PCPer Live! Alienware M17x with Radeon HD 6990 Unboxing and Early Test

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Mobile | September 23, 2011 - 09:07 PM |
Tagged: pcper live, m17x, hd 6990, alienware

UPDATE: Shows over folks!  Thanks to those of you that stopped by and we'll be doing more of these types of things in the very near future.  Feel free to watch the reply hosted on YouTube if you want.

So, here we go.  After weeks of screwing around with a complely new studio setup at the PC Perspective office, we are going to try something new.  Consider this an ultra-alpha-beta if you will.  Come stop by our Live Stream channel below to watch us unbox and play around with the new Alienware M17x gaming laptop complete with Radeon HD 6990 graphics!  You can even use the Justin.tv chat located at http://justin.tv/pcper to talk with us live and ask questions, etc. 

Oh, and we are going to give away some random stuff sitting around the office to those of you that comment in the Justin.tv chat too, so there is that as well.  :)

Just as a side note: this is our first attempt at something like this so it might be perfect but it is more than likely going to be a bit rough arond the edges.  I am most curious though to get some feedback on what you liked, didn't like or would like to see additional or changed in this kind of process.  We aren't going to focus only on "unboxings" and stuff - far from it.  Instead expect to see live demonstrations of hardware, overclocking attempts, multi-display gaming setups and more.  If you can, please leave some feedback in the comments below!!

Note: We should be underway by 5:25pm ET or so!

Source: PCPer

Comcast Launches Low Cost Internet Essentials Program

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2011 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: Internet, Comcast, computer

This week saw the national launch of Comcast’s internet connectivity program for low income families. As a result of the Comcast-NBC merger, the company was required to create a low cost option for families in the US to connect to the internet. Dubbed the Internet Essentials program, it is undoubtedly a good thing to come out of the deal despite the more nebulous aspects.

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The Internet Essentials program entails a $9.95 plus tax per month cable connection with 1.5 Mbps download speeds and 384 Kbps upload speeds, which is a good value compared to more expensive DSL or slower dial up connections. In addition to the Internet connection, families who sign up will receive a voucher through Acer or Dell for a computer in the amount of 149.99 plus tax. While specific specifications of the computer have not been given, Comcast describes it as a netbook computer with Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and the Windows 7 Starter operating system. It may also be bundled with productivity software when available. Families will also have access to free training materials in print, online, or in person. The service will be available throughout the Comcast service area for eligible families. In order to qualify for the service, families must have at least one student eligible for free lunches through the National School Lunch Program, must not have any overdue Comcast bills or unreturned equipment, and the household must not have had Comcast service for the past 90 days. Unfortunately, those families with students who only qualify for reduced price (but not free) lunches will not qualify for the Internet Essentials program.

The ISP will begin taking customers starting in the 2011 to 2012 school year, and will continue taking on new customers for three years following the initial roll out. Customers who are already using the Internet Essentials service will continue to be eligible for it so long as at least one child is eligible for free lunches, they do not close their Comcast account, and they do not violate the company’s residential ISP service agreement.

I for one am glad to see Comcast offering this service as the Internet is becoming increasingly important for students as a learning, collaboration, and productivity tool. Students can now be on a more level playing field in their school work, and this is great news, even if Comcast was forced to offer it as a condition of their merger approval. If you are interested in or know a family that might benefit from the Internet Essentials service, please head over to the company’s website or call 1-855-8-INTERNET (1-855-846-8376) for an application.

Source: Comcast

Win a Free Drobo Storage Device at PC Perspective!!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Storage | September 22, 2011 - 08:42 PM |
Tagged: pcper, giveaway, drobo, contest

UPDATE: Just a couple more days left on this contest - we are closing entries for this Drobo at 12:01am EST on September 26th!

So you know here at PC Perspective we are big fans of backing up your data.  And one such brand of devices that helps users do that efficiently and safely is Drobo.  We are still working on our Drobo FS review here internally, but should probably check out Allyn's previous review of the 8-bay Drobo Pro to get an idea of the technology and reliability of Drobo.

But, back to the point, did we say you could win a brand new Drobo for yourself?  Yes, you can get your hands on a free Drobo FS unit by simply filling out a form and using your Twitter and Facebook accounts to spread the good word of data security!!

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What do you have to do?  It's a simple three step process:

  1. Follow @Drobo on Twitter and send a message to all your friends with the hash tags #drobo and #pcper telling them about your love of both!
    1. OR .... hit up Drobo on their Facebook page and leave a note on YOUR wall for your friends on the same topic - backing up your data and how Drobo gets it done.
  2. Finally, fill out the form at http://bit.ly/pcperdrobo to finish the job.

You will be emailed a coupon for a Drobo even if you don't win the free one, so you can still get something out this deal, right?!?

Our thanks go out to Drobo for the donations and to our loyal reader base for support PC Perspective over the years!

Source: PCPer

PC Gaming to Surpass Console Gaming in Revenue by 2015

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 22, 2011 - 06:26 PM |
Tagged: skyrim, rage, pc gaming, diablo iii, consoles, battlefield 3, batman

During a conference call with NVIDIA this week some interesting information from DFC Intelligence, "a strategic market research and consulting firm focused on interactive entertainment and the emerging video game, online game, interactive entertainment and portable game markets" according to their webiste, was revealed that paints the world of PC gaming in a much more positive light than previously expected.  By anyone's account, the coming fall and winter release schedules are going to be packed with fantastic releases:

games1.png

Courtesy NVIDIA

Several of these games, including DOTA 2, Diablo III and The Old Republic are going to be PC-only titles with others (like Battlefield 3, RAGE and Skyrim) that will without question look better and play better on the PC.  This sets up a great time for hardware companies like NVIDIA and AMD to sell system upgrades in order to maximize user experience in these titles.  

And while most gaming pundits have been telling us for years that PC gaming is dying, the report from DFC tells a different story:

games2.png

Courtesy NVIDIA

Based on revenue alone, estimates show PC gaming to surpass the sales of console games by 2014 with steady growth.  How can this be?  Have you stopped by your local Gamestop or Best Buy and seen the shelf space devoted to PC games compared to that devoted to the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii?

games3.png

Courtesy NVIDIA

Here is the key and it is something we have always suspected but haven't really been able to nail down: packaged sales are dying while digital distribution methods and new monetary game mechanics are increasing.  Because the industry's most prolific digital sales platform is notoriously tight with sales numbers (Valve's Steam), we have to depend on third party reports from DFC and others.  According to this chart, the digital sales of gaming on the PC are skyrocketing and will take PC revenues past consoles in just a few years time.  

One note here: this does NOT just include downloaded games in the traditional sense.  Instead, new pay models like the monthly subscriptions of World of Warcraft and "free to play" models that charge for upgrades and additional features are really going to be pushing the industry forward.  Looking at titles like League of Legends that claims 15 million PC gamers worldwide and others like World of Tanks and World of Planes, this trend is growing and though it differs from the "traditional" PC gaming mentality, it appears to be dominating our future.

games4.png

Courtesy NVIDIA

Many a PC gamer has lamented about the "console port" generation of games and this graph demonstrates how the power of the PC and the power of the current generation of consoles have diverged over the years.  By NVIDIA's estimates we are now about 8-9x the performance level of the Xbox 360 when compared to the GTX 580 that currently sells for about $450.  But if you look at the quality difference between something like Deus Ex: Human Revolution on the PC and the consoles, you do NOT see anything close to that kind of improvement.  Game developers have always had their hands tied by having to develop for the lowest common platform and while the PC market (when dominant) meant an upgrade cycle of 2-3 years we are now hitting a 6th year of static console gaming power.

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Unreal Engine

If we want to see games that look like THIS, a screenshot from the Unreal Engine Samaritan demo, then we need to boost the baseline and soon. 

But the numbers that DFC Intelligence provided give hope to those die-hards in the enthusiast and PC gaming community that with the expanding reach and positive growth of the PC market as a whole, developers will see this as their chance to move the medium forward beyond the status quo. 

Source: PCPer

Lucid makes good products but ought to ignore their marketing division's name suggestions

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2011 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: hyperformance, lucid

The Tech Report sat down with Offir Remez from Lucid to talk about their horribly named new product, HyperFormance.  Don't dismiss the actual technology because of the name however, instead think of it as Smarter V-Sync for your games.  This is intended to help with the tearing that can be present as frames are dropped by the video card trying to match the 60Hz refresh rate of an LCD monitor.  This is rather important when you consider the attention reviewers are now paying to those tears and dropped frames as a better way of measuring the in game performance of various GPUs.  Read on to learn about HyperFormance as well as Lucid's other recent products.

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"Lucid's new 'HyperFormance' tech may have an unfortunate name, but it still has the potential to change the way we think about GPU performance by delivering a vastly improved gaming experience through a single intelligent software algorithm."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Internet Machines' PCI-Express Patent Lawsuit Targets Numerous System Vendors

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2011 - 04:20 PM |
Tagged: Troll, pcie, PCI Express, Patent, Lawsuit

There is an expression that states "everything is bigger in Texas," and that goes double for patent lawsuits. A company by the name of Internet Machines MC LLC recently lodged a complaint with the Eastern District of Texas for alleged patent infringement by a number of OEM manufacturers, system builders, and retailers of computers containing PCI Express switching technologies. Specifically, Internet Machines holds US Patent number 7,539,190, a rather generalized patent that covers multicasting in a shared address space wherein data is stored in a buffer and then forwarded to its intended port. The companies being called to court include PLX Technology, Alienware, Dell, Samsung, and others. While the computers that are assembled using PCI Express may well be utilizing switching technology, the fact that Internet Machines is going after system assemblers and retailers-- companies that work with computers but do not design and build the motherboards and other components themselves-- instead of the standards body that designs and maintains the PCI Express standard that everyone in the industry uses raises a question of integrity on the part of Internet Machines. Are their motives true in defending their patents, or is it the method of operation of a patent troll?

 

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A diagram describing the patent in question

A system builder who wishes to remain anonymous contacted us with further details on the patent case in question. It seems that this patent showdown is not Internet Machines’ first rodeo. They have previously pursued other companies over US Patents 7,421,532 and 7,454,552 which cover switching with transparent and non-transparent ports. The case was settled in 2010, and it seems that Internet Machines (a seemingly no longer operating company) is not satisfied with the settlement. Internet Machines is moving for a jury trial in this latest round of lawsuits and concerns yet another data switching patent for PCI Express that covers multicasting in a shared address space.  It widens the net further by including numerous system builders and OEMs that build devices that contain PCI Express technology but do not deal with the PCIe standard directly. How the company has been able to patent aspects of the PCI Express standard is unclear; however, they patent is worded in such an ambiguous way that it could apply to almost anything they wanted it to.

Beyond the ambiguous use of the patent system is the issue of targeting companies that have little control over the PCI Express specification to begin with. Our source worded it best in stating that PCI Express is a standard that everyone uses. The companies targeted by Internet Machines’ recent lawsuit do not manufacture motherboards or control the PCI Express standard. “We build computers, that’s it.” What are your thoughts on the issue? Let us know in the comments below.

That's better! A psuedo Syndicate sequel that is half RTS and half global view

Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2011 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: gaming, cartel, syndicate

Over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN is an interview with Shams Jorjani who works for Paradox and is involved in the development of a game called Cartel.  If you don't quite recognize the company's name, Paradox is most well known for Magicka and Mount & Blade. His first response defines what is great about Paradox, "Well we’re making PC games! That’s what we do, right?"

Cartel won't be ready for a year or more but as it is envisioned you will be fighting Cartels (think Megacorporations) with a squad of elite troops that you kit out with the equipment you have stolen or researched.  While Jorjani doesn't like the Syndicate: Total War comparison, it might be a good way for those who have no idea what Syndicate is to grasp the concept.

cartel.jpg

"Paradox are developing a game called Cartel. The timing is interesting, because this is a game of two familiar halves: one real-time squad-based RTS action, the other on a global research and diplomacy map. And it is set in a near-future world of global mega-corporations, or “cartels”, battling for ultimate supremacy. Sound familiar? It should do. This is the antidote to EA’s new Syndicate being an FPS, and Paradox aren’t too shy about it. I talked to Paradox’s Shams Jorjani about what the Swedish publisher is up to, and whether this could be regarded as Syndicate: Total War.

Sadly, there are no images at this time. Boo."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Kepler has arrived ... sort of

Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2011 - 05:29 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, kepler, GK117, GK107

The news on the street is that two chips from NVIDIA's Kepler lineup should be arriving relatively soon, but don't get too excited.  The GK117 will be a hybrid Fermi/Kepler card, not a GPU but perhaps a powerful addition to any render farm or other application which can benefit the new architecture.  It could also just be a test chip the NVIDIA created to test the integration capabilities of the two architectures.  The GK107 seems to likely be a mobile part, something SemiAccurate dismisses quickly as it will have to compete with the integrated GPUs present in both AMD and Intel mobile chips. 

There is no sign of the Kepler everyone is waiting for, the GPU that will power NVIDIA's next generation of graphics cards.  Why haven't we seen any sign of it yet?  Drop by SemiAccurate for speculation on some of the possible reasons.

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"Nvidia has two Kepler parts taped out and likely back in house by now. They are however, not the fire-breathing big chips you would expect.

Sources tell SemiAccurate that the first Kepler chips taped out about three months after the first 28nm Fermi shrink taped out. If you remember when we exclusively told you about the dates on those about a month ago, now there are a few more details to add."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: SemiAccurate

A quick peripheral roundup, Corsair's Vengeance series

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2011 - 04:20 PM |
Tagged: corsair, Corsair Vengeance, audio, keyboard, gaming mouse

Over at Overclockers Club is a look at Corsair's Vengeance series of keyboards, mice and headsets.  They captured several slides from a recent presentation that show a brief history of Corsair's products as well as having hands on time with the newest members of the Vengeance lineup.  From the M60 mouse with a dedicated sniper button to the K60 mechanical keyboard, they've focused on the needs of gamers, not casual users.  The Vengeance 1100 headset and it's noise cancelling microphone also gets a look.

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"The M60 is Corsair's new enthusiast grade-gaming mouse that looks to improve user experience in first-person shooters. Like the M90, the M60 utilizes an Avago 5670 DPI sensor with lift-detection for real-time adjustments. However, the M60 utilizes an aluminum unibody design with an adjustable center of gravity and PTFE glide pads. Making the Vengeance M60 potentially even more powerful as a FPS tool, there is also a red "sniper" button that lowers the DPI on-the-fly. When activated, the mouse toggles between a high-speed DPI mode and a precision mode. This serves to improve accuracy when using in-game sniper rifles, and could come in handy whenever a lower DPI is required for kills."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Sort of secure socket layer

Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2011 - 04:02 PM |
Tagged: fud, SSL, tls, security

The good news about the discovery that the encryption procedure behind Secure Socket Layer and Transport Layer Security has been compromised is that the newest versions of both SSL and TLS are still safe and they have been available for a while now.  The bad news is that not only do only a tiny handful of websites utilize TLS 1.1/1.2 and SSL 3.0, most browsers don't even support the updated protocols.  Oddly Internet Explorer and Internet Information Services both support the newer protocols, though they are not enabled by default; the only one that does have TLS 1.2 enabled by default is Opera.  

You don't have to immediately switch browsers, in order for your secure connection to be compromised the attacker first has to compromise your browser or machine in order to get JavaScript code to run in your browser before they can start the decryption process.  It is not the quickest peice of programming either ... yet.  In the proof of concept that The Register references a 1000-2000 character long cookie will take about a half hour to crack, which is most likely longer than the average connection to your PayPal account will last, which is the site they used as an example.   Of course if you throw a dozen Tesla cards at it and it will probably decrypt the packets at a much quicker pace.

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"Researchers have discovered a serious weakness in virtually all websites protected by the secure sockets layer protocol that allows attackers to silently decrypt data that's passing between a webserver and an end-user browser.

The vulnerability resides in versions 1.0 and earlier of TLS, or transport layer security, the successor to the secure sockets layer technology that serves as the internet's foundation of trust. Although versions 1.1 and 1.2 of TLS aren't susceptible, they remain almost entirely unsupported in browsers and websites alike, making encrypted transactions on PayPal, GMail, and just about every other website vulnerable to eavesdropping by hackers who are able to control the connection between the end user and the website he's visiting."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: The Register