Call it Xenonauts if you want, it's still X-COM done the right way

Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2011 - 04:13 PM |
Tagged: gaming, x-com, mod

It has been a first person shooter, a flight simulator and a turn based strategy game in a world where even a glass window is utterly impervious to nuclear weapons, but never has X-COM UFO Defense been properly remade or reimagined.  It looks like an indy company will beat everyone else to it with their soon to enter beta testing Xenonauts, which keeps the style of the original, admittedly aged game, and more importantly includes destrucatable terrain!  No word yet on if you can fund your extermination efforts by selling equipment you made from alien tech to world governments but there is a lot of info on the game over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

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"It’s been a bit all-quiet for the Cold War-set X-COM reimagining Xenonauts for the last few months, but creators Goldhawk have finally broken cover to show how the major element – the ground combat – looks in action. The answer, you may not be terribly surprised to hear is “quite a bit like X-COM”, but clearly that’s exactly what we want. Higher res and detail is a fine thing, but it’s especially pleasing to see that destructible scenery, something so bafflingly absent from many of the commercial X-COM remakes, is present and correct."

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Fermi, Fermi, Fermi! Nobody pays attention to Tesla and the M2090 GPU Coprocessor

Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2011 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gpu coprocessor, tesla

It is always the flashy brother that everyone notices, even if you've never met them ... say the GTX590.  However the other brother shouldn't be ignored because it turns out Telsa is pretty cool among the server crowd.  Where once the humble math coprocessor went the M2090 GPU coprocessor races past, with a specially made, not bin sorted 40nm Fermi GPU running at 1.3GHz and GDDR5 at 1.85GHz which can pull some interesting ECC tricks and of course a ful 512 CUDA Cores.  If you think that is a lot of power, NVIDIA told The Register they are recommending one M2090 per CPU core, not per physical CPU.  

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"GPU chipmaker Nvidia knows that it has to do more to grow its Tesla biz than slap some passive heat sinks on a fanless GPU card and talk up its CUDA parallel-programming tools. It has to keep delivering price/performance improvements, as well.

And that's exactly what it's doing with the new Tesla M2090 GPU coprocessor."

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Source: The Register

Steam Launches Daily Deals Game Sales

Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2011 - 04:30 AM |
Tagged: steam, PC, gaming

Valve announced today that is is launching the biggest sale in the popular gaming system's history: one that never ends!

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Steam's "Daily Deals" will feature a game a day, every 24 hours. You can find the games featured on the Steam homepage or by following their Twitter or Facebook feeds.

PC gamers everywhere are known to empty their wallets for Steam's holiday sales; therefore, these "daily deals" may just require a second job for the really dedicated Steam gamers.  To see just how much you've already spent on steam games, you might want to check out the Steam Calculator.

Source: Steam

Intel Talks Software And Demos Local File Syncing, Standby, And Hibernate Tech At Investor Meeting 2011

Subject: General Tech | May 18, 2011 - 12:38 AM |
Tagged: sync, mobile, lan, Intel

Intel held its annual Investor Meeting today, where the chip maker talked software, the state of the business, as well as new hardware and leveraging microarcitecture leadership. This installment focuses on the software side of things.

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 During the various keynotes that were held throughout the day for the Investor Meeting 2011, one ideal seemed to present itself in some form or another, and summarized the message Intel presented to the world.  The idea was that of a consistent user experience across every computing platform accomplished by leveraging Intel software applications with Intel hardware advancements to deliver a productive and easy to use computing experience whether it is on a cell phone or a dual CPU production workstation.  Intel is a market leader in micro-architecture and x86 processors, as well as in sold state drives and high performance computing.  Soon, thanks to advancements in transistor technology, Intel will also have a large presence in the mobile market with low power x86 SoCs.  Their dominance in desktop computing hardware, along with their good relations with many software developers allows the chip maker a great deal of influence in the technology industry.  On the software side of things, Intel has a team of engineers who work inside Microsoft's closely with their software engineers to ensure that the popular operating system delivers a solid experience for x86, and specifically Intel, powered computers.  Intel is also heavily invested in open source software and has helped in creating open source operating systems and applications.  In the mobile market, Intel is still a proponent and developer of MeeGo, for instance.

This influence and investment in both hardware and software research and development has made Intel a leader in the technology industry.  Intel plans to leverage this influence to deliver the most consistent user experience across all platforms, and the process has already begun.  Intel has several software technologies that are capable of harnessing their architecture technology to make computers easier to use and more productive.  They showed off three (new) pieces of such software during one of their keynotes, including PC Sync, and Fast Flash Standby which encompasses an active standby/sleep mode and fast recovery hibernation modes.

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PC Sync is a program much akin to Dropbox in that it promises to keep all of the files that you select in sync between all of your different devices.  David Perlmutter and a co-worker showed PC Sync working live as they synced files between two computers.  The program differs from Dropbox; however, in the fact that it only works over your local network, and thus it is inherently more secure and faster than services that must first sync files to an Internet server before downloading to the target computer(s).

The other interesting software demonstrated was Intel's Fast Flash Standby technology.  This software improves upon the traditional sleep and hibernation modes in Microsoft Windows.  The standby mode will put the computer to sleep by saving the system state to RAM and entering a low power mode just like the standard Windows' affair; however, the software will also automatically wake up the system at periodic intervals to download updates such as email, tweets, and Facebook messages, and then will return the computer to its sleep state so that once the computer is woken, the system is already updated and ready to go.  Intel has also improved upon the hibernation sleep mode by utilizing flash memory to greatly reduce the time necessary to enter hibernation and resume from the sleep mode.  In the demo, the system state was saved to a fast flash drive, and not only did the computer quickly hibernate but it resumed from hibernation in 5 seconds.

Intel also talked about mobile software.  Android and MeeGo are both software platforms that Intel is interested in powering with its mobile processors.  The 7" tablet and concept smart phone they showed off were both running android.  Intel's Senior Vice President and General Manager for its Software & Services Group, Renée J. James stated that Intel is well positioned to create an application ecosystem when it enters the mobile market, and that developers have stated that they plan to develop for them.  Further, Renée stated that 90% of Android applications are a run-time and can easily be made to run on Intel's mobile devices.

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Intel also addressed the shareholders' concerns of how Windows 8 on ARM would affect Intel.  The Windows 8 SKU for ARM will be a ARM focused operating system, and will run ARM applications.  The SKU will be well suited for ARM powered mobile devices where mobile and cloud applications can be used.  On the other hand, there will also be a "full" Windows 8 with Windows 7 mode that will offer the full featured Windows experience, including backwards compatibility with legacy applications--which the ARM SKU will not offer.  Because of this full featured Windows 8 operating system version is tailored for x86, Intel believes that it will have the "best of both worlds" for the consumers in being able to have the full fledged OS and ability to use existing Windows applications made for x86.  Renée remained confident in Intel's continued position despite an OS version for ARM chips.

Further, Intel recognized its McAfee acquisition.  The president of McAfee then took the stage to explain that the company was committed to delivering security products across the Intel line.  He also stressed that with the ever increasing presence of malware on the Internet, the current method of security programs using "blacklisting" techniques was not sustainable.  The cloud, he surmised, was both a security concern as well as a resource for security programs, and that he expects to have software that is backed by large Internet databases cataloging malware definitions to be the standard in the coming years until a technique stronger than blacklisting becomes usable.

For a hardware company, Intel has also delved heavily into software by working with developers and acquiring software companies.  They recognize that it takes more than hardware to create a quality computing experience and only with the right balance of both hardware and software is a consistent user experience across all of their devices possible.

Source: Intel

No one needs more than three buttons on a mouse!

Subject: General Tech | May 17, 2011 - 10:45 PM |
Tagged: input, mouse, keyboard, thermaltake

It seems almost quaint for a mouse to sport only three buttons, MMORPG styled mice carry a dozen buttons or more.  However for Portal there really isn't much use for those extra buttons and as long as you are willing to assign weapons switching to the scroll wheel, three buttons will do you quite well in most FPS games.  The Thermaltake eSPORTS Azurues mouse is designed with that in mind, a very simple black mouse with three buttons and a 1600DPI switchable sensor.  If simplicity attracts you, drop by Hi Tech Reviews for a close up look.

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"The Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS Azurues is a basic 3-button gaming mouse designed for FPS gamers. The Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS Azurues has a polling rate of 500Hz and a dpi switch at the bottom adjustable up to 1600 dpi. Like all Tt eSPORTS products that plug into a USB port, the Azurues gaming mouse has a braided and gold-plated USB connector as well as a convenient carrying case. The Tt eSPORTS Azurues does not require any software or drivers to use and is completely plug and play. For gamers that want a simple gaming mouse, the Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS Azurues is a high-performance alternative with just the right amount and combination of enthusiast features."

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Crikey! Open source Android might be just a wee bit too open with your data

Subject: General Tech | May 17, 2011 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: Android, security, clientlogin, impersonation, fud

Researchers at Germany's University of Ulm have discovered a vulnerabliity in Android's authentication protocol, known as ClientLogin which should protect your login credentials to apps like your contact list and your calendar.  It seems that while your request is encrypted, the response which includes your credentials is sent back in plain text, and those credentials remain valid for 2 weeks.  The new versions of Android have fixed this flaw but according to the story at The Register connections to Picassa still return in plain text.

 

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"The vast majority of devices running Google's Android operating system are vulnerable to attacks that allow adversaries to steal the digital credentials used to access calendars, contacts, and other sensitive data stored on the search giant's servers, university researchers have warned."

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Source: The Register

HP discusses "Memristors", doesn't discuss better name

Subject: General Tech, Storage | May 17, 2011 - 04:39 PM |
Tagged: memristor, hp

Not satisfied with resistors, capacitors, and inductors: scientists at HP are working on a new electrical element known as the memristor. A memristor functions as a resistor with the ability to change in resistance variable to the current placed on the element. What makes a memristor desirable for a company like HP is that the alterable resistence of the element can be used to store and more recently process data.

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Comes preloaded with Phantom of the Opera Browser.
Photo credits: R. Stanley Williams, HP Senior Fellow and Director of Information & Quantum Systems Lab; Michael J. Miller, PCMag
 
Memristors are noteworthy due to some intriguingly advantageous properties:
  • Switchable between on and off in a nanosecond
  • Capability to store up to 4 bits per ‘device’
  • Can process data on the device itself
  • Quite easy to manufacture for current chip factories 
Also noted is the statement that the multi-level nature of the memristor functions similar to how a human synapse functions. There are no shortages of technologies that claim to emulate human thought so my strong instinct is that this technology brings us no closer than any other technology. Regardless of whether this technology furthers AI development or whether it is hype; if the prospect of ridiculous speed and highly dense non-volatile storage pans true I have just two words: do want.
Source: PCMag

Build your own frickin laser beam; Shark catching instructions not included

Subject: General Tech | May 16, 2011 - 04:05 PM |
Tagged: laser, DIY, Altoids

Wired offers you several ways to build your own laser, some powerful enough to burn holes in paper and other flammables but all able to ruin the eyesight of anyone you point it at ... so bear that in mind.  They range from a build claiming you need no soldering for those less technical people who want a laser to one built in an Altoids tin.  The power of the laser varies depending on the build, some even use re-purposed DVD lasers as the light source.  Perhaps the most impressive build lacks wattage but being able to project vector graphics with lasers more than makes up for it.

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"Even though lasers are as common as dirt now, appearing in everything from DVD players to supermarket scanners to computer mice, there's still a certain appeal to a beam of coherent, monochromatic light. Especially if it's dangerously powerful.

So it's no surprise that people can't resist playing with lasers, building their own, customizing them and, of course, setting stuff on fire with them."

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Source: Wired

Sony relaunches much of the PSN, other services oncoming

Subject: General Tech | May 15, 2011 - 08:29 PM |
Tagged: security, PSN

Some of you may have heard of a recent computer break-in to Sony Computer Entertainment involving some total theft of personal information and uniformly increased grades of University final exams. Approximately three weeks and a few missed deadlines later: portions of the PSN are finally back online and awaiting the eager college students who are finished with their finals to scratch the itch on all the games they missed in the outage. Just kidding, they are going to play Call of Duty again. 

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“… and then Kevin Butler crushed their heads.” (Quote accuracy disputed.)
 
Sony uploaded a video to Youtube on May 14th announcing that access has been regained to the following services:
  • Sign in for PSN and Qriocity
  • Online gameplay for PS3 and PSP
  • Music Unlimited (if you are a current subscriber) for PS3 and PC
  • Access to Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and MLB from PS3
  • Friends list, chat, trophy comparison, and PlayStation Home 
Gamers returning to their PlayStation are required to change their account passwords prior to reconnecting to the PlaysStation Network and, as reported by PCMag, install a firmware update for their console. It has been a long and hard journey for fans of Sony’s console but it appears as if tangible progress has been made. Go forth, play Portal 2 Co-op, give Atlas a big hug, and let them eat cake. It has been a harsh famine.
Source: PCMag

Epic Games updates indie developers with May 2011 UDK

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Mobile | May 14, 2011 - 02:34 AM |
Tagged: udk, ios, game

Indie videogame developers have a great challenge keeping up with the industry. Technology is advancing quickly, the skills required to output games with the quality of the greatest developers keep diversifying, and the time required to detail each part keeps exploding. Though it is highly unlike that the next Call of Duty will come from a single person there are tool developers aiming to decrease the burden for projects of all sizes.

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Do you think that was an onomatopoeia said by indie devs?

Epic Games released UDK in November 2009 to help developers make their own 3D PC games without needing to develop their own engine and associated toolset or needing to pay a hefty license fee up front. Since then, Epic has added support for iOS development to allow developers to create games for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. New versions have come out on an approximately monthly basis and May is no different.

This release is incrementally better than previous builds with a few usability tweaks like grouping objects and modifying them together, the ability to copy and paste vertex coloring, and performance importing art assets. As usual a few dozen documentation pages were updated to reflect changes in the game engine. While UDK does not remove the pain of making a good game, it does soften the blow a lot, which is all we got thus far.

Source: UDK