Learn more about Stuxnet, the first computer virus with physical symptoms

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2014 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: stuxnet, manufacturing plant, siemens

There have always been stories floating around the net of viruses which could cause your PSU to short or release the magic smoke from your chips but until Stuxnet those have just been silicon faerie tales.  Stuxnet was first detected in 2010 in a uranium enrichment facility in Iran, a full year after the original infection took place and after Stuxnet had caused the physical failure of numerous centrifuges by altering the limits place on their cycling speed.  The virus was designed to infect Siemens S7-400 PLCs, as well as the Step 7 and WinCC software and Profibus communication used on PCs to interface with the controllers.  It was spread by USB drives as the machines were not connected directly to a network, the attackers went after companies which had maintenance, replacement and other types of contracts with the enrichment facility and who would unwittingly spread Stuxnet to the vulnerable equipment.  You can read a brief overview of the Stuxnet sage at Wired, they are promoting a book on the subject which will be released this month and should make for interesting reading for anyone interested in computer security.

ZeroDaySmall.jpg

"Stuxnet, as it came to be known, was unlike any other virus or worm that came before. Rather than simply hijacking targeted computers or stealing information from them, it escaped the digital realm to wreak physical destruction on equipment the computers controlled."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Wired

Microsoft OneDrive Is Moving from 1TB to Unlimited

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2014 - 10:13 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, onedrive, skydrive, cloud storage, subscription service, subscription

I guess if you are going to take a hit on the enthusiasts by offering a 1TB tier, then you might as well just go all the way. Microsoft has been rolling out an unlimited tier to their various subscription products, starting with Office 365 Home, Personal, and University. OneDrive for Business customers, who are currently limited to 1TB of total storage, will be granted the unlimited tier, starting with "First Release" customers in 2015. It will probably arrive to "Standard Release" customers a couple of weeks later.

microsoft-logo_onedrive2014_hero1.jpg

The 1TB tier was not around too long. It launched to several different subscriptions in late April, starting at $5 per user per month. Now, the current cheapest option is $7 per user per month, but it comes with a license of Office 365 Personal. Note that the first three tiers, Home, Personal, and University, are each non-commercial licenses. The rapid increase in capacity could mean either that the original initiative was very successful at wooing new customers, or the exact opposite of that. It is even possible that unlimited was the original intent, but they arrived there by way of a 1TB plan, either to shake up competitors, to double-up on media attention, or simply to dip a toe in. Basically, they could have done this for any reason under the sun. We have no idea.

Unlimited storage in OneDrive for Office 365 Personal, Home, and University is currently available, starting at $7 per user per month. OneDrive for Business customers will need to wait until 2015.

Source: Microsoft

Roccat Offering Ryos Tenkeyless Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard With Cherry MX Switches

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2014 - 12:59 AM |
Tagged: TKL, tenkeyless, roccat, mechanical keyboard, gaming, Cherry MX

Roccat recently launched a slick new mechanical keyboard called the Ryos TKL Pro. The "TKL" in the name stands for "tenkeyless" and signifies the lack of a number pad. The new keyboard features your choice of Cherry MX switches in a glossy black (micro dot finish) frame with raised keys and a large palm rest with thumb buttons. The keyboard further packs in two ARM Cortex processors and 2MB of flash to store up to 470 macros and drive the per-key LED backlighting. Developed and tested by professional StarCraft II gamer HyuN, the Ryos TKL Pro is a cool looking bit of hardware that is available now with a MSRP of $140.

Roccat Ryos TKL Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard.jpg

The Ryos TKL Pro measures 23.3 cm x 40.4 cm and holds 91 programmable keys. The keyboard connects via a 1.8 meter braided USB cable. It sits on five rubber feet with two being retractable risers. The mechanical keyboard supports USB report rates of 1000Hz and 1ms response times as well as N-key rollover anti-ghosting technology. The onboard memory allows users to store macros and secondary key functions when using the EasyShift+ and FN keys. The Ryos TKL Pro supports per-key illumination with special effects allowing any number of keys to be lit up while the rest remain dark. It can be configured to illuminate only the keys used in game, for instance.

Roccat has chosen Cherry MX switches for the Ryos TKL Pro like its larger Ryos MK Pro sibling. Specifically, gamers will be able to select models sporting Cherry MX blue, black, brown or red switches.

Roccat Ryos TKL Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Angled.jpg

Other features include support for Roccat R.A.D. software to display game stats and achievements and Roccat Talk to interface with other Roccat gear.

The Ryos TKL Pro incorporates most of the features of the Ryos MK Pro into a more compact design. (You mainly give up the USB/audio hub and dedicated macro keys). If you are looking to ditch your number pad (and while this keyboard looks cool, I could not live without the good ole' num pad!) it might be worth looking into for your next keyboard. It is available now for $140.

Read more about mechanical keyboards at PC Perspective.

Source: Roccat

Toshiba Launches New 4TB and 5TB 7200 RPM Desktop Hard Drives

Subject: Storage | November 1, 2014 - 08:10 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, sata 3, hdd, Hard Drive, 7200 rpm, 5TB, 4TB

This week, Toshiba introduced 4TB and 5TB hard drives to the consumer space. Coming from Toshiba's Digital Products Division, the new drives are part of the company's PH3*00U-1I72 series and are the first four and five Terabyte 3.5" consumer hard drives sporting 7200 RPM spindle speeds (though enterprise and NAS focused drives have been available prior to these new drives).

The new 4TB and 5TB HDDs are 3.5-inch desktop drives with four and five platters respectively. Toshiba is using Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR) and Tunnel Magneto-Resistive (TMR) technologies to hit 1TB per platter. The 7,200 RPM spindle speed allows Toshiba to hit an average seek time of 10.5ms, and the 128MB of cache stores frequently accessed data. The new drives are paired with a SATA 3 6Gbps interface. Toshiba has included NCQ (Native Command Queuing) support along with shock sensors and ramp on/off loading safety features.

storage-PH3500U-1I72 5TB Toshiba Hard Drivejpg.jpg

The new drives are compatible with Linux, Mac OSX 10.6, and Windows 7 or newer. Both the 4TB PH3400U-1I72 and 5TB PH3500U-1I72 come with a three year manufacturer warranty.

The 4TB drive has an MSRP of $299 while the 5TB model has an MSRP of $399. Fortunately for digital hoarders, the drives are currently selling at prices below the MSRP. The 5TB model is being priced around $320 while the 4TB model is priced between $220 and $240 at the time of writing depending on your retailer of choice.

Source: Toshiba

Corsair Shows Off Sabre RGB Gaming Mice With Optical and Laser Sensors

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2014 - 05:55 PM |
Tagged: optical, mice, laser mouse, gaming mouse, corsair

Corsair showed off new gaming mice at PAX Australia outfitted with your choice of optical or laser sensors. The new Sabre RGB mice are squarely aimed at PC gamers with a stylish automotive design aesthetic, customizable lighting, programmable buttons, and the choice of sensors. The optical model starts at $60 while the laser sensor variant has an MSRP of $70.

Corsair Gaming Sabre RGB Optical and Laser Sensor Mice.png

Corsair has packed quite a few features into gaming mouse weighing 100 grams. As the name implies, the Sabre RGB includes four LED-backlit lighting zones that can be set to one of 16.8 million colors. There are eight programmable buttons including two under the thumb on the left side of the mouse and a 1.8 meter (5.9 feet) braided USB cable. The choice of sensor and Omron switches rated at 20 million clicks are traits that competitive gamers should appreciate. The optical sensor tops out at 6400 DPI while the laser sensor can hit 8200 DPI. Corsair is bundling the mouse with CUE software which allows gamers to adjust the DPI, acceleration, smoothing, backlighting, macros, and USB reporting rate (25Hz to 1000Hz). According to Corsair Gaming Product Manager Jason Christian, the Sabre RGB was designed to be a lighter and sleeker mouse that builds upon the company's M65 and M45 series.

The Sabre Optical RGB and Sabre Laser RGB are available now for $60 and $70 respectively. More information along with a chance to win a Sabre RGB mouse, NVIDIA graphics card, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel can be found on the Corsair Gaming website.

Also read: Computex 2014: Corsair's Cherry MX RGB Keyboards Launch

HTML5 Finally Released as W3C Recommendation

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2014 - 03:56 AM |
Tagged: w3c, javascript, html5, html, ecma, css

Recently, the W3C has officially recommended the whole HTML5 standard as a specification for browser vendors and other interested parties. It is final. It is complete. Future work will now be rolled into HTML 5.1, which is currently on "Last Call" and set for W3C Recommendation in 2016. HTML 5.2 will follow that standard with a first specification working draft in 2015.

HTML5_APIs_and_related_technologies_taxonomy_and_status.svg_.png

Image Credit: Wikipedia

For a website to work, there are several specifications at play from many different sources. HTML basically defines most of the fundamental building blocks that get assembled into a website, as well as its structure. It is maintained by the W3C, which is an industry body with hundreds of members. CSS, a format to describe how elements (building blocks) are physically laid out on the page, is also maintained by the W3C. On the other hand, JavaScript controls the logic and programmability, and it is (mostly) standardized by Ecma International. Also, Khronos has been trying to get a few specifications into the Web ecosystem with WebGL and WebCL. This announcement, however, only defines HTML5.

Another body that you may hear about is the "WHATWG". WHAT, you say? Yes, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG). This group was founded by people from within Apple, Mozilla, and Opera to propose their own standard, while the W3C was concerned with XHTML. Eventually, the W3C adopted much of the WHATWG's work. They are an open group without membership fees or meetings, and they still actively concern themselves with advancing the platform.

And there is still more to do. While the most visible change involves conforming to the standards and increasing the performance of each implementation as much as possible, the standard will continue evolving. This news sets a concrete baseline, allowing the implementations to experiment within its bounds -- and they now know exactly where they are.

Source: W3C

Cooler Master Introduces Octane Keyboard And Mouse Combo

Subject: General Tech | November 1, 2014 - 12:45 AM |
Tagged: Octane, gaming mouse, gaming keyboard, cooler master

Building upon the Devastator combo, Cooler Master has unleashed a new and improved keyboard and mouse combo dubbed Octane. The Octane keyboard and mouse are aimed at PC gamers with customizable LED backlighting, anti ghosting, high DPI mouse sensors and other gaming friendly features. It is available now with a MSRP of $59.99.

Sold as a set, the Octane gaming bundle includes a USB keyboard with custom membrane keys and USB optical mouse. As is customary with gaming gear, the kit features lots of sharp edges and angles. The keyboard in particular is heavily stylized. Both devices can be independently assigned colored backlighting with seven colors to choose from (blue, red, green, purple, yellow, cyan, or white). The backighting can be further set to one of several modes including full backlight, pulse, or a breathing mode that gradually cycles through all available color options.

Cooler Master Octane Gaming Combo.jpg

The keyboard is mainly constructed of ABS plastic and uses custom membrane keyswitches. It is a full QWERTY keyboard with a number pad on the right side, a Windows button lock switch, backlight control key, and six dedicated media playback keys along the top. The space bar is a unique triangle/wedge shape (wider on the right side) that differs from a standard keyboard, however. There is a short palm rest with a Cooler Master logo sitting in the center below the space bar. Cooler Master claims that the Octane keyboard supports 19-key anti-ghosting technology along with adjustable repeat rates.

Cooler Master Octane Keyboard and Mouse Gaming Combo.jpg

The mouse included in the Octane set uses a AVAGO 3050 optical sensor that supports DPI settings from 500 to 3500. Users can adjust the DPI on the fly to one of four adjustable DPI levels. It is allegedly rated for 10 million clicks over its lifespan. Aside from the two main mouse buttons and the scroll wheel, the gaming mouse has two DPI buttons beneath the scroll wheel and two thumb buttons on the left side of the mouse.

The Octane bundle is an improvement over the Devastator series, at least on paper, though at increased cost. The hardware is shipping now, so reviews should be forthcoming from the usual suspects. The Octane mouse and keyboard bundle is available now with a 2 year warranty for $60 USD.

What, me jealous? Four weeks with SLI'd GTX 980s

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 31, 2014 - 03:45 PM |
Tagged: sli, nvidia, GTX 980

Just in case you need a reason to be insanely jealous of someone, [H]ard|OCP has just published an article covering what it is like to be living with two GTX 980's in SLI.  The cards are driving three Dell U2410 24" 1920x1200 displays for a relatively odd resolution of 3600x1920 but apart from an issue with the GeForce Experience software suite the cards have no trouble displaying to all three monitors.  In their testing of Borderlands games they definitely noticed when PhysX was turned on, though like others [H] wishes that PhysX would abandon its proprietary roots.  When compared to the Radeon R9 290X CrossFire system the performance is very similar but when you look at heat, power and noise produced the 980's are the clear winner.  Keep in mind a good 290X is just over $300 while the least expensive GTX 980 will run you over $550.

1414677298HAmmSaoZGr_1_1.jpg

"What do you get when you take two NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 video cards, configure those for SLI, and set those at your feet for four weeks? We give our thoughts and opinions about actually using these GPUs in our own system for four weeks with focus on performance, sound profile, and heat generated by these cards."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Deep Cool's first watercooler, the Gamer Storm Maelstrom 240

Subject: Cases and Cooling | October 31, 2014 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: Deepcool, Gamer Storm Maelstrom 240, LCS, water cooling

The Gamer Storm Maelstrom 240 has a unique look with its LED and bright red fans but also hides a pump with a closed impeller which is intended to increase the performance at the same time as it reduces vibrations.  As the name implies the radiator roughly 240mm in size, 274 x 120 x 27mm to be exact with 0.2mm high-density water micro channels.  HiTech Legion tested it against a variety of coolers and found the performance to be similar to the competitions, though unfortunately at a much higher price point.  However it was almost silent in operation and the fans could be run on low speed without effecting the performance so for those who have a strong desire for a silent system might be willing to pay the $106 MSRP.

2.jpg

"Deep Cool has done this with their first liquid CPU cooler, the Gamer Storm Maelstrom 240 AIO Liquid Cooling. Do we see the force of a Maelstrom being represented? You be the judge. They use a unique pump with closed impeller to offer more power, less vibration, and lower noise as a result."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Internet2 goes down the Software Defined Networking path

Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2014 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: internet2, software defined networking

The Internet2 Network is a project being run by universities to develop or modify TCP/IP for the next generation of connectivity and to take advantage of the benefits of fibre optic transportation.  They are also developing monitoring and management tools better suited to handle the huge networks which are becoming commonplace to enable users and machines connected to them to better interface with each other.  The Register talks about their newest research and development phase in this story, it seems that Universities have embraced the Cloud and Software Defined Networking in their development of the next generation of networking, likely to the dismay of Cisco.  The CloudLab runs a total of 15,000 cores to support the various slices of Cloud that are being implemented, follow the links in the story to get more detailed information on the various projects that are underway.

index.jpg

"The SDN rollout uses the FlowSpace Firewall to slice up segments of connected campuses' 100 Gbps Internet2 connections into discrete slices whose resources are protected from other traffic on the network. That means the 40 attached nodes in America will be able to get their own OpenFlow slices on the network."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Lenovo Officially Acquires Motorola Mobility For $2.91 Billion

Subject: Mobile | October 30, 2014 - 11:40 PM |
Tagged: motorola, Lenovo, finance, Android

Lenovo officially acquired Motorola Mobility from Google in a deal worth $2.91 billion (both cash and stock) today. Following the acquisition, Motorola will exist as a wholly owned subsidiary of Lenovo. Motorola will retain its headquarters in Chicago's Merchandise Mart along with satellite offices (including Silicon Valley) and approximately 3,500 employees. Note that Google will retain the majority of Motorola's patent portfolio along with the Advanced Technology and Projects research division.

Motorola Mobility Owned By Lenovo.png

Lenovo now owns the Motorola brand as well as the Moto and DROID trademarks. Lenovo expects to sell 100 million smartphones within the first year following the acquisition. These smartphones will allegedly continue to feature a stock Android experience with a focus of quick OS updates. Specifically, this Motorola blog post states:

"We will continue to focus on pure Android and fast upgrades, and remain committed to developing technology to solve real consumer problems. And we will continue to develop mobile devices that bring people unprecedented choice, value and quality." -

Lenovo has indicated that it plans to aggressively pursue selling Motorola devices in China, emerging markets, and even stateside. That last bit is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the buyout. Lenovo has been producing smartphones for a couple of years now, and while the mobile devices have held promise, they have yet to be made available in the US market. Now that Lenovo owns Motorola, the company has the branding power, experience, and carrier relationships to bring their devices stateside in a big way. 

Google was not necessarily bad for Motorola but the potential conflicts of interest with other Android phone manufactures, I think, resulted in Google being much more reserved with Motorola when it came to producing new Android hardware. Now that Lenovo holds the future of Motorola, I think the company will be free to compete with new hardware running any manner of OS but especially Android. I'm interested to see where Motorola will go from here and the kinds of devices we'll see from the now Lenovo-owned company. 

Source: Motorola

Bitcasa Discontinues Infinite Drive Cloud Storage

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 07:04 PM |
Tagged: online storage, encryption, cloud storage, bitcasa

Bitcasa recently announced that, as of November 15, 2014, the company is discontinuing its "Infinite Drive" and will no longer be offering unlimited cloud storage space. The company made its debut at the start of last year with an infinite storage product (Amazon S3 backend with custom applications and client side AES-256 convergent encryption). Since then, the company has grown to store more than 40 Petabytes of user data. Unfortunately, the unlimited storage space model was not sustainable despite heavily increased pricing several months ago.

According to Bitcasa, less than 0.5% of users stored more than 1TB while 0.1% of users used more than 10TB. The alleged lack of demand coupled with violations of the company's Acceptable Use Policy were the final nails in the infinite storage coffin.

There is a bright side to the announcement, however. Bitcasa has re-engineered the storage backend and is promising faster uploading, downloading, and streaming (over the web interface) of files. Users wishing to stick with Bitcasa will need to transfer files over to the new storage system by the November 15, 2014 deadline. After the deadline, all files that have not been transferred or downloaded will be deleted permanently. 

Bitcasa has put together a FAQ that explains the situation and how it will affect each of the account tiers on their website.

Bitcasa_account update.jpg

Essentially, Bitcasa is shuttering the infinite storage tier completely. Users storing 10TB or less will be allowed to move to the Premium or Pro tiers. The Premium tier remains the same as the old plan at $10 per month for 1TB of storage. The Pro tier has been changed from 5TB for $49 per month to 10TB for $99 per month. Users storing over 10TB will need to reduce their stored files to fit within at most 10TB of space. Of course, users are not required to stay and are free to download their files and move to an alternative service. Finally, the free storage tier has been cut from 10GB to 5GB going forward.

Any existing accounts (so long as they within the lower storage allotments) will be grandfathered in (including pricing on paid tiers) and any"extra" storage space gathered from referrals will remain in effect.

  New Plans   Old Plans  
Storage Tier Storage Space Pricing Storage Space
Pricing
Free 5GB $0/month 10GB $0/month
Premium 1TB $10/month ($99/year) 1TB $10/month ($99/year)
Pro 10TB $99/month ($999/year) 5TB $49/month
Infinite n/a No longer offered Unlimited $99/month ($999/year)

There are some snags in the transfer process to be aware of though. Past version history on files will not be preserved post transfer and any mirrored folders will have to be recreated. It is possible to move the mirrored folders after the transfer if you do not have access to the original PC(s), but you will have to recreate the mirrors using the applications when you want to keep them in sync again.

Also, Bitcasa notes that iTunes payments for Bitcasa storage will no longer be accepted and Facebook and Twitter logins will not be allowed (you will create new a new login during the transfer process). Finally, streaming to Plex is not currently working with the new storage system, but a fix is being worked on.

Bitcasa cloud storage web interface.png

Upon receiving the email from Bitcasa yesterday, I logged in and completed the transfer. The process took about five minutes (including downloading my mirrored folders I no longer had access to on my home PC). My free account is grandfathered into the 10GB limit. When the service first came out, I tried it out for awhile and it was decent. At one point I even considered moving to the paid infinite tier, but at the new prices the amount of storage is no longer economical for personal use (>1TB). It is notable that Microsoft started offering unlimited (used to be 1TB) storage to Office 365 subscribers this week, and I wonder how long that will last and if they will run into many of the same problems Bitcasa did. 

What do you think about this announcement? Will unlimited storage always be too good to be true (ie an unsustainable business model).

Source: Bitcasa

MSI's GT80 Titan laptop with a mechanical keyboard coming soon

Subject: Mobile | October 30, 2014 - 03:38 PM |
Tagged: msi, GT80 Titan, mechanical keyboard, cherry mx brown, gaming laptop

The full details are still a little sparse but we do know one thing for sure, the MSI GT80 Titan will be the first gaming laptop with an integral mechanical keyboard, it also happens to be backlit.  The laptop is an 18" model and though it may look large in the pictures MSI reports it will be 17% thinner and 22% lighter than similar machines.  They have also incorporated the SteelSeries Engine with CloudSync to allow you to save and synchronize settings via SteelSeries cloud storage.  Check out the full PR below.

City of Industry, Calif. – October 30, 2014 – MSI Computer Corp, a leading manufacturer of computer hardware products and solutions, unveils the GT80 Titan, the world’s first gaming laptop with a mechanical keyboard.

unnamed1.jpg

First of its kind, MSI’s GT80 Titan ushers the future of gaming by integrating a SteelSeries gaming keyboard with Cherry Brown MX switches into the 18-inch gaming beast. Mechanical keyboards provide superior tactile feedback, increases durability, and enhances overall gaming experience by eliminating key jamming even during the most heated battle sessions.

“Performance is key for gamers and the GT80 Titan will forever change the mobile gaming experience,” says Andy Tung, president of MSI Pan America. “We are proud to be at the forefront of the gaming evolution and will continue to provide solutions that deliver the most outstanding gaming experience in the world.”

unnamed2.jpg

MSI’s newest gaming laptop uses standard Cherry switches and a standard keycap with 27mm of thickness, nearly 5 times of traditional laptop keyboards. It is also the world’s slimmest and lightest 18-inch gaming laptop, measuring 17% thinner and 22% lighter than its closest competitor. To fully optimize the keyboard, the GT80 Titan features an enhanced SteelSeries Engine with CloudSync, allowing users to save and synchronize settings via SteelSeries cloud storage.

Source: MSI

Workstation class X99 from ASRock

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: x99 ws, Intel X99, Haswell-E, asrock

ASRock has a Work Station class board for Haswell-E with five PCIe 3.0 slots, support for up to 128GB of RAM which can be ECC if you install an appropriate processor and on the back are four of both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, one eSATA ports, audio and a pair of LAN ports.  They also included A-Tuning overclocking software which seems odd for a Work Station but proved to be very important as [H]ard|OCP could not get the system they built with this board to POST at default settings and had to change UEFI settings to get it to boot.  Once it did start up the performance was solid and it was one of the better ASRock boards that [H] has reviewed though with a street price over $300 it is hard to recommend.

1414356118PQyIkyQD6F_1_8_l.jpg

"ASRock comes to us with its "Work Station" version Haswell-E motherboard. This time our out-of-box experience with its X99 WS was as rock solid as it could be and did leave us with feelings of getting to work with a quality component. As you all know, we are much more interested in how it performs at high clocks while under stress."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Podcast #324 - Civilization: Beyond Earth, Consoles Performance Issues, Samsung SSD updates and more

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, video, steiger dynamics, ps4, podcast, nvidia, Mantle, LIVA, Intel, ECS, Broadwell-E, amd, Alienware 13

PC Perspective Podcast #324 - 10/30/2014

Join us this week as we discuss Civilization: Beyond Earth Performance, Consoles Performance Issues, Samsung SSD updates and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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

Don't tell your iObsessed iBuddies but the iPad Air 2 is a bit of an iBore

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2014 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: iPad Air 2, apple

There were long lineups of people desperate to get their hands on the new iPad Air 2, regardless of the fact that the internals cost a mere $1 more than the initial model.  To be fair that is not the best way to judge the quality of the upgrade, that should rely more on the screen quality ... which is exactly the same in all respects except for a new anti-reflective coating.  Apple is also reducing their markup, from 45-61% down to a paltry 45-57% for this generation so at least that $1.00 extra in materials will not raise your purchase price overly.  The internals such as the TSMC made A8X and camera match the iPhone 6 to a large extent making it a more powerful phablet than the original, so don't disparage it too much.  You can read more on The Register if you are into fruit.

ipadair2_exploded.jpg

"New iPad Air 2 components cost Apple just one dollar more than the previous model, according to the teardown bods at IHS."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

New 13-Inch Windows 8.1 Tablet Rounds Out Lenovo's Yoga Tablet 2 Lineup

Subject: Mobile | October 29, 2014 - 09:08 PM |
Tagged: yoga tablet 2, Windows 8.1, Lenovo, Bay Trail, atom z3745, atom

Lenovo made a new 13-inch Windows 8.1 tablet official today rounding out the company's Yoga Tablet 2 family. The aptly named Yoga Tablet 2 With Windows (13") combines the design and hardware features of the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro with the smaller 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2 (Android or Windows) siblings. This tablet lacks the Pico projector of the Pro model, but keeps the JBL audio hardware, QHD IPS display, and kickstand. It further adds a larger version of the Bluetooth AccuType keyboard seen on the 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2 Windows model. Aimed at productivity tasks, the Bay Trail-powered PC is equipped with additional memory and storage along with an ample 12,800 mAh battery rated at up to 15 hours of general usage (including video/audio playback and web browsing). It will be available for purchase next month for $699.

Convertible Tablet_Yoga Tablet 2 Pro_13_W_Bluetooth keyboard_01.jpg

The Yoga Tablet 2 with Windows 13-Inch is a 2.27 pound (tablet only) PC featuring a 2560x1440 IPS display, JBL audio with a Wolfson Master Hi-Fi codec (two front facing 1.5W stereo speakers with a rear firing 5W subwoofer), 1.6MP webcam for video conferencing, and a bundled AccuType keyboard cover. External IO includes one micro HDMI video output, one micro USB port, and micro SD card slot, and an analog audio jack. The tablet and keyboard are all ebony black which sets it apart from the other mostly silver-clad Yoga Tablet 2s.

Internally, Lenovo has chosen the quad core Intel Atom (Bay Trail) Z3745 clocked at 1.86GHz, 4GB of LPDDR3 memory, and 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded upon by adding a micro SD card up to 64GB. There is no cellular data support, but the tablet does include dual band 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 radios. A large 12,800 mAh Lithium Polymer battery powers the tablet for up to 15 hours, according to Lenovo.

Convertible Tablet_Yoga Tablet 2 Pro_13_W_Bluetooth keyboard_02.jpg

The tablet runs the full version of Windows 8.1 and comes with a one month trail of Office 365 (which recently started offering 'unlimited' cloud storage).

It will be available for purchase in November on Lenovo.com for $699.

I like the black design and the inclusion of a keyboard along with the usage of Windows 8.1 makes this a better choice for business users than the Android-running Yoga Tablet 2 Pro model. The specifications look pretty good for what it is, though I question how many Lenovo will sell at that price point. You can find older generation convertible tablets, even from Lenovo, running the faster Intel Core (Ivy Bridge and similar) chips in that price range not to mention regular laptops should you not need the hybrid/tablet nature. It is kind of in an odd middle ground between the budget Bay Trail devices and starter ultrabooks though the high resolution IPS display and audio do not hurt.

Do you think it has a place in the market and will you be picking one up?

*For reference, the 13" Yoga Tablet 2 Pro has an MSRP of $499 while the 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2 (Windows, with keyboard) has an MSRP of $399. The $200 or $300 premium (depending on the comparison) gets you (at least) a device with more memory and storage and potentially an added keyboard or a larger device.

Source: Lenovo

Assassin's Creed Unity Has NVIDIA-exclusive Effects via GameWorks

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 29, 2014 - 06:12 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, assassin's creed

Ubisoft has integrated GameWorks into Assassin's Creed Unity, or at least parts of it. The main feature to be included is NVIDIA's Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion Plus (HBAO+), which is their implementation of Ambient Occlusion. This effect darkens areas that would otherwise be incorrectly lit with our current limitations of Global Illumination. Basically, it analyzes the scene's geometry to subtract some of the influence of "ambient light" in places where it is an unrealistic approximation (particularly in small crevices). This is especially useful for overcast scenes, where direct sunlight does not overwhelm the contribution of scatters and bounces.

The other features to be included are Temporal Anti-alising (TXAA), Percentage-Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS), and GeometryWorks Advanced Tessellation. TXAA and PCSS were both included in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, alongside the previously mentioned HBAO+, so it makes sense that Ubisoft continues to use what worked for them. GeometryWorks is a different story. NVIDIA seems to claim that it is like DirectX 11 tessellation, but is better suited for use alongside HBAO+ and PCSS.

unity2.jpg

Assassin's Creed Unity will be available on November 11th.

Source: NVIDIA

Eighteen-core Xeon E7 v3 Based on Haswell-EX in Q2'15

Subject: Processors | October 29, 2014 - 05:44 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Haswell-E, Haswell-EX, Ivy Bridge-EX

Last February, Intel launched the Xeon E7 v2 line of CPUs. Based on the Ivy Bridge architecture, they replaced the original Xeon E7s, developed from Sandy Bridge, that were released in April 2011. Intel is now planning to release Haswell-EX in the second quarter of 2015. No specific SKUs are listed, this information describes the product family as a whole.

intel-xeon-e7v2.jpg

This is Ivy Bridge-EX. Haswell-EX will have 3 extra cores (and look a bit different).

To set the tone, these are not small chips. Using the previous generation as an example, Ivy Bridge-EX was over twice the size (surface area) of Ivy Bridge-E, and it contained over twice the number of transistors. While Ivy Bridge-EX was available with up to 15 physical cores per processor, double that with HyperThreading, Haswell-EX is increasing that to 18, or 36 simultaneous threads with HyperThreading. If that is not enough cores, then you can pick up an eight-socket motherboard and load it up with multiple of these.

Other than their gigantic size, these chips are fairly similar to the Xeon E5 processors that are based on Haswell-E. If you need eighteen cores per package, and can spare several thousand dollars per processor, you should be able to give someone your money in just a handful of months.

Source: KitGuru

Samsung Germany acknowledges '840 Basic' performance slow down, promises fix

Subject: Storage | October 29, 2014 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: tlc, Samsung, firmware, 840

If you own a Samsung 840 SSD, it appears that after much repeated and vocal pressure, Samsung has acknowledged the slow down also affects your drive. We're not talking about the EVO or the Pro, this is the original pure TLC model that launched (the EVO is a TLC+SLC cache hybrid while the Pro is all MLC). Here's the quote from Samsung, via Computer Base:

Uns ist durch das Feedback, das uns erreicht hat, bekannt, dass es auch beim Zugriff auf bestimmte Daten bei Modellen der SSD 840 zu niedrigeren Leseleistungen als angegeben kommen kann.

Im Moment untersuchen unsere Produktexperten systematisch die betreffenden SSD-Modelle innerhalb verschiedener Systemumgebungen und arbeiten an einer schnellstmöglichen Lösung.

Aufgrund der unterschiedlichen Technologien sind die Modelle der PRO-Serie (840 PRO und 850 PRO) nicht betroffen.

Samsung

What? You can't read German? Neither can we, but paraphrasing from the poor quality translation from several online tools, we deduce that Samsung has acknowledged the issue on the 840, and is working on a solution as quickly as possible. This is similar verbiage to the statement issued for the 840 EVO acknowledgement.

** Update **

Thanks to Zyhmet, who commented shortly after posting, here's a human translation:

Because of the feedback we got, we realized that, accessing specific data with units of SSD 840 could lead to lower reading performance.

For the moment our experts are systematically examining the SSD-units with different system environments and we are working on a solution as fast as possible.

Due to different technologies the PRO-series (840 PRO and 850 PRO) are not affected.

Samsung

** End update **

Side note - of those who have used the 840 EVO Performance Restoration Tool, a few have reported an issue cropping up. The error manifests as a SMART data misreporting error:

temp (cooling).png

What's odd about this error is that it was present on some of our pre-production test samples (firmware EXT0AB0Q), and was corrected once we updated those samples to the first retail build (EXT0BB0Q). The image above was an actual screen shot taken during our temperature-dependency testing of the slow down issue. While none of our samples had the issue return when updating all the way to the performance restored firmware, one of those updates did corrupt the Master File Table, rendering the majority of the SSD inaccessible. While we have seen no other reports of corrupted partitions, several users noticed the SMART reporting issue after updating. It's odd to see this sort of a regression with firmware updates, in that a bug fixed in the initial shipping firmware has returned (for some) in a subsequent update. If you've updated your 840 EVO with their Performance Restoration Tool, it may be a good time to check your SMART attributes. If you see the error above, please leave us a note in the comments.

Circling back to the slow down issue - given that it is present in two TLC-based SSDs from Samsung, one has to wonder if this issue exists in other Samsung TLC SSDs as well. Here's the list of potentials (thanks to an anonymous comment on a prior story):

  • 840 EVO - 19nm TLC
  • 840 - 21nm TLC
  • PM841 - 21nm TLC
  • PM851 - 21nm TLC (some SKUs)
  • 845DC EVO - 19nm TLC
  • PM843 - 21nm TLC
  • PM853T - 21nm TLC

We have several questions out to Samsung on these issues, but to date they have not been answered. More to follow as we wait for an official (English) response.