Tired of patching Flash? You might not need to worry as much anymore

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2015 - 01:28 PM |
Tagged: youtube, google, flash, html5

Youtube has finally ditched Flash as the default player for video in Chrome, Internet Explorer 11 and Safari 8.  If you use the beta builds of Firefox you will also be provided HTML5 video by default but as of yet the official release will still be playing Flash videos.  The adaptive bitrate which HTML5 can handle, without the use of plugins, could reduce buffering by 50% in a normal situation and up to 80% on congested networks according to the information which was given to The Inquirer.  As well the VP9 Codec can provide a stream at 35% less bandwidth than Flash which makes 4K and 60fps videos start much faster.  Flash is not yet dead and you can revert back to it, if you want to play Snake while your video is loading.

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"GOOGLE'S YOUTUBE video portal has made the switch to HTML5 as a default renderer, marking yet another milestone in the downfall of the Adobe Flash format."

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Source: The Inquirer

A Bit Off Topic: FCC Bans Wi-Fi Blocking

Subject: General Tech, Networking | January 27, 2015 - 08:45 PM |
Tagged: wifi, FCC

Because blocking a person's mobile hotspot so you can charge them to use your Wi-Fi is a completely jerk thing to do. The FCC has just released a warning to any individuals, groups, or businesses considering these measures that blocking Wi-Fi is illegal. This follows the decision in October to fine Marriott, the hotel chain, $600,000 for blocking personal networks in a Tennessee location.

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Now who's blowing the Raspberry?

Marriott, despite paying the fine, asked the commission to consider writing an official rule on this practice. They just did. It is illegal. The blocks of spectrum belonging to wireless internet are unlicensed, and thus no particular entity is apparently allowed to claim ownership over it, even in their geographic property.

It seems like a good decision to me, one that I cannot think of any immediate side-effects for, but this is one of those cases that a problem could be hiding in plain sight. What do you think? Am I missing something? Or is this a win for everyone (except those trying to block competing services)?

Source: FCC

Homeworld: Remastered Arrives February 25th

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2015 - 08:13 PM |
Tagged: Homeworld Remastered, Homeworld, gearbox

When THQ liquidated their assets, many franchises found new, welcoming parents. One notable purchase was the Homeworld franchise, a space-based real-time strategy that was popular in the late 90's and early 2000's, by Gearbox Software. The deal was valued at $1.35 million USD. They did not sit on the asset either. Within three months, the game developer announced re-releases of Homeworld and Homeworld 2 along with HD remakes, which is now called Homeworld Remastered Collection.

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While it missed its original 2014 launch estimate, Gearbox has set a new, more specific date of February 25th. The collection will still contain the two originals, the two remasters, and a Steam beta for the unified multiplayer mode.

Like many classic titles, I missed the original release of Homeworld (minus a few hours at a friend's house -- I was an early teenager at the time). Maybe I will get enough time to give this a chance?

Source: Steam

Hats and short term sales to the rescue in Greece?

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2015 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: valve, greece, economics

In 2008 Gabe Newell contacted a Greek academic economist by the name of Yanis Varoufakis to see if he would be interested in consulting with Valve on how to create a successful shared economy as well as how to balance payments globally and between the real and virtual economies that Valve now has.  He agreed and among other things started a Valve Economist blog which you can start reading here and which shows that he did contribute far more than just hats and the dreaded Steam Sale.  In what seems at first to be a rather bizarre turnaround in his career Yanis has gone from author, blogger and Valve consultant to being appointed the Finance Minister of his home country of Greece.  A closer look at his bona fides provide a good explanation, as he has been focused on how European economies interact since before the beginning of the economic downturns and austerity measures in countries like Greece.  Follow the previous links for a look at what he has accomplished or if you prefer, head to Slashdot for more hat jokes.

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"A turnover in the Greek government resulted from recent snap elections placing SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) in power — just shy of an outright majority by two seats. Atheist, and youngest Prime Minister in Greek history since 1865, Alexis Tsipras has been appointed the new prime minister and begun taking immediate drastic steps against the recent austerity laws put in place by prior administrations. One such step has been to appoint Valve's economist Yanis Varoufakis to position of Finance Minister of Greece."

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Source: Slashdot

A beautiful and quiet water cooled gaming machine

Subject: General Tech | January 26, 2015 - 03:42 PM |
Tagged: swiftech, MCP655 PWM, VisionTek, CryoVenom R9 290 LE, phanteks, Enthoo Luxe

Pictured below is a VisionTek R9 290 using a watercooler custome designed by EK Water Blocks for a limited edition of CryoVenom R9 290 LE and gives this build some serious GPU power.  As this system build is being done by Silent PC Review a generic pump is not going to cut the mustard and instead they chose the Swiftech MCP655 PWM for its low noise while operating.  To cool off the i7-4790K a VisionTek/EK Supremacy waterblock was chosen as IK produces very high quality parts.  To house the build a Phanteks Enthoo Luxe was chosen for it space and the ease of installing a radiator as well as its clean overall design.  Check out the full build over at SPCR.

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"Our seventh article in this season's new quiet gaming PC build guide series is our first complete discrete liquid cooled system, featuring the VisionTek CryoVenom R9 290 Limited Edition Graphics Card. This 450W beast of a system gets tamed to a cool, soft purr."

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Lies, damned lies and statistics

Subject: General Tech | January 26, 2015 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: statistics, mtbf, hdd, backblaze

Backblaze is a moderately sized hosting company with about 40,000 disks set up in their own style of arrays called Storage Pods, which are open sourced so that you can build one yourself if you so desire.  Every once and a while they put out reliability numbers for the HDDs that they use in their arrays; the newest report just arrived for your perusal.  This is good as most reliability and market share studies are done by professional organizations which they tend to charge quite a bit for their findings as they do put a lot of effort into ensuring that their data is correct.  Unfortunately that also means that most people do not have access to the information and make judgments based on incomplete or incorrect data.  As The Register points out, 40,000 HDDs is a very small sample size compared to the market as a whole or even large hosting companies and so the data set you can see here may not be the best representation of the actual market failure rates projected from it may not be overly accurate.  On the other hand it is nice to have any data, especially when you are provided with the actual sample size and a definition of failure.  If you are really into the numbers game, spend some time researching the Mean Time Between Failure and Average Failure Rate and the ongoing debate on how to properly measure expected mortality rates among large drives.

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"We're not entirely comfortable with cloud backup outfit Backblaze's data on disk drive reliability, but the company has just popped out another year's worth of analysis on which drives hang around longest. With due scepticism, let's have a look."

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Source: The Register

DirectX 12 Preview in New Windows 10 Build. No Drivers Yet.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 23, 2015 - 07:11 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, dx12, DirectX 12, DirectX

Microsoft has added DirectX 12 with the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview that was released today. Until today, DXDIAG reported DirectX 11 in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. At the moment, there has not been any drivers or software released for it, and the SDK is also no-where to be found. Really, all this means is that one barrier has been lifted, leaving the burden on hardware and software partners (except to release the SDK, that's still Microsoft's responsibility).

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No-one needs to know how old my motherboard is...

Note: I have already experienced some issues with Build 9926. Within a half hour of using it, I suffered an instant power-down. There was not even enough time for a bluescreen. When it came back, my Intel GPU (which worked for a few minutes after the update) refused to be activated, along with the monitor it is attached to. My point? Not for production machines.

Update: Looks like a stick of RAM (or some other hardware) blew, coincidentally, about 30 minutes after the update finished, while the computer was running, which also confused my UEFI settings. I haven't got around to troubleshooting much, but it seems like a weirdly-timed, abrupt hardware failure (BIOS is only reporting half of the RAM installed, iGPU is "enabled" but without RAM associated to it, etc.).

The interesting part, to me, is how Microsoft pushed DX12 into this release without, you know, telling anyone. It is not on any changelog that I can see, and it was not mentioned anywhere in the briefing as potentially being in an upcoming preview build. Before the keynote, I had a theory that it would be included but, after the announcement, figured that it might be pushed until GDC or BUILD (but I kept an open mind). The only evidence that it might come this month was an editorial on Forbes that referenced a conversation with Futuremark, who allegedly wanted to release an update to 3DMark (they hoped) when Microsoft released the new build. I could not find anything else, so I didn't report on it -- you would think that there would be a second source for that somewhere. It turns out that he might be right.

The new Windows 10 Technical Preview, containing DirectX 12, is available now from the preview build panel. It looks like Futuremark (and maybe others) will soon release software for it, but no hardware vendor has released a driver... yet.

The GIGABYTE FORCE M63 mouse strips for you

Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2015 - 02:29 PM |
Tagged: input, FORCE M63, gigabyte, gaming mouse

The newest in Gigabyte's Raptor lineup is the FORCE M63 gaming mouse, with sensitivity adjustable between 50 to 4000 DPI and a pack of weights which allow you to adjust between 1.8 to 21.3g.  The sensor is an Avago a3090 and the buttons all use OMRON and TTC switches and there is enough onboard memory to program the 10 buttons in numerous profiles, each of which can produce a different coloured light on your mouse wheel if you so choose.  Modders Inc were quite happy with the performance, head on over to see shots of the innards of the mouse as well as the software.

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"To win in the game you need to customize your controls for maximum speed and comfort. It is very important to feel in control of your character whether you are playing an FPS game or an RPG. If you think all of the peripherals are equal in performance, comfort or customization; you are wrong. There are numerous types and styles …"

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Source: Modders Inc

Taking the HoloLens with a grain of salt

Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2015 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, hololens

That fancy black visor was not what was provided to those lucky few who were invited to try out the HoloLens after the WinX presentation.  The working model consists of straps and an adjustable headband holding the lenses all enclosed within a wire frame to which is attached an external enclosure holding the battery and processors.  There were four different experiments to try, including the Minecraft looking demo we saw on stage and a virtual Mars experience using the data captured by Curiosity.  We won't be seeing the slick model demonstrated on stage any time soon but the technology is solid and was enough to convince The Register that Microsoft has an incredible product in store for us.

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"During Wednesday's Windows 10 preview day, select groups of hacks were stripped of any recording devices or cameras and sent down into the bowels of Building 92 of Microsoft's Redmond campus to try out the HoloLens, the software giant's new "hologramatic" wearable."

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Source: The Register

New MSI All In One PCs Powered By AMD Beema APUs

Subject: General Tech | January 23, 2015 - 12:56 AM |
Tagged: msi, beema, APU, amd, all in one, AIO

MSI will soon release three new All In One PCs under its Adora and Entertainment series. The new PCs are powered by AMD’s Beema APU and are aimed at light duty home computing and commercial applications respectively.

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MSI AE200 5M and AE220 5M AIO PC

The AIOs are clad in a white plastic casing with a clear bezel surrounding the matte display.  The Adora20 5M offers a 19.5” 1600 x 900 screen while the AE200 5M and AE220 5M feature a 19.5” 1600 x 900 and 21.5” 1920 x 1080 displays respectively. All the displays use MSI’s anti flicker, blue light reduction, and optional anti-glare technologies to reduce eye strain. The panels are multi-touch capable as well.

As far as I/O, the AIOs have webcams, optical disc drives, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI, RJ45 Ethernet, analog audio in/out, and an SD card reader. All of the PCs support 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. The Entertainment series PCs (AE200 5M and AE220 5M) further add a Mini-PCIe connection and a COM port on the back to support barcode scanners, card readers, and other legacy peripherals.

Internally, the PCs are powered by a low power AMD “Beema” APU, up to 8GB of DDR3L memory, and a single 2.5” SATA III hard drive or SSD. The Beema APUs in question are the AMD A4-6210 and E2-6110 with the Adora20 5M getting the latter chip. Both processors are 15W 28nm SoCs with four Puma+ x86 cores and discrete Radeon GCN graphics. The A4-6210 and E2-6110 are similarly configured but the A4-6210 has higher clockspeeds on the quad core CPU (up to 1.8GHz vs 1.5GHz) and 128 GCN graphics cores (600MHz vs 500MHz). Josh wrote up an article following the launch of Beema that goes into more details, but the gist of it is that Beema is competing with Intel’s Bay Trail Atom chips in this area and the chips tend to trade benchmark wins. Depending on the application used under Windows 7/8.1, users should see roughly similar performance versus an Atom based system. I will admit to being surprised to see AMD get a design win here given the huge popularity of Bay Trail, but in this form factor Beema should do well.

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Rear IO of the AE220 5M and AE200 5M PCs.

As is usually the case with these sort of announcements, there is no word on pricing or availability yet. Keep in mind that the AE200 5M and AE220 5M are aimed at businesses for use as kiosks, checkout terminals, product demonstrations, et al while the Adora20 5M is aimed more towards consumers who need a second PC or a primary PC for those with basic (mostly web-based or media playback focused) needs.

Source: MSI