Remember Beyond 2000? The internet does, much to NEC's dismay

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2015 - 12:29 PM |
Tagged: wearable computing, amusing

If you are under the age of 30 then this post will be lost on you but for those of us conscious, or at least semi-conscious of the heady times which were the 90's there was an Aussie show called Beyond 2000 (or Towards 2000) which was picked up by Discovery Channel back when before it became a reality show channel.  They tried to predict the technologies which would be commonplace in the new millennium and was very interesting to those of us interested in technology.  Of course, like all other shows which try to predict the future, looking back on them from 20 years into the future is cringe-worthy and more than a little amusing.  Grab a beverage and a snack and check out the shows predictions on wearable tech and fashion over at MAKE:Blog.  Then feel shame at how cool you thought these were back in the 90's.


"This segment on wearable computing is from a 1992 episode of the Australian tech futurism show Beyond 2000 (and replayed in the states on the Discovery Channel for those of you that remember). It starts with a fashion show (like you do) featuring a number of wearable computing devices designed by Hideki Takamasa of Japanese company NEC."

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Source: MAKE:Blog

NVIDIA Jetson TX1 Will Power Autonomous Embedded Devices With Machine Learning

Subject: General Tech | November 12, 2015 - 02:46 AM |
Tagged: Tegra X1, nvidia, maxwell, machine learning, jetson, deep neural network, CUDA, computer vision

Nearly two years ago, NVIDIA unleashed the Jetson TK1, a tiny module for embedded systems based around the company's Tegra K1 "super chip." That chip was the company's first foray into CUDA-powered embedded systems capable of machine learning including object recognition, 3D scene processing, and enabling things like accident avoidance and self-parking cars.

Now, NVIDIA is releasing even more powerful kit called the Jetson TX1. This new development platform covers two pieces of hardware: the credit card sized Jetson TX1 module and a larger Jetson TX1 Development Kit that the module plugs into and provides plenty of I/O options and pin outs. The dev kit can be used by software developers or for prototyping while the module alone can be used with finalized embedded products.


NVIDIA foresees the Jetson TX1 being used in drones, autonomous vehicles, security systems, medical devices, and IoT devices coupled with deep neural networks, machine learning, and computer vision software. Devices would be able to learn from the environment in order to navigate safely, identify and classify objects of interest, and perform 3D mapping and scene modeling. NVIDIA partnered with several companies for proof-of-concepts including Kespry and Stereolabs.

Using the TX1, Kespry was able to use drones to classify and track in real time construction equipment moving around a construction site (in which the drone was not necessarily programmed for exactly as sites and weather conditions vary, the machine learning/computer vision was used to allow the drone to navigate the construction site and a deep neural network was used to identify and classify the type of equipment it saw using its cameras. Meanwhile Stereolabs used high resolution cameras and depth sensors to capture photos of buildings and then used software to reconstruct the 3D scene virtually for editing and modeling. You can find other proof-of-concept videos, including upgrading existing drones to be more autonomous posted here.

From the press release:

"Jetson TX1 will enable a new generation of incredibly capable autonomous devices," said Deepu Talla, vice president and general manager of the Tegra business at NVIDIA. "They will navigate on their own, recognize objects and faces, and become increasingly intelligent through machine learning. It will enable developers to create industry-changing products."

But what about the hardware side of things? Well, the TX1 is a respectable leap in hardware and compute performance. Sitting at 1 Teraflops of rated (FP16) compute performance, the TX1 pairs four ARM Cortex A57 and four ARM Cortex A53 64-bit CPU cores with a 256-core Maxwell-based GPU. Definitely respectable for its size and low power consumption, especially considering NVIDIA claims the SoC can best the Intel Skylake Core i7-6700K in certain workloads (thanks to the GPU portion). The module further contains 4GB of LPDDR4 memory and 16GB of eMMC flash storage.

In short, while on module storage has not increased, RAM has been doubled and compute performance has tripled for FP16 compute performance and jumped by approximately 40% for FP32 versus the Jetson TK1's 2GB of DDR3 and 192-core Kepler GPU. The TX1 also uses a smaller process node at 20nm (versus 28nm) and the chip is said to use "very little power." Networking support includes 802.11ac and Gigabit Ethernet. The chart below outlines the major differences between the two platforms.

  Jetson TX1 Jetson TK1
GPU (Architecture) 256-core (Maxwell) 192-core (Kepler)
CPU 4 x ARM Cortex A57 + 4 x A53 "4+1" ARM Cortex A15 "r3"
eMMC 16 GB 16 GB
Compute Performance (FP16) 1 TFLOP 326 GFLOPS
Compute Performance (FP32) - via AnandTech 512 GFLOPS (AT's estimation) 326 GFLOPS (NVIDIA's number)
Manufacturing Node 20nm 28nm
Launch Pricing $299 $192

The TX1 will run the Linux For Tegra operating system and supports the usual suspects of CUDA 7.0, cuDNN, and VisionWorks development software as well as the latest OpenGL drivers (OpenGL 4.5, OpenGL ES 3.1, and Vulkan).

NVIDIA is continuing to push for CUDA Everywhere, and the Jetson TX1 looks to be a more mature product that builds on the TK1. The huge leap in compute performance should enable even more interesting projects and bring more sophisticated automation and machine learning to smaller and more intelligent devices.

For those interested, the Jetson TX1 Development Kit (the full I/O development board with bundled module) will be available for pre-order today at $599 while the TX1 module itself will be available soon for approximately $299 each in orders of 1,000 or more (like Intel's tray pricing).

With CUDA 7, it is apparently possible for the GPU to be used for general purpose processing as well which may open up some doors that where not possible before in such a small device. I am interested to see what happens with NVIDIA's embedded device play and what kinds of automated hardware is powered by the tiny SoC and its beefy graphics.

Source: NVIDIA

Thrustmaster Offers T300 Servo Base as a Standalone Product

Subject: General Tech | November 11, 2015 - 06:39 PM |
Tagged: wheel, tx f458, TX, Thrustmaster, T500, T300RS, t300 base, T300, 599XX Alcantara

Seems we have been on a bit of a Thrustmaster kick as of late?  We are not really complaining as there are certainly some interesting products that the company offers.  The latest product is not new, but how it is presented is.  Thrustmaster has traditionally bundled all of the different parts of the wheel together, but for the past few years they have worked on expanding the wheel ecosystem so users can upgrade certain pieces at will.

T300 Servo Base.png

This is all well and good, but users might find that they are throwing their money away by not recycling or reselling the parts they were upgrading.  Bought the TX F458 and want to purchase the shifter?  Go for it, but you need to buy the 3 pedal unit as the F458 kit only includes a two pedal unit.  Upgrade to the leather GT wheel or the new 599XX Alcantara edition?  Might as well throw the stock wheel in the closet, never to be seen again.

Choice is a good thing, so Thrustmaster is now offering its more moderately priced base unit, the T300, as a standalone part.  This will allow users to purchase a good quality base all the while picking and choosing what other components to use.  The base price is $249 US.

The T300 base unit features a strong brushless motor with the dual belt pulley system.  This base unit is an upgrade from the TX base that is included with my previously reviewed TX F458 Italia Edition wheel set.  It features the full 1080 degrees of rotation vs. the TX’s 900 degrees.  The motor also looks to be larger and stronger than the TX.  The base unit is compatible with the PS3/PS4, and the PC.  It also features the H.E.A.R.T sensor that utilizes the Hall Effect to provide a contact-less sensor that should last nearly forever.  It features the 16 bit sensor giving over 65,000 values around the axis.  Xbox 1 users will have to rely on the TX base unit as the T300 is not compatible with that system.

T300 Servo Base Ecosystem.jpg

Thrustmaster's competitor Fanatec has been selling the base units by themselves for quite some time, so it is nice to see Thrustmaster offer customers the same flexibility.  One thing must be noted though, the T300 is significantly less expensive than the lowest priced Fanatec base units that are currently available.

Click here to read the entire press release.


Source: Thrustmaster

Fallout 4 performance at the high end

Subject: General Tech | November 11, 2015 - 06:36 PM |
Tagged: R9 FuryX, nvidia, GTX 980 Ti, gaming, fallout 4, amd

[H]ard|OCP tested out the performance of the 980 Ti and FuryX in single card configurations as multiple GPU support is non-existent in Fallout 4, some have had moderate success with workarounds which [H] mentions at the end of the review.  At launch it seems NVIDIA's card offers significantly better performance overall, hopefully that delta will decrease as patches and drivers are rolled out.  As far as features go, enabling godrays has a huge effect on performance for both cards and FXAA is the best performing AA when displaying a wide variety of terrain, close forested areas allowed TAA to narrow the gap.  As to the game itself, as of yet they do not sound overly impressed.


"Fallout 4 is out on the PC, in this preview we will take a look at performance between GeForce GTX 980 Ti and Radeon R9 Fury X as well as some in-game feature performance comparisons. We'll also take a look at some in-game feature screenshots and find out what settings are best for an enjoyable gaming experience."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

NVIDIA's new Tesla M40 series

Subject: General Tech | November 11, 2015 - 06:12 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, Tesla M40, neural net, JetsonTX1

There are a lot of colloquialisms tossed about such as AI research and machine learning which refer to the work being done designing neural nets by feeding in huge amounts of data to an architecture capable of forming and weighting connections in an attempt to create a system capable of processing that input in a meaningful way.  You might be familiar with some of the more famous experiments such as Google's Deep Dream and Wolfram's Language
Image Identification Project
.  As you might expect this takes a huge amount of computational power and NVIDA has just announced the Tesla M40 accelerator card for training deep neural nets.  It is fairly low powered at 50-75W of draw and NVIDIA claims it will be able to deal with five times more simultaneous video streams than previous products.  Along with this comes Hyperscale Suite software, specifically designed to work on the new hardware which Jen-Hsun Huang comments on over at The Inquirer.  

At the end of the presentation he also mentioned the tiny Jetson TX1 SoC.  It has 256-core Maxwell GPU capable of 1TFLOPS, a 64-bit ARM A57 CPU, 4GB of memory and communicates via Ethernet or Wi-Fi all on a card 50x87mm (2x3.4)" in size.  It will be available at $300 when released some time early next year.


"Machine learning is the grand computational challenge of our generation. We created the Tesla hyperscale accelerator line to give machine learning a 10X boost. The time and cost savings to data centres will be significant."

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Source: The Inquirer

Toshiba's new Skylake powered Portégé series

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 9, 2015 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, portege, Skylake

The Inquirer hasn't received a model for review yet but they did get a quick peek at the new line of Portégé business laptops from Toshiba.  The new models are the 13.3" Portégé Z20t-C, 14" Portégé Z30-C, 14" Tecra Z40-C, and 15.6" Tecra Z50-C and will ship running either Windows 7 or Windows 10 depending on your preference.  From what they were told only the small Z20t-C will have the new USB 3.1 Type-C port, other models will sport USB 3.0.  One nice feature with the new Z series is that they will all use the same docking station, handy for when you are managing multiple models.  If you are looking for a new business laptop or your company is fishing for vendors then you might want to wait to check out Toshiba's new line when it officially launches.


"TOSHIBA HAS UNVEILED fresh iterations of its flagship business laptop range, the Z Series, adding Intel's latest 6th-gen Core processors."

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Source: The Inquirer

You got air in my LiOn battery! Oh wait ...

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2015 - 12:48 PM |
Tagged: Li-air, battery

Many great discoveries happen accidentally, when a scientist is attempting to create a new material or upgrade an existing one, only to stumble upon something different or to achieve the desired results in an unexpected way.  Such was the case for K M Abraham who was trying to improve the performance of LiOn batteries when one of his batteries sprung a leak and allowed air into the cells.  Over the past twenty years we have barely managed to triple the power of batteries so any advancement in battery technology is welcome even ones which seem at first to have serious drawbacks.  The problem with this particular battery design is in the formation of Li2O2 deposits as the battery discharges which will eventually render the battery nonchargeable and useless.   Read on at The Register to see how that problem has been overcome and the possible uses of this new type battery.


"Rather than try to fix the leak, Abraham investigated and discovered the first rechargeable lithium-air (Li-air) battery. So far this discovery hasn’t led to any technically viable products, but a paper published in Science from a University of Cambridge research group may be about to change that."

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Source: The Register

Be careful where your USB Type-C cords come from

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2015 - 03:53 PM |
Tagged: USB 3 Type-C

The introduction of USB 3 Type C has been welcomed by everyone who has to twist a USB cable three times before it will plug in but that reversible functionality could also pose a risk.  An engineer from that Alphabet company warns that because the new plugs and cords provide 3A power supply the cords have to have the correct resistor present to make sure that the correct amount of power flows through the cord.  After testing a variety of cables from Amazon, Benson Leung discovered some of the cheaper cables consider that resistor optional, skipping it or putting one in which cannot handle that amount of amperage.  This results in magic smoke being released from your shiny, new and expensive machine at worst and flaky connections at best.   Catch up with his testing at The Inquirer and make sure you are picking up cables with a reputable name attached to them.


"A GOOGLE ENGINEER has warned people to beware of cutting corners with the purchase of the new USB Type-C cables which are set to become the standard over the coming years."

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Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #374 - Cases for the R9 Nano, Thrustmaster T150, The End of AMD Catalyst and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2015 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, r9 nano, Lian-Li, q30, q33, Thrustmaster, T150, amd, catalyst, radeon software, crimson, game ready, GFE, ECS, LIVA X2, Braswell, Intel, fallout 4, CRYORIG

PC Perspective Podcast #374 - 11/05/2015

Join us this week as we discuss cases for the R9 Nano, Thrustmaster T150, The End of AMD Catalyst 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: - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:21:59

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:35:50 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintree­
  3. News item of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Ryan: Coin 2.0
    2. Jeremy: Rebel Galaxy … soon to be on sale
    3. Allyn: Key Ring (stop carrying around bar codes)
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Steam Launches "Item Stores"

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: valve, steam, Rust

Team Fortress 2 switched from a paid game, first seen in The Orange Box bundle, to a free-to-play title. Financially, you could say that it was supported by tips... ... tips of the hat. Some responded with a wag of their finger, but others with a swipe of their credit card. Where was I going with this? Oh right. This game put Valve on the path of microtransactions, which fuels games like DOTA 2 that aren't supported in any other way.


Each of these item payments are done in game however, even Valve games, except for one. Rust has been chosen to introduce Item Stores on Steam. If you go to Rust's store page, you will see a category called “Items available for this game”. Clicking on it brings you to “Rust Item Store”, where you can buy in-game clothing, weapons, and sleeping bags with real money. This feature is not even available on Team Fortress 2 or DOTA 2.

While there has been some parallels drawn between this and the backtracked paid mods initiative, I don't see it. This is not attempting to take third-party content, some of which was plagiarized from free, existing mods, and sell it. This is an attempt to provide a platform for in-game purchases that already exist. If there's a story, I'd say it's how the initiative launched with a third-party game, and not one of Valve's two, popular, free-to-play titles.

Source: PC Gamer