Hitting the big time; Win 8.1 now more popular than it's teenage sibling

Subject: General Tech | December 3, 2014 - 01:01 PM |
Tagged: windows xp, Windows 8.1, microsoft

Now that the average consumer has no choice but to buy a machine with Windows 8 or 8.1, the number of PCs running Win 8.1 has hit 10%.  The increase beginning in November represents the official end of the availability of machines with Win7 preinstalled although you can see that this has not had much effect on the number of Win7 machines still running.  The majority of users seem to be switching from WinXP which reached its extended EoL in April of this year.  The other main point to take away from the data that The Register linked to is that those who bought Windows Vista are a stubborn crew, the number of desktops running Vista have dropped 2% but there are still a fair number of machines running the much maligned OS.

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"Windows 8.1 broke the global 10 per cent market-share barrier a year after general release, and has now hit 10.95 per cent, according to latest data from StatCounter."

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Source: The Register

Steam Broadcasting Introduced to Steam Client (Beta)

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2014 - 07:18 PM |
Tagged: steam, steam broadcasting, twitch

Before we begin, note that this only available for the Steam Client on Windows 7 and 8.x for now, but Valve intends to bring it to Linux and OSX (and Vista for some reason). You must also opt-in to receiving Beta releases of the Steam Client. Beyond the currently limited support in hosting a stream, watching a stream is only possible with one of three web browsers: Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and the one in Valve's Steam Client.

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Obviously, the pre-launch browser support is quite disappointing. Clearly Valve limited support of their web app to their rendering engine of choice, WebKit and its fork, Blink, and that is a step up from doing it in Flash. It is probably most disappointing for Opera, who switched to WebKit (and later Blink) from their proprietary “Presto” engine. Of course, relying on a collaboration with Google for standards support can only help so much, and it apparently did not help enough.

As for the service itself, Valve is focusing on user choice with their offering. While public streams will be allowed, you are allowed other privacy options – public is not even the default. Your stream can also be set to: only allow invited friends, allow all friends, or allow friends to request viewing permissions. By default, it is set to the last (fourth) option.

Now on to the speculation...

Why would Valve being doing this? Of course, Amazon believes it is a billion dollar business, so it is not insane for Valve to throw their hat in the ring, and hats is something they have plenty of, but I believe it might be bigger than this. This announcement follows the beta release of In-Home Streaming, back in May. Especially with the privacy options, I could see this following Sony, and its PS4 Share Play feature. Share Play allows people on your friends list to override your controller, or an extra controller if you want to play local multiplayer over the internet. These are all products using the same building blocks.

Steam Broadcasting (Beta) is available now through the Beta Steam Client release channel.

Source: Valve

HP's big budget enterprise storage reveal

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2014 - 12:29 PM |
Tagged: hp, StoreServ, File Persona

HP is showing off some spiffy kit in Barcelona which will be priced just a wee bit beyond the budget of a consumer but is still fun to look at.  How would you feel about 3.6 petabytes of hybrid flash and disk storage on a 16Gbit/s fibre channel with reported performance of up to 900,000 IOPS all for the low price of $1.70/GB?  In the table below the new kit bears a 'c' in their name and for those who no longer wish to think about spinning rust it is the 7200, 7400 and 7450 that are all flash storage.  Also new is File Persona which allows users that have a StoreServ File Controller to access data at the file level as well as the block level access that was supported previously.  The latter two pages of The Register's article feature HP's Stephen Bacon, Senior Manager for File and Object Storage Product Management and Marketing answering questions about the new products and software.  Ah, it is nice to dream of unlimited budgets.

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"Attendees at HP’s Discover event in Barcelona this week are getting a bumper crop of StoreServ hardware and software announcements, expanding the HW range and adding object access and better data protection."

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Source: The Register

Awake Yet? Good! Optimizing Inverse Trig for AMD GPUs.

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 2, 2014 - 03:11 AM |
Tagged: amd, GCN, dice, frostbite

Inverse trigonometric functions are difficult to compute. Their use is often avoided like the plague. If, however, the value is absolutely necessary, it will probably be solved by approximations or, if possible, replacing them with easier functions by clever use of trig identities.

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If you want to see how the experts approach this problem, then Sébastien Lagarde, a senior developer of the Frostbite engine at DICE, goes into detail with a blog post. By detail, I mean you will see some GPU assembly being stepped through by the end of it. What makes this particularly interesting is the diagrams at the end, showing what each method outputs as represented by the shading of a sphere.

If you are feeling brave, take a look.

Broken Age: Act 2 Delayed Until 2015

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2014 - 02:45 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, gaming, Tim Schafer, broken age

Tim Schafer and the rest of Double Fine set up a Kickstarter in early 2012 to fund a classic, LucasArts-style adventure game. After being funded over eight-fold more than they intended, they allowed the production to balloon and fit their new budget. This resulted in Act 1 being released in 2014, over a year later than their original deadline, with the second half (Act 2) coming later – expected in late 2014. Within the last couple of days, they announced that the release date has slipped into “early next year” (2015).

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This is one of the problems that a Kickstarter can face. There is definitely an instinct to supercharge an over-funded product, which could lead to delays, hiccups, and other problems. On the other hand, the extra money, and the public knowledge regarding how much extra, can raise the expectations of your audience – they might feel cheated if you fail to over-deliver. Beyond this, I have been told that it is very common for budgets to inflate over the course of regular development, something that you cannot really account for in advanced crowd-funding. Again, this may be wrong – it was what I expected but, of course, hoaxes prey on that.

Since the Kickstarter launched, Ron Gilbert left the company. I pout.

Broken Age: Act 2 will be released in early 2015 and conclude the Broken Age story as a free upgrade for everyone who paid for Act 1. This is nice but, while I could see an argument for Act 1 customers needing to purchase Act 2 in the era of Telltale episodic content, it only makes sense for at least Kickstarter backers to get the whole game. I mean, it was announced as a single title; it would be a supremely bad move to promise a full game and deliver a half of one (torn at an awkward point in the narrative no-less) only to ransom the second half a year later.

Thankfully, it will be free, not just for them, but for everyone who owns Act 1.

Source: PC Gamer

Remember Google Glass?

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2014 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: Intel, google glass

Google Glass seems to have gone the way of Wave and Plus, most people have heard of it but no one seems to actively use it.  Apart from some news stories about socially inept use of the device in public areas the buzz around Google Glass has died down and for most it is Oculus who have more compelling eye wear.  Some time in the coming year there will be a second release of the Google Glass which dumps the Texas Instruments chip for an unspecified ultra low power Intel chip, or at least that is the rumour from The Register and other sites.  This launch sounds to be aimed more at enterprise customers, hard to imaging how having your PowerPoint presentation beamed into your customers eyeballs will help your sales but that is the gist of the marketing.  This product still seems to be more appropriate for those who work with their hands and could benefit from hands free overlays of schematics or details but who knows, maybe your next job interview will be with someone reading your Facebook page in real time as they conduct your interview.

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"GOOGLE REPORTEDLY plans to release a new Intel-powered version of Google Glass in 2015, as interest in its first-generation wearable dies down."

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Source: The Register

Do not throw this keyboard; it will survive, the target may not

Subject: General Tech | November 28, 2014 - 04:12 PM |
Tagged: input, Cougar, 700K, Cherry MX

With a plastic body and brushed aluminium top the Cougar 700K weighs in at over a kilo and should handle the most ham fisted of users.  You can choose your favourite flavour of Cherry MX switches, Red, Blue, Black or Brown and swap keys as you see fit and toggle between NKRO and standard USB 6KRO.  The LED functionality is quite impressive, an onboard CORTEX-M0 and the included software allow you to customize your light show, swap key functionality and program macros which you can save into multiple profiles.  Modders-Inc found the keyboard to be well designed, the software even more so but be aware that there is a drawback to liking this keyboard, it retails for $150.

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"A product's function is not solely reliant on the designer but also shaped by the intended audience. Problem arises when there is a disconnect between intention, marketing and reception; the result being a product that is supposed to perform well at the intended task but comes up short due to false assumptions on what the intended audience needs."

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Source: Modders Inc

Free Windows apps, since calling them programs is not cool anymore

Subject: General Tech | November 28, 2014 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: windows, freeware

Over at The Register is a round up of a variety of freeware applications that many have found useful.  Ad Aware, a program that not many have talked about since the competition picked up has made a reappearance and has stepped up their game somewhat although you will still find Malwarebytes product on this list.  Classic Shell has been very popular since Windows went metrosexual as it restores much of the familiar interface that users are accustomed to and is likely to remain popular with the release of Windows 10.  Duplicati  is a great way to locally back up your files from the Cloud while Eraser can do the opposite for those wanting to make sure that deleted file stays deleted.  They also include Notepad++ for those who actually do work on their machines, Process Explorer for those who work on the machines themselves and several others worth checking out if you are unfamiliar with the free software available for PC users.

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"No matter if you're reinstalling Windows for the 47th time this fortnight or attempting to rid a new machine of bloatware in favour of something that's actually useful, the question remains: what alternative apps exist that don’t involve coughing up for obscene licensing fees?"

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Source: The Register

Telltale's Game of Thrones Launches December 2nd

Subject: General Tech | November 28, 2014 - 04:27 AM |
Tagged: telltale, game of thrones

Oh they're coming. The dragons are on their way. They're gonna be amazing. They'll be here soon. Actually, Telltale's Game of Thrones will be here on December 2nd. The game will be the first of a six-episode season, spanning the TV show's timeline from the end of Season 3 up to some point just before the start of Season 5.

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According to the ESRB, they will keep their robes on at all times.

Of course, the most interesting part about this release, to me, is its M rating – specifically, one that makes zero reference to sexuality or sexual content. While the ESRB allows modest sexual content, with Duke Nukem Forever being just about the most extreme, permitted example, you would probably get nowhere near what is allowed on HBO into retail distribution, any console, and probably not even Steam. This would limit the game to a PC release that is distributed on their company website, GoG, and maybe Amazon. The same issue was faced, in some regions, with South Park: The Stick of Truth, where a handful of scenes were censored out of certain versions of the game because they were too graphic (one of which being an alien abduction).

That tangent out of the way, Game of Thrones will launch on December 2nd.

Source: PC Gamer

Windows 10 Will Support Many New Codecs Natively

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 10:20 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, mkv, microsoft, hevc, h.265, flac

Native support for audio and video codecs is helpful for a platform. Software will be able to call upon the operating system's built-in functions, rather than integrating a solution. Of course, some will continue to roll their own, and that's fine, but it is obviously helpful for the foundation to have its own solution (especially in cases where licenses and royalties are required).

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Windows 10 is expected to increase its platform support to include FLAC, MKV, and HEVC (h.265), and more may be coming. The tweet from Gabriel Aul suggests that this will be available starting in the next preview build, which will land in early 2015. Hopefully these additions include both encoding and decoding support, possibly allowing audio and video editors to take advantage of these formats.

The next build of Windows 10 Technical Preview is expected for early next year. The full OS is said to launch late that year.

Source: PC Gamer