Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 2, 2013 - 03:33 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, microsoft, consolitis
Well that was unexpected...
Don Mattrick, a few months ahead of the Xbox One launch and less than two months after its unveiling, decided to leave his position at Microsoft as president of Interactive Entertainment Business. This news was first made official by a Zynga press release, which announced acquiring him as CEO. Steve Ballmer later published an open letter addressed all employees of Microsoft, open to the public via their news feed, wishing him luck and outlining the immediate steps to follow.
While subtle in the email, no replacement has been planned for after his departure on July 8th. Those who report to Don Mattrick will report directly to Steve Ballmer, himself, seemingly through the launch of Xbox One. As scary and unsettling as Xbox One PR has been lately, launching your flagship ship without a captain is a depressingly fitting apex. This would likely mean that either: Don gave minimal notice of his departure, he was being abruptly ousted from Microsoft and Zynga just happened to make convenient PR for all parties involved, or there is literally no sense to be made of the situation.
However the situation came about, Xbox One will likely launch from a team directly lead by Steve Ballmer and Zynga will have a new CEO. Will his goal be to turn the former social gaming giant back on course? Or will he be there to milk blood from the company before it turns to stone?
I wonder whether his new contract favors cash or stock...
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 2, 2013 - 02:12 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: google, spdy, QUIC
It missed being a recursive acronym by a single letter...
TCP is known for being the go-to protocol for stable connections over the internet. There are some things you can guarantee: you will not lose bits of data, packets will arrive in order, incorrect packets will be checked and redelivered, and both endpoints will be roughly metered to the least capacity. It is easy to develop applications around the TCP protocol, it does the hard problems for you.
UDP, on the other hand, frees its packets in a fountain to hopefully land where it is intended. This protocol is fast, but a pain for applications that need some level of reliability. Quick UDP Internet Connections (QUIC), from Google, leverages UDP to create multiple independent, even encrypted connections. While TCP could be made faster, it is beyond the jurisdiction of web browsers; support is embedded into the operating system itself. This leaves building upon UDP, suffering with TCP, or not being compatible with about every network hardware installed just about anywhere.
This comes on the heels of SPDY, Google's other open protocol. SPDY is built around HTTP and both presume a reliable protocol underneath, where TCP is the usual candidate. A large advantage of SPDY allows assets to simultaneously stream over a single connection. TCP will, unfortunately, freeze the entire connection (and thus each stream) when a single stream drops a packet. QUIC, based upon UDP, can then be used to accelerate SPDY further by allowing truly independent multiplexing.
QUIC will be used for "a small percentage of Chrome dev and canary channel traffic to some Google server", for experimentation purposes. The code itself is licensed under BSD and, as such, could migrate to other browsers in due time.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | June 19, 2013 - 09:08 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xbox one, gaming, DRM, disc
Microsoft faced a major backlash from users following the unveiling of its latest Xbox One console. Users were rather unnerved at Microsoft’s reveal that the new console would be required to “phone home” at least once every 24 hours in order to authenticate games and allow sharing. Considering Sony carried forward the disc traditions of the PS3 combined with the user uproar, Microsoft has reconsidered and issued an update to users via a blog post titled (in part) “Your Feedback Matters.”
Amidst the uncertainty caused by various MS sources issuing statements about functionality and DRM that conflict with one another and an air of as-yet-un-announced secrecy pre-E3 where MS released just enough info about the DRM to get users scared (can you tell the way MS handled this irked me?), the company talked about the Xbox One moving forward and taking advantage of the ‘digital age.’ The new console would require online authentication (and daily check-ins), but would also allow sharing of your game library with up to 10 other people, re-downloadable games that can be installed on other consoles (and played) so long as you log into your Xbox Live account (the latter bit is similar in nature to Steam on the PC). Further, disc games could be resold or gifted if the publishers allow it.
That has changed now, however. Microsoft has reconsidered its position and is going back to the way things work(ed) on the existing Xbox 360. Instead of taking the logical approach of keeping with the plan but removing the daily authentication requirement for games if you keep the game disc in the tray, Microsoft has taken their
ball Xbox One controller and completely backtracked.
DRM on the Xbox One is now as follows, and these changes go in place of (not in addition to) the previously announced sharing and reselling functionalities.
For physical disc games:
According to Xbox Wire, after their initial setup and installation, disc-based games will not require an internet connection for offline functionality (though multiplayer components will, obviously, need an active connection). Even better, trading and reselling of disc-based games is no longer limited by publishers. Trading, selling, gifting, renting, et al of physical disc-based games "will work just as it does today on the Xbox 360." Microsoft is also not region locking physical games, which means that you will not have to worry about games purchased abroad working on your console at home.
In order to play disc-based games, you will need to keep the game disc in the tray, even if it is installed on the hard drive, however.
Changes to Downloaded games:
As far as downloadable games, Microsoft is restricting these titles such that they cannot be shared or resold. In the previous model, you would have been able to share the titles with your family, but not anymore. You will still be able to re-download the games.
There is no word on whether or not gamers will still lose access to all of the titles in their game library if their Xbox Live accounts are ever banned. It is likely that gamers will lose any downloadable games though as those are effectively tied to a single Xbox Live account.
While at first glance it may seem as though gamers won this round, in the end no one really won. Instead of Microsoft working around gamers concerns for physical media and moving forward together, it is as though Microsoft has thrown up its hands in frustration, and tossed out all of the innovative aspects for digital/downloadable titles along with the undesirable daily authentication and other invasive DRM measures that gamers clearly indicated they did not want.
I believe that Microsoft should have kept to the original game plan, but added an exception to the daily check-in rules so long as the console was able to authenticate the game offline by identifying a physical game disc in the tray. That way, gamers that are not comfortable with (or able to) keeping the Xbox One connected to the internet could continue to play games using discs while also allowing those with always-on Xbox One consoles the privileges of sharing their libraries. Doing so would have also helped ease the console gaming populance as a whole into Microsoft's ideal digital age once the next Xbox comes out. However, instead of simply toning down the changes, Microsoft has completely backtracked, and now no one wins. Sigh.
What are your thoughts on Microsoft's latest changes to the Xbox One? Was it the right move, or were you looking forward to increased freedom with your digitally-downloaded games?
- The PS4 and Xbox One Hardware Revealed, Console Makers Have Different Goals @ PC Perspective
- E3 2013: Microsoft can ban your Xbox One library @ PC Perspective
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | June 19, 2013 - 06:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: steam, DRM
You can learn a lot by scanning configuration, registry files, and so forth; many have made off with a successful bounty. Most recently, some Steam Beta users dug around in their user interface (UI) files to notice a few interesting lines, instructing the user that the title they are attempting to launch will kick off a friend it is currently being shared with.
"SteamUI_JoinDialog_SharedLicense_Title" "Shared game library"
"SteamUI_JoinDialog_SharedLicenseLocked_OwnerText" "Just so you know, your games are currently in use by %borrower%. Playing now will send %borrower% a notice that it's time to quit."
"SteamUI_JoinDialog_SharedLicenseLocked_BorrowerText" "This shared game is currently unavailable. Please try against later or buy this game for your own library."
Sure, this whole game DRM issue has been flipping some tables around the industry. Microsoft tried permitting users share games with their family, utilizing about the worst possible PR, and eventually needed to undo that decision. Users would like flexible licensing schemes, but the content industry (including the platform owners like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony, who receive license fees from game sales) are unwilling to cooperate unless they are assured that users are honest.
Of course, what usually happens is honest users get crapped on and pirates enjoy a better experience, after initial setup.
While there is not much difference, from a high level view, between Steam and the proposed Xbox One, there are a number of differences. The obvious difference is Steam's offline mode, but probably the larger reason is trust. Valve has demonstrated a lot of good faith to their customers; where Microsoft shuts down access to content people paid for, Valve has shown they have intentions for both long-term support and consideration for the user's experience.
Ultimately, I feel as if DRM is not a necessary evil, but while it exists at least there are companies such as Valve who earn trust and use DRM both for and against users. I expect that some day, the industry will turn against DRM either willingly, by legal intervention, or because companies like cdp.pl will use DRM-free as a promotional tool and nibble their way to dominance.
And yes, despite the fact that this will be confused with bias: if you prove that you are untrustworthy before, you will get away with less later regardless of your intentions.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | June 19, 2013 - 06:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: DRM, The Witcher 3, GOG
cdp.pl, formerly CD Projekt, has been one of the last holdouts against DRM. Founders of GoG.com and developer/publisher for The Witcher franchise, they offer a DRM-free platform for users to purchase games. Sure, they are usually good and old ones, aptly enough, but they are confident enough to include their most ambitious titles, The Witcher and The Witcher 2.
With The Witcher 3, we will see the title launch without DRM on GoG, trusting their users will purchase the title and be honest.
Apparently, the game will have a world slightly larger than Skyrim.
Hopefully, with very little empty space.
I have long been a proponent of DRM-free media, as you could probably tell. I believe that DRM-free titles end up netting more sales than the same title would have with encryption; even if that were not true, society is harmed more than enough to justify its non-existence. Sure, we all know unapologetic jerks and they are, indeed, jerks. Just because these jerks exist does not mean your company should, or successfully will, be the alpha a-hole on the a-hole food-chain. Chances are you will just upset your actual customers, now former customers. There are reasons why I never purchased (never pirated either, I just flat-out ignored the entire franchise's existence) another Crysis title after the first one's SecuROM debacle wrecked my camcorder's DVD-authoring software.
So, when The Witcher 3 comes out, back it up on your external hard drive and maybe even keep a copy on your home theater PC. Most importantly, buy it... sometime in 2014.
OpenCL Support in a Meaningful Way
Adobe had OpenCL support since last year. You would never benefit from its inclusion unless you ran one of two AMD mobility chips under Mac OSX Lion, but it was there. Creative Cloud, predictably, furthers this trend with additional GPGPU support for applications like Photoshop and Premiere Pro.
This leads to some interesting points:
- How OpenCL is changing the landscape between Intel and AMD
- What GPU support is curiously absent from Adobe CC for one reason or another
- Which GPUs are supported despite not... existing, officially.
This should be very big news for our readers who do production work whether professional or for a hobby. If not, how about a little information about certain GPUs that are designed to compete with the GeForce 700-series?
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2013 - 03:16 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, microsoft, ea, E3 13, E3
Update: Microsoft denies the statements from their support account... but this is still one of the major problems with DRM and closed platforms in general. It is stuff like this that you let them do.
Consumers, whether they acknowledge it or not, fear for the control that platform holders have over their content. It was hard for many to believe that having your EA account banned for whatever reason, even a dispute with a forum moderator, forfeited your license to games you play through that EA account. Sounds like another great idea for Microsoft to steal.
@dohertymark If your account is banned, you also forfeit the licenses to any games that have licenses tied to it as listed in the ToU. ^AC
— Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) June 14, 2013
Not stopping there, later on in the thread they were asked what would happen in the event of a security breach. You know, recourse before destroying access to possibly thousands of dollars of content.
@KillerRamen Ensure your account security features are enabled, and security proofs details are correct. ^ML
— Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) June 15, 2013
While not a "verified account", @xboxsupport is.
They acknowledge ownership of this account in the background image there.
Honestly, there shouldn't have been any doubt that these actually are Microsoft employees.
At this point, we have definitely surpassed absurdity. Sure, you typically need to do something fairly bad to have Microsoft stop charging your for Xbox Live. Removing access to your entire library of games, to me, is an attempt to limit cheating and the hardware community.
Great, encourage spite from the soldering irons, that works out well.
Don't worry, enthusiasts, you know the PC loves you.
Gaming as a form of entertainment is fundamentally different than gaming as a form of art. When content is entertainment, its message touches you without any intrinsic value and can be replaced with similar content. Sometimes a certain piece of content, itself, has specific value to society. It is these times where we should encourage efforts by organizations such as GoG, Mozilla and W3C, Khronos, and many others. Without help, it could be extremely difficult or impossible for content to be preserved for future generations and future civilizations.
It does not even need to get in the way of the industry and its attempt to profit from the gaming medium; a careless industry, on the other hand, can certainly get in the way of our ability to have genuine art. After all, this is the main reason why I am a PC gamer: the platform allows entertainment to co-exist with communities who support themselves when the official channels do not.
Of course, unless Windows learns a little something from the Xbox. I guess do not get your Windows Store account banned in the future?
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Processors | June 15, 2013 - 07:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, Ivy Bridge-E, Haswell-E
In my analysis of the recent Intel Computex keynote, I noted that the displayed confidence came across more as repressing self-doubt. It did not seem, to me, like Intel wants to abandon the high-end enthusiast but rather catch up with their low performance and high efficiency competitors; they just know they are secure in that market. Of course, we could see mid-range choices dwindle and prices stagnate, but I cast doubt that Intel wants to exit the enthusiast market despite their silence about Ivy Bridge-E.
All Images, Credit: VR-Zone
And Intel, now, wants to return some confidence to their high-end consumers comma they are not slowing down exclamation point exclamation point.
VR-Zone, the site which published Ivy Bridge-E's lazy release roadmap, are also the ones to suggest Haswell-E will come before mainstream Broadwell offerings. Once again, all is right with the world. Slated for release around holiday 2014, just a year after Ivy Bridge-E, Haswell-E will come alongside the X99 chipset. Instead of Broadwell, the back to school window of 2014 will by filled by a refresh of 22nm Haswell products with a new 9-series chipset.
Seriously, it's like watching the face of Intel's Tick-Tock while a repairman is tweaking the gears.
In terms of specifications, Haswell-E will come in 8 and 6-core offerings with up to 20MB of cache. Apart from the inclusion of DDR4 support, the main advantage of Haswell-E over the upcoming Ivy Bridge-E is supposed to be raw performance; VR-Zone estimates up to 33-50% better computational strength. A depressingly novel area of improvement as of recent...
Lastly, with recent discussion of the awkwardly hobbled K-series parts, our readers might be happy to know that all Haswell-E parts will be unlocked to overclocking. This, again, leads me to believe that Intel is not hoping to suffocate the enthusiast market but rather sort their users: mid-range consumers will take what they are given and, if they object, send them on the bus to Funk-E town.
Note, while the headlining slide definitively says "All Processors Unlocked"...
... this slide says "For K and Extreme series products." I will assume the latter is out of date?
Which begs the question: what does our readers think about that potential strategy? It could lead to mainstream performance products being pushed down into BGA-territory, but cements the existence of an enthusiast platform.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 11, 2013 - 04:06 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: wwdc 13, MacBook Air, Mac Pro, apple
Sometimes our "Perspective" is needed on Apple announcements because some big points just do not get covered by the usual sources. Other times, portions of the story can be relevant to our readers. This is one of those days where both are true. Either side should review our thoughts and analysis of Apple's recent ultrabook and, especially, their upcoming desktop offerings.
The MacBook Air has been, predictably, upgraded Intel's Haswell processors. Battery life is the first obvious benefit of the CPU, and that has been well reported. The 11-inch MacBook Air gains an extra four hours of battery life, usable for up to 9 hours between charges. The extra space on the 13-inch MacBook Air allows it to last 12 hours between charges.
Less discussed, both MacBook Airs will contain Intel's Iris iGPU more commonly known as Intel HD 5000. You cannot get Intel HD 5000 graphics without selecting a BGA socket component which you would install by soldering it in place. While there are several better solutions from competing GPU vendors, Apple will have one of the first shipping implementations of Haswell's canonical graphics processor. Iris is said to have double the performance of previous generation Ivy Bridge graphics for a fraction of its power consumption.
Also included in the MacBook Air is an 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi network adapter and Bluetooth 4.0. Apple is not typically known to introduce new standards and often lags severely behind what is available on the PC unless they had a hand in trademarking it, USB 3.0 being the obvious and recent example.
The specifications will be somewhat customizable, the user is able to select between: an i5 and an i7 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and 128, 256, or 512GB SSD. It has shipped the day it was announced with base prices ranging between $999 for an entry-level 11-inch and $1099 for an entry-level 13-inch.
But now we move on to the dying industry, desktop PCs, where all innovation has died unless it is to graft a touch interface to anything and everything.
"Can't innovate any more, my ass", grunts Phil Schiller, on the keynote stage.
Whether you like it, or think "innovation" is the best word, it's a legitimate new design some will want.
While the new Mac Pro is not a system that I would be interested in purchasing, for issues I will outline soon, these devices are what some users really want. I have been a very strong proponent of OEM devices as they highlight the benefit of the PC industry: choice. You can purchase a device, like the new Mac Pro, from a vendor; alternatively, you can purchase the components individually to assemble yourself and save a lot of money; otherwise, you can hire a small business computer store or technician.
We need more companies, like Apple, to try new devices and paradigms for workstations and other high-performance devices. While it is less ideal for Apple to be the ones coming up with these redesigns, Apple's platform encourages applications to be vendor-specific (only run on a Mac), it can still benefit the PC industry by demonstrating that life and demand still exists; trying something new could reap large benefits. Not everyone wants to have a full ATX case with discrete components but still want workstation performance, and that is okay.
Now when it comes to actual specifications, the typical coverage glossed over what could be easily approximated by a trip to Wikipedia and Google. Sure, some may have been in a rush within the auditorium, but still.
The specifications are:
- Intel Xeon E5-2600 V2-class CPU, Ivy Bridge-E, 12 cores max (suggests single-socket)
- 4-channel DDR3 ECC RAM, apparently 4 DIMMS which suggests 4x16GB (Max).
Dual FirePro GPUs, 4096 total shaders with 2x6GB GDDR5.
- Pretty clearly based on FirePro W9000
- Seems to be slightly underclocked, losing about 0.5 Teraflop per GPU.
- PCIe SSD
- Thunderbolt 2, USB3.0, and WiFi ac (+ a/b/g/n??), Bluetooth 4.0
Now the downside is that basically anything you wish to add to the Mac Pro needs to be done through Thunderbolt, Bluetooth 4.0, or USB 3.0. When you purchase an all-in-one custom design, you forfeit your ability to reach in and modify the components. There is also no mention of pricing, and for a computer with this shoplist you should expect to pay a substantial invoice even without "The Apple Tax", but that is not the point of purchasing a high-end workstation. Apple certainly put in as close to the best-of-the-best as they could.
Now could people stop claiming the PC is dead and work towards sustaining it? I know people love stories of jarring industry shifts, but this is ridiculous.
Subject: Editorial, Processors | June 10, 2013 - 10:53 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: SimCity, Richland, giveaway, contest, APU, amd, a10-6800k
Odd, turns out I found two brand new AMD A10-6800K Richland APUs sitting on my desk this morning. I called AMD to ask what this was all about and they said that if I didn't need them, I might as well give them away to our readers.
"Oh, and throw in a free copy of the new SimCity while you're at it," they told me.
Who am I to argue?
So let's have a giveaway!
We are handing out two AMD A10-6800K "Richland" APUs for you to build a brand new PC around and including a key for SimCity with each of them. If you haven't read Josh's review of the A10-6800K APU you should definitely do so; it will help educate you on exactly what you are getting - for FREE.
To enter, I need you to leave a comment on this very news post below telling us what you would build with a brand new A10 APU - you don't have to be registered to do so but we'd sure like it if you were. (Make sure you leave your correct email address so I can get in touch with you if you win.) Also, feel free to stop by the PC Perspective YouTube channel and either give our videos a gander or subscribe. I think we put out some great content there and we'd like more of you to see it.
I will pick one winner on June 17th and another on June 24th so you have two separate weeks to potentially win!
A big thanks goes out to AMD for supplying the APUs and copies of SimCity for this giveaway. Good luck!!