Coming soon to a PC near you; the Skywind Public Beta Test

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2014 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: skywind, skyrim, morrowind, gaming, elder scrolls, !console

It has been a long time coming and unfortunately it isn't quite here yet but sometime in the not too distant future Skywind will be opened up to the public for testing.  If you do not own Skyrm then you probably have no interest in this mod but you may need to ensure you have a copy of Morrowind, including both Tribunal and Bloodmoon addons.   You will need both games installed as well as the soon to be released assets from TESRenewal.com to try out Skywind for yourself.  If your head is about to explode from the excitement and anticipation you probably shouldn't watch the video below nor read more about it at the equally excited Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

In the mean time you can distract yourself by chatting with the Fragging Frogs in the Forum and get some gaming done to burn off some of that nervous energy.

"Skywind, the total rebuild of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind in Skyrim’s engine, continues to play sweet melodies on my heart strings. They’re nostalgic tunes that lull me like the most charming of snake charmers. There’s a new trailer out, and I can practically feel the Balmoran cliff racers pecking at my back, making me invent new deities just so I can use their names as curse words."

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Quantum dots may be screening on your mobile by 2020

Subject: General Tech | July 9, 2014 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: cellphone, lcd, quantum dots

Research into using quantum dots in LCDs has been ongoing and several breakthroughs at research laboratories have proven that they can provide much a much wider and more accurate colour spectrum than conventional backlit LCDs.  The size of the dot effects the colour, with larger dots fluoresce red, mid-sized dots green and the smallest blue, emulating the familiar spectrum of pixels at a lower energy cost and greater accuracy.  DigiTimes is reporting on the predictions of DisplaySearch which feel that quantum dots will be the next step forward for LCD technology and could represent up to a quarter of the smartphone display market by 2020. 

The technology to incorporate quantum dots into displays is currently available but there are several hurdles which need to be overcome before you can expect to see them in your next mobile device.  First and foremost is the price of manufacturing, as with any new process the first generations are quite expensive to manufacture, even if it is ways to molecularly seed a panel with a tailored particles to produce quantum dots succeeds in large quantities.  Current mass production relies mostly on heavy metals such as Cadmium which are strictly regulated when used in commercial products and would likely not be approved for use in the production of mobile phones in the amounts currently required.  It won't happen in the next few generations of phones but keep your eyes peeled for greatly enhanced LCD panels by the end of the decade.

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"The firm said that the penetration of quantum dots in smartphone TFT LCDs will be 3% in 2015, growing to 26% in 2020. Penetration in tablets will also be relatively high, with nearly 2% penetration in 2015, growing to 15% in 2020. The quantum dot penetration in LCD TVs is expected to be lower, due to the large area of TV displays. DisplaySearch forecasts that less than 1% of LCD TV screens will use quantum dots in 2015, growing to 9% in 2020."

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Source: DigiTimes

Panasonic ARMs will be fabbed at Intel

Subject: General Tech | July 8, 2014 - 01:40 PM |
Tagged: SoC, Panasonic, Intel, arm

Intel has been fabbing ARM chips for Altera since the end of last year after their unprecedented move of allowing non-Intel designs into their fabs.  This decision allowed Intel to increase the percentage of time the fabs were active, as they are no longer able to keep them at full capacity with their own chips and have even mothballed the new Fab 42 in Arizona.  Altera is a good customer, as are Tabula, Netronome and Microsemi but together they are still not enough to bring Intel's capacity close to 100%.  The Register has reported on a new contract with the ink still wet from signing; Panasonic will now be using Intel's Fabs for their ARM based SoCs.   The immense size of Panasonic should keep Intel busy and ensure that they continue to make mountains of money licensing their 14nm-process tri-Gate transistors as well as the Fab time.

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"Intel has notched up another customer for its fledgling Foundry business as it tries to make money out of its manufacturing and engineering expertise besides x86 processor sales.

The world's most valuable chip manufacturer said on Monday that Panasonic's audio-visual gear will make future system-on-chips (SoCs) in Intel's factories."

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Source: The Register

Breaking News: League of Legends Is Hard. "Intro Bots" Soon.

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2014 - 05:13 PM |
Tagged: riot games, moba, lol, free to play

MOBAs are known to be intricate, unforgiving PC games. League of Legends is one of the most popular at the moment (#1 PC game in terms of hours played for May 2014 according to Raptr). It is free to install and play, with small purchases to unlock more content ("microtransaction"). The free-to-play business model is quite interesting, albeit polarizing, because your commitment starts when your users installs your title, not ends. This often leads to one of two outcomes: abusers of human psychology or constantly developed, great games that strive to never get boring.

Now you can see why it is polarizing (or just read our impending comments).

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The business model does permit games that are deep in gameplay mechanics, however, if it keeps a core user base playing (and buying additional content) forever. Unfortunately, this also makes it difficult for new players to join -- especially when it is competitive and multiplayer.

Riot Games noted that they were uncomfortable with how many of their players lose "Battle Training", which is supposed to be a tutorial. Some even prove to have significant skill later on. They interpret this as the problem being how they educate new players. There is high complexity that is fair, and then there is just bad user experience.

"Intro Bots" is designed to be a mode which adjusts its difficulty to match the player currently, and as they progress. Hopefully it works. Obviously that is the limiting factor. It does seem to be designed reasonably. It teaches with repetition and in realistic scenarios.

Intro Bots is coming soon, after a brief stop in public beta. Ironically, the public beta realm was refered to as "PBE"... in a press release for a feature intended to be easier for new players. You know, the people who might not know the game's vocabulary. Just saying.

Source: Riot Games

Everything old is new again on the Internet o' Thangs

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2014 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: internet of things, MIPS, prpl, linaro

Imagination Technologies is reinvigorating their MIPS architecture by collaborating with Oracle and Qualcomm on MIPS-focused Java and OpenWRT Linux as well as continuing older partnerships with Ingenic and Ineda Systems.  MIPS has been a large player in low power WiFi enabled SoC's for quite a while with three billion MIPS-based products shipped in set-top boxes, mobile phones and wearable tech but have seen ARM take the lead and continue to garner more market share along with Intel's Quark.  These new partnerships may help MIPS based devices become more popular as some of the projects being developed are quite interesting, for instance Linux.com mentions the Dhanush Wearable Processing Unit which will run Linux and is aiming for a battery life of 30 days.

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"Imagination Technologies has launched a campaign to turn the 30-year-old MIPS architecture into an Internet of Things platform.

The IP designer's recent moves include the establishment of a Linaro-like "Prpl" industry group for MIPS, as well as collaborations with Oracle and Qualcomm on MIPS-focused Java and OpenWRT Linux development, respectively."

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Source: Linux.com

Google I/O 2014: Android Extension Pack Announced

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | July 7, 2014 - 04:06 AM |
Tagged: tegra k1, OpenGL ES, opengl, Khronos, google io, google, android extension pack, Android

Sure, this is a little late. Honestly, when I first heard the announcement, I did not see much news in it. The slide from the keynote (below) showed four points: Tesselation, Geometry Shaders, Computer [sic] Shaders, and ASTC Texture Compression. Honestly, I thought tesselation and geometry shaders were part of the OpenGL ES 3.1 spec, like compute shaders. This led to my immediate reaction: "Oh cool. They implemented OpenGL ES 3.1. Nice. Not worth a news post."

google-android-opengl-es-extensions.jpg

Image Credit: Blogogist

Apparently, they were not part of the ES 3.1 spec (although compute shaders are). My mistake. It turns out that Google is cooking their their own vendor-specific extensions. This is quite interesting, as it adds functionality to the API without the developer needing to target a specific GPU vendor (INTEL, NV, ATI, AMD), waiting for approval from the Architecture Review Board (ARB), or using multi-vendor extensions (EXT). In other words, it sounds like developers can target Google's vendor without knowing the actual hardware.

Hiding the GPU vendor from the developer is not the only reason for Google to host their own vendor extension. The added features are mostly from full OpenGL. This makes sense, because it was announced with NVIDIA and their Tegra K1, Kepler-based SoC. Full OpenGL compatibility was NVIDIA's selling point for the K1, due to its heritage as a desktop GPU. But, instead of requiring apps to be programmed with full OpenGL in mind, Google's extension pushes it to OpenGL ES 3.1. If the developer wants to dip their toe into OpenGL, then they could add a few Android Extension Pack features to their existing ES engine.

Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4 "Rivalry" Demo from Google I/O 2014.

The last feature, ASTC Texture Compression, was an interesting one. Apparently the Khronos Group, owners of OpenGL, were looking for a new generation of texture compression technologies. NVIDIA suggested their ZIL technology. ARM and AMD also proposed "Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression". ARM and AMD won, although the Khronos Group stated that the collaboration between ARM and NVIDIA made both proposals better than either in isolation.

Android Extension Pack is set to launch with "Android L". The next release of Android is not currently associated with a snack food. If I was their marketer, I would block out the next three versions as 5.x, and name them (L)emon, then (M)eringue, and finally (P)ie.

Would I do anything with the two skipped letters before pie? (N)(O).

Rob Pardo, Former Chief Creative Officer at Blizzard, Resigns

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2014 - 04:08 AM |
Tagged: blizzard

After 17 years at Blizzard, the developers of the Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft franchises, Chief Creative Officer Rob Pardo resigned on July 3rd. He was credited as the lead designer of StarCraft: Brood War, Warcraft III and its Frozen Throne expansion, and World of Warcraft and its Burning Crusade expansion. He has not announced any future plans, except to be a better Twitter user.

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Of course, several projects that he influenced are still on their way, even after he leaves the company. Beyond the games, he notes that eSports and the upcoming Warcraft movie are initiatives that he looks back on with pride, in terms of his contributions.

Source: Blizzard

DDR3 Overclocking World Record: 2.31 GHz

Subject: General Tech, Motherboards, Memory | July 6, 2014 - 03:53 AM |
Tagged: overclocking, memory, gigabyte

About a week ago, HWBOT posted a video of a new DDR3 memory clock record which was apparently beaten the very next day after the movie was published. Tom's Hardware reported on the first of the two, allegedly performed by Gigabyte on their Z97X-SOC Force LN2 Motherboard. The Tom's Hardware article also, erroneously, lists the 2nd place overclock (then 1st place) at 4.56 GHz when it was really half that, because DDR is duplex (2.28 GHz). This team posted their video with a recording of the overclock being measured by an oscilloscope. This asserts that they did not mess with HWBOT.

The now first place team, which managed 2.31 GHz on the same motherboard, did not go to the same level of proof, as far as I can tell.

This is the 2nd fastest overclock...

... but the fastest to be recorded with an oscilloscope that I can tell

Before the machine crashes to a blue screen, the oscilloscope actually reports 2.29 GHz. I am not sure why they took 10 MHZ off, but I expect it is because the system crashed before HWBOT was able to record that higher frequency. Either way, 2.28 GHz was a new world record, and verified by a video, whether or not it was immediately beat.

Tom's Hardware also claims that liquid nitrogen was used to cool the system, which brings sense to why they would use an LN2 board. It could have been chosen just for its overclocking features, but that would have been a weird tradeoff. The LN2 board doesn't have mounting points for a CPU air or water cooler. The extra features would have been offset by the need to build a custom CPU cooler, to not use liquid nitrogen with. It is also unclear how the memory was cooled, whether it was, somehow, liquid nitrogen-cooled too, or if it was exposed to the air.

Source: HWBOT

Oculus Rift Shipments Suspended to China

Subject: General Tech, Displays | July 5, 2014 - 04:11 AM |
Tagged: oculus vr, oculus rift, Oculus

The popular VR headset development kit, Oculus Rift DK2, is no longer available for order in China. The reason, according to their subreddit, is due to "extreme reseller purchases". In other words, because too many were purchased with the intention of selling them at a markup. They, then, ask enthusiasts to wait for the consumer version. These are for developers to develop.

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Reselling product happens frequently. You see it at big sales, when a retailer sells product near (or under) cost to lure people into their stores. Unless they have a quantity-per-purchase limit, that is enforced, you will see the occasional person buying obscene amounts. Some will even tell the cashier that they intend on reselling it elsewhere.

Oculus is "looking into alternative ways to make sure that our development kits are getting into legitimate developer hands in China". Also, they claim to have not canceled all orders in China., because, "that would be messed up".

Yes, Oculus, that would be.

The Oculus Rift DK2 is still available in the other regions.

Attitude One's colourful Alamz headsets

Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2014 - 03:32 PM |
Tagged: audio, gaming headset, Almaz, Attitude One

Attitude One joins the crowded headset market with their new foldable Almaz headset with a detachable microphone which is designed to be lightweight enough to carry with you everywhere.  The bundled cables are compatible with both Android and Apple devices as well as one you can plug into your PC and simply leave for when you arrive home.  The price of €110 quoted by TechPowerUp seems a bit high but the two year warranty somewhat alleviates that investment.  If you need a portable lightweight headset with earcups this might be worth investigating as an option.

colors_4.jpg

"Attitude One is a new player on the gaming scene, and today, we take a close look at their first headset, the Almaz. The Almaz can be configured to act as either a headphone or headset because of its detachable microphone and multiple cables."

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Source: techPowerUp