Blender 2.77 Released

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 10:37 PM |
Tagged: Blender

Speaking of open-source animation software, the Blender Foundation has just released Blender 2.77. This is a relatively minor update, maintaining compatibility and structure with other 2.7x versions, but it has some interesting aspects to it. While there will probably be other 2.7-level updates before then, 2.8 is internally described as “the Workflow release,” which is also starting to be discussed by the foundation.

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The headline feature is improved Cycles ray traced rendering, especially on GPUs. Both quality and performance get a bump, and a few particle effects are now GPU-aware. Personally, I am very interested to see how the “Edit-mode boolean tool” will work. I started 3D modeling with a NURBS-based CAD tool, and booleans were pretty much your first choice to get anything done. I then transitioned to Maya, which had the worst boolean tools I've ever seen, choosing to delete both objects if it couldn't figure out how they combine (and that was basically anything other than two plain primitives). It was liberating going to Blender, where I had a boolean tool that mostly worked, but it still causes a few glitches here and there. I'm hoping that, now that it's a default tool, it will continue to grow in robustness.

This is also the first release that (officially) ends Windows XP support. I mean, it's open source. Compile it for whatever platform you like. But you will not be able to upgrade to 2.77 with the official builds, and there's no telling how complicated back-porting will become going forward.

Sony Bringing PS4 Remote Play To Windows and Mac PCs With Next Update

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 08:36 PM |
Tagged: windows, sony, remote play, ps4, game streaming

Sony will be opening up its Remote Play feature to include Windows and Mac PCs with the next system update, version 3.5. In its current form, Remote Play allows users to stream games from their PS4 to certain Sony devices including Xperia phones, Vita handhelds, and the PlayStation TV "microconsole". The new update will let users stream games from the game console to PCs over your home network.

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PS4 System Update 3.5 is set to release later this month. While a beta is available, the beta build does not include the streaming feature. It does add support for live streaming to Dailymotion, updates to the social platform (e.g. planned parties), and an incognito mode that allows user to appear offline (how has it taken Sony this long to support that??).

Sony opening up the streaming is a welcome move as it puts it more in line with Microsoft's offering by not requiring specific hardware. Actually, it may be a bit better since users might be able to get away with using older Windows operating systems (Xbox One is limited to Windows 10) as well as streaming to their Macs. Further, Ars is reporting that Sony stopped shipping its PlayStation TV hardware in the US and Europe at the end of 2015. Thus, that may be one of the reasons Sony is moving away from streaming only to Sony hardware. I'm interested in trying out the Remote Play game streaming to see how it compares to the Xbox One to Windows 10 streaming which has worked pretty well so far for me in streaming Forza to my desktop!

Game streaming is proving to be popular and it is interesting to see both popular gaming consoles will soon allow you to stream games from the living room to your computers while at the same time Valve and others are pushing for solutions (e.g. Steam In-Home Streaming) to stream games from your PCs to the living room. Exciting times, especially if you're able to used wired network connections!

What do you think about Sony's plans for expanding Remote Play? Did you use the PS TV?

Digital Video and Dwango "Create" OpenToonz

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 06:58 PM |
Tagged: toonz, studio ghibli, opentoonz, dwango, digital video

This is a bit of a complicated situation to condense into a single headline. Digital Video is a research and software development studio out of Rome, who specializes in computer graphics (as their name suggests). One of their applications, Toonz, is the animation tool that Studio Ghibli used to create their video content. If you haven't heard of them, they created Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Ponyo, and the cutscenes for the Ni no Kuni video game franchise, among others. In fact, Princess Mononoke was the original use case for "Toonz Ghibli Edition" back in the mid 90s.

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Today's news is that Digital Video will be open sourcing Toonz, including some or all of the enhancements made by Studio Ghibli, into a product called “OpenToonz”. This is because a Japanese media publisher, Dwango, purchased the rights to the software and wanted it to be a community project. Rather than selling the product directly, Digital Video will transition into installation, training, and support. They will also have their own version, called Toonz Premium, which they claim will be for companies to request specific customizations. It will be available for both OSX and Windows.

While a lot of studios are turning to 3D applications, like Maya and Blender, for their 2D art, and Blender is 100% open source, more is better. The software will be “presented” at Anime Japan (March 26 and 27) but they don't clarify whether that means released, demoed, on the show floor, or unveiled. Could be worth checking out for any animators in our audience.

Mozilla to Preview Servo in June

Subject: General Tech | March 19, 2016 - 01:26 AM |
Tagged: mozilla, servo, Rust

Mozilla, the open-source creators of Firefox and Thunderbird, have announced that their Servo project will reach public alpha in June. Nightly builds will be available, presumably around that time, for Linux, OSX, Windows, and Android. Servo is a browser engine that is built in Rust, which emphasizes security and high performance (especially in multi-threaded scenarios).

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The technology is really interesting, although it is still quite early. Web browsers are massively single-threaded by design, which limits their potential performance as CPUs widen in core count but stagnate in per-thread performance. This is especially true in mobile, which is why Samsung has been collaborating on Servo for almost all of its life.

Rust, being so strict about memory access, also has the advantage of security and memory management. It is designed in such a way that it's easier for the compiler to know, at compile time, whether you will be trying to access data that is no longer available. The trade-off is that it's harder to program, because if your code isn't robust enough, the compiler just won't accept it. This is beneficial for web browsers, though, because basically everything they access is untrusted, third-party data. It's better to fight your compiler than to fight people trying to exploit your users.

Again, it's still a way off, though. It might be good for web developers to keep an eye on, though, in case any of their optimizations implement standards either correctly, but differently from other browsers and highlights a bug in your website, or incorrectly, which exposes a bug in Servo. Making a web browser is immensely difficult.

Source: Mozilla

Accessorize your PC for Spring!

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2016 - 05:00 PM |
Tagged: peripherals

Over at The Tech Report you can read through six pages of their favourite PC peripherals currently on the market.  Adaptive refresh monitors take up a respectable amount of the article as you might suspect, a mix of Freesync and G-Sync monitors are represented with all but two running at 1440p or 4k resolutions.  They also cover numerous keyboards, mice and gamepads, though they leave the wheel recommendations to Josh.  Check out those recommendations and the other various devices that received a nod right here.

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"In this edition of our peripheral staff picks, we dive deep into the world of monitors, keyboards, mice, and other useful add-ons for PCs to bring you the best of what's around right now."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Podcast #391 - AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2016 - 03:07 AM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, XConnect, gdc 2016, Vega, Polaris, navi, razer blade, Sulon Q, Oculus, vive, raja koduri, GTX 1080, msi, vortex, Intel, skulltrail, nuc

PC Perspective Podcast #391 - 03/17/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD's news from GDC, the MSI Vortex, and Q&A!

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: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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

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

I love it when a bad guys plan doesn't come together

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 05:25 PM |
Tagged: ransomware, Malware, security, idiots

With the lousy news below the fold, up to and including yet another StageFright exploit, here is a bit of amusing news to balance out the bad.  A recently unleashed ransomware program seems to have been developed on stolen code and the original developer has taken offence to this.  His original program, EDA2, was designed to illustrate how ransomware works and he intentionally included a backdoor to ensure that the data could be unencrypted. 

He has used that backdoor to break into the program and has obtained the complete list of decryption keys and posted them to the net, The Register has a link to that list right here.  It is good for the soul to see incompetent bad guys every once and a while.

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"A software developer whose example encryption code was used by a strain of ransomware has released the decryption keys for the malware."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Logitech G Announces Orion 610 Brown and Red Mechanical Keyboards

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2016 - 11:48 AM |
Tagged: orion 610, mechanical keyboard, logitech g, logitech, gaming keyboard, cherry mx red, cherry mx brown

Logitech has announced a pair of new mechanical keyboards today, with the Orion 610 Brown and Red. Those familiar with mechanical keyboards will probably guess from their names that these are using Cherry MXswitches, with the MX Brown and MX Red switches in the respective models.

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The keyboards also offer customizable LED backlighting, and while they are not RGB (these keyboards are white LED backlit), each individually-backlit key can be customized with different brightness levels. There are also options to change the lighting patterns and synchronize with other Logitech G products using the Logitech Gaming Software.

Here are the specs from Logitech G:

Product Specifications

  • Dimensions (L x W x H): 153 mm x 443.5 mm x 34.3 mm                    
  • Weight: 1.2 Kg (without cable)
  • Cable length: 6 feet    
  • Cherry MX Key Switches:
    • Actuation distance: 2mm
    • Actuation force: 45g
    • Total travel distance: 4mm

System Requirements

  • Optional LGS download works with Windows 7 and higher
  • Powered USB port
  • Internet connection for optional LGS download

Warranty

  • 2-year limited hardware warranty

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Macro functionality is available via customization of the F1 - F12 keys, and the keyboards feature dedicated media controls as you would expect. So how much will these cost? Retail for the Orion 610 Brown and Red will be $119.99.

Source: Logitech G

Hunter-gatherers required a surprising amount of modern hardware to function

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 05:43 PM |
Tagged: gaming, far cry primal

The game may be set in the distant past but you will need modern hardware to get the most out of Far Cry Primal.  With a single GTX 980 Ti or Radeon R9 Fury X, you won't break 40fps on Ultra settings at 4K though the Fury will provide an experience that is essentially playable.  A pair of vanilla 980's or R9 390X cards will break 40fps on Ultra, with the Crossfire experience being noticeably superior at 4K assuming you enable VSYNC as [H]ard|OCP discovered.  For those who track memory usage the game never reached 4GB of usage, even at 4K.  This one does tax current GPUs somewhat but is unlikely to appear on many reviews as upcoming hardware will play this Far Cry without breaking a sweat. 

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"A new game in the Far Cry series is out on the PC called Far Cry Primal. We will run FCP through its paces on six video cards including SLI and CrossFire with the latest drivers and game patch to see what it takes to push these pixels. We will discuss this games stripped down graphics quality compared to Far Cry 4 and what it means for gaming."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The continuing fall of DRAM prices, a trend we can all get behind

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2016 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: DRAM, price cuts

Recently the President of Nanya Technology, Pei Ing Lee, stated his belief that DRAM prices will continue to fall at the same rate they did over 2015.  With the arrival of DDR4 we all had a bit of sticker shock but when you look at the prices now they are nowhere near as painful.  As an example a 32GB kit of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2666 launched at $639.99 on Nov 13, 2014 and will now cost you $164.99.

Not all prices are going to fall to that extreme of a level but we saw the price of DDR3 and 4 drop over the past year and this is predicted to continue.  At current production levels Mr. Lee predicts drops of 20-30% but if Samsung, Hynix and Micron ramp up new production capacity at a similar rate to Nanya then a drop of 25-40% is not completely out of the question. 

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"Increased DRAM capacity coming from advanced processing nodes from Samsung Electronics, SK Hynix and Micron Technology may result in some pricing uncertainty in the market in the second half of 2016, according to Taiwan DRAM maker Nanya Technology president Pei Ing Lee."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes