Waiting for Windows Wednesday

Subject: General Tech | January 19, 2015 - 12:57 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, release

We should be finally hearing the pricetag which will be associated with Windows 10 this Wednesday as Microsoft has been sending out invites for an unveiling this week.  Many have already tried the unfinished version via the Windows Insider Programme and it has received a much warmer welcome that the previous version.  The Inquirer posits this could be in part because of a realization that consumers now have a choice in operating systems and are now far less likely to feel that they have to go with Microsoft or Apple.  From Chromebooks to flavours of Linux wrapped in a GUI and installer that Windows users feel comfortable with there is a change in the market and the biggest competitor to a new Windows is not necessarily an older version of the OS.  This has driven Microsoft to listen to customer feedback and not hand out changes to the OS that they feel customers should want but instead bring back familiar features which were removed and perhaps completely rethink their pricing.  You can check out The Inquirer's musical take on what to expect right here.

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"WEDNESDAY is arguably the most important day in Microsoft's recent history. We're primed and ready for what is expected to be the consumer launch of Windows 10, easily the most pivotal release in its 30 years as the world's predominant operating system."

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Source: The Inquirer

CompuLab Fitlet PC Lineup Is Small and Fanless

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 16, 2015 - 11:21 PM |
Tagged: nuc, fitlet-x, fitlet-i, fitlet-b, fitlet, compulab, APU, amd

The Israeli PC manufacturer, CompuLab Ltd., has announced three lines of small, fanless systems. They will be smaller than the NUC and run AMD APUs, from the E1 to the A4, which CompuLab claims are more powerful than NUCs of comparable prices. They can be configured with either Windows (7, 8, or 10) or Linux Mint. They are officially classified as Industrial PCs, and the 5-year warranty reinforces that association, but others might also be interested.

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CompuLab Fitlet-b

Let's start in the middle with the Fitlet-i. With a TDP of 4.5W, it is powered by an AMD A4-6400T APU at 1.0 GHz (1.6 GHz boost). It can be configured with up to 8GB of DDR3 memory.

The other features of the Fitlet-i are:

  • Two 3.5mm stereo audio jacks (one in, one out)
  • One S/PDIF port
  • Four USB 2.0 ports
  • Two USB 3.0 ports
  • Two HDMI 1.4 ports
  • Two Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • 802.11ac (clarified Jan 17th: built in, with external antennas I believe)
  • One microSD card slot
  • One eSATA port, rated at 6Gbps
  • One serial port (because industrial)
  • One mSATA socket (low profile)
  • One mini-PCIe socket (high profile, half or full size)

The Fitlet-X is similar to the above, except that it has four Gigabit Ethernet ports (instead of two), but it loses one USB 2.0 port (three total), has its Wireless downgraded to a USB 802.11n dongle, and it has no eSATA port. The extra pair of Gigabit Ethernet adapters is not the only perk though, as it has their “FACET card” interface, which provides 3 lanes of PCIe (if you want to take a risk on the interface).

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CompuLab Fitlet-i

That leaves us with the Fitlet-b, which is the base model. Its TDP is slightly lower, 3.95W, and is powered by an AMD E1-6200T APU at 1.0 GHz (1.4 GHz boost). It has just one Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, three USB 2.0 ports, the USB 802.11n dongle, and just a full-size mSATA (low profile) expansion for storage. It does have both HDMI 1.4a outputs though.

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CompuLab Fitlet-X

The Fitlet will be available in February, starting at $129 for the Fitlet-b barebone, via Amazon for North America and Europe. It will also be available directly from CompuLab and resellers for the rest of the world.

Source: CompuLab

Graphics Developers: Help Name Next Generation OpenGL

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 16, 2015 - 10:37 PM |
Tagged: Khronos, opengl, OpenGL ES, webgl, OpenGL Next

The Khornos Group probably wants some advice from graphics developers because they ultimately want to market to them, as the future platform's success depends on their applications. If you develop games or other software (web browsers?) then you can give your feedback. If not, then it's probably best to leave responses to its target demographic.

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As for the questions themselves, first and foremost they ask if you are (or were) an active software developer. From there, they ask you to score your opinion on OpenGL, OpenGL ES, and WebGL. They then ask whether you value “Open” or “GL” in the title. They then ask you whether you feel like OpenGL, OpenGL ES, and WebGL are related APIs. They ask how you learn about the Khronos APIs. Finally, they directly ask you for name suggestions and any final commentary.

Now it is time to (metaphorically) read tea leaves. The survey seems written primarily to establish whether developers consider OpenGL, OpenGL ES, and WebGL as related libraries, and to gauge their overall interest in each. If you look at the way OpenGL ES has been developing, it has slowly brought mobile graphics into a subset of desktop GPU features. It is basically an on-ramp to full OpenGL.

We expect that, like Mantle and DirectX 12, the next OpenGL initiative will be designed around efficiently loading massively parallel processors, with a little bit of fixed-function hardware for common tasks, like rasterizing triangles into fragments. The name survey might be implying that the Next Generation OpenGL Initiative is intended to be a unified platform, for high-end, mobile, and even web. Again, modern graphics APIs are based on loading massively parallel processors as directly as possible.

If you are a graphics developer, the Khronos Group is asking for your feedback via their survey.

CES 2015: Monoprice Announcements

Subject: General Tech, Displays, Shows and Expos | January 16, 2015 - 06:59 PM |
Tagged: CES, ces 2015, monoprice, ips, 4k, 120hz, mechanical keyboard, touch screen, drawing

So CES has ended over a week ago, but somehow we missed Monoprice. While they are known for cheap cables that are also good and reliable, the retailer has been pushing out some interesting, self-branded products. At this year's CES, they advertised a multi-touch pen display, a cheap 4K 60Hz monitor, a 30-inch IPS panel that is guaranteed to work at 120Hz 1600p (16:10), and an RGB-backlit mechanical keyboard.

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First up is their 22-inch multi-touch pen display. Not too long ago, I noticed that they had a 22-inch pen display without a touch screen, similar to my Wacom Cintiq 22HD, for under $600. Of course, this got me looking at its product page because that is significantly cheaper than what I paid for mine -- like, several times cheaper. In that page was a warning that it was not suitable for multi-monitor setups, and suggested that users clone it (rather than extending their desktop). Yikes. Okay. That's problematic.

Well now it no longer has that warning, and neither does their new, higher-end version with built-in multi-touch. Hopefully this means that they sorted out their driver (or configuration) issues under Windows.

The display itself is a 22-inch, 1080p, IPS panel with 16.7 million colors (so not 10-bit). It has a 5ms response time, which is good for IPS, but no listing of sRGB or AdobeRGB coverage. This could be problematic for someone looking to use it for professional applications, but being an IPS display it might be okay.

The current price is $550 for the pen-input monitor, and $750 for the pen or 10-point touch model. Both are also compatible with 75mm x 75mm VESA wall mounts, because the writing's on the wall or some pun like that.

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Also launched is a 28-inch 4K display for $449. They do not state the panel technology, but with a reduced vertical viewing angle, which is bad, and a 1ms response time, which is good, it pretty much must be TN. It is a bit sad that it is not IPS, IGZO, PLS, or another high-end panel type, but it is also $449.

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Image Credit: Anandtech

Keeping on the topic of displays, Anandtech was shown a 30-inch, 1600p panel that is guaranteed to run at 120Hz. While we are starting to see a few high refresh rate IPS panels pop up this year, it was the domain of display overclockers before then. Enthusiasts would purchase monitors that were shipped directly from smaller South Korean manufacturers (who typically purchase lesser-binned panels from LG, and so forth) and cross their fingers when they give it a higher refresh rate. This one is guaranteed by Monoprice to run at 120Hz, but it does not yet have pricing and availability.

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Image Credit: Anandtech

Lastly, Anandtech also saw a mechanical keyboard with programmable RGB backlighting. It uses Kailh RGB switches, which are based on the Cherry MX design after the patents expired. Again, no pricing or availability on this one.

Source: Monoprice

Video Perspective: Amazon Echo Overview

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 06:05 PM |
Tagged: video, echo, amazon

Late last year Amazon announced the pending release of the Echo, a standalone device that would sit in your home or office and listen to voice commands and respond in a Siri-like or Google Now-like fashion. The first Amazon Echo units have shipped and I received one of them, opening it up and putting it to use for a few days this week.

At its core, the Echo is a collection of microphones and speakers, connected to the internet through Wi-Fi. Using the keyword of “Alexa” (or you can change it to “Amazon”) you stir Echo from its slumber to respond to requests for information, streaming­ music and lists or timers. Voice recognition is fantastic and the speed at which Echo responds to voice commands is impressive, moving along at a quicker pace than either Google’s or Apple’s options.

Users that have uploaded their music collection to Amazon’s cloud library will be able to access that music through the 2.5-in subwoofer and 2.0-in tweeter, both of which add up to surprisingly good audio performance for such a small device. Amazon Prime users will have access to the company’s collection of including streaming music as well, though that collection is notably smaller than something like Spotify. Music from Amazon’s digital music store is the one item you can purchase solely through voice commands.

Adding things to a shopping list, asking for fact-based information and telling lame jokes all happen efficiently. But the drawback to the Echo is its lack of knowledge about the rest of my life. The device has no ability to know about my next calendar appointment, my incoming emails, my estimated drive time to the work. Google does though, and I can’t help but think that a Google iteration of this exact item would be a better solution.

Check out the video below to see Amazon Echo in action and determine if this device deserves a spot in your home.

"gorescript" Is an Indie, Browser-Based 3D Shooter

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 02:36 PM |
Tagged: webgl, pc gaming

gorescript is a first person shooter that runs in a browser through WebGL (via Three.JS). Its developer, Time Invariant Games, has not mentioned a business model, if there is one, but the first three levels, three guns, and two monsters can be instantly played at their GitHub site for free. The source code, including a map editor for levels and a map editor for monsters, weapons, and powerups, is also on their GitHub under an MIT (permissive) license.

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From a technical standpoint, it is not the most impressive game that I have played in a browser -- that would be a toss-up between Unreal Tournament 3 (they had a demo at Mozilla Summit 2013) or Dead Trigger 2. In gorescript on Firefox 35, I was getting about 80-110 FPS, although that begun to crawl down to around 20-30 FPS with some dips down to ~10 FPS; it was probably averaging ~45 FPS when all is said and done.

(Note: Especially if you have a high-refresh panel, the maximum frame rate of Firefox can be adjusted in about:config with the layout.frame_rate variable. Mine is set to 120.)

Again, it is free and it should amuse you for a little while. Maybe we can get it to blow up with third-party content? Even as it is, I think it is worth a mention for anyone who wants a Doom/Quake throwback.

Are you sure that is a mouse and not a spaceship?

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 01:32 PM |
Tagged: input, Cougar, 700m, gaming mouse, dexter

The Cougar 700M Gaming Mouse is a right handed gaming mouse offers a serious amount of adjustments and options as well as a design which certainly stands out.  The DPI is programmable from 50 to 8200 and with the software it seems you can actually specify different levels to your X and Y axis if you so desire.  It comes with weights and the height of the pad on the rear of the mouse can be adjusted to ensure it fits your hand comfortably as well as a headlight of varying colours.  Techgage gave the mouse and software a try in their latest review, check out what they thought of it here.

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"Mice – there is never a shortage of options in the gaming market. They range from $10, to well over $100 – some are a tremendous value, some are not. COUGAR is no stranger to this market and have put its best foot forward with the 700M Gaming Mouse. How did it fare? Follow me, I’ll show you!"

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Source: Techgage

Steam for Linux will teach you the difference between backups and redundancy

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: steam, linux, idiots

If you move the Steam home directory of $STEAMROOT in Linux then you are running the risk of running rm -rf on your user directory, which in the case of this unfortunate person on Slashdot included their attached USB hard drive.  This is rather nasty bug and one which is easily avoidable by the use of proper syntax but unfortunately the command rm -rf "$STEAMROOT/"* contains an unnecessary / and without an error checking facility included if there is no $STEAMROOT directory the command run is rm -rf "/"*.  As it is in your home folder you do not even need to be running as root so for the time being it would be very wise to leave your Steam files in their default location and to realize that anything plugged into your machine is not a true backup until removed from your system.

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"I launched steam. It did not launch, it offered to let me browse, and still could not find it when I pointed to the new location. Steam crashed. I restarted it. It re-installed itself and everything looked great. Until I looked and saw that steam had apparently deleted everything owned by my user recursively from the root directory. Including my 3tb external drive I back everything up to that was mounted under /media."

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Source: Slashdot

Raptr's Top PC Games of December 2014

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 11:01 AM |
Tagged: raptr, pc gaming

Whoops! It looks like I forgot about Raptr's list for November. In it, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare launched at 10th place and 17th place, respectively. World of Warcraft also jumped from 8.53% to 15.61% of total play time, which is significant and almost equal to League of Legends. Spider Solitaire also made November's list at 19th place.

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This month, Dragon Age: Inquisition climbed from 10th to 6th, because it had a full month of play, while Call of Duty fell off completely (along with PAYDAY 2 and Spider Solitaire). Also, World of Warcraft did not lose its gain, but actually built upon it by a small amount. It did not grab mindshare from League of Legends though, because that game rebounded from its losses in November and was even more popular than it was in October.

That's about all that I found interesting however.

Source: Raptr

Podcast #332 - GTX 960 and R9 380X Rumors, Corsair Carbide 300R Titanium, and our CES 2015 wrap up

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2015 - 02:09 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, gtx 960, nvidia, maxwell, amd, r9 380x, corsair, carbide, 300R, CES, ces 2015, ECS, Z97-Machine, Intel, crucial

PC Perspective Podcast #332 - 01/15/2015

Join us this week as we discuss GTX 960 and R9 380X Rumors, Corsair Carbide 300R Titanium, and our CES 2015 wrap up

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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