GDC 15: New Syber Steam Machines Coming This Fall From CyberPowerPC

Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2015 - 12:17 AM |
Tagged: syber, CyberPowerPC, steam os, gaming, gdc 15, gdc 2015

Syber, a new division of CyberPowerPC, announced plans to launch a slew of Steam OS-powered living room PCs this fall. There are six Steam Machines planned in all, with prototypes being shown off at the Games Developer Conference (GDC) this week.

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So far, CyberPowerPC has revealed the Syber Steam Machine-E, Syber Steam Machine-P, and Syber Steam Machine-K. At the low end sits the Steam Machine-E with an unspecified quad core AMD processor and NVIDIA GTX graphics card starting at $449. For $100 more, you can step up to the Steam Machine-P with a dual core Intel Pentium G3258 CPU clocked at 3.2GHz and an AMD Radeon R9 270X. Finally, the Steam Machine-K sits at the high end with an Intel Core i5-4690K processor and a NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970.

Syber also hinted at an exclusive orange clad Steam Machine through CyberPowerPC for $1,399.

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Of course, these are merely starting prices and users will be able to further customize them when ordering. This is CyberPowerPC’s second stab at breaking into the living room with the SteamOS partnership. Interestingly, they have managed to shave a bit off the cost of the lowest end model and added several more tiers compared to the initial series launched at last year’s CES.

Source: Syber

GDC 15: PhysX Is Now Shared Source to UE4 Developers

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | March 4, 2015 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 15, nvidia, epic games, ue4, unreal engine 4, PhysX, apex

NVIDIA and Epic Games have just announced that Unreal Engine 4 developers can view and modify the source of PhysX. This also includes the source for APEX, which is NVIDIA's cloth and destruction library. It does not include any of the other libraries that are under the GameWorks banner, but Unreal Engine 4 does not use them anyway.

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This might even mean that good developers can write their own support for third-party platforms, like OpenCL. That would probably be a painful process, but it should be possible now. Of course, that support would only extend to their personal title, and anyone who they share their branch with.

If you are having trouble finding it, you will need to switch to a branch that has been updated to PhysX 3.3.3 with source, which is currently just “Master”. “Promoted” and earlier seem to be back at PhysX 3.3.2, which is still binary-only. It will probably take a few months to trickle down to an official release. If you are still unable to find it, even though you are on the “Master” branch, the path to NVIDIA's source code is: “Unreal Engine/Engine/Source/ThirdParty/PhysX/”. From there you can check out the various subdirectories for PhysX and APEX.

NVIDIA will be monitoring pull requests sent to that area of Unreal Engine. Enhancements might make it back upstream to PhysX proper, which would then be included in future versions of Unreal Engine and anywhere else that PhysX is used.

In other news, Unreal Engine 4 is now free of its subscription. The only time Epic will ask for money is when you ship a game and royalties are due. This is currently 5% of gross revenue, with the first $3000 (per product, per calendar quarter) exempt. This means that you can make legitimately free (no price, no ads, no subscription, no microtransactions, no Skylander figurines, etc.) game in UE4 for free now!

Source: Epic Games

GDC 15: Valve Shows Off $50 Steam Link Game Streaming Box

Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2015 - 04:31 PM |
Tagged: GDC, valve, streaming box, Steam Box, steam, pc game streaming, gaming, gdc 2015

Valve has slowly but surely been working on its living room gaming initiative. Despite the slow progress (read: Valve time), Steam Machines are still a thing and a new bit of hardware called the “Steam Link” will allow you to stream all of your Steam content from your computers and Steam Machines to your TV over a local network. Slated for a November launch, the Steam Link is a $49.99 box that can be paired with a Steam Controller for another $49.99.

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Valve has revealed little about the internals or specific features of the Steam Link. We do know that it can tap into Valve’s Steam In-Home Streaming technology to stream your PC games to your TV and output it at 1080p 60Hz (no word on specific latency numbers but the wired connection is promising). The box is tiny, looking to be less than half of a NUC (and much shorter) with sharp angles and one rounded corner hosting the Steam logo. Two USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a HDMI output, and an AC power jack sit on the rear of the device with a third USB port located on the left side of the Steam Link.

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In all, the Steam Link looks like a promising device so long as Valve can get it out the door in time, especially with so many competing streaming technologies hitting the market. I’m looking forward to more details and getting my hands one later this year.

The old is new is old again, Wolfenstein: The Old Blood

Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2015 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: gaming, wolfenstein, the old blood

B.J. Blazkowicz is back ... in time?  There was apparently a recent reboot of the venerable Wolfenstein series far more popular than the mediocre 2009 reboot which was set in a modern times, albeit a parallel history in which the Nazi's won.  The Old Blood was just announced, set presumably in the same timeline as The New Order, set in 1946 and is an assault by our hero on Castle Wolfenstein to try to prevent the Nazis from winning the war.  If it is indeed a prequel then we already know the ending, with B.J. suffering a massive head wound and going into a coma; perhaps while bending over to pick up the Spear of Destiny?  Check out the trailer at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

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"Bethesda have just announced a Wolfenstein: The New Order stand-alone prequel, which is wonderful news. Going by the subtitle The Old Blood, it’s set in 1946 as the Nazis are on the brink of winning World War II."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Nano, Nano, Nano, Nano, Nano, Nano, Nano, Nano ... Server!

Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2015 - 12:46 PM |
Tagged: nano server, microsoft, server 2016, rumour

In a recent leak from Microsoft that The Inquirer is reporting on describes Windows Server 2016 as offering "a new headless deployment option for Windows Server".  Your next generation of servers may live in containers inside CloudOS infrastructure and you will use Windows Server Core to access Powershell to remotely interface with your server.  There are some downsides to this model, data which is required to be stored in a specific geographical location will not be able to take advantage of this and you will lose the ability to run a fax server.  Governments and other organizations may be forking over money to Microsoft to support older versions of Windows server now or in the future if the idea of a server that you can actually sit in front of is being discouraged.  As with all leaks you should take this with a grain of salt but this is certainly in line with what Microsoft's new business model seems to be.

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"MICROSOFT IS PLANNING a 'Nano Server', according to the latest leaks from notorious Microsoft mole WZor."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

BitTorrent Sync 2.0 Available Now For PC, NAS, and Mobile With Pro Version For $39.95/year

Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2015 - 02:29 AM |
Tagged: sync 2.0, folder sync, file sharing, bittorrent sync, bittorrent, backup

BitTorrent Sync has officially taken the beta tag off and launched Sync 2.0. Sync 2.0 is the latest iteration of the company’s file and folder synchronization application. It uses certificate-based security and the torrent protocol to securely share files an folders with no file size or transfer limits. Sync 2.0 is available for PCs as well as NAS and mobile devices and it can be used to roll your own cloud storage.

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Sync 2.0 contains numerous bug fixes and three major new features over Sync 1.4 (which I detailed here and includes selective sync, ownership and permission controls, and private identities). Additionally, the question of how BitTorrent will monetize Sync has been answered with the introduction of a paid Sync Pro subscription service that grants access to all the new Sync features.

BitTorrent continues to offer a free version that Sync 1.4.3 users can upgrade to in order to take advantage of the bug fixes with one big caveat. The free version of Sync 2.0 is limited to synchronizing 10 folders (no file/folder size or transfer limits). This is a irksome step backwards from the previous version that in my opinion is unwarranted (Sync Pro unlocks a slew of useful features), but apparently BitTorrent believes it needs to do this to encourage enough people to ante up for the paid version to support the project.

Users can download Sync 2.0 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Free BSD from GetSync.com while mobile users can pick the Sync app up from their app store of choice (it should be live today). BitTorrent now supports Sync on Network Attached Storage devices from Asustor, Drobo, Netgear, Overland SnapServer, QNAP, Seagate, and Synology. You can grab the appropriate NAS build from this page.

Downloads of Sync 2.0 include a 30-day trial of Sync Pro. Sync Pro will cost $39.95 per user per year (on unlimited devices) with volume licensing available for large organizations and teams.

I have been using Sync since the original alpha and have found it to be invaluable in keeping all my files in sync and my smartphone pictures backed up (especially with the number of times my S5 has needed replacing heh). I am still deciding whether or not I will purchase the yearly Pro subscription (The 10 folder limit does not affect me (yet anyway)), but the new features are compelling as the linked devices and selective sync would be welcome. The ownership and permissions stuff is great for collaboration and sharing with others, but that’s not something I’m using it for right now.

What are your thoughts on Sync 2.0 and the new subscription model? Now that I am allowed to talk about it, do you have any questions?

Source: BitTorrent

GDC 15: NVIDIA Announces SHIELD, Tegra X1 Powered Set-top with Android TV

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 3, 2015 - 10:21 PM |
Tagged: Tegra X1, tegra, shield, gdc 15, GDC, android tv

NVIDIA just announced a new member of its family of hardware devices: SHIELD. Just SHIELD. Powered by NVIDIA's latest 8-core, Maxwell GPU Tegra X1 SoC, SHIELD will run Android TV and act as a game playing, multimedia watching, GRID streaming set-top box.

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Odd naming scheme aside, the SHIELD looks to be an impressive little device, sitting on your home theater or desk, bringing a ton of connectivity and performance to your TV. Running Android TV means the SHIELD will have access to the entire library of Google Play media including music, movie and apps. SHIELD supports 4K video playback at 60 Hz thanks to an HDMI 2.0 connection and fully supports H.265/HEVC decode thanks to Tegra X1 processor.

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Speaking of the Tegra X1, the SHIELD will include the power of 256 Maxwell architecture CUDA cores and will easily provide the best Android gaming performance of any tablet or set-top box on the market. This means gaming, and lots of it, will be possible on SHIELD. Remember our many discussions about Tegra-specific gaming ports from the past? That trend will continue and more developers are realizing the power that NVIDIA is putting into this tiny chip.

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In the box you'll get the SHIELD set-top unit and a SHIELD Controller, the same released with the SHIELD Tablet last year. A smaller remote controller that looks similar to the one used with the Kindle Fire TV will cost a little extra as will the stand that sets the SHIELD upright.

Pricing on the new SHIELD set-top will be $199, shipping in May.

GDC 15: Khronos Acknowledges Mantle's Start of Vulkan

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | March 3, 2015 - 03:37 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, Mantle, Khronos, glnext, gdc 15, GDC, amd

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Neil Trevett, the current president of Khronos Group and a vice president at NVIDIA, made an on-the-record statement to acknowledge the start of the Vulkan API. The quote came to me via Ryan, but I think it is a copy-paste of an email, so it should be verbatim.

Many companies have made great contributions to Vulkan, including AMD who contributed Mantle. Being able to start with the Mantle design definitely helped us get rolling quickly – but there has been a lot of design iteration, not the least making sure that Vulkan can run across many different GPU architectures. Vulkan is definitely a working group design now.

So in short, the Vulkan API was definitely started with Mantle and grew from there as more stakeholders added their opinion. Vulkan is obviously different than Mantle in significant ways now, such as its use of SPIR-V for its shading language (rather than HLSL). To see a bit more information, check out our article on the announcement.

Update: AMD has released a statement independently, but related to Mantle's role in Vulkan

A taste of the new Pi

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2015 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi 2 Model B

Linux.com have just released benchmarks of the new Raspberry Pi 2 Model B with its improved processor and RAM.  Benchmarking a Pi is always interesting as you must find applications which are reasonable for this device to use, with webserver software being a decent choice to compare to ODroid-U2, Radxa and the Beaglebone Black.  openSSL 1.0.1e,DES and AES cbc mode ciphering and Blowfish were all tested with the Pi performing slowly but improved from the previous generation and certainly decent for a $35 piece of hardware.  In addition both a full KDE desktop and KDE/Openbox were successfully installed with Openbox the recommended choice.  Get all the results right here.

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"Released in February, the Raspberry Pi Model 2 B is an update to the original board that brings quad cores for six times the performance of the original, 1 gigabyte of RAM for twice the memory, and still maintains backwards compatibility. The many CPU cores are brought about by moving from the BCM2835 SoC to the BCM2836 SoC in the Raspberry Pi 2."

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Source: Linux.com

Who Should Care? Thankfully, Many People

The Khronos Group has made three announcements today: Vulkan (their competitor to DirectX 12), OpenCL 2.1, and SPIR-V. Because there is actually significant overlap, we will discuss them in a single post rather than splitting them up. Each has a role in the overall goal to access and utilize graphics and compute devices.

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Before we get into what everything is and does, let's give you a little tease to keep you reading. First, Khronos designs their technologies to be self-reliant. As such, while there will be some minimum hardware requirements, the OS pretty much just needs to have a driver model. Vulkan will not be limited to Windows 10 and similar operating systems. If a graphics vendor wants to go through the trouble, which is a gigantic if, Vulkan can be shimmed into Windows 8.x, Windows 7, possibly Windows Vista despite its quirks, and maybe even Windows XP. The words “and beyond” came up after Windows XP, but don't hold your breath for Windows ME or anything. Again, the further back in Windows versions you get, the larger the “if” becomes but at least the API will not have any “artificial limitations”.

Outside of Windows, the Khronos Group is the dominant API curator. Expect Vulkan on Linux, Mac, mobile operating systems, embedded operating systems, and probably a few toasters somewhere.

On that topic: there will not be a “Vulkan ES”. Vulkan is Vulkan, and it will run on desktop, mobile, VR, consoles that are open enough, and even cars and robotics. From a hardware side, the API requires a minimum of OpenGL ES 3.1 support. This is fairly high-end for mobile GPUs, but it is the first mobile spec to require compute shaders, which are an essential component of Vulkan. The presenter did not state a minimum hardware requirement for desktop GPUs, but he treated it like a non-issue. Graphics vendors will need to be the ones making the announcements in the end, though.

Before we go further, some background is necessary. Read on for that and lots more!