Samsung adding AMD to their customers?

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2015 - 02:07 PM |
Tagged: amd, Samsung, 14nm, rumour

The talk around the watercooler includes a rumour that AMD may use Samsung to produce at least some of their 14nm chips in the coming year.  If true this has been a huge year for Samsung who produce NVIDIA chips as well as recently picking up a contract with Apple to produce some of their A9 SoCs.  The rumour still includes GLOBALFOUNDRIES as a source for APUs and GPUs so this would make Samsung a second source for working silicon, which we can hope will alleviate some of AMD's difficulty in maintaining supplies of products.  This could also help fund Samsung's development of their 10nm FinFET node which the claim should be in production by the end of 2016.  As always, take the rumour for what it is but if you want to learn more about what is being said you can pop over to The Inquirer.

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"A report in South Korea's Electronic Times, which cited unknown sources, said that Samsung Electronics will start making new chips for AMD sometime next year."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

MSI Releases Intel C236 Workstation Motherboards for Xeon E3-1200 v5

Subject: Motherboards | December 22, 2015 - 11:06 AM |
Tagged: Xeon E3-1200 V5, workstation, msi, motherboard, Intel C236, C236M Workstation, C236A Workstation

MSI has launched a pair of workstation motherboards based on Intel's C236 chipset, with support for the new 6th-gen "Skylake" Intel Xeon E3-1200 v5 processors.

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With the C236A Workstation (ATX) and C236M Workstation (Micro-ATX) boards potential system builders will have a lot of flexibility with enclosure size, and both motherboards support ECC DDR4.

"MSI C236 WORKSTATION motherboards are optimized for professional and industrial use. Advanced PCB design, engineered using industry leading standards and the use of the highest quality components passing the most extreme quality validation, the C236A WORKSTATION and C236M WORKSTATION motherboards guarantee the best in performance and reliability. Designed and optimized for NVIDIA® Quadro® and AMD® FirePro graphics cards multi-GPU setups, equipped with unique Steel Armor and optimal PCI Express slot placement ensure great efficiency and perfect stability for heavy duty computing."

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The MSI C236A Workstation Motherboard

The specifications of the two motherboards differ in more ways than form-factor, with the biggest feature set coming from the ATX model (C236A):

  • Supports Intel Xeon E3 v5 series / Core i3 / Pentium / Celeron processors for LGA 1151 socket
  • Supports ECC DDR4 Memory
  • Supports Nvidia Quadro and AMD FirePro professional graphics cards
  • DDR4 Boost
  • USB 3.1 Gen2 (Type-C port, ASMedia ASM1142 Chipset)
  • Turbo M.2 32Gb/s
  • Multi-GPU with Steel Armor PCI-E slots (Supports NVIDIA SLI and AMD Crossfire)
  • Intel I219-V Gigabit LAN
  • Click BIOS 5
  • Military Class 4
  • Overvoltage Protection
  • Windows 10 Ready

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The C236M Workstation Motherboard

The Micro-ATX model (C236M) looks to be more of a budget option, with differences including lack of M.2 support, no USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port, and Realtek RTL8111H Gigabit LAN instead of the larger board's Intel NIC. As this is mATX there are only two PCIe slots, which are configured x16/x4.

Pricing and availability were not immediately available.

Source: MSI

MyDigitalSSD BP5e Slim 7 Series offers some attractive pricing

Subject: Storage | December 21, 2015 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: MyDigitalSSD, BP5e Slim 7, Phison S10, toggle NAND, tlc

At a mere $240 for the 960GB model, all the way down to $65 for the 240GB drive, the pricing on the MyDigitalSSD BP5e Slim 7 Series is very attractive.  The drives use the Phison S10 controller, which is quad-core and 8-channel design, with Toshiba’s TLC Toggle 2.0 NAND.  The NAND is the key factor in lowering the cost of the drives and may sour some prospective buyers.  The SSD Review's testing showed decent performance, even in the write tests although not quite good enough to unseat Samsung's 850 EVO.  There are some features lacking, such as AES encryption and the 2 year warranty is somewhat worrying.  As always, you get what you pay for and at these discounted prices the BP5e Slim series is certainly a interesting choice for those on a limited budget.

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"The competition between value based SSDs is getting ever more fierce this holiday season. Comparing back to just a few weeks ago we see most manufacturers offering great prices to entice more sales before year’s end. Building upon this steam is MyDigitalSSD with their latest model, the BP5e Slim 7 Series. BP5e stands for Bullet Proof 5 Eco, which is the latest variant of their Bullet Proof SSD products."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

NVIDIA GameWorks VR 1.1 arrives with support for OpenGL VR SLI support and the Oculus SDK

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 21, 2015 - 01:04 PM |
Tagged: GameWorks VR 1.1, nvidia, Oculus, opengl, vive

If you are blessed with the good fortune of already having a VR headset and happen to be running an NVIDIA GPU then there is a new driver you want to grab as soon as you can.  The driver includes a new OpenGL extension that enables NVIDIA SLI support for OpenGL apps that display on an Oculus or Vive.  NVIDIA's PR suggests you can expect your performance to improve 1.7 times, not quite doubling but certainly offering a noticeable performance improvement.  The update is for both GeForce and Quadro cards.

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They describe how the update will generate images in their blog post here.  They imply that the changes to your code in order to benefit from this update will be minimal and it will also reduce the CPU overhead required to display the images for the right and left eye.  Read on if you are interested in the developer side of this update, otherwise download your new driver and keep an eye out for application updates that enable support for SLI in VR.

Source: NVIDIA

Bradbury would approve of HTTP Error Code 451

Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2015 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: censorship, error 451

After several years of debate, we will now have a new HTTP error specifically for sites that have been taken down due to court orders and other legal actions.  Error 451, of which you can see an example of here, will contain information on where the page is blocked, the law against which it transgressed and a link to the court case and other pertinent information such as when the court order expires.  451 Unavailable will keep a record of the sites which are blocked if you are curious about what sites are being blocked around the world.

barron-storey_fahrenheit-451_ny-ballantine-1983_29234.jpg

"The Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) has finally approved the new 451 status code for HTTP error messages involving web pages which have been repressed or removed for legal or political reasons. The initiative was proposed in 2013, and gained interest from various groups, such as Lumen (formerly Chilling Effects), who see the potential of the Bradbury-inspired code to help develop comprehensive indexes of censorship on the internet."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

Vulkan API Slips to 2016

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 21, 2015 - 07:25 AM |
Tagged: vulkan, Mantle, Khronos, dx12, DirectX 12

The Khronos Group announced on Friday that the Vulkan API will not ship until next year. The standards body was expecting to launch it at some point in 2015. In fact, when I was first briefed on it, they specifically said that 2015 was an “under-promise and over-deliver” estimate. Vulkan is an open graphics and compute standard that was derived from AMD's Mantle. It, like OpenCL 2.1, uses the SPIR-V language for compute and shading though, which can be compiled from subsets of a variety of languages.

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I know that most people will be quick to blame The Khronos Group for this, because industry bodies moving slowly is a stereotype, but I don't think it applies. When AMD created Mantle, it bore some significant delays at all levels. Its drivers and software were held back, and the public release of its SDK was delayed out of existence. Again, it would be easy to blame AMD for this, but hold on. We now get to Microsoft. DirectX 12, which is maybe even closer to Mantle than Vulkan is due to its shading language, didn't roll out as aggressively as Microsoft expected, either. Software is still pretty much non-existent when they claimed, at GDC 2014, that about 50% of PC games would be DX12-compatible by Holiday 2015. We currently have... ... zero (excluding pre-release).

Say what you like about the three examples individually, but when all three show problems, then there might just be a few issues that took longer than expected to solve. Again, this is a completely different metaphor of translating voltages coming through a PCI Express bus into fancy graphics and GPU compute, and create all of the supporting ecosystems, too.

Speaking of ecosystems, The Khronos Group has also announced that Google has upgraded their membership to “Promoter” to get more involved with Vulkan development. Google has been sort-of hostile towards certain standards from The Khronos Group on Android in the past, such as disabling OpenCL on Nexus devices, and trying to steer developers into using Android Extension Pack and Renderscript. They seem to want to use Vulkan proper this time, which is always healthy for the API.

I guess look forward to Vulkan in 2016... hopefully early.

ASUS Introduces E3 Pro Gaming V5 Motherboard for Intel Xeon E3-1200 CPUs

Subject: Motherboards | December 19, 2015 - 11:09 PM |
Tagged: motherboard, Intel Xeon E3-1200, Intel C232, E3 Pro Gaming V5, ATX motherboard, asus

ASUS has introduced a new ATX gaming motherboard for Intel's 6th-generation Xeon E3-1200 server processors, offering premium desktop gaming features on a board built with Intel's C232 chipset.

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The board is built with Intel's C232 chipset, needed to support the Xeon E3-1200 processors (not compatible with desktop chipsets). Intel's C232 product page lists a maximum of only 8 PCI Express lanes, so (as pointed out in the comments) the E3-1200 and desktop Skylake processors will provide 16 lanes to the first PCIe slot, with the C232 providing up to 8 more for the other slots. (Intel's C236 chipset, the other chipset supporting these new Skylake Xeon CPUs, supports 20 PCIe lanes.)

The E3 Pro Gaming V5 supports not only E3-1200 series Xeon processors, but 6th-generation Intel Core and Pentium/Celeron CPUs as well with its LGA1151 socket. Why exactly would a server CPU be an attractive option for a gaming rig anyway? For one thing the 4 core/8 thread Skylake desktop CPU (the i7-6700K) is difficult to find and currently $419.99 on Newegg (and out of stock). A Skylake Xeon E3-1230 v5 on the other hand (all models above E3-1220/1225 are 4 core/8 thread) starts at $274.99 (Newegg).

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Here are some of the specifications from ASUS:

  • CPU: Intel Socket 1151 for Xeon E3-1200 v5 and 6th genereation Core, Pentium and Celeron Processors 
  • Chipset: Intel C232
  • Memory: 4x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory, Dual-Channel Memory Architecture 
  • Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
  • Expansion Slots:
    • 1x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 mode) 
    • 1x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (max at x4 mode)
    • 2x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1 
    • 2x PCI
  • Multi-GPU Support: Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX Technology, AMD 2-Way CrossFireX Technology
  • Storage: (Intel C232 chipset) 1x M.2 Socket 3 with M Key design, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (Supports both SATA & PCIE SSD), 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports, support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
  • Intel Rapid Storage Technology Enterprise support
  • LAN: Intel I219LM, 1x Gigabit LAN Controller, GameFirst technology, Anti-surge LANGuard
  • Audio: SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio
  • USB Ports:
    • (ASMedia USB 3.1 controller) 1x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1x USB 3.1 Type-C
    • (Intel C232 chipset) 6x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  • Form Factor: ATX (12 inch x 9.6 inch)

Availability for the U.S.A. was not specified, but according to the press release (accessed via Vortez here) it will be offered in the UK with an MSRP of £118.10, or approximately $175 US.

Source: ASUS

HTC Vive Headset and Controllers Allegedly Leaked

Subject: General Tech | December 18, 2015 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: valve, htc, vive, vive vr

A grain of salt is needed for this one. Users on Reddit claim to have found a pair of renders, one of the headset and one of the controllers, for the HTC Vive VR system. They also have a screenshot of the page, although the first words you see are “This Is Real,” which are the most sketchy, ironic, and unfortunate words to be greeted with in a product leak.

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The current HTC Vive prototype looks like a rough version of this. There are some significant differences, though. My major concern is at the front of the headset. You can clearly see a front-facing camera as well as two nubs below it, one to the bottom-left, and one to the bottom-right. If those two nubs are also cameras, then that makes a bit more sense.

valve-2015-htc-vive-allegedcontroller.jpg

If those two nubs are not cameras, then Valve would have downgraded from a two-camera system, in the original prototype, to a single camera. Valve has already claimed that the Vive will have front-facing cameras, plural, to track objects (like pets) for safety reasons. I can see them adding an extra camera, but I doubt that they would use just a single one. Two cameras allow more accurate depth tracking at low distances, which is when you risk... interacting... with the user. That sounds unlikely.

If it's three cameras? That makes sense.

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Kyle Orland of Ars Technica is using the original prototype during GDC 2015.
Image Credit: Ars Technica

The controllers are also interesting, but mostly from an aesthetic standpoint. The hexagonal plates, which apparently functioned as sensors, seem to have been changed into circular rings (if the hole goes all the way through). They retain their thumb trackpads, triggers, and a couple of buttons. It's unclear whether each controller is identical, or if there's a difference between the intended-left and intended-right models. Being a lefty, I hope not.

At roughly the same time, Cher Wang, the CEO of HTC, announced that the HTC Vive will be unveiled at CES (in January). It won't be available until around April, but we should know basically all there is to know about the system at next month's trade show. Given this timing, and that multiple users have been posting the leak seemingly independently, it sounds valid. The camera configuration, on the other hand, takes a bit away from that.

Source: Reddit

XFX wants to show its True Wattage with the XTR 850W PSU

Subject: Cases and Cooling | December 18, 2015 - 03:07 PM |
Tagged: xfx, XTR 850W, modular psu, 80 Plus Gold

XFX has a lot of branding on the new XTR series of PSUs including EasyRail, which means it uses a single 12V rail, on this model providing up to 840W @ 70A as well as a "True Wattage" guarantee and 80 Plus Gold. [H]ard|OCP put these claims to the test when they reviewed this PSU and did not find it lacking.  There were a few tests which the PSU did not excel at but when they tested voltage regulation this PSU finished miles ahead of the competition.  [H] also mentions that this unit was previously sold as the Pro Series Gold, the internals of the two are identical as is the serial number so keep an eye out when shopping so you can see if you can get a deal. Also worth noting is the 5 year warranty, it is always nice to see a company stand behind its products.

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"XFX is targeting serious gamers and hardware enthusiasts with its new XTR Series of PSU. XFX suggest other power supplies do not always deliver, "The Wattage you see isn’t always the wattage you get." We will certainly find out if that is true with the XTR 850W PSU delivers the power and efficiency it promises in its marketing."

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CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The plain exterior of the AZZA Zen 8100 hides a beautiful interior

Subject: Cases and Cooling | December 18, 2015 - 01:13 PM |
Tagged: azza, zen 8100

AZZA opted to skip the flashy exterior so common on cases today in the Zen 8100.  The case is 21.6x8.7x22.6" which allows you to fit in even E-ATX boards and gives you plenty of space for installing large coolers and GPUs.  The storage area has a separate door, an interesting addition, with space for four 5.25" drives as well as up to eight 3.5/2.5" drives not counting two more on the back.  Two of those bays are hot-swapable, if for some reason you desire to use the feature.  Overclockers Club would have liked to see this case support 240mm radiators but the configuration will not make that an option.  Apart from that one missing feature they give this case a top rating, it is worth looking at if you need a larger sized case in the near future.

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"Onwards! Alright, it's not often I don't have much on the negative side to say. AZZA has a few minor flaws for an overall decent chassis, one of which is the fans. Having fans with a fixed speed is great for some quiet operations, but it doesn't help with a loaded case, as only so much unwanted hot air can be pushed out. An easy fix for AZZA would be to have them as 3-pin fans instead of being powered by 4-pin Molex cable."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Qualcomm Rebrands Two Snapdragon SoCs

Subject: Mobile | December 18, 2015 - 07:06 AM |
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm

The mobile processors that were previously known as the Snapdragon 618 and the Snapdragon 620 are now known as Snapdragon 650 and Snapdragon 652, respectively. This is not how we typically see products rebranded. Normally, such as the desktop GPU market, individual products are carried between generations, and their model number is incremented to reflect that. This case is the exact opposite: Qualcomm feels that the new products are numbered too similar to existing models, so they're widening the gap between them.

qualcomm-2015-snapdragon-600-rebrand.jpg

An SoC is only useful if it is installed in a compelling device, though. While I would hope that these sorts of branding changes influence consumers more than device manufacturers, there exists a part of me that wonders how much this rebranding will affect their amount of design wins. You would think that bumping a model number up a few digits wouldn't affect experimentation at Samsung, LG, or other phone companies. Yet, it might, and that would be interesting to see. Either way, it should affect the semi-enthusiast phone users who buy based on breakdowns of tech specs.

Source: Qualcomm

ECS to Announce LIVA Mini-PC with Intel Core Processor

Subject: Systems | December 17, 2015 - 11:36 PM |
Tagged: mini-pc, LIVA, intel core, ECS, CES 2016

ECS will announce a new LIVA mini PC at CES 2016, which they are describing as a "one-liter book-size Core i mini PC".

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"ECS is proud to introduce its brand new LIVA mini-PC - One at CES 2016. It features a flexible hardware configuration in a book-size, one-liter form factor. In addition, LIVA mini PC with Windows 10 will have a remote control application natively built-in; providing full wireless usage with your own mobile devices."

No images were provided, but the prospect of an Intel Core processor alone makes it a much more attractive proposition than prior versions which use underpowered Atom processors.

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The first three generations of LIVA from our look at the LIVA X2.

PC Perspective will be covering CES as new products are officially unveiled, and we will have more on this new hardware from the show.

Source: ECS

Thought you wouldn't see a new Radeon Crimson driver before the New Year, eh?

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 17, 2015 - 05:49 PM |
Tagged: radeon, crimson, amd

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That's right folks, the official AMD Radeon Software Crimson Edition 15.12 has just launched for you to install.  This includes the fixes for fan speeds when you are using AMD Overdrive, your settings will stick and the fans will revert to normal after you go back to the desktop from an intense gaming session.  There are multiple fixes for Star Wars Battlefront, Fallout 4 and several GUI fixes within the software itself.  As always there are still a few kinks being worked out but overall it is worth popping over to AMD to grab the new driver.  You should also have less issues upgrading from within Crimson after this update as well.

Source: AMD

Podcast #379 - Snapdragon 820, AMD's GPUOpen, Thrustmaster T300 and more!

Subject: General Tech | December 17, 2015 - 02:35 PM |
Tagged: video, Thrustmaster, T300, snapdragon 820, Skylake, qualcomm, podcast, logitech g, Intel, i3-6100, gpuopen, gameworks, arx control, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #379 - 12/17/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Snapdragon 820, AMD's GPUOpen, Thrustmaster T300 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: Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak

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

BENQ previews the new monitors they will show off at CES

Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | December 17, 2015 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: benq, VZ2470H, freesync, XR3501, XL2730Z, 144hz, CES 2016

BENQ sent out a teaser of three of the displays they will be demonstrating at CES 2016, the VZ2470H with a slim bezel and impressive contrast ratio, the huge, curved XR3501 and the XL2730Z with VESA Standard Adaptive-Sync, the technology once known as FreeSync.

VZ2470H.jpg

The VZ2470H is a VA panel, with an impressive 3000:1 native contrast ratio, 4ms GTG response time and what BenQ refers to as ZeroFlicker which they claim will reduce eyestrain from LED backlight flickering.  The picture shows this 23.8" 1920 x 1080 display will have a very thin bezel, we can hope that it is not an exaggeration as it would make this a good choice for multiple monitor setups in an office or even for a lower cost gaming system.

XR3501.jpg

The BenQ XR3501 will be of far more interest to gamers, this 35" 2560 x 1080 monitor is curved to give you a great view.  It also runs at a 144Hz refresh rate with a 4ms GTG response time.  BenQ does not specifiy the panel type but it is likely to be VA as well.

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Last but not least is the BenQ XL2730Z, a 27" 2560x1440 display that is fully VESA Standard Adaptive-Sync compliant, with a top refresh rate of 144Hz.   It also has a 1ms GTG and is advertised as having no input lag, as you might expect this also means it is a TN panel, but remember, this is not the TN of a few years ago. 

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The monitor also has some other interesting tricks up its bezel, Display Mode and Smart Scaling allow you to virtually scale the monitor in a variety of sizes, 17", 19", 19"W, 21.5", 22"W, 23"W, 23.6"W and 24"W are defaults but you can create your own as well.  The Auto Game Mode feature lets you save monitor settings specific to a game profile and even to export them to a USB drive to take with you if you so desire.  All of those functions and more are controlled by the small device you can see on the stand above.

2016 is shaping up to be a very interesting year for displays.

They will also being showing off three different projectors, the HT4050, HT3050 and the budget-friendly HT2050, a portable electrostatic Bluetooth speaker called the treVolo and even even a fancy desk lamp.

Source: BENQ

Some dense reading for your morning about N3XT and nanotube based processors

Subject: General Tech | December 17, 2015 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: N3XT, nanotubes, TSV

The achillies heel of processing density is heat and how to radiate it away from the parts doing the work, which is why processors and memory tend to be very flat.  This has change, we have begun to see 3D VNAND become common on the marketplace thanks to reduced heat generation and a variety of arcane tricks some of which Al explained last year.  Processors offer a more significant challenge, the TDP is much larger than that of flash and hotspots are more common and have a much more drastic effect on performance.  They can also be more difficult to fabricate; there is quite a trick to baking the interior of the chip without overcooking the external layers

Stanford University is working on what they call Nano-Engineered Computing Systems Technology, or N3XT which is working on Through Silicon Vias for processors. If successful this would allow a similar structure to current 3D VNAND on a processor which would vastly increase processing density.  The lower temperatures required to fab carbon nanotube transistors may just be what the industry has needed.  Make sure your brain is turned on and read on at The Inquirer.

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"One way in which Stanford University is exploring this is by using carbon nanotube technology in high-rise chip architecture processes. Working alongside other universities, Stanford engineers have created this new technology, which it calls Nano-Engineered Computing Systems Technology, or N3XT."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer

Sure it is pretty on the outside, but what about the personality of the Lenovo Yoga 900

Subject: Mobile | December 16, 2015 - 06:32 PM |
Tagged: yoga 900, yoga, Skylake, Lenovo, Intel

You may remember that back in November Ryan took a look at the Lenovo Yoga 900 with its snazzy watchband hinge and 3200x1800 resolution.  If not then now is the perfect time to revisit that video review but if you do still remember perhaps you would like a second opinion on the Skylake powered 2-in-1 device.  At 324x225x14.9mm and weighing 1.3kg in the complete package it is very portable, though you could just pop the 13.3" IPS display around the keyboard for use as a tablet.  The Inquirer takes a look at the good, the bad and the ugly attributes of the Yoga 900 in their review.

lenovo-yoga-900-design-540x334.jpeg

"This latest addition to the Yoga line is perhaps its fanciest yet, with a faux-leather finish and a complex ‘watchband' hinge. The real good news, though, is that this Skylake-powered convertible is as speedy and practical as it is eye-catching."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

 

Source: The Inquirer

This One Takes It to 11! Windows 10 Insider Build 11082

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2015 - 06:20 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

A new build is available for Windows 10 at the Insider Fast update level. This one is numbered 11082, and it is the first one on the “Redstone” track. Users will probably not notice any changes, beyond the bugs, because the modifications are all under-the-hood. They are working on the core of the operating system, called “OneCore,” to restructure it better for the wide variety of hardware that it's designed for.

windows8beta.jpg

This raises the question: Why now? It's odd that they would release a public preview that seemingly adds nothing, just before the holidays when the engineers will be unavailable to fix it. That feels like replacing the first floor of a building from wood to maybe-not-quite-set concrete, then hopping on a plane for a few weeks. Of course, this is not a bad thing. This is what some Insiders want to experience, and those who don't can drop down to Slow (or leave Insider).

Also, Microsoft sort-of explained why they did this. First, they intend to get down to business on features and upgrades in January. Basically, they structured their work such that pre-Holiday tasks built the infrastructure for post-Holiday creations (as I mentioned in the first paragraph). Big development tasks are often done on branches of a canonical product that are merged when complete. Merging a branch back into the trunk is easier when the trunk is designed more modularly, etc. In that context, it makes sense to see how it reacts in a large sample of configurations just before you start pushing big feature payloads into it. The second explanation is that Microsoft intends to speed up Insider previews in general.

If you're interested, WinBeta has a video “walking through” the features, although they basically just read the announcement. They also checked to see whether Microsoft Edge changed to add extensions, and it didn't.

A list of known issues is also available in the Insider Hub app post. Basically, Language packs and "Features on Demand" will not install. File progress dialogues will not show (even though the actual copy / move / delete will work without issue). Finally, some default apps will be incorrectly reset.

It is available through Windows Update for Fast Insiders.

Source: Microsoft

Mountain climbing with an Oculus

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2015 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Oculus, crytek, the climb

Crytek announced their designed for Oculus game yesterday, The Climb.  As you might infer from the title of the game you will be scaling cliffs and mountains using either an Xbox One controller or Oculus Touch with your Oculus to experience something that would not be anywhere near as interesting on a computer monitor.  The disembodied hands are a little disturbing, though perhaps not as much as the heights will be for those who suffer from vertigo, though perhaps this would be an interesting way to try to conquer your fears.  The video below shows off the graphics, though not as immersive as it would be in VR it still looks rather interesting.  Many developers are looking to space sims to be the killer app for Oculus, for instance EVE Valkyrie come as part of the pre-order bundle shipped with the first consumer model.

Crytek might have just found the other style of game to interest people in the Oculus, extreme sports could be very compelling with the new VR headset.

"The Climb invites thrill-seekers to experience the ultimate in extreme sports by going beyond the point of no return and scaling deadly cliff faces unaided. The game boasts hyper-realistic climbing locations from around the world, and players will discover the freedom of gaming with the Rift using either an Xbox One controller or Oculus Touch controllers as they soak up their awe-inspiring surroundings."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: The Climb

You should upgrade to Win10 now ... or now ... or how about now ... maybe now ... now might be a good time ...

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2015 - 12:16 PM |
Tagged: windows 10

You could do it now ... or tonight ... or maybe we will just do it for you while you are away because we are such nice people and we know you are really concerned about running the latest OS and security patches.

Yes that's right folks, if you have yet to take advantage of Microsoft's generosity they will soon be making you an offer that is impossible to refuse ... almost.  The nag screens have been updated to offer two obvious choices, Upgrade Now or Upgrade Tonight, with that little red x in the corner being the only way to turn down the offer.  By now you have probably had relatives reach out to you about this latest virus, or your friends explain how this proves Microsoft is out to eat your brainwaves or some such thing. 

What it does mean is that the average user is going to be rather miffed but will likely upgrade if they are not privy to the secret of the red x.  Those who don't use their computers often, or who will be away for the holidays will come home to a shiny new OS in the very near future as Windows 10 has reached Recommended Update status and will install itself on all Win7/8x systems not configured to defer updates.  The smell of desperation is in the air, the knowledgeable have already chosen to upgrade or to disable the nag screens while the unaware are about to encounter a surprise and we all know how well unexpected surprises are received lately.

Why Microsoft is so desperate to push this free upgrade out, even to with the risk of alienating their largest user base, barring corporations who they had to exempt, is somewhat of a mystery.  Then again, it is better than snatching the upgrade away before the originally announced year and billing full price on the next upgrade cycle.  Perhaps they are looking at Amazon's success with subscription based cloud services with a bit of jealousy?

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"We spoke to Microsoft about our concerns last month and were told that "the average user ... wants to make sure they've got the most secure and always up-to-date version of Windows, and the feedback we get is that people want that to be as simple and seamless as possible""

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Source: The Register