Another Video About the Early Days of PC Audio

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 09:22 PM |
Tagged: sound blaster 16, Sound Blaster, pc gaming, Creative, audio, ad lib

About two weeks ago, we highlighted a video by “The 8-Bit Guy” about the earliest computer audio implementations. It focused on the engineering side, how a series of channels, made up of square waves, triangles waves, noise, and occasionally PCM recordings, could be mixed to generate sound.

This video discusses a similar era from a slightly different perspective. Beep is a documentary video and book series that started on Kickstarter. This segment is an interview with Rich Heimlich, the person behind the company Top Star. They did third-party QA for video game companies. He was approached by Martin Prevel, a professor at Université Laval in Quebec, who had the idea of an add-in sound card. It used the Yamaha YM3812 sound chip, which you might remember from The 8-Bit Guy's video.

The interview delves into the more business aspects of the industry, though. For example, one of Ad Lib's biggest issues was that PCs did not have a lot of room for expansion. It was difficult to convince the consumer to give up a whole ISA add-in slot for audio. Heimlich remembers a strong consumer backlash against dedicated audio that they needed to overcome. Gamers needed to choose between sound, clock, storage, and so forth. Beyond that, the PC, with software like LOTUS 123, brought hardware that wasn't just considered “a toy” into the home. It brought a huge wave of hardware in, but it wasn't considered a serious gaming platform until titles like Myst came out for them.


At some point, Creative noticed this whole situation. They contacted Rich Heimlich and showed them the “Killer” (later “Sound Blaster”) card. The switch in power from Ad Lib to Creative was interesting, which Heimlich says had nothing to do with the digital audio feature, since that was not even used until two years after Creative surpassed Ad Lib in market share. He attributes it to the initial problem, which is a lack of add-in card real estate. The Sound Blaster had a GamePort, which let users justify filling that socket with both audio and a joystick port, which would be two sockets with Ad Lib's solution. It was also cheaper than the Ad Lib.

The interview goes on to discuss the Ad Lib vs Creative war to their next-generation product, Ad Lib Gold vs Sound Blaster 16. He alleges that, since Creative had better connections within Yamaha, they kept Ad Lib's card out of certification until Sound Blaster 16 was in the market. It then continues to talk about reverse-engineering “Sound Blaster-compatible” and so forth. It then continues for a while, even talking about OS/2 at the end of it.

It is definitely worth a view.

Source: Beep

Meet Windows Universal Apps, they'll run on anything

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Microsoft Store, windows 10, Windows Universal Apps

Microsoft is really opening up their app store for people to develop software for users to pick up with what they are calling Windows Universal Apps.  These apps will run on any Windows device and are not locked into the infamous tile interface once known as Metro.  Even more interesting is that you will not need Visual Studio to develop these, you can use assets imported from other available resources to build your app.  They also have a simulator to allow you to run your app in full screen while still in development mode as well as allowing you to manage the contents of an app collection without committing a change, giving you a chance to screw up by the numbers without negatively affecting anything outside of your test environment.  This could really help grow the Microsoft Store app ecosystem with interesting new applications and of course the inevitable detritus which clutters any and all app stores.  Check out the full story at The Inquirer.


"MICROSOFT HAS RELEASED a major update to the Windows App Studio which will allow users to become developers without a lick of code, and without going via Visual Studio."

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Source: The Inquirer

Actually, Microsoft Wants LESS of Your Data?

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: onedrive, microsoft, cloud storage

They apparently want, at most, 1TB of it.

Last year, almost to the day, I wrote about Microsoft upgrading their 1TB OneDrive offer to unlimited. Granted, I was about a week late in my reporting of their announcement, but the November 2nd publish date is still amusing none-the-less. Regardless, they have reverted this decision. Unlimited plans will be reduced to 1TB, and free plans will be reduced from 15GB to 5GB. The 15GB “camera roll” bonus will also be removed. These changes will take effect in “early 2016”.


Officially, the change was prompted by users who stored whole movie collections and DVR recordings to the cloud, using up over 75TB of storage. Interestingly, they say that this is “14,000 times the average”. This means that “the average” user stores about 5.4GB of data on OneDrive. Granted, mean values are somewhat skewed by outliers, as the 75TB example suggests. If 14,000 users were on the service, of which only one person used it at all, but that one person put 75TB on it, then the average would be the same. It's a data point nonetheless, though.

After these changes occur, you will have about 12 months before Microsoft will force you to cull the storage that you are using. You just will not be able to add to it until then. Afterwards? Well, I'm not sure how Microsoft will know what is most important to delete. Probably best to do it yourself.

Source: Microsoft

Awesome Games Done Quick 2016 List Announced

Subject: General Tech | November 3, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming

Games Done Quick, a charity that speedruns games on video for donations, has just published their list of submissions for their upcoming session. The PC is well represented with its exclusive titles and ports from other platforms. Awesome Games Done Quick 2016 will take place in early January, from the 3rd to the 10th, and raise money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.


The list of “green” games is quite diverse, from Mirror's Edge to Alien Swarm, Shovel Knight, Super Meat Boy, Tony Hawk's Underground 2, and Half Life 2. The previous event, Summer Games Done Quick 2015, supported Doctors Without Borders and brought in $1,233,844.10 USD. The Winter events tend to do a little better, though. Maybe this one can cross $2 million?

If you're interested, check out the list.

Windows 10 Market Share Report and Other Thoughts

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2015 - 09:56 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

According to NetMarketShare, Windows 10 now makes up around 7.94% of all desktop PCs. For comparison, all versions of Mac OSX combined total about 8% on this survey. It is behind Windows 8.1 and Windows XP though, which sit at 10.68% and 11.68% respectively. Windows 7 is still the overwhelming majority at 55.71%.


The OS has a few controversies associated with it, though. Some are warranted, some are not, and still others lay between. The first issue is that the reservation application has been known to download Windows 10, even without permission to do so (and redownload the several-gigabyte file if removed). This isn't counted on the market share survey of course, since the OS isn't actually installed, but it can be annoying for users will small main drives or metered internet connections. For people with satellite broadband, this will probably ruin your whole month.

Microsoft has also just announced that Windows 10 will be pushed to Windows Update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.x at some point in 2016. It will not automatically install, you will need to accept the EULA, but it will automatically download. Intentionally.

There's also some (many) concerns about privacy and data collection policies. Part of it is because Microsoft is pushing a free operating system without a clear business model, which leaves a lot of room to speculate what the value actually is. Many of these concerns aren't really possible, if only because too many people would need to be involved for the lack of leaks, but some level of concern is useful. For instance, there has yet to be a sufficient explanation of what “AutoLogger-Diagtrack-Listener.etl” does, precisely and specifically. Does it pipe everything you do to every advertiser and government acronym in the world?

No. Of course not.

It is an area that Microsoft, and basically all of their competitors, should improve upon, though.

Treyarch Plans Mod Support in 2016 for Black Ops III on PC

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2015 - 08:39 PM |
Tagged: treyarch, call of duty, Activision

It's always good when a major franchise decides to add (or re-add) mod support. This time it's Call of Duty. Treyarch, who developed just under half of the titles in the main series, will bring the feature to Call of Duty: Black Ops III for the PC. An unranked dedicated server will also be available, because ranking players using modded content is not exactly... fair... for any reasonable mod tool set, across all possible creations.


They intend to allow custom maps and game modes, which leaves a few open questions. Are custom assets a part of “custom maps and game modes”? What sort of scripting options will be available? Does this mean that users cannot add custom weapons (or even vehicles)? Then you can get into more specific questions, like HUD possibilities and such. Thankfully, we have enough options for “Total Conversion” mods these days, with Unreal, Crytek, Unity, and others letting just about anyone access top-tier tools, in a variety of languages and platforms.

Treyarch is planning to release a closed alpha of the mod tools in March.

Source: Treyarch

The sad tale of the refresh that failed to quench the desires of Windows users

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2015 - 12:31 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, market share

Of the total PC market Windows holds just over 90%, Linux 1.57% and Mac around 8% which is about what it was a year ago.  The release of Windows 10 has not created a surge in Microsoft users, nor has it caused the migration to Linux that so many claimed they would do after the EoL of Windows XP.  Worse news for Microsoft is that there are more people using Windows 7 than there were 12 months ago, 55.71% compared to 53.05%.  Even Windows 8 users are not shifting in any significant amount, 13.22% compared to 16.8% last year.  Even with the dearth of new hardware to spur an upgrade cycle the numbers show that consumers have little to no interest in updating to Microsoft's newest platform.  Perhaps the negative press surrounding some of the contentious features which Microsoft introduced in the new OS have harmed the upgrade cycle in addition to the lack of a driving reason to do a full system upgrade.  For more on these interesting times in the PC market you can check the original story at The Inquirer.


"Things are almost stagnant elsewhere, which is a worry because it seems that, although Windows 10 is gaining ground, very slightly, it doesn't seem to be at the significant expense of anything else."

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Source: The Inquirer

Batman: Arkham Knight Refunds Extended Through End of 2015

Subject: General Tech | November 2, 2015 - 09:45 AM |
Tagged: Warner Brothers, Warner Bros Games, steam, refund, console port, batman arkham knight

In a move that does nothing to inspire confidence in the future of console ports to PC, Warner Bros. has issued a statement apologizing for the continuing issues with Batman: Arkham Knight, announcing the availability of full refunds for anyone who purchased the game on Steam through the end of this year.


The refund offer has no restrictions on play time, allowing those who purchased the game at any time to get their money back. This unprecedented move, coming after the removal of the PC game for sale on Steam and subsequent re-release last week, dooms the PC port of Batman: Arkham Knight. With the announcement Warner Bros. Games appears to be withdrawing support, as they previously had been promising fixes for the problems plaguing the game.

It remains to be seen if Warner has simply decided to cut their losses and rely on console sales for the latest entry in the Batman franchise. The question going forward will be whether Warner attempts to port the next installment to the PC at all after this disastrous release.

It's not Logitech, it's not RAM, it's the G.SKILL Ripjaws MX780 gaming mouse

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2015 - 07:03 PM |
Tagged: input, MX780 RGB, G.Skill, ripjaws

Trying to keep branding straight in your mind is not an easy task, especially when companies mix old branding from competitors with their own current branding for a completely different type of product.  Branding aside, the G.SKILL Ripjaws MX780 sports eight fully customizable buttons and the height, length and width of much of the mouse can be adjusted via screws as we first saw back in the Cyborg Rat 7 and other similar devices.  The software from G.SKILL allows you to program the buttons, polling rate, DPI sensitivity and the seven different LEDs on the mouse.  Check out how well the mouse performs at Overclockers Club.


"The main problem I found with this mouse is with using cloth mouse pads – lifting the mouse would cause it to stop working momentarily when sat back down as if it were recalibrating. Using a hard surface the mouse worked perfectly. I used a Ratpadz hard pad, an XTracGear Ripper cloth pad, and a Corsair Gaming Mouse Mat cloth pad. Only the hard plastic pad worked reliably when lifting the mouse and setting it down."

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Google to merge Chrome and Android into their One True OS

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2015 - 01:25 PM |
Tagged: chrome, Android, google

It has been long suspected that eventually Google would merge their two operating systems into one and we now have a rumoured date, 2017.  An Android runtime for the Chrome OS already exists and almost any Android app can be modified to run on a Chrome powered device but we now have confirmation that the two will finally merge under the Android brand.  The new OS will remain open sourced and programmers may be enticed into programming more applications as they would only need to make one application instead of needing to write two versions.  Pop by The Inquirer for more speculation.


"ALPHABET SUBSIDIARY Google (still sounds weird, right?), is reportedly planning to merge Chrome OS and Android into a single platform."

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Source: The Inquirer