A slew of updates from Google

Subject: General Tech | November 20, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: google, lollipop, google play, shield

As you have no doubt heard, Android 5.0 aka Lollipop has been released, with NVIDIA's Shield picking it up immediately and most users having no issues whatsoever.  Nexus devices have also started to download and install it although that process is not going as smoothly as The Inquirer reports that many users are finding their devices almost unusable after they installed the new OS.  We shall see over the coming days if that is a rare occurrence or if the problems are widespread.  There was also an update to Chrome which brings stable 64bit performance to Apple users and some changes to the way bookmarks are handled in the beta version as well as numerous bugs which were found and bounty was paid on.  There are even more updates to Google Play, maps, wallet and other products which you can catch up on at The Inquirer.

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"YEE-HAW AND HOWDY pardners. In the week when it began to rain Lollipops in earnest, it's time to hit the trail for the Google Round-Up."

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Source: The Inquirer

Intel to Merge PC and Mobile Businesses

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | November 19, 2014 - 07:36 PM |
Tagged: x86, restructure, mobile, Intel

Last month, Josh wrote about Intel's Q3 earnings report. The company brought in $14.55 billion USD, of which they could keep $3.31 billion. Their PC group is responsible for $9 billion of that revenue and $4.12 billion of that profit, according to the Wall Street Journal. On the other hand, their mobile division is responsible for about $1 million – and it took over a billion to get that million. This has been the trend for quite some time now, as Intel pushes their square battering ram into the mobile and tablet round hole. Of course, these efforts could benefit the company as a whole, but they cannot show that in a quarterly, per-division report.

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And so we hear rumors that Intel intends to combine their mobile and PC divisions, which Chuck Mulloy, an Intel spokesperson, later confirmed in the same article. The new division, allegedly called the “Client Computing” group in an internal email that was leaked to the Wall Street Journal, will handle the processors for mobile devices but, apparently, not the wireless modem chipsets; those will allegedly be moved to a “wireless platform research and development organization”.

At face value, this move should allow Intel to push for mobile even more aggressively, while simultaneously reducing the pressure from investors to give up and settle for x86 PCs. Despite some differences, this echos a recent reorganization by AMD, where they paired-up divisions that were doing well with divisions that were struggling to make a few average divisions that were each treading water, at least on paper.

The reorganization is expected to complete by the end of Q1 2015, but that might not be a firm deadline.

Source: WSJ

Bringing the tabletop back to life, Mordheim – City Of The Damned

Subject: General Tech | November 19, 2014 - 02:44 PM |
Tagged: warhammer fantasy, mordheim, gaming, skaven, goat mmo simulator

For those not familiar with Warhammer Fantasy tabletop games and fluff it is difficult to explain why this is so exciting, those of us who have are having a similar reaction to the one at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.  If you have been deprived of this gaming experience then picture it instead as a decaying city which holds a prize called the wyrdstone for the warband which is capable of defeating all comers and laying claim to the ... well something you actually don't want to play with but definitely do not want anyone else to have.  The gameplay trailer below shows off their take on animated turn based gameplay, movement, actions and attacks use up dots from your action pool but the actual cost of movement is displayed as concentric circles which use up an action point each time you cross one, which is a friendly way to allow players to determine where they want to position their characters.  Positioning is very important as you will see in the video; handguns are great but not when you are face to face with a Daemon.  As with Blood Bowl and other reincarnations of Games Workshop tabletops, injuries are permanent and determined at the end of the round, your warrior may recover from being put out of action but they may be missing some body parts the next time you call them to battle.

If you can't wait for early access to yet another unreleased game then there is something awesome arriving for you tomorrow, assuming you are awesome enough to already own Goat Simulator!  Goat MMO Simulator is a part of patch 1.2 which is released tomorrow, far more awesome that other non-simulated MMOs recently release since you can level your goat, or microwave with legs, all the way to Level 101!  Check out Coffee Stain Studio's latest trailer, they have a flair for putting them together.

"Mordheim: City of the Damned is a squad-based tactical combat game set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, in which an injured unit might return to the titular chaos-infected city with a pegleg. It’s entering Early Access this month and I can’t wait to get my hands on it."

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He ain't heavy, he's my server. Iceotope's full immersion cabinents are hitting the market

Subject: General Tech | November 19, 2014 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: Novec, mineral oil, liquid cooling, Iceotope, 3M, PetaGen

It has been over a year since we last heard from Iceotope and their total immersion cooling system for servers but they have finally hit the market with the PetaGen liquid cooling system.  Using 3M's inert liquid which is branded Novec and after working with Intel to ensure the system can handle high end processors they are ready to launch a series of cabinets and products to sell to data centers, or at least ones with heavily reinforced flooring.  The weight could be a drawback for their sales people, not only are false floors going to be unfeasible there is a good chance the density of a totally immersed server will require serious support to resist the lure of gravity.  The investment could be worth it, their original claims seem to have been accurate and their system can reduce the cost of cooling your servers from about 50% of your operating cost down to 2%.  More attractive for some is that the waste heat is dumped into water which can heat to around 45C, enough to be recycled for building heating and other purposes to further lower a businesses operating costs.  Drop by The Inquirer for a bit of the history and more information on the company that is making mineral oil obsolete.

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"BRITISH SERVER COOLING FIRM Iceotope has developed a cooling system in partnership with Intel designed for high performance computing and supercomputing."

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Source: The Inquirer

Intel's mobile development team moves inside the PC division

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2014 - 12:53 PM |
Tagged: Intel, tablet, smartphone

Intel's smartphone and tablet divisions are being rolled up under Kirk Skaugen's PC Business division in what was described as an attempt to "accelerate Intel's opportunity in the marketplace".  This is definitely needed as Intel is having great difficulties garnering market share in the mobile industry, the only successes they have had are with larger more expensive tablets.  One possible benefit of this merger that was mentioned in the Inquirer's article was Intel's plans to leverage the growing use of LTE in both tablets and laptops, perhaps we shall see a 4G card become far more common in even basic models.  Intel implied that they are not planning any layoffs at this point although unless their ultramobile division can pick up the pace it seems inevitable that some will feel the axe.  We shall see over the coming year if Intel's focus on low powered silicon can help in their battles against incumbents such as ARM and Qualcomm.

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"INTEL HAS ANNOUNCED plans to merge its smartphone and tablet operations with its PC division in a bid to make the two businesses more efficient, and to further compete with rivals in the mobile semiconductor market."

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Source: The Inquirer

Blackberry skips a number too; BES 12 is coming soon

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2014 - 02:06 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, BES12

Somewhere the highly successful company RIM released BES 11 which runs on Windows 9, but not in this universe.  In this brane we have the struggling, but still alive Blackberry announcing the upcoming release of BES 12, a mobile device management server which will manage Android, iOS, Windows and Blackberry devices for enterprise.  The most interesting feature that was mentioned to The Register are virtual phone numbers, a company owned phone number can be added to an employees personal device, allowing them to keep their personal number and still receive business calls without needing a second device.  All the billing used by the business number is billed to the business while data and voice used under the users account is billed to their plan.  There are some obvious challenges to this service, you would need the same provider and the device would need to support Blackberry Balance, Android Fort Knox or similar partitioning software but is something which could interest small businesses.  You can catch up on the other features in the BES and news about some new devices right here.

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"Turnaround artiste John Chen marked one year as BlackBerry boss with an avalanche of enterprise software news related to the firm's new BES12 server, which can manage enterprise mobe devices running Android, iOS, Windows Phone – and of course, BB's own mobile OS."

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Source: The Register

Raptr's Top PC Games of October 2014

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2014 - 11:30 PM |
Tagged: raptr, pc gaming

The PC gaming utility, Raptr, tracks the time its users spend playing titles and aggregates it into a monthly press release. Because its purpose is recording game footage, adjusting quality settings, and so forth, it is not limited to any specific catalog of games. It allows a comparison developers, publishers, and distribution platforms, as long as the average Raptr user is representative of that market.

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It should be noted that, because game-hours are the recorded metric, it is not necessarily a good experiment to judge sales figures from. It is weighted by the average session length per user and how frequently the average user plays it, and not just how many people use it. As such, it will probably over-represent MMOs, MOBAs, and other multiplayer games... unless you are looking for aggregate game time, which is exactly what this survey provides (and sales figures are bad at determining).

From last month, League of Legends lost a bit of share, down from 22.54% of total to 22.25%. The second place contender, World of Warcraft, jumped from 7.63% of total game time to 8.53%. This means that League of Legends dropped from being 195% more popular than WoW to being 160% more popular. World of Warcraft is expected to jump further due to its Warlords of Draenor expansion that released in early November. The October bump, reported today, was likely due to the pre-expansion patch and promotional events.

Diablo III, the other Blizzard title on this chart, lost three places (and almost half of its play time) this month. It currently rests above Minecraft as it dropped below Smite and Counter-Strike: GO and ArcheAge moved up past it. PAYDAY 2 and FIFA 15 represented the capital letters by jumping onto the list (back onto in PAYDAY 2's case) in 14th and 15th spot, respectively.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor are new games for October, and appeared on the list in 18th and 19th place. Both titles bumped Team Fortress 2 down to 20th place, almost spiting the Halloween promotion, although its play time increased from September.

Source: Raptr

Who is the biggest mobo maker of the year

Subject: General Tech | November 14, 2014 - 01:27 PM |
Tagged: asus, gigabyte, sales, motherboards

If you prefer to talk about the sheer number of sales then ASUS is on track to take top spot with roughly 22 million units sold over 2014, a jump of over just 1 million from last year and 2 more than Gigabyte's predicted sales of 20 million units.  ASUS will also hold on to the most profit this year, Gigabyte is expected to match last year's profit of about 97 million USD which falls short of ASUS' expected 130 million USD but that is not the whole story.  Last year ASUS closed out with over 160 million USD profit which shows a significant decline in their profitability during the same period that Gigabyte's profitability remained the same.  DigiTimes reports this as being due to increased spending by ASUS on marketing and price cuts on their motherboards.  Is it possible that ASUS' once insurmountable lead in the motherboard market could be a thing of the past?

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"Asustek Computer's motherboard shipments returned to six million units in the third quarter thanks to its aggressive price-cutting strategy, which helped the vendor slightly widen the gap with its major competitors Gigabyte Technology, according to sources from the motherboard industry. However, despite the fact that Asustek is estimated to ship more motherboards than Gigabyte in 2014, its profit growth may perform weaker than Gigabyte's."

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Source: DigiTimes
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Microsoft

It could be a good... start.

So this is what happens when you install pre-release software on a production machine.

Sure, I only trusted it as far as a second SSD with Windows 7 installed, but it would be fair to say that I immersed myself in the experience. It was also not the first time that I evaluated upcoming Microsoft OSes on my main machine, having done the same for Windows Vista and Windows 7 as both were in production. Windows 8 was the odd one out, which was given my laptop. In this case, I was in the market for a new SSD and was thus willing to give it a chance, versus installing Windows 7 again.

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So far, my experience has been roughly positive. The first two builds have been glitchy. In the first three days, I have rebooted my computer more times than I have all year (which is about 1-2 times per month). It could be the Windows Key + Arrow Key combinations dropping randomly, Razer Synapse deciding to go on strike a couple of times until I reinstall it, the four-or-so reboots required to install a new build, and so forth. You then also have the occasional issue of a Windows service (or DWM.exe) deciding that it would max out a core or two.

But it is pre-release software! That is all stuff to ignore. The only reason I am even mentioning it is so people do not follow in my footsteps and install it on their production machines, unless they are willing to have pockets of downtime here or there. Even then, the latest build, 9879, has been fairly stable. It has been installed all day and has not given me a single issue. This is good, because it is the last build we will get until 2015.

What we will not ignore is the features. For the first two builds, it was annoying to use with multiple monitors. Supposedly to make it easier to align items, mouse cursors would remain locked inside each monitor's boundary until you provide enough velocity to have it escape to the next one. This was the case with Windows 8.1 as well, but you were given registry entries to disable the feature. Those keys did not work with Windows 10. But, with Build 9879, that seems to have been disabled unless you are currently dragging a window. In this case, a quick movement would pull windows between monitors, while a slow movement would perform a Snap.

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This is me getting ready to snap a window on the edge between two monitors with just my mouse.

In a single build, they turned this feature from something I wanted to disable, to something that actually performs better (in my opinion) than Windows 7. It feels great.

Now on to a not-so-pleasant experience: updating builds.

Simply put, you can click "Check Now" and "Download Update" all that you want, but it will just sit there doing nothing until it feels like it. During the update from 9860 to 9879, I was waiting with the PC Settings app open for three hours. At some point, I got suspicious and decided to monitor network traffic: nothing. So I did the close app, open app, re-check dance a few times, and eventually gave up. About a half of an hour after I closed PC Settings the last time, my network traffic spiked to the maximum that my internet allows, which task manager said was going to a Windows service.

Shortly after, I was given the option to install the update. After finishing what I was doing, I clicked the install button and... it didn't seem to do anything. After about a half of an hour, it prompted me to restart my computer with a full screen message that you cannot click past to save your open windows - it is do it or postpone it one or more hours, there is no in-between. About another twenty minutes (and four-or-five reboots) after I chose to reboot, I was back up and running.

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Is that okay? Sure. When you update, you clearly need to do stuff and that could take your computer several minutes. It would be unrealistic to complain about a 20-minute install. The only real problem is that it waits for extended periods of time doing nothing (measured, literally nothing) until it decides that the time is right, and that time is NOW! It may have been three hours after you originally cared, but the time is NOW!

Come on Microsoft, let us know what is going on behind the scenes, and give us reliable options to pause or suspend the process before the big commitment moments.

So that is where I am, one highly positive experience and one slightly annoying one. Despite my concerns about Windows Store (which I have discussed at length in the past and are still valid) this operating system seems to be on a great path. It is a work in progress. I will keep you up to date, as my machine is kept up to date.

When your Brown bottoms out too easily, WASD Keyboards CODE with Cherry MX Clear

Subject: General Tech | November 13, 2014 - 06:09 PM |
Tagged: Cherry MX clear, WASD Keyboards, CODE, input, mechanical keyboard, tenkeyless

Scott posted about the WASD Keyboards CODE with Cherry MX Clear switches but until now we have not found a review of this keyboard.  The Tech Report has changed that with this review which takes a look at the new type of switch which sits between the Brown and the Green, Clear switches need more force to bottom out that a Brown but not as much as the clicky style Green switches.  That is not all this tenkeyless board offers, there are LEDs that can be activated by the dip switches in the recess found on the back of the keyboard.  In fact those dip switches can do more than just enable a nice glow, you can disable the Windows key or even immediately switch to different layouts such as Mac, Dvorak, and Colemak though sadly they left Sinclair ZX off of the list.  If this type of switch interests your fingers and you are willing to spend $150 on a keyboard check out the full review here.

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"We've been meaning to try out Cherry MX's clear key switches for a while, and now, we've finally gotten our wish. Join us for a look at WASD Keyboards' Cherry MX clear-infused Code keyboard, a tenkeyless offering with more than a few tricks up its sleeve."

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