Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 20, 2014 - 11:35 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, virtual reality
Steam Dev Days was last week. At it, Valve announced a redesign of their Steam Controller and the removal of Steam Greenlight, among other notables. This was a press-free event, officially. Of course, due to Twitter and other social media platforms, everyone can decide to be a journalist on a whim. Things are going to leak out.
Other things are going to be officially released, too.
Michael Abrash held a speech at the event discussing his virtual reality initiative within Valve. Both it and the Steam Machine project was in question when the company released Jeri Ellsworth and several other employees. After SteamOS was announced and castAR, Jeri's project at Valve, had its Kickstarter, it was assumed that Valve gave up on augmented reality. Despite this, they still kept Michael Abrash on their staff.
I would speculate, completely from an outside position, that two virtual reality groups existed at one point (at least to some extent). The project seems to have been sliced into two parts, one leaving with Jeri and one continuing with Michael. I seriously doubt this had anything to do with the "High School Cliques" that Jeri was referring to, however. She said it was "longtime staff" (Michael was newly hired around the end of Portal 2's development) and not within her hardware team.
These are the specs that Valve has developed prototypes to.
1K x 1K per eye is about 100x less than they would like, however.
Ooo... 100 megapixels per eye.
I just believe it all shook out to an unfortunate fork in the project.
Politics aside, Michael Abrash sees virtual reality affecting "the entire entertainment industry" and will be well supported by Steam. I hope this would mean that Valve will finally drop the hammer on music and movie distribution. I have been expecting this ever since the Steam infrastructure was upgraded back in July 2011. Of course, neither server or software will solve content availability but I am still expecting them to take a shot at it. Remember that Valve is creating movies, could they have plans for virtual reality content?
The latest prototype of the Oculus Rift uses camera tracking for low-latency visibility.
This looks like Valve's solution.
The PDF slide deck is publicly available and each page includes the script he heavily followed. Basically, reading this is like being there, just less fun.
Subject: General Tech, Storage, Mobile | January 20, 2014 - 05:28 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: msi, gaming laptop
MSI is launching two new laptops, the GX70 Destroyer and the GX60 Destroyer, in their gaming lineup. Both are based on the AMD A10-5750M Richland APU and R9-M290X 2GB discrete graphics. MSI included the fastest AMD mobile graphics processor available which targets just above 30FPS in true 1080p Battlefield 4 on Ultra settings. Of course, this could change to some extent when Mantle appears. They also allow access to the APU's HD8650G graphics portion for power-saving while driving three monitors.
The main difference between the two is that the GX70 houses a 17.3-inch 1080p screen while the GX60 contains a 15.6-inch 1080p display. Both contain the same processor, both can be configured with up to 16 GB of RAM, and both have the same aforementioned GPUs standard. They both even have BluRay writers for optical media (seemingly standard at that). They also have keyboards designed by SteelSeries and Ethernet ports designed by Qualcomm (Killer / BigFoot).
|Model||GX70 Destroyer||GX60 Destroyer|
|Operating System||Windows 8.1|
|CPU||AMD A10-5750M 3.5GHz|
|Memory||Up to 16GB DDR3-1600 (2 DIMMS)|
|Graphics||AMD R9-M290X 2GB + HD8650G|
|Display||17.3-inch 1080p LED||15.6-inch 1080p LED|
|Video Out||1x mini Display-Port, 1x HDMI 1.4b, 1x VGA|
Still no word on pricing or availability.
Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2014 - 12:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: linux, 3.13, amd, radeon
There is a new Linux kernel in the wild today and it comes with a lot of enhancements. IPTables has been replaced with the NFTables packet filtering and firewall engine, with backwards compatibility for those who actually forced IPTables to behave. There is a new scalable block layer to deal with the previously unreachable I/O that PCIe SSDs can reach and designed specifically for multi-core systems. There is much more but the update many are most excited about is the performance improvements to Radeons of the 7000 family and new models. The benchmarks that Phoronix posted are very impressive but that is only half the story, there are updates to HDMI audio and Radeon Dynamic Power Management is now enabled by default. Check out the full list of updates here.
"Linux kernel 3.13 has been released. This release includes nftables (the successor of iptables); a revamp of the block layer designed for high-performance SSDs; a framework to cap power consumption in Intel RAPL devices; improved squashfs performance; AMD Radeon power management enabled by default and automatic AMD Radeon GPU switching; improved NUMA and hugepage performance; TCP Fast Open enabled by default; support for NFC payments; support for the High-Availability Seamless Redundancy protocol; new drivers; and many other small improvements."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- AMD is being sued by investors over Llano expectations @ The Inquirer
- AMD Kaveri: Gallium3D vs. Catalyst Drivers @ Phoronix
- AMD readies ‘native’ 16-core chips based on ‘Steamroller' @ Kitguru
- Specs and highlights of Intel’s 9-series chipset revealed @ Kitguru
- Intel confirms it will axe 5,400 workers in 2014 @ The Register
- HP Brings Back Windows 7 'By Popular Demand' @ [H]ard|OCP
- How To Fix Keychain Corruption In OS X Mavericks @ Tech ARP
- The Android Experiment: I miss the Windows windows @ The Inquirer
- How-To: Kill Your Phone @ MAKE:Blog
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 20, 2014 - 04:19 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: maxwell, nvidia
Well this is somewhat unexpected (and possibly wrong). Maxwell, NVIDIA's new architecture to replace Kepler, is said to appear in Feburary with the form of a GeForce GTX 750 Ti. The rumors, which sound iffy to me, claims that this core will be produced at TSMC on a 28nm fabrication technology and later transition to their 20nm lines.
As if the 700-series family tree was not diverse enough.
2013 may have been much closer than expected.
Swedish site, Sweclockers, have been contacted by "sources" which claim that NVIDIA has already alerted partners to prepare a graphics card launch. Very little information is given beyond that. They do not even have access to a suggested GM1## architecture code. They just claim that partners should expect a new videocard on the 18th of February (what type of launch that is is also unclear).
This also raises questions about why the mid-range card will come before the high-end. If the 28nm rumor is true, it could just be that NVIDIA did not want to wait around until TSMC could fabricate their high-end part if they already had an architecture version that could be produced now. It could be as simple as that.
The GeForce GTX 750 Ti is rumored to arrive in February to replace the GTX 650 Ti Boost.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Memory, Systems | January 20, 2014 - 02:40 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: corsair, overclocking
I rarely overclock anything and this is for three main reasons. The first is that I have had an unreasonably bad time with computer parts failing on their own. I did not want to tempt fate. The second was that I focused on optimizing the operating system and its running services. This was mostly important during the Windows 98, Windows XP, and Windows Vista eras. The third is that I did not find overclocking valuable enough for the performance you regained.
A game that is too hefty to run is probably not an overclock away from working.
Thankfully this never took off...
Today, overclocking is easier and safer than ever with parts that basically do it automatically and back off, on their own, if thermals are too aggressive. Several components are also much less locked down than they have been. (Has anyone, to this day, hacked the locked Barton cores?) It should not be too hard to find a SKU which encourages the enthusiast to tweak some knobs.
But how much of an increase will you see? Corsair has been blogging about using their components (along with an Intel processor, Gigabyte motherboard, and eVGA graphics card because they obviously do not make those) to overclock. The cool part is they break down performance gains in terms of raising the frequencies for just the CPU, just the GPU, just the RAM, or all of the above together. This breakdown shows how each of the three categories contribute to the whole. While none of the overclocks are dramatic, Corsair is probably proud of the 5% jump in Cinebench OpenGL performance just by overclocking the RAM from 1600 MHz to 1866 MHz without touching the CPU or GPU.
It is definitely worth a look.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 19, 2014 - 11:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Keyboards, keyboard
Peter Bright down at Ars Technica wrote an editorial about the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. His opinion is that keyboard developers should innovate in ways that "doesn't undermine expectations". Replacing a row of physical keys for a software-controlled touch strip is destructive because, even if the change proved invaluable, it would ultimately be inferior because it clashes with every other keyboard the user encounters. He then concludes with a statement that really should have directed his thesis.
Lenovo's engineers may be well-meaning in their attempts to improve the keyboard. But they've lost a sale as a result. The quest for the perfect laptop continues.
That is the entire point of innovation! You may dislike how a feature interacts with your personal ecosystem and that will drive you away from the product. Users who purchased the laptop without considering the keyboard have the option of returning it and writing reviews for others (or simply put up with it). Users who purchased the laptop because of the keyboard are happy.
I mainly disagree with the article because it claims that it is impossible to innovate the keyboard in any way that affects the core layout. I actually disagree with it for two reasons.
My first issue is about how vague he is. His primary example of good keyboard innovation is the IBM ThinkPad 701c and its "butterfly keyboard". The attempt is to increase the keyboard size to exceed the laptop itself to make it more conventional. Conventional for who? How many people use primarily small laptops with shrunken keyboards compared to people who touch-type function keys?
The second critique leads from the first. The PC industry became so effective because every manufacturer tries to be a little different with certain SKUs to gain tiny advantages. There could have easily been a rule against touchscreen computers. Eventually someone hit it out of the park and found an implementation that was wildly successful to a gigantic market. The QWERTY design has weathered the storm for more than a century but there is no rule that it cannot shift in the future.
In fact, at some point, someone decided to add an extra row of function keys. This certainly could undermine the expectations of users who have to go between computers and electronic typewriters.
It will be tough, though. Keyboards have settled down and learning their layouts is a significant mental investment. There are several factors to consider when it comes to how successful a keyboard modification will become. Mostly, however, it will come down to someone trying and observing what happens. Do not worry about letting random ideas in because the bad ideas will show themselves out.
Basically the point is: never say never (especially not that vaguely).
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | January 18, 2014 - 08:44 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: camera, mouse, camera mouse, Japan
Have you ever been sitting at your laptop or desktop thinking, "I really need a selfie right about now and this webcam simply will not do"? I have no idea what is wrong with you. Do you not have a cellphone if spontaneous self-photography means that much?
But at least a Japanese company has your back... or is it front?
For the love of... it's even being held the wrong way!!!
Introducing the Camera Mouse. It is a mouse with a camera in it. It is useful if you want to take pictures of things with your mouse. It will be sold by King Jim Co., LTD. which is one of the largest office supplies manufacturers in Japan.
While I have been thinking about this news story, I have been thinking about legitimate use cases. It has been a struggle. I just cannot understand why someone would want to purchase a 1600x1200 camera which is hard-wired to their computer. Thus far, I have only come up with a single possibilities (although it would require significant software development resources that I doubt they intend to provide). The only way I could see myself purchasing this mouse is if it came with OCR and translation software so that I could point it at my monitor and automatically translate any text on screen.
Even then, I expect the vast majority of foreign language content would be in a web browser and two of those automatically translate text anyway. It would help for text in images or text in videos but otherwise I could not see the point even then. Moreover, all of this assumes the software even exists in a reasonable package (Bluestacks running Google Translate is probably no more useful than a cell phone).
But who knows. I could be missing the bigger picture. I could be missing the subtle nuances of their target audience. Maybe I just need to see things at two megapixels from under a sweaty palm.
Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2014 - 12:49 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: quarterly earnings, Intel, financial results, earnings
Intel has released financial results for the full year and fourth quarter of 2013. According to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, the company had a "solid fourth quarter." Although full year revenue and net income fell, there was a slight increase in Q4 net income and revenue YoY compared to Q4 2012.
In 2013 Intel had $52.7 billion in total revenue along with $12.3 billion operating and $9.6 billion net income. Compared to the previous year (2012), Intel's revenue fell 1% while operating income and net income fell 13% and 16% respectively. Specifically of interest to the PC Perspective readers, the PC Client Group had 2013 revenue of $33.0 billion which was down 4% versus 2012.
|Q4 2012||Q4 2013||YoY Change||2012||2013||YoY Change|
All $ figures are in billions (USD).
As far as the previous quarter (Q4 2013) alone, Intel made revenue of $13.8 billion which was a 3% increase versus the same quarter in 2012. Quarterly net income also increased 6% YoY to $2.6 billion.
Looking forward into 2014, Intel estimates revenue for the first quarter (Q1 2014) to be $12.8 billion. Unfortunately, Intel plans to cut approximately 5,000 jobs (specifically 5% of its workforce) in 2014 despite the "solid" company performance.
You can find more information in this Intel press release.
Subject: General Tech | January 17, 2014 - 01:29 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Xubuntu, TAILS, SUSE, Red Hat, Lubuntu, linux, DouDou, Bodhi
If you've never tried Linux or are looking for a new distro to try then check out Linux.com's top 7 distro list for 2014. If beauty is what you seek then Bodhi is a good choice as it has modified the Enlightenment window manager into something a little more manageable. For Ubuntu users there are two variants you could try, Xubuntu for desktops and Lubuntu for older less powerful laptops. For the security conscious there is TAILS, which automatically routes traffic through TOR and constantly deletes any tracking info from local storage as well as being specifically designed to run from a bootable USB drive. For the geeky parents out there, or for those looking for a very simple to understand distro is DouDou. It comes preloaded with an array of childrens learning software and Dan's Guardian to somewhat limit internet sites of a nature unsuited for the very young.
"The Linux avalanche is rolling and gathering mass and momentum. Linux won, so what's next? Amazing growth is what's next: we're at the bare beginning of the Linux juggernaut rolling into existing markets and blazing into new ones. All this growth and progress is the result of years of hard work by tens of thousands of people and billions of dollars of investment. It has reached critical mass and there is no stopping it."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Intel treads water despite drowning PC biz clinging to Chipzilla's legs @ The Register
- Microsoft should just rename Windows XP as Windows 9 @ The Inquirer
- ASUS RT-AC56U & USB-AC56 802.11AC Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Americans To FCC Chair: No Cell Calls On Planes, Please @ Slashdot
- You can snag a 39" 4K display for $404 @ The Tech Report
- NuForce Worldwide Joint Giveaway @ NikKTech
A Hard Decision
Welcome to our second annual (only chumps say first annual... crap) Best Hardware of the Year awards. This is where we argue the order of candidates in several categories on the podcast and, some time later, compile the results into an article. The majority of these select the best hardware of its grouping but some look at the more general trends of our industry.
As an aside, Google Monocle will win Best Hardware Ever 2014, 2015, and 2017. It will fail to be the best of all time for 2016, however.
If you would like to see the discussion as it unfolded then you should definitely watch Episode 282 recorded January 2nd, 2014. You do not even need to navigate away because we left it tantalizingly embed below this paragraph. You know you want to enrich the next two hours of your life. Click it. Click it a few times if you have click to enable plugins active in your browser. You can stop clicking when you see the polygons dance. You will know it when you see it.
The categories were arranged as follows:
- Best Graphics Card of 2013
- Best CPU of 2013
- Best Storage of 2013
- Best Case of 2013
- Best Motherboard of 2013
- Best Price Drop of 2013
- Best Mobile Device of 2013
- Best Trend of 2013
- Worst Trend of 2013
Each of the winners will be given our "Editor's Choice" award regardless of its actual badge in any review we conducted of it. This is because the product is the choice of our editors for this year even if it is not an "Editor's Choice". It may have not even been reviewed by us at all.
Also, the criteria for winning each category is left as vague as possible for maximum interpretation.
Get notified when we go live!