Cortana, where is my app?

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2016 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Windows Store, windows 10

If the complaints of the developers in this story over at The Register are accurate then the problem with the Windows Store might not be that there are no good apps but instead that you simply can't find them.  If a developer can't find their own app in the store using keywords in the title or description or even the ones they submitted to the store then how can you expect to?  If the only good way to find an app is to know its exact name, how many apps are there in the store that no one but the developer has even seen?  It is still possible that an improved search function will not help the Windows Store but at this point its reputation could not get all that much worse.

all-search-results-windows-store.jpg

"Looking at the developer forums though, it seems that official guidance and assistance for this issue is not easy to find, which will not help Microsoft in its efforts to establish a strong Windows 10 app ecosystem."

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Source: The Register

Crystal Dynamics Reveals Minimum Specifications for Rise of the Tomb Raider on the PC

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2016 - 07:06 AM |
Tagged: tomb raider, pc gaming, min specs, can it run

Crystal Dynamics has revealed the minimum system requirements for Rise of the Tomb Raider on PC. This latest Lara Croft adventure sees the ever-resilient tomb raider following in the footsteps of her father in search of an artifact said to grant immortality amidst the lost city of Kitezh. Fortunately for gamers, Rise of the Tomb Raider has quite a low bar for entry with modest minimum system requirements. You will need more powerful hardware than its 2013 predecessor (Tomb Raider), but it is still quite manageable.

Rise of the Tomb Raider.jpg

PC gamers will need a 64-bit version of Windows, a dual core Intel Core i3-2100 (2 core, 4 thread at 3.1 GHz) or, for example, AMD FX 4100 processor, 6 GB of system memory, 25 GB of storage space for all the game files, and, of course, a graphics card with 2 GB of video memory such as the NVIDIA GTX 650 or AMD Radeon HD7770. Naturally, hardware with higher specifications/capabilities will get you better performance and visuals, but the above is what you will need to play.

Minimum PC System Requirements:

  • Dual Core Processor (e.g. Core i3-2100 or FX 4100)
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 25 GB Available Storage Space
  • 2 GB Graphics Card (e.g. GTX 650 or Radeon HD7770)

For those curious, Tomb Raider (2013) required XP SP3 32-bit, a dual core Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 or Athlon 64 X2 4050+ CPU, 1 GB of RAM (2 GB for Vista), and an NVIDIA 8600 or AMD HD2600 XT GPU with 512MB of video memory.

Rise of the Tomb Raider will reportedly add new stealth and crafting components along with new weapons and options for close quarters combat. Further, the game will feature day and night cycles with realistic weather which should make for cold snow-filled nights in Siberia as well as opportunities to sneak up on unwitting guards freezing their buns off!

The game is set to release on January 28th for the PC and joins the the Xbox One version that launched back in November 2015 where it will be a timed exclusive (it will come to the PS4 later this year).

Personally, I am excited for this game. I picked up its predecessor during a Steam sale for super cheap only to let it sit in my inventory for about a year. It was one of those 'I'll play it eventually, but it's not really a priority' things where the price finally got me (heh). Little did I know how wrong I was, because once I finally got around to firing up the game, I played it near constantly until I beat it! It was a surprisingly fun reboot of the series, and I am hopeful that RofTR will be more of the same! 

Source: Bit-Tech

Windows 10 Build 11102 Released to Fast Ring Insiders

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2016 - 11:39 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

I wasn't planning on reporting every Windows 10 Insider build, but I actually have something to say about this one. The last couple of builds were examples of Microsoft switching to a faster release cycle for preview users, although the known issues list were quite benign. The semi-frequent upgrade cycles would shake users away from the Insider program, or transition to Slow.

They now seem ready to start rolling back to less QA for Fast users.

windows-10-bandaid.png

Five issues are known about build 11102. First, internal changes to the Windows Graphics architecture cause some games to crash on launch, full screen, or resolution changes. The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed, and Metal Gear Solid V are known to be affected by this bug, but other games (and maybe even other software) could be affected too. Second, screen readers and other accessibility software may crash randomly. If you require those accommodations, then this build could make your device functionally unusable to you.

Beyond those two, big issues, three other ones are present. There is an error message on login with a workaround, a breaking change for old wireless drivers that you should probably upgrade beforehand if you rely upon wireless to download drivers, and “The Connect button does not show up in Action Center.”

Microsoft is currently updating the deep insides of the OS, which means that they will be poking around the source code in weird places. Once it's completed, this should make Windows more maintainable, especially for multiple types of hardware. But again, if you're not wanting to be a part of this, switch to Slow or leave Insider.

Source: Microsoft

Podcast #383 - Acer Predator X34, ASUS X99-M, AMD Q4 Earnings and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2016 - 07:34 PM |
Tagged: x99-m, X170, X150, video, Silent Base 800, Q4 2015, Predator X34, podcast, gigabyte, g-sync, freesync, earnings, be quiet, asus, amd, acer

PC Perspective Podcast #383 - 01/21/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Acer Predator X34, ASUS X99-M, AMD Q4 Earnings 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: 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!!

 

Know anyone who uses the Intel Driver Update Utility? Update the updater ASAP

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2016 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: Intel, intel driver update utility, security

The Intel Driver Update Utility is not the most commonly found application on PCs but someone you know may have stumbled upon it or had it installed by Geek Squad or the local equivalent.  Since Windows Vista the tool has been available, it checks your system for any Intel parts, from your APU to your NIC and then looks for any applicable drivers that are available.  Unfortunately it was doing so over a non-SSL URL which leaves the utility wide open to a man in the middle attack and you really do not want a compromised NIC driver.  The Inquirer reports today that Intel quietly updated the tool on January 19th to resolve the issue, ensuring all communication and downloads are over SSL.  If you know anyone using this tool, recommend they update it immediately.

intel-driver-update.jpg

"Intel has issued a fix for a major security vulnerability in a driver utility tool that could have allowed a man-in-the-middle attack and a malware maelstrom on victims' computers."

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Source: The Inquirer

Google Releases Chrome 48 with Interesting Features

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2016 - 07:59 AM |
Tagged: google, chrome

Web browsers are typically on rapid release cycles so they can get features out frequently. The Web is changing on a constant basis to help it become an effective application platform, which is cross-compatible with competing implementations. A common complaint is that the cycle is to yield high version numbers for marketing, to give a false sense of maturity, but I'd expect that frequent, breaking changes are kind-of necessary to synchronize features between implementations. If Google lands a feature a month after Mozilla publishes a new version, should they really wait two years for their next one? Granted, they probably knew about it pre-release, but you get the idea. Also, even if the theory is true, artificially high version numbers is one of the most benign things a company could do.

Google_Chrome_icon_(2011).png

Some versions introduce some fairly interesting features, though. This one, Google Chrome 48, deprecates RC4 encryption for HTTPS, which forces web servers to use newer cyphers or they will fail to load.

Another major one, and probably more interesting for our audience, is the introduction of VP9 to WebRTC. This video codec is Google's open competitor to H.265. At similar quality settings, VP9 will use about half of the bandwidth (or storage) as VP8. WebRTC is mostly used for video conferencing, but it's really an open platform for webcam, microphone, audio, video, and raw, peer-to-peer data connections. There are even examples of it being used to synchronize objects in multiplayer video games, which has nothing to do with video or audio streaming. I'm not sure what is possible with this support, but it might even lead to web applications that can edit video.

Google Chrome 48 is available today. Also, as a related note, Firefox 44 should release next week with its own features, like experimental rendering of WebGL images offscreen and multi-threaded. The full changelog for Google Chrome 48 from Git is about 42 MB large and, ironically, tends to crash Firefox.

Source: VentureBeat

GDC 2016 Sessions Are Up and DirectX 12 / Vulkan Are There

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2016 - 12:06 AM |
Tagged: vulkan, ue4, nvidia, Intel, gdc 2016, GDC, epic games, DirectX 12, Codemasters, arm, amd

The 30th Game Developers Conference (GDC) will take place on March 14th through March 18th, with the expo itself starting on March 16th. The sessions have been published at some point, with DX12 and Vulkan prominently featured. While the technologies have not been adopted as quickly as advertised, the direction is definitely forward. In fact, NVIDIA, Khronos Group, and Valve have just finished hosting a developer day for Vulkan. It is coming.

gdc-2016-logo.png

One interesting session will be hosted by Codemasters and Intel, which discusses bringing the F1 2015 engine to DirectX 12. It will highlight a few features they implemented, such as voxel based raytracing using conservative rasterization, which overestimates the size of individual triangles so you don't get edge effects on pixels that are partially influenced by an edge that cuts through a tiny, but not negligible, portion of them. Sites like Game Debate (Update: Whoops, forgot the link) wonder if these features will be patched in to older titles, like F1 2015, or if they're just R&D for future games.

Another keynote will discuss bringing Vulkan to mobile through Unreal Engine 4. This one will be hosted by ARM and Epic Games. Mobile processors have quite a few cores, albeit ones that are slower at single-threaded tasks, and decent GPUs. Being able to keep them loaded will bring their gaming potential up closer to the GPU's theoretical performance, which has surpassed both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, sometimes by a factor of 2 or more.

Many (most?) slide decks and video recordings are available for free after the fact, but we can't really know which ones ahead of time. It should be an interesting year, though.

Source: GDC

"Imagine the original Deus Ex combined with the film Die Hard."

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2016 - 06:42 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Kickstarter, consortium

That is a hell of a tagline which will be hard to live up to as trying to live up to the fond memories of the original Deus Ex while figuring out how to make Die Hard playable is not a trivial task.  The original ($2.99 on GoG right now) had mixed reviews, some loving the way you are dumped into an immersive story with no introduction and others frustrated by a lack of tutorial.  It was certainly different than your usual game in 2014.  The second game in the developers planned trilogy is Consortium: The Tower and seems to be more focused on being a single person stealth/action game than the team based experience of the first but the trailer does seem to have some of the same flavour as the first when it comes to the story and dialogue.  You don't often see a player choose to drop his weapons and then attempt to dialogue with the bad guys, except in cut scenes of which there will be none in this game.  Check out the trailer, read what the gang at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN had to say about it and see if you think it is worth tossing in on the Kickstarter campaign.

We could have talked about FarCry Primal but Ubisoft is too busy being themselves by  taking down trailers and generally making it hard to have nice things.

"As pitches go, Consortium: The Tower has a bloody good line up its sleeve. Like its predecessor, it’s a science fiction game set in a single environment. You can talk, fight or sneak your way past or through encounters, and many events will happen even if you’re not there to see or influence them."

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Just fondle your mouse to log into Windows?

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2016 - 05:19 PM |
Tagged: fingerprint, synaptics, ironveil, security

Synaptics, the company most likely responsible for the trackpad on your laptop has released a new product, a 4x10mm fingerprint sensor which goes by the name of IronVeil.  The idea behind the product is to incorporate it into peripherals and pair it with Windows Passport to allow you to log in by touching your mouse or keyboard, similar to the current generation of cellphones.  Synaptics also suggests it could be used in eSports to ensure that the person behind the mouse is indeed who they claim to be.  The Tech Report tried out a Thermaltake Black V2 mouse with the sensor embedded and talk about their experiences with the mouse as well as introduce you to the FIDO Alliance and some of the authentication process which occurs behind the scenes in their recent article.

One cannot help but point out that while passwords can be hashed and salted, the same cannot be said for fingerprints which leads us back to previously mentioned concerns about the security of the online storage databases these prints would be stored in.  The eternal battle of convenience versus security rages on.

Synaptics-IronVeil-Specs.png

"Synaptics' IronVeil is a tiny fingerprint sensor module that serves as the foundation for a variety of new authentication techniques for home and business users alike. We've spent a couple weeks with a pre-production IronVeil mouse, and we've explored how it might be used in practice."

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Interested in transparent flexible memory?

Subject: General Tech | January 19, 2016 - 08:44 PM |
Tagged: STT-MRAM, pcram, RRAM, memristor

With the rise of new memory technologies such as HBM for volatile memory and new applications for non-volatile memory there has been a lot of research on new types of memory.  In the past we have discussed such technologies as Spin Transfer Torque Magnetic (STT-MRAM), Phase Change(PCRAM), Ferroelectric (FeRAM), and Resistive RAM known alternatively as either RRAM or Memristors which are all being developed to push performance past the limits of the current materials used in manufacturing RAM.

These advances are not the only ones being worked on, for instance two groups in Korea are working on using indium zinc oxide (IZO) alongside nanowires and other transparent conducting oxides to create flexible ReRAM devices with 80% transparency.  This is perfect for usage in flexible displays and wearable devices which would benefit from being flexible. It could even create the case modders dream, transparent SSDs Read more about their research at Nanotechweb.

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"Alternative, non-volatile memory devices are in high demand as miniaturization brings the current state-of-the art silicon-based flash systems to their scaling limit. Now researchers in Korea have used indium zinc oxide (IZO) electrodes to produce non-volatile resistive memory (ReRAM) devices that are also transparent and flexible, offering benefits for applications in displays."

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Source: Nanotechweb