Video Perspective: Amazon Echo Overview

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 06:05 PM |
Tagged: video, echo, amazon

Late last year Amazon announced the pending release of the Echo, a standalone device that would sit in your home or office and listen to voice commands and respond in a Siri-like or Google Now-like fashion. The first Amazon Echo units have shipped and I received one of them, opening it up and putting it to use for a few days this week.

At its core, the Echo is a collection of microphones and speakers, connected to the internet through Wi-Fi. Using the keyword of “Alexa” (or you can change it to “Amazon”) you stir Echo from its slumber to respond to requests for information, streaming­ music and lists or timers. Voice recognition is fantastic and the speed at which Echo responds to voice commands is impressive, moving along at a quicker pace than either Google’s or Apple’s options.

Users that have uploaded their music collection to Amazon’s cloud library will be able to access that music through the 2.5-in subwoofer and 2.0-in tweeter, both of which add up to surprisingly good audio performance for such a small device. Amazon Prime users will have access to the company’s collection of including streaming music as well, though that collection is notably smaller than something like Spotify. Music from Amazon’s digital music store is the one item you can purchase solely through voice commands.

Adding things to a shopping list, asking for fact-based information and telling lame jokes all happen efficiently. But the drawback to the Echo is its lack of knowledge about the rest of my life. The device has no ability to know about my next calendar appointment, my incoming emails, my estimated drive time to the work. Google does though, and I can’t help but think that a Google iteration of this exact item would be a better solution.

Check out the video below to see Amazon Echo in action and determine if this device deserves a spot in your home.

"gorescript" Is an Indie, Browser-Based 3D Shooter

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 02:36 PM |
Tagged: webgl, pc gaming

gorescript is a first person shooter that runs in a browser through WebGL (via Three.JS). Its developer, Time Invariant Games, has not mentioned a business model, if there is one, but the first three levels, three guns, and two monsters can be instantly played at their GitHub site for free. The source code, including a map editor for levels and a map editor for monsters, weapons, and powerups, is also on their GitHub under an MIT (permissive) license.

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From a technical standpoint, it is not the most impressive game that I have played in a browser -- that would be a toss-up between Unreal Tournament 3 (they had a demo at Mozilla Summit 2013) or Dead Trigger 2. In gorescript on Firefox 35, I was getting about 80-110 FPS, although that begun to crawl down to around 20-30 FPS with some dips down to ~10 FPS; it was probably averaging ~45 FPS when all is said and done.

(Note: Especially if you have a high-refresh panel, the maximum frame rate of Firefox can be adjusted in about:config with the layout.frame_rate variable. Mine is set to 120.)

Again, it is free and it should amuse you for a little while. Maybe we can get it to blow up with third-party content? Even as it is, I think it is worth a mention for anyone who wants a Doom/Quake throwback.

Are you sure that is a mouse and not a spaceship?

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 01:32 PM |
Tagged: input, Cougar, 700m, gaming mouse, dexter

The Cougar 700M Gaming Mouse is a right handed gaming mouse offers a serious amount of adjustments and options as well as a design which certainly stands out.  The DPI is programmable from 50 to 8200 and with the software it seems you can actually specify different levels to your X and Y axis if you so desire.  It comes with weights and the height of the pad on the rear of the mouse can be adjusted to ensure it fits your hand comfortably as well as a headlight of varying colours.  Techgage gave the mouse and software a try in their latest review, check out what they thought of it here.

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"Mice – there is never a shortage of options in the gaming market. They range from $10, to well over $100 – some are a tremendous value, some are not. COUGAR is no stranger to this market and have put its best foot forward with the 700M Gaming Mouse. How did it fare? Follow me, I’ll show you!"

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Source: Techgage

Steam for Linux will teach you the difference between backups and redundancy

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: steam, linux, idiots

If you move the Steam home directory of $STEAMROOT in Linux then you are running the risk of running rm -rf on your user directory, which in the case of this unfortunate person on Slashdot included their attached USB hard drive.  This is rather nasty bug and one which is easily avoidable by the use of proper syntax but unfortunately the command rm -rf "$STEAMROOT/"* contains an unnecessary / and without an error checking facility included if there is no $STEAMROOT directory the command run is rm -rf "/"*.  As it is in your home folder you do not even need to be running as root so for the time being it would be very wise to leave your Steam files in their default location and to realize that anything plugged into your machine is not a true backup until removed from your system.

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"I launched steam. It did not launch, it offered to let me browse, and still could not find it when I pointed to the new location. Steam crashed. I restarted it. It re-installed itself and everything looked great. Until I looked and saw that steam had apparently deleted everything owned by my user recursively from the root directory. Including my 3tb external drive I back everything up to that was mounted under /media."

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Source: Slashdot

Raptr's Top PC Games of December 2014

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 11:01 AM |
Tagged: raptr, pc gaming

Whoops! It looks like I forgot about Raptr's list for November. In it, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare launched at 10th place and 17th place, respectively. World of Warcraft also jumped from 8.53% to 15.61% of total play time, which is significant and almost equal to League of Legends. Spider Solitaire also made November's list at 19th place.

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This month, Dragon Age: Inquisition climbed from 10th to 6th, because it had a full month of play, while Call of Duty fell off completely (along with PAYDAY 2 and Spider Solitaire). Also, World of Warcraft did not lose its gain, but actually built upon it by a small amount. It did not grab mindshare from League of Legends though, because that game rebounded from its losses in November and was even more popular than it was in October.

That's about all that I found interesting however.

Source: Raptr

Podcast #332 - GTX 960 and R9 380X Rumors, Corsair Carbide 300R Titanium, and our CES 2015 wrap up

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2015 - 02:09 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, gtx 960, nvidia, maxwell, amd, r9 380x, corsair, carbide, 300R, CES, ces 2015, ECS, Z97-Machine, Intel, crucial

PC Perspective Podcast #332 - 01/15/2015

Join us this week as we discuss GTX 960 and R9 380X Rumors, Corsair Carbide 300R Titanium, and our CES 2015 wrap up

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
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  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Neither IBM nor the mainframe are dead yet

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2015 - 01:10 PM |
Tagged: IBM, mainframe, power8

IBM has just released a new mainframe based on their new 5GHz 22nm Power8 based Processing Units with some models supporting up to 10TB of RAM, the minimum you can run is a mere 64GB.  It can not only run IBM's zOS but is also capable of directly supporting Linux and can be managed with a Blade running Windows if you so desire. These fancy looking little mainframes are set up with drawers of either 39 or 42 PUs, so you can upgrade as your usage requires although 2 are actually spares and 6 are System Assist Processors, the remaining PUs can be assigned to varying roles as in previous IBM Z models.  These machines are designed to handle large amounts of data traffic, providing real time encryption on up to 2.5 billion transactions per day.  The Register feels that the most likely usage scenario will be to provide secure mobile data traffic, something which is certainly needed.  You can also glean more information from this blog entry if you are curious about the architecture and capabilities of this mainframe.

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"Of course, the proof of the pudding will be in the market, but IBM will be hoping that the billion dollars it's poured into developing the new z13 mainframe will get the big end of town as excited as Big Blue itself is."

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Source: The Register

Windows 7 Is Now Classified as Extended Support

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2015 - 03:41 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, extended support

According to Microsoft's lifecycle calendar, Windows 7 left mainstream support on the 13th of January and has entered “Extended Support”. This means that the operating system will still receive security updates, but not non-security ones, and “requests to change product design and features” will not be accepted. While the OS is over five years old, it is still very popular, especially among PC gamers.

Windows95logo.png

My concern is that this occurred while we anticipate major changes to the Windows platform. While I never really expected that Microsoft would release DirectX 12 for Windows, there was still hope that we would see a pre-release or developer build while Windows 7 was still in mainstream support (despite being several driver models behind). Now that the window has closed, so to speak, that hope is diminishing. Windows 8.1, on the other hand, might be okay, but I have no idea why you would want to stick with it over Windows 10, especially if it is a free/cheap update.

Besides DirectX 12, I am also concerned about Microsoft cutting off first-party web browsers at IE11. Sure, it is a much better place to end than IE8 on Windows XP, and the end-user could always install a third-party browser, but it could lead to problems for web developers. It is much easier to say “keep Internet Explorer up to date” (heck, even Microsoft is saying it) than the alternative, “use a different browser”. There are still many features under consideration (Shadow DOM being the most interesting for me) that would be nice to have, and not need to worry about the fraction of a fraction.

But at least it will be kept secure until 2020.

Source: Microsoft

FarCry 4 performance, it is almost ready for prime time

Subject: General Tech | January 14, 2015 - 02:24 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, sad, gaming, farcry 4

[H]ard|OCP recently put out a pair of articles covering Far Cry 4, the first of which covered the various new graphics features, many of which are only available to NVIDIA users and others like the Godrays which have such a performance impact on AMD GPUs that they may as well be NVIDIA only.  The second will be of more interest to gamers as they benchmark a dozen GPUs, covering NVIDIA from the GTX 750Ti through to the GTX 980 and AMD from the R7 260X through to the R9 290X.  They also had a chance to test SLI performance but unfortunately as Ubisoft decided to disable Crossfire completely in the game there could not be any multiple AMD GPU setups tested.  Perhaps the most telling conclusion from [H]ard|OCP is also the most obvious, even though this is an evolution of the FarCry3 engine there have been numerous issues with the game since launch and even after six patches major issues with the game and the continued refusal to support Crossfire are hurting this games performance.  If you still plan to play the game you can read [H]'s full performance review to see how your GPU should perform in Ubisoft's latest ... release.

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"We play Far Cry 4 on no less than twelve different GPUs for this in-depth look at what graphics settings are playable in Far Cry 4. We will talk about playable settings and show apples-to-apples so you know what to expect in this game and what upgrading your video card may do for you in this new game."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Sure it is still 1's and 0's but a lot has changed in 25 years

Subject: General Tech | January 14, 2015 - 12:32 PM |
Tagged: history, cpu, errata, dan luu

A question was asked of Dan Luu about what new tricks silicon has learned since the early days of the eighties.  The answer covers a gamut of what tools those who work on low level code such as drivers and UEFI/BIOS now have at their disposal.  It is far more than just the fact that we have grown from 8 bit to 64 bit or the frequencies possible now that were undreamed of before but delves into the newer features such as out of order instructions and single instruction, multiple data instructions.  If you are not familiar with how CPUs and GPGPUs operate at these low levels it is a great jumping off point for you to learn what the features are called and to get a rough idea of what tasks they perform.  If you know your silicon through and through it is a nice look back at what has been added in the last 25 years and a reminder of what you had to work without back in the days when flashing a BIOS was a literal thing.  You can also check the comments below the links at Slashdot as they are uncharacteristically on topic.

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"An article by Dan Luu answers this question and provides a good overview of various cool tricks modern CPUs can perform. The slightly older presentation Compiler++ by Jim Radigan also gives some insight on how C++ translates to modern instruction sets."

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Source: Slashdot