ChromeOS Gets Android "App Runtime for Chrome (Beta)"

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 05:52 PM |
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To some extent...

This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.

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From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?

Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.

Source: Google

Skip tailoring your suit, scan yourself for the perfect fit

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 04:41 PM |
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There was an interesting use of Intel's Realsense 3D technology displayed at IDF by a company called Volumental.  By using a new product with the new style of camera it would be possible to make a 3D map of your body accurate enough to make clothing patterns from.  The example offered were a pair shoes that could be ordered online with no concerns about the fit as the shoes would be perfect for you.  That is just the beginning though, you would also be able to order a perfectly tailored suit online without ever needing to appear in person for a fitting.  It could also lead to an even worse Fappening in the future; choose your online clothing supplier carefully.  There is more here at The Inquirer.

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"The proof of concept software, called Volume Voice[sic], accurately scans parts of the human body with Intel's Realsense 3D depth cameras, which will soon feature on Intel-powered laptops and tablets. Volumental's cloud-based platform will then allow individuals to create products that are tailored to their own bodies, for example, shoes that fit perfectly without the need to try them on before buying."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

SanDisk Launches 512GB SDXC Card for $799.99

Subject: General Tech, Storage | September 12, 2014 - 04:08 PM |
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Assuming your camera, card reader, or other device fully conforms to the SDXC standard, Sandisk has developed a half-terabyte (512GB) memory card. Beyond being gigantic, it can be read at up to 95 MB/s and written at up to 90 MB/s, which should be enough to stream 4K video. Sandisk claims that it is temperature proof, shock proof, water proof, and x-ray proof. It also comes with a lifetime warranty and "RescuePRO Deluxe" recovery software but, honestly, I expect people would just use PhotoRec or something.

It should be noted that the SDXC standard covers memory cards up to 2TB so it will probably not be too long before we see another standard get ratified. What is next? SDUC? SDYC? SDALLTHEC? Blah! This is why IEEE assigns names sequentially.

The SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-I SDHC/SDXC 512GB memory card should be available now, although I cannot yet find them online, for $799.99 MSRP.

Source: SanDisk

Grand Theft Auto V PC Delayed Until January 27th, 2015

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 03:10 PM |
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We finally got the release date for Grand Theft Auto V PC... and it's delayed. But Scott, how can it be delayed if we just now have a firm date? Well, apart from Rockstar claiming that it will be available in the Autumn of 2014, which January 27th, 2015 is not, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions will be arriving on November 18th, 2014 (which is technically before December 21st). To this I say...

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... I hear it's lovely in the winter...

... meh. It's fine. Unless something comes up, or I find out that the port is awful and broken, I will still buy it. As always, delaying the release of your game risks potential customers growing disinterested in the product. Perhaps they had the plot spoiled by a friend or a Let's Play. Alternatively, perhaps they gained interest in it because of a friend or a Let's Play before it was available for their platform, and forgot about it before it could be purchased.

Hopefully the extra time is put to good use.

Source: engadget

Intel Loves Exponential Trends: Shrinking Mini-PCs

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems, Shows and Expos | September 12, 2014 - 02:20 PM |
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A few years ago, Intel introduced the NUC line of small form factor PCs. At this year's IDF, they have announced plans to make even smaller, and cheaper, specifications that are intended for OEMs to install Windows, Linux, Android, and Chrome OS on. This initiative is not yet named, but will consist of mostly soldered components, leaving basically just the wireless adapters user-replaceable, rather than the more user-serviceable NUC.

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Image Credit: Liliputing

Being the owner of Moore's Law, they just couldn't help but fit it to some type of exponential curve. While it is with respect to generation, not time, Intel expects the new, currently unnamed form factor to halve both the volume (size) and bill of material (BOM) cost of the NUC. They then said that another generation after ("Future SFF") will halve the BOM cost again, to a quarter of the NUC.

What do our readers think? Would you be willing to give up socketed components for smaller and cheaper devices in this category or does this just become indistinguishable from mobile devices (which we already know can be cheap and packed into small spaces)?

Source: Liliputing

Fanless Noctua NH-D15 Keeps 150W Xeon E5-2687W Cool

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 12, 2014 - 01:56 PM |
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Sure, humans may disagree that 67C (153F) is cool, but it is for a semiconductor. More impressive, it was the temperature recorded on a CPU with a 150W TDP attached to a fanless Noctua NH-D15. Does that mean it was noiseless? Nope. The test kept each of the case fans maxed out at 12V input DC (100%).

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This, without the fans.

Hardwareluxx does not specify how much air gets blown across the passive cooler. Their claim is that the case fans just ensure that the ambient temperature is as low as possible. That seems fair, but I could also, for instance, blow cool air through a 3-inch drier hose attached to a bathroom suction fan stuck out the window. That would certainly keep passive coolers chilled while only being technically fanless.

Theoretically, of course. I'm not saying it's something I did in high school or anything...

Depending on how long of a hose is used, it could even be noise in a different location (rather than case fans in the same PC). Still, cooling 150W is a feat in itself. Then again, with over two pounds of heat fins, it makes sense.

Source: Hardwareluxx

First Apple A8 Benchmarks Show... "Modest" Increase

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 12, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
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So one of the first benchmarks for Apple's A8 SoC has been published to Rightware, and it is not very different from its predecessor. The Apple A7 GPU of last year's iPhone 5S received a score of 20,253.80 on the Basemark X synthetic benchmark. The updated Apple A8 GPU, found on the iPhone 6, saw a 4.7% increase, to 21204.26, on the same test.

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Again, this is a synthetic benchmark and not necessarily representative of real-world performance. To me, though, it wouldn't surprise me if the GPU is identical, and the increase corresponds mostly to the increase in CPU performance. That said, it still does not explain the lack of increase that we see, despite Apple's switch to TSMC's 20nm process. Perhaps it matters more in power consumption and non-gaming performance? That does not align well with their 20% faster CPU and 50% faster GPU claims...

Speaking of gaming performance, iOS 8 introduces the Metal API, which is Apple's response to Mantle, DirectX 12, and OpenGL Next Initiative. Maybe that boost will give Apple a pass for a generation? Perhaps we will see the two GPUs (A7 and A8) start to diverge in the Metal API? We shall see when more benchmarks and reviews get published.

Source: Rightware

StarCraft II WCS is Changing for 2015

Subject: General Tech | September 12, 2014 - 02:39 AM |
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The StarCraft II World Championship Series is Blizzard's official method of conglomerating numerous tournaments, including their own, into a canonized ranking system. Players get points for winning various Intel Extreme Masters, Red Bull Battle Grounds, DreamHack events, GSL seasons, and so forth. Beyond the prize money of each event, points are awarded to sort a global standings list. These points, beyond bragging rights, lead to an invitation to the year's final tournament at BlizzCon.

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The system has drawn some criticism, however. One specific complaint is that players are allowed to partake in any region of their choosing. This seems to lead to tactical placement of players relative to other ones, rather than actual geography. Moreover, this allows players to join in servers that they are not anywhere near to, introducing lag in the online components. If I remember correctly, the rules stated that, unless both players chose to play on a server that was outside the region (ex: a South Korean server for two competitors in WCS America), the server would default to the region (America in the previous example). For 2015, Blizzard is requiring that all players must be legal residents of the region they choose to play in. The reasons for this decision do not seem to be publicly explained, but it should discourage the shuffling of players for logistical advantages.

The other, major change is that all participants of WCS 2015 need to qualify. Previously, if I (again) remember correctly, while points were reset, some placements in leagues carried over. This time, if a player is in any given league, they fought to get there from the very bottom. If anything, I expect this became necessary when the decision was made to change residency requirements.

WCS 2014 isn't over yet, though. It will close with BlizzCon on November 8th.

Alleged Windows 9 Screenshots Leaked

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 10:38 PM |
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Update: September 12th @ 12:08pm EDT

A short video has just leaked online. The screenshots cover more, but obviously as still images. It's a good idea to check out both.

Can you read German? Yes. No.

Computerbase.de (linked above in "yes") claims to have access to Windows 9 Technical Preview Build 9834. This should be close to the pre-release that is rumored to be public later this month (again, if rumors are accurate). It seems to be focused on desktop usage, as rumored, but still is uncomfortably close to Windows Store and its certification requirements.

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Image Credit: Computerbase.de

There are some significant changes over previous versions, from virtual desktops to a nearly borderless window look and feel, seemingly be default (saving probably about 8-10 pixels per window in width and just as much eyesore). This makes me wonder how true borderless apps (RDIO, GitHub for Windows, and Blizzard's Battle.net Launcher are examples) will play with these new styles. One of the main glitches that I have with Windows 7 is when something kicks me out of Aero and most of the non-standard styled windows freak out in one way or another (Trillian and Firefox being the most obvious offenders).

Maybe, just maybe, we will be able to get our hands on it later this month or early next month.

NCIX and LinusTech Does Four Single GPUs... Twice

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 11, 2014 - 07:46 PM |
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Psst. AMD fans. Don't tell "Team Green" but Linus decided to take four R9 290X graphics cards and configure them in Quad Crossfire formation. They did not seem to have too much difficulty setting it up, although they did have trouble with throttling and setting up Crossfire profiles. When they finally were able to test it, they got a 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of 14979.

Psst. NVIDIA fans. Don't tell "Team Red" but Linus decided to take four GeForce Titan Black graphics cards and configure them in Quad SLI formation. He had a bit of a difficult time setting up the machine at first, requiring a reshuffle of the cards (how would reordering PCIe slots for identical cards do anything?) and a few driver crashes, but it worked. Eventually, they got a 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of around 13,300 (give or take a couple hundred).