Blender 2.77 Released

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 06:37 PM |
Tagged: Blender

Speaking of open-source animation software, the Blender Foundation has just released Blender 2.77. This is a relatively minor update, maintaining compatibility and structure with other 2.7x versions, but it has some interesting aspects to it. While there will probably be other 2.7-level updates before then, 2.8 is internally described as “the Workflow release,” which is also starting to be discussed by the foundation.

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The headline feature is improved Cycles ray traced rendering, especially on GPUs. Both quality and performance get a bump, and a few particle effects are now GPU-aware. Personally, I am very interested to see how the “Edit-mode boolean tool” will work. I started 3D modeling with a NURBS-based CAD tool, and booleans were pretty much your first choice to get anything done. I then transitioned to Maya, which had the worst boolean tools I've ever seen, choosing to delete both objects if it couldn't figure out how they combine (and that was basically anything other than two plain primitives). It was liberating going to Blender, where I had a boolean tool that mostly worked, but it still causes a few glitches here and there. I'm hoping that, now that it's a default tool, it will continue to grow in robustness.

This is also the first release that (officially) ends Windows XP support. I mean, it's open source. Compile it for whatever platform you like. But you will not be able to upgrade to 2.77 with the official builds, and there's no telling how complicated back-porting will become going forward.

Sony Bringing PS4 Remote Play To Windows and Mac PCs With Next Update

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 04:36 PM |
Tagged: windows, sony, remote play, ps4, game streaming

Sony will be opening up its Remote Play feature to include Windows and Mac PCs with the next system update, version 3.5. In its current form, Remote Play allows users to stream games from their PS4 to certain Sony devices including Xperia phones, Vita handhelds, and the PlayStation TV "microconsole". The new update will let users stream games from the game console to PCs over your home network.

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PS4 System Update 3.5 is set to release later this month. While a beta is available, the beta build does not include the streaming feature. It does add support for live streaming to Dailymotion, updates to the social platform (e.g. planned parties), and an incognito mode that allows user to appear offline (how has it taken Sony this long to support that??).

Sony opening up the streaming is a welcome move as it puts it more in line with Microsoft's offering by not requiring specific hardware. Actually, it may be a bit better since users might be able to get away with using older Windows operating systems (Xbox One is limited to Windows 10) as well as streaming to their Macs. Further, Ars is reporting that Sony stopped shipping its PlayStation TV hardware in the US and Europe at the end of 2015. Thus, that may be one of the reasons Sony is moving away from streaming only to Sony hardware. I'm interested in trying out the Remote Play game streaming to see how it compares to the Xbox One to Windows 10 streaming which has worked pretty well so far for me in streaming Forza to my desktop!

Game streaming is proving to be popular and it is interesting to see both popular gaming consoles will soon allow you to stream games from the living room to your computers while at the same time Valve and others are pushing for solutions (e.g. Steam In-Home Streaming) to stream games from your PCs to the living room. Exciting times, especially if you're able to used wired network connections!

What do you think about Sony's plans for expanding Remote Play? Did you use the PS TV?

Valve targeting lower price systems and GPUs for VR

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 19, 2016 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: VR, vive, valve, htc, gdc 2016, GDC

A story posted over at UploadVR has some interesting information that came out of the final days of GDC last week. We know that Valve, HTC and Oculus have recommended users have a Radeon R9 290 or GTX 970 GPU or higher to run virtual reality content on both the Vive and the Rift, and that comes with a high cost for users that weren't already invested in PC gaming. Valve’s Alex Vlachos has other plans that might enable graphics cards from as far back as 2012 to work in Valve's VR ecosystem.

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Valve wants to lower the requirements for VR

Obviously there are some trade offs to consider. The reason GPUs have such high requirements for the Rift and Vive is their need to run at 90 FPS / 90 Hz without dropping frames to create a smooth and effective immersion. Deviance from that means the potential for motion sickness and poor VR experiences in general. 

From UploadVR's story:

“As long as the GPU can hit 45 HZ we want for people to be able to run VR,” Vlachos told UploadVR after the talk. “We’ve said the recommended spec is a 970, same as Oculus, but we do want lesser GPUs to work. We’re trying to reduce the cost [of VR].”

It's interesting that Valve would be talking about a 45 FPS target now, implying there would be some kind of frame doubling or frame interpolation to get back to the 90 FPS mark that the company believes is required for a good VR experience. 

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Image source: UploadVR

Vlachos also mentioned some other avenues that Valve could expand on to help improve performance. One of them is "adaptive quality", a feature we first saw discussed with the release of the Valve SteamVR Performance Test. This would allow the game to lower the image quality dynamically (texture detail, draw distance, etc.) based on hardware performance but might also include something called fixed foveated rendering. With FFR only the center of the image is rendered at maximum detail while the surrounding image runs at lower quality; the theory being that you are only focused on the center of the screen anyway and human vision blurs the periphery already. This is similar to NVIDIA's multi-res shading technology that is integrated into UE4 already, so I'm curious to see how this one might shape out.

Another quote from UploadVR:

“I can run Aperture [a graphically rich Valve-built VR experience] on a 680 without dropping frames at a lower quality, and, for me, that’s enough of a proof of concept,” Vlachos said.

I have always said that neither Valve nor Oculus are going to lock out older hardware, but that they wouldn't directly support it. That a Valve developer can run its performance test (with adaptive quality) on a GTX 680 is a good sign.

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The Valve SteamVR Performance Test

But the point is also made by Vlachos that "most art we’re seeing in VR isn’t as dense" as other PC titles is a bit worrisome. We WANT VR games to improve to the same image quality and realism levels that we see in modern PC titles and not depend solely on artistic angles to get to the necessary performance levels for high quality virtual reality. Yes, the entry price today for PC-based VR is going to be steep, but I think "console-ifying" the platform will do a disservice in the long run.

Source: UploadVR

Digital Video and Dwango "Create" OpenToonz

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 02:58 PM |
Tagged: toonz, studio ghibli, opentoonz, dwango, digital video

This is a bit of a complicated situation to condense into a single headline. Digital Video is a research and software development studio out of Rome, who specializes in computer graphics (as their name suggests). One of their applications, Toonz, is the animation tool that Studio Ghibli used to create their video content. If you haven't heard of them, they created Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Ponyo, and the cutscenes for the Ni no Kuni video game franchise, among others. In fact, Princess Mononoke was the original use case for "Toonz Ghibli Edition" back in the mid 90s.

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Today's news is that Digital Video will be open sourcing Toonz, including some or all of the enhancements made by Studio Ghibli, into a product called “OpenToonz”. This is because a Japanese media publisher, Dwango, purchased the rights to the software and wanted it to be a community project. Rather than selling the product directly, Digital Video will transition into installation, training, and support. They will also have their own version, called Toonz Premium, which they claim will be for companies to request specific customizations. It will be available for both OSX and Windows.

While a lot of studios are turning to 3D applications, like Maya and Blender, for their 2D art, and Blender is 100% open source, more is better. The software will be “presented” at Anime Japan (March 26 and 27) but they don't clarify whether that means released, demoed, on the show floor, or unveiled. Could be worth checking out for any animators in our audience.

Mozilla to Preview Servo in June

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2016 - 09:26 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, servo, Rust

Mozilla, the open-source creators of Firefox and Thunderbird, have announced that their Servo project will reach public alpha in June. Nightly builds will be available, presumably around that time, for Linux, OSX, Windows, and Android. Servo is a browser engine that is built in Rust, which emphasizes security and high performance (especially in multi-threaded scenarios).

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The technology is really interesting, although it is still quite early. Web browsers are massively single-threaded by design, which limits their potential performance as CPUs widen in core count but stagnate in per-thread performance. This is especially true in mobile, which is why Samsung has been collaborating on Servo for almost all of its life.

Rust, being so strict about memory access, also has the advantage of security and memory management. It is designed in such a way that it's easier for the compiler to know, at compile time, whether you will be trying to access data that is no longer available. The trade-off is that it's harder to program, because if your code isn't robust enough, the compiler just won't accept it. This is beneficial for web browsers, though, because basically everything they access is untrusted, third-party data. It's better to fight your compiler than to fight people trying to exploit your users.

Again, it's still a way off, though. It might be good for web developers to keep an eye on, though, in case any of their optimizations implement standards either correctly, but differently from other browsers and highlights a bug in your website, or incorrectly, which exposes a bug in Servo. Making a web browser is immensely difficult.

Source: Mozilla

Going for Gold with MSI's newest GTX 980 Ti

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 18, 2016 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: msi, GTX 980 Ti, MSI GTX 980 Ti GOLDEN Edition, nvidia, factory overclocked

Apart from the golden fan and HDMI port MSI's 980 Ti GOLDEN Edition also comes with a moderate factory overclock, 1140MHz Base, 1228MHz Boost and 7GHz memory, with an observed frequency of 1329MHz in game.  [H]ard|OCP managed to up those to 1290MHz Base and 1378MHz Boost and 7.8GHz memory with the card hitting 1504MHz in game.  That overclock produced noticeable results in many games and pushed it close to the performance of [H]'s overclocked MSI 980 Ti LIGHTNING.  The LIGHTNING proved to be the better card in terms of performance, both graphically and thermally, however it is also more expensive than the GOLDEN and does not have quite the same aesthetics, if that is important to you.

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"Today we evaluate the MSI GTX 980 Ti GOLDEN Edition video card. This video card features a pure copper heatsink geared towards faster heat dissipation and better temps on air than other air cooled video cards. We will compare it to the MSI GTX 980 Ti LIGHTNING, placing the two video cards head to head in an overclocking shootout. "

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

Graphics Cards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Accessorize your PC for Spring!

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2016 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: peripherals

Over at The Tech Report you can read through six pages of their favourite PC peripherals currently on the market.  Adaptive refresh monitors take up a respectable amount of the article as you might suspect, a mix of Freesync and G-Sync monitors are represented with all but two running at 1440p or 4k resolutions.  They also cover numerous keyboards, mice and gamepads, though they leave the wheel recommendations to Josh.  Check out those recommendations and the other various devices that received a nod right here.

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"In this edition of our peripheral staff picks, we dive deep into the world of monitors, keyboards, mice, and other useful add-ons for PCs to bring you the best of what's around right now."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Podcast #391 - AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 11:07 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, XConnect, gdc 2016, Vega, Polaris, navi, razer blade, Sulon Q, Oculus, vive, raja koduri, GTX 1080, msi, vortex, Intel, skulltrail, nuc

PC Perspective Podcast #391 - 03/17/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

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!!

Helium-filled Drobo B810i Packs 64TB into a Compact 8-bay Package

Subject: Storage | March 17, 2016 - 08:13 PM |
Tagged: 64TB, western digital, wdc, red, 8TB, He8

We've got a lot of storage testing cooking at the PC Perspective offices, and while I usually hold off on publishing things until all testing is complete, I found myself merging two new products in a way that just begged for a photo and quick status update post:

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This is a Drobo B810i on our test bench being loaded with 64TB of Helium-filled Western Digital Red 8TB goodness. I made it a point to evaluate this capability since Drobos have historically been limited to 16TB (or 32TB) maximum volume sizes. Drobo has been rolling out firmware updates enabling the new 64TB volume size in units with sufficient performance and bay count to support it (starting with the B1200i last year, and most recently with the 5N). This test was mainly to confirm the B810i's 64TB maximum volume size. The end result looks something like this:

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With single drive redundancy (a minimum requirement for any Drobo array), the available capacity comes in at just under 50TB.

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Dual redundancy mode drops available capacity down to just over 43TB. Not too shabby considering the Drobo can sustain two drive failures in this mode.

Drobo testing is still in progress and will take a bit more time, but I've completed the initial round on an individual 8TB WD Red and will be posting that review up shortly. Speaking of which, I'm off to get back to it!

Zotac is also slinging SSDs, check out the ZOTAC Premium Edition 480GB

Subject: Storage | March 17, 2016 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: zotac, Premium Edition 480GB, ssd, Phison PS3110

That's right, ZOTAC offers a number of SSDs, including a PCIe based one, but today Hardware Canucks examines the Premium Edition 480GB.  It uses the Phison PS3110 controller, 256MB NANYA DDR3 for cache and the slightly older 19nm Toshiba Toggle MLC NAND.  This is similar to other lower cost SSDs and so you would expect the performance to be similar as well.  This is indeed the case, performance is similar to the PNY XLR8 and the Crucial MX200 drives and the price is attractive, Hardware Canucks saw it on sale for $65US for the 240GB model and less than $140 for the 480GB.  If you are looking for a lower cost SSD you should check out the full review.

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"The mid-tier SSD market is a crowded place these days but Zotac may have a standout contender with their affordable yet fast Premium Edition."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

I love it when a bad guys plan doesn't come together

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 01:25 PM |
Tagged: ransomware, Malware, security, idiots

With the lousy news below the fold, up to and including yet another StageFright exploit, here is a bit of amusing news to balance out the bad.  A recently unleashed ransomware program seems to have been developed on stolen code and the original developer has taken offence to this.  His original program, EDA2, was designed to illustrate how ransomware works and he intentionally included a backdoor to ensure that the data could be unencrypted. 

He has used that backdoor to break into the program and has obtained the complete list of decryption keys and posted them to the net, The Register has a link to that list right here.  It is good for the soul to see incompetent bad guys every once and a while.

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"A software developer whose example encryption code was used by a strain of ransomware has released the decryption keys for the malware."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Logitech G Announces Orion 610 Brown and Red Mechanical Keyboards

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 07:48 AM |
Tagged: orion 610, mechanical keyboard, logitech g, logitech, gaming keyboard, cherry mx red, cherry mx brown

Logitech has announced a pair of new mechanical keyboards today, with the Orion 610 Brown and Red. Those familiar with mechanical keyboards will probably guess from their names that these are using Cherry MXswitches, with the MX Brown and MX Red switches in the respective models.

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The keyboards also offer customizable LED backlighting, and while they are not RGB (these keyboards are white LED backlit), each individually-backlit key can be customized with different brightness levels. There are also options to change the lighting patterns and synchronize with other Logitech G products using the Logitech Gaming Software.

Here are the specs from Logitech G:

Product Specifications

  • Dimensions (L x W x H): 153 mm x 443.5 mm x 34.3 mm                    
  • Weight: 1.2 Kg (without cable)
  • Cable length: 6 feet    
  • Cherry MX Key Switches:
    • Actuation distance: 2mm
    • Actuation force: 45g
    • Total travel distance: 4mm

System Requirements

  • Optional LGS download works with Windows 7 and higher
  • Powered USB port
  • Internet connection for optional LGS download

Warranty

  • 2-year limited hardware warranty

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Macro functionality is available via customization of the F1 - F12 keys, and the keyboards feature dedicated media controls as you would expect. So how much will these cost? Retail for the Orion 610 Brown and Red will be $119.99.

Source: Logitech G

Razer Core External GPU Enclosure Pricing and Availability Announced

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 16, 2016 - 09:29 PM |
Tagged:

Razer has announced pricing and availability for their Core external GPU enclosure, which allows GPUs of up to 375W to run over Thunderbolt 3 with compatible devices.

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"The Razer Core is the world’s first true plug and play Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) external graphics enclosure, allowing you to transform your notebook into a desktop gaming experience. Featuring plug and play support with compatible graphics cards, you won’t need to reboot your system every time you connect your Razer Blade Stealth to Razer Core. Connect to the future with the most advanced and versatile external desktop graphics solution available."

The Razer Core will cost $499 alone, or $399 when purchased with a Razer laptop. It will be available in April.

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What's this? The new Core i7 Skull Canyon NUC connected to the Core eGPU??

An interesting addition to this announcement, the Razer Core is certified with the upcoming Core i7 Skull Canyon NUC, which features Thunderbolt 3. I don't know about you, but the idea of portable, external, upgradable graphics is awesome.

So what do you think? $499 as a standalone product for a user-upgradable external GPU solution with power supply? The $399 price is obviously more attractive, but you'd need to be in the market for a new laptop as well (and again, it would need to a Razer laptop to get that $100 discount). In any case, AMD's XConnect technology certainly makes the Core a compelling possibility.

Source: Razer

Meet the new Intel Skulltrail NUC; Changing the Game

Subject: Shows and Expos | March 16, 2016 - 09:00 PM |
Tagged: skulltrail, Skull Canyon, nuc, Intel, GDC

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No we are not talking about the motherboard from 2008 which was going to compete with AMD's QuadFX platform and worked out just as well.  We are talking about a brand new Skull Canyon NUC powered by an i7-6770HQ with Iris Pro 580 graphics and up to 32GB of DDR4-2133.  The NUC NUC6i7KYK will also be the first system we have seen with a fully capable USB Type-C port, it will offer Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 and DisplayPort 1.2 connectivity; not simultaneously but the flexibility is nothing less than impressive.  It will also sport a full-size HDMI 2.0 port and Mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs so you can still send video while using the Type C port for data transfer.  The port will also support external graphics card enclosures if you plan on using this as a gaming machine as well.

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The internal storage subsystem is equally impressive, dual M.2 slots will give you great performance, the SD card slot not so much but still a handy feature.  Connectivity is supplied by Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260 (802.11 ac) and Bluetooth 4.2 and an infrared sensor will let you use your favourite remote control if you set up the Skulltrail NUC as a media server.  All of these features are in a device less than 0.7 litres in size, with your choice of two covers and support for your own if you desire to personalize your system.  The price is not unreasonable, the MSRP for a barebones system is $650, one with 16GB memory, 256GB SSD and Windows 10 should retail for about $1000.  You can expect to see these for sale on NewEgg in April to ship in May.

All this and more can be found on Intel's news room, and you can click here for the full system specs.

Source: Intel

MSI Ships Vortex: Cylindrical Gaming PC with High-End Specs

Subject: Systems | March 16, 2016 - 03:28 PM |
Tagged: Vortex Gaming Tower, vortex, sli, msi, Killer E2400, GTX 980, gtx 960, Core i7-6700K

MSI is now shipping Vortex; the tiny, cylindrical gaming tower showcased at CES 2016.

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"Standing at a mere 10.5” high, weighing as little as 8.8lbs, and measuring in at 6.5L, the Vortex pushes more power per inch than most mid to full size tower gaming PC’s without the having to deal with the same bulkiness or weight."

Followers of PC Perspective might recall our coverage of the powerful mini-system during January's CES, and our video is available below:

Specs and pricing hadn't been finalized when we first reported on the Vortex, and as of today we have the full story. Pricing will start at $2199, and you get a Core i7-6700K with SLI GTX 960 graphics cards at that price. Upgrade options include SLI GTX 980 GPUs, 32GB of RAM, and "Super RAID", which is 4x 256GB PCIe (Gen 3 x4) SSDs.

Here's a look at the specs for the two shipping versions of this new system:

  Vortex G65 SLI-002 Vortex G65 SLI-011
Processor Intel Core i7-6700K
Chipset Intel Z170
Memory 32 GB (8 GB x4)
2133 MHz DDR4
16 GB (8 GB x2)
2133 MHz DDR4
Graphics Dual GeForce GTX 980 SLI Dual GeForce GTX 960 SLI
Storage Super RAID: 4x 256 GB PCIe Gen 3 SSD
2x 128 GB SSD + 1TB SATA 7200 RPM HDD
Networking Dual Killer E2400 NIC
Connectivity Thunderbolt x2
USB 3.0 x4
Dimensions 7.61 x 7.01 x 10.55 inches
Weight 8.8 lbs
OS Windows 10
Price $3999 $2199

Obviously these are very powerful system configurations, anchored by a Z170 motherboard and Intel Core i7-6700K processor with plenty of RAM, and SLI NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 or 980 GPUs. It will be interesting to see what (if any) overclocking headroom is available for CPU/GPU, though a 6.5L chassis is probably going to be at least somewhat thermally constrained.

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Exploded view of the Vortex

Listings are up on Amazon, with the G65 SLI-011 at $2199, and G65 SLI-002 at $3999, though shipping times are listed at "2 - 5 weeks".

Source: MSI

Gigabyte's X99P-SLI; does $230 count as mid-range?

Subject: Motherboards | March 16, 2016 - 02:43 PM |
Tagged: Intel, gigabyte, X99P-SLI, LGA2011-v3

X99 based systems do not come cheap, with some boards costing well over $300 and very few under $200 the X99P-SLI could be considered mid-range.  The board doesn't skimp on a lot at this price either, an M.2 slot, a pair of USB 3.1 ports, OP-AMP based onboard sound, a conveniently placed header for USB 3.0 on your front panel and yes, it does have a single SEx port.  Hardware Canucks breaks down how the PCIe slots are shared and many other of the boards features in their review which you should check out, the board was determined to be a Dam Good Value.

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"The X99 platform may not be known for affordability but Gigabyte's new X99P-SLI aims to change that opinion with USB 3.1, M.2, great overclocking, quad GPU support and more for less than $250."

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

Hunter-gatherers required a surprising amount of modern hardware to function

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 01:43 PM |
Tagged: gaming, far cry primal

The game may be set in the distant past but you will need modern hardware to get the most out of Far Cry Primal.  With a single GTX 980 Ti or Radeon R9 Fury X, you won't break 40fps on Ultra settings at 4K though the Fury will provide an experience that is essentially playable.  A pair of vanilla 980's or R9 390X cards will break 40fps on Ultra, with the Crossfire experience being noticeably superior at 4K assuming you enable VSYNC as [H]ard|OCP discovered.  For those who track memory usage the game never reached 4GB of usage, even at 4K.  This one does tax current GPUs somewhat but is unlikely to appear on many reviews as upcoming hardware will play this Far Cry without breaking a sweat. 

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"A new game in the Far Cry series is out on the PC called Far Cry Primal. We will run FCP through its paces on six video cards including SLI and CrossFire with the latest drivers and game patch to see what it takes to push these pixels. We will discuss this games stripped down graphics quality compared to Far Cry 4 and what it means for gaming."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The continuing fall of DRAM prices, a trend we can all get behind

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: DRAM, price cuts

Recently the President of Nanya Technology, Pei Ing Lee, stated his belief that DRAM prices will continue to fall at the same rate they did over 2015.  With the arrival of DDR4 we all had a bit of sticker shock but when you look at the prices now they are nowhere near as painful.  As an example a 32GB kit of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 launched at $639.99 on Nov 13, 2014 and will now cost you $164.99.

Not all prices are going to fall to that extreme of a level but we saw the price of DDR3 and 4 drop over the past year and this is predicted to continue.  At current production levels Mr. Lee predicts drops of 20-30% but if Samsung, Hynix and Micron ramp up new production capacity at a similar rate to Nanya then a drop of 25-40% is not completely out of the question. 

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"Increased DRAM capacity coming from advanced processing nodes from Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix and Micron Technology may result in some pricing uncertainty in the market in the second half of 2016, according to Taiwan DRAM maker Nanya Technology president Pei Ing Lee."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Video Perspective: Spending the day with an Oculus Rift

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 16, 2016 - 10:00 AM |
Tagged: video, rift, Oculus

As part of our second day at GDC, Ken and I spent 4+ hours with Oculus during their "Game Days 2016" event, an opportunity for us to taste test games in 30 minute blocks, getting more hands on time than we ever have before. The event was perfectly organized and easy to work in, and it helps that the product is amazing as well.

oculus-rift-consumer-edition.png

Of the 40-ish games available to play, 30 of them will be available on the Rift launch day, March 28th. We were able to spend some time with the following:

We aren't game reviewers here, but we obviously have a deep interest in games, and thus, having access to these games is awesome. But more than that, access to the best software that VR will have to offer this spring is invaluable as we continue to evaluate hardware accurately for our readers. 

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Job Simulator

Ken and I sat down after the Oculus event to talk about the games we played, the experiences we had and what input the developers had about the technical issues and concerns surrounding VR development.

Ransomware Spreading Through Major Websites Via Infected Ad Servers

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 01:12 AM |
Tagged: ransomware, Malwarebytes, Malware, adware

Compromised ad servers have been pushing out ransomware directly to unwitting users of many popular domains. As reported by Ars Technica (via MalwareBytes and others), whose story is heavily referenced here, the domain list contains a number of high traffic sites.

"It hit some of the biggest publishers in the business, including msn (.com), nytimes (.com), bbc (.com), aol (.com), my.xfinity (.com), nfl (.com), realtor (.com), theweathernetwork (.com), thehill (.com), and newsweek (.com). Affected networks included those owned by Google, AppNexis, AOL, and Rubicon."

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(Image credit: Ars Technica)

Unfortunately, the story doesn't get better from here. The Ars report continues:

"The ads are also spreading on sites including answers (.com), zerohedge (.com), and infolinks (.com), according to SpiderLabs. Legitimate mainstream sites receive the malware from domain names that are associated with compromised ad networks. The most widely seen domain name in the current campaign is brentsmedia (.com)."

The ads have been traced back to multiple domains, including: trackmytraffic (.biz), talk915 (.pw), evangmedia (.com), and shangjiamedia (.com). The report continues:

"The SpiderLabs researchers speculate the people pushing the bad ads are on the lookout for expired domains containing the word "media" to capitalize on the reputation they may enjoy as a legitimate address."

The full article from Ars technica can be found here as well as the source link, and the cited Malware Bytes post can be found here.

So how did they do it? The banner ads themselves contained the malware, which could infect the viewers system undetected.

"When researchers deciphered the code, they discovered it enumerated a long list of security products and tools it avoided in an attempt to remain undetected.
'If the code doesn't find any of these programs, it continues with the flow and appends an iframe to the body of the html that leads to Angler EK [exploit kit] landing page,' SpiderLabs researchers Daniel Chechik, Simon Kenin, and Rami Kogan wrote. 'Upon successful exploitation, Angler infects the poor victim with both the Bedep trojan and the TeslaCrypt ransomware...' "

Of course it goes without saying that advertising online is a sticky issue. It can be intrusive, with ads blocking article text, or autoplay videos creating a cacophony of unwanted noise, somewhere amidst the many open tabs. Of course it can be done with class, respectful of the reader's experience (and I would use our own site as an example).

A large number of web users employ ad-blocking extensions to their browser, though it is often the case that ad revenue pays for the costs associated with keeping such sites online. This outbreak is a further blow to the current financial stability of many sites when news such as today's ransomware debacle hits the tech (and soon the mainstream) press.

Source: Ars Technica