas markets. In parts of Australia, all models were sold out early in the first day (we can of course question how many is "some retailers" and how much stock each had). The company expects to have appropriate stock levels in a week or two.
Honestly, I never quite get these announcements of low stock. While it is better than having too much stock, and these releases might ease the nerves of shy investors, having too low stock is a problem, too. It is often a sign of something lacking: production, confidence, market insight, distribution, and so forth. It can tell an interesting story if these sales figures are immense, see the Nintendo Wii, but often it just raises a critical eyebrow. This is especially true if concrete figures are danced around.
I mean, if someone is at a store and looking for a Surface but none is available, do you really need to let them know that you intend to make more?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 14, 2014 - 10:11 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: motorola, moto 360, smartwatch
When I covered the announcement of the Apple Watch, one of our readers pointed out that we had very little smart watch coverage. That is fair critique, and I can see how it appeared to give Apple an unfair slant. As far as I know, we will not be reviewing any smart watch, of any sort, for the foreseeable future (my phone still runs Froyo). Engadget and Ars Technica did, though.
Android Wear launched with three smart watches: the LG G Watch, the Samsung Gear Live, and (after a little delay) the Motorola Moto 360. The third one is a bit different from the other two in that it features a round screen. Both sites like the design but complain about its use of a TI OMAP3 SoC and its limited battery life. The OMAP3630 is manufactured at 45nm, which is a few process shrinks behind today's 28nm products and soon-to-be-released devices with 20nm and 14nm processors. With a 300mAh battery, a little less than a half or a third of a typical AAA battery, this leads to frequent charging. The question is whether this will be the same for all smart watches, and we don't know that yet. The Samsung and the LG smart watches, under Ars Technica's custom benchmark, vastly outperform it, though.
Engadget also complained about its price, at $250 and $299, which is actually $100 and $50 less than Apple's starting price. Ars Technica neither praised nor complained about the price.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 10:12 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mozilla, intex, Firefox OS, firefox, cloud fx
If you were on a mission to make the cheapest possible mobile phone, you would probably not do much better than Intex Cloud Fx. Running Firefox OS, it will cost users about $35 to purchase it outright. Its goal is to bring the internet to places which would otherwise have nothing.
I believe the largest concession made by this phone is its RAM -- 128 MB. Yes, I had a computer with 32 MB of RAM and it browsed the internet just fine (on Netscape Navigator 2 through 4). I also had a computer before that (which was too slow to run Windows 3.1 but hey it had a turbo button). This is also the amount of RAM on the first and second generation iPod Touches. Nowadays, it is very little. Ars Technica allegedly made it crash by scrolling too fast and attempting to run benchmarks on it. This leads into its other, major compromise: its wireless connectivity. It does not support 3G. Edge is the best that you will get.
Other than those two points: it has a 1 GHz Spreadtrum SoC, 46MB of storage, a 2MP camera, and a 1250mAh battery. You do get WiFi, Bluetooth, and a microSD card slot. It also supports two SIM cards if necessary.
Again, at $35, this is not designed for America or Western Europe. This is for the areas of the world that will probably not experience the internet at all unless it is through a mobile phone. For people in India and Asia, it is about the lowest barrier to entry of the internet that is possible. You can also check out phones from other partners of Mozilla.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 05:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: google, chrome os, Android
To some extent...
This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.
From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?
Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.
Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 04:41 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Realsense 3D, idf 2014, 3D rendering, 3d printing
There was an interesting use of Intel's Realsense 3D technology displayed at IDF by a company called Volumental. By using a new product with the new style of camera it would be possible to make a 3D map of your body accurate enough to make clothing patterns from. The example offered were a pair shoes that could be ordered online with no concerns about the fit as the shoes would be perfect for you. That is just the beginning though, you would also be able to order a perfectly tailored suit online without ever needing to appear in person for a fitting. It could also lead to an even worse Fappening in the future; choose your online clothing supplier carefully. There is more here at The Inquirer.
"The proof of concept software, called Volume Voice[sic], accurately scans parts of the human body with Intel's Realsense 3D depth cameras, which will soon feature on Intel-powered laptops and tablets. Volumental's cloud-based platform will then allow individuals to create products that are tailored to their own bodies, for example, shoes that fit perfectly without the need to try them on before buying."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- TSMC forms IoT task force @ DigiTimes
- Intel launches digital signage turnkey solutions @ DigiTimes
- No TKO for LTO: Tape format spawns another 2 generations, sports 120TB bigness @ The Register
- Leak of '5 MEELLLION Gmail passwords' creates security flap @ The Register
- iPhone 6 Plus first impressions @ The Inquirer
- TP-Link AV500 Powerline @ HardwareHeaven
Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 12, 2014 - 04:08 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: sandisk, sdxc, sdhc, sd card, 512GB
Assuming your camera, card reader, or other device fully conforms to the SDXC standard, Sandisk has developed a half-terabyte (512GB) memory card. Beyond being gigantic, it can be read at up to 95 MB/s and written at up to 90 MB/s, which should be enough to stream 4K video. Sandisk claims that it is temperature proof, shock proof, water proof, and x-ray proof. It also comes with a lifetime warranty and "RescuePRO Deluxe" recovery software but, honestly, I expect people would just use PhotoRec or something.
It should be noted that the SDXC standard covers memory cards up to 2TB so it will probably not be too long before we see another standard get ratified. What is next? SDUC? SDYC? SDALLTHEC? Blah! This is why IEEE assigns names sequentially.
The SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-I SDHC/SDXC 512GB memory card should be available now, although I cannot yet find them online, for $799.99 MSRP.
Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 03:10 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: gta5 gta online, delayed, delay, consolitis
We finally got the release date for Grand Theft Auto V PC... and it's delayed. But Scott, how can it be delayed if we just now have a firm date? Well, apart from Rockstar claiming that it will be available in the Autumn of 2014, which January 27th, 2015 is not, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions will be arriving on November 18th, 2014 (which is technically before December 21st). To this I say...
... I hear it's lovely in the winter...
... meh. It's fine. Unless something comes up, or I find out that the port is awful and broken, I will still buy it. As always, delaying the release of your game risks potential customers growing disinterested in the product. Perhaps they had the plot spoiled by a friend or a Let's Play. Alternatively, perhaps they gained interest in it because of a friend or a Let's Play before it was available for their platform, and forgot about it before it could be purchased.
Hopefully the extra time is put to good use.
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2014 - 02:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: idf, idf 2014, nuc, Intel, SFF, small form factor
A few years ago, Intel introduced the NUC line of small form factor PCs. At this year's IDF, they have announced plans to make even smaller, and cheaper, specifications that are intended for OEMs to install Windows, Linux, Android, and Chrome OS on. This initiative is not yet named, but will consist of mostly soldered components, leaving basically just the wireless adapters user-replaceable, rather than the more user-serviceable NUC.
Image Credit: Liliputing
Being the owner of Moore's Law, they just couldn't help but fit it to some type of exponential curve. While it is with respect to generation, not time, Intel expects the new, currently unnamed form factor to halve both the volume (size) and bill of material (BOM) cost of the NUC. They then said that another generation after ("Future SFF") will halve the BOM cost again, to a quarter of the NUC.
What do our readers think? Would you be willing to give up socketed components for smaller and cheaper devices in this category or does this just become indistinguishable from mobile devices (which we already know can be cheap and packed into small spaces)?
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 12, 2014 - 01:56 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: fanless, passive cooling, noctua, NH-D15
Sure, humans may disagree that 67C (153F) is cool, but it is for a semiconductor. More impressive, it was the temperature recorded on a CPU with a 150W TDP attached to a fanless Noctua NH-D15. Does that mean it was noiseless? Nope. The test kept each of the case fans maxed out at 12V input DC (100%).
This, without the fans.
Hardwareluxx does not specify how much air gets blown across the passive cooler. Their claim is that the case fans just ensure that the ambient temperature is as low as possible. That seems fair, but I could also, for instance, blow cool air through a 3-inch drier hose attached to a bathroom suction fan stuck out the window. That would certainly keep passive coolers chilled while only being technically fanless.
Theoretically, of course. I'm not saying it's something I did in high school or anything...
Depending on how long of a hose is used, it could even be noise in a different location (rather than case fans in the same PC). Still, cooling 150W is a feat in itself. Then again, with over two pounds of heat fins, it makes sense.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 12, 2014 - 01:30 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: apple, apple a8, SoC, iphone 6, iphone 6 plus
So one of the first benchmarks for Apple's A8 SoC has been published to Rightware, and it is not very different from its predecessor. The Apple A7 GPU of last year's iPhone 5S received a score of 20,253.80 on the Basemark X synthetic benchmark. The updated Apple A8 GPU, found on the iPhone 6, saw a 4.7% increase, to 21204.26, on the same test.
Again, this is a synthetic benchmark and not necessarily representative of real-world performance. To me, though, it wouldn't surprise me if the GPU is identical, and the increase corresponds mostly to the increase in CPU performance. That said, it still does not explain the lack of increase that we see, despite Apple's switch to TSMC's 20nm process. Perhaps it matters more in power consumption and non-gaming performance? That does not align well with their 20% faster CPU and 50% faster GPU claims...
Speaking of gaming performance, iOS 8 introduces the Metal API, which is Apple's response to Mantle, DirectX 12, and OpenGL Next Initiative. Maybe that boost will give Apple a pass for a generation? Perhaps we will see the two GPUs (A7 and A8) start to diverge in the Metal API? We shall see when more benchmarks and reviews get published.
Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 02:39 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Starcraft II, WCS, blizzard, blizzcon, esports
The StarCraft II World Championship Series is Blizzard's official method of conglomerating numerous tournaments, including their own, into a canonized ranking system. Players get points for winning various Intel Extreme Masters, Red Bull Battle Grounds, DreamHack events, GSL seasons, and so forth. Beyond the prize money of each event, points are awarded to sort a global standings list. These points, beyond bragging rights, lead to an invitation to the year's final tournament at BlizzCon.
The system has drawn some criticism, however. One specific complaint is that players are allowed to partake in any region of their choosing. This seems to lead to tactical placement of players relative to other ones, rather than actual geography. Moreover, this allows players to join in servers that they are not anywhere near to, introducing lag in the online components. If I remember correctly, the rules stated that, unless both players chose to play on a server that was outside the region (ex: a South Korean server for two competitors in WCS America), the server would default to the region (America in the previous example). For 2015, Blizzard is requiring that all players must be legal residents of the region they choose to play in. The reasons for this decision do not seem to be publicly explained, but it should discourage the shuffling of players for logistical advantages.
The other, major change is that all participants of WCS 2015 need to qualify. Previously, if I (again) remember correctly, while points were reset, some placements in leagues carried over. This time, if a player is in any given league, they fought to get there from the very bottom. If anything, I expect this became necessary when the decision was made to change residency requirements.
WCS 2014 isn't over yet, though. It will close with BlizzCon on November 8th.
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 10:38 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 9, windows, threshold, microsoft, leaked build, leak
Update: September 12th @ 12:08pm EDT
A short video has just leaked online. The screenshots cover more, but obviously as still images. It's a good idea to check out both.
Computerbase.de (linked above in "yes") claims to have access to Windows 9 Technical Preview Build 9834. This should be close to the pre-release that is rumored to be public later this month (again, if rumors are accurate). It seems to be focused on desktop usage, as rumored, but still is uncomfortably close to Windows Store and its certification requirements.
Image Credit: Computerbase.de
There are some significant changes over previous versions, from virtual desktops to a nearly borderless window look and feel, seemingly be default (saving probably about 8-10 pixels per window in width and just as much eyesore). This makes me wonder how true borderless apps (RDIO, GitHub for Windows, and Blizzard's Battle.net Launcher are examples) will play with these new styles. One of the main glitches that I have with Windows 7 is when something kicks me out of Aero and most of the non-standard styled windows freak out in one way or another (Trillian and Firefox being the most obvious offenders).
Maybe, just maybe, we will be able to get our hands on it later this month or early next month.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 11, 2014 - 07:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: quad sli, quad crossfire, nvidia, amd
Psst. AMD fans. Don't tell "Team Green" but Linus decided to take four R9 290X graphics cards and configure them in Quad Crossfire formation. They did not seem to have too much difficulty setting it up, although they did have trouble with throttling and setting up Crossfire profiles. When they finally were able to test it, they got a 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of 14979.
Psst. NVIDIA fans. Don't tell "Team Red" but Linus decided to take four GeForce Titan Black graphics cards and configure them in Quad SLI formation. He had a bit of a difficult time setting up the machine at first, requiring a reshuffle of the cards (how would reordering PCIe slots for identical cards do anything?) and a few driver crashes, but it worked. Eventually, they got a 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of around 13,300 (give or take a couple hundred).
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 11, 2014 - 06:27 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: qualcomm, snapdragon 210, snapdragon, LTE, cheap tablet
The Snapdragon 210 was recently announced by Qualcomm to be an SoC for cheap, sub-$100 tablets and mobile phones. With it, the company aims to bring LTE connectivity to that market segment, including Dual SIM support. It will be manufactured on the 28nm process, with up to four ARM CPU cores and a Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU.
According to Qualcomm, the SoC can decode 1080p video. It will also be able to manage cameras with up to 8 megapixels of resolution, including HDR, autofocus, auto white balance, and auto exposure. Let's be honest, you will not really get much more than that for a sub-$100 device.
The Snapdragon 210 has been given Quick Charge 2.0, normally reserved for the 400-line and up, refill the battery quickly when connected to a Quick Charge 2.0-supporting charger (ex: the Motorola Turbo Charger). Quick Charge 1.0 worked by optimizing how energy was delivered to the battery through a specification. Quick Charge 2.0 does the same, just with 60 watts of power (!!). For reference, the USB standard defines 2.5W, which is 5V at 0.5A, although the specification is regularly extended to 5 or 10 watts.
Devices featuring the Snapdragon 210 are expected for the first half of 2015.
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 04:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: firefox, mozilla, web browser, web development
Remote Debugging for Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android is available in early development on Firefox Nightly with an optional extension.
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 03:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: input, corsair, logitech, Mad Catz, razer, roccat, steelseries, gaming mouse, keyboard, round up
The end of summer brings more than just pretty coloured leaves, you can also expect to see round ups of products released this year. The Register has put together an article looking at the best mice and keyboards for gamers which are currently available. In most cases they pair a keyboard and mouse from the same company so that your desk will look impressive with matching peripherals. It is not just about the aesthetics though, they also provide you with an overview of what features make each pairing unique and the features that should intrigue you. Check it out right here.
"In the case of the keyboards and mice I’m reviewing, it might be difficult to put forward a convincing argument that they are to blame, as they are all developed to make the very best of my gaming talents, but often this comes at a preposterous price."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- CM Storm Mizar, TteSports Saphira and Balista MK-1 Head-to-Head Mouse Review @ eTeknix
- GAMDIAS ZEUS Laser Gaming Mouse Review @ NikKTech
- Cougar 700M Mouse @ HardwareHeaven
- Zowie FK1 Gaming Mouse @ eTeknix
- Tt eSPORTS THERON Gaming Mouse Review @ Legit Reviews
- EVGA TORQ X10 Carbon Gaming Mouse Review @ Hardware Asylum
- ROCCAT Kone XTD Gaming Mouse @ Benchmark Reviews
- Aorus Thunder M7 Mouse @ HardwareHeaven
- Tt eSPORTS Poseidon ZX Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review @ TechwareLabs
Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 03:04 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mojang ab, Minecraft, microsoft, consolitis
First and foremost, I would like to remind everyone of the Twitch.tv and Google acquisition rumors. Things are not done until they are done and it could be significantly more complicated than it appears on the surface. And yes, I am speaking from the position of someone who was bitten and wrote a news post on the subject.
Regardless, discussion has been circulating that Mojang AB, creators of Minecraft, were in talks to sell their company to Microsoft for $2 billion dollars. First, this tells us that randomly generated diamond and gold is worth a fortune; second, it tells us that Mojang, like Oculus, is twice the company that Instagram was. I guess all it took was those OpenGL filter effects.
Joking aside, two billion dollars is a significant chunk of money, about a third of Computing and Gaming Hardware's annual revenue. Minecraft is definitely a valuable asset, especially with the licensed media and merchandise, and would be a good addition to a publisher's portfolio (along with their employees if convinced to stay on). It is not entirely without basis, either. Competing publisher, Activision-Blizzard, allegedly planned to spend $500 million on Destiny, although Bungie denies that, which Activision claims is the cost of launching a new franchise nowadays.
The most interesting part of the rumor, to me, is the Bloomberg report which claims that Notch initiated the discussions. He was quite outspoken against Microsoft for a while, especially with the licensing requirements for Windows Store. Apparently, current head of Microsoft's Computing and Gaming Hardware division, Phil Spencer, is friends with Notch and has been visiting him and Mojang AB.
But until something official is announced, this is all speculation. That said, Notch has been particularly quiet about the topic on Twitter. To me, that strongly suggests that something is up.