Put a Kaiburr crystal in your mouse and the Force will be with you

Subject: General Tech | December 15, 2011 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: input, gaming mouse, SWTOR, gaming headset, razer

We saw a BF3 branded gaming peripheral kit not long after the arrival of the game and you can get your hands on a Diablo 3 branded kit already, even though we are still awaiting the release of that game.  Now Razer offers some love to fans of Star Wars: The Old Republic with a new mousepad, mouse and headset kit all bearing a familiar logo.  The mouse is based on the Naga and has a 5600dpi sensor, 17 programmable buttons and both wired and wireless capabilities.  Most important the LEDs can switch between red or blue (well, 16 million colours total) as well as changing the logo to properly advertise the side you have chosen.  The headset uses 50mm drivers and also sports changeable logos and LED colours, though the mousepad lacks that ability.  Along with the pack, Hardware Heaven points out that you get a colour change crystal for use in game to change the colour of your blaster bolts and lightsaber blade.

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"Every big game release can be enhanced by a set of quality devices which tie in with the overall feel of the franchise and that is exactly what Razer aim to deliver with their The Old Republic gaming gear. We have the mouse, headset and mouse mat on our test bench today for a detailed look at what they offer for The Old Republic gamer."

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Can your smartphone deal with 100,000 triangles per frame? Find out with Rightware OpenGL ES Halti

Subject: General Tech | December 15, 2011 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: ES Halti, opengl, Basemark ES 2.0, rightware

The mobile reviews at PC Perspective tend to use SunSpider and Vellamo we also use a RightWare product called BrowserMark to test the responsiveness of smart phones and tablets.  RightWare now has a new tool for reviewers and those who tweak their phones, Basemark Halti which tests OpenGL performance.  This is of huge importance for those who want to have high quality gaming performance on their phones.  The first benchmark is called Rush and is reminiscent of Mirror's Edge, which is quite on purpose as the benchmark is intended to replicate PC quality character rendering.   The second involves a car racing around a track, a common type of gaming on a phone that contains an accelerometer.  Again, this is intended to push the ability of your phone as far as it can go.  AnandTech doesn't have the benchmarking software yet but you can bet it will be in their reviews for 2012.

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"GPU benchmarking on the smartphone side of things is continuing to heat up, and today RightWare, maker of both BrowserMark and the very popular Basemark ES 2.0 (which are regular fixations in our smartphone reviews), has announced its OpenGL ES Halti benchmark, named Basemark Halti. Basemark Halti is slated to launch in 2012 for testing OpenGL ES Halti on devices coming in the near future."

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Source: AnandTech

CUDA been done sooner! NVIDIA open sources CUDA platform

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | December 15, 2011 - 04:03 AM |
Tagged: CUDA

NVIDIA lays as the current front-runner for the “Last Year’s Best Decision, This Year” award. You may remember our coverage last June of the AMD Fusion Developer Summit; industry members such as ARM, Microsoft, and of course AMD discussed the potential of utilizing specialized processors and developing on open platforms such as OpenCL and Microsoft’s announced C++ AMP. Do you know what would have been an amazing announcement for AFDS to stomp OpenCL and C++ AMP? That NVIDIA would open up CUDA. Know what announcement missed that bus by a whole half a year? NVIDIA will open up CUDA.

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Your platform pooh-pooh? Bear a CUDA.

While I just harassed NVIDIA for their timing, it might not be too late. CUDA is still a powerhouse of a GPGPU platform with substantial software support from absolute mammoth software packages such as Adobe Creative Suite to smaller projects like KGPU. With the open sourcing of the CUDA compiler, NVIDIA is also permitting manufacturers like AMD and even Intel to support CUDA with their GPUs, x86 CPUs, and other processing units. While I am excited at this outcome, I am still somewhat confused about NVIDIA’s timing: they are just a little late to open up and crush the market, and they seem quite abrupt if they originally intended CUDA to survive as a forever-proprietary computing platform.

Source: NVIDIA

Google Extending Free Domestic Gmail Calling Another Year

Subject: General Tech | December 15, 2011 - 01:09 AM |
Tagged: voip, google, gmail

Just in time for the holidays, Google is extending the free domestic calling via the Gmail VOIP service another year. Last year the company extended the free computer to telephone VOIP service another year and now they are doing it again. “This is our way of helping you connect with friends and family across the country,” states their recent blog entry.

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In case you haven’t used the Gmail VOIP service yet, it is similar to the computer to computer and computer to cellphone (or land line) calling that you can do in Google Voice, only this is integrated into Gmail. It does require a small browser plug-in; however, it is worth it. Accessing it by clicking on the “Call a phone” link in the Gmail sidebar (in the chat/SMS section), you are able to put that headset to work by calling anyone in the US and Canada for free. I’ve used it a couple of times and found it to be rather handy for quick conversations while at my computer. Have you tried it out yet, and did you find it useful?

Source: Google

Holy failed patch Batman!

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2011 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: gaming, dx11, batman arkham city

Batman makes it three for three as far as failed patches go for the current major releases.  Battlefield's patch was probably the best of the three, Skyrim being the worst with Batman's simply failing to deliver what it promised ... improved DX11 performance.  [H]ard|OCP recently reviewed the original game and now has published the results of their testing with the new patch.  The good news is that most of the stuttering and crashes have been fixed, leaving only significantly lower performance when in DX11 mode compared to DX9.  Originally you could expect a 50% reduction in fps when enabling DX11 and NVIDIA users can expect the same results at this point, AMD users will see their performance reduced by even more than pre-patch though the game its self should be more stable.  If you want to run Batman Arkham Asylum at high resolution, you better have two GPUs.

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"Days after our Batman: Arkham City Gameplay Performance and IQ review was published, the game was patched. The patch was ostensibly reported to fix DirectX 11 performance problems plaguing the game, but does it really do the trick? Where do our DX11 video cards stand now?"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Bad for reviewers, great for gamers ... AMD will allow non-reference Tahiti graphics cards

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2011 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: tahiti, radeon, pitcairn, overclock, HD7000, amd

One quickly forgets about the initially released reference GPUs once the cards with custom coolers, capacitors and PCBs arrive on the market all cool and factory overclocked.  Usually the original GPU and card designer, in this case AMD, licenses theit top tier partners, like MSI , Gigabyte or Sapphire, to sell cards following a design that AMD provides along with the license to design and sell the cards.  As SemiAccurate points out, this has lead to a market where the only unique feature they can add is usually armed and wearing a bikini.  After the card has been on the market for a while, then AMD allows non-reference designs to appear for some cards from some manufacturers.

Not so with one of the four lineups of GPUs soon to arrive on the market, AMD will be freeing us from the tyranny of Ruby in different outfits and allow their partners to modify the Tahiti Pro cards from the get go.  Expect to see a large difference in the appearance and specifications of AMD's new high end series of cards.  That is the only one of the four to get this treatment, Tahiti, Pitcairn and Pitcairn XT cards will still come out only as copies of the reference card design.  This may change over time but for now the idea of custom cooler, power distribution and PCB design is something to look forward to in the coming years.

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"Back to the new news, and it concerns the Tahiti Pro card. Word has reached SemiAccurate that Tahiti Pro will be unconstrained to the normal reference designs. If you recall, most GPU manufacturers will force AIBs to make cards based on the reference design for the first 3 months or so, and there are a variety of very good business reasons to do this.

Unfortunately, it leads to a problem where the reviews all are the same, mainly because all the cards are the same. The main difference between manufacturers comes down to what color the AIB decides to put on the chrome bikini of the girl with the big sword riding the mythical beast just below their logo. We are partial to Hafnium bikini’s on women riding giant Were-moles around here. Luckily, Tahiti Pro changes this."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Are you part of the 5% ... that won't be able to find a hard drive?

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2011 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: hdd, shortage, thailand

DigiTimes has been doing some good old fashioned investigative journalism and has come up with some (almost) good news about HDD shortages.  With the news coming out of Western Digital that they are set to resume HDD manufacturing sooner than was originally projected, along with the factories that produce parts for other hard drive manufacturers, DigiTimes predicts a 5% supply gap by Q2 2012.  This significant improvement will come too late for the Christmas season, which is why companies like Intel are lowering their economic outlook for this and the next quarter.  With a shortage of hard drives to put in machines comes a lowered demand for all other system components, the exception being machines utilizing only SSDs which do not make up a significant portion of the market.  By the third quarter of 2012, DigiTimes predicts a return to normalcy in the global supply of hard drives.  By that point we should also have a good idea how hard motherboard, CPU, GPU and other companies have been affected by the flooding in Thailand and subsequent shortages.

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"Thailand's floods in early October, have created strong impact toward the hard disk drive (HDD) supply chain, causing many PC brand vendors to miss business opportunities in the fourth quarter, the traditional peak season, but Digitimes Research senior analyst Joanne Chien believes hard drive capacity will see an obvious improvement starting February 2012 after experiencing the most serious shortages in December 2011 and January 2012.

Because brand vendors are already out of HDD inventory, shipment volumes of devices with HDDs in the first quarter of 2012 will remain at a similar level as in the fourth quarter of 2011, with the HDD supply gap to remain at about four million units. In the fourth quarter, brand vendors together have a total inventory volume of about 20 million units.

Benefiting from their crisis management capabilities, Western Digital and affected upstream HDD component makers are expected to restore 70% of their total capacity by March 2012, three months earlier than their original forecast."

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Source: DigiTimes

How much of PCI-E 3.0 is just marketing speak right now

Subject: General Tech | December 12, 2011 - 12:15 PM |
Tagged: PCI-E 3.0

You have likely noticed motherboards arriving on the market which claim to support PCI-E 3.0, doubling the bandwidth to 8 giga-transfers and bringing an end to the PCI-E 2.x we all know and love.  The problem lies in the lack of any add in cards which are also PCI-E 3.0 compliant; current generation cards will work in the slot but they will not see the full speed of the new standard.  Does this mean that buying a motherboard with the new standard is an investment for the future when an SSD or graphics card arrives on the market or would you just be wasting money on a marketing ploy?  That is the question Hardware Secrets asks in their recent article.

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"Recently, motherboard manufacturers have been fighting their hardest to differentiate their products from one another in an effort to re-invigorate the stagnant PC business. A lot of this messaging has taken a very aggressive turn, where companies have blatantly called out or attacked competing products for not being the real deal or being up-to-speed."

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HP bled some money, so they open sores their Palms.

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 11, 2011 - 03:52 AM |
Tagged: webOS, open source, hp

Sure, this title is little more than a series of bad puns. That said, HP’s situation has recently seems like little more than a series of bad jokes itself. Over the last year, HP appears to have been their own biggest public image disaster: they purchased Palm to release a tablet without much platform support; they shut down and liquidate the tablet after seven weeks; they flirt with disbanding their entire profitable division and draw intense media discussion over the death of the entire PC industry; and they sharply change their mind and keep their division long after the media damage ends. Despite that spiraling-out-of-control story, HP has just recently made a surprisingly sensible decision: Open Source WebOS.

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WebOS… Web Open Source… I get it now!

Obviously, we cannot tell exactly how good of a long-term decision it is for HP to support WebOS as an open project with the details we have now. A number of questions, not the least of which being about what open source license HP will use for their operating system, shroud the fate of WebOS as an open source platform. While I will not get excited yet, as I will not assume sensibility on the part of HP, it is entirely possible that HP can displace Android and Meego as the open mobile operating systems. Then again, it is entirely possible that HP can just crumble under Android and its other competitors and go back to cramming drops of ink into plastic containers and building large servers for corporate clients.

Depending on the license, as well as other factors, what do you think of WebOS as the open platform of choice?

Source: HP

SETI@Home rises again with the reopening of the Allen Telescope Array

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2011 - 11:57 AM |
Tagged: seti, boinc

Last Spring U.C. Berkeley pulled their funding from the SETI Institute which lead to the closure of the Allen Telescope Array, part of the Hat Creek Observatory.  It has finally reopened and is once again searching the stars for a variety of objects thanks to public donations and interest by the US Air Force.  SETI is not just about searching for radio signals from the stars, it has discovered pulsars and exoplanets as well as contributing to the search for water on other planets. 

The interest shown by the Air Force has less to do with space aliens and more to do with the awareness of near earth objects such as satellites and orbiting ships.  In among the data that would be collected by the array would be positional information of these orbital objects. The extra accuracy would hopefully allow much better predictions as to the time and location that objects falling from orbit will arrive on Earth, such as happened recently

Consider helping out by dropping by the BOINC Forum and joining the PC Perspective SETI@Home team.

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"MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) is once again searching planetary systems for signals that would be evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Among its first targets are some of the exoplanet candidates recently discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

“This is a superb opportunity for SETI observations,” said Jill Tarter, the Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute. “For the first time, we can point our telescopes at stars, and know that those stars actually host planetary systems – including at least one that begins to approximate an Earth analog in the habitable zone around its host star. That’s the type of world that might be home to a civilization capable of building radio transmitters.”"

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Source: SETI