Windows 10 Will Support Many New Codecs Natively

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 10:20 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, mkv, microsoft, hevc, h.265, flac

Native support for audio and video codecs is helpful for a platform. Software will be able to call upon the operating system's built-in functions, rather than integrating a solution. Of course, some will continue to roll their own, and that's fine, but it is obviously helpful for the foundation to have its own solution (especially in cases where licenses and royalties are required).

microsoft-windows10-codecs.png

Windows 10 is expected to increase its platform support to include FLAC, MKV, and HEVC (h.265), and more may be coming. The tweet from Gabriel Aul suggests that this will be available starting in the next preview build, which will land in early 2015. Hopefully these additions include both encoding and decoding support, possibly allowing audio and video editors to take advantage of these formats.

The next build of Windows 10 Technical Preview is expected for early next year. The full OS is said to launch late that year.

Source: PC Gamer

Uplay Black Friday Sale: Buy One, Get One Free

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 10:03 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, black friday

Another quick Black Friday post, this one on Ubisoft's Uplay service. At least in Canada, if you purchase one title of a selected list, you will get a choice of one from a second list, for free. While the headliners are Ubisoft's first-party titles, there are a few from EA, Sega, Telltale, Deep Silver, Bethesda, WB Games, Capcom, Square Enix, and Kalypso to round out the “Buy” list (every free bundle game is from Ubisoft, though).

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The list of “Buy” (full price) games are:

  • Assassin's Creed: Unity (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
  • Far Cry 4 (PC, 360, Xbox One, PS3 – Not PS4???)
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition (PC)
  • Alien Isolation (PC)
  • Assassin's Creed: Rogue (360, PS3)
  • Tales from the Borderlands (PC)
  • Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris (PC)
  • Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PC)
  • The Evil Within (PC)
  • Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse (PC)
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC)
  • FIFA Soccer 15 (PC)
  • The Sims 4 (PC)
  • Football Manager 2015 (PC)
  • Rocksmith (2014) (PC, 360, PS3 – Xbox One is listed by not available in the store???)
  • Just Dance 2015 (360, Xbox One, PS3, Wii)
  • Escape Dead Island (PC)
  • Tropico 5 (PC)
  • Shape Up (Xbox One)
  • Metro: Redux Bundle (PC)

Purchasing one of the above allows you to get one of the following PC titles:

  • Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth
  • Far Cry 3
  • Assassin's Creed III: Deluxe Edition
  • Watch_Dogs
  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist
  • Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry
  • Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD
  • Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
  • Anno 2070
  • Might and Magic: Heroes VI (Complete)
  • Rayman Legends

Of course, the first thing that pops into my mind is the AMD "Never Settle" promotion. It is interesting that game publishers are also considering a "build your own bundle" initiative, breaking from the "these two games are shrink-wrapped together" model that was previously dominant. Perhaps this will be something that Valve considers for one of their future promotions?

If you were considering paying full price for one of the first list of titles, than purchasing it through the Ubisoft store might get you an extra game for free. Personally, I've been considering Far Cry 4 and Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag has been given a lot of good publicity. The sale started on the American Thanksgiving season and runs until December 15th, so you have a little time to think.

Source: Ubisoft

Microsoft and Yahoo Want to Be Apple's Default Search

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 09:29 PM |
Tagged: apple, safari, google, yahoo, bing, microsoft, mozilla

After Mozilla inked the deal with Yahoo, the eyes turned to Apple and its Safari browser. Currently, the default search engine is Google on both iOS and OSX, although Bing is the primary engine used for other functions, like Siri and Spotlight. Until early 2015, they are tied into a contract with Google for those two browsers, but who will get the new contract?

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Apparently Yahoo and Microsoft have both approached the company for the position, and Apple is not ruling any of the three out. Probably the most interesting part is how Yahoo is genuinely taking the search business seriously. The deal with Mozilla is fairly long-term, and with Yahoo approaching Apple as well, it probably was not just charity on Mozilla's part because no-one else wanted to be Firefox's default. Yahoo would probably need some significant monetary backing for an Apple deal, which suggests the same for their deal with Mozilla.

If both Mozilla and Apple leave Google, it will take a significant chunk out of the search engine. Power users, like those who read this site, will likely be unaffected if they care, because of how low the barrier is to change the default search engine. On the other hand, even the most experienced user will often accept default settings until there is a reason to change. The winning party will need to have a good enough product to overcome that initial shock.

But the money will at least give them a chance when the decision comes into effect. That is, unless the barrier to changing default search engines is less than the barrier to changing default web browsers.

Google will always be default on Google Chrome.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Chooses IBM and NVIDIA for Two Supercomputers, Summit and Sierra

Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 27, 2014 - 08:53 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, IBM, power9, Volta

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been interested in a successor for their Titan Supercomputer. Sponsored by the US Department of Energy, the new computer will be based on NVIDIA's Volta (GPU) and IBM's POWER9 (CPU) architectures. Its official name will be “Summit”, and it will have a little sibling, “Sierra”. Sierra, also based on Volta and POWER9, will be installed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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Image Credit: NVIDIA

The main feature of these supercomputers is expected to be “NVLink”, which is said to allow unified memory between CPU and GPU. This means that, if you have a workload that alternates rapidly between serial and parallel tasks, that you can save the lag in transferring memory between each switch. One example of this would be a series of for-each loops on a large data set with a bit of logic, checks, and conditional branches between. Memory management is like a lag between each chunk of work, especially across two banks of memory attached by a slow bus.

Summit and Sierra are both built by IBM, while Titan, Oak Ridge's previous supercomputer, was developed by Cray. Not much is known about the specifics of Sierra, but Summit will be about 5x-10x faster (peak computational throughput) than its predecessor at less than a fifth of the nodes. Despite the fewer nodes, it will suck down more total power (~10MW, up from Titan's ~9MW).

These two supercomputers are worth $325 million USD (combined). They are expected to go online in 2017. According to Reuters, an additional $100 million USD will go toward research into "extreme" supercomputing.

Source: Anandtech

Well done virtual 7.1 surround from Corsair's H1500

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 04:01 PM |
Tagged: audio, corsair, H1500, gaming headset, 7.1 headset

Corsair's H1500 Dolby 7.1 headset has a pair of 50mm drivers with a response of 20Hz to 20kHz which uses software to emulate 7.1 and 5.1 Dolby surround as well as simple 2.0 audio.  The headset comes with software but not a dedicated soundcard which is why they were able to keep the price to $70.  Benchmark Reviews used the headset in Battlefield 4 and found it quite useful in preventing enemies from sneaking up from behind them with a knife though the stiff padding and narrow head band did tire them out after a while.  Music and movies also sounded great after a little tweaking of the equalizer and the noise cancellation feature on the microphone was effective at reducing background noise while speaking into the mic.  Overall if you want a good set of surround headphones are on a bit of a budget the H1500 are worth adding to your short list of possible purchases.

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"Longevity is very important in any industry. It is extremely likely that, when the longevity moniker is affixed to an organization's label, consumers can buy with confidence. Corsair is one of those labels that can has been doing it well since 1994 and in this industry, 20 years is a VERY long time. Whether you are buying a power supply or a gaming mouse, you know that if it wears the Corsair logo, it is a quality device that will withstand the test of time and perform brilliantly."

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Audio Corner

Need extra storage space for Thanksgiving?

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: ssd, sale

The only thing better than a new SSD is one you picked up on sale and The SSD Review would like to help you with that.  They have put together a list of SSD sales that have already kicked off, from the lovely price of $370 for a 960GB SanDisk Ultra II SSD which might not be the fastest on the market but is a great bargain to a Samsung 840 EVO 1TB at $360 for those who are willing to run the restoration tool to ensure they don't experience a slow down in performance.  They also list M.2 drives for those wanting to use the new interface.  They have their own Amazon affiliate code which I am sure they would appreciate you using but don't forget that PC Perspective does as well so please consider sharing the proceeds from your purchases ... or not, up to you.

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"It's that time of the year again, when online retailers are dropping prices on products left and right. Over the past few days there have been some okay deals when it comes to SSDs in anticipation of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, today there are some very good deals on drives from all the big boys in the industry, mainly Samsung, SanDisk Crucial, and Intel."

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Tech Talk

Torchlight Free on Arc Client

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 04:34 AM |
Tagged: ARC, torchlight

Okay so, before we begin, I have read a few comments regarding the Arc Client. I am not sure how much of it is gamers not wanting to install extra clients on their machines (see: Origin, Uplay, and so forth) or whether there is an actual, legitimate complaint against this one. Privacy concerns were mentioned a couple of times, but spoken in a vague and general tone. The service normally deals with free-to-play titles, like Star Trek: Online, Blacklight: Retribution, and APB: Reloaded.

torchlight-free.jpg

Now on to the announcement: if claimed before November 30th, you can receive Torchlight for free; you may also purchase the sequel for $5. Both of these prices are a $15 reduction (the original is regularly $15 and Torchlight II is normally $20). By now, it is a little old, being released in late 2009, but it has a dedicated following. It was also available for free last year from GoG, which is obviously a better option. I mean, no offense to Arc, but it is really hard to beat free software that is also completely DRM-free.

Source: Arc

Windows 10 Could Actually Be Windows 10.0

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 04:17 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10, windows 6.4

Windows Vista broke away from the NT 5.x version number that was shared between Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Since then, each major OS release from Microsoft has incremented the minor version by one: Windows 7 was 6.1, Windows 8 was 6.2, and Windows 8.1 was 6.3. The current Windows 10 previews register as Windows 6.4, but screenshots suggest that Microsoft is considering a bump to 10.0 before release.

windows-10.png

Seriously, this time?

This leads to two discussions: “compatibility” and “why”.

First, because some applications query the Windows version number and adjust their behavior, there is some concern that 10.0 could lead to problems. For instance, if an installer checks that Windows' major version is 6, rather than at least 6, it could simply refuse to load (at least without compatibility mode). In fact, I remember Microsoft speaking about this issue back when Vista launched, saying that spoofing incorrect versions fixed (I believe) most problems. Peter Bright at Ars Technica notes that changes to application architecture, instituted with Windows 7, 8, and 8.1, makes this change more safe than when Vista bumped it to 6.x, for instance. Applications will be given an earlier version number unless they claim higher-level support in its manifest.

And then we get to the “Why”. There really isn't any reason to keep the version number in lockstep with the branding. It could be a sign that Microsoft is pushing for branding with this release, which makes sense. Windows 10, from a technical standpoint, is shaping up nicely (although I am still concerned about WinRT-based app sideloading). It would not surprise me if they would go this petty to further cement a good brand image.

Source: Ars Technica

For those who dare to taunt the honey badger

Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2014 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: far cry 3, amd, nvidia, gaming

Far Cry 4 uses the same engine as the previous game, Dunia Engine 2, albeit updated and modified for the new features GPUs can handle, especially NVIDIA's Gameworks features.  This gives you some idea of how your system will handle the game but for a definitive look at performance just check out this review at [H]ard|OCP.  For their testing they used the GeForce 344.75 WHQL on their GTX 980 and 970 and the Catalyst 14.11.2 Beta for the R9 290X and 290.  On the Ultra preset running at 1440p the performance differences between the AMD and NVIDIA cards were negligible, once they started testing the new features such as the enhanced godrays and AA options there were some significant differences which you should educate yourself about.  It is worth noting that even two GTX 980s in SLI at 3600x1920 are not capable of handling 8x MSAA, thankfully SMAA is supported in the game.

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"Far Cry 4 is here, and we take an early look at how current video cards stack up in performance, and which quality settings are graphically demanding. We will also look at some image quality comparisons and talk about the state of this game at launch. Will it measure up to Far Cry 3 in terms of graphic fidelity?"

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Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Even more suggestions for your shopping list

Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2014 - 01:43 PM |
Tagged: gift guide, holiday guide

If you read through our holiday gift guide and still haven't found something for everyone then perhaps The Tech Report can help out.  While there is some similarities such as the impressive ASUS ROG Swift and NVIDIA's Shield there are also other suggestions which might intrigue you.  We did not delve into the mice and mechanical keyboards that were released this year and they offer a few more camera suggestions than our list not to mention the light bulb.  Check it out to see if there is something else you left off your list.

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"It's that time of year again. The big man to the north is making his list—and checking it twice—while shoppers to the south contemplate what to get for the beloved techies on their lists. Our staff has compiled a stack of suggestions based on our favorite PC hardware, mobile devices, and other gadgets."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk