Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 08:31 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, humble bundle
Humble Bundle is an organization that sells games for charity. It started with a service that let users pay pretty much whatever they want for DRM-free titles, and let them choose how much went to the developers, the organization, and the selected charities of the moment. They have branches out since then, sometimes with praise, sometimes with concerned murmors.
Humble Bundle mumble, if you will.
Now they have created a subscription service. Basically, on the first Friday of every month, subscribers will receive the game that is promoted. In other words, it is a service that acts similar to what we're used to, except that you don't know what you're getting ahead of time, you cannot select how much you pay for it, and you cannot choose the proceed distribution. Unless it leads to a unique palette of games that are decidedly better than the typical bundles, I cannot see how this is anything more than a restrictive subset for the sake of it.
Still, that doesn't mean said subset isn't worth your money (be careful of the double-negative). If it is, then you can subscribe now and pick up Legend of Grimrock 2. The title is apparently available on Steam for $24, so this would be a half-price deal if it was something that you were interesting in buying.
I guess that's a decent first impression.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 5, 2015 - 08:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, iot
Microsoft has released the Windows 10 IoT Core for the Raspberry Pi 2. It retails for 75$ without the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, or $115$ with it. Apart from the optional Pi, it is basically a pack of electronic components and an SD card that's pre-loaded with Windows 10 IoT. It is available at the Adafruit store, although both packs are currently out of stock... because of course they are.
Beyond jumper wires, a case, breadboards, resistors, LEDs, switches, and sensors, the pack also comes with a WiFi module. Interestingly, Adafruit claims that this will be the only WiFi adapter for the Raspberry Pi 2 that's supported by Windows 10 IoT. This is weird, of course, because Windows is kind-of the go-to when it comes to driver support. It makes me wonder whether Microsoft changed anything under the hood that affects hardware compatibility and, if it did, whether Windows 10 IoT loses its major advantage over Linux and other OSes in this form factor.
The kit is currently sold up, but retails for $75, or $115 with a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B.
Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 07:32 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: starcraft 2, starcraft, pc gaming, esports
I'm not really seeing anyone pick up this news in English outside of StarCraft II forums, so I'm not sure whether this news will be fresh, or completely irrelevant to anyone's interests. Either way, GOM eXP was one of the leading broadcasters of StarCraft tournaments in South Korea. They operated GSL, which was one of the three Blizzard-endorsed leagues for StarCraft II.
Image Credit: Wolf Shröder via Twitter
They have just shut down, but their GSL tournament will not.
afreecaTV, a video streaming service, has bought out the tournament. For viewers, this means that high quality, 1080p streams will be available for free. Previously, GOM was a bit strict about forcing Twitch subscriptions for anything other than Low quality. The quality was bad enough that you often couldn't even read the on-screen text, such as how many units or resources each player has.
Beyond hosting the 2016 GSL tournament, they will also have a couple of StarCraft II show matches and even a StarCraft: Brood War league. I wonder how the original StarCraft holds up for viewers after we have gotten used to the sequel's updated graphics. Hmm.
Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2015 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: physics, microsoft, Intel, Havok
Microsoft has just purchased Havok from Intel for an undisclosed price. This group develops one of the leading physics engines for video games and other software. It was used in every Halo title since Halo 2, including Halo Wars, and a fork of it drives the physics for Valve's Source Engine. It has been around since 2000, but didn't really take off until Max Payne 2 in 2003.
And the natural follow-up question for just about everything is “why?”
Hopefully this isn't bad taste...
Photo Credit: Havok via Game Developer Magazine (June 2013)
There are good reasons, though. First, Microsoft has been in the video game middleware and API business for decades. DirectX is the obvious example, but they have also created software like Games for Windows Live and Microsoft Gaming Zone. Better software drives sales for platforms, and developers can always use help accomplishing that.
Another reason could be Azure. Microsoft wants to bring cloud services to online titles, offloading some of the tasks that are insensitive to latency allows developers to lower system requirements or do more with what they have (which is especially true when consoles flatten huge install bases to a handful of specifications). If they plan to go forward with services that run on Azure or Xbox Live, then it would make sense to have middleware that's as drop-in as possible. Creating a physics engine from scratch is a bit of a hassle, but so is encouraging existing engines to use it.
It would be better to just buy someone that everyone is using. Currently, that's Havok, an open-source solution that is rarely used outside of other open-source systems, and something that's owned by NVIDIA (and probably won't leave their grip until their fingers are frigid and lifeless).
That's about all we know, though. The deal doesn't have a close date, value, or official purpose. Intel hasn't commented on the deal, only Microsoft has.
Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2015 - 11:04 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Starcraft II, legacy of the void, blizzard
Third time's the charm, unless they plan another release at some point.
The StarCraft II interface isn't perfect. Even though it is interesting and visually appealing, some tasks are unnecessarily difficult and space is not used in the most efficient way. To see what I mean, try to revert the multiplayer mode to Wings of Liberty, or, worse, find your Character Code. Blizzard released a new UI with Heart of the Swarm back in 2013, and they're doing a new one for the release of Legacy of the Void on November 10th. Note that my two examples probably won't be fixed in this update, they are just examples of UX issues.
While the update aligns with the new expansion, Blizzard will patch the UI for all content levels, including the free Starter Edition. This honestly makes sense, because it's easier to patch a title when all variations share a common core. Then again, not every company patches five-year-old titles like Blizzard does, so the back-catalog support is appreciated.
The most heartwarming change for fans, if pointless otherwise, is in the campaign selection screen. As the StarCraft II trilogy will be completed with Legacy of the Void, the interface aligns them as three episodes in the same style as the original StarCraft did.
On the functional side, the interface has been made more compact (which I alluded to earlier). This was caused by the new chat design, which is bigger yet less disruptive than it was in Heart of the Swarm. The column of buttons on the side are now a top bar, which expands down for sub-menu items.
While there are several things that I don't mention, a final note for this post is that Arcade will now focus on open lobbies. Players can look for the specific game they want, but the initial screen will show lobbies that are waiting to fill. The hope seems to be that players waiting for a game will spend less time. This raises two questions. First, Arcade games tend to have a steep learning curve, so I wonder if this feature will slump off after people try a few rounds before realizing that they should stick with a handful of games. Second, I wonder what this means for player numbers in general -- this sounds like a feature that is added during player declines, which Blizzard seems to hint is not occuring.
I'm not sure when the update will land, but it will probably be around the launch of Legacy of the Void on November 10th.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 1, 2015 - 02:45 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android
PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.
Full Story Listing:
It probably won’t come as a shock to the millions of iPhone users around the globe, but the more days I keep the 6s in my pocket, the more accepting I am becoming with the platform. The phone has been fast and reliable – I have yet to come across any instability or application crashes despite my incessant installations of new ones. And while I think it’s fair to say that even new Android-based phones feel snappy to user interactions out of the box, the iPhone is just about a week in without me ever thinking about performance – which is exactly what you want from a device like this.
There are some quirks and features missing from the iPhone 6s that I had on my Droid Turbo that I wish I could implement in settings or through third-party applications. I fell in love with the ability to do a double wrist rotation with the Droid as a shortcut to opening up the camera. It helped me capture quite a few photos when I only had access to a single hand and without having to unlock the phone, find an icon, etc. The best the iPhone has is a “drag up from the bottom” motion from the lock screen but I find myself taking several thumb swipes on it before successfully activating it when only using one hand. Trying to use the home button to access the lock screen, and thus the camera shortcut, is actually hindered because the Touch ID feature is TOO FAST, taking me to a home screen (that may not have the camera app icon on it) where I need to navigate around.
I have been a user of the Pebble Time since it was released earlier this year and I really enjoy the extended battery life (measured in days not hours) when compared to Android Wear devices or the Apple Watch. However, the capabilities of the Pebble Time are more limited with the iPhone 6s than they are with Android – I can no longer use voice dictation to reply to text messages or emails and the ability to reply with easy templates (yes, no, I’ll be there soon, etc.) is no longer available. Apple does not allow the same level of access to the necessary APIs as Android does and thus my Time has effectively become a read-only device.
Finally, my concern about missing widgets continues to stir within me; it is something that I think the iPhone 6s could benefit from greatly. I also don’t understand the inability to arrange the icons on the home screens in an arbitrary fashion. Apple will not let me move icons to the bottom of the page without first filling up every other spot on the screen – there can be no empty spaces!! So while my organizational style would like to have a group of three icons in the bottom right hand corner of the screen with some empty space around it, Apple doesn’t allow me to do that. If I want those icons in that location I need to fill up every empty space on the screen to do so. Very odd.
Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2015 - 02:17 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, fable legends, dx12, apple, A9, TSMC, Samsung, 14nm, 16nm, Intel, P3608, NVMe, logitech, g410, TKL, nvidia, geforce now, qualcomm, snapdragon 820
PC Perspective Podcast #369 - 10/01/2015
Join us this week as we discuss the Fable Legends DX12 Benchmark, Apple A9 SoC, Intel P3608 SSD, and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:42:35
Week in Review:
0:54:10 This episode of PC Perspective is brought to you by…Zumper, the quick and easy way to find your next apartment or home rental. To get started and to find your new home go to http://zumper.com/PCP
News item of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2015 - 01:43 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: corsair, VOID Wireless, gaming headset, 7.1 headset
On paper these headphones are impressive, wireless performance out to 40' with 16 hours of charge, frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz on the 50mm drivers and 7.1 surround sound. There have been many previous software emulated 7.1 directional gaming headsets which have disappointed users but in this case Benchmark Reviews quite liked the performance of the VOID while gaming and listening to music. The noise cancelling microphone, dubbed an “InfoMic” as it has LED lights which can be illuminated in different ways depending on your preferences and even the game you happen to be playing. You can also sync the lights with other Corsair RGB devices using the Cue software if you are so inclined. Check out the full reivew right here.
"In the world of computer peripherals and hardware, most of us are well aware of Corsair’s existence. This is an organization that has well-earned reputation for producing quality components; components that are going to be high-performing, intelligently designed, and very likely to provide its owners with years of service."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- ASUS Strix 7.1 Headset Review @HiTech Legion
- Tt eSPORTS Shock 3D 7.1 Gaming Headset Review @ NikKTech
- Inateck MercuryBox Bluetooth Speaker & Mobile Products @ eTeknix
- Creative Sound Blaster Roar 2 @ Legion Hardware
Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2015 - 12:44 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: stagefright, security, Android
Assuming you have a carrier with a sense of responsibility and a reasonably modern phone the chances are you are patched against the original Stagefright vulnerability. This is not the case for the recently reported vulnerabilities dubbed Stagefright 2.0. If you open a specially and nefariously modified MP3 or MP4 file in Stagefright on Android 5.0+ it has been confirmed that those files can trigger remote code execution via libstagefright. If you are on an older model then the vulnerability lies in libutils and can be used for the same purpose, gaining access to the data stored on your device. From the security company reports that The Register has linked, it sounds like we can expect many repeat performances as the Stagefright library was poorly written and contains many mistakes; worse is the fact that it is not sandboxed in any way and has significantly higher access than an application for playing media files should ever have.
"Joshua Drake from the security outfit Zimperium zLabs introduced us to StageFright earlier this summer, and he is now back with a similar warning and a brace of problems, according to a post on the Kaspersky Threatpost news site."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Microsoft rolls out Skype Translator to Windows desktop app @ The Inquirer
- Windows 10's second month sees sluggish growth in market share @ The Inquirer
- Weird garbled Windows 7 update baffles world – now Microsoft reveals the truth @ The Register
- Tear teardown down, roars Apple: iFixit app yanked from store @ The Register
- Acer: We're not laying off staff, just shifting 'em out of the PC biz @ The Register
- Tenda AC15 AC1900 Dual-Band WiFi Router @ Benchmark Reviews
Setup, Game Selection
Yesterday NVIDIA officially announced the new GeForce NOW streaming game service, the conclusion to the years-long beta and development process known as NVIDIA GRID. As I detailed on my story yesterday about the reveal, GeForce NOW is a $7.99/mo. subscription service that will offer on-demand, cloud-streamed games to NVIDIA SHIELD devices, including a library of 60 games for that $7.99/mo. fee in addition to 7 titles in the “purchase and play” category. There are several advantages that NVIDIA claims make GeForce NOW a step above any other streaming gaming service including PlayStation Now, OnLive and others. Those include load times, resolution and frame rate, combined local PC and streaming game support and more.
I have been able to use and play with the GeForce NOW service on our SHIELD Android TV device in the office for the last few days and I thought I would quickly go over my initial thoughts and impressions up to this point.
Setup and Availability
If you have an NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV (or a SHIELD Tablet) then the setup and getting started process couldn’t be any simpler for new users. An OS update is pushed that changes the GRID application on your home screen to GeForce NOW and you can sign in using your existing Google account on your Android device, making payment and subscription simple to manage. Once inside the application you can easily browse through the included streaming games or look through the smaller list of purchasable games and buy them if you so choose.
Playing a game is as simple and selecting title from the grid list and hitting play.
Let’s talk about that game selection first. For $7.99/mo. you get access to 60 titles for unlimited streaming. I have included a full list below, originally posted in our story yesterday, for reference.