Watch this Dog run

Subject: General Tech | May 28, 2014 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: watch_dogs, ubisoft, gaming

Watch_Dogs introduces us to a new game engine called Disrupt and uses NVIDIA's new GameWorks development platform to include HBAO+ as well as TXAA 2X and TXAA 4X.  That is not to say that AMD cards cannot run the game but you will need to be running  the 14.6 Beta driver the game prefers; Win 8.1 no longer required with the released vesrion.  AMD does benefit from its tendency to sport more VRAM as [H]ard|OCP saw some texture loading issues with the GTX 780 Ti and overall preferred the performance of the 290X.  Other sites have found rather different results, it is worth keeping an eye out for further investigations on what is happening.  You can also feast your eyes on [H]'s gallery of screenshots showing the differences in texture settings.

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"We have previewed the performance experienced in Watch Dogs, now it is time to preview image quality and look at some specific image quality differences. We will look at texture quality and the great differences between modes, anti-aliasing, and Horizon-Based Ambient Occlusion effects, AKA HBAO."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

You unspeakable cad! How dare you upset those sensitve marketing types

Subject: General Tech | May 28, 2014 - 02:14 PM |
Tagged: idiots, data privacy

How dare you choose not to use all of those wonderful tools marketers provide you with to share your thoughts and have your purchases and opinions added to their databases so that they can provide you with personalized ads!  If you just email or heavens forbid, share your opinions face to face, you are part of Dark Social and are undermining the social media establishment dominated by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google.  How can you chose to not let your life be dictated by social media but instead share your thoughts off the grid?  Follow the link at The Register to read about this brand new threat to advertisers that involves the use of email and interpersonal relationships instead of easily trackable social media tools.  The next time you want to go on a date you had better Instagram your outfit choice and crowd source your plans for the evening or else you are a part of the problem!

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"If you're old enough, you'll remember that if you wanted to tell a friend – or a group of friends – about an interesting link, you'd e-mail them either the whole text or a link to it. Congratulations: courtesy of the reptiles of marketing, you're now lumped into a nasty bunch of users called “dark social”."

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Source: The Register

Futuremark Announces 3DMark Sky Diver Benchmark

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 28, 2014 - 01:49 PM |
Tagged: benchmarking, 3dmark

HELSINKI, FINLAND – May 28, 2014 – Futuremark today announced 3DMark Sky Diver, a new DirectX 11 benchmark test for gaming laptops and mid-range PCs. 3DMark Sky Diver is the ideal test for benchmarking systems with mainstream DirectX 11 graphics cards, mobile GPUs, or integrated graphics. A preview trailer for the new benchmark shows a wingsuited woman skydiving into a mysterious, uncharted location. The scene is brought to life with tessellation, particles and advanced post-processing effects. Sky Diver will be shown in full at Computex from June 3-7, or find out more on the Futuremark website.

Jukka Mäkinen, Futuremark CEO said, "Some people think that 3DMark is only for high-end hardware and extreme overclocking. Yet millions of PC gamers rely on 3DMark to choose systems that best balance performance, efficiency and affordability. 3DMark Sky Diver complements our other tests by providing the ideal benchmark for gaming laptops and mainstream PCs."

3DMark - The Gamer's Benchmark for all your hardware
3DMark is the only benchmark that offers a range of tests for different classes of hardware:

  • Fire Strike, for high performance gaming PCs (DirectX 11, feature level 11)
  • Sky Diver, for gaming laptops and mid-range PCs (DirectX 11, feature level 11)
  • Cloud Gate, for notebooks and typical home PCs (DirectX 11 feature level 10)
  • Ice Storm, for tablets and entry level PCs (DirectX 11 feature level 9)

With 3DMark, you can benchmark the full performance range of modern DirectX 11 graphics hardware. Where Fire Strike is like a modern game on ultra high settings, Sky Diver is closer to a DirectX 11 game played on normal settings. This makes Sky Diver the best choice for benchmarking entry level to mid-range systems and Fire Strike the perfect benchmark for high performance gaming PCs.

See 3DMark Sky Diver in full at Computex
3DMark Sky Diver will be on display on the ASUS, MSI, GIGABYTE, Galaxy, Inno3D, and G-Skill booths at Computex, June 3-7.

S.Y. Shian, ASUS Vice President & General Manager of Notebook Business Unit said,

"We are proud to partner with Futuremark to show 3DMark Sky Diver at Computex. Sky Diver helps PC gamers choose systems that offer great performance and great value. We invite everyone to visit our stand to experience 3DMark Sky Diver on a range of new ASUS products."

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Sky Diver will be released as an update for all editions of 3DMark, including the free 3DMark Basic Edition. 

Source: Futuremark

HP 7 Plus: HP Is Selling a Tablet at $99, Legitimately

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 27, 2014 - 05:22 PM |
Tagged: tablet, HP 7 Plus, hp, cheap tablet, cheap computer

Years ago, HP purchased Palm with the intention of producing tablets based on WebOS. After a very short time on the market, the company pulled the plug and liquidated their stock for $99. These tablets, of course, sold instantly. Now, HP has developed an Android tablet which actually intends to be sold at that $99 price point.

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Called the HP 7 Plus, this tablet has a quad-core SoC from Allwinner Technology, based on the low-power ARM Cortex A7 architecture. This is the architecture that you often see paired with Cortex A15 cores in their "big.LITTLE" arrangement. Complementing this processor is 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, a microSD slot, 640x480 front-facing and 2MP rear-facing cameras, and about five (5) hours of battery life. It is capable of Miracast over WiFi, which is an impressive feature for its price.

The operating system is Android 4.2.2, Jelly Bean. While this is not the most recent distribution of Android, it should definitely serve users looking for an under-$100 tablet. Seriously, this space is huge and often a crap shoot in terms of reliability. If HP released a decent device, it could be a winner.

The HP 7 Plus is apparently available now, but out of stock, for $99.99. I do not know whether they already released and sold out immediately, or if it is still waiting on its first shipment.

Source: HP

Just Delivered: EVGA Torq X10 Gaming Mouse

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | May 27, 2014 - 12:19 AM |
Tagged: mouse, laser mouse, gaming mouse, evga

It has been a while since I reviewed hardware and, when I did, they were all keyboards. Being a southpaw, it is fairly difficult to review higher-end mice. When offered to review the EVGA Torq X10 Gaming Mouse, I noticed that it is a (nearly) symmetric design with nine (9) buttons: five (5) on the top, two (2) on the left for right-handed thumbs, and two (2) more, identical buttons on the right for left-handed thumbs.

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Of course, the off-hand buttons can still be used for time-insensitive commands, like pinging the map of a strategy game. Personally, I tend to rebind mouse sensitivity to the pinky-buttons and rebind what is usually meant for DPI adjustments to pinging maps or, on games like Battlefield: Bad Company 2, fly up and down (for the UAV).

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A quick unboxing shows the underside of the mouse, an accessory pouch made out of paper with a getting started guide and what looks to be sticker-based grips, a plastic bag of weights, and that metal thing beside the mouse is a torx screwdriver. This screwdriver is what will be used to customize the palm angle by turning its adjustment at the rear of the mouse.

While I have not yet plugged it in, I did play around with its grip adjustment. You probably will not notice its effects unless you are looking for it, but it does result in significant changes to the touch. I will discuss this, and its other features, more in my upcoming full review.

As for pricing, EVGA is currently accepting pre-orders through Newegg. The base version is available for $49.99 (pre-order price, $99.99 MSRP) with a "carbon fiber" version, an identical mouse outside of the surface material, also on pre-order for $69.99 (pre-order price, $129.99 MSRP). It is unclear whether they will ever make it up to their MSRP but, if they do, an almost half-price pre-order (with a free mouse pad if you pre-order, register your mouse, and upload your invoice, apparently) is pretty gigantic.

It is expected to ship in a month (late June). I hope to have at least a preliminary review, if not a full one, up with time left for pre-orders.

Source: EVGA

AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta Driver Now Available, Adds Mixed Resolution Eyefinity

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 27, 2014 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: radeon, R9, R7, eyefinity, amd

AMD has just launched their Catalyst 14.6 Beta drivers for Windows and Linux. This driver will contain performance improvements for Watch Dogs, launching today in North America, and Murdered: Soul Suspect, which arrives next week. On Linux, the driver now supports Ubuntu 14.04 and its installation process has been upgraded for simplicity and user experience.

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Unless performance improvements are more important to you, the biggest feature is the support for Eyefinity with mixed resolutions. With Catalyst 14.6, you no longer need a grid of identical monitors. One example use case, suggested by AMD, is a gamer who purchases an ultra-wide 2560x1080 monitor. They will be able to add a pair of 1080p monitors on either side to create a 6400x1080 viewing surface.

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If the monitors are very mismatched, the driver will allow users to letterbox to the largest rectangle contained by every monitor, or "expand" to draw the largest possible rectangle (which will lead to some assets drawing outside of any monitor). A third mode, fill, behaves like Eyefinity currently does. I must give AMD a lot of credit for leaving the choice to the user.

Returning to performance with actual figures, AMD claims "up to" 25% increases in Watch Dogs at 1080p or 28% at 1600p, compared to the previous version. The new CrossFire profile also claims up to 99% scaling in that game, at 2560x1600 with 8x MSAA. Murdered: Soul Suspect will see "up to" 16% improvements on a single card, and "up to" 93% scaling. Each of these results were provided by AMD, which tested on Radeon R9 290X cards. If these CrossFire profiles (well, first, are indicative of actual performance, and) see 99% scaling across two cards, that is pretty remarkable.

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A brief mention, AMD has also expanded their JPEG decoder to Kabini. Previously, it was available to Kaveri, as of Catalyst 14.1. This allows using the GPU to display images, with their test showing a series of images being processed in about half of the time. While not claimed by AMD, I expect that the GPU will also be more power-efficient (as the processor can go back to its idle state much quicker, despite activitating another component to do so). Ironically, the three images I used for this news post are encoded in PNG. You might find that amusing.

AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta Drivers should be now available at their download site.

Source: AMD

Almost 20 minutes of hot steamy mouse video

Subject: General Tech | May 26, 2014 - 05:49 PM |
Tagged: gaming mouse, corsair, Raptor M45, Vengeance M65, Vengeance M95

The Tech Report have put together several mouse reviews into a single video, giving you a chance to hear about their features while watching a little gaming action at the same time.  The low cost Raptor M45 is shown fragging bots in every Frog's favourite FPS, as is the slightly more expensive Vengeance M65.  However UT2K doesn't really have enough keybindings to show off the 15 buttons on the Vengeance M95 and so a popular game in which clicks per second count is shown off.  Check out the video review and consider offering feedback on the YouTube channel if that content is something you'd like to see more of.

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"For our first full-length video review, we take a look at several Corsair gaming mice, the FPS-focused Raptor M45 and Vengeance M65 and the RPG-ready Vengeance M95."

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Google's containerific alternative to virtualization

Subject: General Tech | May 26, 2014 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: google, virtualization, linux, container, Linux Containerization

Google creates two billion Linux containers a week which astute readers will realize implies that they can be created much more quickly than a VM.  That is indeed the case, these Linux containers are very similar to Solaris Zones, BSD Jails and other similar ways of sharing parts of an OS across multiple isolated applications as opposed to VMs in which each machine has it's own OS.  Even with prebuilt images it is orders of magnitude slower to create a VM than to simply create a new container.  With the involvement of a startup called Docker, Google has really changed how they handle their systems; read about the impacts at The Register.

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"That tech is called Linux Containerization, and is the latest in a long line of innovations meant to make it easier to package up applications and sling them around data centers. It's not a new approach – see Solaris Zones, BSD Jails, Parallels, and so on – but Google has managed to popularize it enough that a small cottage industry is forming around it."

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Source: The Register

The Top 20 PC Games of April, According to Raptr

Subject: General Tech | May 26, 2014 - 04:27 AM |
Tagged: steam, raptr, origin, blizzard

Raptr is a service for PC gamers to adjust graphics settings, earn loyalty rewards, and "powers" AMD's Gaming Evolved app, which adds driver updating and Twitch streaming to the previous list of features. It has a sizable user base, tens of millions internationally, which allows them to rank PC games by popularity. While it is not a perfect sample space, it tracks both Steam and non-Steam games. The leaders might make you say, "LoL, WoW!"

I am fully comfortable with myself after that pun.

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As you can probably guess, League of Legends is the most popular PC title, with 14.5% market share (with respect to time). WoW and Diablo III are almost a tie for second-and-third at 8.56% and 8.53%, respectively. DOTA II is next at 5.81% and The Elder Scrolls Online is fifth, with 3.78% of all game time.

Surprisingly, the tail is pretty long after that. In fact, the entire Top 20 takes up just 63% of play time, with the 21st place and lower, by definition, having less than a 0.73% share. This is a slow decline, leaving room for theoretically fifty games with Skyrim-level popularity. Several games just below the list are probably very close to one another.

I should also note that, since this is based on time, it probably skews toward long and intensive titles. This probably explains Diablo III, MMOs, and Minecraft as those games are played for hours if they are played at all. This really puts Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and, to a lesser extent, Battlefield 4 into perspective, with their series of short rounds.

Off the list since March is Titanfall, Rust, and Path of Exile. The first two are fairly surprising. Titanfall just launched and, it would seem, has not kept its players gaming habitually. Rust, on the other hand, is surprising because it is popular and, to my understanding, typically involves long play sessions.

At the very least, it puts context around Steam vs. Battle.net vs. Wargaming.net vs. Origin.

Source: Raptr

Securing the Internet of Things

Subject: General Tech | May 23, 2014 - 01:27 PM |
Tagged: internet of things, security, Intel

Karen Lomas is Intel's director of the Internet of Things, from smart buildings to fridges and watched and she sat down to discuss the security of these devices and the future of ubiquitous computing.  Intel expects that by 2020 there will be 26 billion internet connected devices and if we do not start to think about how to secure them now it will have serious repercussions in the future.  There is a balance which needs to be struck so that consumers will not avoid using these devices because of security concerns nor because they are too restrictive to easily be used.  As befits a Friday the discussion comes in video form.

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"THE INQUIRER and Intel held an Internet of Things (IoT) event in London this week, where we sat down with IT professionals from a range of industry sectors to discuss how the growing thirst for internet-connected devices can be used in business, and how this should be done."

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Source: The Inquirer