It has been a rough quarter for the tech industry

Subject: General Tech | March 10, 2015 - 12:36 PM |
Tagged: Q1, gigabyte, earnings, msi, TSMC, amd, Intel, nvidia

There is quite a bit of news on how various component manufacturers have fared at the beginning of 2015 and not much of it is good.  Gigabyte has seen revenues drop almost 20% compared to this time last year and a significantly higher overall drop and while MSI is up almost 4% when compared to this quarter in 2014, February saw a drop of over 25% and over the total year a drop of nearly 8%.  TSMC has taken a hit of 28% over this month though it is showing around 33% growth over the past year thanks to its many contract wins over the past few months.  Transcend, Lite-On and panel maker HannStar all also reported losses over this time as did overseas notebook designers such as Wistron, Compal and Inventec.

Intel is doing well though perhaps not as profitably as they would like, and we know that NVIDIA had a great 2014 but not primarily because of growth in the market but by poaching from another company which has been struggling but not as much as previous years.  The PC industry is far from dead but 2014 was not a kind year.

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"Gigabyte Technology has reported consolidated revenues of NT$3.216 billion (US$101.93million) for February 2015, representing a 39.31% drop on month and 26.75% drop on year.

The company has totaled NT$8.515 billion in year-to-date revenues, down 18.47% compared with the same time last year."

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Source: DigiTimes

The ROCCAT Tyon; this mouse is nubbed for your pleasure

Subject: General Tech | March 9, 2015 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: input, gaming mouse, tyon, roccat

Counting the different mouse wheel directions and the Easy-Shift button alternate pressing you can program up to 32 different buttons on the Roccat Tyon mouse.  As even the mouse wheel can be programmed to function completely differently between scrolling directions, this should count as long as your game supports it.  Not only do you get a ridiculous amount of customization, the nub you see on top of the mouse can function just like the throttle slider on your joystick, an interesting feature considering the number of space sims launching in the near future.  Hardware Asylum really like the mouse though they did dock points for not being usable by sinister types, check out the full review and the software suite right here.

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"The Tyon has innovative buttons just where you expect them without becoming overwhelming. Maybe the best part is you don’t even notice them when you don’t want to use them."

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Meet Intel's low powered Broadwell based Xeon D

Subject: General Tech | March 9, 2015 - 12:23 PM |
Tagged: Xeon D, Intel, Broadwell, 14 nm trigate

Intel's new entry into the low powered server chip market will be called the Xeon D and will be 14-nm process with tri-gate transistors and a TDP ranging from ~25-45W.  The chip will use Broadwell cores with 64K of combined L1 cache and 256K of L2 per core as well as 1.5MB of a shared pool of 12MB of L3 cache, aka last level cache.  The chip itself will have 24 lanes of Gen3 PCIe as well as a pair of 10Gbps NICs and the I/O controller that shares space on the chip will add six SATA3 ports, another eight lanes of PCIe Gen2, and USB support.  The Tech Report only had frequencies for two chips, the 8 core Xeon D-1450 has a base clock of 2GHz, an all-core Turbo peak of 2.5GHz, and a single-core Turbo peak of 2.6GHz while the Xeon D-1520 hits 2.2GHz base frequency, 2.5GHz all-core Turbo, and a 2.6GHz single-core peak.  Check out more in the full review here.

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"The Xeon D is Intel's pre-emptive strike against upcoming ARM-based competition in the server market. Built on 14-nm process tech and fortified with Broadwell cores, this single-node processor looks like the future of the Xeon lineup."

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Windows 10 (Enterprise) Build 10031 Sighted

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 06:29 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, microsoft

WinBeta found a new screenshot of an internal Windows 10 build. They originated from the same group, Wzor, that leaked almost every other image from unreleased Windows 10 builds. The only real feature that is shown is a translucent start menu. To make the transition a little less jarring, you are able to partially see the content behind it.

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Image Credit: WinBeta and Wzor.

This feature should be especially useful for the full-screen start menu, so that it looks like an overlay, rather than: “Your computer is doing something totally different now!” You can still see, if only a little bit, what you were doing. It should feel a lot more like the Steam Overlay rather than a full context switch.

The build is also not labeled Microsoft Confidential, so it might be on the branch that is designed for public release. We are due for a new build, so it should only be a matter of days before consumer previewers, and apparently enterprise ones too, get pushed forward... ... after about five-or-so reboots.

Source: WinBeta

Maybe GDC 15? Third-Party Unreal Engine 4 Forest Demo

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2015 - 06:08 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, gdc 15, GDC

I am not quite sure if the Game Developers Conference led to this video being released, or if it was just a coincidence. This is the sole work of Alexander Dracott, a visual effects, lighting, and shader artist who has been employed at Sucker Punch and Sony Online Entertainment. He works for a studio in Bellevue, Washington, USA doing VR demos, which sounds like Valve but is probably someone else entirely.

Unreal 4 Lighting Study: Forest Day from Alexander Dracott on Vimeo.

Basically, it is a forest scene that is rendered in Unreal Engine 4. It is convincing, despite a little macroblocking from Vimeo compression (or its source). Even the falling leaves cast appropriate shadows. Granted, he never mentions his computer's specifications, which could make a difference in how many features he could get away with enabling. Either way, the art would even be amazing in a non-realtime scene, let alone Unreal Engine 4.

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A couple of days later, he posted pictures of the same scene in an autumn time frame (same link). I guess that I should keep coming back to this thread, just in case it gets a Winter update or something. Awesome work!

Source: Polycount

GDC 15: Microsoft Announces Wireless Xbox Dongle for PC. Controller Refresh Rumored for E3?

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2015 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, microsoft, gdc 15, GDC, controller

During his keynote speech, Phil Spencer of Microsoft announced a wireless adapter for PC. It can apparently be used to connect any wireless Xbox One peripheral on Windows 10. If you watch the presentation, the statement occurred at about 36 minutes and 30 seconds in. It was just a brief acknowledgement of its existence this year.

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This is the Xbox 360 wireless accessory adapter. Image Credit: Wikipedia
Hopefully the new one will be a stick that pairs via software (vs. the cord and button).

A similar device existed for the Xbox 360, pictured above, and I used it heavily with controller-friendly games (until the adapter died abruptly). I was not a fan of the directional pad, of course, but the rest of the controller suited the games that I play without a mouse and keyboard. I also used the adapter with the Xbox 360 wireless headset, which was surprisingly good (especially at removing speaker noise).

On the same day, Neowin acquired a leak that claims the company is looking to create a new Xbox One controller. They expect that, if the project doesn't get killed internally, we will see the new controller at E3 2015 in June. The design is supposed to focus on first person shooters and driving titles, but nothing else is known about it. We'll see.

Novachips is teasing us with two 8TB SSDs

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 03:24 PM |
Tagged: novachips, ring, ssd

Novachips is giving out some details of a series of large SSDs they are planning to release in April; 2TB, 4TB and 8TB models will use point-to-point ring connections as opposed to the usual parallel arrangements.  The speeds are impressive, 360,000 random read/write 4k IOPS
and sequential reads and writes topping out at 1.8GB/sec as is the expected lifespan of the drives which they rate at 10 full drive writes a day for five years.  Unfortunately the one stat which was not provided to The Register was the pricing, with these sizes and the new flash arrangement you can expect they will carry a hefty price tag.

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"Fancy an 8TB SSD? Put one in a PC or notebook and you've got yourself a smoking hot system, fast and with a gaping capacity for data."

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Source: The Register

GDC 15: Valve's $49.99 Steam Controller Coming In November

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 01:54 AM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Controller, peripheral, gdc 2015, gdc 15, gaming, controller

Valve has given the elusive (vaporous? heh, I'll leave the good puns to Scott) Steam Controller a release date and several refinements to the design. Slated for a November 2015 launch, the Steam Controller will ship with most of the Steam Machines offered by OEMs. Users will also be able to purchase controllers directly from Valve (via Steam) for $49.99.

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The final controller features a curved design with lots of rounded edges (no sharp angles here), large handles and dual circular programmable trackpads. The four button d-pad has been replaced by an analog stick while the four A, B, X, and Y buttons sit where a second thumb stick traditionally resides.

A circular Steam button and two smaller buttons finish out the face controls.

The two large (and despite my impressions from photos apparently ergonomic) handles each host two dual stage (analog and/or digital) triggers on the top and a button on the underside of the controller.

The Steam Controller is powered by two replaceable AA batteries and is wireless.

Users will be able to create and save custom configurations to their Steam profiles as well as share those custom settings with other Steam users. This should make adoption a bit easier since you will be able to jump into games with a recommended configuration that other users report works well. Or at least it will be a better starting point for your own custom settings rather than being thrown to the wolves with a new and unfamiliar controller. I think it is going to take practice to get good at this even with the jumpstart on suggested configurations though.

It will be available in November (Steam Store page link) for $49.99 which is just cheap enough that I will likely pick one up just to try it out and see what the hype is about. If it is as comfortable as some writers (who have gotten hands on time with them at GDC) are claiming, I’m willing to give it a shot now that it includes a thumb stick (I think I need to be eased into this dual trackpad setup).

Engadget has several more photos from the GDC show floor that are worth checking out.

What do you think about the final Steam Controller?

Source: Valve

GDC 15: Maingear Launches Customizable Drift Steam Machine

Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 12:46 AM |
Tagged: SteamOS, Steam Machine, maingear, gdc 2015, gdc 15, gaming, drift

Maingear is joining the Steam Machine fray at the Games Developers Conference with its announcement of the upcoming Drift Steam Machine. The Drift is a configurable small form factor gaming PC that will come equipped with Valve’s SteamOS operating system in November.

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Maingear’s new Steam Machine uses a small aluminum unibody chassis with optional Glasurit automotive paint to create an exceptionally attractive gaming console. It comes in two base systems – the Maingear Drift and the Maingear Drift SS – from which users can further customize based around the Intel H81 and Z97 chipsets respectively.

The Drift is the entry level system starting at $949. This system includes a MSI H81-i motherboard, Intel Pentium Anniversary Edition G3258 processor, 8GB Corsair Vengeance 1600 MHz memory, a NVIDIA GTX 750 Ti, 500GB Seagate Barracuda hard drive, 8x DVD drive, and a 450W Silverstone power supply.

Maingear’s Drift SS takes things up a notch by moving to a Gigabyte GA-Z97N-WIFI motherboard, Intel Core i5-4590 processor paired with Maingear’s Epic 120 Supercooler closed-loop water cooler, a NVIDIA GTX 970 GPU, and a 250GB Samsung 850 EVO in addition to that 500GB hard drive in the Drift PC. The higher end liquid cooled Drift SS starts at $1,949.

Maingear Drift Steam Machine Rear IO.jpg

The Drift SS comes at a hefty premium but it sure would look impressive in your entertainment center!

Maingear is offering up the systems for pre-order today and will start shipping the customize-able systems next month. Note that systems shipped before November will come with Windows 8.1 x64 and not SteamOS (though you can emulate the experience by booting Windows into Steam Big Picture Mode or installing the beta yourself).

Source: Maingear

GDC 15: Source 2 Is Free But Must Be Available on Steam

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 5, 2015 - 10:40 PM |
Tagged: valve, source engine, Source 2, gdc 15, GDC

At the Game Developers Conference, Valve has formally announced the Source 2 engine and that it would be free for content developers. At the same time, they committed to releasing a version of it that is compatible with Vulkan, the graphics API from the Khronos Group that we have been talking about a lot over the last couple of days. Of course though, free can mean many things. As it turns out, there is one string attached: the game must be made available on Steam at launch. It can be available elsewhere too, but Steam must be one of the launch retailers.

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I do wonder what will happen if someone makes a title that Steam refuses to publish. Of course, the natural thought is “What if Valve refuses to publish for content reasons?” That is an interesting thought, and maturity is one area that many other engines (like Unreal) do not restrict, but it is not the only concern (and Gabe Newell is quite laissez-faire with his -- albeit loosely defined -- content guidelines). What if your content simply does not make it on Steam? For instance, with is someone creates a title in Source 2 and has a failed attempt at Greenlight because it was unpopular? Are you then unable to publish your content through alternative channels, too? This seems like something that Valve will need to provide a little clarification on.

Try as I might, I could not find a release date for Source 2, however. It will arrive when it does.

Source: Valve