Battlefleet Gothic could be a real thing very soon!

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2015 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: warhammer 40k, gaming, exterminatus, battlefleet gothic

That's right, Eldar and their tissue paper clad ships will be going up against the city sized ships of the Imperium, Abaddon the Despoiler's Black Legion and even the cobbled together Orc vessels which have grown large enough to deserve the name Battlekrooser.  The single player and possibly the two player co-op missions will be Imperium only, while multiplayer will allow you to choose to control filthy Xenos fleets.  In both cases the ships and crew will accumulate experience and upgrade skills or weaponry but only if they survive battle and do not get executed for not following orders.  Exterminatus will be present in the game as well as boarding parties, with the latter being restricted to scuttling ships.  The game will be based on it's tabletop forefather but will not be enslaved to it, map movement is expected to be turn based but the battles will be in real time, at a pace which matches the ponderous size of these ships.  Check out the excitement at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN.

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"The news that an adaptation of Games Workshop’s Battlefleet Gothic was in development made for happy reading last week but solid facts were thin on the ground. We knew that the game would be real-time rather than turn-based, which was cause for concern in some quarters, and that four factions would be available."

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Gaming

Chromecast meets Linux

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2015 - 02:01 PM |
Tagged: linux, chromecast, DIY, stream

Linux.com has put together a quick tutorial on how to stream content to Chromecast from a machine running Linux, giving you an incredibly inexpensive and effective way to stream your own capture media.  With the use of a Samba group in openSUSE you can send data to the Chromecast dongle attached to your TV, something that was not initially possible with Chromecast.  The author took this a step further, showing you how to set up your Android devices to stream to Chromecast as well.  Learn how to here.

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"Chromecast is one of the most used devices in my household. After using it for over a year now, I believe there is no longer a market for the so-called 'smart TV'. Inexpensive devices like Chromecast can turn any HDMI-enabled TV into a smart TV with immense possibilities to expand its features."

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Source: Linux.com

Windows 10 Consumer Briefing Predictions

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2015 - 09:45 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, spartan, microsoft, dx12, DirectX 12, DirectX, cortana

Microsoft will hold a briefing tomorrow (Wednesday, January 21st at 12pm EST/5pm UTC) about “The Next Chapter” of Windows 10. This has been described as the Consumer keynote, mirroring the original one that was supposedly intended for the enterprise. Otherwise, there are few official comments regarding the event, but there are also things that we can speculate on.

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Here is what I expect to see:

A New Build for Windows 10

Maybe it will not be released on the same day as the speech, but it cannot really be too far behind. We are about two-thirds through January and December was skipped, so it must be happening soon. When 9879 was released, Microsoft said that it would be the last build of 2014 and that “We'll have something new to share with you early in 2015”. Whatever that is (or those things are) will probably be discussed at the event, which means that the build is probably not too far behind it.

DirectX 12

When the graphics API was announced, they specifically said the following (see our recap for the second slide that was posted at 10:48am PST):

  • Targeting Holiday 2015 games
  • Preview release coming later this year
  • Don't want to wait that long? Early access!

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The preview release later in 2014 did not happen, but the early access did. As such, I am guessing that the date slipped to either the next Windows 10 build, or maybe a build or two after. Whenever it happens specifically, I am guessing that it will be mentioned at this event and available for developers soon (and not just a hand-picked group of Early Access members). Sure, it could wait until Build 2015 in April, but the original slide sounds like they were targeting the end of 2014.

Also, the DirectX 12 Twitter Account just retweeted the live stream and Phil Spencer will be there.

'Spartan' Browser (Maybe with DirectX 12 Support?)

Speaking of DirectX 12, its goal is to utilize GPU shader cores as efficiently as possible, reducing the time it holds up the CPU and balancing its load across multiple cores. This leads to power efficiency and the ability to load many more tasks on the GPU.

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Image Credit: cnBeta.com via TheVerge

These are all things that a web browser vendor would love! Web standards are inherently difficult to multi-thread, because they are designed as sets of stages which build upon other stages. DirectX 12 could probably help immensely, at least with the drawing stage. Web content tends to be fairly simple, but there can be a lot of it, especially for complex Canvas animations (and especially for mobile devices).

It was also recently rumored that Trident, the rendering engine behind Internet Explorer and the not-quite-confirmed Spartan browser, was forked into two maintained versions. The expectation is that this was for compatibility reasons, where the new version can be developed to W3C (and other) standards without worrying about legacy, Internet Explorer-based compatibility cruft. If porting a DirectX 11 applications to DirectX 12 will be annoying, I can see why Microsoft chose to draw the compatibility line just behind that initiative. And honestly, how many people care about rendering, power, and multi-core performance increases for IE8-designed, and therefore desktop-based, web applications?

Continuum, Cortana, and Other Changes

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Again, this is what Microsoft considers a Consumer event. As such, it would make sense for them to describe an ideal consumer device, which probably includes two-in-ones. Cortana should also be discussed as well, which is intended to bring value to the users and probably lead them to Bing services. Leaks have also suggested that they are preparing a dark theme.

Am I right? We'll see tomorrow.

Source: Microsoft

Need a consulting gig and know AD and Exchange?

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2015 - 12:46 PM |
Tagged: server 2003, microsoft, EoL, migration

There are over eight million active servers running Server 2003 according to the stats The Register has seen and who knows how many Server 2000 installs still kicking around but as of the 14th of July extended support for Server 2003 ends and no longer will security patches or support be available.  The difficulty of prying WinXP out of users hands will be nothing compared to convincing stakeholders to part with money to upgrade to a new version of Server, be it hosted onsite or via Azure and O365.  There will be some companies wise enough to find leverage to start the migration soon but there will also be many who will not see the cost benefit until their system fails or even worse, a breach occurs.  If you have any knowledge of newer versions of ActiveDirectory, Exchange or Azure and O365 you should update your resume as there will be people looking for help migrating in the near future.

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"A channel-wide migration skills shortage is a real danger this summer as stragglers strain available resources by making an eleventh hour dash to flee Windows Server 2003, distributor veterans are warning."

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Source: The Register

Waiting for Windows Wednesday

Subject: General Tech | January 19, 2015 - 12:57 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, release

We should be finally hearing the pricetag which will be associated with Windows 10 this Wednesday as Microsoft has been sending out invites for an unveiling this week.  Many have already tried the unfinished version via the Windows Insider Programme and it has received a much warmer welcome that the previous version.  The Inquirer posits this could be in part because of a realization that consumers now have a choice in operating systems and are now far less likely to feel that they have to go with Microsoft or Apple.  From Chromebooks to flavours of Linux wrapped in a GUI and installer that Windows users feel comfortable with there is a change in the market and the biggest competitor to a new Windows is not necessarily an older version of the OS.  This has driven Microsoft to listen to customer feedback and not hand out changes to the OS that they feel customers should want but instead bring back familiar features which were removed and perhaps completely rethink their pricing.  You can check out The Inquirer's musical take on what to expect right here.

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"WEDNESDAY is arguably the most important day in Microsoft's recent history. We're primed and ready for what is expected to be the consumer launch of Windows 10, easily the most pivotal release in its 30 years as the world's predominant operating system."

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Source: The Inquirer

CompuLab Fitlet PC Lineup Is Small and Fanless

Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 16, 2015 - 11:21 PM |
Tagged: nuc, fitlet-x, fitlet-i, fitlet-b, fitlet, compulab, APU, amd

The Israeli PC manufacturer, CompuLab Ltd., has announced three lines of small, fanless systems. They will be smaller than the NUC and run AMD APUs, from the E1 to the A4, which CompuLab claims are more powerful than NUCs of comparable prices. They can be configured with either Windows (7, 8, or 10) or Linux Mint. They are officially classified as Industrial PCs, and the 5-year warranty reinforces that association, but others might also be interested.

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CompuLab Fitlet-b

Let's start in the middle with the Fitlet-i. With a TDP of 4.5W, it is powered by an AMD A4-6400T APU at 1.0 GHz (1.6 GHz boost). It can be configured with up to 8GB of DDR3 memory.

The other features of the Fitlet-i are:

  • Two 3.5mm stereo audio jacks (one in, one out)
  • One S/PDIF port
  • Four USB 2.0 ports
  • Two USB 3.0 ports
  • Two HDMI 1.4 ports
  • Two Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • 802.11ac (clarified Jan 17th: built in, with external antennas I believe)
  • One microSD card slot
  • One eSATA port, rated at 6Gbps
  • One serial port (because industrial)
  • One mSATA socket (low profile)
  • One mini-PCIe socket (high profile, half or full size)

The Fitlet-X is similar to the above, except that it has four Gigabit Ethernet ports (instead of two), but it loses one USB 2.0 port (three total), has its Wireless downgraded to a USB 802.11n dongle, and it has no eSATA port. The extra pair of Gigabit Ethernet adapters is not the only perk though, as it has their “FACET card” interface, which provides 3 lanes of PCIe (if you want to take a risk on the interface).

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CompuLab Fitlet-i

That leaves us with the Fitlet-b, which is the base model. Its TDP is slightly lower, 3.95W, and is powered by an AMD E1-6200T APU at 1.0 GHz (1.4 GHz boost). It has just one Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, three USB 2.0 ports, the USB 802.11n dongle, and just a full-size mSATA (low profile) expansion for storage. It does have both HDMI 1.4a outputs though.

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CompuLab Fitlet-X

The Fitlet will be available in February, starting at $129 for the Fitlet-b barebone, via Amazon for North America and Europe. It will also be available directly from CompuLab and resellers for the rest of the world.

Source: CompuLab

Graphics Developers: Help Name Next Generation OpenGL

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 16, 2015 - 10:37 PM |
Tagged: Khronos, opengl, OpenGL ES, webgl, OpenGL Next

The Khornos Group probably wants some advice from graphics developers because they ultimately want to market to them, as the future platform's success depends on their applications. If you develop games or other software (web browsers?) then you can give your feedback. If not, then it's probably best to leave responses to its target demographic.

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As for the questions themselves, first and foremost they ask if you are (or were) an active software developer. From there, they ask you to score your opinion on OpenGL, OpenGL ES, and WebGL. They then ask whether you value “Open” or “GL” in the title. They then ask you whether you feel like OpenGL, OpenGL ES, and WebGL are related APIs. They ask how you learn about the Khronos APIs. Finally, they directly ask you for name suggestions and any final commentary.

Now it is time to (metaphorically) read tea leaves. The survey seems written primarily to establish whether developers consider OpenGL, OpenGL ES, and WebGL as related libraries, and to gauge their overall interest in each. If you look at the way OpenGL ES has been developing, it has slowly brought mobile graphics into a subset of desktop GPU features. It is basically an on-ramp to full OpenGL.

We expect that, like Mantle and DirectX 12, the next OpenGL initiative will be designed around efficiently loading massively parallel processors, with a little bit of fixed-function hardware for common tasks, like rasterizing triangles into fragments. The name survey might be implying that the Next Generation OpenGL Initiative is intended to be a unified platform, for high-end, mobile, and even web. Again, modern graphics APIs are based on loading massively parallel processors as directly as possible.

If you are a graphics developer, the Khronos Group is asking for your feedback via their survey.

CES 2015: Monoprice Announcements

Subject: General Tech, Displays, Shows and Expos | January 16, 2015 - 06:59 PM |
Tagged: CES, ces 2015, monoprice, ips, 4k, 120hz, mechanical keyboard, touch screen, drawing

So CES has ended over a week ago, but somehow we missed Monoprice. While they are known for cheap cables that are also good and reliable, the retailer has been pushing out some interesting, self-branded products. At this year's CES, they advertised a multi-touch pen display, a cheap 4K 60Hz monitor, a 30-inch IPS panel that is guaranteed to work at 120Hz 1600p (16:10), and an RGB-backlit mechanical keyboard.

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First up is their 22-inch multi-touch pen display. Not too long ago, I noticed that they had a 22-inch pen display without a touch screen, similar to my Wacom Cintiq 22HD, for under $600. Of course, this got me looking at its product page because that is significantly cheaper than what I paid for mine -- like, several times cheaper. In that page was a warning that it was not suitable for multi-monitor setups, and suggested that users clone it (rather than extending their desktop). Yikes. Okay. That's problematic.

Well now it no longer has that warning, and neither does their new, higher-end version with built-in multi-touch. Hopefully this means that they sorted out their driver (or configuration) issues under Windows.

The display itself is a 22-inch, 1080p, IPS panel with 16.7 million colors (so not 10-bit). It has a 5ms response time, which is good for IPS, but no listing of sRGB or AdobeRGB coverage. This could be problematic for someone looking to use it for professional applications, but being an IPS display it might be okay.

The current price is $550 for the pen-input monitor, and $750 for the pen or 10-point touch model. Both are also compatible with 75mm x 75mm VESA wall mounts, because the writing's on the wall or some pun like that.

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Also launched is a 28-inch 4K display for $449. They do not state the panel technology, but with a reduced vertical viewing angle, which is bad, and a 1ms response time, which is good, it pretty much must be TN. It is a bit sad that it is not IPS, IGZO, PLS, or another high-end panel type, but it is also $449.

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Image Credit: Anandtech

Keeping on the topic of displays, Anandtech was shown a 30-inch, 1600p panel that is guaranteed to run at 120Hz. While we are starting to see a few high refresh rate IPS panels pop up this year, it was the domain of display overclockers before then. Enthusiasts would purchase monitors that were shipped directly from smaller South Korean manufacturers (who typically purchase lesser-binned panels from LG, and so forth) and cross their fingers when they give it a higher refresh rate. This one is guaranteed by Monoprice to run at 120Hz, but it does not yet have pricing and availability.

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Image Credit: Anandtech

Lastly, Anandtech also saw a mechanical keyboard with programmable RGB backlighting. It uses Kailh RGB switches, which are based on the Cherry MX design after the patents expired. Again, no pricing or availability on this one.

Source: Monoprice

Video Perspective: Amazon Echo Overview

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 06:05 PM |
Tagged: video, echo, amazon

Late last year Amazon announced the pending release of the Echo, a standalone device that would sit in your home or office and listen to voice commands and respond in a Siri-like or Google Now-like fashion. The first Amazon Echo units have shipped and I received one of them, opening it up and putting it to use for a few days this week.

At its core, the Echo is a collection of microphones and speakers, connected to the internet through Wi-Fi. Using the keyword of “Alexa” (or you can change it to “Amazon”) you stir Echo from its slumber to respond to requests for information, streaming­ music and lists or timers. Voice recognition is fantastic and the speed at which Echo responds to voice commands is impressive, moving along at a quicker pace than either Google’s or Apple’s options.

Users that have uploaded their music collection to Amazon’s cloud library will be able to access that music through the 2.5-in subwoofer and 2.0-in tweeter, both of which add up to surprisingly good audio performance for such a small device. Amazon Prime users will have access to the company’s collection of including streaming music as well, though that collection is notably smaller than something like Spotify. Music from Amazon’s digital music store is the one item you can purchase solely through voice commands.

Adding things to a shopping list, asking for fact-based information and telling lame jokes all happen efficiently. But the drawback to the Echo is its lack of knowledge about the rest of my life. The device has no ability to know about my next calendar appointment, my incoming emails, my estimated drive time to the work. Google does though, and I can’t help but think that a Google iteration of this exact item would be a better solution.

Check out the video below to see Amazon Echo in action and determine if this device deserves a spot in your home.

"gorescript" Is an Indie, Browser-Based 3D Shooter

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 02:36 PM |
Tagged: webgl, pc gaming

gorescript is a first person shooter that runs in a browser through WebGL (via Three.JS). Its developer, Time Invariant Games, has not mentioned a business model, if there is one, but the first three levels, three guns, and two monsters can be instantly played at their GitHub site for free. The source code, including a map editor for levels and a map editor for monsters, weapons, and powerups, is also on their GitHub under an MIT (permissive) license.

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From a technical standpoint, it is not the most impressive game that I have played in a browser -- that would be a toss-up between Unreal Tournament 3 (they had a demo at Mozilla Summit 2013) or Dead Trigger 2. In gorescript on Firefox 35, I was getting about 80-110 FPS, although that begun to crawl down to around 20-30 FPS with some dips down to ~10 FPS; it was probably averaging ~45 FPS when all is said and done.

(Note: Especially if you have a high-refresh panel, the maximum frame rate of Firefox can be adjusted in about:config with the layout.frame_rate variable. Mine is set to 120.)

Again, it is free and it should amuse you for a little while. Maybe we can get it to blow up with third-party content? Even as it is, I think it is worth a mention for anyone who wants a Doom/Quake throwback.