Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2014 - 04:54 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: mozilla, oculus rift, MozVR
You have been able to browse the web on your Oculus Rift since the first dev kit, but not with a UI designed specifically for the VR device. MozVR is in development along with a specific version of Firefox or Chromium to allow Oculus users to browse the web in a new way. It will work with both Mac and Windows, though as of yet there is no mention of Linux support which should change in the near future. You need to get your hands on an Oculus to try out the new browser, it simply is not going to translate to the desktop. The software is open sourced and available on Github so you can contribute to the overall design of the new way to surf the web as well as optimizing your own site for VR. Check out more on MozVR and Oculus over at The Inquirer.
"MOZILLA IS CONTINUING its 10th birthday celebrations with the launch of a virtual reality (VR) website."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Elon Musk and ex-Google man mull flinging 700 internet satellites into orbit @ The Register
- Samsung slams door on OLED TVs, makes QUANTUM dot LEAP @ The Register
- Intro to Systemd Runlevels and Service Management Commands @ Linux.com
- TSMC 16FinFET Plus process achieves risk production milestone @ DigiTimes
- Iranian contractor named as Stuxnet 'patient zero' @ The Register
- Hardware Asylum Podcast - MOA 2014 Final and Surprise Lightning
Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2014 - 04:07 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: system requirements, pc gaming, kyrat, fps, far cry 4
In case you missed it earlier this week, Ubisoft revealed the PC system requirements needed to run Far Cry 4. Developed by Ubisoft Montreal and set to release on November 18th, Far Cry 4 is the latest action adventure FPS in the Far Cry series. The game uses Ubisoft's Dunia Engine II which is a heavily modified game engine originally based on Crytek's CryEngine 1 developed by Kirmaan Aboobaker. The player is a Nepalese native that returns to Kyrat, a fictional location in the Himalayas following the death of their mother only to become embroiled in a civil war taking place in an open world filled with enemies, weapons, animals, and did I mention weapons?
This bow is a far cry from the only weapon you'll have access to...
According to the developer, Far Cry 4 continues the tradition of an open world environment, but the game world has been tweaked from the Far Cry 3 experience to be a tighter and more story focused experience where the single player story will take precedence over exploration and romps across the mountainous landscape.
While I can not comment on how the game plays, it certainly looks quite nice, and will need a beefy modern PC to run at its maximum settings. Interestingly, the game seems to scale down decently as well, with the entry level computer needed to run Far Cry 4 being rather modest.
No matter the hardware level, only 64-bit operating systems need apply, Far Cry 4 requires the 64-bit version of Windows 7 or later to run. At a minimum, Ubisoft recommends a quad core processor (Intel i5 750 or AMD Phenom II X4 955), 4GB of memory, a Radeon 5850 or GTX 460, and 30GB of storage.
To get optimal settings, users will need twice the system memory (at least 8GB) and video memory (at least 2GB), a newer quad core CPU such as the Intel i5-2400S or AMD FX-8350, and a modern NVIDIA GTX 680 or AMD Radeon R9 290X graphics card.
Anything beyond that is gravy that will allow gamers to crank up the AA and AF as well as the resolution.
Far Cry 4 will be available in North America on November 18, 2014 for the PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, and Xbox 360. Following the North America release, the game is scheduled to launch in Europe and Australia on November 20th, and in Japan on January 22 of next year.
Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2014 - 03:23 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, final fantasy xiii-2, final fantasy xiii, final fantasy
It seems like Square Enix has paid attention to the criticism about Final Fantasy XIII.
While it would have been nice for them to go back and fix the problems for the original game (Update Nov 12 @ 5:35pm EST: They are, in early December - Thanks TimeKeeper in the comments), it looks like the sequel, XIII-2, will behave more like a PC title. First and foremost, it will not be locked to 720p and it is said to offer other graphics options. The sequel is scheduled to launch on December 11th for $20, or $18 USD on pre-order (a few dollars above the launch price for Final Fantasy 13).
Of course, it is somewhat disappointing that screen resolution, a 60FPS cap, and graphics options are considered features, but the platform is unfamiliar to certain parts of the company. Acknowledging their error and building a better, but probably still below expectations, product is a good direction. Hopefully they will continue to progress, and eventually make PC games with the best of them. Either that, or they have a talk with their Eidos arm about borrowing Nixxes, a company that specializes in enhancing games on the PC.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 is coming to Steam in a month for $20 USD. The third installment, Lightning Returns, will arrive sometime in 2015.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 11, 2014 - 11:11 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: haswell-t, haswell, fanless
This one is more for our European readers, because this company operates out of Germany, but the Cirrus7 Nimbus is an interestingly designed, fanless system. Its fin shape is said to be assembled out of laser-cut layers of aluminum that sandwiches in the I/O plate at the rear. FanlessTech has noted that the systems are now available with Haswell processors, up to a Core i7 based on Haswell-T. Their storage options now also include the Samsung 850 Pro, up to 1TB.
Image Credit: Cirrus7 via FanlessTech
The customization options are actually pretty decent. I find that a lack of meaningful upgrades to be a problem with modern PC builders, however this one does not apply. Eight CPUs are offered, ranging from a Celeron up to a 45W Haswell-T; RAM comes in 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB; up to three drives can be installed, up to one mSATA and up to two SATA; Intel Wireless N or AC is available; external DVD or BluRay burners are an option; and one of seven OSes can be installed, including two versions of Linux (Ubuntu 14.04 or Ubuntu 14.10). If you get all of the bells and whistles, you are probably up to about 3,000 USD, but you cannot expect two terabytes of Samsung 850 Pro SSDs to be cheap. It seems reasonable enough, especially for the EU. The big limiter is the lack of a discrete GPU unless you are using this device for something like audio recording, which an Intel HD 4600 can easily handle.
The Cirrus7 Nimbus is available now at their website.
Subject: General Tech | November 11, 2014 - 03:10 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, gaming, eff, DRM, consolitis
This is something that I have been saying for quite some time now: games are struggling as an art form. Now I don't mean that games are not art; games, like all content that expresses feelings, thoughts, and ideas, are art. No, I'm talking about their ability to be preserved for future society and scholarly review. The business models for entertainment are based in either services or consumables. In the entertainment industries, few (but some) producers are concerned about the long tail – the extreme back-catalog of titles. Success is often determined by two weeks of sales, and the focus is on maximizing those revenues before refreshing with newer, similar content that scratches the same itch.
DRM is often justified as maximizing the initial rush by degrading your launch competitors: free versions of yourself. Now I'm not going to go into the endless reasons about where this fails to help (or actively harms) sales and your customers; that is the topic of other rants. For this news post, I will only discuss the problems that DRM (and other proprietary technologies) have on the future.
When you tie content to a platform, be it an operating system, API, or DRM service, you are trusting it for sustainability. This is necessary and perfectly reasonable. The problems arise with the permissions given to society from that platform owner, and how easily society can circumvent restrictions, as necessary. For instance, content written for a specific processor can be fed through an emulator, and the instruction sets can be emulated (or entirely knocked off) when allowed by patent law, if patents even interfere.
Copyright is different, though. Thanks to the DMCA, it is illegal, a federal crime at that, to circumvent copyright protection even for the betterment of society. You know, society, the actual owner of all original works, but who grants limited exclusivity to the creators for “the progress of Science and useful Arts”. Beyond the obvious and direct DRM implementations, this can also include encryption that is imposed by console manufacturers, for instance.
The DMCA is designed to have holes poked into it, however, by the Librarian of Congress. Yes, that is a job title. I did not misspell “Library of Congress”. The position was held by James H. Billington for over 25 years. Every three years, he considers petitions to limit the DMCA and adds exceptions in places that he sees fit. In 2012, he decided the jailbreaking a phone should not be illegal under the DMCA, although tablets were not covered under that exemption. This is around the time that proposals will be submitted for his next batch in late 2015.
This time, the EFF is proposing that circumventing DRM in abandoned video games should be deemed legal, for society to preserve these works of art when the copyright holders will not bother. Simply put, if society intended to grant a limited exclusive license to a content creator who has no intention of making their work available to society, then society demands the legal ability to pry off the lock to preserve the content.
Of course, even if it is deemed legal, stronger DRM implementations could make it technologically unfeasible to preserve certain works. It is still a long way's away before we encounter a lock that society cannot crack, but it is theoretically possible. This proposal does not address that root problem, but at least it could prevent society's greatest advocates from being slapped with a pointless felony for trying to do the right thing.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | November 11, 2014 - 03:27 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: usb computer, Raspberry Pi B+, Raspberry Pi, Education
The Raspberry Pi was intended as a learning device. David Braben, previously known for Rollercoaster Tycoon and other video games, noticed that computer science education was lacking and he wanted to contribute to its advancement with a cheap, portable, and highly-programmable PC. Yesterday, the organization announced a new model, the Raspberry Pi A+, which is (theoretically) cheaper, smaller, and has a few better components. This announcement follows the release of the Raspberry Pi B+ from last July.
I say “theoretically cheaper” because, although the organization is touting a price reduction from $25 to $20 USD, that always depends on the reseller. MCM Electronics, one of the foundation's US-based distributors, is selling the A+ for its list price of $20 (plus an extra ~$10 in shipping, before tax). In the UK, however, the currency conversion works out to about $25 before VAT. That said, the UK is known to be expensive for electronics.
Whatever the price, the device is slightly improved. While it keeps the same, Broadcom BCM2835 SoC and RAM, the memory has been upgraded to a locking MicroSD card slot, the audio's power delivery has been improved to reduce noise, and the number of GPIO pins has been increased from 26 to 40. The latter enhancement will allow the Pi to interface with more, and different, sensors and motors for robotics and other embedded applications.
The Raspberry Pi A+ and B+ are both currently on backorder for $20 and $35, respectively, before a $10 shipping fee and any applicable taxes.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 10, 2014 - 10:07 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, Unity, pcper, nvidia, live, GTX 980, geforce, game stream, assassins creed
UPDATE: If you missed the live stream event: good news! We have it archived up on YouTube now and embeded below for your viewing pleasure!
Assassin's Creed Unity is shaping up to be one of the defining games of the holiday season, with visuals and game play additions that are incredible to see in person. Scott already wrote up a post that details some the new technologies found in the game along with a video of the impressive detail the engine provides. Check it out!
To celebrate the release, PC Perspective has partnered with NVIDIA to host a couple of live game streams that will feature some multi-player gaming fun as well some prizes to giveaway to the community. I will be joined by some new NVIDIA faces to take on the campaign in a cooperative style while taking a couple of stops to give away some hardware.
Assassin's Creed Unity Game Stream Powered by NVIDIA
5pm PT / 8pm ET - November 11th
Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!
Here are some of the prizes we have lined up for those of you that join us for the live stream:
- 5 x Assassin's Creed Unity Steam Keys
- 10 x NVIDIA SLI Bridges - From NVIDIA Direct
- 1 x ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q G-Sync Monitor - PC Perspective Review
- 1 x Acer XB280HK 28-in 4K G-Sync Monitor - PC Perspective Review
Another awesome prize haul!! How do you win? It's really simple: just tune in and watch the Assassin's Creed Unity Game Stream Powered by NVIDIA! We'll explain the methods to enter live on the air and anyone can enter from anywhere in the world - no issues at all!
So stop by Tuesday night for some fun, some gaming and the chance to win some goods!
Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2014 - 09:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Starcraft II, starcraft, lotv, legacy of the void, blizzcon 2014, blizzcon, blizzard
Blizzard has been reconsidering what constitutes "a game sale" with StarCraft for quite some time now. They have been slowly carving out its mod platform, StarCraft Arcade, into a standalone, free product. They allow playing multiplayer with limitations, such as forcing free players to choose Terran (except for certain promotions). A few years in to StarCraft II's release, they even added "Spawning" to allow Starter and Wings of Liberty users to play locked content as long as a party member has purchased it, although Starter users are still locked to Terran.
Today's announcement is a little more conventional -- Legacy of the Void will be a standalone expansion. You can purchase it without owning any earlier content. If you do own Wings of Liberty and/or Heart of the Swarm, then it will behave like an expansion, however.
The game itself will change significantly, too. At the competitive level, you often have a bit of a boring early game, unless one player decides to be a bit cheesy with their tactics. A lot of this is due to how long it takes to get from your initial six workers to being supply blocked. In Legacy of the Void, you start with 12 workers, twice as many as before. Also, each mineral patch has 33% less minerals, requiring bases to be taken more frequently and discouraging a maxed-out army from sitting on a handful of expansions to build a bank.
Many units were added and changed as well. Terran and Protoss are being pushed toward dropping units. The Warp Prism has its pickup range increased, to allow it to grab and reposition units from anywhere within a relatively large army ball, without needing to put the transport unit in danger. On the other hand, Terrans are able to pick up Seige Tanks while they are in Siege Mode. This allows a Terran player, who is paying close attention, to drop a tank for a quick, high-damage, and splashing shot, and then pick it up before it can be attacked. Siege Tanks have large range, slow rate of fire, and a relatively low health. If they are never shot at, though, while they're reloading their main cannon, then that nullifies their weakness, as long as you can keep the Medivac alive, too.
One thing that Blizzard disliked, however, seems to be Swarm Hosts. In Heart of the Swarm, competitions went on for hours, literally hours, as one component turtled in a corner of the map (or surrounded an opponent into a corner of the map) with free units. This was particularly problematic for Protoss, that has a highly efficient, ball-based army, and Zerg, which could counter with their own Swarm Hosts. Battles was commonly wave-after-wave of free units doing zero (or minimal) damage, ad-infinitum.
In Legacy of the Void, they do not spawn Locusts (free units) fast enough to pin someone down, or keep someone out, and these Locusts need to be spawned manually. Instead, they are intended as more of a sieging unit, capable of dropping free units into a base and walking away. They also do not burrow, unless that upgrade is acquired, which will make them easier to attack. On the other hand, the Locusts can fly to their target, where they must land to attack, as normal. The Swarm Hosts do not need to be in a dangerous location, just a potentially dangerous range. Whether Swarm Hosts, if they are upgraded with Burrow, can release Locusts while hidden is unclear. It is not something that I have seen yet. That said, the borrowed, space-control unit is now the Lurker, a Brood War alumnus.
Many other changes have been announced, but it always comes down to user testing.
As usual for a Blizzard title, no official release date has been given. A private beta will be "coming soon" to selected participants. It was also available to play at Blizzcon.
Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2014 - 07:59 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: overwatch, blizzcon 2014, blizzcon, blizzard
Blizzard has announced Overwatch, a new franchise to expand their portfolio. It was unveiled at the Blizzcon keynote with a cinematic trailer followed immediately by gameplay footage. The first video looks significantly different from other Blizzard cinematics. It follows a Walt Disney Animation Studios art style, including exaggerated facial features and animations, versus the game company's normal dulled realism. It would look at home alongside "Bolt", for instance.
The gameplay itself is compared to Team Fortress 2. It is a class-based first-person shooter with an assortment of game types. The first two, announced modes will probably sound very similar to most of our fans: Point Capture and Payload (yes, that Payload). The classes are described more like MOBA heroes, however, but multiple players are (said to be) able to use the same class. Apart from the character design, they seem to be functionally TF2 classes. Maybe the difference is just that their names do not define what they do?
There are several similarities and differences between the two games. The classes seem to borrow from Team Fortress, with a comfortable embrace to magic and abilities. There are at least two engineer-style characters that can build turrets, and at least one of them can build a teleporter. One difference is, there seems to be a bit of a focus on parkour and movement abilities, such as grappling hooks, in particular.
There are also a couple of guesses about where this game came from. The funny, albeit likely incorrect reason is that, after Valve took the reigns of DOTA, Blizzard decided to take on Team Fortress 2 and push into their turf (although Gabe Newell has described the relationship between the two companies as "friends"). More likely, Paul Tassi published on Forbes some claims that Overwatch was a remnant from Titan, possibly one of its intended PvP modes. If this was a spin-off of Titan, it makes me wonder exactly what kind of engine they were trying to develop, that was developed for an MMO but that could also be comfortable as a first-person shooter. That said, it is not uncommon to see versatile engines in recent years, such as Source and Unreal Engine 4.
Overwatch will be going into a multiplayer beta in 2015, seemingly early in the year. It is interesting to see Blizzard go into a vastly different genre than their usual, especially from a technology standpoint.
Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2014 - 12:54 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: google, barges, mysterious
Not even Google is able to defeat the enforcement powers of local fire marshals which is why the mysterious barges are no longer anchored off the coast of San Francisco. It seems that may not have met the fire safety rules required by law and so they have departed for places unknown. The variety of theories which attempted to explain the barges, from floating data centres to a project to cede from the USA, were far more entertaining than the truth but perhaps we can enjoy a resurgence of entertaining internet hypothesizing now that the barges have disappeared. The Inquirer did get a chance to speak with Google about the barges and it turns out that they were simply a very unique way to set up a display room to show off Google's newest projects.
"TWO MYSTERIOUS BARGES moored by Google off the coast of the US last year were apparently moved because coastguards feared they did not conform to fire regulations."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Website Peeps Into 73,000 Unsecured Security Cameras Via Default Passwords @ Slashdot
- Microsoft's November Patch Tuesday is a whopper @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft releases free anti-malware for Azure VMs @ The Register
- Microsoft improves Azure SQL Server cloud service, simultaneously makes it worse @ The Register
- Inside the OC Lab at MSI HQ in Taipei: KitGuru TV