You can teach a Wolfram Alpha new tricks

Subject: General Tech | May 14, 2015 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: wolfram alpha, stephen wolfram, image identify

You may have had the pleasure of using the Google Goggles image identification app, not so much for its successes as for its often hilarious misses.  There is now a new image identification app from Wolfram Alpha which you can try out.  The Register immediately tried a random picture of Stephen Wolfram who is apparently a podium in disguise but Image Identify seems very fond of capyberas.   Head on over to amuse yourself and of course only use your pictures for proper training as we wouldn't want to reclassify the podium as Daddy, now would we?

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"search your heart ..."

"WOLFRAM ALPHA has released a new site designed to help you identify any image that you throw at it."

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Source: The Register
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: AKracing

Or: How to fall asleep at work.

I will be the first to admit that just a couple of weeks ago I had zero need for a gaming chair. But when 4GamerGear.com offered to send us one of the AKracing AK-6014 ergonomic executive units, I agreed. I went out of town for a week and returned to find the chair assembled and already in use by Ken, our go to video editor and engineer. Of course I had to steal it from him to take part in the "review" process and the results were great! As I sit here now in my Ikea office chair, writing up this post, while Ken sits just feet away tapping away on some edits, I can't help but want to use my authority to take it back.

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The price is steep, but the added comfort you get from a chair like the AKracing model we tested is substantial. Every part of the design, based on a racing seat for a car, is built to keep you in place. But instead of preventing lateral movements caused from taking corners, this is more to keep your butt in place and your back straight to encourage good posture. The arm rests are height adjustable (as is the seat itself of course) and the back reclines for different desk and resting positions. You can lay it PAST flat for naps if you're into that kind of thing.

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You can find these chairs for sale on Amazon in different color combinations with a current price of $349. It's expensive, I can't deny that. But it looks and feels way cooler than what you are sitting in right now. And aren't you worth it?

Firefox 38 Launches with (and also without) DRM Support

Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2015 - 05:06 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, firefox, DRM

Mozilla has just released Firefox 38. With it comes the controversial Adobe Primetime DRM implementation through the W3C's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME). Or, maybe not. If you upgrade the browser through one of the default channels, the Adobe Primetime Content Decryption Module will appear in the Plugins tab of your Add-ons manager on Windows Vista or later (but it might take a few minutes after the upgrade).

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Alternatively, you can use Mozilla's EME-free installer for Firefox and avoid it altogether.

I have mentioned my concerns about DRM in the past. EME does not particularly bother me, because it is just a plugin architecture, but the fundamental concept does. Simply put, copy protection does very little good and a whole lot of bad. If your movie is leaked before it is legally available in consumer's hands, as it regularly does, then what do you expect to accomplish after the fact? It takes one instance to be copied infinitely, and that often comes from the film company's own supply chain, not their customers. Moreover, it is found to reduce sales and hurt customer experience (above and beyond the valid ideological concerns).

Beyond the DRM inclusion, several new features were added. One of the more interesting ones is BroadcastChannel API. This standard allows a web application to share data between “contexts” that have the same “user agent and origin”. In other words, it must be on the same browser and using the same app (even secondary instances of it). This will allow sites to do multi-monitor split screen, which is useful for games and utilities.

WebRTC has also been upgraded with multistream and renegotiation. Even though the general public thinks of WebRTC as a webcam and voice chat standard, it actually allows arbitrary data channels. For example, “BananaBread” is a first person shooter that used WebRTC to synchronize multiplayer state. Character and projectile position is very much not webcam or audio data, but WebRTC doesn't care.

Firefox 38 launched on May 12th with an optional, DRM-incompatible build.

Source: Mozilla

Project Cars is finally here and it certainly is pretty

Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2015 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: gaming, project cars

The Tech Report pulled out their wheel and pedals, tied their chair to their desk and tried out Project Cars, a game which shows off just what a good PC is capable of.  The cars, tracks and weather are all rendered in amazing quality with lifelike reflections and lighting.  Even better is the feel of the game, realistic handling work with the graphics to immerse you fully into the game. Their are options to help the novice driver get their skills up to speed and while there may not be quite as many tracks and cars to choose from as games such as Forza, the realism more than makes up for it.  It will also work with a controller and Steam Big Picture for those who prefer to drive from the couch.

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"In his latest blog post, TR's Geoff Gasior gets behind the wheel in Project Cars, a new PC driving game with realistic handling and jaw-dropping graphics. This may be the best-looking game in any genre, and it feels as real as it looks."

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Epson's new 3D glasses

Subject: General Tech | May 13, 2015 - 01:56 PM |
Tagged: Moverio BT-200, epson, 3d glasses

Epson has teamed up with NGRAIN to create the Moverio BT-200 smart glasses for use in industrial design and repair.  The glasses are connected to a controller to minimize the weight of the actual glasses as well as allowing you control options on the 3D view you see through the glasses.  The Register were not overly impressed with the image nor the interface but could certainly see the usefulness in the demonstrations that were conducted.  One benefit the glasses do offer is dual usage, they can be used both to show 3D images as well as augmented reality overlays when looking at physical objects, allowing to use the interface you prefer.

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"You may be really looking forward to 3D glasses but based on the latest tech giant's efforts, it may be some time.

Today we tried out Epson Moverio BT-200 smart glasses at IoT World in San Francisco and were left… underwhelmed."

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Source: The Register

Use your SHIELD to stream games over NVIDIA GRID at 1080p

Subject: General Tech | May 12, 2015 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: gaming, shield, nvidia, grid

Ryan and the crew have tested out NVIDIA's GRID, the cloud streaming service that lets you play games at 720p, as long as you have a 10 Mbps down connection on a network with a NVIDIA GameStream-ready 5 GHz Wi-Fi router and 60 ms or less ping time to a GRID server.  In testing Ryan did notice lag but he still found them playable once he mentally adjusted to the delay.

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Today NIVIDA announced an upgrade to the GRID service, 35 of the 50 games on the service can now stream at a full 1080p and 60fps including Batman: Arkham Origins, Devil May Cry 4 and Dirt 3 Complete Edition.  In order to properly enjoy the HD quality you will need a compatible router from the list linked to above and connection of at least a 30 Mbps down, with 50Mbps being recommended by NVIDIA for best results. 

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The new SHIELD Hub beta is available to SHIELD owners by following the link in NVIDIA's blog post here.  They also announced the addition of Bionic Commando to their library, playable at the new resolution.

Source: NVIDIA

Need another reason to try out Win10? How about live translation on Skype

Subject: General Tech | May 12, 2015 - 01:48 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, win 8.1, translator, Skype Translator, skype, microsoft

The Skype Translator service has been available for users that signed up and were approved by Microsoft for testing.  It has now been made available for any and all users of Windows 8.1 or the Windows 10 pre-release.  It can translate audio to and from English, Spanish, Italian or Mandarin in real time and can translate instant messages from another 50 languages.  You will of course need someone to call who speaks a different language from you to see how bad the eggcorns are but watching live translation is always impressive.  You can see it in action at The Inquirer and the link for the software is at the bottom of the article.

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"MICROSOFT HAS MADE its Skype Translator Preview available to all Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 users."

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Source: The Inquirer

Remote door answering with the Ring

Subject: General Tech | May 11, 2015 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: iot, ring, digital home, smart home

Ryan was impressed with Google's Nest Learning Digital Thermometre and recommended it a few years back as a great holiday gift, which is still true to this day.  A company called Ring is making inroads into the smart home market with their self titled second generation product.  Their original product was Doorbot, which some hated and many liked but which is nowhere near as interesting as the new Ring.  It is a 720p camera, with a motion sensor, microphone and speaker all powered by the small current provided by your existing doorbell circuits and a battery backup good for about a year.  It connects to your house and the Cloud via WiFi and is capable of not only ringing on your iOS7+ or Android 4.0+ phone but also to send the video so you can interact with whoever is at your front door even when you are away.  You may not be able to sign for packages remotely but barring that this can be very handy.  Read more at The Register.

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"Ring is enjoying that classic moment in a company's lifecycle when word has started getting out and orders are coming in at a rate that requires scaling up to the next level. And for good reason too. By all accounts, Ring the video doorbell is an impressive product, successfully navigating the path between hardware, software, smart phones and cloud services to deliver a genuinely innovative product with a real use-case."

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Source: The Register
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

No Longer the Media Center of Attention

Gabe Aul, of Microsoft's Windows Insiders program, has confirmed on Twitter that Windows 10 will drop support for Windows Media Center due to a decline in usage. This is not surprising news as Microsoft has been deprecating the Media Center application for a while now. In Windows 8.x, the application required both the “Pro” SKU of the operating system, and then users needed to install an optional add-on above and beyond that. The Media Center Pack cost $10 over the price of Windows 8.x Pro unless you claimed a free license in the promotional period surrounding Windows 8's launch.

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While Media Center has been officially abandoned, its influence on the industry (and vice versa) is an interesting story. For a time, it looked like Microsoft had bigger plans that were killed by outside factors and other companies seem to be eying the money that Microsoft left on the table.

There will be some speculation here.

We could go back to the days of WebTV, but we won't. All you need to know is that Microsoft lusted over the living room for years. Windows owned the office and PC gaming was taking off with strong titles (and technologies) from Blizzard, Epic, iD, Valve, and others. DirectX was beloved by developers, which led to the original Xbox. Their console did not get a lot of traction, but they respected it as a first-generation product that was trying to acquire a foothold late in a console generation. Financially, the first Xbox would cost Microsoft almost four billion dollars more than it made.

At the same time, Microsoft was preparing Windows to enter the living room. This was the company's power house and it acquired significant marketshare wherever it went, due to its ease of development and its never-ending supply of OEMs, even if the interface itself was subpar. Their first attempt at bringing Windows to the living room was Windows XP Media Center Edition. This spin-off of Windows XP could only be acquired by OEMs to integrate into home theater PCs (HTPCs). The vision was interesting, using OEM competition to rapidly prototype what users actually want in a PC attached to a TV.

This leads us to Windows Vista, which is where Media Center came together while the OS fell apart.

Read on to see how Halo 2 for Windows Vista was almost the prototype for PC gaming.

COUGAR 600M, the gaming mouse that squeaks

Subject: General Tech | May 8, 2015 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: input, Cougar, 600M, gaming mouse

The Cougar 600M Gaming Mouse does well at adding functionality without going to the extremes some other models have. The sensor can be set up to 8200 DPI and you can also adjust the USB polling rate from 125Hz to 1000Hz, a nice feature for those who want to be able to have complete control over their input.  Those who love LEDs will like that the software allows you to toggle the lighting between 16.8 million colours as well as programming the eight buttons as single functions or macros.  How well does it game?  Check out the full review at Overclockers Club.

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"The scroll wheel was an issue I only found from "longer" use, that I probably would not have noticed in a typical review testing time frame. After enough use, it started to squeak a bit, and in general make more noise. However, enough use later, and it's back to no squeak. It seems like it will be something that comes and goes. It still works, and that is most important."

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