Cooler Master mouse parade, up next is the Mizar Gaming Mouse

Subject: General Tech | October 22, 2014 - 03:51 PM |
Tagged: Mizar, input, gaming mouse, cooler master

The Cooler Master Mizar gaming mouse has a nice understated appearance with a 7 buttons and high end Avago ADNS 9800 sensor capable of 1000 Hz/1ms.  That mix of design and technology let Cooler Master retail the mouse at a reasonable price without trimming out the functionality that really matters.  It does not ship with a copy of the software, which is a good thing as it will be outdated as soon as it is packaged, but there is a CM utility available for download to program your mouse buttons including macros and profiles.  Check out how it performs in game in Benchmark Reviews full article here.

Cooler-Master-Mizar-View-2.jpg

"For some odd reason Cooler Master seems to be releasing products everyday, whether it’s a new case or a new peripheral, their product line has been increasing exponentially in the past few years. What is not odd is the fact that many of Cooler Master products Benchmark Reviews has come across end up highly appraised. Today we are looking at one of two pointing devices Cooler Master has released this month."

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Borderland lunacy abounds

Subject: General Tech | October 22, 2014 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: gaming, borderlands: the pre-sequel

As you may have noticed, Ryan and the gang from NVIDIA have been playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and giving out lots of prizes to viewers.  That is certainly enough to make anyone think positively about the newest installment of Gearbox's series, but how is the game its self?  Several familiar characters make an appearance, albeit in slightly different roles than either of the previous games nor do gravity or oxygen remain as they were.  Does the zany dialogue and cartoony graphics provide as much fun as the other games or has the series already reached its peak?  As usual Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN have thoughts on that topic to share with you.

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"It’s a little tricky to avoid feeling that a review of The Pre-Sequel (!) is superfluous. Surely everyone in the world has had a taste of Borderlands at this point, and have made their minds up about it? This is very much more of that same formula, with zaniness turned up to… What’s that, Steve? You’ve never played a Borderlands game? Wow."

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Double your Win10 Preview, double your fun?

Subject: General Tech | October 22, 2014 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, assimilate

Now calling number 9860; you may proceed directly to download or use the automated Update system to receive your newest installment of the Win 10 Tech Preview.  Do be warned that your installation size will increase as this download is as large as the original you received to begin your Windows 10 Experience.  Those who have never touched a Windows phone previously should not be alarmed by the Action Center which will pop over top of any work you are doing whenever one of your social media feeds receives any sort of update, this is its intended effect and you should embrace it. 

You now have the option of joining the Insiders Fast ring of updates, this is highly recommended for those who prefer to enjoy the new features Microsoft will be incorporating without warning and before these wonderful new developments can be sullied by the anti-TIFKAM masses found online.  The Register did not report how many Canaries died to bring you this technical preview but any sacrifices would not have been in vain.  Please touch here to launch IE to visit their post on mobile and desktop devices.

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"Less than three weeks after it debuted the Windows 10 Technical Preview, Microsoft has shipped a comprehensive update to the pre-release OS that brings substantial changes, including some new features borrowed from Windows Phone."

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Source: The Register

Back to the Present Future? Hoverboard-like object appears on Kickstarter

Subject: General Tech | October 21, 2014 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: hoverboard, hendo

Arx Pax Labs, Inc. have a brilliant marketer and an interesting product in development; one year before the exact date a certain Marty McFly travelled foward to in time they have announced the Hendo hoverboard Kickstarter project.  Their current products use a patented tech which they refer to as Magnetic Field Architecture to create a field which allows their devices hover when over a non-ferrous metallic surface.  This does have some drawbacks, namely the limited amount of areas in which the device will function, as well as creating difficulties steering but the tech does work and will continue to be developed to provide more functionality.  For $10,000 you could get your hands on one of the 10 working prototypes though a more attractive price point and a less limited product supply is at the $300 mark which will get you the Whitebox Dev kit, which is literally a floating white box for you to use and take apart.  There are lower priced tiers which will allow you to have a 5 minute ride on one as well.

Engadget tried it out and the current model can solidly support up to 300lbs, the next generation is expected to handle 500lbs.  There are far more uses for this technology than the hoverboard though perhaps not quite as fun.  Delivery companies could implement hover pallets like you see in many sci-fi programs and conveyor belts might be a thing of the past.  It might even be possible to temporarily raise a properly configured building off of the ground during an earthquake with enough of these devices installed in the foundation.  Check out their Kickstarter's comment section for more information and links to other sites that have had a chance to try out the hoverboard.

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"A KICKSTARTER PROJECT is offering investors the chance to own a hoverboard a bit like the one in Back to the Future 2 for just $10,000."

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Source: Engadget

Raptr's Top PC Games of Sept. 2014 (Bonus: A Stats Lesson)

Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2014 - 10:14 PM |
Tagged: raptr, pc gaming

Raptr, a PC gaming utility, tracks the time spent within each game and aggregates that data across its user base. Its actual purpose is for game recording, adjusting quality settings for your machine's performance, community engagement, and so forth. Still, it is allowed to collect that data, so it does, and it shows fairly interesting trends of game popularity. Note that these figures represent percentage of total game play, by hour.

Before we get into the numbers, a quick reference about statistics. It may be counter-intuitive, but you can get a pretty accurate result from a relatively small amount of data. Ars Technica's "Steam Gauge" polled 100,000 random Steam accounts, including hidden ones by poking at generated IDs, and came up with fairly accurate sales figures, confirmed by a few indie developers.

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Where you can run into difficulties is if your random sample has some non-randomness, outside of your intended bounds. For instance, if you want to see trends involving PC gamers then it is logical to limit your survey to PC gamers, but you can run into systematic error if the study is voluntary, self-reporting, or has some other bias. Sometimes you cannot control these biases for your experiment, so multiple, different experiments may be necessary to dial in on a causation.

In this case, it seems like Raptr's study is an honest representation of the typical Raptr user. Tens of millions of samples is enough to crush random error. The only question that I can think of is whether Raptr users represent a sample space that you care about. If you want to know about the average gamer, including console, casual, and mobile, then maybe not. The average PC gamer? Definitely closer, but it should be compared to other studies in case there is disproportionate representation of some group. Interesting none-the-less? Of course.

So, that aside, the top three PC games of this poll stayed exactly where they are:

  1. League of Legends
  2. World of Warcraft
  3. DOTA 2

World of Warcraft and DOTA 2 held steady, but League of Legends increased its lead by over 14% (relative to second place). 22.54% of all play time that is recorded by Raptr is done in League of Legends. Diablo III jumped up to 5.23% of total due to the launch of a new "season", which encourages players to create new characters and compete for placement and loot. Basically, it attempts to recreate the feeling at launch where enthusiasts attempt to be the first to reach the level cap, and so forth.

The recently launched The Sims 4 found its way to #16. It launched on September 2nd, so it had basically a full month to collect usage time (including the launch surge). Raptr expects that it will slip off the list for October, and that makes sense for me.

Source: Raptr

Another overview of the Win 10 Technical Preview

Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2014 - 12:46 PM |
Tagged: windows 10

This time it is The Tech Report who are taking a look at Win10 and what it brings to the table and what it takes away.  As you can see from the screenshot below the Start Menu is mostly back, with a selection of large tiles already added to the side of the menu, though they are easily removable or can be replaced with non-Metro applications.  Since the contextual search still appears at the bottom of the Start Menu the search button on the taskbar seems unnecessary. The multiple desktops work as promised, with ways to easily switch between your workspaces, windows have been visually trimmed along the outside and drop shadows are back.  Check out the new command prompt and other changes in their three page article.

startmenu.jpg

"TR's Cyril Kowaliski has spent some time with the Windows 10 Technical Preview, and he's jotted down his thoughts about each of the major new features and changes. His conclusion? This has the potential to be the best Windows release since Windows 7."

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Unreal Engine 4.5 Recently Released

Subject: General Tech | October 19, 2014 - 11:20 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, epic games

Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4.5 last Tuesday, and it is one of their largest releases since launch. While most point-releases occur on a four-to-six week schedule, this one took about nine weeks.

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The headlining feature from the press release is Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows. In the real world, lights have an actual size. A light bulb is not an infinitesimal point, it fills up your hand when you grab it (when it is off and cooled to roughly room temperature, of course). If a surface can see a light, it is lit by it. If the surface cannot see the light, it is not lit by it, which looks like it is covered in shadow. If a light is big enough that part of it lights a part of a surface, but part of it is blocked, you get "soft shadows".

Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows is a dynamic effect, which means that it can update over time. This is very useful if, for instance, the object that is casting a shadow gets blown up by a rocket launcher or, less entertainingly, the sun sets. The effect is also particularly quick, with scenes rendering in just a couple of milliseconds (you get about 16ms to hit 60 FPS). This is faster than cascaded shadow maps (a method to generate shadows that is optimized for shadows near the camera) in benchmarks listed at Epic's documentation.

epic-ue45-sss.png

Unreal Engine 4.5 has also updated Subsurface Scattering. I am not exactly sure what is different, because Unreal Engine 4 had SSS for quite some time now, but they changed something. This technique is useful to create realistic skin, but is also very useful for oceans, ice, and wax.

Although Ray Traced Distance Field Soft Shadows and Screen-Space Subsurface Scattering are the most interesting feature to write about, I would consider C++ Hot Reload to be the most important feature of this version. To explain it, I will need to first describe how Unreal Engine 4 is designed. When you subscribe, you are given source code access to the engine on GitHub; alternatively, you can download the Unreal Engine Launcher, which allows you to manage canonical builds of Unreal Engine. When a version of the engine is run, it will open a project in Unreal Editor. These projects could be programmed either in C++ or Epic's flowchart-based scripting system, "Blueprints". Complete games could be made in Blueprints, and developers are encouraged to do so, but they are often used for simple objects (lights and elevators), modifications of complex objects, and rapid prototyping.

epic-ue45-hotreload.png

Rapid prototyping is the key part of my explanation. Remember how there is "engine code" that, when compiled, opens an editor to run "game code" for any given project? Despite the E3 2012 demo, many changes in a project's C++ source require the editor to be shut down and reloaded when game code is compiled. This led people to use Blueprints as a prototyping tool, not because of its logical, visual layout, but because you could manipulate objects several times in just a couple of minutes and without closing the editor. Now C++ is said to be a first-class citizen in this regard (unfortunately I have not had time to test this). As long as you are not modifying the engine's code, just the C++ code associated with your project, your changes should be possible while remaining in editor.

epic-ue45-umg.png

Also updated, and finally supported by default, is Unreal Motion Graphics (UMG). UMG is a UI platform that is built upon Slate, which itself is the main UI platform for Unreal Engine 4 (Unreal Editor, for instance, is created with Slate). Basically, it extends Slate and includes a Flash Professional-like editor for it, complete with styles, animations, and scaling for high-DPI devices.

Because I am not in the DirectX 12 private beta, I am unsure whether that branch has been updated. Microsoft has announced that it was based on Unreal Engine 4.4. They have not said anything publicly since, at least not regarding that.

Unreal Engine 4.5 is available now for subscribers through GitHub or the Unreal Engine Launcher.

Source: Epic Games

You haven't forgotten about the PCPer Forums have you?

Subject: General Tech | October 17, 2014 - 07:42 PM |
Tagged: forums, friday

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It has been a while since we mentioned the PC Perspective Forums on the front page, except of course the Fragging Frogs who have been having a great time lately and have put together some amazing VLANs full of gaming, fun and hardware giveaways.  There is a lot more than that hidden behind the tab at the top of the page for you to discover.   For anyone who has read about the latest and greatest hardware on our news and reviews but who isn't quite certain about if the hardware is right for them, we have a variety of forums specifically targeting the various components that we talk about.  I don't just mean GPUs and Cases or Motherboards and Processors, there is a forum specifically devoted to overclocking in general and for specific components as well.  You can also comment on my current choices on the Hardware Leaderboard and get feedback on your own choice of components.

If you have a working machine but are looking for tips on how to deal with Steam on Linux or what Windows tweaks might help you out then you are covered and can join in with the gurus which hang out here.  If networking is more your thing, be it a small LAN or suggestions on strange errors you are seeing in a large network environment then check out this forum which also contains information on setting up and securing your network and the clients attached to it.  If you have some old kit you would love to trade off for different equipment or were hoping for a deal on some used components; well head on over to the Trading Post and browse through the offers.

On the other hand if you are looking to harness the power of your PC for something a little more altruistic than Bitcoin why not join the Folding Frogs in the hunt for new configurations proteins which could help cancer research or join the BOINC crew to chug SETI or any of the wide variety of projects available in that Distributed Computing network.  If fun and games is more to your liking right now then the Off Topic board is always hopping with humour; however if a nice argument is more your style then join in The Lightning Round!

Your comments on our posts are always appreciated but there is a lot more to discover on PC Perspective when you look behind the front page.

New Mount & Blade: Warband Expansion

Subject: General Tech | October 17, 2014 - 06:32 PM |
Tagged: taleworlds, mount & blade

While it seems odd, it makes more sense once you realize that TaleWorlds is not actually developing it. The company supports its mod community and, for the second time, decided to promote one into a full DLC. The previous mod was Napoleonic Wars, developed by Flying Squirrel Entertainment, which is now a full independent game studio.

taleworlds-VikingConquest_5.jpg

The expansion, Mount & Blade: Viking Conquest, is the commercialized and updated Brytenwalda mod. Being an external effort, I doubt that TaleWorlds diverted much resources away from Mount and Blade II: Bannerlords to release this expansion. As an added benefit, it might launch a new independent games company -- maybe even a virtual furniture and meatball franchise.

While the company has not announced online player counts yet, this engine is known for supporting hundreds of players. Napoleonic Wars regularly has servers with 200-player caps not including horses (although I have heard, but not seen, that people have pushed that up to 250). This could be very interesting for a Viking Age theme.

Source: TaleWorlds

Apple Announces New Mac Minis with Haswell. What?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | October 17, 2014 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt, mac mini, mac, Intel, haswell, apple

I was not planning to report on Apple's announcement but, well, this just struck me as odd.

So Apple has relaunched the Mac Mini with fourth-generation Intel Core processors, after two years of waiting. It is the same height as the Intel NUC, but it also almost twice the length and twice the width (Apple's 20cm x 20cm versus the NUC's ~11cm x 11cm when the case is included). So, after waiting through the entire Haswell architecture launch cycle, right up until the imminent release of Broadwell, they are going with the soon-to-be outdated architecture, to update their two-year-old platform?

((Note: The editorial originally said "two-year-old architecture". I thought that Haswell launched about six months earlier than it did. The mistake was corrected.))

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I wonder if, following the iTunes U2 deal, this device will come bundled with Limp Bizkit's "Nookie"...

The price has been reduced to $499, which is a welcome $100 price reduction especially for PC developers who want a Mac to test cross-platform applications on. It also has Thunderbolt 2. These are welcome additions. I just have two, related questions: why today and why Haswell?

The new Mac Mini started shipping yesterday. 15-watt Broadwell-U is expected to launch at CES in January with 28W parts anticipated a few months later, for the following quarter.

Source: Apple