Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Preview Build 10049

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2015 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, build 10049

Less than two weeks after releasing the last preview build, 10041, Microsoft has pushed an update for users in the “Fast” ring. We have been asking for more rapid releases and we are beginning to get them. I spent quite a bit of Monday downloading, installing, and rebooting to install Build 10049. Now that I have used it for a bit, I can give my opinion.

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Before we get to what's new, I would like to get into what is fixed (and broken). First, apparently Visual Studio 2015 has some issues, particularly with deploying to external devices. On the other hand, my usage of Visual Studio 2013 seems fine and stable. Second, a bug is preventing Hyper-V from being enabled for users who want to create a virtual machine. If you upgrade to 10049 from a previous build, where Hyper-V has been activated, then “everything works fine” when you update.

One of the listed bugs for Build 10041 (the previous build) was that Windows Update would tell you to restart to complete updates even if nothing was installed, and that the messages could be “ignored safely”. I never had that happen in 10041, but have seen it this afternoon in 10049. No big deal.

As for fixed? When I upgraded to 10041, StarCraft II stopped working and apparently the bug extended to Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel, League of Legends, and others. This has been fixed in 10049. I can play StarCraft II without problems. Yay! Also, many sections of the new Settings app crashed when I attempted to open them. This nuisance has been bugging me since one of the earlier builds from last year. It has mostly been fixed now. The only hiccup is “Apps & features”, which sometimes (but not always) crashes after the loading bar completes.

The main “feature” of this build is the introduction of Project Spartan. Now this is interesting. The browser itself feels a lot more smooth. I have been suspecting that Microsoft would include a DirectX 12 rendering path for Project Spartan, which would better explain the move to their “Edge” fork of Trident, but I have been unable to benchmark it. I have been trying to push sites with a lot of small draw calls, but it seems to be within the performance of a normal browser. One WebGL benchmark saw an increase of about 17% going between Internet Explorer 11 with Edge disabled and Project Spartan, but that is probably just more efficient rendering and JavaScript engines. So... nothing yet.

Apparently Cortana has been given some non-descript update. They might be referring to its integration with Spartan, which I have yet to test, but it is still unable to, for instance, set a timer or launch Photoshop.

It took me two installs to get it actually on my system, but it seems to be very stable for a pre-release operating system with a bunch of unfinished APIs and drivers. Looking good (but I'm still scared of Windows Dev Certification)!

Source: Microsoft

Hints of things to come from AMD

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2015 - 12:18 PM |
Tagged: skybridge, HPC, arm, amd

The details are a little sparse but we now have hints of what AMD's plans are for next year and 2017. In 2016 we should see AMD chips with ARM cores, the Skybridge architecture which Josh described almost a year ago, which will be pin compatible allowing the same motherboard to run with either an ARM processor or an AMD64 depending on your requirements.  The GPU portion of their APUs will move forward on a two year cycle so we should not expect any big jumps in the next year but they are talking about an HPC capable part by 2017.  The final point that The Register translated covers that HPC part which is supposed to utilize a new memory architecture which will be nine times faster than existing GDDR5.

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"Consumer and commercial business lead Junji Hayashi told the PC Cluster Consortium workshop in Osaka that the 2016 release CPU cores (an ARMv8 and an AMD64) will get simultaneous multithreading support, to sit alongside the clustered multithreading of the company's Bulldozer processor families."

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Source: The Register

It seems Microsoft is not abandoning the Surface Pro series

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2015 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: Surface Pro 3, microsoft

While the ARM based Surface model seemed likely to disappear there are many hints that the Surface Pro models powered by x86 processors are going nowhere and that even Windows RT will stick around.  More evidence came today from The Register who read through a Microsoft post and highlighted several updates to the UEFI in the Surface Pro 3 aimed at Enterprise users.  Some of the updates are minor but very useful, you can now set the boot device for the device in the UEFI instead of needing to physically push a button during boot.  One security feature which is key to the adoption of this device in the Enterprise is as being able to control what devices are functional on the Surface and with this update you can disable various connections as well as the USB ports.  The final feature, being able to make changes to the UEFI remotely has been enabled but the tool needed to do so is not yet available.

The device originally seemed doomed to failure but Microsoft has found a market for their tablet and we will be seeing new models soon.

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"As explained in a blog post by Redmond's JC Hornbeck, the latest update to the Surface Pro 3's Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) adds new features for enterprise customers but only minor improvements for consumers."

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Source: The Register

Renegade X Beta 4 Released with Trailer

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2015 - 08:59 PM |
Tagged: renegade x, UE3, udk, unreal engine 3

If you are looking for a game to play, Totem Arts has released their fourth public beta for Renegade X. You have probably heard of the game by now but, if not, it is a third-person shooter that is in the style of Command & Conquer: Renegade. Each team has a base that provides weapons, vehicles, and upgrades in exchange for credits. Players then use this superiority to destroy each others bases (and each other directly of course).

The game is powered by Unreal Engine 3 through the UDK program. From what I can tell, they are using the February 2014 build, which is a little over a year old but relatively up-to-date technologically. Epic Games added most DirectX 11 functionality back in the March 2011 UDK beta release. It looks quite good too.

And it's free (not free-to-play). Check it out.

Source: Totem Arts

Learn a bit more about Knights Landing

Subject: General Tech | March 27, 2015 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: Xeon Phi, silvermont, knights landing, Intel

Today a bit more information about Intel's upcoming Knights Landing platform appeared at The Register.  The 60 core and 240 thread figure is quoted once again though now we know there is over 8 billion transistors on the chip, which does not include the 16 GB of near memory also present on the package.  The processor will support six memory channel, three each in two memory controllers on the die, with a total of 384 GB of far memory.  The terms near and far are new, representing onboard and external memory respectively.  There is a lot more information you can dig into by following the link on The Register to this long article posted at The Platform.

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"Intel has set some rumours to rest, giving a media and analyst briefing outlining details of its coming 60-plus core Knights Landing Xeon Phi chip."

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Source: The Register

Logitech MX Master Mouse Announced

Subject: General Tech | March 27, 2015 - 07:03 AM |
Tagged: mx master, mx, mouse, logitech

In the universe of computer mice, Logitech is one of the best known manufacturers. This one, the Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse, is not part of their “G Series”. At a price of $99.99 USD, or $119.99 CAD, it is their most expensive offering in that class.

logitech-mx-master-top.jpg

The MX Master is a five button, right handed mouse. While that is not particularly exciting, one interesting feature is the horizontal scrolling tumbler on the thumb rest. The wheel on top scrolls up and down, while the one on the side can scroll left and right (or be reconfigured with Logitech's software). It is also a laser mouse that is capable of tracking on many types of surfaces, including thicker sheets of glass. It can be paired to three separate devices at once, either by Bluetooth or Logitech's proprietary receiver. Its rechargeable battery lasts about 40 days of 6 hour per day usage. Four minutes of charging yields about six hours of usage, and you can apparently even use the mouse while tethered.

The Logitech MX Master will be available in April for $99.99 USD.

Source: Logitech

Return of the Sharkoon; death to all other mice!

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2015 - 03:55 PM |
Tagged: input, sharkoon, shark zone m20, gaming mouse

Sharkoon is back with a brightly coloured and reasonably priced gaming mouse, the Shark Zone M20.  It sports nine buttons including the DPI toggle which ranges between 400 - 3200 DPI and in the back is a compartment to hold the weights which ship with the mouse and allow you to customize it.  The yellow lights can be switched on or off and you can set up a pulsation effect if that is your style, but you are stuck with that one colour.  Kitguru found it to be a decent mouse, especially as they could purchase it for half the price of similar gaming mice from other companies.

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"We look at quite a lot of gaming mice here at KitGuru, many of them sitting over the £50 mark. But what if you only have £25 to spend? Today we are taking a look at the Shark Zone M20 Gaming Mouse from Sharkoon, it boasts many of the same features found on high-end mice, could this be a hidden gem in the saturated peripherals market?"

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Source: KitGuru

Podcast #342 - FreeSync Launch, Dell XPS 13, Super Fast DDR4 and more!

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2015 - 01:51 PM |
Tagged: XPS 13, video, Vector 180, usb 3.1, supernova, Silverstone, quadro, podcast, ocz, nvidia, m6000, gsync, FT05, freesync, Fortress, evga, dell, ddr4-3400, ddr4, corsair, broadwell-u, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #342 - 03/25/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the launch of FreeSync, Dell XPS 13, Super Fast DDR4 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!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
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  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts:Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Sebastian Peak

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

 

What helium shortage? I have a bunch stored in my HGST drive

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2015 - 12:32 PM |
Tagged: hgst, western digital, helium, hdd

The new generation of helium filled HDD from HGST take their longevity seriously, rating them at 2.5 million hours MTBF.  This generation also has 7 disks squeezed into the shell, with current capacities reaching 8TB and a shingled 10TB model currently being tested for release later this year.  The increased life and storage density are only part of the benefits that helium brings, 23% lower operating power and temperatures 4-5°C lower than traditional drives will also have an impact on data centre operating costs.  In their article The Register did ask how long the HelioSeal will keep the helium contained and while they did not get an exact figure, the 5 year warranty gives you a good idea of a lower limit.

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"HGST has announced second-generation helium drive tech after shipping a million gen-1 Helium drives and upping field reliability by 15 per cent."

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Source: The Register

Acer's Latest 15.6" Chromebook Powered By Core i5 (Broadwell-U) Processor

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2015 - 01:34 AM |
Tagged: core i5, Chromebook, chrome os, broadwell-u, acer

Acer is adding an updated Chromebook to its education-focused C910 lineup. The new Acer C910-54M1 ups the hardware ante by incorporating a Broadwell-U based Intel Core i5 processor which will make this the fastest Chromebook on the market (for what that's worth). 

This new C910 remains aimed at schools and businesses with a sturdy frame, large (for a Chromebook) 15.6" (up to) 1080p display, and eight hours of battery life. Below the display sits an island style keyboard and a large trackpad. Except for the arrow keys, Acer was able to use "regular" sized keys and did not shrink the shift or backspace keys which can be annoying. A webcam and two large upward facing speakers are also present on the C910.

Acer C910 Broadwell-U Core i5 Powered Chrome OS Chromebook.jpg

External I/O includes:

  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x SD card reader

The port selection is about what one would expect from a Chromebook, but the inclusion of USB 3.0 is welcome for accessing external storage.

Internally, the C910 Chromebook is powered by a dual core (four threads with Hyper-Threading) Broadwell-U Core i5 5200U processor clocked at 2.2GHz base and up to 2.7GHz Turbo Boost with a 15W TDP and 3MB cache. This particular processor includes Intel HD Graphics 5500 clocked at up to 900 MHz. Other hardware includes 4GB DDR3 memory and a 32GB SSD. Wireless hardware includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. 

Acer's new Chromebook is big and powerful, but will the increased hardware provide a noticeably better Chrome OS experience? Intel (naturally) seems to think so with its push to get Core i3 processors into Chromebooks last year. The Broadwell-U Core i5 should be just as fast (maybe even a bit faster with smoother UX and graphics) while sipping power. The alleged eight hours of battery life is impressive as well considering. The downside, because of course there always is one, is pricing. The C910-54M1 will be available in April with a 1080p display for $500. 

At that price point, it is squarely in budget Windows notebook territory as well as high end convertible (e.g. Bay Trail) tablet territory. It will be interesting to see how it ends up doing compared to the other options which each have their own trade offs.

Are you interested in a Chromebook with a Core i5 processor?

Source: Maximum PC