"We made a 7nm process chip and you can't have one!" - IBM

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2015 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, IBM, GLOBALFOUNDRIES

The heavy hitting partnership of IBM, Samsung and GLOBALFOUNDRIES have designed and created the first chip built on a 7nm process using Silicon Germanium channel transistors and EUV lithography.  Even more impressive is their claim of 50% area scaling improvements ovver 10nm, a very large step in such small processes.  IBM told PC World that they will be able to fit 20 billion transistors on a 7nm chip which is a tenfold increase over Braswell as an example of current technology.  The Inquirer reports that this project also cements the deal between GLOFO and IBM; GLOFO will be the exclusive provider of chips for IBM for the next decade.

IBM.jpg

"IBM'S RESEARCH TEAM has manufactured functional test chips using a 7nm production process, making it the first in the industry to produce chips with working transistors of this size."

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Source: The Inquirer

AMD Releases New WHQL Catalyst 15.7 Drivers

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 8, 2015 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: Win 10, whql, drivers, catalyst, amd, 15.7, 15.20

Sadly, it is not every month that we see a new AMD WHQL driver release.  Several years back AMD made the promise that they would release WHQL drivers on a monthly basis, and for quite a while they kept to that promise.  Engineering cuts, new architectures, and more challenges than ever with new technologies have essentially ended the monthly model.  AMD does their best by putting out beta drivers when major titles are released, but it has been quite some time since we last saw a full WHQL.

catatlyst-software-omega-eye-focus.png

Today we finally see the release of the very latest branch of the Catalyst drivers.  Last month we saw the 15.15 drivers that were released with the AMD FuryX.  We also had a fair share of beta drivers to keep users updated on the latest game profiles.  The version that has been released today is based on the 15.20 code path and is officially known as Catalyst 15.7.

There are a lot of new features and support in this driver, which makes it a pretty big deal.  I am guessing that it seems like such a big deal because major updates have been few and far between.  This is AMD's first driver to support the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

The next set of features is very exciting for anyone who has any GCN based card, no matter the age.  Virtual Super Resolution is enabled for all GCN 1.0 cards and above.  The same goes for Frame Rate Target Control.  AMD has included new CrossFire Profile Enhancements for many of the latest games and top sellers.  The only new feature that does not support all GCN cards is that of AMD FreeSync with CrossFire support.  As readers may remember, FreeSync did not previously work in a CrossFire solution.  FreeSync itself is relegated to the newer members of the GCN family.  The only other potential disappointment (and not new news at all) is still the lack of CrossFire support (much less FreeSync with CrossFire support) in DX9 titles.

AMD promises performance improvements as compared to the previous Omega drivers released last year.  This is fairly typical, but people are already reporting some better performance and CPU usage in WinX previews based on the latest build.  It is great to see AMD releasing a new set of drivers, but just like any addict... we can't wait for our next hit and what new features and performance they may bring.

You can find the drivers here.

Source: AMD

Great deal on the AOC U2870VQE 28" 4K LED Monitor

Subject: Displays | July 8, 2015 - 04:22 PM |
Tagged: U2870VQE, AOC, 4k, 28

If you live somewhere you can visit or order from a Microcenter and consider a great value enough reason to use a TN based display then check out this deal on an AOC U2870VQE 28" 4K LED display.  Currently only $349+taxes you can get a 4k display for your computer or to stream to from your mobile device.  Again, at this price you cannot expect either adaptive refresh rate technology but for roughly the same price to pick up an IPS based FreeSync or G_SYNC monitor of comparable size you can grab three of these displays.  Connectivity includes VGA, DP, Mini-DP and HDMI (MHL), the latter of which is compatible with mobile devices.

U2870VQE.jpg

The display is sold as a 10-bit panel, in fact it is an 8bit panel which uses Frame-Rate-Control to up the number of colours to 1.07 billion but frankly unless you are using this for professional purposes you are not going to notice any difference; except the price of course.  You can see the full news release below the fold, or just click on that link to order one for as you might expect, the supplies at this price are limited.  Otherwise you can keep saving your pennies for a 4k IPS display with true 10bit colour and one of the two adaptive refresh rate technologies.

U2870VQE.PNG

Click to read the full release.

Source: AOC

If you like turn based hex map combat keep an eye on Chaos Reborn

Subject: General Tech | July 8, 2015 - 02:53 PM |
Tagged: linux, gaming, early access, chaos reborn

Julian Gollop was involved in the original X-COM and recently completed a successful Kickstarter for Chaos Reborn, a single and multiplayer turn-based games of wizards warring for supremacy.  It is now available for both Windows and Linux on Steam Early access and you can visit the official site of you are interested in picking up extras on top of the game itself.  One of the more interesting features is the in game gold, which is earned while playing single player but is spent on upgrades for multiplayer and is not available for purchase outside of the game.  There will be no pay to win, instead it is a play to win model that those familiar with multiplayer FPS games such as Battlefield are familiar with.  If that style of game holds any attraction to you and you loved X-COM then head to Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN for a look.

chaos1.jpg

"What the singleplayer ‘Realms’ mode does, at least in this earliest, unfinished incarnation, is both encourage you to experiment with different gear in order to gain an edge over tougher or specialised enemy, and give you a way to get hold of new gear without having to repeatedly brave (or beat) multiplayer opponents."

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That's not a USB charger, this is a USB charger!

Subject: General Tech | July 8, 2015 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: usb, DIY

Bask in the glory that is this hacked together 33 port USB charger, created in the Netherlands as a workaround to connet the charges to the three rounded prongs used in Schuko sockets common in Europe.  This would of course work with NEMA plugs, just line the welding rods up appropriately and connect your USB chargers up to it.  Keep in mind that they use 220-240V whereas we use 110-120V so your total workable amount of plugs will vary.  If you are considering building your own version of this massive USB charger, you might want to seriously consider installing some sort of circuit breaker in addition to the non-conductive cowling unless you are a fan of dead devices and house fires.  Check Hack a Day for other projects from this event and others around the world.

festivalcharger_01.png

"The Hack42 hackerspace in Arnhem, The Netherlands had collected a large number of TP-Link 5V USB chargers – but all of them had the North American NEMA plug (flat, 2 pin) which wouldn’t fit the Schuko sockets prevalent in The Netherlands. [Simon “MacSimski” Claessen] decided to whip out his giant soldering iron and use it to solder two long pieces of welding filler metal rods to 33 of the chargers, effectively wiring them up in parallel."

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Source: Hack a Day

OnePlus 2 Has Been Rolling Out Announcements Slowly

Subject: Mobile | July 7, 2015 - 07:16 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, snapdragon 810, opengl es 3.1, oneplus 2, oneplus

OnePlus is a Chinese smartphone company founded by Pete Lau, formerly the Vice President at Oppo. Their first phone was basically invite-only for most of its lifespan, but that was justified for a flagship-quality phone at $299 USD. The OnePlus One was first available in April 2014. Their follow-up is the OnePlus 2, go figure, which will be formally announced on July 27th.

oneplus-2015-two-specs.png

Several announcements lead up to that date, though. One day, OnePlus stated that the announcement will be done in VR, and they are selling Google Cardboard for “free” outside of the $5 shipping fee. Another day, they announced that the price will be “under $450 USD”. Today, they announced that the OnePlus Two will have 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, matching the capacity of the ASUS ZenPhone 2. It will also contain the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, which should be able to support OpenGL ES 3.1 and Vulkan (whenever that arrives).

It makes you wonder what's left for July 27th, besides the release date. My guess is that day.

$110 Intel Compute Stick With Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Coming Soon

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2015 - 04:21 PM |
Tagged: Z3735F, ubuntu 14.04, SFF, linux, Intel, compute stick

Intel is giving Linux some love with a new Compute Stick equipped with Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS coming out this week for $110. This new model comes with less RAM and intrernal storage along with a $40 price cut versus the previous Compute Stick (which comes with Windows 8.1 With Bing). 

On the outside, the new Linux-equipped Compute Stick (STCK1A8LFC) is identical to the existing SKU (read our review here) with its flash drive form factor, Intel logo, and small vents along the top and sides. Ports on the Intel STCK1A8LFC include one HDMI, one Micro USB port for power, one Micro SD card slot for storage, and a single full size USB 2.0 port for peripherals.

Intel Compute Stick STCK1A8LFC With Ubuntu 14.png

The Compute Stick is powered by an Intel Z3735F processor that is actively cooled by a tiny fan. This chip is a 22nm Bay Trail part with four CPU cores and Intel HD Graphics. The CPU has a base clock of 1.33 GHz and a maximum turbo clockspeed of 1.83 GHz. This SoC is paired with 1GB of DDR3L memory and 8GB of internal flash eMMC storage. There is also an 802.11b/g/n wireless radio with Bluetooth. The table below compares these specifications to the alternative Compute Stick with Windows.

  Compute Stick (Ubuntu) Compute Stick (Windows)
CPU Z3735F Z3735F
RAM 1 GB 2 GB
Storage 8 GB 32 GB
Price $110 $150
Model # STCK1A8LFC STCK1A32WFC

The STCK1A8LFC with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS will be available later this week from all the usual online retailers with an MSRP of $110.

It would have been nice to keep the 2GB of RAM even if Intel could not cut the price as much. There is always Micro SD for more stoage, but the 1GB of RAM is going to be somewhat limiting even for a Linux OS which typically can be made to run much leaner than Windows. It is nice to see Linux getting a design win and being bundled with the portable PC. If you need more RAM from your Compute Stick, you will need to buy the more expensive Windows version – at $150 – and install Linux yourself, however.

Source: Intel

Intel's clock is not just skipping a beat, it is definitely getting slower

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2015 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: kaby lake, Skylake, Cannonlake, Intel, delay

Last week Scott shared all that we can find out about Kaby Lake, Intel's asynchronous Tock between Skylake and Cannonlake.  Don't hold your breath for their release, nor for Cannonlake if DigiTimes sources are accurate.  If true, consumers will not see Kaby Lake for at least a year with enterprise waiting even longer which will push back the scheduled release of notebooks and PCs using the processors likely not showing up for a month or so afterwards.  Skylake should be finally appearing in time for Fall and in theory products using it should be available at that time as Skylake's delay was the initial cause of these delays.  As for Cannonlake; it is going to be a while.

intel-tick-tock.png

"Following the delay of Skylake processors, Intel's next-generation Kaby Lake processors, which were originally scheduled for early 2016, reportedly will be pushed back until September 2016 for the consumer version and January 2017 for the enterprise one."

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Source: DigiTimes

Report: AMD Radeon Fury Specs and Photos Leaked

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 7, 2015 - 11:59 AM |
Tagged: Radeon Fury, radeon, HBM1, amd

As reported by VideoCardz.com the upcoming Radeon Fury card specs have been leaked (and confirmed, according to the report), and the air-cooled card is said to have 8 fewer compute units enabled and a slightly slower core clock.

fury_screen_1.PNG

The report pictures a pair of Sapphire cards, both using the Tri-X triple-fan air cooler. The first is a reference-clocked version which will be 1000 MHz (50 Hz slower than the Fury X), and an overclocked version at 1040 MHz. And what of the rest of the specs? VideoCardz has created this table:

fury_screen.PNG

The total number of compute units is 56 (8 fewer than the Fury X), which at 64 stream cores per unit results in 3584 for the non-X GPU. TMU count drops to 224, and HBM1 memory speed is unchanged at 1000 MHz effective. VideoCardz is listing the ROP count at an unchanged 64, but this (along with the rest of the report, of course) has not been officially announced.

fury_01.PNG

The board will apparently be identical to the reference Fury X

Retail price on this card had been announced by AMD as $549, and with the modest reduction in specs (and hopefully some overclocking headroom) this could be an attractive option to compete with the GTX 980, though it will probably need to beat the 980's performance or at least match its $500 price to be relevant in the current market. With these specs it looks like it will only be slightly behind the Fury X so pricing shouldn't be much of an issue for AMD just yet.

AMD Projects Decreased Revenue by 8% for Q2 2015

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | July 7, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: earnings, amd

The projections for AMD's second fiscal quarter had revenue somewhere between flat and down 6%. The actual estimate, as of July 6th, is actually below the entire range. They expect that revenue is down 8% from the previous quarter, rather than the aforementioned 0 to 6%. This is attributed to weaker APU sales in OEM devices, but they also claim that channel sales are in line with projections.

amd-new2.png

This is disappointing news for fans of AMD, of course. The next two quarters will be more telling though. Q3 will count two of the launch months for Windows 10, which will likely include a bunch of new and interesting devices and aligns well with back to school season. We then get one more chance at a pleasant surprise in the fourth quarter and its holiday season, too. My intuition is that it won't be too much better than however Q3 ends up.

One extra note: AMD has also announced a “one-time charge” of $33 million USD related to a change in product roadmap. Rather than releasing designs at 20nm, they have scrapped those plans and will architect them for “the leading-edge FinFET node”. This might be a small expense compared to how much smaller the process technology will become. Intel is at 14nm and will likely be there for some time. Now AMD doesn't need to wait around at 20nm in the same duration.

Source: AMD

Final Fantasy XIV for Mac Sales Pulled Temporarily. PC's Fine.

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: square enix, pc gaming, mac os x, final fantasy xiv, final fantasy

When Final Fantasy 14 launched on the PC, it was plagued with bugs and gameplay problems. It led to Square basically remaking the game and relaunching it as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. The relaunch was highly successful, as Square learned from their inexperience with the PC. They recently decided to expand to the Mac alongside the release of their new expansion pack, Heavensward, for the PC. The published system requirements for the Mac version were later retracted by Square... and you can see where this is going.

They have since temporarily pulled game sales and offered full refunds. The game will go back on sale when they update “information on the product, system requirements, and screen resolution”.

square-2015-ff14-mac-cards.jpg

The Mac will get the MMO, but Noctis time. Ignis wasn't in the cards.

I guess you could say they'll get on it Prompto? Yes I know I'm punning the wrong title...

In the forum post, Square lists a few reasons for the error. First, a handful of customers were accidentally provided a pre-release build ahead of the official launch, due to a “miscommunication with retailers”. As mentioned though, the official release had performance issues and Square blames that on OpenGL and how it tied into their project. They claim that Final Fantasy 14 developed for Mac OSX's implementation of OpenGL would perform 30% worse than Microsoft's DirectX counterpart. They quickly clarify that OpenGL is not 30% slower than DirectX, but that factor applies to OpenGL on Mac, DirectX on Windows, and specifically for Final Fantasy 14.

An interesting note is that Square claims to have outlined several system requirement candidates, and was waiting on QA and final engineering to “select the correct one”. Yikes. Talking about software coming in hot, they did not even know their target hardware until into the shipping process, if you take their word at face value.

Square intends to ship a functional Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn to OSX at some point.

Source: Square Enix

Is your game library getting huge? Maybe a 2TB SSD is the answer

Subject: Storage | July 6, 2015 - 03:28 PM |
Tagged: ssd, Samsung, 850 PRO, 850 EVO, 2TB

Samsung is extending their 850 EVO and Pro lineups to include 2TB versions of the popular SSDs thanks to the use of 3D-VNAND; three bit memory on the EVO and two bit on the Pro.  They are rated at the same speeds as their 500GB and above counterparts and The SSD Review had a chance to test that. Interestingly they did indeed find performance differences between the 1TB and 2TB model of the same design, which you can check out in the full review.  Their results were not quite the same as Al's review which was just posted, you should compare the two reviews as well as the systems used for theories on why that is.  You can expect to pay ~$1000 for the 850 Pro 2TB and ~$800 for the 850 EVO 2TB.

Samsung-Pro-and-EVO-2TB-SSD-Exterior-Cases.png

"If you look back over the past several years, there have always been three constants that needed to be addressed in order for SSDs to become a viable consumer solution to storage; value, reliability and capacity. One of our first SSD reviews was on an MTron 32GB SSD with a whopping price tag of more than $1500…and they sold!"

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Overclocking the R9 390X

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 6, 2015 - 01:58 PM |
Tagged: amd, r9 390x, overclocking

Now that [H]ard|OCP has had more time to spend with the new R9 390X they have managed to find the overclocks that they are most comfortable running on the card they used to test.  They used MSI Afterburner 4.1.1 and first overclocked the card without changing voltages at all, which netted them 1150MHz core and 6.6GHz effective on the RAM.  From there they started to raise to Core Voltage, eventually settling on +50 as settings higher than that resulted in lower maximum observed voltages due to the TDP being reached and the card throttling back.  With that voltage setting they could get the card to run at 1180MHz, with the memory speed remaining at 6.6GHz as it is not effected by the core voltage settings, with the fan speed set 80% they saw a consistent 67C GPU temperature.  How much impact did that have on performance and could it push the card's performance beyond an overclocked GTX 980?  Read the full review to find out in detail.

msi-r9-390x.jpg

"We take the new MSI Radeon R9 390X GAMING 8G video card and overclock it to it fullest and compare it with an overclocked GeForce GTX 980 at 1440p and 4K in today's latest games. Find out how much overclocking the R9 390X improves performance, and which video card is best performing. Can R9 390X overclock better than R9 290X?"

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Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Faster than fast ring; Windows 10 RTM spotted?

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2015 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, rtm, build 10176

Windows Insider members are currently on 10162, the third release in four days.  This new release offers you a chance to download an ISO to test a completely fresh install although you can install it as an in place update as well.  The new version also allows you to buy WiFi from the Microsoft Store as well, you may start to see WiFi networks in the USA and perhaps North America wide which you will be able to connect to after buying time and perhaps data from the Microsoft Store. 

We've also heard rumours via Slashdot that build 10176 will be the RTM version which may be sent out as soon as Thursday.  This implies that there will not be many changes to the new OS between now and the release date, as providing differing versions to the manufacturers and current customers would not be a good business decision.  As well, if purchasers of new hardware will form a very negative opinion if they have to go through a long series of updates simply to be able to use their new machine.  Ready or not, Windows 10 is just about ready to go.

windows_10_rtm_signoff-600x450.jpg

"Mark Wilson reports that the first RTM candidate for Windows 10 has been spotted: build 10176. Leaks and sources have suggested the company intends to finalize the operating system later this week, perhaps as early as July 9th. This would give Microsoft almost three weeks to distribute it to retailers and devicemakers before the July 29th launch date."

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Source: Slashdot

Almost NoScript Exploits Whitelist Vulnerabilities

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: noscript, javascript, firefox

I do not really believe in disabling JavaScript, although the ability to control or halt execution would be nice, but you can use an extension to remove it entirely if you want. I say this because the upcoming story talks about vulnerabilities in the NoScript extension, which locks down JavaScript and other, non-static content. By “vulnerabilities”, we mean the ability to execute JavaScript, which every major browser vendor defaults on because they consider it safe for their users on its own.

NoScript.png

This is like a five-year-old figuring out how to unlock a fireworks case full of paper crackers.

Regardless, there are two vulnerabilities, both of which have already been updated. Both of them take advantage of the whitelist functionality to ignore malicious code. By default, NoScript trusts a handful of domains, because blocking every script ever would break too much of the internet.

The first problem is that the whitelist has a little cruft, some of which including domain names that are useless, and even some that have expired into the public domain for sale. To prove a point, Matthew Bryant purchased zendcdn.net and used it to serve his own JavaScript. The second problem is similar, but slightly different. Rather than finding a domain that expired, it found some whitelist entries, such as googleapis.com, that had sub-domains, storage.googleapis.com, which is a service that accepts untrusted user scripts (it is part of Google's Cloud Platform).

Again, even though JavaScript is about as secure as you can get in an executable language, you should be allowed to control what executes on your machine. As stated, NoScript has already addressed these issues in a recent update.

We're Running Out of IPv4... Still...

Subject: Networking | July 5, 2015 - 07:17 PM |
Tagged: ipv6, ipv4, arin

While the IP system allows for about 4.3 billion addresses, not all of those are available to actual devices. There are some that are designed for private network use, so a router can assign them without worrying that it is blocking traffic to some external resource. Another big drain was wasted addresses, where organizations would purchase a big chunk of the public address space and use a tiny fraction of it. Beyond that, we just have a lot of devices, from cell phones, to home networks, to the servers they contact. Microsoft is trying to reach a billion devices with Windows 10, and the vast majority of them are expected to be online.

9-ethernet2.png

I'm mentioning it now because the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) announced that they will be unable to fulfill some requests for IPv4 blocks. All they have left at the moment are /23 and /24 chunks, which are bundles of 512 and 256 public addresses. As of the time of publishing, 46 chunks of 512 and 431 chunks of 256 are available, which is 133,888 total public numbers.

Of course, it's not as simple as saying “let's move to IPv6 then”. There will be some pain when the switch happens. For instance, Unreal Engine 4 has only been IPv6-compliant for a year, with the launch of Unreal Engine 4.2 in June 2014. This poses a significant problem for older games that rely upon IPv4 addresses for multiplayer, and that doesn't even consider other online software.

Source: Team ARIN

My Take on July 29th Reservations

Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2015 - 06:00 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

A couple of days ago, Paul Thurrott wrote an editorial about Microsoft's Windows 10 reservation system. His point was that, while Microsoft claimed users of Windows 7 or 8.1 could upgrade on July 29th, they might not get it until later. Upgrades will start rolling out on the 29th of July, but the actual queue is expected to take several days. According to Microsoft's blog post, which shows blatant disrespect for the Oxford Comma, “Each day of the roll-out, we will listen, learn and update the experience for all Windows 10 users.”

windowsupdate.png

Paul linked this backtrack to an episode of Seinfeld, one where Jerry reserves a rental car; his reservation was held, but a car was not. He stated that the availability date was clearly stated as July 29th, and not everyone will get it then. I can see his point, and I agree with it. Microsoft really should provide what they claim on the date that they claim it.

On the other hand, it is possible that Microsoft saw the whole reservation system as reserving your spot in line. That is, it might be that upgrade requests will be processed in reservation order, at least mostly, when devices are available. I imagine a “take a number” system where slots will be assigned for anyone below a threshold that increases as upgrades are fulfilled. Again, this is hypothetical, but I cannot really see any other reason for a reservation system in the first place, apart from pure marketing.

Either way, some may need to wait until after July 29th to experience Windows 10, and Microsoft botched their announcement.

Source: Thurrott.com

Microsoft Releases Several Windows 10 Builds This Week

Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2015 - 04:20 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Early this week, Microsoft released a pair of new builds into the Windows Insider Fast Ring. Back to back, Build 10158 was released on Monday and 10159 followed it on Tuesday. These two updates fixed several hundred bugs, officially branded Project Spartan as Microsoft Edge, introduced the new default wallpaper to the desktop and lock screen, and tweaked a few more interface elements since 10130. After an uneventful Wednesday, Build 10162 arrived on Thursday with ISOs released later that evening, which was great for me because I couldn't get the build through Windows Update. Sad face.

windows-10.png

I was a Slow Ring user for the last few releases, and I honestly intend to continue with that pace going forward. This is my production machine, but switching to Fast was tempting in hopes that the new build would fix the few problems that I had. Namely, StarCraft II was flickering terribly since 10074 when played in windowed mode. Thankfully, StarCraft II can reliably alt+tab without crashing, but it excludes playing a slow-paced Arcade mod in another monitor while doing something else. Mount & Blade: Warband had similar issues, especially when the monitor and game are set to 120 Hz. It seems to be just DirectX 9 titles, too. Either way, they are still unfixed for me. Some of our viewers may want to know my experience.

microsoft-2015-windows-10-10159-upgrade.png

The first thing that I noticed was a seemingly new upgrade screen between asking to reboot and actually rebooting. This was something that I only remember experiencing with Windows Updates, not whole new Windows builds. Perhaps this was a big one for some reason? It did try to install an anti-malware definition alongside it, so maybe it was just a weird interaction between Windows Update and the Windows 10 in-place build upgrade. Maybe it's something new though.

microsoft-2015-windows-10-10159-lock.jpg

The lock screen is the next obvious change. It contains the new Windows branding that was announced a couple of weeks ago. The slanted window was made out of glass, fog, and projected light. Even though it fits the previous branding, Microsoft made a big deal out of it.

The major change occurs once logged in. Microsoft Edge is no longer referred to as “Project Spartan”, and it is basically a full-fledged web browser now. Its performance is great, and it is nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to browser compatibility. I do feel that the interface is kind-of ugly, though. Granted, the soft fonts are probably easier to scale between high and low DPI monitors, but I would prefer something more crisp. Likewise, the big, featureless, rectangular UI elements are likely a compromise for touch displays, but I've always thought they were placeholder during development builds. Then again, I find basically every browser to be bland, so there's that.

microsoft-2015-windows-10-10162-notify.jpg

Other UI elements were altered as well. For instance, while I don't pay too much attention to elements in the notification tray, I am pretty sure that Quiet Hours and the OneNote shortcut are new. While “Note” is obvious, it opens OneNote, Quiet Hours apparently gives a toggle to disable notifications. This is not a new feature, dating back to Windows 8 and Windows Phone apparently, but it has a new home in the notification area.

We're getting close to the July 29th “release” date and might see several builds before then, too. Builds are mostly merging work into a stable core at this point. According to BuildFeed, fbl_impressive, the branch of Windows 10 that is given to Windows Insiders, is up to build 10164, which was created on July 1st. We're not going to see every build of course, some are destined to partners for instance, but the distance between QA-approved builds is shrinking. Unless something is broken that you hope Microsoft will fix or you can afford the time to upgrade, it might be useful to switch to slow until launch. You could always flip to Fast if something cool comes up, although there is sometimes a lag before Windows Update changes your branch if you do that.

Source: Microsoft

Asus Launches New Mini ITX Motherboards With Braswell-Based Intel Celeron Processors

Subject: Motherboards | July 4, 2015 - 10:52 PM |
Tagged: SFF, mini ITX, fanless, Braswell, Airmont, asus

Asus has introduced two new small form factor motherboards featuring soldered Intel “Braswell”-based Celeron processors. The Asus N3150I-C and N3050I-C are Mini ITX form factor boards with decent connectivity and lower power draw with the processor options topping out at 6 watts.

Asus Braswell-Based Celeron Mini ITX Motherboards N3150i-c and N3050i-c.jpg

The two SFF motherboards are essentially the same, with the main difference being the bundled processor (see below). The boards have 24+4 pin ATX power inputs, two full-size DDR3 memory slots, two SATA 6 Gbps ports, a single PCI-E 2.0 x4 slot (open ended), and one mini PCI-E connector. The Intel processors on both boards are passively cooled by a large rectangular gold-colored aluminum heatsink.

The rear of the board includes the following I/O ports.

  • 2 x PS/2
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x VGA
  • 1 x RS232
  • 3 x Audio outputs

The N3150I-C board uses an Intel Celeron N3150 while the N3050I-C uses an Intel Celeron N3050. Both chips are 14nm and based on the newer Airmont architecture. These “Braswell” chips have incremental improvements in CPU performance and more significant graphics performance boosts with the inclusion of up to 16 execution units.

Specifically, the N3150 is a quad core chip clocked at 1.6 GHz base to 2.08 GHz burst with Intel HD Graphics (12 EUs up to 640 MHz) and a 6W TDP. On the other hand, the Celeron N3050 is a dual core chip – also with a 6W TDP – clocked at 1.6 GHz base and 2.16 GHz burst paired with Intel HD Graphics (12 EUs) clocked at up to 600 MHz.

These new boards could be used as the base for a NAS box, home media server, or a router and wireless AP by using those PCI-E and mPCI-E slots. Pricing and availability have not yet been announced, however.

Source: Asus

Zotac's GTX 980Ti AMP! Extreme Is A Factory Overclocked Monster

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 4, 2015 - 02:39 PM |
Tagged: zotac, maxwell, gtx 980ti, factory overclocked

Zotac recently unleashed a monstrous new GTX 980Ti AMP! Extreme graphics card featuring a giant triple slot cooler and a very respectable factory overclock.

Specifically, the Zotac ZT-90505-10P card is a custom card with a factory overclocked NVIDIA GTX 980Ti GPU and GDDR5 memory. The card is a triple slot design that uses a dual fin stack IceStorm heatsink with three 90mm temperature controlled EKO fans. The cooler wraps the fans and HSF in a shroud and also uses a backplate on the bottom of the card. The card is powered by two 8-pin PCI-E power connectors and display outputs include three DisplayPort, one HDMI, and one DL-DVI.

Zotac ZT-90505-10P GTX 980Ti Amp Extreme Graphics Card.jpg

Zotac was able to push the Maxwell GPU with its 2,816 CUDA cores to 1,253 MHz base and 1,355 MHz boost. Further, the 6GB GDDR5 memory also has a factory overclock of 7,220 MHz. These clockspeeds are a decent bump over the reference speeds of 1,000 MHz GPU base, 1,076 MHz GPU boost, and 7,012 MHz memory.

We’ll have to wait for reviews to know for sure, but on paper this card looks to be a nice card that should run fast and cool thanks to that triple fan cooler. The ZT-90505-10P will be available shortly with an MSRP of $700 and a 2 year warranty.

Definitely not a bad price compared to other GTX 980Ti cards on the market.

Source: Zotac