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.

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

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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

Windows Apps Still Smell Like Windows RT

Subject: General Tech | March 25, 2015 - 06:23 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10, winRT, windows rt

Even though I am really liking the Windows 10 operating system from a technical standpoint, I did not mind Windows 8.x, as software, either. My concern was its promotion of the Windows Store for the exact same reasons that I dislike the iOS App Store. Simply put, for your application to even exist, Microsoft (or Apple) needs to certify you as a developer, which they can revoke at any time, and they need to green light your creations.

windows-10.png

This has a few benefits, especially for Microsoft. First and foremost, it gives them a killswitch for malicious software and their developers. Second, it gives them as much control over the platform as they want. If devices start flowing away from x86 to other instruction sets, like we almost saw a few years ago, then Windows can pick up and go with much less friction than the corner they painted themselves into with Win32.

This also means that developers need to play ball, even for terms that Microsoft is forced to apply because of pressure for specific governments. LGBT groups should be particularly concerned as other platforms are already banning apps that are designed for their members. Others could be concerned about encryption and adult art, even in Western nations. If Microsoft, or someone with authority over them, doesn't want your content to exist: it's gone (unless it can run in a web browser).

On the plus side, I don't see the rule where third-party browser engines are banned anymore. When Windows 8 launched, all browsers needed to be little more than a reskin of Internet Explorer.

Beyond censorship, if Microsoft does not offer a side-loading mechanism for consumers, you also might need to give Microsoft a cut of your sales. You don't even seem to be able to give your app to specific people. If you want to propose to your significant other via a clever app, there does not seem to be a method to share it outside of the Windows Store unless you set up their device as a Window developer ahead of time.

Why do I say all this today? Because Microsoft has branded Universal Apps as Windows apps, and their strategy seems to be completely unchanged in these key areas. What kept me from updating to Windows 8 was not its user interface. It was the same thing that brought me to develop in Web technologies and volunteer for Mozilla.

It was the developer certification and lack of side-loading for modern apps.

I get it. Microsoft is tired of being bullied with crap about how it is insecure and a pain for the general public. At the very least, they need a way for users to opt out, though. What they are doing with Windows 10 is very nice, and I would like to see it as my main operating system, but I need to prioritize alternative platforms if this one is heading in a very dark direction.

Win32 might be a legacy API, but the ability to write what I want should not be.

Source: Thurrott.com

About time you provided some in game footage, meet Blood Bowl 2

Subject: General Tech | March 25, 2015 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: gaming, blood bowl 2

The teaser trailer for Blood Bowl 2 has been around for a while but was obviously not representative of what the game will look like in match.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN has posted a new video which does feature a look at the new interface for those who find the NFL nowhere near as violent as they like their football.  Cyanide is starting the game out with 8 races so it is possible that some of the more interesting balance issues caused by certain races in the first iteration will be ironed out, hopefully as they include new races they will be available for little or no money for those who purchased the initial release of this sequel.  If you enjoy inflicting turn-based tactical trauma then keep your eyes out for this release.

bb2oh.jpg

"We’ve had a little chat with the makers of Blood Bowl II [official site] – and isn’t it nice to chat with people! – and peered at a few screenshots and swish trailers. With spring approaching, and therefore the turn-based tactical bloodsport’s release, we’re at the point in its marketing campaign where we get to see more of the game itself."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Psst, hey buddy I got some nice Android apps for you cheap! They just fell off the back of a truck ya know.

Subject: General Tech | March 25, 2015 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: Android, security

If you are running a device with Android 4.3 or earlier you should avoid third-party app stores; arguably all users should but there are times when Google Play does not offer what you need.  A security problem with the way that APK files are authenticated during install can allow a seemingly harmless app to be modified, either at the source or while being transmitted, leading to the installation of an app that may not be entirely honest about what it does.  Palo Alto Network's testing shows versions 4.4+ do not suffer from this particular problem nor do the vetted apps at the Google Play store.  It is unlikely you will encounter this problem unless you usually install things from places like Creepy Ice Cream Van Discount Apps and Malware,  but you should be aware of the existence of this issue.  More at The Inquirer.

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"A FRESH VULNERABILITY CALLED Android Installer Hijacking is making itself known as a threat to almost half of all Android users."

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Source: The Inquirer

Pixar Renderman Is Free for Non-Commercial Use

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2015 - 09:44 PM |
Tagged: renderman, pixar, disney

Well that's a surprise. Pixar Renderman, the software used and developed by Pixar to turn computer-represented geometry into wonderful images, is now free for non-commercial use. This is not quite as free as Unreal Engine 4, which does not require royalties for rendered audio/video at all because the content is viewed without the engine, but free for non-commercial is still a big deal considering what Renderman is. While Pixar is known for their movies, they are very much software engineers.

pixar-mike-scully.jpg

Thumbs up all around.

Image Credit: Pixar via Animation Magazine

Currently the rendering package integrates with Autodesk Maya and KATANA by The Foundry. Pixar has Cinema4D and Houdini listed as “in development”. They also claim to be interested in 3D Studio Max, because of course they are, as well as Modo, Rhino, Lightwave, and Blender.

Yay Blender!

The above list only considers dedicated plug-ins. Pixar Renderman can also be run as a standalone application that accepts their file format, “RIB”, from a command-line interface. There has been many of these for Blender and other 3D suites over the last basically forever. A plug-in is nicer for artists however, and it is good to see Pixar is not afraid of open-source suites to pair with their proprietary rendering package. Also, "Blenderman" is a hilarious name.

Source: Pixar

Getting heavy into HAMR's theory

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2015 - 12:43 PM |
Tagged: HAMR, science

If you are curious just how Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording is able to increase the storage densities of your HDDs then this post at Nanotechweb and the linked article will make a great read.  They deal with how plasmonic near-field transducers, which will oscillate in time with the frequency of a light source, as long as the light source's frequency is equal to or less than the plasma frequency.  This causes heat but nowhere near as much as if the light was used directly and so avoids potentially damaging hotspots.  They also delve into the materials which are being tested to provide more efficient heat transmission; it is not light reading but it is very informative for those curious about HAMR's development and future.

nano508517f1_online.jpg

"Heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) is a leading technology for advancing hard-disk-drive areal density beyond 1 Tb/in2. To reduce the magnetic coercivity, near-field transducers (NFTs) made of plasmonic nanostructures are used."

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Source: Nanotechweb

Looking for an Android emulator?

Subject: General Tech | March 23, 2015 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: DuOS, Android

Be it for development reasons or a serious addiction to a certain game, there are those who find themselves wanting to run Android on a device larger than a phone or tablet.  For a mere $10 you can pick up DuOS, a supported Android emulator which will run on a PC, or at least a modern Intel powered machine as the emulator uses VT-x to run properly which is a shame for AMD users.  It will not run on ARM hardware but it is ARM v-7 compliant so you can use applications designed for the chip that most mobile hardware runs on with DuOS.  The footprint on your machine is tiny, 16GB maximum and you can root the installation very quickly if you are looking to test your modifications to the Android OS before installing them on your phone.  Techgage does mention that there is no help menu and you will need to update the application manually so plan to spend some time on the DuOS forums if you will be making use of this software.

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"With so many devices out there, on many different operating systems, deciding which one you should purchase can be difficult. DuOS helps lessen that burden by providing an Android tablet experience on your Windows computer. Does DuOS step beyond the barriers that currently divide these OS’s, or are we still locked into one OS per device?"

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Source: Techgage

Microsoft Changes Secure Boot Rules with Windows 10, Could Mean OS Lockout

Subject: General Tech | March 22, 2015 - 09:14 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, Secure Boot, microsoft, linux

Secure Boot is a security measure that prevents malware from interfering with the boot process, but it can also prevent unsigned operating systems from booting on the same hardware. While Microsoft’s “Designed for Windows 8” guidelines required manufacturers to permit users to disable the Secure Boot option, the upcoming Windows 10 release will not have this rule in effect. At WinHEC it has been revealed that Windows 10 guidelines leave it up to the OEM to decide if they will allow users to disable UEFI Secure Boot in the system setup, and making this optional presents an interesting question about compatibility with other operating systems. OEM's will be required to ship computers with Secure Boot enabled to comply with “Designed for…” rules, and while they could then choose to provide the option to disable it (currently the required standard), preventing user installation of other OS software could be seen as a way to streamline support by eliminating variables.

windows-10-secure-boot.png

Image Credit: Ars Technica

Why does this matter if most people who purchase a Windows 10 computer will run Windows 10 on it? This could be an issue for someone who wished to either replace that Windows 10 installation with another OS, or simply dual-boot with an OS that didn’t support the Secure Boot feature (which could be a build of Linux or even an older version of Windows). Requiring OS files to contain digital signatures effectively locks out other operating systems without special workarounds or keys, and although open-source operating systems represent a small segment of the market thanks to the way computer hardware is sold to most people, it is concerning to think future hardware could cause a loss of the freedom of choice we have always had with operating systems.

Microsoft enjoys market dominance with Windows thanks to its licensing model (giving it a monopoly on pre-built PC systems that don’t have an Apple or Chrome logo on them), but reportedly began considering possibilities "to assert its intellectual property against Linux or any other open-source software” a decade ago, and this has reached farther than they probably imagined with the adoption of Android (from which Microsoft makes money on every device sold). Is this Secure Boot move nefarious, and does Microsoft consider Linux to be a potential threat to the their desktop market share? It could be that Microsoft would simply like to claim that Windows 10 is the safest version of Windows yet, and that isn’t a bad thing for consumers. Unless they want to easily use another OS on the hardware they purchased, that is.

Source: Ars Technica