EVGA 17th Anniversary Event (with Contest)

Subject: General Tech | July 19, 2016 - 12:54 AM |
Tagged: evga

Sweet... seventeen? Looks we're a little late on this, but EVGA is hosting a 17th anniversary event. Jacob is live streaming gameplay at 3pm PDT (6pm EDT) today, tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that. During that time, they will be giving away four more bundles of PC hardware, and probably a bunch of game keys from EA. According to their website's previous winners, it looks like they're giving away two copies of Battlefront (with Season Pass), Need for Speed, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, Battlefield 4 (with DLC), and Mirror's Edge: Catalyst each day.

evga-2016-anniversary-banner.png

In terms of hardware, EVGA is handing out one bundle of two components per day and three grand prize bundles: one for USA, Canada, and Latin America; one for Asia and the Pacific region; and one for Europe, the Middle East, and India.

Today, they will give out an EVGA Z170 FTW motherboard and 16GB of DDR4 RAM during today's stream. The largest, non-grand prize giveaway will be on Thursday, however, where they will hand out an X99 Classified motherboard and a GTX 1070 SC graphics card, valued at a total of $820. I'm not sure which geographic regions on these prizes are eligible, although they do state the contest is, of course, void where prohibited. If it's like the grand prize, it seems to be pretty much worldwide.

Source: EVGA

Fnatic's Gear Flick Mouse, it won't judge you based on your handedness

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2016 - 02:54 PM |
Tagged: fnatic gear, input, gaming mouse, flick, ambidextrous

Many gaming mice on the market are designed for use with your right hand, with some manufactures offering a second, mirrored model but they are in the minority.  Ambidextrous mice tend to lack in features as symmetrical button placement is not necessarily a handy solution.  The Fnatic Gear Flick Mouse is marketed for use in either the left or right hand, however only the right side has buttons.  The shell of the mouse may feel comfortable but requiring a user to press buttons with their pinkie finger seems awkward.  For right handers, the use of a Pixart 3310 optical sensor offers good response on what is otherwise a very spares design.  You can read more about it at Kitguru.

Flick-Front-View.jpg

"We have already taken a look at the Rush Gear Keyboard recently but today we are taking a look at Fnatic’s mouse offering, the Gear Flick, featuring an ambidextrous design and all necessary features that most gamers would expect from a mouse. "

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Source: Kitguru

Google may be abandoning their VR headset, but not VR entirely

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2016 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: google, VR, daydream, rumour, Huawei

Detailed information on Google's Daydream VR Headeset was conspicuously absent from io16.  At that time it was still expected that Google was developing a VR headset to compete with the Rift and Vive which is why it seemed strange they merely mentioned it in passing.  Today rumours are spreading that Google may have abandoned that particular project on favour of improving mobile VR, taking advantage of Google Cardboard one might assume.  They are instead focusing on the software side, the Daydream VR platform designed to enhance VR capabilities on Android N will be improved and offered to vendors; Huawei was mentioned in the post on The Inquirer.  While it is still rumour at this point it certainly makes sense to stop spending money to develop competing hardware when they can focus on improving mobile software which any Android phone could use.

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"While Daydream persists, Recode said that Google has cancelled plans to create its own VR headset as it does not want to compete with Facebook, Samsung, HTC and others."

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Source: The Register

Honey, I Shrunk The NES

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2016 - 01:07 AM |
Tagged: Nintendo, nes, gaming, !console

Fans of the 90s (and late 80s) will be happy to know that Nintendo is bring back the Nintendo Entertainment System in the form of a modern and miniaturized package. The NES Classic Edition is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and offers up 30 built in classic NES games! It will be available for the holiday season at $59.99 sans old school RCA jacks and finicky cartridges!

nes-classic-edition.png

Nintendo has not provided details on the internals of the console, unfortunately, but it seems to be using a low power SoC that runs emulated versions of the games. That is to say that it is likely Nintendo is using modern components rather the original hardware. One clue is that Nintendo states that gamers will be able to use multiple suspend points on each game and will not have to worry about using continue passwords each time they load up a game. A poster over at Ars Technica suggests that Nintendo may be using the guts of an existing or new 3DS handheld console to power the NES Classic Edition, but we'll have to wait for someone to get thier hands on it to know for sure what is going on under the hood.

On the outside, the NES Classic Edition looks nearly identical to the NES many gamers (myself included) grew up with except for the controller ports being different and of course the physical size! There is even a cartridge slot cover though it is only there for aesthetics and does not actually open (it would have been awesome if it opened to reveal an SD card slot!). Around the back you will find the AC power input and an HDMI video output which is great to see in this age where hooking up an old school console can be a pain (or a chain of adapters heh). There is no word on what resolution the console will output at or if there will be any upscaling...

Speaking of controllers, Nintendo has brought back the old school rectangular gray controller from the original NES which it is calling the NES Classic Controller. This controller plugs into the NES Classic Edition console using the same proprietary port found on the bottom of Wii Remotes (because going with a USB port would have been too easy heh), and users can plug up to two NES Controllers into the console to play with a friend or plug the controller into a Wii Remote in order to play classic games found on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles.

The NES Classic Edition comes with a single controller. Additional controllers will have a MSRP of $9.99. Alternatively, gamers can plug their Wii Classic Controller or Wii Classic Controller Pro game pads into the mini NES.

The bite-sized NES will come with 30 built in games. This number is sadly not expandable as there is no external memory or internet connection on the console (modders would have loved this thing...).

The list of games is as follows:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Bubble Bobble
  • Castlevania
  • Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
  • Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Double Dragon II: The Revenge
  • Dr. Mario
  • Excitebike
  • Final Fantasy
  • Galaga
  • Ghosts N' Goblins
  • Gradius
  • Ice Climber
  • Kid Icarus
  • Kirby’s Adventure
  • Mario Bros.
  • Mega Man 2
  • Metroid
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Pac-Man
  • Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream
  • StarTropics
  • Super C
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Tecmo Bowl
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

I am excited to see the Castlevania and Zelda games on here along with, of course, the Super Mario Bros. games. I do remember playing Dr. Mario and Ninja Gaiden as well, but there are several games that I have fond memories of playing that did not make the cut! For example, I remember playing a lot of Super Off Road, Duck Hunt (how do they not have this? I guess the old gun wouldn't work with new TVs so they would have to figure something else out though), RC Pro-Am which I loved, and a few others I can't remember the names of anymore).

I have no doubt that this is going to be an extremely popular seller and a great gift idea for the gamer in your life (or yourself! hehe). I wish that it had more games or at least ROM support so that it had a bit more life, but for what it is it is not a bad deal. After all, the original NES launched at $199.99 in 1985 which would make it almost $450 in today's dollars! For those interested, it should be up for pre-order at some point, but for now it is still notify only at Amazon US.

Are you excited for the tiny NES Classic Edition or is your trusty NES and cartridges collection still kicking? What were your favorite NES games growing up (if any)?

Source: Nintendo

RetroArch Announces Vulkan API Support (& Async Compute)

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2016 - 06:58 PM |
Tagged: n64, dolphin, libretro, retroarch, vulkan, async shaders, asynchronous compute, amd

While the Dolphin emulator has a lot of mind share, and recently announced DirectX 12 support, they have only just recently discussed working on the open alternative, Vulkan. It looks like the LibRetro developer community will beat them with an update to RetroArch and the LibRetro API. The page for RetroArch 1.3.5 exists as of (according to Google) yesterday, but 404s, so it should be coming soon. It is still in experimental mode, but it's better than nothing.

retroarch-2016-plain-logo.png

Interestingly, they also claim that their Vulkan port of Angrylion makes use of asynchronous compute. It's unclear what it uses that for, but I'm sure it will make for interesting benchmarks.

ZoeMatrope Blends Shaders with Strobe Lights

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2016 - 06:07 PM |
Tagged: Blender, ishikawa watanabe laboratory

This is definitely tangential to our typical coverage, but I came across an interesting research project from the Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory. A common trick that physicists use to measure rotating objects is to shine a strobe light at it. When the object seems to stop in space, your strobe light frequency is some multiple of the object's RPM (assuming the object doesn't have identical sections within a single cycle -- you'll need to go into fractions in that case).

This is another trick in the same family. Basically, they load a carousel of the same object with all possible material components. Then, in a darkened room, they flash a strobe light on it to instantaneously illuminate just the portions they want, at the intensity that it contributes to the final material. So, when you adjust the material on the computer, which they demoed with Blender, the object appears to adjust along with it, letting you see what it should look like in the real world. They can even apply a mask in front of it to allow some level of texturing.

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This should be useful for product design, once a library of materials are captured and stored in the CAD software. They claim that 3D printing allows it to be applied to any object, but I'd assume there's some limits regarding how structurally stable the object is. I'm imagining a technician wondering why their metal channel doesn't seem to be applied, only to turn on the light and see their intern knocked out on the floor with a bruise on their forehead. It all depends on what their apparatus is running at and how big it is. Ideally, they would be above the upper range of photosensitive epilepsy is about 30Hz, or 1800 RPM, but I don't have the required info to calculate how that maps to structural integrity of models.

Mozilla to Publish First Rust-based Module in Firefox 48

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2016 - 05:41 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, Rust, firefox

Mozilla has been working on the Rust language for several years now. It is designed to be extremely fast, memory-safe, and easy to parallelize on multi-core processors, doing so by having a compiler that's not afraid to tell you “Nope.” Mozilla (and others, like Samsung) want a language with those characteristics because it will make an extremely fast, yet secure, web browser (although there's a lot of single-threaded design choices tangled in the Web specifications).

mozilla-rust.png

The first example will arrive next month for Windows, though (64-bit OSX and Linux already had it). Firefox 48 will replace a small portion of the code, originally written in C++, with a Rust-based equivalent. The affected component parses media files, getting values like track id, duration, resolution, and so forth. Because it's written in Rust, this ingestion should be resilient to memory-based vulnerabilities.

This probably will not be noticeable to end-users, but it's a few thousand less lines of code that Mozilla should need to worry about hijacking the browser. Mozilla is also planning on bringing URL parsing to Rust, and has already done so with Servo. You would think that the C++ code has been battle-hardened by now, but, I mean, 15-year-old open-source bugs do exist, hiding in plain sight.

Source: Mozilla

Details Emerge On Intel's Upcoming Kaby Lake and Apollo Lake Powered NUCs

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2016 - 05:07 PM |
Tagged: nuc, kaby lake, iris, Intel, baby canyon, arches canyon, apollo lake

According to Olivier over at FanlessTech, Intel will be launching two new small form factor NUC PCs later this year. The new NUCs are code named Baby Canyon and Arches Canyon and will be powered by Intel’s Kaby Lake-U and Apollo Lake processors respectively. Baby Canyon will occupy the high end while Arches Canyon is aimed at low power and budget markets.

Intel 2017 NUCs Baby Canyon and Arches Canyon.jpg

Left: Intel NUC Roadmap. Middle: Intel Baby Canyon NUC. Right: Intel Arches Canyon NUC.

First up is the “Baby Canyon” NUC which will come in five SKUs. Featuring aluminum enclosures, the Baby Canyon NUCs measure 115 x 111 x 51mm for models with a SATA drive (models without SATA drive support are shorter at 35mm tall). The PCs will be powered by Intel’s Kaby Lake-U processors up to a 28W quad core i7 chip with Iris graphics. There will also be 15W Core i5 and i3 models. Kaby Lake is the 14nm successor to Skylake and features native support for USB 3.1, HDCP 2.2, and HEVC. Further, Kaby Lake chips will reportedly utilize an improved graphics architecture. While Kaby Lake chips in general will be available with TDPs up to 95W, the models used in Baby Canyon NUCs top out at 28W and are the Kaby Lake-U mobile variants.

Baby Canyon NUCs will pair the Kaby Lake-U CPUs with dual channel DDR4 SODIMMs (up to 32GB), a M.2 SSD, and SATA hard drive (on some models). Networking is handled by a soldered down Intel’s Wireless AC + BT 4.2 WiFI NIC and an Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC.

Connectivity includes two USB 3.0 ports (one charging), a Micro SDXC card slot, 3.5mm audio jack, and an IR port on the front. Rear IO is made up of two more USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 2.0 video output, Gigabit Ethernet port, and a USB 3.1 (Gen1 5Gbps) Type-C port with support for DisplayPort 1.2 (DisplayPort Alt Mode). Finally, users can get access two USB 2.0 ports via an internal header.

Arches Canyon will be the new budget NUC option in 2017 and will be powered by Intel’s Apollo Lake SoC. Arches Canyon is the same 115 x 111 x 51mm size as the higher end Baby Canyon NUC, but the reference Intel chassis will be primarily made of plastic to reduce cost. Moving to the lower end platform, users will lose out on the USB 3.1 Type-C port, M.2 slot, and DDR4 support. Instead, the Arches Canyon NUCs will use dual channel DDR3L (up to 8GB) and come in two models: one with 32GB of built-in eMMC storage and one without. Both models will support adding in a SATA SSD or hard drive though.
External IO includes four USB 3.0 ports (two front, two rear, one charging), two 3.5mm audio jacks (the rear port supports TOSLINK), one Micro SDXC slot, one HDMI 2.0 video output, a VGA video out, and a Gigabit Ethernet port.

Internally, Arches Canyon is powered by Celeron branded Apollo Lake SoCs which are the successor to Braswell and feature Goldmont CPU cores paired with Gen 9 HD Graphics. Intel has not announced the specific chip yet, but the chip used in these budget NUCs will allegedly be a quad core model with a 10W TDP. Apollo Lake in general is said to offer up to 30% more CPU and GPU performance along with 15% better battery life over current Braswell designs. The battery savings are not really relevant in a NUC, but the performance improvements should certainly help!

One interesting contradiction in these Intel slides is that the Baby Canyon slide mentions Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) and USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) support for the USB Type-C connector but in the connectivity section limits the USB 3.1 Type-C port to Gen 1 (5Gbps) and no mention of Thunderbolt support at all. I guess we will just have to wait and see if TB3 will end up making the cut!

The new NUCs look promising in that they should replace the older models at their current price points (for the most part) while offering better performance which will be especially important on the low end Arches Canyon SKUs! Being NUCs, users will be able to buy them as barebones kits or as systems pre-loaded with Windows 10.

If the chart is accurate, both Baby Canyon and Arches Canyon will be launched towards the end of the year with availability sometime in early to mid 2017. There is no word on exact pricing, naturally.

Are you still interested in Intel’s NUC platform? Stay tuned for more information as it comes in closer to launch!

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Source: FanlessTech

The winnowing begins; move what you want to keep off of OneDrive

Subject: General Tech | July 15, 2016 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, onedrive

Starting today and wrapping up by the 27th of July, Microsoft will be deleting files from your free OneDrive accounts until you are under the 5GB limit.  If you did follow our previous coverage and grandfathered your storage you will keep your 30GB but it would not be a bad plan to keep an eye on your account over the next few weeks.  The Register reminds us that we are all suffering because of a tiny minority of users who abused the storage policy, instead of Microsoft deleting files from users such as the one who had 75TB of files stored on the service they decided to delete everyone's storage.

As I remind my users when the network drives get full, you will be much happier if you chose the files which are deleted as I am more than happy to hit CTRL-A and Delete to make space.

OneDrive.jpg

"Microsoft is cutting its free 15GB OneDrive cloud storage space down to 5GB, and eliminating the 15GB free camera roll for many users. Files will be deleted by Redmond until your account is under the free limit."

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Source: The Register

Ansel arrives and NVIDIA holds a celebration in their VR Funhouse

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2016 - 06:06 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, vr funhouse, ansel, vrworks

A while back Scott wrote about NVIDIA's Ansel, a screenshot application on performance enhancing drugs.  Today it arrives, paired with their new driver and adds support for Mirror's Edge Catalyst to the list of supported games such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Unreal Tournament, Tom Clancy’s The Division, and No Man’s Sky just to name a few.  The tool allows you to take 360 degree screen captures, allowing you to completely rotate around the image on a 2D screen or with VR headsets like the Vive or Rift.  Just trigger the recording while you are in game, the game will pause and you can roll, zoom, and position your focus to get the screenshot you want.  From there hit the Super Resolution button and your screenshot will be of significantly greater quality than the game ever could be.  The thumbnail below is available in its original 46080x25920 resolution by visting NVIDIA's Ansel page, it is a mere 1.7GB in size.

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NVIDIA also released their first game today, a VR Funhouse available on Steam for no charge ... apart from the HTC Vive and minimum hardware requirements of an GTX 1060 and i7 4790 or the recommended GTX 1080 and i7 5930, which are enough of an investment as it is.  There are seven games to play, expect skeet shooting, whack a mole and other standard carny games.  At the same time it is a showcase of NVIDIA's VR technology, not just the *Works which we are familiar with but also VR SLI support for those with multiple GPUs and VRWorks Multi-res Shading which reduces processing load by only rendering full detail to objects within your field of view.  If you have the hardware you should check out the game, it is certanly worth the admission price.

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Source: NVIDIA