Micron no longer has NVMe envy

Subject: General Tech | April 14, 2016 - 12:28 PM |
Tagged: Ryan's Law, NVMe, micron

Micron has announced their own PCIe 3.0 NVMe devices today, in HHHL, M.2 and 2.5" form factors.  The specifications are a little sparse at the moment, we do not know the flash which resides within the devices nor the endurance differences between the 7100 PRO series which is designed for read heavy scenarios or the 7100 MAX which is for mixed usage.  In addition to the 7100 series, they also announced the 9100 series which ranges in size from 800GB up to 3.2TB and has theoretical sequential reads of 3GB/s and writes of 2GB/s.  The Register was not provided with any specific pricing but Micron suggested the 7100 series could be priced similarly to SATA drives, while the 9100 series will obviously lie outside the boundaries of Ryan's Law.

You should also take a look at the information Al gathered while he was at the product launch.

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"These NVMe SSDs complement Micron's existing S600DC SAS SSDs, which are now shipping in volume. The 7100 is the smaller product and the 9100 its big brother. Both have a PCIe gen 3 NVMe interface, which is faster than the 12 Gbit/s SAS interface used by the S600DC flash drives."

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Source: The Register

The Creative Assembly tries a different take on DLC for Total War: Warhammer

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | April 13, 2016 - 01:57 PM |
Tagged: creative assembly, warhammer fantasy, total war, dlc, gaming

After committing the double sin of pimping preorders and Day 1 DLC announced before the release date, The Creative Assembly seems to be trying to win back some of their fans by offering free new content for all some time down the road.  There will be new Legendary Lords, magic items, quest chains, and units and towards the end of the year.  If you want to play as Chaos you will still have to preorder the game or pay for it after release.

The offer of free content is appreciated, apart from one small problem; the game's release date is still over a month away.  The offer of future free content seems to be a thinly veiled effort to increase the sales of preorders, since many of us have refused to take them up on their offer.  Hopefully this is a hint that the industry is beginning to realize that publishing the actual game in full will draw more customers than releasing a partial game with DLC already planned. 

Iceberg Interactive has a much better model, Endless Legends was released as planned and once they realized how popular the game was they put effort into adding entirely new features and races.  Instead of taunting their customers with DLC announced at the same time as they released the game, they have treated it more as a reward for customer loyalty.  Then again, perhaps their customers are the exception and The Creative Assembly's announcement will succeed in selling more copies of the game before the release date.

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"Now, developers The Creative Assembly have released details of their post-release plans and that includes loads of free add-ons. There will be new Lords with their own quest chains, items and campaign bonuses, new magic, and, most intriguing of all, an entire new playable race."

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Software defined USB may help save your devices

Subject: General Tech | April 13, 2016 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: usb type-c

The USB Implementers Forum, in charge of developing the standards for USB interfaces have developed software which can confirm the authenticity of a USB device or USB charger before allowing power to pass over the connection.  This is intended to prevent the death of another Pixel, or any other device which might charge over a Type C connection thanks to a dodgy cable.  It is not yet released but was written with the intention enabling it to be distributed as a patch to your OS as it was designed with a proper signature and certificate to ensure it is not easy to tamper with.  The Register has more on this story as well as information on Google's WebUSB protocol which will allow a connected USB device to communicate with connected networks.

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"The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has announced the "USB Type-C Authentication specification", a set of software-defined rules that a device can use to protect itself from potential sizzlage."

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Source: The Register

PS4 Remote Play Now Available On PCs and Macs With 3.50 Firmware Update

Subject: General Tech | April 13, 2016 - 12:54 AM |
Tagged: sony, remote play, PSN, ps4, playstation 4, game streaming

Sony is rolling out a new firmware update for its PlayStation 4 gaming console. The 3.50 firmware update adds social networking features to schedule events and allow users to appear offline along with a major change that opens up Remote Play to allow game streaming from the PS4 to Macs and Windows PCs.

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Users should start receiving the console update shortly. In order to stream to PCs, users will need to download the Remote Play utility for Windows or OS X. PC system requirements are modest requiring a minimum of a dual core (4 thread) Intel Core i5 560M (2.67 GHz) and 2GB of RAM when running Windows. Mac users can get by with an even lower end i5 520M (2.4 GHz). Users will need to be running the 32-bit or 64-bit versions of Windows (8.1 or 10) or Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite or newer.

Sony recommends having a bare minimum of a 5Mbps symmetrical broadband internet connection in order to stream games to remote devices, and it recommends a connection with at least 12 Mbps download and upload speeds for the best results. Unfortunately, this rules out most DSL users, though they should still be able to play locally over their LAN. (It is not clear whether you can direct connect to the console to stream or if you have to go through a Sony server to stream, other remote play devices seem to be able to work only off of the LAN connection though so it should work.)

Sony makes it easy to play your games by supporting the DualShock 4 controller – users will simply need to plug it into the PC via USB cable and it will work as expected on PlayStation games. You will also need a Sony Entertainment Network account to pair devices and it is recommended to set the desired PS4 as your primary account. Specific setup instructions can be found here.

Streaming capabilities are currently limited as there is no support for streaming at 1080p resolution. Out of the box, Remote Play will stream at 540p and 30 FPS (frames per second). Users (preferably with wired devices including the PS4) can go into the settings and max it out at 720p and 60 FPS or dial it all the way down to 360p if you really need to play remotely over the internet with a small upload pipe.

Sony notes that not all games support Remote Play, but it seems like the majority of the console's catalog of games do.

There are several YouTube videos of users testing out Remote Play, and it does work. It seems to be a bit behind Xbox One streaming in the video quality and usability departments (e.g. no 1080p and you can't change resolution and frame rate on the fly). Hopefully Sony continues to flesh out the application and features.

Have you had a chance to try PS4 to PC game streaming? I'm now waiting for Microsoft to allow PC to Xbox One streaming hehe.

Source: Sony
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Edifier

Introduction and First Impressions

Edifier might not be a household name, but the maker of speakers and headphones has been around for 20 years now; formed in 1996 in Beijing, China. More recently (2011), Edifier made news by purchasing Stax, the famous Japanese electrostatic headphone maker. This move was made to 'improve Edifier's position' in the headphone market, and with the Stax name attached it could only raise awareness for the brand in the high-end audio community.

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But Edifier does not play in the same market as Stax, whose least expensive current offering (the SR-003MK2) is still $350. Edifier's products range from earbuds starting at $19 (the H210) to their larger over-ear headphones (H850) at $79. In between rests the smaller over-ear H840, a closed-back monitor headphone 'tuned by Phil Jones of Pure Sound' that Edifier claims offers a 'natural' audio experience. The price? MSRP is $59.99 but Edifier sells the H840 for only $39.99 on Amazon.

"Developed with an electro-acoustic unit on the basis of the coil, these Hi-Fi headphones provide life like sound. The carefully calibrated balance between treble and bass makes Edifier H840 the perfect entry level monitor earphones."

At the price, these could be a compelling option for music, movies, and gaming - depending on how they sound. In this review I'll attempt to describe my experience with these headphones, as well as one can using text. (I will also attempt not to write a book in the process!)

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Continue reading our review of Edifier's H840 Hi-Fi Monitor Headphones!!

Thrustmaster Introduces Xbox One Compatible TMX Wheel

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2016 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: Thrustmaster, TMX, T300, tx f458, force feedback, wheels, racing pedals, DiRT Rally, project cars, Assetto Corsa, xbox one

Some months ago I had the chance to review the PS3/4 and PC compatible Thrustmaster T150.  This turned out to be a solid little wheel with full functionality that would not break the bank.  The force feedback was not as strong or as nuanced as what I had found with the higher end TX F458 and T300 products, but it provided a wholly satisfactory experience that was around one half the price of the higher end products.
 
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Something missing from the lineup was a budget/entry level product for the Xbox One.  The TX F458 provides support for that platform, but it is anywhere from $300 to $400 US in price.  Essentially the same price as the console itself.  This comes at a pretty good time as a whole slew of racing games are being released on consoles these days (or soon).  Products such as DiRT Rally, Project Cars, and the upcoming console release of Assetto Corsa have injected new life into racing titles on consoles.  Add in Microsoft's continued development of the Forza series, console users have a good excuse to purchase racing inspired gear for their products.
 
In speaking with the DiRT developers, they admitted that they have to adjust the difficulty of the games to make them playable on game pads.  This makes sense as there are not nearly enough degrees of movement from either a turning or throttle/braking standpoint.  There is maybe a 30 degree movement in total with the thumbpads as well as not very many gradiations when using the triggers on the gamepad for braking and throttle control.  To get the most out of racing games a wheel is very necessary.  It provides the accuracy needed to drive very fast without the application helping a user out by decreasing the realism of the driving experience.
 
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The Thrustmaster TMX Force Feedback wheel is very similar in build and size to the earlier T150.  The primary differences are of course the Xbox One compatibility as well as a 900 degree rotation.  The T150 had the full 1080 degrees, but it seems like the 900 number is a hard limit on the Xbox.  The wheel can be programmed to handle rotations as low as 270 degrees as well as up to 900.  It is a hybrid pulley/geared unit with solid force feedback strength.  It features a metal axle and metal ball bearings so the wear will be minimal over the lifetime of the product.  It also features the same 12 bit optical tracking mechanism that the T150 utilizes that gives 4096 values for each 360 degrees of rotation of the wheel.
 
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No specialty drivers or software are needed for use with the Xbox One, but drivers are needed for the PC.  The firmware in the wheel contains all the necessary software to run successfully on the Xbox One, so it is simply plug and play for that platform.  The wheel comes with the wide 2 pedal unit which also allows users to remove the pads and adjust their position to their own liking.  The paddle shifters are also made of metal so that they will not break after extended use and wear.  While the actual wheel itself cannot be swapped out like with the TX and T300 bases, the TMX does support the Thrustmaster ecosystem of add-in parts.  It is compatible with the T3PA and T3PA-Pro bedals and the TH8A manual shifter (that can also be configured as a sequential shifter).
 
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$199.99 is not inexpensive, but it is a reasonable price for a product of this nature.  It looks to be a very good introductory wheel of the Xbox One platform that will last years.  It could also act as a gateway drug to more expensive purchases in the future, such as the pro pedals, a new base, and a fancy Alcantara based wheel.  The TMX should be available by next month at major retailers around the world.
Source: Thrustmaster

T'is but a flesh wound! The PC market shrinks by about 10% this Q1

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2016 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, apple, asus, market share, doom

That rustling you hear outside your door is the press getting ready to once again predict the impending doom of the PC industry, ready with bon mots describing how the world, including statisticians, engineers and animation creators will be using tablets for their work from now on.  As is always the case, these doomsayers are vastly overstating their case, though this is not to say there are some hurdles facing the PC industry as a whole.

Windows 10 has failed to drive consumers to update their hardware, for a variety of reasons obvious to everyone but Gartner, IDC and Microsoft's marketing team.  Intel's latest offerings have not provided a solid reason for enthusiasts to upgrade their machines and AMD is worryingly quiet lately.  This has lead to a fall in sales compared to this time last year of between 9.6-11.5% depending on which of the two sources The Inquirer quoted you choose to believe is more accurate

Apple and ASUS are the only two companies showing growth and a 1% increase is nothing you should brag about, even if you are beating the competition.  Even Lenovo is seeing their sales shrink, to the tune of roughly 10%.  There is new hardware slated to arrive soon and the falling price of M.2 and PCIe SSDs may provide some impetus for enthusiasts to pick up a new motherboard at the very least, so hopefully we will see this trend begin to reverse itself before the end of the year.

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"Gartner's report said that PC shipments reached 64.8 million units in the first quarter of 2016, while IDC offered the more pessimistic figure of 60.6 million. This represents a decline of 9.6 per cent or 11.5 percent, depending on which figure you go on."

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Source: The Inquirer

The Priv has been flushed

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2016 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: Android, blackberry, Priv

Blackberry has abandoned the Priv, calling it somewhat of an expensive mistake not only because of the investment costs but also because it was priced well above what consumers are willing to pay for a phone.  They will be developing a new Android device which is intended to sell at $400, in line with the competitions prices.  This also seems to imply that the BB10 OS will no longer be actively developed at Blackberry although they have not stated that for the record.  They also haven't disclosed how many Priv's were sold but considering what they told The Register and others it is likely to be well below what they had hoped.  They aren't dead yet but they are certainly low on health.

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"BlackBerry's CEO has used an interview with United Arab Emirates outlet The National to announce plans to move the troubled mobe-maker's Android efforts downscale."

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Source: The Register

Oh, we like this; Edge will now pause some Flash content

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2016 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: flash, microsoft, edge, windows 10

The new insider build of Windows 10 includes a new feature on Edge, similar to the one already found on Chrome, it will pause Flash assets on webpages which are not the main content.  This should mean far less annoying advertisements blaring from your speakers if you happen to visit an uncouth website which features that type of advertisement.  It is also a step in the right direction for security, considering Adobe has posted yet another critical update for a gaping security hole in Flash.  You can follow the links from Slashdot to grab the update if you wish, or delve into the morass of comments about this update.

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"Microsoft Edge will "intelligently auto-pause" Flash content that is "not central to the webpage." If you want to try this out now, you can take the feature for a spin with Windows 10 build 14316, which was recently made available to Windows Insiders"

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Source: Slashdot

You know you want it, Little Tikes kidBoard

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2016 - 05:44 PM |
Tagged: Little Tikes, kidBoard, input

Look at that colour scheme, LEDs would just ruin the beautiful clash of blue, red and purple on the yellow background.  Clicky keys?  You bet this thing clicks, so much better than any mere Cherry MX keyboard.  It is also ruggedized, you could keep typing even when falling down stairs, you might feel bad by the time you hit the ground floor but this keyboard won't care. It may not survive a jamming though, so keep your milk and cookies or PBJ to the side when composing on this keyboard.  Drop Modders Inc a note to let them know they've done a top notch job with this review as well as with their sense of humour.

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"The Little Tikes kidBoard: the name says it all. An undisputed titan of computer peripherals, the engineers at Little Tikes have set the bar higher than ever with their newest release. The kidBoard incorporates an incredible combination of bleeding-edge software, phonics integration, and hardware mastery to create the next generation of gaming keyboards."

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Source: Modders Inc