Hard West is here; get your eldritch western fix

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2015 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: hard west, Unity, gaming

If you backed the Kickstarter then you have had a chance to watch Hard West evolve from a single silent map to the recent update which added significant content and changed the beginning of the game significantly.  You are a dead gunslinger, brought back to an undead state in a western setting which incorporates not only natives and townsfolk but dark supernatural creatures and powers as well.  The game plays like the recent XCOM releases, with a similar turn style and cover system but also incorporates unique features such as the ability to ricochet bullets of some items on the map to shoot around corners and a shadow system designed to give you hints about who might be standing around a corner.

Nighttime changes the game dramatically and the optional permanent injury system is the exact opposite of the recent Warhammer games, severely injured members your posse will suffer negatives in the short term but possibly gaining strength once their wounds have fully healed.  You can see what Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN thought of the game here or just pick it up on Steam for $22.

"“Wild West XCOM” is about as good an elevator pitch as you could wish for. After a short delay, as of today we can find out whether Hard West can possibly live up to its glorious high concept. I played an earlier build a few weeks back – some thoughts, plus a launch trailer, below."

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Meet the Boltzmann Initiative, AMD's answer to HPC

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2015 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: amd, firepro, boltzmann, HPC, hsa

AMD has announced the Boltzmann Initiative to compete against Intel and NVIDIA in the HPC market this week at SC15.  It is not a physical product but rather new a way to unite the processing power of HSA compliant AMD APUs and FirePro GPUs.  They have announced several new projects including the Heterogeneous Compute Compiler (HCC) and Heterogeneous-compute Interface for Portability (HIP) for CUDA based apps which can automatically convert CUDA code into C++.  They also announced a headless Linux driver and HSA runtime infrastructure interface for managing clusters which utilizes their InfiniBand fabric interconnect to interface system memory directly to GPU memory as well as adding P2P GPU support and numerous other enhancements.   Check out more at DigiTimes.


"The Boltzmann Initiative leverages HSA's ability to harness both central processing units (CPU) and AMD FirePro graphics processing units (GPU) for maximum compute efficiency through software."

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Source: DigiTimes

Asus Chromebit CS10 Runs Google's Chrome OS Anywhere for $85

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2015 - 12:47 AM |
Tagged: SFF, hdmi stick, hdmi, chromebit, chrome os, asus, arm

Small form factor PCs are big this year, and Google is about to get into the game with its own HDMI dongle PC running Chrome OS. Google has partnered with Asus to release the Chromebit CS10 which is now avaialble for $85.

Asus Chromebit Mini PC.png

The small stick PC weighs 75 grams (2.6 ounces) and will come in black, orange, and eventually blue colors. The Chromebit is about the size of a flash drive with an HDMI port on one end, DC power input on one side, and a single USB 2.0 port on the other end. A removeable cap protects the HDMI output. It is small enough that you can toss it into a bag or tuck it behind a monitor or kiosk permanently. Asus includes an AC power adapter (18W, 1.5 amps) and a flexible HDMI connector (or a short extension cable depending on the region) along with velco stickers in the box.

The Chromebit CS10 is powered by a quad core Rockchip 3288-C SoC featuring four ARM Cortex A17 CPU cores and a Mali T624 GPU. The SoC is paired with 2GB of LPDDR3 memory and 16GB of eMMC storage. Connectivity includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 radios along with the USB 2.0 port. Users can hook up a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and use the USB port for extra storage, or hook up even more devices using a USB hub.

So far, reviews are positive and generally state that (for example) while the Rockchip ARM processor is no racehorse, it is good enough for basic web browsing, media streaming, and document editing.

Of course, the Chromebit runs the Chrome web browser, but it also can run any of the apps from the Chrome Web Store including Netflix, Office, and any number of free games. Asus is aiming the Chromebit at digital signage, kiosk, thin clients for schools, and for on-the-go travelers.

The Chromebit CS10 is available soon (it is listed as out of stock on Newegg and has not shown up on Amazon or other sites yet) for $85 in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Taiwan. Business customers can further purchase the ability to use the Chromebit in a locked down single-app kiosk mode for $24 per user, per year from CDW.

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Source: Asus

Microsoft Updates Privacy Statement (via Ed Bott of ZDNet)

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2015 - 08:55 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, Privacy, microsoft

UPDATE (Nov 19th, 12pm EST): Ed Bott emailed me to clarify a few points. First, PINs for BitLocker are not required and will not be backed up to OneDrive. I knew that PINs were not required, but I was trying to say "would there be a way that a user could use BitLocker without giving all the necessary bits to OneDrive". Apparently, using PINs is one of those ways. He also claims that you can manage your own keys by changing them and storing them locally.

He also commented on the HIPAA remark. He claims that Windows 10 is HIPAA compliant, and the reason why it was not included in the statement is because the question wasn't asked. Again, if applicable, check with your vendors and other support.

Okay so one of the major concerns with Windows 10 is how it handles your private data. I gave my thoughts on the topic a couple of weeks ago, which was a bit critical of Microsoft. I said that there are definite concerns that should be disclosed, but it is not enough of a concern to stop using it and switch to Linux or something. At least, not yet.


Image Credit: Wikipedia

Since then, Ed Bott of ZDNet discussed Microsoft's new privacy policy, which clarifies a few points. It looks like he ran the two versions of the EULA through a text-difference tool to highlight all changes, and took a few screenshots of key moments.

The foremost change is that Microsoft specified that only OneDrive, Outlook, and Skype files and content, private or public, are subject to disclosure to law enforcement. The previous wording looked like it applied to all files on Windows 10. Full access to all files sounds like something the law enforcement would want, but Windows 10 does not provide it.

Another change involves BitLocker. Recovery keys are synchronized to OneDrive “to allow recovery on personal devices”. I am not sure if this also includes PINs, for devices configured to use those, but it would be crappy if it did. Regardless, the privacy statement now says “Microsoft doesn't use your individual recovery keys for any purpose.” This raises two concerns: Why did they specify “Microsoft” and why did they qualify “recovery keys” with “individual”? My assumption is that this is just an awkward trait of the English language, but it could exempt sending batches of keys to third parties, such as governments, especially if it counts as a OneDrive personal file. Again, it is probably just an awkward wording though.

A final point for me is that Telemetry, when set to “Basic”, satisfies FINRA, SEC, and FTC regulations. Oddly they don't specify HIPAA, but you probably shouldn't be listening to tech reporters (yes including me) for advice about securing health insurance and patient data. You should have more reliable channels for that sort of inquiry.

Source: ZDNet

Infringe Trademarks in Style with UE4 Community Demos

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2015 - 06:40 PM |
Tagged: ue4, Nintendo, maker, hobbyist

Okay this is just cool (albeit a little old news).

YouTube user CryZENx made a few tech demos that star classic video game characters, with modern, Unreal Engine 4-powered graphics. Samus has a glossy, metallic suit of armor. Goku launches bright Kamehameha blasts, as well as punches, kicks, and spins with his power pole, all while his tail wags and whips around behind him.

It is also one of the first demos that I've seen use NVIDIA FleX. One level has two spout of clear blue water. One flows over a pile of rigid bodies and splits in the corner of the world, and the other flows through two water wheels, which shape the spout before it blobs on the ground.


As always, be careful running what you download from the internet. That said, it doesn't trigger a permission escalation (UAC) or anything, so chances are that it is just a typical project cooked through Unreal Engine 4. Nintendo and others might be a bit upset at their trademarks being used, but it's a non-commercial tech demo for a hobbyist game developer.

They would be better off hiring them.

Among the other things, Threshold 2 will finally honour your previous license

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2015 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Scott covered a lot of what to expect from Threshold 2, the November update for Windows 10 but today we received another tidbit of information about the new release.  When you first upgraded to Windows 10 you probably noticed that your Win7/8 license was not honoured if you tried to do a fresh install after the upgrade.   As well, if you used software to determine the new license code, it was also not recognized for a fresh install and your only option to reinstall was to use the process found within Windows 10.  That will change with the arrival of the new update according to what The Inquirer was told, as long as you have record of your old Win7 or Win8 key you will be able to do a fresh new installation of Windows 10, presumably on the same hardware.  They also provided an estimate of how long the installation of this update will take, about one hour depending on the speed of your internet.


"That means if you start with a clean slate, your Windows 7 or 8 licence key just wouldn't work. The good news is that this problem has been fixed with the arrival of Threshold 2, and you can now use an old licence key to do a fresh installation."

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Source: The Inquirer

Kaby Lake has overflowed onto the internet

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2015 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, LGA 1151, leak, kaby lake, intel 200, Intel, cannon lake

Benchlife.info got hold of two slides from an Intel presentation for Kaby Lake which cover some of the features you can expect to find on the new processor family.  As with all leaks you should ensure you take a dosage of Sodium Chloride while looking through the information.


The Intel 200 chipset will provide up to 30 PCIe lanes, 24 of which can be dedicated to PCIe slots and another half dozen for SATA 6Gbps.  The chipset can also manage up to 10 USB 3.0 ports though do not expect to see all of these present on a board at the same time, there is only so much bandwidth to go around, as M.2 slots were not mentioned and will also share the PCIe pool.  If you are wondering what Intel Optane Technology is you can be forgiven as apparently calling it NVME support would be too easy.


As for the processor, it will remain LGA 1151 with power ranging from 35W to 95W which means it should be compatible with existing boards, assuming a UEFI update is released.  The processor will support hardware acceleration for 10-bit VP9 playback and 10-bit HVEC encoding, as well as supporting 5K video at 30Hz and 60Hz, impressive for an onboard GPU.  The processors will be unlocked and have enhanced BCLK overclocking as well.  As you would expect the CPU is ready for NVMe, Thunderbolt 3 and even Intel RealSense.  Follow the link if you want to give your translator program a workout.

Clueless for Christmas? Maybe this will help

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2015 - 03:14 PM |
Tagged: christmas

The holidays come along and people start wanting to know what is on your list but now that you are an adult anything you want you have probably bought and what is left are the extremely expensive items you can't immediately afford.  Perhaps this guide from The Tech Report might help you think of something you would like to receive or even better, something appropriate to give as a gift.  There are nice coffee makers, software, headphones and even a Wookie lunch bag in addition to hardware.  Spend a few moments to check out what else there is


"We know gift shopping can be hard at the best of times, so the TR staff has banded together to share our favorite gift recommendations for the PC enthusiast this year."

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Xbox One Controller Chatpad Now Available, Supports Consoles and Windows 10 PCs

Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2015 - 10:58 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, chatpad, microsoft

Microsoft released the Xbox One chatpad on Thursday, making it easier to chat with friends and browse the internet thanks to the full QWERTY keyboard. The pad plugs into the bottom of the controller using both the proprietary connector and the 3.5mm audio jack. The chatpad then provides its own audio jack to plug a chat headset into.

The chatpad keyboard is back-lit features dedicated buttons to control the volume level, game and voice chat volume mix, and a microphone mute. it also has two user programmable keys (X1 and X2) that are usable only on the Xbox One although that functionality will not be available until "mid 2016" according to Microsoft. Currently, pressing the X1 and X2 function keys will take a screenshot and save the last 30 seconds of game play as a video clip respectively.

Xbox One Chatpad 1.jpg

The chatpad is compatible with all Xbox One controllers provided they are running the latest firmware. It can be used with both the Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. Note that the Xbox One must be running the NXOE (New Xbox One Experience) update and Windows 10 must be updated to the November Update. Function keys only work with the Xbox One.

The chatpad and chat headset are available now from Amazon for $34.99.

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Source: Microsoft

MSI Rolling Out Fanless Braswell-Powered Cubi N PC

Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2015 - 01:44 AM |
Tagged: msi, cubi n, SFF, fanless, Braswell, Intel Braswell

MSI will soon add a new small form factor PC to its Cubi lineup with the fanless Cubi N. Powered by an Intel “Braswell” SoC, the Cubi N is a silent PC capable of 4K video playback that fits in the palm of your hand.

Unlike the original Cubi bare-bones (which used a Broadwell Celeron), the Cubi N is fanless and uses a heatsink and a stylized wavy mesh case design for passive heat dissipation. The mini PC measures 116mm x 112mm x 44.47mm and is all black with rounded corners. The diagonal cut is gone from this model with the power button being in the front-left top corner instead.

Before diving into the internals, MSI has included two USB 3.0 ports and a combo headphone/mic audio jack on the front panel and HDMI, VGA, RJ45, and an additional two USB 3.0 ports on the back of the Cubi N.

MSI Cubi N Fanless SFF Mini PC.jpg

Not bad, but not the most extensive I/O and the VGA output is a bit of an odd choice (though at this point it should be essentially free to add).

Internally, MSI is using an Intel “Braswell” Celeron N3150 SoC with Intel HD Graphics. This SoC (6W TDP) is a four core 1.6 GHz part that can boost up to 2.08 GHz with 2MB L2 cache and HD Graphics with 12 execution units. Users can add up to 8GB of DDR3L memory along with a single mSATA SSD and one 2.5” hard drive (though this makes the PC a bit taller at 55.5mm). The Cubi N comes with an Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi card plugged into an M.2 slot.

The Cubi N will come in black or white and will be generally available as a bare-bones system. According to FanlessTech, pre-configured models will also be available including a version with a 32GB mSATA SSD, 2GB RAM, and Windows 10 Home for $249. MSI is allegedly also working on bare-bones models based around the Braswell Pentium N3700 (2.4 GHz burst) and a cheaper Celeron N3000 processors.

The fanless SFF Cubi N is not yet available for purchase, but it should be coming soon for under $400 all-in (adding storage and memory, more if you want a non-Home version of Windows).

Source: MSI