Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 07:29 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, xbox, pc gaming
The Xbox App for Windows 10 was touted as a major feature before launch, but you barely hear about it after. I will occasionally get a notification that I can record game footage, or a little pop-up after pressing the center button of my 360 controller. Other than that, I barely notice that it exists. A lot of the functionality is useful to manage their Xbox One or Xbox Live Gamertag (do they even call it that anymore?) but PC gamers barely have a reason to open it. Granted, I expect Microsoft hopes that will change after enough Xbox-aware games for Windows 10 hit market. It's early days.
Some currently use it though, and it has just received an update for them. Version 9.9.16003.00000 has added four new features, two of which implement automatic updates for friends and their activity feeds. The button to refresh is still present, which is always nice in case something goes wrong, but it shouldn't need to be pressed as the app should be pulling notifications from Microsoft's servers on its own.
The other two features are more interesting.
The Xbox App now supports “Console text entry”. This feature allows Xbox One users to type into the console's search boxes “and more” using Windows 10 devices, and, more importantly, their keyboards or keypads. A chat pad is being launched for the console soon, which plugs into the controller to give it a QWERTY keyboard, but supporting laptops is definitely nice.
The last feature is “Game progress comparison”. In the Achievements panel, you are able to click on the “compare” button to line up your achievement history next to your friends. As it turns out, Ryan has a higher score than me in Halo 3. That just won't do.
Microsoft has also announced that they will be providing a Beta app in the future, which will arrive later this month. You can pick it up from the Windows Store when it becomes available, if you want.
Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 06:28 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: cooler master, quickfire xti, mechanical keyboard
Once again, a mechanical keyboard with 104-key rollover claims to have 100% anti-ghosting, because that is expected from a marketing perspective. Once you have a key matrix that has each key isolated, which 104-key rollover strongly suggests, then ghosting cannot occur so “anti-ghosting” is meaningless. Unfortunately, keyboard companies are still compelled to advertise the feature on the box, but I hope our readers understand the difference.
Regardless, Cooler Master has launched the QuickFire XTi mechanical keyboard. It uses official Cherry MX switches, but not the Cherry MX RGB switches that were once exclusive to Corsair. Instead of 16 million colors in the typical human spectrum, it allows for 35 colors on the red-blue spectrum. This could be a problem for people who want yellow, white, or green keys, but acceptable if you'll keep it at colors in the range of red, blue, or magenta. I'm not particularly sure why they cut so much of the spectrum away, but it clearly made sense to them. The lighting can be animated, though.
Cooler Master is proud of their cable management, though. The cable is detachable with a micro USB head and braided. They also have a few different ways of routing the wire under the keyboard, allowing the cable to come out on the side that makes the most sense for your desk, which is particularly good for lefties.
The Cooler Master QuickFire XTi is available now for $150 USD. I've found it on Amazon for $123.86, though.
Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 05:05 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10
As we approach the first major update to Windows 10, Microsoft has released another build to Fast Ring users. Oddly enough, Slow Ring users have not received a single build yet, and rumors have the release scheduled for the October / November time frame. This build is bigger than some previous ones that we've seen, addressing issues from the Start Menu, Edge, Tablet Mode, first-party apps, and more.
The headlining feature is an option to increase the number of tiles that are available on Start. Currently, you are allowed to have 512 tiles, but a switch will bump that up to 2048. This will obviously help users who have a lot of different applications, but I personally find myself using Search a lot more. I would like to see Microsoft support multiple instances of the same application, so you can select between common command-line arguments without having tiles on your desktop, bringing Search and Start to parity with it.
Object RTC in Microsoft Edge is interesting from a developer perspective, though. This standard allows real-time audio and video communication, which is commonly used for applications like video conferencing -- but that is not even its most important application. The base standard, Web RTC, allows websites to create network sockets, including peer to peer. Mozilla created a game, BananaBread, which uses this -- not for audio or video chat -- but for multiplayer synchronization without a server (except to connect the initial handshake). Unfortunately, implementations that I've used is also hostile to networks without UPnP support... maybe Microsoft will push that in a good direction.
Build 10547 is available now for Fast Ring users from Windows Update.
Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 03:56 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ea, Star Wars, Star Wars Battlefront, pc gaming
EA has announced a beta for Star Wars: Battlefront, which will apparently be open for everyone. This will take place in “early October” and contain three game modes, each of the two known ones with a single map. I expect that the third, unknown mode, Drop Zone, will also come with its own map, but it could technically reuse Hoth or Tatooine from Walker Assault and Survival, respectively.
If you are not a fan of online gaming, then EA is supporting single-player Survival mode. You will apparently require an internet connection, but it is unclear whether you need to have it active to play the offline mode, while you play it. Squadron Fighter mode will not be available in the beta, but Walker Assault has a bit of aircraft play, so you should get a taste of the controls (if you can ever find an available vehicle).
EA has also mentioned their Star Wars Battlefront Companion app. This will not be some kind of Commander Mode. It will apparently have a card game and social component. It will be available during the beta as a website, but the iOS and Android app will be “prior to the release of Star Wars Battlefront”.
The game will come out on November 17th, while the beta will be available in early October.
Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2015 - 03:10 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: layoffs, hp inc, hp, hewlett-packard enterprise
As we reported a while ago, Hewlett-Packard is planning to split into two. The move will separate the consumer products into “HP Inc” and enterprise products into “Hewlett-Packard Enterprise”. This makes sense, because enterprise clients know the full name, but many consumers probably do not. At the time, it was expected to result in 5000 jobs lost, resulting in 55,000 since the upper management focused on cutting expenses. Now, about a year later, and right before the split happens, we find out that 5000 is now well over 30,000, bringing the 55,000 figure to between 85,000 and 95,000.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
These are fairly severe cuts, but it depends on how you look at it. A typical corporate restructure is around 10% of employees as a rule of thumb. If you count the slow, rolling job cuts as a single restructure, then the Hewlett-Packard Company has cut about 25% - 30% of their workforce, albeit offset by some hiring and rehiring that naturally won't be reported on as much as cuts.
If you look at this deal as a single restructure however, then it is between 10-15%, which is somewhat normal. Personally, I would say that this is the slightly more honest way of reporting on the issue. These cuts are on the severe side, but I don't think it spells trouble for the companies (although it is terrible for the employees).
Subject: General Tech | September 17, 2015 - 12:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: zune, microsoft
Much to the dismay of a certain PCPer, Zune is passing off this mortal coil as yet another iTunes killer that turned out not to live up to the creators hopes. As of November 15th Zune services will be retired which means no new music or streaming for owners of the MP3 player. You will still be able to play music as long as it is not DRM protected, once the licensing servers go down the protected content will no longer be accessible in yet another glaring example of how DRM hurts those who pay for content far more effectively than it prevents theft. The Register does have some good news for those dozens of people effected, Zune Music Pass subscriptions will be converted to Groove Music Pass subscriptions.
"Come November, Microsoft is killing off Zune – the very thing that was supposed to kill off the Apple iPod and iTunes. As you may be able to tell, that execution never came about."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Retro Games on ArduinoCade Just Shouldn’t Be Possible @ Hack a Day
- Microsoft rolls out Windows 10 Mobile preview update @ The Register
- iOS 9 download problems plague iPhone and iPad users @ The Inquirer
- What's In Your Hand? This Malware Knows @ Slashdot
- NikKTech & Noctua Cool Worldwide Giveaway
Subject: General Tech | September 17, 2015 - 12:00 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: xps 12, video, TSMC, Steam Controller, r9 nano, podcast, pascal, nvidia, msi, hdplex h5, gtx 980ti sea hawk, fury x, Fiji, dell, corsair, amd
PC Perspective Podcast #367 - 09/17/2015
Join us this week as we discuss the AMD R9 Nano, a Corsair GTX 980Ti, NVIDIA Pascal Rumors and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:29:03
Week in Review:
0:03:45 The AMD Radeon R9 Nano Review
0:41:15 This week’s podcast is brought to you by Casper. Use code PCPER at checkout for $50 towards your order!
News item of interest:
1:06:25 More About HDPLEX H5
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Subject: General Tech | September 17, 2015 - 02:28 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: bittorrent, bittorrent sync, file sharing, backup files, file sync
BitTorrent, Inc. recently released a new version of its Sync application, Sync 2.2.1. This latest build introduces a new paid pricing model that is much more favorable towards personal users (more akin to the original alpha and beta versions), implements several bugfixes, and contains performance improvements over previous builds.
According to the developers, the pricing model changes in Sync 2.2+ are the result of user feedback on their forums, user surveys, and suggestions made via email and other channels. Sync will maintain the free and Pro tiers, but personal users will be getting more value. The biggest change for free users is the removal of the 10 folder limit – free licenses can create and access as many folders as they need. Sync Pro can be purchased for personal or business use. Personal use Pro licenses will no longer have access to Priority Support however it is a one time charge and there is no longer an annual subscription required. Business licenses for Sync Pro will continue to be based on an annual subscription and will retain access to Priority Support.
Only minor UI changes in the new build. Sync All has been renamed to Selective Sync and there are more buttons along the top bar, but otherwise it appears very similar to what you'd expect.
Of course, existing users can choose to keep their existing subscription(s) or switch to the new pricing model. More information on how to do that can be found in this FAQ. A detailed list of bugfixes and changes can be found here. Free users will notice that you can now see all of your connected devices. Users will also be able to see a list of locked files on a per-user basis now as well.
Sync Pro is now available for personal use for $39.99 and for business use at $39.99 per year per seat (up to 50 users). BitTorrent is offering a 25% discount until September 22, 2015 using the promo code 2.2launch.
I have been using Sync since the alpha builds, and it has been dutifully backing up all of my photos from my smartphone as well as periodically being used to sync files between my desktop and laptop. The free version has gotten a fair number of feature improvements along the way. So far, I have not felt the need to pay for the Pro version, but the removal of the yearly subscription requirement makes me much more inclined to check it out. The removal of the 10 folder limit for free users is huge though, as that artificial restriction likely turned off many users from trying out Sync. I am happy to see BitTorrent responding to user feedback.
See more BitTorrent Sync coverage at PC Perspective.
Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2015 - 02:13 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: fallout 4
You can still enjoy the lead up to the release of Fallout 4 without pre-ordering the game. Bethesda is slowly releasing videos which cover the SPECIAL system, Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck that define your character in the game. So far we have seen Strength and today the Perception video was released. We have a ways to go yet before the release, you could always look at adding mods to Fallout 3 or New Vegas to entertain yourself while you wait.
"Pretty fun, these ‘toons, aren’t they? For folks who can’t watch now or would rather have words, Perception once again governs shooty things. Higher Perception means your accuracy will be higher when using the bodypart-targeting VATS aiming mode, same as before."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Humble Total War Bundle lets you wage war to help charity @ HEXUS
- Shadowrun: Hong Kong, Until Dawn, Hearthstone expansion and more @ The Register
- What Does Kickstarter Mean in 2015? @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- RPS Feature Foot-To-Face Blood Bowl 2 Is Beautiful, Brutal And Improved @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Need for Speed PC delayed until Spring 2016 @ HEXUS
- Command & Conquer Red Alert™ 2 and Yuri’s Revenge, On the House @ Origin
- Ship-Shape: Battlefleet Gothic – Armada In-Game Trailer @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2015 - 12:49 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: hack, smartphone, Android, security
You can see in the video that The Register linked to that this particular vulnerability is neither quick nor elegant but it is most certainly effective. By entering an extremely long string of digits into the password field, accomplished with multiple copies and pastes, while the camera app is active you can cause the lock screen application to crash on all but the newest version of Android 5. Unfortunately the effect of that crash is to drop you onto the phones home screen, thus allowing complete access to the phone. If you are running a version of Android 5 you should consider switching to a PIN or pattern unlock, at least for the time being.
"If you've got an Android 5 smartphone with anything but the very latest version of Lollipop on it, it's best to use a PIN or pattern to secure your lock-screen – because there's a trivial bypass for its password protection."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- AMD appoints Belenkiy as new EMEA channel boss @ The Register
- Microsoft doles out advice on how we should have prevented Windows 10 'updategate' @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft quietly adds Windows 10 Start menu to Windows RT @ The Inquirer
- Your Best Bets for Video Playback in Linux @ Linux.com
- How To Convert Media Files in Linux @ Linux.com
- 'To read this page, please turn off your ad blocker...' @ The Register