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!

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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 braintree­payments.com/pcper
  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

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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

Bethesda Blogs Fallout 4 Graphics Features

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 4, 2015 - 09:37 PM |
Tagged: fallout 4, bethesda

Fallout 4 is just a few days from release, and the hype train is roaring into the station. Bethesda titles are particularly interesting for PC hardware websites because they tend to find a way into our benchmarking suites. They're relatively demanding, open world titles that are built with a unique engine, and they are popular. They are very, very popular. Skyrim is still in our lineup even though it launched four whole years ago (although that is mostly because it's our last DirectX 9 representative).


Being a demanding, open world title means that it has several interesting features. First, it has full time-of-day lighting and weather effects, which were updated in this release with enhanced post processing effects. A bright, daytime scene will have blue skies and a soft fog that scatters light. Materials are developed using a “Physically Based Shading” model, which is more of an artist feature, but it tends to simplify asset creation and make it much more consistent.

They also have “dynamic dismemberment using hardware tessellation”. In other words, GPUs will add detail to models as they are severed into smaller chunks. Need I say more?


A lot of these features are seen in many other engines lately, like Unreal Engine 4, so it shouldn't be too surprising. Bokeh Depth of Field is a blurring technique to emulate how camera apertures influence out-of-focus elements. This is most obvious in small highlights, which ends up taking the shape of the camera's aperture. If a camera uses a six-blade aperture, then blurred point blooms will look like hexagons. This is very useful to emulate film. They also use “filmic tonemapping”, which is another post process effect to emulate film.

Fallout 4 seems to be making use of high-end DirectX 11-era features. While this means that it should be about the best-looking game out there, it also holds a lot of promise for mods.

As you're well aware, Fallout 4 ships on November 10th (and screenshots have already leaked).

Source: Bethesda
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Thrustmaster

Fully Featured Wheel for $200 US

Gaming wheels are a pretty interesting subset of the hardware world.  It seems the vast majority of gamers out there are keyboard and mouse players, or skew towards console controllers which are relatively inexpensive as compared to joysticks or wheels.  For those that are serious about their racing games, a wheel is a must.  Sure, there are plenty of people that are good with a console controller, but that does not provide the same experience.  In fact, racing games do quite a bit of compensation when it comes to steering, acceleration, and braking when it detects a console controller.


Thrustmaster echoes the Playstation blue with their PS3/PS4/PC based T150 wheel.

This makes quite a bit of sense when we consider how many degrees of travel a thumbstick has as compared to a wheel.  Or how much travel a button has as compared to a set of pedals.  I have talked to a developer about this and they admit to giving a hand to keyboard and console controller users, otherwise cars in these games are nigh uncontrollable.  A wheel and pedal set will give much more granular control over a car in a simulation, which is crazy to think about since we use a wheel and pedal set for our daily driving…

The very basic wheels are typically small units that have a bungie or spring system to center the wheel.  They also feature a pretty limited rotation, going about 270 degrees at max.  These products might reach to the $100 level at max, but they are pretty basic when it comes to the driving experience.  There is then a huge jump to the $300 MSRP level where users can purchase the older Logitech G27 or the still current Thrustmaster TX series.

This was not always the case.  Microsoft years back had offered their Sidewinder FFB Wheel around the $200 level.  Thrustmaster also addressed this market with their now discontinued Ferrari F430 FFB wheel which had an initial MSRP of around $200.  This particular wheel was popular with the entry level gamers, but it had a pretty big drawback; the wheel was limited to 270 degrees of rotation.  This may be fine for some arcade style racers, but for those looking to expand into more sim territory had to set their sights on higher priced products.

Click here to continue reading about the Thrustmaster T150 FFB Wheel!

Fallout 4 PC Screenshots Leaked (1080p Ultra)

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 03:32 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, fallout 4, bethesda

Someone on NeoGAF got their hands on Fallout 4 screenshots. These ones are from the PC, captured at 1080p with supposedly Ultra settings. I can believe it.


Image Credit: RoboPlato on NeoGAF

Not much to be said about these, apart from “go to NeoGAF to see the rest of them”. From the spoilers side of things, near the bottom of the page, there's an image that lists a bunch of perks. It's small enough that you cannot read it unless you right-click and “view image”, so don't worry about accidentally seeing it. Otherwise, there isn't really any spoilers on that page, although I didn't check the other ones. Be careful if you start browsing the other pages of the thread.


Image Credit: RoboPlato on NeoGAF
(See the rest of the screenshots there)

They posted their system specs, but it's kind-of irrelevant. We don't know how old their build is.

Fallout 4 launches on Tuesday (the same day as StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void -- which is irrelevant to this post, but I want you all to know my pain).

Source: NeoGAF

Welcome to the Inner Sphere; Battletech makes it

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: gaming, battlefield, harebrained schemes

This will not be the Mechwarrior of old, the new Battletech game will be turn based and resemble the tabletop version of the game in more ways than the faster paced Mechwarrior and Mech Commander series.  As mentioned in the interview by Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN with Jordan Weisman, the main creator of this world the turn based play allows you to delve far deeper into managing your mechs heat, ranges, and armor exposure in combat .  Battles will also focus more on mixed forces with crunchies and quite possibly air support present on the theater in addition to your mechs.  Read the full interview for more information on what this game will look like.  It has been fully funded and all the extra tiers were reached, including an extended single player campaign and PvP battles in the Arenas of Solaris VII, you can still get in on the action on their second chance pledge page.

"This is a turn-based game, and that allows us to dive a little deeper into what makes a mech a mech. When you’re real-time, you have to kind of… not allow the player to dive into that kind of depth because there’d be too much information overflow and decision paralysis,” Weisman said."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:


The fight for a wireless power standard is down to two

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: Qi, wireless power, Airfuel Alliance, Wireless Power Consortium

We have seen several solutions for wirelessly charging your mobile devices emerge recently which cause some to worry this would create an ecosystem of incompatible solutions.  Today two of the major players in Wireless Power merged to form the Airfuel Alliance.  Those two players were supported by Broadcom, Intel, Samsung and several others while the WPC is backed by big names such as Microsoft, Motorola, Philips and Qualcomm.  WPC's branding is Qi, while AA's members use a mix of magnetic resonance and induction systems with Rezence being their widest known branding.  Currently there are products such as the Apple watch which use Qi, with Intel prototyping charging stations using AA's solutions.  With only two major players left there is much less chance of this particular market fragmenting and becoming frustrating for consumers.  Read on at The Register for more.


"The battle for wireless power supremacy is now a straight fight between two groups following the merger of the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) into the Airfuel Alliance."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk


Source: The Register

Roccat Kiro Is Very Ambidextrous

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 07:32 AM |
Tagged: roccat, gaming mouse

While it used to be next-to impossible to find ambidextrous mice with thumb buttons, it's fairly common these days. This is coming from a left-handed PC gamer. We now have several options, including a few options that are exclusively for south paws. This one is a little different, though. Roccat decided to make an ambidextrous mouse with removable covers for the thumb buttons. This change allows the user to convert the mouse from left-handed thumb buttons, to right-handed thumb buttons, to both, to neither.


Unfortunately, Roccat doesn't say exactly how many buttons there are. I'm looking specifically at the front middle. It looks like a simple scroll wheel with a single button behind it. Roccat calls the wheel a “2D Titan Wheel” but, as far as I can tell, and I've searched for quite a while about this, it's just their brand name for a high-quality, one dimensional scroll wheel. Physically speaking, a “2D scroll wheel” should have tilt, but it doesn't seem to. 2D is up, down, left, right; 1D is up and down; 0D is a point, which I guess would be a button?

Anyway, the customization feature sounds nice, but I'm not sure how useful it is in practice. It could be nice for a family, where some users are right-handed and others are left-handed. A single person is going to stick with a single handedness, though. This makes me consider other uses cases, where a single user would want to adjust their button layout for reasons other than handedness. Perhaps the user doesn't want to feel buttons under their pinky and ring finger when playing certain genres, but want it for some reason (DPI adjustment?) in other games. It's a struggle, but maybe there's a potential market for it.


This is the same mouse as above, just with its sides replaced.

On the other hand, Roccat plans to release “3D print support”. Maybe the draw was never intended to be the four included panels. Perhaps the goal is to provide a platform for users to create their own sides, and the ambidextrous nature was just the default for non-enthusiasts (or until the user gets around to making their own)?

Pricing and availability have not been announced on their website, but Tom's Hardware seems to think it's $49.99, and available November 27th. It's probably in a newsletter or press release that I missed.

Source: Roccat

Microsoft Updated Windows End of Sales Dates

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2015 - 07:05 AM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, windows 8, Windows 7, windows 10, microsoft

Officially, the only version of Windows that you can purchase standalone is Windows 10. Sales of Windows 7 ended on October 31st, 2013, and retail availability Windows 8.x ended on September 1st. Unofficially, you can find SKUs available on Amazon and elsewhere for both of these versions, and in several different editions.


PCs with Windows pre-installed follow their own calendar, though. Almost two years ago, Microsoft announced that Windows 7 PCs will be available until October 31st, 2014, with an extension for Windows 7 Professional that will be at least 12 months after... whenever they decide to announce the date. They announced the date a few days ago and, you guessed it, it's 12 months from then: October 31st, 2016. They also announced that PCs with Windows 8.1 pre-installed will have the same end of sales date.

So basically, you can only purchase Windows 10 now, and PCs will only have it pre-installed after October 31st, 2016... officially.

Source: Microsoft

Another Video About the Early Days of PC Audio

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 09:22 PM |
Tagged: sound blaster 16, Sound Blaster, pc gaming, Creative, audio, ad lib

About two weeks ago, we highlighted a video by “The 8-Bit Guy” about the earliest computer audio implementations. It focused on the engineering side, how a series of channels, made up of square waves, triangles waves, noise, and occasionally PCM recordings, could be mixed to generate sound.

This video discusses a similar era from a slightly different perspective. Beep is a documentary video and book series that started on Kickstarter. This segment is an interview with Rich Heimlich, the person behind the company Top Star. They did third-party QA for video game companies. He was approached by Martin Prevel, a professor at Université Laval in Quebec, who had the idea of an add-in sound card. It used the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip, which you might remember from The 8-Bit Guy's video.

The interview delves into the more business aspects of the industry, though. For example, one of Ad Lib's biggest issues was that PCs did not have a lot of room for expansion. It was difficult to convince the consumer to give up a whole ISA add-in slot for audio. Heimlich remembers a strong consumer backlash against dedicated audio that they needed to overcome. Gamers needed to choose between sound, clock, storage, and so forth. Beyond that, the PC, with software like LOTUS 123, brought hardware that wasn't just considered “a toy” into the home. It brought a huge wave of hardware in, but it wasn't considered a serious gaming platform until titles like Myst came out for them.


At some point, Creative noticed this whole situation. They contacted Rich Heimlich and showed them the “Killer” (later “Sound Blaster”) card. The switch in power from Ad Lib to Creative was interesting, which Heimlich says had nothing to do with the digital audio feature, since that was not even used until two years after Creative surpassed Ad Lib in market share. He attributes it to the initial problem, which is a lack of add-in card real estate. The Sound Blaster had a GamePort, which let users justify filling that socket with both audio and a joystick port, which would be two sockets with Ad Lib's solution. It was also cheaper than the Ad Lib.

The interview goes on to discuss the Ad Lib vs Creative war to their next-generation product, Ad Lib Gold vs Sound Blaster 16. He alleges that, since Creative had better connections within Yamaha, they kept Ad Lib's card out of certification until Sound Blaster 16 was in the market. It then continues to talk about reverse-engineering “Sound Blaster-compatible” and so forth. It then continues for a while, even talking about OS/2 at the end of it.

It is definitely worth a view.

Source: Beep