Who would have guessed? Microsoft's Cloud has a Linux lining

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2015 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: azure, microsoft, linux

It is a strange new world we find ourselves, where part of Microsoft's Azure infrastructure will be built on Linux.  Azure Cloud Switch will allow software-defined networking to be used on Azure for those who are brave enough to dabble in SDN.  Microsoft will be incorporating the OpenCompute developed Switch Abstraction Interface based on Linux, as The Register points out this is likely due to a lack of similar functionality in Windows software.  In this particular case Microsoft will not be reinventing the wheel but will wisely focus on improving the functionality of Azure and Azure based products such as Office 365 which they have developed in house.  The 'cloud' is a strange place and it just got a little bit stranger.

windows azure.png

"Redmond's revealed that it's built something called Azure Cloud Switch (ACS), describing it as “a cross-platform modular operating system for data center networking built on Linux” and “our foray into building our own software for running network devices like switches.”"

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Source: The Register
Manufacturer: Lenovo

A Diverse Lineup

ThinkPads have always been one of our favorite notebook brands here at PC Perspective. While there certainly has been some competition from well-designed portables such as the Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Pro 3, the ThinkPad line remains a solid choice for power users.

We had the chance to look at a lot of Lenovo's ThinkPad lineup for Broadwell, and as this generation comes to a close we decided to give a brief overview of the diversity available. Skylake-powered notebooks may be just on the horizon, but the comparisons of form factor and usability should remain mostly applicable into the next generation.

Within the same $1200-$1300 price range, Lenovo offers a myriad of portable machines with roughly the same hardware in vastly different form factors. 

First, let's take a look at the more standard ThinkPads.

Lenovo ThinkPad T450s

The ThinkPad T450s is my default recommendation for anyone looking for a notebook in the $1000+ range. Featuring a 14" 1080p display and an Intel Core i5-5300U processor, it will perform great for the majority of users. While you won't be using this machine for 3D Modeling or CAD/CAM applications, general productivity tasks will feel right at home here.


Technically classified as an Ultrabook, the T450s won't exactly be turning any heads with it's thinness. Lenovo strikes a balance here, making the notebook as thin as possible at 0.83" while retaining features such as a gigabit Ethernet port, 3 USB 3.0 Ports, an SD card reader, and plenty of display connectivity with Mini DisplayPort and VGA.


Continue reading our overview of the Lenovo ThinkPad lineup!!

Happy Sesquimillenial Linux Game, Valve and Steam

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2015 - 09:21 PM |
Tagged: linux, pc gaming, steam

While the number of games doesn't exactly mean much in isolation, a large amount of them have been making their way to Linux recently. Valve's first-party library is an obvious addition, as they have been jaded with Windows since 8.x scared just about anyone interested in back catalog support with their “Desktop as an App” attempts to isolate the Win32 APIs. Other developers have been following suit, especially since engines are being designed cross-platform as of late.


Milestones can be interesting, though. In this case, Steam crossed the 1,500 mark in games for Linux that are hosted on its service. Some equate this to “there exists 1500 games for Linux”, which isn't quite right, but the distribution platform is definitely a behemoth in the industry. It is the default way to purchase many new titles, and is a Linux host for ARK: Survival Evolved and Shadow of Mordor.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone who listed what the 1500th title was. Sorry!

Source: Phoronix

Microsoft Created a Private Linux Distro. Laugh It Up.

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 08:28 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, linux

Azure Cloud Switch is an operating system, which is based on Linux, that Microsoft has created for their data centers. This software will be installed on their network appliances, such as switches, to let them control the features that their data centers require. It also helps them interface hardware together, since they now control the software stack regardless of hardware vendor.


This is naturally making tech websites doodle on their calendars as the company uses Windows for just about everything. While basing a portion of their infrastructure in Linux is a sign that Microsoft is embracing open source, this is not the first time. Back in 2003, which is not a Linux-friendly year for the company, Microsoft used Linux-based infrastructure from Akamai to provide DDoS and malware protection. It worked. They have even been attributed as a top contributor to the Linux kernel in the past.

The OS is internal to Microsoft, but it is in affiliation with the Open Compute Project. I'm not sure if we will ever see the OS or its full source publicly.

Source: Microsoft

September Update of Xbox App for Windows 10 Released

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 07:29 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, xbox, pc gaming

The Xbox App for Windows 10 was touted as a major feature before launch, but you barely hear about it after. I will occasionally get a notification that I can record game footage, or a little pop-up after pressing the center button of my 360 controller. Other than that, I barely notice that it exists. A lot of the functionality is useful to manage their Xbox One or Xbox Live Gamertag (do they even call it that anymore?) but PC gamers barely have a reason to open it. Granted, I expect Microsoft hopes that will change after enough Xbox-aware games for Windows 10 hit market. It's early days.


Some currently use it though, and it has just received an update for them. Version 9.9.16003.00000 has added four new features, two of which implement automatic updates for friends and their activity feeds. The button to refresh is still present, which is always nice in case something goes wrong, but it shouldn't need to be pressed as the app should be pulling notifications from Microsoft's servers on its own.

The other two features are more interesting.

The Xbox App now supports “Console text entry”. This feature allows Xbox One users to type into the console's search boxes “and more” using Windows 10 devices, and, more importantly, their keyboards or keypads. A chat pad is being launched for the console soon, which plugs into the controller to give it a QWERTY keyboard, but supporting laptops is definitely nice.

The last feature is “Game progress comparison”. In the Achievements panel, you are able to click on the “compare” button to line up your achievement history next to your friends. As it turns out, Ryan has a higher score than me in Halo 3. That just won't do.

Microsoft has also announced that they will be providing a Beta app in the future, which will arrive later this month. You can pick it up from the Windows Store when it becomes available, if you want.

Source: Microsoft

Cooler Master Launches QuickFire XTi Mechanical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 06:28 PM |
Tagged: cooler master, quickfire xti, mechanical keyboard

Once again, a mechanical keyboard with 104-key rollover claims to have 100% anti-ghosting, because that is expected from a marketing perspective. Once you have a key matrix that has each key isolated, which 104-key rollover strongly suggests, then ghosting cannot occur so “anti-ghosting” is meaningless. Unfortunately, keyboard companies are still compelled to advertise the feature on the box, but I hope our readers understand the difference.


Regardless, Cooler Master has launched the QuickFire XTi mechanical keyboard. It uses official Cherry MX switches, but not the Cherry MX RGB switches that were once exclusive to Corsair. Instead of 16 million colors in the typical human spectrum, it allows for 35 colors on the red-blue spectrum. This could be a problem for people who want yellow, white, or green keys, but acceptable if you'll keep it at colors in the range of red, blue, or magenta. I'm not particularly sure why they cut so much of the spectrum away, but it clearly made sense to them. The lighting can be animated, though.

Cooler Master is proud of their cable management, though. The cable is detachable with a micro USB head and braided. They also have a few different ways of routing the wire under the keyboard, allowing the cable to come out on the side that makes the most sense for your desk, which is particularly good for lefties.

The Cooler Master QuickFire XTi is available now for $150 USD. I've found it on Amazon for $123.86, though.

Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Preview 10547 to Fast Ring

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 05:05 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

As we approach the first major update to Windows 10, Microsoft has released another build to Fast Ring users. Oddly enough, Slow Ring users have not received a single build yet, and rumors have the release scheduled for the October / November time frame. This build is bigger than some previous ones that we've seen, addressing issues from the Start Menu, Edge, Tablet Mode, first-party apps, and more.


The headlining feature is an option to increase the number of tiles that are available on Start. Currently, you are allowed to have 512 tiles, but a switch will bump that up to 2048. This will obviously help users who have a lot of different applications, but I personally find myself using Search a lot more. I would like to see Microsoft support multiple instances of the same application, so you can select between common command-line arguments without having tiles on your desktop, bringing Search and Start to parity with it.

Object RTC in Microsoft Edge is interesting from a developer perspective, though. This standard allows real-time audio and video communication, which is commonly used for applications like video conferencing -- but that is not even its most important application. The base standard, Web RTC, allows websites to create network sockets, including peer to peer. Mozilla created a game, BananaBread, which uses this -- not for audio or video chat -- but for multiplayer synchronization without a server (except to connect the initial handshake). Unfortunately, implementations that I've used is also hostile to networks without UPnP support... maybe Microsoft will push that in a good direction.

Build 10547 is available now for Fast Ring users from Windows Update.

Source: Microsoft

Star Wars Battlefront Beta Will Be Public

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 03:56 PM |
Tagged: ea, Star Wars, Star Wars Battlefront, pc gaming

EA has announced a beta for Star Wars: Battlefront, which will apparently be open for everyone. This will take place in “early October” and contain three game modes, each of the two known ones with a single map. I expect that the third, unknown mode, Drop Zone, will also come with its own map, but it could technically reuse Hoth or Tatooine from Walker Assault and Survival, respectively.


If you are not a fan of online gaming, then EA is supporting single-player Survival mode. You will apparently require an internet connection, but it is unclear whether you need to have it active to play the offline mode, while you play it. Squadron Fighter mode will not be available in the beta, but Walker Assault has a bit of aircraft play, so you should get a taste of the controls (if you can ever find an available vehicle).

EA has also mentioned their Star Wars Battlefront Companion app. This will not be some kind of Commander Mode. It will apparently have a card game and social component. It will be available during the beta as a website, but the iOS and Android app will be “prior to the release of Star Wars Battlefront”.

The game will come out on November 17th, while the beta will be available in early October.

Source: EA

HP Split Imminent, and 30,000+ Employees Will Be Let Go

Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: layoffs, hp inc, hp, hewlett-packard enterprise

As we reported a while ago, Hewlett-Packard is planning to split into two. The move will separate the consumer products into “HP Inc” and enterprise products into “Hewlett-Packard Enterprise”. This makes sense, because enterprise clients know the full name, but many consumers probably do not. At the time, it was expected to result in 5000 jobs lost, resulting in 55,000 since the upper management focused on cutting expenses. Now, about a year later, and right before the split happens, we find out that 5000 is now well over 30,000, bringing the 55,000 figure to between 85,000 and 95,000.


Image Credit: Wikipedia

These are fairly severe cuts, but it depends on how you look at it. A typical corporate restructure is around 10% of employees as a rule of thumb. If you count the slow, rolling job cuts as a single restructure, then the Hewlett-Packard Company has cut about 25% - 30% of their workforce, albeit offset by some hiring and rehiring that naturally won't be reported on as much as cuts.

If you look at this deal as a single restructure however, then it is between 10-15%, which is somewhat normal. Personally, I would say that this is the slightly more honest way of reporting on the issue. These cuts are on the severe side, but I don't think it spells trouble for the companies (although it is terrible for the employees).

Source: Ars Technica

Are you leaving us so Zune?

Subject: General Tech | September 17, 2015 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: zune, microsoft

Much to the dismay of a certain PCPer, Zune is passing off this mortal coil as yet another iTunes killer that turned out not to live up to the creators hopes.  As of November 15th Zune services will be retired which means no new music or streaming for owners of the MP3 player.  You will still be able to play music as long as it is not DRM protected, once the licensing servers go down the protected content will no longer be accessible in yet another glaring example of how DRM hurts those who pay for content far more effectively than it prevents theft.  The Register does have some good news for those dozens of people effected, Zune Music Pass subscriptions will be converted to Groove Music Pass subscriptions.


"Come November, Microsoft is killing off Zune – the very thing that was supposed to kill off the Apple iPod and iTunes. As you may be able to tell, that execution never came about."

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Source: The Register