Coolermasters new mouse for the small of hand

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2011 - 03:26 PM |
Tagged: cooler master, storm xornet, gaming mouse

Measuring only 4"x4.2"x1.3" the new CoolerMaster Storm Xornet is not one of the larger gaming mice on the market. It still sports the 2000 DPI Storm Tactical Optical Sensor common to CoolerMaster's eSports line, which means it certainly qualifies as a gaming mouse.  High Tech Legion were surprised how quickly they got used to the claw style grip that this mouse encourages and did not mind the new position at all, pointing out that the rest for your pinky finger.  For $30 this shrunken version of the CoolerMaster Storm Spawn gets their recommendation.

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"The CM Storm Xornet is a basic gaming mouse designed for claw-grip users. The CM Storm Xornet’s shell is essentially a black version of the CM Storm Spawn but internally, the CM Storm Xornet is outfitted with the Avago ADNS-3050 optical LED sensor with adjustable DPI settings of 500, 1000 (default) and 2000. Similar to the CM Storm Spawn, the CM Storm Xornet features long-lasting Omron micro-switches with a lifetime span of 5,000,000 clicks. Whether you are an e-Sports athlete or just a hardcore gamer, the CM Storm Xornet will fit your needs and your budget."

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Of hens teeth and hard drives

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2011 - 11:42 AM |
Tagged: hdd, thailand, flooding, western digital, Samsung

According to SemiAccurate both Western Digital and Samsung will cease shipping hard drives to suppliers and retailers because of the devastating flooding in Thailand.  Both companies need to find a new source for head stacks and drive motors and Western Digital will need temporary manufacturing facilities while they wait for the flood waters to recede and repairs to start on their damaged factory.  Expect to see this have large effects on the industry as major suppliers like Dell, Acer, ASUS and HP do not tend to keep large supplies of hard drives lying around in storage which means that only the models with SSDs inside will be able to be manufactured and shipped out.  That reduction in production in turn will effect motherboard, GPU and CPU manufacturers as the demand for their products drop.  While you will not convince the 11,000+ Thai people who have been displaced by the flooding that the fate of Western Digital's factory is the biggest impact of this disaster, for many in the western world it is the only reason they are paying attention to this story.

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"According to sources that we have spoken with in the Taiwanese market both Samsung and Western Digital have decided to suspend shipments of disk drives to PC makers in Taiwan due to a parts shortage."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Amazon Adds Free Kindle Book Lending To Amazon Prime Service

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2011 - 03:56 AM |
Tagged: mobile, lending, kindle, ebook. book, devices

Amazon has launched a new service to augment its existing Amazon Prime subscription service this week that is sure to please ebook fans who happen to own a Kindle e-Reader. The new service dubbed the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library adds a free ebook renting option for Kindle devices.

The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a subscription service like the Amazon Prime Instant Video service, except that instead of videos, Amazon will let you rent one book from the lending library for free. And as long as you maintain the Prime membership, you can keep the book for as long as you need to finish it. Once you’re done, you are able to turn in the book and exchange it for another ebook. Another plus is that any highlighting and bookmarking done to the borrowed books will remain persistent across rentals, meaning if you ever re-borrow the book all of your markups will remain intact.

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There are some caveats to the rental service, however. You may have noticed that I emphasized the term “lending library” when describing the service. I did this because (again, much like instant video rentals) the ebooks that you are allowed to rent will be from a smaller subset of the library of Kindle books that you are able to purchase outright. Amazon is looking to expand the library of books that you will be able to rent; however, in some respects book publishers can be more restrictive (and old fashioned) than members of the RIAA and MPAA are in allowing their content on subscription services. According to Tom’s Hardware, amazon is, in some cases, being required to buy a title outright from the publisher every time it is rented (!). The company has said that it is even going to these extremes to try and show publishers the benefits of incremental growth in audience and revenue that can be achieved with such a lending (subscription) service.

The other caveat is that Amazon is currently only offering free rentals to Prime members who own Kindles, meaning that users of the smartphone and Kindle PC applications are out of luck. Further, there are restrictions on the Prime accounts that are eligible. Naturally, a full Amazon Prime account is required, meaning that you must be the primary account holder to use this service. It is unclear at this point whether the discounted student versions of Prime will be able to use this service (I’ve hear conflicting reports where some are saying they’ve gotten it to worth and some people have reported that it is not working for them).

Despite the caveats listed above, should Amazon’s subscription service be a success (I think it will be), it will likely entice other platforms to adopt similar subscription services. Once Barnes and Noble, Sony, and Amazon all integrate some sort of subscription services, book publishers will (hopefully) be forced to make more content available. For now though, the Amazon juggernaut will have to brute force it’s way into a decent subscription library. If you are curious about the titles offered, you can see the selection here. There are a few top 100 bestseller books as well, and the library can only grow from here. Will you be checking out the new rental system with your Kindle?

AMD lays off 10-12% of workforce, new CEO cleans house

Subject: General Tech, Processors | November 3, 2011 - 08:22 PM |
Tagged: layoffs, amd

We have been discussing AMD’s condition and future outlook over most of recent memory. Since the lawsuit versus Intel and the subsequent trying by the Big Blue Giant: AMD’s apparent jab-haymaker combo of lawsuit-Sempron to push heavily in the consumer market seems to have been mostly dodged and countered by Intel. While this last quarter has been positive there is little time for positive press; AMD has, today, removed 1400 employees from their company.

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There was a time that AMD said they could beat anything Intel could throw at them.

That means that what AMD is releasing now is as-good or better than where they thought CPUs would be.

Food for thought.

It is not very uncommon to see layoffs during restructuring in the 10% range when a new CEO enters a company. The sad part of restructuring is that there is often little consideration about which employees comprise that 10%; rather, their job descriptions. These layoffs in isolation do not say much about AMD’s health in the upcoming time but should tint in one way or another how to perceive their upcoming actions. Where the future is positive or negative depends on how this ties into that.

Source: BSN

A look into AMD's future

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2011 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: amd, vector computing, exascale, APU

Chuck Moore, CTO of AMD's Technology Group, gave a talk this week about AMD's plans for the future of their architecture.  As you might conjecture the focus was on the further integration of the CPU and GPU, with an eye on power consumption.  The hurdle he feels will be the tallest is the bandwidth for passing data back and forth between the two processors and he sees 3D stacks of memory sitting between the main system memory, the GPU and the CPU.  Once developed he feels that the stacks of memory should be able to increase the amount of available communication bandwidth to the point where tasks can be handed smoothly back and forth between the two processors depending on which is more effective at certain tasks.  Performance is not everything however, when The Register quotes Moore when he discusses the power requirements of a mid-range exascale class machine costing $200 million just to power and cool over a year, you begin to see the importance of bringing down power consumption and heat production.

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"Because Advanced Micro Devices has not yet announced its 16-core "Interlagos" Opteron 6200 processors, it has to talk about something, and in situations like that, it is best to talk about the far-off future. And so AMD rounded up a bunch of its partners on Wednesday in San Francisco for a shindig to talk about the challenges of exascale computing."

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Source: The Register

PC Gaming Alliance: Cross-Platform Gaming Spec next week

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2011 - 01:18 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming

The PC Gaming Alliance is not the most beloved industry body lately. The goals of the PC Gaming Alliance are to create an agency which addresses the issues with PC Gaming in an attempt to further it. What ultimately occurred was a stack of news stories chronicling who is no-longer a member of the PCGA for any given day and a series of jeers toward the group and the users of said platform. Occasionally they release studies -- like an upcoming one as announced on Intel’s software blog -- about a specification for cross-platform gaming.

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United we stand, divided we prone.

Intel’s blog teased at the contents of a webinar that is scheduled to happen on the 9th:

During this webinar discussion we’ll be outlining a couple of key proposals that should not only help PC Gaming, but most other gaming ecosystems as well. A couple of the key trends we’re seeing in the research from the PC Gaming Alliance, and in discussions with Game Developers, is an increased desire to support and adopt various ‘Cloud gaming’ scenarios that are accessible across a wide spectrum of devices and displays. (aka. Compute Continuum, 3 screens, etc). This ‘Cloud Gaming’ movement is critical to comprehend in tandem with another key trend as games increasingly move towards a games-as-a-service (aka GAS) model. Due to the global popularity, massive install base, and extensibility of Personal Computers as gaming devices, the PCGA’s set of proposals will be largely targeted at addressing the PC Ecosystem.

What do you guys think of the upcoming webinar? What does Intel and the rest of the PCGA have in store for their specification?

Source: Intel Blog

Really Ryan? 8.429 GHz? … *Scoff* - New World Record!

Subject: General Tech, Processors | November 2, 2011 - 05:55 PM |
Tagged: overclock, bulldozer, amd

Remember back in September when Ryan was all excited about seeing AMD exceed Intel with their Liquid Helium-cooled overclock? 8.429 GHz bulldozed past the 8.309 GHz record set upon Intel’s Celeron and all rejoiced at AMD’s 130 MHz triumph. Well out with the old and in with the new: there is a new overclocking king and it goes by the name of -- well it is also the AMD FX-8150. That is irrelevant, however, as the new record (if validated before someone beats it too) has become 8.461 GHz.

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Someone’s the new king in town… the current king.

The new world record was set by Andre Yang, an overclocked from Taiwan, with an ASUS Crosshair V Formula motherboard. Benchmarks were not possible as when you get overclocking to this level: successfully running CPU-Z just to query the specifications of a CPU is generally considered sufficiently stable to be qualified as an overclock. Do not be surprised if SuperPi blows a hole through your chassis. It was not stated which method of cooling was used to allow the processor to reach those specifications.

Source: X-Bit labs

Mechwarrior Online: Free to Play... when it's set free.

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2011 - 04:00 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, pc exclusive, Mechwarrior, free to play

If you were a long-time PC gamer it is quite possible that some revision of Mechwarrior was installed to your C-drive at some point. If you are me, you likely had multiple of them. While the web of who owns what part of Mechwarrior and its larger Battletech universe is complicated to say the least, Smith and Tinker owns what Microsoft formerly acquired from FASA and is using it to make a new Mechwarrior game exclusively for the PC.

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A ComStar faction should be an amusingly terrible idea.

Image from Piranha Games

The original announcement for Mechwarrior Online was quite different than where we are today. Mechwarrior Online, then called Mechwarrior, was scheduled for release on the Xbox 360 and Windows PC as a full retail game. That decision has since been overturned: Xbox 360 support has been dropped and the game is slated as a Free-To-Play PC release. Constant DLC is planned but free for players. The time-frame has also been shifted from 3015 to 3049 with each real day translating to a full day in game. You will also be able to select your Inner Sphere House when you launch and control over each planet is persistent. Like all free-to-play games, the ultimate question is how they plan to encourage their players to make small purchases leading to how successful the game will be when it is launched sometime in 2012.

Figuring out what all those graphics options in Battlefield 3 are for

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2011 - 03:07 PM |
Tagged: gaming, battlefield 3, tweaks

[H]ard|OCP has been spending a lot of time looking at the same level of the Battlefield 3 single player game, in order to test the performance of 8 GPU setups.  Three AMD cards and three NVIDIA cards were tested, with the top two cards also being tested in multiple GPU setups to show the current upper limits of performance.  Before they started the testing they also put together a nice guide describing the various settings on the graphics page to ensure you understand what you are tweaking before you start.  Gaming at 1920x1200 you can expect to not only get good performance on any of the cards they tested but also have quite a few of the eye candy options turned on.  See the actual results at [H].

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"Battlefield 3 was released last week to throngs of anxious, eager gamers. The PC version shows PC gamers some love with some awesome lights and DirectX 11 effects. In this article, we're looking at Single Player Campaign gameplay performance and image quality with 8 of the best video card solutions on the market right now."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

A*STAR is making a name for themselves in storage

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2011 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: A*STAR, hdd, STT-MRAM

A*STAR Data Storage Institute was in the news two weeks ago with the results of their experiment of doping hard drive storage medium with salt allows a 6 fold increase in storage density thanks to much tighter sputtering of magnetic grains on the platter.  They are back in the news with another development in a different kind of storage medium altogether.  With Micron partnering in the development they are working on a new type of resistive RAM, which will bring speeds better than you can get with flash and in a non-volatile form.  The technology is referred to as spin transfer torque magnetic random access memory or STT-MRAM.  Drop by The Register for a look at what they are up to, as well as what the competition is working on to bring us the next generation of NAND.

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"NAND suppliers and technology developers are anticipating this by developing follow-on technologies centred around the idea of non-volatile, resistive RAM (RRAM), which is faster to access than flash and has a longer working life. There are a variety of ways of altering the resistance of a memory cell and Micron is entering into a joint research and development agreement with Singapore's A*STAR Data Storage Institute (DSI) to develop spin transfer torque magnetic random access memory or STT-MRAM."

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Source: The Register