Part 2 of iBookGuy's Oldschool Graphics Series

Subject: General Tech | September 7, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming

A few weeks ago, The iBookGuy published a video that explained how early computers struggled to draw information to their displays because they lacked enough RAM to hold a single frame buffer, even without application code. After highlighting the problem, he explained the Color Cells method of bypassing it, which breaks the screen up into eight-by-eight chunks that each can contain at most two colors (or four if you double horizontal pixels).

This video explains the Apple II and Atari 2600 graphics, which did color images a little different. Both systems operated on a single line at a time, rather than an eight-by-eight grid, although their specific methods were very different -- Apples and oranges if you will. The former was quite similar to Color Cells, except that it did seven (sub-)pixels in a single byte with an extra bit to allow for six possible colors. The Atari, on the other hand, didn't store a frame buffer at all. Instead, the CPU continually dumped the current scanned pixel to the monitor as it needed it, which seriously eats into game code time. He then mentioned CPU-driven graphics in the Commodore 64, which typically used the Color Cell method, but noted that basically no game used it because it wasn't worth the CPU time.


Image Credit: The iBookGuy

Apparently the next video in the series, whenever that will be, will deal with audio.

The real genius behind the official BB-8 you stood in line for

Subject: General Tech | September 4, 2015 - 03:06 PM |
Tagged: Star Wars, bb-8

The unofficial BB-8 toys that makers have been building were based off of the Sphero toy but as it turns out the officially released one is not.  As it turns out it was a team from Creature Animatronics who created the toy for Disney, a team recently talked about because of their large sized hexapod robot.  If you haven't picked one up yet you have at least heard about it in your travels on the net today and as it turns out we do not know all the tricks it will be capable of yet.  According to Disney they will release more features for the app that interfaces with the robot as the release of The Force Awakens gets closer.  Check out the links at Hack a Day for more information.


"As it turns out, it was actually built in Pinewood by the Creature Animatronics (CFX) team which includes [Matt Denton] — He’s the guy who built the Mantis Robot. A hacker / engineer — not a big toy company."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk


Source: Hack a Day

PCPer Live! Logitech G Sponsored Racing Game Stream! Win a G29!

Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2015 - 07:46 PM |
Tagged: video, project cars, logitech g, logitech, live, G29, DiRT Rally

UPDATE: Did you miss the event? Sorry to hear that, but you can catch the fun and humor from our racing adventure right here:

Everyone once in a while we try to have fun around the PC Perspective offices, and tomorrow night is going to be one of them. The team is gearing up for racing simulation action, pitting me (Ryan) against the likes of Allyn and Josh in a handful of racing titles including Project Cars, DiRT Rally and maybe more. Even better? We hope to have YOU join us as well if you want to - we are working on setting up the correct lobbies and groups in Steam to make it happen. I'll have details on this page as we get closer to the appropriate time on how you can join us for some racing fun!

And if we are going to be racing and I am going to be embarrassing myself, why not live stream the whole thing as well to hang out with the loyal PC Perspective readers?!? So join, us won't you?


And what's a live stream without prizes? Two lucky live viewers will win a Logitech G29 Racing Wheel of their very own! That's right - all you have to do is tune in for the live stream tomorrow afternoon and you could win a G29 valued at $399!! (Be sure to read Allyn's review of the G29 right here!)


Logitech G Racing Live Stream and Giveaway

5pm PT / 8pm ET - September 3rd

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

The event will take place Thursday, September 3rd at 5pm PT / 8pm ET at There you’ll be able to catch the live video stream as well as use our chat room to interact with the audience. To win the prizes you will have to be watching the live stream, with exact details of the methodology for handing out the goods coming at the time of the event.

If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and we'll look through them just before the start of the live stream. Of course you'll be able to tweet us questions @pcper and we'll be keeping an eye on the IRC chat as well for more inquiries. What do you want to know and hear from us?

So join us! Set your calendar for this coming Thursday at 5pm PT / 8pm ET and be here at PC Perspective to catch it. If you are a forgetful type of person, sign up for the PC Perspective Live mailing list that we use exclusively to notify users of upcoming live streaming events including these types of specials and our regular live podcast. I promise, no spam will be had!

Podcast #365 - R9 Nano Preview, Tons of Skylake SKUs, Asynchronous Shaders and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2015 - 04:19 PM |
Tagged: Z170-A, video, skylake-u, Skylake, r9 nano, podcast, phanteks, Intel, ifa, g-sync, fury x, Fury, Fiji, dx12, async shaders, asus, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #365 - 09/03/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the R9 Nano Preview, Tons of Skylake SKUs, Asynchronous Shaders and more!

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

The URL for the podcast is: - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Sebastian Peak

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Microsoft is a little fuzzy on what the word 'no' means

Subject: General Tech | September 2, 2015 - 06:37 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, KB3080149

It seems that not only aren't people leaping to Windows 10 and allowing Microsoft permission to collect their metadata but far too many who use Windows 7 or 8 are opting out of the program.  KB3080149 is a recent 'Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry' which will enable Microsoft to track your usage even though you explicitly opted out of the Customer Experience Improvement Programme.  At least the data sent is encrypted, little consolation for users as The Inquirer points out.


"MICROSOFT HAS BEGUN retrofitting some of the more controversial aspects of the new Windows 10 operating system to predecessors 7 and 8."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Need to fake a signature? Perhaps you should try ThermalTake's new Posiedon keyboard

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2015 - 07:18 PM |
Tagged: input, thermaltake, Poseidon Z Forged

At $100 the ThermalTake eSPORTs Poseidon Z Forged keyboard is a little less than most LED bearing mechanical keyboards.  It has 10 programmable keys, five to a side, which caused Techgage some consternation. but they did get used to the placement of the Enter key eventually.  The model they tested used Blue switches, Brown are also available if that happens to be your preference. The onboard DAC amplifier for S/PDIF headphones makes the keyboard an even better value compared to the competition, Techgage like how it performed but wonder if another lower cost version could be offered without the DAC.  Check out the full review here.


"Thermaltake was once known only for its chassis and cooling products, but over the years, the company’s branched out tremendously. Through its Tt eSPORTS brand, it caters to those who take their gaming seriously. On the test bench today is a perfect example of a “serious” gaming peripheral: the Poseidon Z Forged keyboard."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Techgage

Epic Games Releases Unreal Engine 4.9

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2015 - 04:24 PM |
Tagged: unreal engine 4, unreal engine, ue4.9, ue4, epic games, dx12

For an engine that was released in late-March, 2014, Epic has been updating it frequently. Unreal Engine 4.9 is, as the number suggests, the tenth release (including 4.0) in just 17 months, which is less than two months per release on average. Each release is fairly sizable, too. This one has about 232 pages of release notes, plus a page and a half of credits, and includes changes for basically every system that I can think of.

The two most interesting features, for me, are Area Shadows and Full Scene Particle Collision.

Area Shadows simulates lights that are physically big and relatively close. At the edges of a shadow, the object that casts the shadow are blocking part of the light. Wherever that shadow falls will be partially lit by the fraction of the light that can see it. As that shadow position gets further back from the shadow caster, it gets larger.


On paper, you can calculate this by drawing rays from either edge of each shadow-casting light to either edge of each shadow-casting object, continued to the objects that receive the shadows. If both sides of the light can see the receiver? No shadows. If both sides of the light cannot see the receiver? That light is blocked, which is a shadow. If some percent of a uniform light can see the receiver, then it will be shadowed by 100% minus that percentage. This is costly to do, unless neither the light nor any of the affected objects move. In that case, you can just store the result, which is how “static lighting” works.

Another interesting feature is Full Scene Particle Collision with Distance Fields. While GPU-computed particles, which is required for extremely high particle counts, collide already, distance fields allow them to collide with objects off screen. Since the user will likely be able to move the camera, this will allow for longer simulations as the user cannot cause it to glitch out by, well, playing the game. It requires SM 5.0 though, which limits it to higher end GPUs.


This is also the first release to support DirectX 12. That said, when I used a preview build, I noticed a net-negative performance with my 9000 draw call (which is a lot) map on my GeForce GTX 670. Epic calls it “experimental” for a reason, and I expect that a lot of work must be done to deliver tasks from an existing engine to the new, queue-based system. I will try it again just in case something changed from the preview builds. I mean, I know something did -- it had a different command line parameter before.

UPDATE (Sept 1st, 10pm ET): An interesting question was raised in the comments that we feel could be a good aside for the news post.

Anonymous asked: I don't have any experience with game engines. I am curious as to how much of a change there is for the game developer with the switch from DX11 to DX12. It seems like the engine would hide the underlying graphics APIs. If you are using one of these engines, do you actually have to work directly with DX, OpenGL, or whatever the game engine is based on? With moving to DX12 or Vulcan, how much is this going to change the actual game engine API?

Modern, cross-platform game engines are basically an API and a set of tools atop it.

For instance, I could want the current time in seconds to a very high precision. As an engine developer, I would make a function -- let's call it "GetTimeSeconds()". If the engine is running on Windows, this would likely be ((PerformanceCounter - Initial) / PerformanceFrequency) where PerformanceCounter is grabbed from QueryPerformanceCounter() and PerformanceFrequency is grabbed from QueryPerformanceFrequency(). If the engine is running on Web standards, this would be * 1000, because it is provided in milliseconds.

Regardless of where GetTimeSeconds() pulls its data from, the engine's tools and the rest of its API would use GetTimeSeconds() -- unless the developer is low on performance or development time and made a block of platform-dependent junk in the middle of everything else.

The same is true for rendering. The engines should abstract all the graphics API stuff unless you need to do something specific. There is usually even a translation for the shader code, be it an intermediate language (or visual/flowchart representation) that's transpiled into HLSL and GLSL, or written in HLSL and transpiled into GLSL (eventually SPIR-V?).

One issue is that DX12 and Vulkan are very different from DX11 and OpenGL. Fundamentally. The latter says "here's the GPU, bind all the attributes you need and call draw" while the former says "make little command messages and put it in the appropriate pipe".

Now, for people who license an engine like Unity and Unreal, they probably won't need to touch that stuff. They'll just make objects and place them in the level using the engine developer's tools, and occasionally call various parts of the engine API that they need.

Devs with a larger budget might want to dive in and tweak stuff themselves, though.

Unreal Engine 4.9 is now available. It is free to use until your revenue falls under royalty clauses.

Source: Epic Games

New Thinkpads, choose AMD or even Intel RealSense 3D on your next business machine

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2015 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, Thinkpad E Series, Realsense 3D, windows 10

The new 14" and 15.6" Lenovo ThinkPad E Series were revealed recently and The Inquirer got a sneak peek at it.  They offer a choice of Intel and AMD models, somewhat good news for the much beleaguered processor company, along with up to 16GB of RAM and an SSD.  The most interesting upgrade is the Intel RealSense 3D camera on some models, which you may remember Ryan testing on the Dell Venue 8, which should make conference calls more interesting as well as letting you measure your room.  They also announced updated M and B and E line of laptops as well as the S series desktops, read more about it at The Inquirer.


"The E Series laptops come with a host of features "ideal for business users", Lenovo said, including fingerprint scanning security and up to nine hours of battery life."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Now they are coming for your dd-wrt

Subject: General Tech | August 31, 2015 - 04:48 PM |
Tagged: wireless router, idiots, dd-wrt

In the next installment of poorly planned out moves by a US government agency attempting to solve a problem that does not exist, we shall see an attempt to make illegal the modification of the firmware on any device which contains an radio.  This is likely to prevent you from using open source software to modify your wireless router into a death ray which will allow you to take over the planet. 

Specifically, it will make illegal the modification of any device which can broadcast on U-NII bands which happen to include the 5GHz bandwidth that WiFi broadcasts on.  While most firmware changes, such as dd-wrt only change the processor the routers are SoC's which means that the radio is technically a part of the same device as what you modify when applying custom firmware.  Hack a Day has links to the FCC proposal, you might want to consider emailing your congress critters about it.


"Because of the economics of cheap routers, nearly every router is designed around a System on Chip – a CPU and radio in a single package. Banning the modification of one inevitably bans the modification of the other, and eliminates the possibility of installing proven Open Source firmware on any device."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk


Source: Hack a Day

Microsoft Releases Build 10532 to Fast Ring Insiders

Subject: General Tech | August 31, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Less than a week and a half after publishing 10525, Microsoft has pushed Windows 10 Build 10532 to members of the Windows Insider program that are set to receive “Fast” releases. This version adjusts the context menus for consistency. In the provided screenshot, all I can really notice that is different is the icons for Display Settings and Personalize are now axonometric, rather than face-on. The Feedback app has also been updated to allow sharing.


While Slow Ring users are still on the general public build, 10240, it might not be too long. Gabe Aul mentioned on Twitter that they were evaluating 10525 for Slow Ring. With 10532 being released though, that has almost definitely been put off. The next update is particularly important, as it will be the last chance for Windows Insiders to disable Insider Builds before all of them will be pushed off of 10240. It's about time to decide whether you want to use the stable version that's supported by all manufacturers, or continue with pre-release versions.

To receive 10532, join the Insider program from Windows Update's Advanced options and set it to receive Fast builds. To leave the Insider program, go to the same Advanced options menu and press the button to stop receive Insider builds.

Source: Microsoft