Interested in a $250 smartphone compatible mass spectrometre?

Subject: General Tech | July 23, 2015 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: tricorder, spectrometer, SCiO

If you are leery of building your own Tricorder and need more that just biometric information about yourself then check out SCiO, unless you contributed to the Kickstarter and already have one.  It is a tiny mass near-infrared spectrometer which will allow you to scan objects to determine their chemical makeup and transmit the information to your phone; finally a way to compare apples and oranges!  The site also suggests you should be able to monitor the health of plants, get nutritional information on food items and even prove that there is absolutely nothing in that homeopathic snake oil other than C6H12O6 and H2O.  Other uses just suggest themselves, such as determining if jewellery is authentic or how degraded the rubber on your tires is.  Scanning an item will add it to a database hosted at SCiO, they describe it as "the world's first database of matter" others might use the phrase baseline sample.  Check it out right here if you use an iOS or Android device and there are educational kits for schools as well.

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"SCiO is the world's first molecular sensor that fits in the palm of your hand. Scan physical objects and receive instant and relevant information to your smartphone."

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Saitek's X-55 Rhino has a HOTAS

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2015 - 04:07 PM |
Tagged: input, saitek, X-55 Rhino, Mad Catz

With the revival of space sims recently, joysticks and HOTAS peripherals are once again being updated and selling.  If you are looking for more than just a joystick then check out Nikktech's review of the Saitek X-55 Rhino.  Not only do you get a joystick you also get a nifty looking dual throttle with seven 3-way toggle switches and a pair of rotary buttons and to top it off they use separate USB cables so you can put one away when not in use to save on desk space.  The joystick ships with four removable springs to allow you to choose the relative stiffness of your stick, or you can pull the spring out completely if you happen to swing that way.  At $160 is for those who really do plan to get a lot of use out of it but many people have already paid far more than that to get a fancy ship in Star Citizen so the market is certainly there.

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"If you were a teenager in the 90's then you probably know that compared to that time combat flight and space simulators are almost non-existent today mainly because this particular genre doesn't have as many fans as it used to (perhaps age has something to do with that). You see back then we had the joy of playing not one but several space simulators like the entire Wing Commander series (I/II/III/IV/V/Privateer), Frontier: Elite II and Frontier Wars, Tie Fighter, X-Wing, X-wing VS Tie Fighter, Starlancer, Freelancer and Decent: Freespace I/II along with many regular combat flight simulators like Strike Commander, F-14 Fleet Defender, Jane's ATF, Jane's IAF: Israeli Air Force and of course Falcon 4.0."

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Source: Nikktech

Bringing the Elder to Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, more Skyblivion progress

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2015 - 02:28 PM |
Tagged: gaming, elder scrolls, skywind, skyblivion

While Morrowind is obviously superior to Oblivion there are those who would rather explore Cyrodiil in the middle of Tamriel.  Either way, it will be more pleasant to explore your old hunting grounds with the improvements to the engine made in Skyrim.  Not only are we now waiting on the brilliant modders behind Skywind to wrap up now the same group are also getting tantalizingly close to wrapping up Skyblivion.  If you don't have both games in your Steam inventory yet you should keep an eye out for deals.  There is a second trailer you can watch over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

"Recent videos show many, many minutes of progress on Skyblivion, trotting around the province of Cyrodiil, leaping into Oblivion gates, and pottering about the Shivering Isles. It looks a lot like Oblivion but in Skyrim, which is sort of the goal of the whole thing. Skyblivion!"

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Microsoft Office shows up in Google Drive

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2015 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: google, google drive, microsoft, office

As has happened recently with Dropbox, Box and Apple iCloud, Google Drive has adopted the Microsoft Office API which was released not to long ago, bringing Office Suite compatibility to their cloud.  As anyone who has actually tried it knows, the compatibility between Google's applications and Microsoft's Office Suite was more theory than fact.  This new plug-in will allow you to save Office files on your Google Drive and open and edit them from within your browser, as long as you are not using the Office 2016 preview which is not compatible. If this interests you then follow the links from The Inquirer to learn more.

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"GOOGLE HAS BECOME the latest big player to integrate with rival Microsoft's Office suite."

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Source: The Inquirer

I'll bet you've never heard of this stacked phone

Subject: General Tech | July 21, 2015 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, marshall, flac

Marshall has managed to do something almost no other company has been able to recently, kept a brand new product completely secret.  They have just released a brand new Android smartphone with an internal soundcard which allows you to play lossless FLAC audio files, something not common amongst the smartphones on the market.  The branding is immediately obvious and there are some unique additions such as the use of brass on the two headphone jacks and a volume wheel as opposed to a rocker switch.  The hardware is not terribly impressive, a 720p 4.7" display powered by a Snapdragon 410 with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of local storage.  This phone is more about the audio, how high a resolution do you want for your equalizer anyways?  Check out more at The Register.

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"The iconic guitar amplifier outfit''s headphones division managed something that Apple hasn't: it's developed a smartphone without having it leaked to a fan-site. So the launch of the London smartphone managed to catch the world somewhat by surprise."

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Source: The Register

AMD's hopes for the second half of 2015

Subject: General Tech | July 20, 2015 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: amd, lisa su

It has not been a pretty year for AMD with overall sales of $942m representing 34.6% drop from this time last year and even the graphics portion seeing a 54.2% drop which resulted in loss of $147 million.  In part this is because all PC component companies have been suffering recently; in part because of a lack of incentive to upgrade high end components and to a larger extent because the general public is not going to pick up a new machine just before the release of a new Windows version.  Lisa Su did have some good news, sales of FX processors and A-series APU have been increasing and the second half of the year is historically better for sales.  It was suggested to The Register that AMD is not currently planning on reducing their workforce even more at this time but the possibility of future cuts was not completely ruled out.

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"AMD has confirmed it is slipping back into cost-cutting mode after its annus horribilis, caused by tanking demand for consumer PCs in a quarter described by CEO Lisa Su as the “revenue trough” for 2015."

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Source: The Register

Huh. Someone Installed Windows 7 on an ASUS ZenFone 2.

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2015 - 09:04 PM |
Tagged: zenfone2, zenfone, asus

So this is kind-of cool. The ASUS ZenFone 2 is based around an Intel Atom processor, which uses an x86 processor. Its performance is not comparable to a Haswell PC with discrete graphics, but the machine language will correctly guide voltages through the appropriate logic and end up in the proper memory locations. This means software that doesn't require high performance (or access to more advanced hardware) can run without translating the instruction set, which is harsh on performance.

Note that “more advanced hardware” could refer to something as simple as a floppy drive, which is not required to be classified as an x86 device but might be required for seemingly trivial software.

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In this case, someone decided to load Windows 7 on ASUS' smartphone. It technically runs in an emulator but, as stated before, it does not need to translate the underlying instruction set. Even though it's a cute project, I wonder if it's possible to boot some version of Windows on an Intel mobile platform. Of course, it's not enough curiosity to make me research the BIOS standards and make an actual informed statement.

Windows 10 Supported Until 2020, Extended Until 2025

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2015 - 09:16 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft announced the upgrade strategy of Windows 10 in their January consumer press conference. If the promotion is claimed within the first year, the new operating system would be a free upgrade to users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.x “for the supported lifetime of the device”. The internet combined “the first year” with “for the supported lifetime of the device” to speculate that Microsoft would charge a license or subscription from then on.

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The bandaids will keep coming until 2020 (features) or 2025 (security)

Now, less than two weeks before launch, Microsoft has released an official statement on the matter. Windows 10 will be supported until 2020 with extended support reaching out to 2025.

This does not mean that every device will be supported until then, though. In order to receive new updates, the user needs to install every update prior to that update, because they are cumulative. If a device is incompatible with an update, and the affected manufacturer is not willing to fix the problem, then Microsoft will not make a special support branch just for you.

But if an OEM has stopped supporting a device, yet Microsoft updates don't break anything, then you can still receive updates for Microsoft. Again, the clause is just for the case where Microsoft's updates are incompatible with your device -- it is not Microsoft's responsibility to keep giving you updates for the manufacturer's problems until the OS gets end-of-lifed.

This does lead to some concerns, though. Imagine that Microsoft pushes a build which disables developer sideloading and Win32 support, locking Windows 10 down to a Windows RT state. If you are even capable of blocking that update, Microsoft will likely not allow you to receive security patches. On the other hand, I don't exactly blame Microsoft for branching the operating system for each individual milestone. Doing something like killing support for Win32 would also be pretty brazen, although it looked like Windows 8.x was on that trajectory when it relegated the Desktop as an “app”... and one which all Win32 software required to survive.

So freedom advocates will have some things to think about, but those concerned about “free as in beer” can sleep a little easier. They will continue updating you for as long as the hardware supports it, until at least 2020 for features (at least 2025 for security). Beyond that time, it depends on whether Microsoft will charge for upgrades to whatever the next version is. Will it be a free milestone (think service pack)? Or will it be classified as Windows 11 with an upgrade or subscription fee? Who knows.

Source: ZDnet

A world without SIMs?

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2015 - 03:36 PM |
Tagged: SIM, Samsung, apple, Vodafone, AT&T, orange, Deutsche Teleko

If you hate trying to read the numbers off of your SIM card and are sick of their continual shrinking then Apple and Samsung's plan to make the SIM card extinct may be good news.  If you have a phone with dual SIMs or remove the SIM when you travel to ensure no roaming charges will be applied to you then perhaps you are less than happy to hear these companies want to replace the physical SIM with a software one.  It will make changing providers and phones easier but making it a permanent part of the phone could have some drawbacks.  Those of you who have a new iPad Air and iPad Mini may already be familiar with the soft SIMs, if you want to read more you can catch up at The Register.

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"Smartphone goliaths Apple and Samsung are reportedly confabulating at a high level regarding plans for hardware which would replace SIM cards in mobile devices - this technology would be embedded in phones, tablets etc and would not be exchangeable to different devices."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #358 - AMD R9 Fury, Fury X Multi-GPU, Windows 10 and more!

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2015 - 02:04 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, amd, Fury, fury x, sli, crossfire, windows 10, 10240, corsair, RM850i, IBM, 7nm, kaby lake, Skylake, Intel, 14nm, 10nm

PC Perspective Podcast #358 - 07/16/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD R9 Fury, Fury X Multi-GPU, Windows 10 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!

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Hosts: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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