AMD adds open source to their hardware-based video encoder

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2014 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: amd, encoder, open source, VCE

You may have missed this news about AMD in amongst the Mantle announcements, support has been added for the VCE2 hardware encoding engine on newer AMD GCN based GPUs.  The open-source Radeon driver now supports GStreamer OpenMAX which can speed H.264 encoding in general but is truly optimized for encoding for mobile devices.  The current release is still a work in progress, the official release will come soon and you can track the progress by signing up to the mailing lists mentioned by Phoronix.  This is good news as previously the only open source hardware accelerated encoding was through Intel's GPU and VA-API.

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"AMD is doing another large and important open-source graphics driver code drop this morning. This morning AMD is publishing their VCE code that allows for hardware-based video encoding. "

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Source: Phoronix

The ASUS Chromebox Will Be Available in March

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 4, 2014 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: Chromebox, asus

Often, people purchase a device with the intent of running a web browser on it. I understand the appeal of Joshtekk.com and we can all relate to the desire for it to have a dedicated machine. Google, through Chrome OS, targets this market with a line of laptops dedicated to web browsing. They are effective against virulent infections, a useful feature for casual Joshtekk encounters, with its limited native applications and simple recovery process.

The ASUS Chromebox will try to be your Joshtekk desktop.

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ASUS is, by no means, first to this market. Samsung had a couple of Chromebox models almost two years ago. That said, the ASUS Chromebox will start at $179 USD (which is much cheaper than Samsung's $329 offering). The base model will contain an Intel Celeron 2955U processor (the aforementioned Samsung packed a Celeron B840), which is not a high-performance processor, but may suffice for your web browsing needs. If not, an Intel Core i3 model has also been announced but I do not have pricing to relay about that one. A Core i7-4600U version may or may not surface, as well. Its graphics will support options up to an Intel HD 4400.

One feature that is unexpected is its video outputs. The ASUS Chromebox supports both HDMI and DisplayPort connections for dual monitors and 4K. Given that this is a 5-inch by 5-inch (and fanless) design, with access to Netflix and other streaming services, it could make a good replacement for a "smart TV".

The ASUS Chromebox will be available in March starting at $179 USD. This price comes with 100GB of Google Drive space, free for 2 years. Also free: a VESA mount kit to, I believe, attach the Chromebox to the back of an HDTV.

If interested, read on for the press release.

Source: ASUS

AMD Catalyst 14.1 Beta Available Now. Now, Chewie, NOW!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 1, 2014 - 11:29 PM |
Tagged: Mantle, BF4, amd

AMD has released the Catalyst 14.1 Beta driver (even for Linux) but you should, first, read Ryan's review. This is a little less than what he expects in a Beta from AMD. We are talking about crashes to desktop and freezes while loading a map on a single-GPU configuration - and Crossfire is a complete wash in his experience (although AMD acknowledges the latter in their release notes). According to AMD, there is even the possibility that the Mantle version of Battlefield 4 will render with your APU and ignore your dedicated graphics.

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If you are determined to try Catalyst 14.1, however, it does make a first step into the promise of Mantle. Some situations show slightly lower performance than DirectX 11, albeit with a higher minimum framerate, while other results impress with double-digit percentage gains.

Multiplayer in BF4, where the CPU is more heavily utilized, seems to benefit the most (thankfully).

If you understand the risk (in terms of annoyance and frustration), and still want to give it a try, pick up the driver from AMD's support website. If not? Give it a little more time for AMD to whack-a-bug. At some point, there should be truly free performance waiting for you.

Press release after the break!

Source: AMD

You Got Something? Lenovo's Buying. Google Sells Motorola.

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 1, 2014 - 09:01 AM |
Tagged: motorola, Lenovo, google

Lenovo has a few billion dollars to throw around, apparently. The company, typically known for consumer and enterprise PCs, just finished buying more food off of IBM's plate with the acquisition of their x86 server and mainframe business. That business was not as profitable for IBM compared to their rest of their portfolio. $2.3 billion, mostly in cash, was the better choice for them (albeit a reluctant one).

Another $2.9 billion yields them a lean subset of Motorola.

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Not Google, either.

Lenovo has been wanting a bigger share of the phone and tablet market. Unlike when Google purchased Motorola, Lenovo was not as concerned with owning the patent portfolio. $2.9 billion is a small fraction of $12.5 billion sum that Google valued Motorola at, but Lenovo only wanted about a tenth of the patents. That said, a tenth of the patents is still a couple thousand of them.

For the longest time, I have been thinking that Google was going the wrong route with Motorola. It seemed like any attempt to use the company as a cellphone manufacturer would either bleed money in failure or aggravate your biggest partners. I figured it would be best for Google to pivot Motorola into a research company which would create technologies to license to handset developers. This could be a significant stream of revenue and a love letter to their OEMs while retaining the patents they desired.

I did not think to spin off or sell the rest.

Ironically, that is very close to what we have today. Google, eventually, got rid of the cellphone division except for their licensed "Nexus" trademark. Google kept their patents and they kept the Motorola research team ("Motorola Advanced Technology and Patents Group").

It does not quite line up with my expectation, however; at least not yet. The Motorola research team would need to produce technology to license to partners and maybe other handset manufacturers; also, the time they spent with their toe in handset development bathwater could have already harmed their relationships, irreparably.

As for Lenovo, it seems like a clear win for the company. Motorola still has significant brand power and an open dialog with carriers worldwide at a cost of just a few billion. I do have questions how Lenovo will integrate the brand into their portfolio. Specifically, which company's name will be on each product? I expect it would have to be "Lenovo" but I also believe they have to put the Motorola trademark somewhere, right?

Anyway, who do you predict Lenovo to purchase next? Has the insanity ended?

Source: The Verge

Video Perspective: Free to Play Games on the A10-7850K vs. Intel Core i3 + GeForce GT 630

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 31, 2014 - 04:36 PM |
Tagged: 7850k, A10-7850K, amd, APU, gt 630, Intel, nvidia, video

As a follow up to our first video posted earlier in the week that looked at the A10-7850K and the GT 630 from NVIDIA in five standard games, this time we compare the A10-7850K APU against the same combination of the Intel and NVIDIA hardware in five of 2013's top free to play games.

UPDATE: I've had some questions about WHICH of the GT 630 SKUs were used in this testing.  Our GT 630 was this EVGA model that is based on 96 CUDA cores and a 128-bit DDR3 memory interface.  You can see a comparison of the three current GT 630 options on NVIDIA's website here.

If you are looking for more information on AMD's Kaveri APUs you should check out my review of the A8-7600 part as well our testing of Dual Graphics with the A8-7600 and a Radeon R7 250 card.

He ain't heavy; he's my keyboard

Subject: General Tech | January 31, 2014 - 04:28 PM |
Tagged: QuickFire Ultimate, mechanical keyboard, input, cooler master

The Cooler Master Quickfire Ultimate has an unexpected claim to fame, at 3lbs it is probably one of the heaviest modern keyboards on the market.  You can choose your preferred type of Cherry MX switches and there is even a Canadian model with a colour scheme perfect for Habs fans.  The LED backlight can perform a number of tricks, from only lighting certain keys to having the lights pulse.  Check out The Tech Report's full review here.

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"With an embedded steel plate and a beefy body, Cooler Master's QuickFire Ultimate may be one of the sturdiest mechanical keyboards around. We take a closer look at this affordable backlit model to see how it holds up."

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But who gets the phone number 192.168.0.1?

Subject: General Tech | January 31, 2014 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: voip, verizon, pots and pans, att

AT&T and Verizon are investigating this newfangled thing called VoIP and if it works as an alternative to switch based telephone systems.  The FCC has decided to allow them to do some limited testing on how the world would change if users were assigned IP addresses as opposed to telephone numbers.  Hopefully at some point they will realize this will have more to do with MAC addresses than static IP addresses but it is nice to know that they will at least do some research into the consequences of dumping switch based physical circuits.  The Inquirer's coverage mentions that the FCC will not regulate this testing which could be a good or bad thing; they are a bit technologically impaired but at the same time Ma Bell has never been good at respecting their customers rights.

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"TELECOMS PROVIDERS in the US have been given a green light to explore the idea of replacing traditional telephone communications with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)."

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Source: The Inquirer

Need the Double D? XFX has the R9 290X for you!

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 30, 2014 - 03:15 PM |
Tagged: xfx, double d, R9 290X

The only thing more fun that an XFX Double Dissipation R9 290X is two of them in Crossfire, which is exactly what [H]ard|OCP just tested.  These cards sport the familiar custom cooler though they are not overclocked nor is [H] testing overclocking in this review though they will revisit this card in the future to do exactly that.  This review is about the Crossfire performance of these cards straight out of the box and it is rather impressive.  When [H] tested 4K performance they could feel the frame pacing improvements the new driver gives as well as seeing these cards outperform the SLI'd GTX 780 Ti cards in every test; though not always by a huge margin.  The current selling price of these cards is about $100 above the MSRP but still come in cheaper than the current NVIDIA card; these particular cards really show off what Hawaii can be capable of.

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"Take two custom XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Edition video cards, enable CrossFire, and let your jaw hit the floor. We will test this combination against the competition in a triple-display Eyefinity setup as well as 4K Ultra HD display gaming. We will find out if custom cards hold any advantage over the reference designed R9 290X."

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Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Podcast #285 - Frame Rating AMD Dual Graphics with Kaveri, Linux GPU Performance, and Dogecoin Mining!

Subject: General Tech | January 30, 2014 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: podcast, frame rating, video, amd, Kaveri, A10 7850K, dual graphics, linux, opengl, Lenovo, IBM

PC Perspective Podcast #285 - 01/30/2014

Join us this week as we discuss Frame Rating AMD Dual Graphics with Kaveri, Linux GPU Performance, and Dogecoin Mining!

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

 
Program length: 1:02:01
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
    1. 0:37:45 Quick Linux mention
      1. And Motorola Mobility
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  4. Closing/outro

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

 

Video Perspective: 2013 Games on the A10-7850K vs. Intel Core i3 + GeForce GT 630

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | January 29, 2014 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: video, nvidia, Intel, gt 630, APU, amd, A10-7850K, 7850k

The most interesting aspect of the new Kaveri-based APUs from AMD, in particularly the A10-7850K part, is how it improves mainstream gaming performance.  AMD has always stated that these APUs shake up the need for low-cost discrete graphics and when we got the new APU in the office we did a couple of quick tests to see how much validity there to that claim.

In this short video we compare the A10-7850K APU against a combination of the Intel Core i3-4330 and GeForce GT 630 discrete graphics card in five of 2013's top PC releases.  I think you'll find the results pretty interesting.

UPDATE: I've had some questions about WHICH of the GT 630 SKUs were used in this testing.  Our GT 630 was this EVGA model that is based on 96 CUDA cores and a 128-bit DDR3 memory interface.  You can see a comparison of the three current GT 630 options on NVIDIA's website here.

If you are looking for more information on AMD's Kaveri APUs you should check out my review of the A8-7600 part as well our testing of Dual Graphics with the A8-7600 and a Radeon R7 250 card.

What the Func is special about the HS-260 headset?

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2014 - 03:36 PM |
Tagged: audio, Func, HS-260, gaming headset

The FUNC-HS-260-1ST gaming headset features 50mm drivers, a frequency response of  20HZ to 20kHz and both the cord and the microphone are detachable which makes it a little more portable that it looks like at first glance.  Func moved the volume controls off of the cable and onto the headset its self, which along with the ability to connect the cord to either the left or right side make using these headphones that much more enjoyable. The leather pads and soft touch finish on the earcups were highly praised by Benchmark Reviews but the sound quality is also very important.  Check out their full review to find out how well Func's first headsets performed.

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"On January 27th 2014 Func will start shipping their HS-260 gaming headset, completing a first run of peripherals that started with the MS-3 gaming mouse in February of last year (and the KB-460 mechanical keyboard this past November). Sporting tuned 50mm drivers, detachable audio cables and removable microphone which can switch sides at will, Func brings their focus on functionality to the gaming headset category with their new headset, model FUNC-HS-260-1ST. Benchmark Reviews has a sample on hand, and in this review I’ll do my best to explain my experience with the Func HS-260 gaming headset."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Curious where all of those AMD R9 graphics cards are going?

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 29, 2014 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: R9 290X, r9 290, r9 270, mining, litecoin, dogecoin, amd

I know we have posted about this a few times on PC Perspective and have discussed it on the PC Perspective Podcast as well, but if you are curious as to why the prices of AMD's latest generation of R9 graphics cards have skyrocketed, look no further than this enterprising consumer and his/her Dogecoin mining rig.  

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What you are looking at are six MSI Gaming series R9 270 cards running through the aid of PCI Express to USB 3.0 riser cards.  

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You can see the rest of the photos here and if you want to see more of this kind of abuse of graphics cards and you can also check out the Litecoin Mining subreddit where this was sourced.

Source: Imgur

Skywind is coming ... still

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2014 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: gaming, morrowind, skyrim, mod, skywind

The long awaited mod is still in development, recreating Morrowind with the improved Skyrim engine.  The alpha is currently available to those who own a copy of both games, Skyrim for the engine and Morrowind for the actual game content.  There is a lot of work to be done uniting the games, skill trees are different as well as the differences in the armour system.  With a complete redo of every texture as well as the incorporation of all of Morrowind's content this is a major project but it seems Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN has good reason to believe this mod will continue being developed as there is quite a bit of action on their forums as well as the preview video they just posted.

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"I'm so used to these modern conversions of old games stalling mid-development, that I immediately approach them with skepticism. There’s now enough here that I’m starting to open up my hope glands and spurt optimism juice all over my clothes. It’s kind of a problem."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

AMD's first Syst-ARM on a Chip Opteron will be here soon

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2014 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: SoC, seattle, opteron, arm, amd, A1100

The Opteron A1100 will be the name born by AMD's first SoC, which we knew previously as Seattle and is the first chip which will contain ARM Cortex A57 architecture working in tandem with AMDs.  It will be a full 64bit chip and will sport up to 4MB of shared L2 cache and 8MB of shared L3 cache and it will support of to four DIMMs of either DDR3 or DDR4 in dual channel with ECC.  It will boot using UEFI into a Linux environment based on Fedora and will be optimized to handle web front ends and data centre tasks.  As far as connectivity it will have 8 lanes of PCIe 3.0 and 8 SATA 3 ports. You can follow links from The Register to see the AMD Press Release.

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"CHIP DESIGNER AMD is preparing to sample its 64-bit ARM based server processors codenamed Seattle, which will be the company's first stab at a system on chip (SoC) design for data centre products."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Register

These Aren't the Drivers You're Looking For. AMD 13.35 Leak.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 28, 2014 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: Mantle, BF4, amd

A number of sites have reported on Toshiba's leak of the Catalyst 13.35 BETA driver. Mantle and TrueAudio support highlight its rumored changelog. Apparently Ryan picked it up, checked it out, and found that it does not have the necessary DLLs included. I do not think he has actual Mantle software to test against, and I am not sure how he knew what libraries Mantle requires, but this package apparently does not include them. Perhaps it was an incomplete build?

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Sorry folks, unlike the above image, these are not the drivers you are looking for.

The real package should be coming soon, however. Recent stories which reference EA tech support (at this point we should all know better) claim that the Mantle update for Battlefield 4 will be delayed until February. Fans reached out to AMD's Robert Hallock who responded that it was, "Categorically not true". It sounds like AMD is planning on releasing at least their end of the patch before Friday ends.

This is looking promising, at least. Something is being done behind the scenes.

GIGABYTE BRIX Has AMD Discrete Graphics (R9 M275X)

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 28, 2014 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte brix, gigabyte, amd

If you feel a little déjà vu while reading this, it is because this system is identical to the MAINGEAR SPARK. Both devices are powered by an AMD A8-5557M APU backed with an AMD Radeon R9 M275X mobile discrete GPU. They even use the same case with the same color scheme. The only difference that I could find is the MAINGEAR logo on the front versus the GIGABYTE logo on the top. I think we could safely say that both devices are made at the same place. I expect that GIGABYTE was the OEM for MAINGEAR's Steam Machine.

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Check out Tim's post about the SPARK.

Check out GIGABYTE's product page for the BRIX Gaming.

When Tim published his post about the SPARK for CES, back on January 6th, little was known about the R9 M275X (beyond its 2GB of GDDR5). That is still the case. AMD has not said anything further about the mobile GPU. The press release from GIGABYTE claims that it will support DirectX 11.1 (which implies it will not support DirectX 11.2) and OpenGL 4.1 (which implies a lack of support for OpenGL 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4). GIGABYTE also claims that it will support "the latest OpenCL 1.1 standard" (which implies lack of support for OpenCL 1.2).

I seriously doubt that this is true.

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I cannot see AMD regressing that heavily on API compatibility. OpenGL 4.2 has been supported since the HD 5000 (desktop) and HD 6000M (laptop) series. OpenCL 1.2 has been supported since the HD 5000 (desktop) and HD 7000M (laptop) line. One of the main features of OpenCL 1.2 is the ability share resources with DirectX 11 (OpenCL 1.1 shares with DirectX 10). In fact, I cannot find a single chip that AMD produced which supports OpenGL 4.1 and OpenCL 1.1 and fails to support OpenGL 4.2 and OpenCL 1.2.

I would not trust GIGABYTE's press release when it comes to the R9 M275X.

Still nothing on pricing and availability for the GIGABYTE BRIX Gaming. Its product code will be the "GB-BXA8G-8890", which totally rolls off the tongue, so we have that going for us. It is a very interesting device. I wonder if we will see it, and other BRIX entries, find their way into the catalogs of other system builders.

Source: GIGABYTE

In Win's fancy new glass and aluminium case

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 28, 2014 - 04:10 PM |
Tagged: in win, 904 Premium

Most of the reviews below the fold are focusing on mATX cases but not In Win, they are large and proud of their new 904 Premium enclosure.  Standing 28"H x 14"L x 27.5"W and made of rolled aluminium with a tempered glass side panel this case is not one to hide under a desk.  From hotswappable bays to magnetic filters for the fans this is a very high end case and can handle watercooling setups for the serious enthusiast.  [H]ard|OCP loved everything about this case but warn you it does come at a premium, the MSRP is $280.

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

More fuel for the rumours that Intel is abandoning smartphones

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: Intel, smartphones, edison

As part of their keynote address at CES 2014 Intel introduced Edison, a dual core x86 machine the size of an SD card.  This chip will be used not for powering smartphones but for wearable technology as well as for the so called 'Internet of Things'.   As it is WiFi enabled it can be accessed wirelessly to allow fridges to order food or as in the provided example, start a baby bottle warming before you arrive with your hungry child.  With this new focus and the poor performance of Intel's smartphones overseas the rumours that DigiTimes are reporting on seem to be probable.  Their deal with Lenovo to provide phones has ended and while they do have a current relationship with Asustek, that could end as soon as 2015.  The chances of North Americans getting hold of a phone with Intel Inside seem to be diminishing.

intel-edison.jpg

"A rumor circulating in the upstream supply chain in Taiwan has Intel reportedly questioning whether it should quit the smartphone market in 2015 if it continues to see weak performance in its handset business in 2014, according to sources from the upstream supply chain, though Intel has not yet commented on the rumor."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Shuttle updates their Barebone system for Haswell

Subject: Systems | January 27, 2014 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: shuttle, XPC Barebone, SZ87R6

Shuttle has updated their XPC Barebone system with Haswell parts.  At 332x261x198mm (13x10.2x7.8") it is not the smallest chassis on the market but is small enough to fit in most spaces and with a style that would not look out of place among stereo components.  It ships with a Z87 motherboard and a 500W PSU as well as a custom CPU cooler but you get to pick and choose which components you will be putting in this machine, it is a Barebone system after all.  MadShrimps put a full system together using this as the base and were impressed by the cooling performance and overall look of the system.

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"Shuttle has refreshed its latest XPC Barebone with a new configuration featuring the Z87 chipset, for allowing installation of the Intel Haswell processors and also features plenty of connectivity options. Thanks to the 500W power supply, we should not have a lot of issues when choosing a high performance video card, two 3.5’’ drives and a CPU with a rated TDP up to 95W."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

 

Source: MadShrimps

Develop for Debian; get free games

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2014 - 02:01 PM |
Tagged: linux, debian, valve, free

Valve has an obvious favourite flavour of Linux as revealed by the free games they will be showering Debian developers with.  Any and all Valve published games, past or future, will be made available to developers for free.  This makes sense as SteamOS is branched from Debian 7.1 "Wheezy", making it very worth Valve's time and money to make friends with developers for Debian.  Maybe it is time to update your coding skills and become a developer; The Register didn't specify that Half Life 3 will be out first on Linux but do you really want to run that risk?

valve-linux.jpg

"Games vendor Valve has offered a surprise present to the Debian Linux community, in the form of subscriptions that give Debian project members free, unlimited access to all Valve game titles – past, present, and future – forever."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register