Raspberry Pi Gets an A+ for Education

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | November 11, 2014 - 03:27 AM |
Tagged: usb computer, Raspberry Pi B+, Raspberry Pi, Education

The Raspberry Pi was intended as a learning device. David Braben, previously known for Rollercoaster Tycoon and other video games, noticed that computer science education was lacking and he wanted to contribute to its advancement with a cheap, portable, and highly-programmable PC. Yesterday, the organization announced a new model, the Raspberry Pi A+, which is (theoretically) cheaper, smaller, and has a few better components. This announcement follows the release of the Raspberry Pi B+ from last July.

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I say “theoretically cheaper” because, although the organization is touting a price reduction from $25 to $20 USD, that always depends on the reseller. MCM Electronics, one of the foundation's US-based distributors, is selling the A+ for its list price of $20 (plus an extra ~$10 in shipping, before tax). In the UK, however, the currency conversion works out to about $25 before VAT. That said, the UK is known to be expensive for electronics.

Whatever the price, the device is slightly improved. While it keeps the same, Broadcom BCM2835 SoC and RAM, the memory has been upgraded to a locking MicroSD card slot, the audio's power delivery has been improved to reduce noise, and the number of GPIO pins has been increased from 26 to 40. The latter enhancement will allow the Pi to interface with more, and different, sensors and motors for robotics and other embedded applications.

The Raspberry Pi A+ and B+ are both currently on backorder for $20 and $35, respectively, before a $10 shipping fee and any applicable taxes.

PCPer Live! Assassin's Creed Unity Game Stream Powered by NVIDIA!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 10, 2014 - 10:07 PM |
Tagged: video, Unity, pcper, nvidia, live, GTX 980, geforce, game stream, assassins creed

UPDATE: If you missed the live stream event: good news! We have it archived up on YouTube now and embeded below for your viewing pleasure!

Assassin's Creed Unity is shaping up to be one of the defining games of the holiday season, with visuals and game play additions that are incredible to see in person. Scott already wrote up a post that details some the new technologies found in the game along with a video of the impressive detail the engine provides. Check it out!

To celebrate the release, PC Perspective has partnered with NVIDIA to host a couple of live game streams that will feature some multi-player gaming fun as well some prizes to giveaway to the community. I will be joined by some new NVIDIA faces to take on the campaign in a cooperative style while taking a couple of stops to give away some hardware.

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Assassin's Creed Unity Game Stream Powered by NVIDIA

5pm PT / 8pm ET - November 11th

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

Here are some of the prizes we have lined up for those of you that join us for the live stream:

Another awesome prize haul!! How do you win? It's really simple: just tune in and watch the Assassin's Creed Unity Game Stream Powered by NVIDIA! We'll explain the methods to enter live on the air and anyone can enter from anywhere in the world - no issues at all!

So stop by Tuesday night for some fun, some gaming and the chance to win some goods!

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Blizzcon 2014: StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void Announced

Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2014 - 09:22 PM |
Tagged: Starcraft II, starcraft, lotv, legacy of the void, blizzcon 2014, blizzcon, blizzard

Blizzard has been reconsidering what constitutes "a game sale" with StarCraft for quite some time now. They have been slowly carving out its mod platform, StarCraft Arcade, into a standalone, free product. They allow playing multiplayer with limitations, such as forcing free players to choose Terran (except for certain promotions). A few years in to StarCraft II's release, they even added "Spawning" to allow Starter and Wings of Liberty users to play locked content as long as a party member has purchased it, although Starter users are still locked to Terran.

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Today's announcement is a little more conventional -- Legacy of the Void will be a standalone expansion. You can purchase it without owning any earlier content. If you do own Wings of Liberty and/or Heart of the Swarm, then it will behave like an expansion, however.

The game itself will change significantly, too. At the competitive level, you often have a bit of a boring early game, unless one player decides to be a bit cheesy with their tactics. A lot of this is due to how long it takes to get from your initial six workers to being supply blocked. In Legacy of the Void, you start with 12 workers, twice as many as before. Also, each mineral patch has 33% less minerals, requiring bases to be taken more frequently and discouraging a maxed-out army from sitting on a handful of expansions to build a bank.

Many units were added and changed as well. Terran and Protoss are being pushed toward dropping units. The Warp Prism has its pickup range increased, to allow it to grab and reposition units from anywhere within a relatively large army ball, without needing to put the transport unit in danger. On the other hand, Terrans are able to pick up Seige Tanks while they are in Siege Mode. This allows a Terran player, who is paying close attention, to drop a tank for a quick, high-damage, and splashing shot, and then pick it up before it can be attacked. Siege Tanks have large range, slow rate of fire, and a relatively low health. If they are never shot at, though, while they're reloading their main cannon, then that nullifies their weakness, as long as you can keep the Medivac alive, too.

One thing that Blizzard disliked, however, seems to be Swarm Hosts. In Heart of the Swarm, competitions went on for hours, literally hours, as one component turtled in a corner of the map (or surrounded an opponent into a corner of the map) with free units. This was particularly problematic for Protoss, that has a highly efficient, ball-based army, and Zerg, which could counter with their own Swarm Hosts. Battles was commonly wave-after-wave of free units doing zero (or minimal) damage, ad-infinitum.

In Legacy of the Void, they do not spawn Locusts (free units) fast enough to pin someone down, or keep someone out, and these Locusts need to be spawned manually. Instead, they are intended as more of a sieging unit, capable of dropping free units into a base and walking away. They also do not burrow, unless that upgrade is acquired, which will make them easier to attack. On the other hand, the Locusts can fly to their target, where they must land to attack, as normal. The Swarm Hosts do not need to be in a dangerous location, just a potentially dangerous range. Whether Swarm Hosts, if they are upgraded with Burrow, can release Locusts while hidden is unclear. It is not something that I have seen yet. That said, the borrowed, space-control unit is now the Lurker, a Brood War alumnus.

Many other changes have been announced, but it always comes down to user testing.

As usual for a Blizzard title, no official release date has been given. A private beta will be "coming soon" to selected participants. It was also available to play at Blizzcon.

Source: Blizzard

Blizzcon 2014: Blizzard Announces Overwatch (New IP)

Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2014 - 07:59 PM |
Tagged: overwatch, blizzcon 2014, blizzcon, blizzard

Blizzard has announced Overwatch, a new franchise to expand their portfolio. It was unveiled at the Blizzcon keynote with a cinematic trailer followed immediately by gameplay footage. The first video looks significantly different from other Blizzard cinematics. It follows a Walt Disney Animation Studios art style, including exaggerated facial features and animations, versus the game company's normal dulled realism. It would look at home alongside "Bolt", for instance.

The gameplay itself is compared to Team Fortress 2. It is a class-based first-person shooter with an assortment of game types. The first two, announced modes will probably sound very similar to most of our fans: Point Capture and Payload (yes, that Payload). The classes are described more like MOBA heroes, however, but multiple players are (said to be) able to use the same class. Apart from the character design, they seem to be functionally TF2 classes. Maybe the difference is just that their names do not define what they do?

There are several similarities and differences between the two games. The classes seem to borrow from Team Fortress, with a comfortable embrace to magic and abilities. There are at least two engineer-style characters that can build turrets, and at least one of them can build a teleporter. One difference is, there seems to be a bit of a focus on parkour and movement abilities, such as grappling hooks, in particular.

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There are also a couple of guesses about where this game came from. The funny, albeit likely incorrect reason is that, after Valve took the reigns of DOTA, Blizzard decided to take on Team Fortress 2 and push into their turf (although Gabe Newell has described the relationship between the two companies as "friends"). More likely, Paul Tassi published on Forbes some claims that Overwatch was a remnant from Titan, possibly one of its intended PvP modes. If this was a spin-off of Titan, it makes me wonder exactly what kind of engine they were trying to develop, that was developed for an MMO but that could also be comfortable as a first-person shooter. That said, it is not uncommon to see versatile engines in recent years, such as Source and Unreal Engine 4.

Overwatch will be going into a multiplayer beta in 2015, seemingly early in the year. It is interesting to see Blizzard go into a vastly different genre than their usual, especially from a technology standpoint.

Source: Blizzard

Remember the Google Barges? We know why they left

Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2014 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: google, barges, mysterious

Not even Google is able to defeat the enforcement powers of local fire marshals which is why the mysterious barges are no longer anchored off the coast of San Francisco.  It seems that may not have met the fire safety rules required by law and so they have departed for places unknown.  The variety of theories which attempted to explain the barges, from floating data centres to a project to cede from the USA, were far more entertaining than the truth but perhaps we can enjoy a resurgence of entertaining internet hypothesizing now that the barges have disappeared.  The Inquirer did get a chance to speak with Google about the barges and it turns out that they were simply a very unique way to set up a display room to show off Google's newest projects.

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"TWO MYSTERIOUS BARGES moored by Google off the coast of the US last year were apparently moved because coastguards feared they did not conform to fire regulations."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

It's time for another Fragging Frogs VLAN! Saturday November 8 10:00 AM ET - Virtual LAN party #8

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2014 - 04:55 PM |
Tagged: VLAN party, gaming, fragging frogs

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Once again the amazing crew from the Fragging Frogs and our friends at AMD are teaming up to bring you a day of fun, fragging and prizes!  This weekend we also introduce two new friends, Bohemia Interactive Studios, producers of ARMA, DayZ and other games, as well as Innovation Cooling who have both contributed to this event. 

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If you are not already a member of the PC Perspective Forums you will need to register as a member in order to be eligible to win the prizes given away during the VLAN.  The registration thread is right here, sign your name to be eligible and please read through the links to the guides which explain how to log into the Teamspeak channel, the games that will be played and the patches and add-on files that need to be installed to ensure you spend more time playing and less time downloading.  iamApropos will once again be streaming the action live via TWITCH.TV so even if you can't participate for some reason you can have fun vicariously.  Be sure to thank our game hosts, organizers and sponsors as it takes a lot of time and effort to set these events up. 

See you there, in the mean time here is a video to get you even more excited.

FarCry 4, NVIDIA Gameworks and hair products for beasts

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2014 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, far cry 4, ubisoft, gameworks, txaa, hbao+

Check out the video for a look at the various in game enhancements that NVIDIA's new feaures will be bringing to FarCry 4 and gaze in awe at that gorgeous yak featured at 1:37, just look at its hair waving in the breeze and reacting to the motions of the animal.  It is not clear if AMD's TressFX will provide equivalent body and shine to the beasts that HairWorks does but you have to admit that is an impressive amount of work to make meat on the hoof look pretty.  There are two different technologies to improve the look of shadows, Percentage Closer Soft Shadows (PCSS, aka ShadowWorks) softens the edges of shadows based on the distance between the object creating the shadow and the surface the shadow appears on while Horizon Based Ambient Occlusion (HBAO+) is a new and efficient way to render ambient lighting and shadows accurately without paying for it with a big hit in performance.  Temporal anti-aliasing, TXAA is reputed to offer the benefits of MSAA 8x at the performance cost of 4x; while it is hard to judge the accuracy of that in the video you can certainly see it is an effective way of removing jaggies from straight edges.  You can also expect to see God Rays rendered properly, the shot of the sun through the tree near the end makes a rather nice set peice to display that effect.

Below you can see the recommended hardware, it is worth emphasizing that only 64bit OSes need apply on the PC.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif - November 6, 2014 - Ubisoft announces today a new technology PC gaming development partnership with NVIDIA that will bring players closer to their games than ever before.

Thanks to the power of NVIDIA GeForce GTX technology, including the just-released GTX 980 and 970 GPUs, this holiday’s long-awaited FPS, Far Cry 4 will look even more beautiful. By integrating NVIDIA’s GameWorks technologies, such as HBAO+ for realistic shadows, TXAA for cinema quality smoothness, as well as enhanced 4K support, Ubisoft is delivering cutting-edge content that allow PC players to become fully immersed in their gaming environments. In addition, Far Cry 4 also integrates NVIDIA Godrays technology so gamers can feel the sun beating down in the Himalayas, and NVIDIA HairWorks, for rendering the realistic, but deadly adversaries that will be encountered in the game.

Ubisoft also reveals Far Cry 4 PC system requirements:

  • Supported 64-Bit OS: Windows 7 (SP1) x64 / Windows 8 x64 / Windows 8.1 x64 ·
  • Processor: 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5-750 or 3.2 GHz AMD Phenom II X4 955 (2.5 GHz Intel Core i5-2400S or 4.0 GHz AMD FX-8350 or better recommended)
  • RAM: 4 GB (8 GB or greater recommended)
  • Video Card: 1 GB DirectX 11–compliant with Shader Model 5.0 or higher
    • Supported Video Cards at Time of Release: AMD Radeon HD 5850 / 6000 / 7000 / R7 / R9 series
    • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 / 500 / 600 / 700 / TITAN series \
  • Sound Card: DirectX-compatible (5.1 surround sound recommended)
  • DVD-ROM Drive: Dual-layer Hard Drive Space: 30 GB
  • Peripherals Supported: Windows-compatible keyboard, mouse, optional controller (Xbox 360 Controller for Windows recommended)
  • Multiplayer: 256 kbps or faster broadband connection ·
  • Note: This product supports 64-bit operating systems only.

Laptop versions of these cards may work, but are not officially supported. For the most up-to-date minimum requirement listings, please visit the FAQ on our support website at support.ubi.com.

If you are wondering whether or not your PC can run Far Cry 4 smoothly at the highest settings, please run the NVIDIA GPU ANALYZER which detects your graphics hardware and compares it to the developer's recommended GPU specification for Far Cry 4. It's a quick and easy way to see if your graphics hardware will provide you with an optimal experience in Far Cry 4.

With Far Cry 4 players will experience the most expansive and immersive Far Cry ever, in an entirely new, massive open-world. Players will find themselves in Kyrat, a breathtaking, perilous and wild region of the Himalayas struggling under the regime of a despotic self-appointed king. Using a vast array of weapons, vehicles and animals, players will write their own story across an exotic open-world landscape. Developed by Ubisoft Montréal in collaboration with other Ubisoft studios, Far Cry 4 will be available worldwide on November 18 for PlayStation4 and PlayStation3 computer entertainment system, Xbox One, Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC.

Source: NVIDIA

Podcast #325 - Samsung 850 Pro Roundup, MSI's GTX 760 ITX, 8GB R9 290X and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2014 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: video, Samsung, R9 290X, podcast, nvidia, mx cherry brown, msi titan, msi, hawaii, gtx 760 itx, assassin's creed, amd, 8gb, 850 PRO

PC Perspective Podcast #325 - 11/06/2014

Join us this week as we discuss our Samsung 850 Pro Roundup, MSI's GTX 760 ITX, 8GB R9 290X 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
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

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

Unlimited photos of your Prime Amazon, and others

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2014 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: amazon prime, cloud storage

If you have Amazon Prime then you have had 5GB of online storage for a while now, whether you knew it or not.  As of yesterday that has been increased to an unlimited amount of photos and videos, as long as you follow certain guidelines.  A single photo cannot be larger than 2GB and videos can be a maximum of 20 minutes in length.  If you have files which do not meet those criteria you can still upload them but they will be kept in your original 5GB of storage, assuming you have the space for it.  There are a few other minor caveats which [H]ard|OCP lists here along with their reassurance that the service is actually everything it claims to be.

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"This is not our usual subject matter, at all. But surely there are a lot of HardOCP readers that are also Amazon Prime members and a lot of us like a good deal. So is Amazon Prime's new free photo storage up to what us [H]'ers would expect. When it is too good to be true is it always too good to be true?"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: [H]ard|OCP

AMD Gaming Evolved Goes Beyond Earth with Hawaii

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 6, 2014 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: radeon, r9 295x2, R9 290X, r9 290, R9, hawaii, civilization, beyond earth, amd

Why settle for space, when you can go Beyond Earth too (but only if you go to Hawaii)!

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The Never Settle promotion launched itself into space a couple of months ago, but AMD isn't settling for that. If you purchase a Hawaii-based graphics card (R9 290, R9 290X, or R9 295X2) then you will get a free copy of Civilization: Beyond Earth on top of the choice of three games (or game packs) from the Never Settle Space Gold Reward tier. Beyond Earth makes a lot of sense of course, because it is a new game that is also one of the most comprehensive implementations of Mantle yet.

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To be eligible, the purchase would need to be made starting November 6th (which is today). Make sure that you check to make sure that what you're buying is a "qualifying purchase" from "participating retailers", because that is a lot of value to miss in a moment of carelessness.

AMD has not specified an end date for this promotion.

Source: AMD