Can Titanfall really be as fun as it sounds?

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2014 - 04:01 PM |
Tagged: gaming, titanfall, modding

If you didn't get lucky enough to get in on the Titanfall demo then all you can do is read the previews and wonder if what you are missing out on is really as good as people say it is.  The reviews we've seen have been very positive and describe what seems to be a new style of online shooter.  The basics remain the same and we have all seen footage of the 3 storey mechs which give the game its name but Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN also describes how parkour is a big part of the game and is easier to get used to than Mirror's Edge.  The launch process also sounds like an improvement, when starting you end up in a private area which makes it easy to pick who you play with if you have a group of up to 12 people together.  Even with the limit of 6 players per side the map won't feel empty thanks to the designed inclusion of bots on both teams.  It is also nice to hear that Respawn is already acknowledging the modding community for the PC version of their game.

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"There are a lot of different ways to make videogame fights meaningful. Singleplayer games do it by couching your shotgun blasts and pistol whips in the context of a story. Multiplayer games do it by emphasising competition via scoreboards, and by layering XP bonuses and equipment progression on top as rewards for each kill. Titanfall aims to do it with a mixture of all of the above, and based on its limited beta, finds mixed success."

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Another reason to toss a Tomato onto your router

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2014 - 12:33 PM |
Tagged: security, router, TheMoon

A worm known as TheMoon has been in the news recently but the actual infection of Linksys routers has likely been spreading for quite a while now.  You may have also read about the backdoor on Linksys/Cisco and Netgear routers which as been open for almost a decade and can be as simple as connecting to port 8083 if you can get direct access to the router.  Some of these vulnerabilities can be mitigated by turning off remote administration and uPNP services but it seems your consumer level router is still a huge security risk.  Your best bet is to spend a weekend and follow the advice of most Slashdot commentators; flash your router with OpenWRT or a version of Tomato and you will have better security and control over your router.  Just don't do it to the modem your ISP provided you with.

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"The remote-access management flaw that allowed TheMoon worm to thrive on Linksys routers is far from the only vulnerability in that particular brand of hardware, though it might be simpler to call all home-based wireless routers gaping holes of insecurity than to list all the flaws in those of just one vendor. An even longer list of Linksys (and Cisco and Netgear) routers were identified in January as having a backdoor built into the original versions of their firmware in 2005 and never taken out."

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Source: Slashdot

Intel Roadmap Including Xeon E7 v2 Lineup

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | February 19, 2014 - 03:28 AM |
Tagged: Intel, SoC, atom, haswell, Haswell-E, Airmont, Ivy Bridge-EX

Every few months, we get another snapshot at some of Intel's products. This timeline has a rough placement for every segment, from their Internet of Things (IoT) product, the Quark, up to the Xeon E7 v2. While it covers from now through December, it is not designed to be a strict schedule and might contain an error or two.

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Image Credit: VR-Zone

First up is Ivy Bridge-EX (Xeon E7 v2). PCMag has an interesting rundown on these parts in depth, although some aspects are a little fuzzy. These 22nm-based chips range from 6 to 15 cores and can access up to 1.5TB of memory, per socket. Intel also claims they will support up to four times the I/O bandwidth for disk and network transactions. Naturally, they have all the usual virtualization and other features that are useful for servers. Most support Turbo Boost and all but one have Hyper-Threading Technology.

Jumping back to the VR-Zone editorial, the timeline suggests that the Quark X1000 will launch in April. As far as I can tell, this is new information. Quark is Intel's ultra low-end SoC that is designed for adding intelligence to non-computing devices. One example given by Intel at CES was a smart baby bottle warmer.

The refresh of Haswell is also expected to happen in April.

Heading into the third quarter, we should see Haswell-E make an appearance for the enthusiast desktop and moderately high-end server. This should be the first time since Sandy Bridge-E (2011) that expensive PCs get a healthy boost to single-threaded performance, clock for clock. Ivy Bridge-E, while a welcome addition, was definitely aimed at reducing power consumption.

Ending the year should be the launch of Airmont at 14nm. The successor to Silvermont, Airmont will be the basis of Cherry Trail tablets and lower end PCs at the very end of the year. Moorefield, which is Airmont for smartphones, is not listed on this roadmap and should not surface until 2015.

Source: VR-Zone

AMD Gaming Evolved App with Redeemable Prizes

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 19, 2014 - 12:01 AM |
Tagged: raptr, gaming evolved, amd

The AMD Gaming Evolved App updates your drivers, optimizes your game settings, streams your gameplay to Twitch, accesses some social media platforms, and now gives prizes. Points are given for playing games using the app, optimizing game settings, and so forth. These can be exchanged for rewards ranging from free games, to Sapphire R9-series graphics cards.

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This program has been in beta for a little while now, without the ability to redeem points. The system has been restructured to encourage using the entire app by lowering the accumulation rate for playing games and adding other goals. Beta participants do not lose all of their points, rather it is rescaled more in line with the new system.

The Gaming Evolved prize program has launched today.

Press release after the teaser.

Source: raptr

NVIDIA Releases GeForce TITAN Black

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 18, 2014 - 09:03 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, gtx titan black, geforce titan, geforce

NVIDIA has just announced the GeForce GTX Titan Black. Based on the full high-performance Kepler (GK110) chip, it is mostly expected to be a lower cost development platform for GPU processing applications. All 2,880 single precision (FP32) CUDA Cores and 960 double precision (FP64) CUDA Cores are unlocked, yielding 5.1 TeraFLOPs of 32-bit decimal and 1.3 TeraFLOPs of 64-bit decimal performance. The chip contains 1536kB of L2 Cache and will be paired with 6GB of video memory on the board.

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The original GeForce GTX Titan launched last year, almost to the day. Also based on the GK110 design, it also featured full double precision performance with only one SMX disabled. Of course, no component at the time contained a fully-enabled GK110 processor. The first product with all 15 SMX units active was not realized until the Quadro K6000, announced in July but only available in the fall. It was followed by the GeForce GTX 780 Ti (with a fraction of its FP64 performance) in November, and the fully powered Tesla K40 less than two weeks after that.

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For gaming applications, this card is expected to have comparable performance to the GTX 780 Ti... unless you can find a use for the extra 3GB of memory. Games do not display much benefit with the extra 64-bit floating point (decimal) performance because the majority of their calculations are at 32-bit precision.

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan Black is available today at a price of $999.

Source: NVIDIA

Insert Thirty-Six Supapipe Jokes Here

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | February 17, 2014 - 08:36 PM |
Tagged: passive cooling, cooling

Somewhere in the world, someone is developing a passively-cooled desktop made up of copper water pipes. Thirty-six (36) of them pass through what looks like an aluminum block attached to the socket LGA 1155 heatsink mount. As the copper pipes heat up, it passes to the air within it. Convection forces this to exhaust upward through the copper chimney and replaces it with cool air from below.

supapipe1.jpg

All Images, Credit: "Monster", CoolEnjoy.net Forums

From the 3D prototype, it looks like two passively-cooled discrete GPUs are intended to fit just above the elbow in the chimney. Even from the rendering, it is clear that quite a lot of thought and effort has gone into this project. I cannot tell how they intend to access PCIe slots from up there, be it a larger motherboard or an extension adapter, but options probably exist.

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Initial testing with a Core i5-4440 (stock frequencies) show around 65 deg C at full CPU load. This should be in line with a typical air-based cooler.

Either way, this is the most impressive "SuperPipe" cooler that I have seen.

Your move, MSI.

Source: CoolEnjoy

A monster of a mouse, the Gila from Genius

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2014 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: gila, genius, GX, gaming mouse

Gaming mice have been changing over the past few years, no longer is having adjustable DPI enough to satisfy gamers, they want to be able to modify the X and Y axis independently and want huge amounts of programmable buttons.  The Gila from Genius is capable of both, indeed it can have 72 different mappings for the 10 buttons thanks to the 32K of onboard storage.  The MSRP is $65, if that is within your budget head over to Hi Tech Reviews to see their opinion of the mouse.

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"The Gila by Genius, a part of their GX Gaming line of PC gaming peripherals, is a mouse designed for MMO and RTS gaming. Genius, using the brand GX Gaming, has released the Gila gaming mouse which has eight additional buttons, adjustable weight, and adjustable DPI, from 200 up through 8200. "

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VMWare makes vCloud Connector free

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2014 - 12:21 PM |
Tagged: cloud, vmware, vcloud connector

Getting familiar with virtualization, especially VMWare's take on the technology is a wise decision for anyone planning on starting or continuing a career in IT.  Even if you never end up hosting your own cluster of VMs, being aware of what they are capable of will help you deal with vendors and salespeople.  It is now even easier to expand your knowledge of how multiple virtual machine clusters can communicate as VMWare has made their tool free to use.  This does assume you have VSphere and ESX based clusters but as that software is also available at no cost, that is not a tough prerequisite to meet.  Check out the links from The Register to see about creating your own interlinked cloud, or perhaps hooking into a friends.

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"VMware has released version 2.6 of its vCloud Connector tool, and dropped its price to $0. At current exchange rates that's £0 and $AUD0, for UK and Australian readers."

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Source: The Register

Google Chrome To Compile Javascript Off Main Thread

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2014 - 03:10 AM |
Tagged: web browser, Google Chrome, chromium

Google has announced that the latest beta for Chrome, their web browser, will compile Javascript in a background thread. In the current release version, scripts are converted to instructions, executed, monitored for performance, and swapped with a more optimized set of instructions that accomplishes the same tasks. Converting script into optimized instructions takes time. Doing it on a background thread frees up that computation time for something else.

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This stutter was 628 milliseconds, or about 38 consecutive frames at 60 FPS.

Image Credit: Chromium Project Blog

Web browsers are designed under the assumption that a single thread of instructions will weave through every task, one by one, until everything is done. At some point, since the early 1990s, computers have been give multiple cores (and some of those designs can have multiple threads shoved through at once). The problem is now that, since "Task A" was designed to occur before "Task B", doing them separately... can break stuff good.

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A simplified browser execution flowchart. Execution follows the arrow.

Image Credit: Mozilla

Background Javascript optimization will be most effective for mobile SoCs. These processors tend to have a lot of fairly slow cores; the exact opposite of what a web browser wants. Also, video games have many tasks which occur every frame. Freeing up time on the main thread gives these apps more time to be more complex - and with less stutter (if optimizing blocks execution... which it is trying to optimize). This might also allow browsers more time to try more aggressive optimization strategies.

In case you are wondering, Mozilla started to move compilation to a background thread as of Firefox 21. Firefox 29 will move the entire just-in-time (JIT) compilation process off the main thread. This is currently in their "Aurora" release channel. To the rest of the world: it's an alpha.

This optimization is currently available in Google Chrome Beta (33).

So When Exactly Will Microsoft Stop Selling Windows 7?

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2014 - 10:39 PM |
Tagged: Windows 7

You cannot purchase a retail copy of Windows 7 at this point, officially. The last day of retail availability was October 30th, 2013. System builders can still include the operating system in their PCs, however, until October 31st, 2014.

Windows 7 Professional is the exception.

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The Windows lifecycle website claims that OEMs can include Professional in PCs until a to-be-announced date. That date will be at least one year after whenever they decide to announce it. As of February 16th, the date is still listed as "Not yet established".

I should note that Volume Licensing customers have downgrade rights and installation media available for the two versions prior to whatever is current. In short, they have their own timeline.

Basically, we know that preinstalled Windows 7 Professional availability is on a countdown timer. We know that timer is at least one year long. We do not know how much longer than a year it will be. We also do not know when the announcement will be made and thus, when the timer will start ticking.

The Ars Technica article claims that this Windows 7 Professional OEM extension is for business users. That said, a fair amount of those users are on volume licensing. Another possibility is that Microsoft wants to bridge the gap between Windows 7 and the rumored "Windows 9" for enthusiasts. "Threshold", as it is codenamed, is supposed to address users who are primarily in the desktop interface. Professional would give them devices to purchase until then, without the general public purchasing a cheap Windows 7 machine and intending to use it for a decade (potentially beyond Windows 7's EOL in 2020).

Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate will no longer be preinstalled in PCs on October 31st, 2014. Windows 7 Professional will be available for some unannounced time afterward.

Source: Microsoft