Steaming on a Sempron

Subject: General Tech | April 16, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: steambox, amd, sempron, athlon, Kabini, SteamOS

A popular question that has arisen from the release of the four new low cost Kabini processors has been their effectiveness in powering a Steam Machine. Phoronix have just finished testing the new Athlon and Sempron chips, paired with several laptop IGPs using Catalyst Linux driver fglrx 13.35.5/OpenGL 4.3.12798 on Ubuntu 14.04.  They tested Counter-Strike: Source, Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, and Portal at a variety of resolutions to see just how much performance these chips offer.  None of the chips could offer acceptable performance at 1080p and only Portal was delivered at 60fps assuming you used 1024x768.  They will be following this review with another that will pair discreet GPUs with Kabini which should increase gaming capabilities greatly.

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"Earlier today the latest installment of our extensive Linux testing of AMD's new Athlon AM1 APUs were shared in the form of RadeonSI vs. Gallium3D benchmarks of the Radeon R3 Graphics found with these new entry-level APUs. Not included with that open-source vs. closed-source driver testing was any Source Engine / Steam Linux game testing due to an XCB DRI3 issue, but this article is devoted to looking at the Catalyst performance for the Sempron 2650, Sempron 3850, Athlon 5150, and Athlon 5350 to see whether any of these APUs can make the cut for a budget Steam Machine."

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Source: Phoronix

Win a Galaxy GeForce GTX 750 Ti GC or GeForce GTX 750 GC!

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 16, 2014 - 11:39 AM |
Tagged: video, giveaway, galaxy, contest

Our sponsors are the best, they really are. Case in point - Galaxy would like us to give away a pair of graphics cards to our fans. On the block for the contest are a Galaxy GTX 750 Ti GC and a Galaxy GTX 750 GC option, both based on the latest generation Maxwell GPU architecture from NVIDIA.

I posted a GTX 750 Ti Roundup story that looked at the Galaxy GTX 750 Ti GC option and it impressed in both stock performance and in the amount of overclocking headroom provided by the custom cooler.

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How can you win these awesome prizes? Head over to our YouTube channel to find or just watch the video below! You need to be a subscriber to our YouTube channel as well as leave a comment on the video itself over on YouTube.

Anyone, any where in the world can win. We'll pick a winner on April 16th - good luck!

Source: YouTube

Ars Technica Estimates Steam Sales and Hours Played

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | April 16, 2014 - 01:56 AM |
Tagged: valve, steam

Valve does not release sales or hours played figures for any game on Steam and it is rare to find a publisher who will volunteer that information. That said, Steam user profiles list that information on a per-account basis. If someone, say Ars Technica, had access to sufficient server capacity, say an Amazon Web Services instance, and a reasonable understanding of statistics, then they could estimate.

Oh look, Ars Technica estimated by extrapolating from over 250,000 random accounts.

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If interested, I would definitely look through the original editorial for all of its many findings. Here, if you let me (and you can't stop me even if you don't), I would like to add my own analysis on a specific topic. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the PC, according to VGChartz, sold 3.42 million copies on at retail, worldwide. The thing is, Steamworks was required for every copy sold at retail or online. According to Ars Technica's estimates, 5.94 million copies were registered with Steam.

5.94 minus 3.42 is 2.52 million copies sold digitally. Almost a third of PC sales were made through Steam and other digital distribution platforms. Also, this means that the PC was the game's second-best selling platform, ahead of the PS3 (5.43m) and behind the Xbox 360 (7.92m), minus any digital sales on those platforms if they exist, of course. Despite its engine being programmed in DirectX 9, it is still a fairly high-end game. That is a fairly healthy install base for decent gaming PCs.

Did you discover anything else on your own? Be sure to discuss it in our comments!

Source: Ars Technica

Non-Replaceable, Defective Batteries in Sony VAIO Fit 11A

Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 15, 2014 - 08:48 PM |
Tagged: vaio, sony, battery issue

So it turns out that Sony, after releasing their last VAIO PC refresh before the division is sold to Japan Industrial Partners, have found an issue with Panasonic's custom lithium battery packs. The VAIO Fit 11A models, released February 2014, have the potential to overheat and catch fire, burning itself and the PC. They are in the process of creating a refund, repair, or exchange program but, in the mean time, request users stop using the devices for their safety.

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In head-crushing formation. #HandsCheck

The affected products fall under the model number, "SVF11N1XXXX", where Xs are, of course, some random letter or number. This information is printed underneath the display, accessible using the "release-lock" latch when the laptop is open.

Of course, this is all just unfortunate for Sony. The last product they create under their VAIO brand requires what basically amounts to a safety recall -- for a third-party component. Beyond that, Panasonic asserts that the flaw only seems to exist in the batteries that were customized for Sony. Panasonic, like many manufacturers, introduces slight modifications to existing products for a specific customer's needs. They do not believe that their other batteries, even of the same model, is defective outside of the shipment that Sony received.

At some point, you just need to feel bad for them...

Source: Sony

This is becoming somewhat of a habit Microsoft

Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2014 - 02:44 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, win 8.1, win 8.1 update

The end of support for XP is an annoying but sensible move on Microsoft's part however today's announcement that Windows 8.1 EoL is the Patch Tuesday in May is anything but sensible.  The announcement states that no more updates for Win 8.1 will be released, if a customer wants to receive updates they must still be running Win 8 or upgrade to Win 8.1 Update 1.  The continued support for Win 8 machines seems rather odd and is perhaps intended to mollify corporate users who have not had the 8.1 patch pushed out as Microsoft has removed Win 8.1 Update 1 from their WSUS servers over a week ago making it impossible for corporations to properly upgrade their users to Update 1.   For those who bought a device recently this deadline does not give them much time to apply Update 1, especially when you consider the amount of critical errors installing Update 1 is causing.  Catch the vitriol over at Slashdot and think back to the good old days when all you had to keep track of were the various flavours of Win7.

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"Microsoft TechNet blog makes clear that Windows 8.1 will not be patched, and that users must get Windows 8.1 Update if they want security patches, InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard reports. 'In what is surely the most customer-antagonistic move of the new Windows regime, Steve Thomas at Microsoft posted a TechNet article on Saturday stating categorically that Microsoft will no longer issue security patches for Windows 8.1, starting in May,' Leonhard writes. 'Never mind that Windows 8.1 customers are still having multiple problems with errors when trying to install the Update."

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Source: Slashdot

Intel Unveils Ruggedized Education 2-In-1 Convertible Tablet

Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2014 - 07:03 AM |
Tagged: Intel, Education, convertible tablet, atom z3740d

Intel has introduced a new convertible tablet aimed at the education market (specifically as a tool for students to use in their studies) conveniently dubbed the Intel Education 2-In-1. This latest product is a portable dockable tablet powered by an Intel Atom processor and running Windows 8.1 along with Intel Education software.

The new Education 2-In-1 tablet is the successor to Intel's previous Education Tablets series which included two Atom powered devices running the Android OS. The latest convertible tablet features a 10.1 touchscreen and capacitive stylus that weighs 683 grams (1.51 pounds). The tablet can also be connected to a keyboard dock for a total weight of 1.173 kilograms (2.58 pounds). It is a ruggedized design that can withstand up to 70cm drops (50cm when docked) and is both water and dust resistant per IP51 specifications.

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The upcoming PC features a 10.1” 5-point multi-touch display with a resolution of 1366x768, a 1.26 MP webcam, and a 5.0 MP rear camera. The keyboard dock offers up a full qwerty keyboard, trackpad, additional IO ports, and a second battery. Intel rates its Atom-powered tablet at 8 hours of battery life for the tablet itself and 11 hours (total) when docked with the keyboard.

External IO includes:

  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 1 x Micro SD card slot
  • 1 x Audio out/Mic in combo jack
  • 1 x Micro HDMI
  • 2 x integrated speakers
  • 1 x Integrated microphone

The tablet further offers up a wide array of sensors for obtaining environmental data including an accelerometer, ambient light sensor, electronic compass, gyroscope, and optional GPS. Students can also get temperature readings via a probe and pair the rear camera with a magnification lens. The sensor and image data can be fed into the educational software bundled with the tablet for use in school labs.

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Internally, the convertible tablet is powered by a quad core Intel Atom Z3740D processor clocked at 1.8 GHz, 2GB of DDR3L 1333 MHz memory, and either 32 GB or 64 GB of internal eMMC storage. Networking is handled by an 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 radio along with optional NFC, 3G, and LTE cellular radios. The tablet hosts a 7600mAH (28 Wh) battery while the keyboard dock offers up an additional 15 Wh battery.

On the software side of things, the tablet runs the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 which is bundled with Intel's educational software suite and McAfee AntiVirus Plus. The educational software includes a digital textbook library from Kno Products.

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The ruggedized design leaves something (read: aesthetics) to be desired, but the somewhat-bulky convertible is built to handle the inevitable, well, handling by students during their daily class schedules. Further, the Bay Trail SoC should run Windows 8.1 well enough to run the basic applications needed for coursework.

Intel has not yet released pricing or availability information on its latest educational hardware offering.

As more schools are looking into supporting digital learning material and incorporating devices such as laptops, tablets, and e-readers, Intel does not want to be left out of the game. The Education 2-In-1 is not likely to be a direct-to-consumer product but more of a business-to-educational institution offering much like Google's Chromebook subscription program and is intended to show off the hardware and software 'experience' that the company's Bay Trail Atom SoC platform is capable of enabling.

Source: Intel

ASUS Xonar U7, dump your onboard audio for an external solution?

Subject: General Tech | April 14, 2014 - 06:00 PM |
Tagged: audio, asus, Xonar U7, usb sound card

ASUS has an easy way for you to upgrade your sound without needing to crack open your case, the Xonar U7 USB sound card.  Capable of delivering 7.1 surround with a Cmedia 6632A processor and no less than three different Cirrus signal conversion chips this is a high quality device for $90.  Connectivity is equally impressive, on one side an amplified 3.5 mm headphone output and shared line-in/microphone3.5 mm jack, on the other are Side, Center, and Rear channel outputs, an SPDIF output and the USB jack.  Read Legit Reviews' full article to hear how they felt the Xonar U7 performed.

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"We got an early look at an upcoming affordable USB powered sound card from ASUS called the Xonar U7. Its compact form makes it easy to setup or use with laptops which normally can’t have their audio solutions upgraded."

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XP has helped slow the decline of PC sales

Subject: General Tech | April 14, 2014 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: gartner, pc sales, desktop market share

With a total of 76.6 million PCs shipped worldwide in the first quarter of 2014 the desktop market only shrunk by 1.7% compared to the first quarter of 2013.  Gartner attributes this to two main factors, new desktops being purchased to replace aging machines running WinXP and a decline in the sales of tablets, at least in the US.  Lenovo retains its top spot globally but HP has been doing quite well with their marketing and now hold top spot in both the US and EMEA.  Check out all their findings at DigiTimes.

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"The end of XP support by Microsoft on April 8 has played a role in the easing decline of PC shipments," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "All regions indicated a positive effect since the end of XP support stimulated the PC refresh of XP systems. Professional desktops, in particular, showed strength in the quarter."

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Source: DigiTimes

Getting burned by the Steam Controller

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2014 - 03:37 PM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Controller, gdc 14

At the Game Developers Conference last month The Tech Report had some one on one time with the Steam Controller and walked away with a less than positive impression.  It would seem that the learning curve for this device is rather steep, especially when they tried Portal 2.  Fine aiming, circle strafing and other tasks which come naturally to those used to a keyboard and mouse were quite difficult to accomplish on the new controller.  When asked, the Valve rep admitted it took them about 8 hours to familiarize themselves with the Steam Controller.  Is that too steep a learning curve or is it simply part of the fun of playing with a new type of console and controller?

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"Valve's Steam controller looks great on paper. It promises not just greater accuracy than conventional console gamepads, but also support for point-and-click titles that traditionally required a mouse and keyboard. There's a downside, though. As TR's Cyril Kowaliski learned first-hand, the Steam controller has a pretty steep learning curve—steep enough, perhaps, to put off some potential converts."

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Corsair Announces PC DOMINATION System Building and Tuning Competition

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2014 - 02:18 PM |
Tagged: corsair, contest

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Corsair is sponsoring PC DOMINATION, SPRING 2014, a system building and tuning competition for PC enthusiasts. PC Domination isn't a single contest, but more than ten separate challenges for system builders and tuners. It doesn't matter if you have a high-end or mid-range system. There's a contest for everyone to participate in! Participants will be competing to win a variety of Corsair’s top products including cases, coolers, gaming keyboards, memory, and more. The first 500 complete entries will get a FREE Corsair PC Domination T-shirt.

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CPU Competition
You can participate in the CPU tuning contest by submitting your HWBot and Cinebench benchmark scores. If you don't have the latest and greatest system, don't let that stop you from participating since there will be an award for whoever can do the most with the least. And, to keep things fun for everyone, we are not allowing sponsored professional overclockers to participate.

There are three contests:

  • Intel CPU (Air Cooling or All-In-One Cooling)
  • AMD CPU (Air Cooling or All-In-One Cooling)
  • Custom Loop Liquid Cooling (Intel and AMD)

GPU Competition
To participate in the GPU tuning competition, submit your 3DMark scores! Just like our CPU Tuning competition, go ahead and enter if you don't have the latest and greatest GPU as there will also be an award for whoever who can do the most with the least. It's what you can do with what you have that matters. Sponsored professional overclockers are not able to participate, sorry!

There are three contests:

  • NVIDIA GPU (Air Cooling Only)
  • AMD GPU (Air Cooling Only)
  • Custom Loop Liquid Cooling (NVIDIA and AMD)

System Build Competition

To enter this competition, just submit photos of a system you've built. This is your chance to show off every aspect of your machine, whether it's the color scheme, amazing cable management, or just your overall awesomeness in system building!

There are three contests:

  • Standard System Building (Retail Parts – No Modifications or Customizing)
  • Custom Cooling System (Custom Water Loops – No Chassis Customization)
  • Open System Building (Full Customization and Modification)

Source: Corsair