Get your pirated Windows a letter of marque

Subject: General Tech | March 18, 2015 - 04:03 PM |
Tagged: WinHEC, windows, microsoft

If you know a friend that has a friend that might have picked up a copy of Windows from a site of ill repute they still have a chance to redeem their soul.  At WinHEC today Microsoft announced that any eligible version of Windows running on hardware compatible with Windows 10 can also upgrade to a new and fully licensed version of Windows 10 when it is released.  This is an interesting move by Microsoft but there is sense behind the move as it will increase their customer base for purchasing apps from the Microsoft Store and any licensing which may come into effect after the free year they offer.  It also gives them more accurate data on the number of users of Windows and possibly other metadata as well.

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"Microsoft will make Windows 10 available as a free upgrade even to pirated copies of other Windows operating systems in China. Terry Myerson of Microsoft's operating systems unit made the announcement at the WinHEC technology conference in Shenzhen, China, and then told Reuters, "We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10.""

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Source: Slashdot

d'IE!

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2015 - 07:43 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, IE, project spartan

First of all, this is possibly the shortest title we have ever made at PC Perspective. I guess I win something? Either way, WinBeta claims that Microsoft has finally said, on the record, that the Internet Explorer branding will not be applied to Project Spartan. The quote is from Chris Capossela, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft.

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And Web Developers say...?

We’re now researching what the new brand, or the new name, for our browser should be in Windows 10," said Capossela. "We’ll continue to have Internet Explorer, but we’ll also have a new browser called Project Spartan, which is codenamed Project Spartan. We have to name the thing.

This quote still seems a little vague for me. While it clearly separates “the new brand” from “Internet Explorer”, it does not definitively say that Project Spartan will not be derived from it (pardon the double-negative). Of course, I think it is safe to say that it will be a wholly new brand, but I don't think this quote changes anything.

By the way, may I recommend “PhoIEnix”? I'm pretty sure no-one tried that name for a web browser before being immediately disputed by Phoenix Technologies. Wow, that's oddly specific to not be a reference to anything, at all, ever...

Source: WinBeta

NVIDIA Announces DIGITS DevBox - 28 TFLOPS, 1300 Watts, $15k

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | March 17, 2015 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, DIGITS

At GTC, NVIDIA announced a new device called the DIGITS DevBox:

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The DIGITS DevBox is a device that data scientists can purchase and install locally. Plugged into a single electrical outlet, this modified Corsair Air 540 case equipped with quad TITAN X (reviewed here) GPUs can crank out 28 TeraFLOPS of compute power. The installed CPU is a Haswell-E 5930K, and the system is rated to draw 1300W of power. NVIDIA is building these in-house as the expected volume is low, with these units likely going to universities and small compute research firms.

Why would you want such compute power?

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DIGITS is a software package available from NVIDIA. Its purpose is to act as a tool for data scientists to manipulate deep learning environments (neural networks). This package, running on a DIGITS DevBox, will give much more compute power capability to scientists who need it for their work. Getting this tech in the hands of more scientists will accelerate this technology and lead to what NVIDIA hopes will be a ‘Big Bang’ in this emerging GPU-compute-heavy field.

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More from GTC is coming soon, as well as an exclusive PC Perspective Live Stream set to start in just a few minutes! Did I mention we will be giving away a Titan X???

**Update**

Ryan interviewed the lead developer of DIGITS in the video below. This offers a great explanation (and example) of what this deep learning stuff is all about:

HSA Version 1.0 arrived today

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2015 - 01:18 PM |
Tagged: hsa foundation, hsa, amd, arm, Samsung, Imagination Technologies, HSAIL

We have been talking about the HSA foundation since 2013, a cooperative effort by AMD, ARM, Imagination, Samsung, Qualcomm, MediaTek and TI to design a heterogeneous memory architecture to allow GPUs, DSPs and CPUs to all directly access the same physical memory.  The release of the official specifications today are a huge step forward for these companies, especially for garnering future mobile market share as physical hardware apart from Carrizo becomes available.

Programmers will be able to use C, C++, Fortran, Java, and Python to write HSA-compliant code which is then compiled into HSAIL (Heterogeneous System Architecture Intermediate Language) and from there to the actual binary executables which will run on your devices.  HSA currently supports x86 and x64 and there are Linux kernel patches available for those who develop on that OS.  Intel and NVIDIA are not involved in this project at all, they have chosen their own solutions for mobile devices and while Intel certainly has pockets deep enough to experiment NVIDIA might not.  We shall soon see if Pascal and improvements Maxwell's performance and efficiency through future generations can compete with the benefits of HSA.

The current problem is of course hardware, Bald Eagle and Carrizo are scheduled to arrive on the market soon but currently they are not available.  Sea Islands GPUs and Kaveri have some HSA enhancements but with limited hardware to work with it will be hard to convince developers to focus on programming HSA optimized applications.  The release of the official specs today is a great first step; if you prefer an overview to reading through the official documents The Register has a good article right here.

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"The HSA Foundation today officially published version 1.0 of its Heterogeneous System Architecture specification, which (if we were being flippant) describes how GPUs, DSPs and CPUs can share the same physical memory and pass pointers between each other. (A provisional 1.0 version went live in August 2014.)"

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Source: The Register

It has been a long time since we saw a gaming chair review

Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2015 - 01:03 PM |
Tagged: input, gaming chair

A few years back Ryan reviewed the Nerdytec COUCHMASTER, even longer ago The Tech Report played with the SumoSac and there are still ButtKickers out there for sale.  Now you can pick up the brightly coloured AKRACING AK-6011 Gaming Chair which is style after the bucket seats found in many sports cars.  Neoseeker picked one up and assembled it to see just how comfortable it and the two included pillows actually are.   After two months of usage they are quite happy with the comfort and sturdy design of the chair, so if you really want to make a statement you can pick one up from Amazon, there are different colour schemes available if the only thing that you find odd about this product is the shade of green they used.

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"While we aren't strangers to reviewing gaming peripherals, we haven't yet had the chance to take one of AKRACING's premium gaming chairs for a spin. The brand might ring a bell for readers familiar with eSports. Modeled after the seats used in race cars, AKRACING looks to blend fast lane sensibilities with the ergonomic features that users come to expect from any comfortable chair. On our review today is the AKRACING AK-6011 in a two-tone black and green color scheme with two extra pillows to better customize proper sitting posture. See what over $300 for a chair ought to get you."

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Source: Neoseeker

Star Citizen Keeps Getting Bigger. Literally.

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2015 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: star citizen, rsi

When the game is finished, Robert Space Industries is expecting the Star Citizen game client to be 100GB in size. The company was given $75 million USD from fans over the last two and a half years, and they seem to be using it for content. Individual patches are expected to be in the 2 to 6GB range, but could extend to 20GB if an architecture change requires updating old assets to some new system.

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I guess this is a case of “be careful what you wish for”. When you praise a developer for producing a gigantic experience with tonnes of content, it will need to be stored somewhere. At the same time, I wonder when games from typical publishers will match this bar. Say what you like about crowd-funding, but Star Citizen seems to be an example of the business model done right (although their budget is astronomical and that probably helped).

Star Citizen is slowly being released, piece by piece, with a 2016 shipping date.

Source: PC Gamer

GDC 15: Valve's GDC VR "Aperture Science" Demo

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 14, 2015 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: vive vr, vive, valve, re vive, Portal 2, Portal, mwc 15, MWC, htc, gdc 15, GDC

At the recent Game Developer Conference and Mobile World Congress events, Valve had a demo for HTC's Vive VR system that was based in the Portal universe. The headset is combined with two controllers, one for each hand, which sound like a cross between Valve's Steam Controller and the Razer Hydra.

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When HTC briefed journalists about the technology, they brought a few examples for use with their prototype. C|Net described three: a little demo where you could paint with the controllers in a virtual space, an aquarium where you stand on a sunken pirate ship and can look at a gigantic blue whale float overhead, and a Portal-based demo that is embedded above. I also found “The Gallery” demo online, but I am not sure where it was presented (if anywhere).

Beyond VR, the Source 2 engine, which powers the Portal experience, looks good. The devices looked very intricate and full of detail. Granted, it is a lot easier to control performance when you are dealing with tight corridors or isolated rooms. The lighting also seems spot on, although it is hard to tell whether this capability is dynamic or precomputed.

The HTC Vive developer kit is coming soon, before a consumer launch in the Autumn.

Source: YouTube

Windows 10 Preview Build Stuff and Stuff

Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

So we have been on Build 9926 for a while and Microsoft is aware that we want something new. They started out this Technical Preview claiming that we will see the OS evolve as it is built. While we have, for the most part, been given builds frequently enough to influence the development, the last couple of updates have been about half of their expected interval.

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For this release, Microsoft claims that there is just a single blocking bug that is preventing a public release. They also state that users who want a more stable preview build, such as those who installed it to a production machine (not naming any names... sigh), should switch their update schedule to “Slow”. Users on the “Fast” lane will get new builds much quicker. The words “Daily Builds” appeared on an internal document, but was quickly clarified as an internal memo.

Microsoft is also considering a third tier that pushes updates faster than both “Fast” and “Slow”.

There are two opposing forces when it comes to the update speed of preview software. While you end up with more stability if you are extra careful with troubleshooting, you will not catch every bug. For that matter, there are still bugs that I can point to in Windows 7 that will never be fixed at this point (there is one bug with resizing windows on vertically-separated multiple monitors that still exists in Windows 10 -- although other multi-monitor interfaces that are not in Windows 7 give plenty of workarounds room).

When the update speed is low, you are stuck with bugs that feel excruciating for what feels like forever. Add that to the slow, bursty roll-out of new features and it gives some extra merit to the fast release model. That is, unless you get so quick that you run into bluescreens and other, more critical failures. It is a tough balance that I can sympathize with and empathize to.

It's tough, so I have personally flipped my machine over to “slow”. I figure that I could keep on the more stable builds for a short period of time and wait to hear what the community thinks about each new release before flipping to the fast track.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

HiFiMAN's HE-400i Planar Magnetic Headphones for those with the ears to hear

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2015 - 01:40 PM |
Tagged: audio, hifiman, HE-400i

When HiFiMan refers to the single-sided planar magnetic driver in the HE-400i headset they are describing the positioning of the magnets within the drivers, single sided only have magnets on the side of the driver that is facing away from your ear.  As you might expect from this design decision this is not an inexpensive gaming headset but a high end audiophile headset and the $500 price tag further emphasizes this.  TechPowerUp had a chance to don these earphones and try them out, connected to JDSLabs C5D and O2 headphone amps and were more than impressed.  Indeed the bass reproduction of the HE-400i came near to matching the HE-560 which is twice the price.  If you have a decent headphone amp and discerning ears then HiFiMan is brand to take under consideration.

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"HiFiMAN has always been known to produce some pretty interesting high-end headphones. Today, we take a look at the new HE-400i. It uses the same magnet array technology HiFiMAN introduced with the critically acclaimed HE-560."

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Source: techPowerUp

Even Intel is feeling the pinch, to the tune of a billion dollars

Subject: General Tech | March 13, 2015 - 12:48 PM |
Tagged: Q1, Intel, earnings, billions

Earlier in the week came distressing news from many manufacturers of PC components and now Intel has made their financial state a little clearer.  The Register has posted the numbers, predicted earnings for Q1 of this year have dropped from USD13.7 billion +/- $500 million, down to USD12.8bn +/- $300 million.  Losing about a billion dollars in profit is going to hurt anyone, even the mighty Intel.  The drop in the PC market comes from a variety of sources but two of the most likely candidates are the lack of cash in consumers pockets to upgrade and a lack of competition driving an urge to upgrade.  Once many gamers would willing live on ramen noodles for a time so that they could afford the next GPU or CPU upgrade thanks to the impressive performance increases the next generation offered.  Now new releases tend to offer a small incremental performance increase and occasionally new features which are impressive but nowhere near what an upgrade 10 years ago offered.  Certainly part of the issue is the difficult of coaxing a bit more performance out of silicon and with the reduced competition it is less financially attractive to fund expensive and risky R&D projects than it is to work on small incremental increases in efficiency and performance.

Here's hoping for a change to this market in the coming years.

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"Intel has lowered its revenue forecast for the first quarter of its fiscal 2015 by nearly a billion dollars, citing a weaker than expected PC market."

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Source: The Register