Realistic Landscapes in Unreal Engine 4

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2016 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine, epic games, art by rens

This work was featured on Unreal Engine's GDC sizzle video as "Photogrammetry", but I've only just now found out where it came from. The creator, Rense de Boer, goes by the consistent online branding of Art by Rens. He worked at DICE from 2011 through 2014, working on the Battlefield franchise, and now he seems to be doing his own thing.

The environment work is stunning. The snow, slightly thawed and refrozen, covers the rocks and leaves in a way that looks absolutely real. Some of the rocks look partially moss-covered, with the plant seemingly breaking it down, and coming up through the cracks. There's only so many ways that I can describe it, but it's definitely worth a look. He targets four Titan-class video cards, but he's aiming for 4K.

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He hasn't announced any product yet, so we're not really sure why he's doing it. He did receive a grant from Epic Games, though. I'm not sure exactly how much, just that $500,000 USD was split 30 ways, but not uniformly (some received more than others).

Source: Art by Rens

Video Perspective: Retail Oculus Rift Day One - Setup, Early Testing

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 28, 2016 - 11:24 PM |
Tagged: pcper, hardware, technology, review, Oculus, rift, Kickstarter, nvidia, geforce, GTX 980 Ti

It's Oculus Rift launch day and the team and I spent the afternoon setting up the Rift, running through a set of game play environments and getting some good first impressions on performance, experience and more. Oh, and we entered a green screen into the mix today as well.

Tim Sweeney (Epic Games) Is Concerned About Openness

Subject: Editorial | March 28, 2016 - 08:44 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, Oculus, microsoft

... and so am I.

When you develop software, you will always be reliant upon platforms. You use their interfaces to make your hardware do stuff. People who maintain these will almost always do so with certain conditions. In iOS's case, you must have all of your content certified by Apple before it can be installed. In Linux's case, if you make any changes to the platform and distribute them, you need to also release what those changes are.

Sometimes, they are enforced with copyright law. Recently, some platform vendors use chains of trust with strong, mathematical keys. This means that, unless Apple, Microsoft, Oculus, or whoever else made a mistake, members of society can be entirely locked out of creating and installing content.

This has pros and cons.

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On the one hand, it can be used to revoke malware authors, scammers, and so forth. These platforms, being more compact, are usually easier to develop for, and might even be portable across deeper platforms, like x86 or ARM.

On the other hand, it can be used to revoke anything else. Imagine that you live in a jurisdiction where the government wants to ban encryption software. Imagine you live in a jurisdiction where the government wants to ban art featuring characters who are LGBT. Imagine you just want to use your hardware in a way that the vendor does not support, such as our attempts to measure UWP application performance.

We need to be extra careful when dealing with good intentions. These are the situations where people will ignore potential abuses because they are blinded by their justifications. This should not be taken lightly, because when you build something, you build it for everyone to use and abuse, intentionally, or even blinded by their own justifications, which often oppose yours.

For art and continued usability, Microsoft, Oculus, and everyone else needs to ensure that their platforms cannot be abused. They are not a government, and they have no legal requirement to grant users free expression, but these choices can have genuine harm. As owners of platforms, you should respect the power that your platform enables society to wield, and implement safeguards so that you can continue to provide it going forward.

AMD and NVIDIA release drivers for Oculus Rift launch day!

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 28, 2016 - 10:20 AM |
Tagged: vive, valve, steamvr, rift, Oculus, nvidia, htc, amd

As the first Oculus Rift retail units begin hitting hands in the US and abroad, both AMD and NVIDIA have released new drivers to help gamers ease into the world of VR gaming. 

Up first is AMD, with Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.3.2. It adds support for Oculus SDK v1.3 and the Radeon Pro Duo...for all none of you that have that product in your hands. AMD claims that this driver will offer "the most stable and compatible driver for developing VR experiences on the Rift to-date." AMD tells us that the latest implementation of LiquidVR features in the software help the SDKs and VR games at release take better advantage of AMD Radeon GPUs. This includes capabilities like asynchronous shaders (which AMD thinks should be capitalized for some reason??) and Quick Response Queue (which I think refers to the ability to process without context change penalties) to help Oculus implement Asynchronous Timewarp.

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NVIDIA's release is a bit more substantial, with GeForce Game Ready 364.72 WHQL drivers adding support for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and improvements for Dark Souls III, Killer Instinct, Paragon early access and even Quantum Break.

For the optimum experience when using the Oculus Rift, and when playing the thirty games launching alongside the headset, upgrade to today's VR-optimized Game Ready driver. Whether you're playing Chronos, Elite Dangerous, EVE: Valkyrie, or any of the other VR titles, you'll want our latest driver to minimize latency, improve performance, and add support for our newest VRWorks features that further enhance your experience.

Today's Game Ready driver also supports the HTC Vive Virtual Reality headset, which launches next week. As with the Oculus Rift, our new driver optimizes and improves the experience, and adds support for the latest Virtual Reality-enhancing technology.

Good to see both GPU vendors giving us new drivers for the release of the Oculus Rift...let's hope it pans out well and the response from the first buyers is positive!

Video Perspective: HTC Vive Pre First Impressions

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | March 26, 2016 - 12:11 AM |
Tagged: VR, vive pre, vive, virtual reality, video, pre, htc

On Friday I was able to get a pre-release HTC Vive Pre in the office and spend some time with it. Not only was I interested in getting more hands-on time with the hardware without a time limit but we were also experimenting with how to stream and record VR demos and environments. 

Enjoy and mock!

Red matter and green blood; Vulkan runs on Linux

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 24, 2016 - 02:04 PM |
Tagged: Ubuntu 16.04, linux, vulkan, amd, nvidia

Last week AMD released a new GPU-PRO Beta driver stack and this Monday, NVIDIA released the 364.12 beta driver, both of which support Vulkan and meant that Phoronix had a lot of work to do.  Up for testing were the GTX 950, 960, 970, 980, and 980 Ti as well as the R9 Fury, 290 and 285.  Logically, they used the Talos Principal test, their results compare not only the cards but also the performance delta between OpenGL and Vulkan and finished up with several OpenGL benchmarks to see if there were any performance improvements from the new drivers.  The results look good for Vulkan as it beats OpenGL across the board as you can see in the review.

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"Thanks to AMD having released their new GPU-PRO "hybrid" Linux driver a few days ago, there is now Vulkan API support for Radeon GPU owners on Linux. This new AMD Linux driver holds much potential and the closed-source bits are now limited to user-space, among other benefits covered in dozens of Phoronix articles over recent months. With having this new driver in hand plus NVIDIA promoting their Vulkan support to the 364 Linux driver series, it's a great time for some benchmarking. Here are OpenGL and Vulkan atop Ubuntu 16.04 Linux for both AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards."

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

Graphics Cards

Source: Phoronix

Podcast #392 - Samsung 850 EVO V2, VR Build Guides, the End of Tick-Tock, and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 01:47 PM |
Tagged: western digital, VR, vnand, vive, video, Samsung, podcast, Oculus, hgst, He8, CRYORIG C7, 8tb red, 850 EVO

PC Perspective Podcast #392 - 03/24/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Samsung 850 EVO V2, VR Build Guides, the End of Tick-Tock, 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!

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

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

It turns out mouldy batteries might be a good thing

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 12:36 PM |
Tagged: battery

It would appear that red bread mould is capable of far more than ruining a good sandwich.  Researchers are investigating its ability to recover rare metals from electronics and to extend the life of batteries.  Indeed, from what Hack a Day could glean from the research papers adding specially treated mould to lithium ion cells and supercapacitors is quite effective, with a test battery still able to charge beyond 90% of its original charge after 200 discharges.  If that isn't strange enough for you the wonderfully titled link from The Inquirer just below will teach you about a new type of solid state lithium battery, no liquid inside and a charging rate similar to a supercapacitor.

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"Researchers used the carbonized fungal biomass-mineral composite in both lithium ion cells and supercapacitors. The same team earlier showed how fungi could stabilize toxic lead and uranium."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

Just Delivered: Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum Wireless Ambidextrous Mouse

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2016 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: wireless, mouse, logitech g, logitech, g900, chaos spectrum

While attending GDC last week and catching up on the world of VR that will be in our laps this spring and summer, I spent some time with Logitech to learn about the company's latest in gaming hardware. We already told you about the G610 keyboards using Cherry keyswitches but today Logitech is revealing a brand new wireless gaming mouse. 

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First, I know that a lot of gamers, both those in the professional spaces and those that strive to that level of competition, are going to have concerns about this being a wireless mouse. Logitech believes and has convincing evidence that they have built the best and fastest wireless implementation of any option on the market today. I'll go over some of their testing below, but first let's dive into the mouse itself.

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Much to the delight of left handed users and anyone looking for a ambidextrous mouse, the G900 Chaos Spectrum is built for you! The design is balanced on both sides and even has a unique button configuration to permit thumb use for both lefties and righties. I have been mousing with it for the last three days, and as a right handed user, am completely comfortable with the design. As the name implies, the G logo on the mouse is completely controllable with RGB LEDs through the Logitech Gaming Software suite.

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On the bottom of the G900 you'll find the on/off switch and sync button. Logitech tells us that you will be able to get at least 24 hours of continuous use out of a single charge of the mouse, 32 hours if you turn off lighting, and charge time is going to be around 2 hours. That's actually very good battery life for a high performance sensor like the PMW3366!

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On the front is a micro USB port used for charging, which I'll touch on in a minute. The buttons on the G900 are unique as well, using a new mechanical pivot button design. Logitech claims they were built for "crisp, clean clicks". With the pivot point moved back towards the center of the mouse, engineers were able to reduce the travel distances between the buttons and switches and keep the amount of force required for the click to a minimum. 

Continue reading our first look at the Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum!!

Hello, Canadians! Interested in a Relatively Cheap 1TB SSD?

Subject: Storage | March 23, 2016 - 06:16 PM |
Tagged: newegg, Mushkin, silicon motion, micron, ssd

Here's a brief post for our Canadian fans. If you have been interested in a decent, large SSD, then you might want to check out Newegg Canada. The Mushkin Enhanced Reactor 1TB is currently $100 off, which puts it at a price of $299.99 CDN plus tax and shipping. While 30c/GB might sound mundane to our neighbours to the south, the currency conversion works out to about 23c/GB USD.

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Sure, it's not the fastest SSD on the market, but it's a solid, mainstream one. A 2TB version also exists, but you will be paying about $60 more than just getting two, 1TB SKUs. This version uses the Silicon Motion SM2246EN controller and Micron flash. We might end up with better or cheaper drives coming in the future, I have no idea, but this should be good for cheap, decent, and now.

Source: Newegg

Death is merely another resource; meet Warhammer Total War's Vampire Counts

Subject: General Tech | March 23, 2016 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: warhammer fantasy, total war, gaming

To the undead those map markers denoting where a huge battle took place are more than just a reminder of a great battle, they are a harvestable resource which provides them with skeletons and zombies, their lowest tier troops.  Dead troops can also be summoned back to fight for you in battles and even if the unthinkable happens and your entire army and hero are slain, there is a way to reanimate that dead hero.  Being undead does have its disadvantages, wandering beyond provinces you own will cause massive attrition as your army starts to decay and disintegrate around you and as Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN discovered, zombies are rubbish.  You can read about their experiences when giving the Vampire Counts factions a test as well as see a video of the Master Necromancer right here.

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"The undead don’t behave like any faction previously seen in a Total War game. That makes sense. They shouldn’t. Even the most militant and war-ready hordes can’t repopulate the ranks of their warriors quite as efficiently as an army capable of raising the dead and commanding them to fight."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

 

Microsoft Surface Book, taking the prize for most expensive laptop and running with it

Subject: Mobile | March 23, 2016 - 12:32 PM |
Tagged: surface, surface book, tablet, Skylake, notebook, microsoft, Intel

The Register is not exaggerating in the quote below, the new Microsoft Surface Book ranges from $1500-$3200 depending on the model you chose, passing even the overpriced Chromebook Pixel by quite a sum of money.  For that price you get a 3200x2000 (267ppi) 13.5" display on a tablet which weighs 3.34lbs (1.5kg), the detachable keyboard with an optional Nvidia GPU and an extra battery as well as a Surface pen.  If you want the dock which adds more connectivity options, well that is another $200 and seeing as how there is only two USB3.0 ports, a single MiniDP and an SD card reader on the keyboard you are likely to want it. 

Certainly The Register liked the looks, design and power of this ultrabook but with the competition, up to and including Apple, offering similar products at half the price it is a hard sell in the end.  Ryan expressed a similar opinion when he reveiwed the Surface Book.

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"Sumptuous and slightly absurd, Microsoft's Surface Book is the most expensive laptop you can get, short of ordering a 24-carat custom gold plated jobbie."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

More Mobile Articles

 

Source: The Register

Samsung's tiny BGA based SSD, destined for your tablet and smartphone

Subject: General Tech | March 23, 2016 - 12:10 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, ssd, BGA

Instead of the standard pin grid array, Samsung's PM971 SSD uses BGA which allows them to for a much smaller overall size, albeit at the cost of it being permanently soldered to a circuit motherboard.  The three models, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB, will each be smaller than an SD card which is why these SSDs will be able to be used in future generations of small mobile devices.  This not only foretells of a significantly higher storage capacity for your phone but also a faster one as Samsung's PR describes sequential read speeds of up to 1500MBps and sequential writes at 600MBps, or if you prefer, 190K random read IOPS and 150K random write IOPS.  They haven't really given any details beyond those stats but you can try to glean some more information from the Japanese language article which The Inquirer links to in their story here.

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"SAMSUNG HAS been showing off what it believes is the answer to the question of how to squeeze even more out of smartphone and tablet form factors. And with blazing speeds of 1500MBps it's hard to argue."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer

Intel officially ends the era of "tick-tock" processor production

Subject: Processors | March 22, 2016 - 05:08 PM |
Tagged: Intel, tick tock, tick-tock, process technology, kaby lake

It should come as little surprise to our readers that have followed news about Kaby Lake, Intel's extension of the Skylake architecture that officially broke nearly a decade of tick-tock processor design. With tick-tock, Intel would iterate in subsequent years between a new processor microarchitecture (Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, etc.) and a new process technology (45nm, 32nm, 22nm, etc.). According to this story over at Fool.com, Intel's officially ending that pattern of production.

From the company's latest K-10 filing:

"We expect to lengthen the amount of time we will utilize our 14 [nanometer] and our next-generation 10 [nanometer] process technologies, further optimizing our products and process technologies while meeting the yearly market cadence for product introductions."

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It is likely that that graphic above that showcases the changes from Tick-Tock to what is going on now isn't "to scale" and we may see more than three steps in each iteration along the way. Intel still believes that it has and will continue to have the best process technology in the world and that its processors will benefit.

Continuing further, the company indicates that "this competitive advantage will be extended in the future as the costs to build leading-edge fabrication facilities increase, and as fewer semiconductor companies will be able to leverage platform design and manufacturing."

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Kaby Lake details leaking out...

As Scott pointed out in our discussions about this news, it might mean consumers will see advantages in longer socket compatibility going forward though I would still see this as a net-negative for technology. As process technology improvements slow down, either due to complexity or lack of competition in the market, we will see less innovation in key areas of performance and power consumption. 

Source: Fool.com

The Acer Predator Z35 G_SYNC display can hit 200Hz

Subject: Displays | March 22, 2016 - 03:32 PM |
Tagged: acer, Predator Z35, 200hz, g-sync

The Acer Predator Z35 is a big display, 35" of A-MVA panel with a resolution of 2560x1080, an 11ms response rate, 4ms GTG, the ability to display 72% of standard colour gamut and a W-LED backlight.  With an MSRP of $1050 it will not come cheap and Hardware Canucks are on the job to determine if it is worth the investment.  The virtual On Screen Display is similar to the Predator X34, a menu button brings up shortcuts to the various controls which you can then navigate to change your desired settings.  When they tested performance it was obvious that they have stretched the DP 1.2 connection to the maximum, which is why that particular resolution was chosen and unfortunately the 0.32mm dot pitch is painfully obvious.  Hardware Canucks did like this monitor but overall felt that a higher resolution with a lower refresh rate of 100-144Hz is a better choice for gamers.

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"Acer's Z35 is the father of all gaming monitors; it has a ridiculous 200Hz refresh rate, G-SYNC compatibility and A-MVA panel and a respectable 2560x1080 resolution. "

Here are some more Display articles from around the web:

Displays

It's all in your Imagination; Apple is not on an expensive shopping trip

Subject: General Tech | March 22, 2016 - 02:39 PM |
Tagged: apple, Imagination Technologies, rumours

Various sites have been abuzz this morning with rumours of Apple seeking to acquire the manufacturer of the PowerVR graphics chips they utilize, Imagination Technologies.  Apple has now flatly denied this rumour; which means simply that they have denied that they are making an offer at this time.  That makes sense regardless of the truth of the rumour, driving up the stock price makes the acquisition more expensive for Apple so a public denial makes financial sense whether they do plan to buy the company in the future.

It does make some sense to own your hardware provider and their patents, but it is not as advantageous as it once was.  Many companies have found outsourcing their manufacturing to make more sense financially, preferring to buy out competitors to gain market share and patents instead.  We will keep an eye out for any new developments but it does not seem likely that we will see a deal go through in the near future. 

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"From time to time, Apple talks with companies about potential acquisitions. We had some discussions with Imagination, but we do not plan to make an offer for the company at this time."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Mac Rumors

NZXT Kraken X31; midget beastie or large squid?

Subject: Cases and Cooling | March 21, 2016 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: nzxt, Kraken X31, AIO

The NZXT Kraken X31 is smaller than its cousins, the radiator is a compact 120x30x155mm and uses a 120mm fan to move heat.  NXZT seems to offer proprietary controller software, called Cam software, but once you read the difficulties [H]ard|OCP had obtaining and using the software you will see why they recommend sticking with SpeedFan.  The performance is not quite as effective as most 140mm or 280mm coolers but on the other hand it operates at a significantly lower volume, 40.9dBA at most.   If you are looking for a decent performing and quiet cooler then check out the full review.

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"NZXT is also moving some of its AIO cooler strategy into the realm of making it smaller and more efficient. The Kraken X31 ticks that checkbox plus a few others, such as software control, variable pump speed, 16 inch tubing leads, and a six year warranty. (Place your own "Release the Kraken," joke here.)"

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

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro L and Pro S come Gozer approved

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2016 - 02:37 PM |
Tagged: coolermaster, Masterkeys Pro L, Masterkeys Pro S, mechanical keyboard, input, Cherry MX, cherry mx rgb

The difference between Cooler Masters Masterkeys Pro L and Pro S lies in the numpad, the Pro L has it and the Pro S is, as they say, tenkeyless.  Apart from that the boards are very similar, using your choice of Cherry MX RGB switches, Brown, Red, or Blues.  You do not need software to program the lighting or macros, they can be adjusted with the use of the Function key in concert with one of the F1-F12 keys but Cooler Master does also offer software which allows you to adjust your lighting.  The Tech Report liked these boards, finding them every bit as good as the major competition, with one notable exception; the prices of the MasterKeys are a bit lower which can make a big difference when you are purchasing a glowing, clicky keyboard.

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"Cooler Master's MasterKeys Pro L and Pro S keyboards put Cherry MX RGB switches in no-nonsense chassis. They also expose most of their customization mojo through on-board shortcuts. We put our fingers to the keycaps to see how these boards perform."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Would you like some fresh Steaming Raspberry Pi?

Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2016 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, kick ass

Not only is powering a Raspberry Pi with a steam engine incredibly impressive, its make a lot of sense to use during the winter in Sweden.  A pair of propane blowtorches is used to heat the water to steam and the pressure created is used to turn a simple two cylinder engine which in turn is used to turn a simple DC electric motor which then powers the Pi.  If the power goes out you might not be able to browse the internet on it, but this Pi will keep running as long as you have water and propane.  You can follow the link from The Register for videos and notes, although they are in Swedish, hopefully Skype add that language to their instantaneous translation service soon.

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"A Swedish schoolboy has built a miniature steam engine to power his Raspberry Pi. It is a piece of absolute engineering beauty."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops Arrives March 29th

Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2016 - 12:53 PM |
Tagged: blizzard, starcraft, Starcraft II

Blizzard is adding three new mini-campaigns to StarCraft II, with three missions each, to give more content for fans of single-player. The first one, StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops, puts players in the shoes of Nova, who was created as the main character of the canceled third-person shooter, StarCraft: Ghost. Blizzard announced that this three-mission pack would be available on or before June 19th.

March 29th is, indeed, before June 19th.

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Before I end, I should probably mention the price. If you pre-purchase, the three packs (nine missions total) bundled together will cost $14.99 USD; that price will raise to $22.47 USD after launch. This is about $5 per DLC, which is reasonable. On the other hand, three-mission story arcs can be... light... for strategy titles. I'm not really the type to value art based on the time it takes up of my life. There is intrinsic value other than how big of a tiny fraction between birth and death this content fills, but that is a legitimate concern for some of our readers. It's likely a fine price, but it feels weird in the context of the free co-op maps, free Whispers of Oblivion, and relatively cheap expansion launch prices.

Whether you take it from the standpoint of cost-value or intrinsic art, though, it all depends on the missions. Three levels isn't a lot of time for an engaging story arc, and Whispers of Oblivion and Into the Void weren't exactly must-have life experiences. That said, I'm not going to underestimate what Blizzard can pull off. We'll see, and we'll see soon.

Unfortunately, you'll only find out after the 33%-off promotion.

Source: Blizzard