Valve Steam Controller Pre-order Is Dated... Twice.

Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 5, 2015 - 04:22 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam link, Steam Controller, steam

So, if a company says “a limited quantity of orders will be shipped on October 16th, weeks in advance of our official launch”... does that mean October 16th is its release date? What about its official launch date of November 10th? Also, why am I trying to make sense of time when the subject is Valve?

Either way, the new Steam Controller has been put up for pre-order and given a release date. The input device will sell for $50 USD, $59.99 CDN, or £40 GBP depending obviously on where you are. It also has a finalized design that is very similar to the Xbox layout, with thumbpads replacing the d-pad and right analog stick. Going to the device's Steam page will send you to a gaming retailer to make the pre-order (wat???). I get EB Games, because I'm Canadian, while Americans get GameStop, which is the same company anyway.

valve-2015-steam-controller-front.jpg

Unlike previous Steam Controller designs, the left thumbpad is shaped like a cross, which I would like to see used as a d-pad because most PC controllers that I've used are either terrible at it, or are horrible at everything else. The video also uses the left thumbpad as a scroll mechanism, but I wonder what other functionality Valve allows because I have yet to find a single mouse driver that can do everything. For instance, Razer's is unable to record mouse scroll (up, down, left, or right) events in macros.

valve-2015-steam-controller-back.jpg

The rear of the controller is very interesting. The main trigger is analog up to the end, which is a tactile switch. These can be bound to independent actions, although you will obviously need to have the maximum analog command play well with the click command. The given possibility is for first person shooters where you use the analog part to bring up your iron sights while you fire with the click. I could also imagine a racing game where the throttle is analog and clicking at the end activates a boost. There are also buttons in the grips for your ring and pink finger to activate. It also looks like there's shoulder buttons above the triggers, but I can't quite tell. This would basically yield six shoulder buttons, along with all of the face inputs, which is about the max that I could imagine.

The official launch is November 10th, but a pre-release run is shipping on October 16th. The Steam Link is supposedly also available at the same time for the same price, which is basically a streaming target for Steam on the TV.

Source: Valve

Windows 10 Build 10130 Coming to Slow Ring

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2015 - 07:40 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10

Gabe Aul said on Twitter that Microsoft will release Windows 10 Build 10130 to members of the Insider Preview Slow Ring. He did not give a date, but noted that just one blocking fix is preventing the release. This build was released to Fast Ring users last week and had three known issues. Since then, two were patched via Windows Update, leaving just “Flyouts from Taskbar fail to fly out.” Presumably, this is the issue that they are hoping to fix before pushing the build to Slow.

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When the update is released to Slow Ring, it is accompanied by ISOs that can be used to clean-install a PC up to that point. While this delay is to force a segment of users to test the in-place upgrade functionality, I expect this also keeps enterprise evaluators on builds that are more polished. Installing Windows from an ISO might not convey the quality-difference of any two neighboring builds like selecting branches in Windows Update would subconsciously portray.

Microsoft seems to be at the merge and polish stage of Windows 10 development. Builds should start feeling more clean than new as the days roll forward toward July 29th. Major new features are probably going to be done in branches for later releases, similar to what we would consider “service packs”. That's just my assumptions, though.

Hacking an Oculus Rift for AR assisted repairs

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2015 - 04:30 PM |
Tagged: oculus rift, linux, edison, AirOS

What do you get when you cross some bright young minds, Linux, an Oculus Rift, Leap Motion's gesture controller, a camera, as well as an Intel Edison board with an Arduino breakout board and Grove sensor?  You get second place in a NASA hackathon and an device which uses AR to help technicians locate a piece of equipment in need of repair and project instructions on how to do the repairs over top of their line of site, leaving hands free to actually perform the repair.  The usage scenarios seem similar to Epson's 3D glasses which we discussed a few weeks ago, though this team envisions another ability that their use of the Grove sensor provides.   The sensor can resolve light down to the 760-1100 nm range, meaning that with proper tools and interface a technician could perform extremely delicate repairs visually.  Check out more at Linux.com.

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"At the NASA Space App Challenge hackathon in April, Team AirOS won second place at the San Francisco event with an augmented reality (AR) headgear system that included a Linux-driven Intel Edison module hooked to an Oculus Rift."

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Source: Linux.com

Podcast #352 - GTX 980 Ti, News from Computex, AMD Fiji Leaks and more!

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2015 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: zotac, video, titan x, thunderbolt 3, SSD 750, podcast, ocz, nvidia, msi, micron, Intel, hbm, g-sync, Fiji, computex, amd, acer, 980 Ti

PC Perspective Podcast #352 - 06/04/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 980 Ti, News from Computex, AMD Fiji Leaks and more!

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
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

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

Program length: 2:02:45

  1. Week in Review:
  2. Computex, Dawg
  3. News item of interest:
  4. Closing/outro

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

Steam Allows Refunds

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2015 - 09:23 PM |
Tagged: steam, valve

Valve has added a refund policy to Steam. They say that they do not care about the reason, but there are obviously restrictions including a blanket “abuse” clause that lawyers love. First and foremost, the refund must be done within fourteen days of purchase or two hours of game time. If you feel that your circumstance is an edge-case, even if you are outside these windows, you are free to ask for a refund anyway and Valve will take a look at it. Pre-purchasing is not considered a sale until the game launches, but “Early Access” has not been addressed. I assume Valve would handle that on a case-by-case basis. Valve says that refunds will be processed within a week.

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This system is very similar to EA/Origin's refund policy, with a few obvious differences. First, EA's policy only considers “participating third parties”, although they fully put their money where their mouth is with their own catalog. EA's policy lasts seven days, while Valve's last fourteen. On the other hand, EA allows returns within the first 24 hours of launch, while Valve counts the first two hours of execution, seemingly regardless of how long that takes to happen.

We're hearing a bit of concerns from developers, especially those who create quick experiences. That's a bit of a hot-button issue, but I feel as though it is something that you will need to agree to in order to ship on Steam. Honestly, I expect that users will overwhelmingly not request a refund unless they feel slighted, even for a short game. It's a pretty convoluted way to pirate a game, for a brief time, and runs the risk of Valve cutting off the account from refund requests under the “Abuse” clause.

A final note: Valve will officially support refunds for titles purchased just before a sale. If you buy a game, and it goes on sale within the refund window, you can return it and re-purchase it at the sale price.

Source: Valve

Welcome to post-apocalyptic Boston, please do not feed your dog Nuka-Cola

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2015 - 05:48 PM |
Tagged: gaming, fragging frogs, fallout 4, bethesda

At last we have a teaser trailer of Fallout 4, which for a nice change does not look mostly like Skyrim using a colour palette from Doom.  Also possibly exciting is the hint of several vehicles capable of flight, which could add quite a bit to this game if available in the story or with a mod.  The garage shown in the trailer looks to be a home base for the player, albeit one infected with the pernicious crafting system disease if the partially assembled power armour is not simply decoration.  Check out the trailer below and then patiently await the release.

On another note, the 10th Fragging Frog VLAN was a huge success with most of the day seeing 60 or more active participants blasting away in a variety of games including Toxikk which is a fun homage to the old style of online FPSes such as Unreal Tournament.  You can check out what happened as well as see the winners of the prizes which were generously donated by AMD, Fractal Design, Epic Games and even one of our own members right here in this thread on the Forums.

"Aha, now this is promising. We’re clearly looking at the game’s post-apocalyptic present-day rather than a flashback, but there’s tons of colours there. Paint, clearly, can survive the end of the world, and thank goodness for that."

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Carrizo reveals itself

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2015 - 05:29 PM |
Tagged: carrizo, APU, amd. excavator

If you skipped reading Scott's look at the new AMD Carrizo processor you have done yourself a disfavour and should read through his look at AMD's recent history and the evolution of Bulldozer and Steamroller into Excavator.  It will help you understand The Tech Report's look into the new architecture and the AMD provided benchmarks which you can check out here.  A lot of the new architecture is a refinement of previous chips but the Tonga based GPU portion is completely new and looks to be an impressive improvement, especially on these 15W and 30W chips.  It will be very interesting to see how they fare against the Iris Pro on Intel's new Broadwell chips in systems without a discrete GPU.

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"The Carrizo processor is AMD's follow-on to Kaveri and a direct competitor to Intel's Broadwell CPUs. After a lengthy prelude, AMD is officially taking the wraps off of Carrizo today at the Computex trade show in Taipei. The firm expects laptops based on Carrizo to be available near the end of this month, and now that the chip is official, we know a number of juicy details about it that had previously been murky."

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Computex 2015: Synaptics Touches Up The Space Bar With SmartBar Technology

Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: touch, synaptics, smartbar, opinion, gaming, computex 2015, computex

Synaptics revealed more details on its SmartBar technology today at Computex. The human interface company most known for its trackpads is looking to expand its reach into keyboards. Specifically, SmartBar is technology that will add touch input functionality to the keyboard spacebar. Using the technology, OEMs can integrate capacitive touch sensors into the spacebar allowing for several unique and productivity boosting gestures. 

Synaptics SmartBar Capacitive Spacebar.jpg

The SmartBar spacebar can be broken up into five logical (touch sensitive areas) buttons each of which can be associated with user created macros using a bundled macro editing utility. Alternatively, users can enable touch gestures. Synaptics is touting the ability to use quick left and right swipe motion to edit text by moving the cursor back and forth word by word though a document as well as the ability to use a two thumb pinch gesture to zoom in and out on an image or document. The touch input would also be useful to gamers who want to future increase their actions per minute in RTS games or even something as simple as shifting gears or switching weapons in racing and first person games respectively.

Along the lines of gaming, it turns out that Thermaltake under it's Tt eSports line will be the first adopter of this SmartBar technology, and while Synaptics did not reveal any exact products I am looking forward to see what Thermaltake does with the technology in its future gaming keyboards. This could be a gimmick, or it could really take off and be a must have feature depending on how well it is implemented in both hardware and software. It does make sense though; the spacebar is the natural resting place for your thumbs, so it should not take too much effort to incorporate touch gestures (literally at your fingertips...) to improve your game or work efficiency. A simple but promising idea for sure.

From the press release:

“Desktop PCs still represent a sizeable portion of the PC market, especially in the commercial segment, but most desktop users have been left behind in terms of next-generation interfaces such as touch,” said Tom Mainelli, VP of Devices & Displays at International Data Corporation (IDC). “Companies are always looking for ways to help drive employee efficiency, and feature-rich, touch-enabled keyboards represent a straightforward, affordable way to help increase worker productivity.”

The SmartBar technology is available now to OEMs, but we might have to wait until CES to see actual products offering touch sensitive spacebars.

What do you think of the technology, and would you use it for gaming?

Source: Synaptics

All you wanted to know about WinX but were afraid to ask

Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2015 - 03:35 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, acer, Lenovo

If you are running Win7 or a flavour of Win8 you have probably seen the pop-up nagging you to reserve your copy of Windows 10 before the official launch on July 29th.  That deadline is a little misleading, if it has you concerned, you still have until July 29 2016 to use your free upgrade.  What the reminder does do is give Microsoft a chance at a large initial adoption rate of the brand new OS which is rather necessary to restore confidence in them as an investment opportunity after the lukewarm Windows 8 adoption numbers.  One question does still remain about the licensing which we are still awaiting an answer to. What does the future after that  date hold for those who like to reinstall OSes on a regular basis; if you only possess a Windows 7 serial number and take advantage of the free upgrade before the deadline, will you get a way to install a fresh copy of Windows 10?

If you do have to buy a new license for Windows 10, the prices will remain as they were for Windows 8, Windows 10 Home will retail for $119, Windows 10 Pro for $199 with an upgrade from Home to Pro costing you $99.  If you want control over when your updates are installed you might want to get some friends together to invest in a volume licensing agreement as patches are now pushed out and installed immediately. As we have mentioned Windows Media Centre will disappear as will any Windows 7 desktop gadgets you might have installed along the way but one mildly surprising omission that The Inquirer spotted was a change to DVD playback, which will also be an extra feature or else be handled by superior open source players.  If for some reason you still use floppy drives, the new Windows will not natively support them but as with the previous version you should be able to locate drivers.

As for hardware, DigiTimes has heard word of very low priced Broadwell based laptops being released by Lenovo and Acer.  Acer will be releasing a pair of models, an 11.6" at $169 and a 14" for $199.  Lenovo's will be more expensive at $250 but will be a convertible Yoga machine which explains at least part of the premium pricing.  It will be interesting to see how these will compete with existing products on the market, including Microsoft's own Surface.

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"The Windows 10 notebooks are an 11.6-inch notebook (US$169) and a 14-inch clamshell-type notebook (US$199) from Acer and a 14-inch convertible Yoga notebook (US$249) from Lenovo. These devices will be manufactured by Inventec, and target mainly against Chromebooks."

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Source: DigiTimes

Computex 2015: Corsair STRAFE Mechanical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | June 1, 2015 - 08:07 AM |
Tagged: STRAFE, mechanical keyboard, gaming keyboard, corsair, computex 2015, computex, Cherry MX

Corsair has announced the STRAFE mechanical gaming keyboard featuring Cherry MX switches, and the company is calling it the “most advanced mono-backlit mechanical gaming keyboard available”.

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From Corsair:

“The STRAFE mechanical gaming keyboard’s brilliant red backlighting can be customized to a virtually unlimited number of lighting configurations and effects. Each key can be programmed with automated macros using CUE (Corsair Utility Engine) software. Users can choose from six unique lighting effects or craft their own custom profiles and share them on www.corsairgaming.com.”

The STRAFE features:

  • German-made Cherry MX red switches with gold contacts for fast, precise key presses
  • Fully programmable brilliant red LED backlighting for unrivaled personalization
  • USB pass-through port for easy connections
  • Textured and contoured FPS/MOBA keycaps
  • 100% anti-ghosting technology with 104-key rollover
  • Enhanced, easy-access multimedia controls

Strafe_02.jpg

The Corsair STRAFE has an MSRP of $109.99 and will be available in June.

Source: Corsair