A new version of Intel E5 for your server room; Broadwell Xeon E5-2600 v4

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2016 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: Xeon E5-2600 v4, Intel, Broadwell-EP

Yesterday, towards the end of the day, Intel announced the arrival of their newest Xeon chips, the v4 series of Xeon E5 CPUs.   As you would expect of server chips there is no GPU present however there are new features to improve your servers performance.  The new Broadwell-EP chips will have up to 22 cores and 44 threads, an impressive 55MB of cache on some models and support for DDR4-2400.  As far as raw performance goes, Intel advertises these chips as delivering about 5% instructions per second compared to Haswell and handles AVX instructions more efficiently, allowing cores not running these tasks to remain at full speed.  The Register has a great breakdown of the other new features which these Xeons can provide.

xeon_e5_v4_skus.jpg

"These chips follow up 2014’s Xeon E5 v3 parts, which used a 22nm process size and the Haswell micro-architecture. Intel shrunk Haswell to 14nm, and after some tinkering, codenamed the resulting design Broadwell."

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Source: The Register

Epic Games Releases Unreal Engine 4.11

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2016 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: epic games, unreal engine, unreal engine 4

It has been in preview since December, but Epic Games has finally released Unreal Engine 4.11 for developers to create awesome things with. This version focused on performance and the features that were added for Paragon, which entered early access two weeks ago. DirectX 12 is still considered experimental, and Vulkan is missing officially (although John Alcatraz has a tutorial to add it to Unreal Engine built from source), but the rendering back-end has received significant changes to accommodate the new graphics APIs in the future.

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The three features that I'm most interested in, apart from free performance, are lighting channels, capsule shadows, and improved building of static light. Light channels are very difficult to implement in a deferred renderer, but Epic managed. This means that you can have dynamic lights only affect certain objects in the scene, either for performance, if enough lights are ignored to justify the cost of the channels themselves, or for special effects, like making a specific object stand out in a scene. They also added new shading models for eyes, hair, skin, and cloth, and added a bunch of interesting audio features.

Unreal Engine 4.11 is available now from Epic's Launcher. It's free to use, but Epic takes a royalty on certain revenues.

Source: Epic Games

Toshiba laptops are so hot right now

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2016 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, recall, fire

Forget the concerns about fertility when using a laptop placed directly on your lap, having your lap catch fire is a bit more of a concern.  If you are using a Toshiba laptop right now, quickly flip it over and check if it is on fire, or if the serial number resembles G71Cxxxxxxxx.  If either of those conditions are true, please contact Toshiba customer support on this page, which also has a software utility you can run to see if you are affected by this recall.  According to The Register, some of these batteries may have been sold individually or as repair kit for Satellite, Portégé and Tecra models so you should check; better safe than on fire.

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"Toshiba is recalling the battery packs in 39 notebook models over fears they could be prone to catching fire."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #393 - HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, EVGA SC17 Notebook, UWP games and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2016 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, VR, htc vive, oculus rift, vive pre, evga, SC17, logitech, g900, phil spencer, uwp, asus, echelon, gtx 950, acer, Predator, z850

PC Perspective Podcast #393 - 03/31/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, EVGA SC17 Notebook, UWP games and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Josh Walrath

Program length: 1:37:33

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:45:10 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 items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Canonical’s First Ubuntu Tablet Available For Pre-Order

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2016 - 06:16 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, linux, mediatek, SoC, arm, tablet

Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system, is now offering up its first Ubuntu tablet with Spanish manufacturing partner BQ. The Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition is a 10-inch tablet powered by ARM and loaded with Ubuntu 15.04.

The tablet features an all black (or white) case with rounded edges and a matte back. Mobilegeeks managed to get hands on with the Android version of the Aquaris M10 which you can check out here. The internals are a bit different on the Ubuntu Edition, but the chassis and design remains the same. It measures 8.2mm thick and weighs in at 470 grams (1.03 pounds). The front is dominated by a 10.1” AHVA touchscreen display that comes in either 1280 x 800 or Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution depending on the model. A capacitive home button sits below along with two 0.7W speakers while a 5MP webcam is positioned above the display. There is an 8MP rear camera, and the sides hold Micro HDMI, Micro USB, Micro SD, and 3.5mm audio ports.

BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition Tablet PC.jpg

The Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition is powered by a quad core MediaTek SoC with Mali-T720MP2 graphics, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of eMMC storage (with approximately 10GB usable by end users) that can be expanded via Micro SD cards up to 64GB. The Full HD model uses the MediaTek MT8163A clocked at 1.5 GHz while the HD Aquaris M10 uses the slightly lower clocked MT8163B running at 1.3 GHz.

Wireless capabilities include 802.11n (dual band) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS. It is powered by a 7,280 mAh Li-Po battery. BQ has pre-loaded the tablet with Ubuntu 15.04 which users will likely want to update once drivers are ready as it is End-of-Life.

The Aquaris M10 is available for pre-order now, with expected ship dates in early April. The HD Ubuntu Edition tablet is listed at €259.90 ($295) while the Full HD version will run you €299.90 ($340). Currently, the Full HD tablet comes in black and the HD tablet is all white. Both models come with a screen protector and case as a pre-order bonus.

BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition Tablet.jpg

It is interesting to see an official Ubuntu tablet, but I wonder if this is too little, too late for the open source OS. Canonical is positioning this as a daily driver that can be a tablet when you want to be mobile, a PC when propped up with a case and paired with wireless keyboard and mouse, and a media streamer when connecting it to the big screen with HDMI. I would expect performance to improve over time once the community gets a hold of it and starts tweaking it though the hardware is going to be a limiting factor. I want a Linux tablet to succeed, and hopefully this will open the door for higher end models. I don’t see myself jumping on this particular one though at this price.

Are you excited for the Ubuntu Edition M10?

Source: Canonical

Raiding Tombs in DX12

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2016 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: dx12, rise of the tomb raider, gaming

DX12 API support has arrived for the new Lara Croft game, for those with the hardware and software to support it.  For AMD users that means Fury or 300 family cards, which offer DX12.0 support and for NVIDIA, 980 Ti and all other Maxwell GPUs which offers 12.1 as well as 12.0.  The difference in support is likely because of the game, not the hardware in this case.  [H]ard|OCP takes a look at how well the cards perform in both DX11 and DX12 and as it turns out the warning below is very accurate and perhaps you should wait for a few more driver updates and game patches before switching over to DX12.

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"Rise of the Tomb Raider has recently received a new patch which adds DX12 API support, in addition the patch adds NVIDIA VXAO Ambient Occlusion technology, however just under DX11. In this evaluation we will find out if DX12 is beneficial to the gameplay experience currently and how it impacts certain GPUs."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

You can now source USB Type C cables safely, at least from Amazon

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2016 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: USB 3 Type-C, amazon

Yes, after much destruction of expensive hardware including the Pixel 2 belonging to Google researcher Benson Leung, you can now source the new USB cables much more safely.  Benson has been testing these cables for quite a while and has been trying to convince major suppliers such as Amazon to vet the cables they are selling, and to refuse to sell ones which are not up to spec.  According to what The Inquirer has heard this quest has finally been completed and Amazon will no longer sell 'any USB-C (or USB Type-C) cable or adapter product that is not compliant with standard specifications issued by USB Implementers Forum Inc'.  That would include cables that were being sold by the smartphone company OnePlus, whose cables would work only with their phones.

***OnePlus contacted us to clarify that as of January they've restocked their products with Type-C cables and adapters with 56kΩ resistors, which are fully compliant with the standard.***

It has taken far too long to do this and the killer cables are still out there at retail outlets and other online marketplaces, so exercise caution but Type-C is finally safe enough to think of using for charging and the other new capabilities it posesses.

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"Amazon has now stepped in to put a stop to the free-for-all on crappy cables. The retailer's list of prohibited electronics items now includes 'any USB-C (or USB Type-C) cable or adapter product that is not compliant with standard specifications issued by USB Implementers Forum Inc'."

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Source: The Inquirer

Microsoft's Phil Spencer Discusses UWP Concerns at Build

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 30, 2016 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, uwp, microsoft, build 2016, BUILD

When a platform vendor puts up restrictions, it can be scary, and with good cause. Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is the successor of WinRT, which, in the Windows 8 era, forced web browsers to be reskins of Internet Explorer, forced developers to get both their software and themselves certified before publishing, and so forth. They still allowed the traditional, more open, Win32 API, but locked them into “the Desktop App”.

Naturally, UWP carries similar concerns, which some developers (like Tim Sweeney of Epic Games) voiced publicly. It's more permissive, but in a brittle way. We don't want Microsoft, or someone like a government who has authority over them, to flip a switch and prevent individuals from developing software, ban content that some stakeholder finds offensive (like art with LGBT characters in Russia, the Middle East, or even North America), or ban entire categories of software like encryption suites or third-party web browsers.

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This is where we get to today's announcement.

Microsoft's Phil Spencer, essentially responding to Tim Sweeney's concerns, and the PC gaming community at large, announced changes to UWP to make it more open. I haven't had too much time to think about it, and some necessary details don't translate well to a keynote segment, but we'll relay what we know. First, they plan to open up VSync off, FreeSync, and G-Sync in May. I find this kind-of odd, since Windows 10 will not receive its significant update (“Anniversary Update”) until July, I'm not sure how they would deliver this. It seems a little big for a simple Windows Update patch. I mean, they have yet to even push new versions of their Edge web browser outside of Windows 10 builds.

The second change is more interesting. Microsoft announced, albeit without dedicating a solid release date or window, to allow modding and overlays in UWP applications. This means that software will be able to, somehow, enter into UWP's process, and users will be encouraged to, somehow, access the file system of UWP applications. Currently, you need to jump through severe hoops to access the contents of Windows Store applications.

They still did not address the issue of side-loading and developing software without a certificate. Granted, you can do both of those things in Windows 10, but in a way that seems like it could be easily removed in a future build, if UWP has enough momentum and whoever runs Microsoft at the time decides to. Remember, this would not be an insidious choice by malicious people. UWP is alluring to Microsoft because it could change the “Windows gets viruses” stigma that is associated with PCs. The problem is that it can be abused, or even unintentionally harm creators and potential users.

On the other hand, they are correcting some major issues. I'm just voicing concerns.

Source: Microsoft

AT&T Will Start Enforcing U-Verse Data Caps, Charging Extra For Unlimited Data

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | March 30, 2016 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: U-Verse, opinion, isp, Internet, FTTN, FTTH, editorial, data cap, AT%26T

AT&T U-Verse internet users will soon feel the pain of the company's old school DSL users in the form of enforced data caps and overage charges for exceeding new caps. In a blog post yesterday, AT&T announced plans to roll out new data usage caps for U-Verse users as well as a ('Comcastic') $30 per month option for unlimited data use.

Starting on May 23, 2016 AT&T U-Verse (VDSL2 and Gigapower/Fiber) customers will see an increase to their usage allowance based on their speed tier. Currently, U-Verse FTTN customer have a 250 GB cap regardless of speed tier while FTTH customers in its Gigapower markets have a higher 500 GB cap. These caps were soft caps and not enforced meaning that customers were not charged anything for going over them. That will soon change, and all U-Verse customers will be charged for going over their cap at a rate of $10 for every 50 GB over the cap. (e.g. Even if you use only 1 GB over the cap, you will still be charged the full $10 fee.).

ATTUverse2WireRG.jpg

The new U-Verse caps (also listed in the chart below) range from 300 GB for speeds up to 6 Mbps and 600 GB for everything up to its bonded pair 75 Mbps tier. At the top end, customers lucky enough to get fiber to the home and speed plans up to 1 Gbps will have a 1 TB cap.

Internet Tier New Data Caps Overage Charges
AT&T DSL (all speeds) 150 GB $10 per 50GB
AT&T U-Verse (768 Kbps – 6 Mbps) 300 GB $10 per 50GB
AT&T U-Verse (12 Mbps – 75Mbps) 600 GB $10 per 50GB
AT&T U-Verse FTTH (100 Mbps – 1 Gbps)  1 TB $10 per 50GB

Uverse customers that expect to use more than 500 GB over their data cap ($100 is the maximum overage charge) or that simply prefer not to worry about tracking their data usage can opt to pay an additional $30 monthly fee to be exempt from their data cap.

It's not all bad news though. General wisdom has always been that U-Verse customers subscribed to both internet and TV would be exempt from the caps even if AT&T started to enforce them. This is not changing. U-Verse customers subscribed to U-Verse TV (IPTV) or Direct TV on a double play package with U-Verse internet will officially be exempt from the cap and will get the $30/month unlimited data option for free.

AT&T DSL users continue to be left behind here as they will not receive an increase in their 150 GB data allowance, and from the wording of the blog post it appears that they will further be left out of the $30 per month unlimited data option (which would have actually been a very welcome change for them).

Karl Bode over at DSLReports adds a bit of interesting history in mentioning that originally AT&T stated that U-Verse users would not be subject to a hard data cap because of the improved network architecture and its "greater capacity" versus the old school CO-fed DSL lines. With the acquisition of Direct TV and the way that AT&T has been heavily pushing Direct TV and pushing customers away from its IPTV U-Verse TV service, it actually seems like a perfect time to not enforce data caps since customers going with its Direct TV satellite TV would free up a great deal of bandwidth on the VDSL2 wireline network for internet!

This recent move is very reminiscent of Comcast's as it "trials" data caps and overages in certain markets as well as having it's own extra monthly charge for unlimited data use. Considering the relatively miniscule cost to deliver this data versus the monthly service charges, these new unlimited options really seem more about seeking profit than any increased costs especially since customers have effectively had unlimited data this whole time and will soon be charged for the same service they've possibly been using for years. I will give AT&T some credit for implementing more realistic data caps and bumping everyone up based on speed tiers (something Comcast should adopt if they are set on having caps). Also, letting Internet+TV customers keep unlimited data is a good thing, even if it is only there to encourage people not to cut the cord.

The final bit of good news is that existing U-Verse customers will have approximately four months before they will be charged for going over their data caps. AT&T claims that they will only begin charging for overages on the third billing cycle, giving customers at least two 'free' months of overages. Users can opt to switch between unlimited and capped options at will, even in the middle of a billing cycle, and the company will send as many as seven email reminders at various data usage points as they approach the cap in the first two months as a warning to the overages.

This is a lot to take in, but there is still plenty of time to figure out how the changes will affect you. 

Are you a U-Verse or AT&T DSL user? What do you think about the new data caps for U-Verse users and the $30/month unlimited data option?

Source: AT&T

The Tobii EyeX eye tracker can be much more than a gaming peripheral

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2016 - 07:31 PM |
Tagged: input, Tobii, EyeX, eye tracking

The Tobii EyeX eye-tracking controller is a small USB 3.0 device which fastens to the bottom of your monitor, more or less permanently, to allow you to control some games and programs with your eyes.  The reviewer at The Tech Report discovered something unique about himself while conducting this review, while the five people he had try the EyeX the setup was flawless and easy, however his own eyes proved quite problematic.  An upgrade to his glasses seems to have mostly mitigated the issue, however it might be worth remembering if you pick one up and have issues during calibration. 

Once the EyeX was set up it worked in game, with some small issues which were not game breaking.  Of more interest is the final page of the review, combining the EyeX with the Gazespeaker software form a potent duo to help those who have difficulties communicating in other ways.  If you play games which benefit from eyetracking or know of someone who could benefit from Gazespeaker you should check out the full review.

eyex.jpg

"Tobii's EyeX eye-tracking controller promises to add more interactivity to some games by letting players take over certain in-game actions using nothing but the direction of their gaze. We spent some eyes-on time with the EyeX to see how it works."

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