Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 28, 2013 - 03:11 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Windows 8.1, MakerBot, BUILD 2013, BUILD
Even Microsoft believes that 3D printing is a cool movement.
Windows 8.1 will include native support for the 3D printers, CNC machines, and laser cutting devices. According to a stage demo at BUILD, Microsoft expects printing in 3D will be as easy as printing in 2D. It might be hard to think of more than a few practical applications for a home user to have access to such hardware, but often people will not realize when they avoid what could have been easily solved with the right tools.
- A standardized driver model for 3D Printers, CNC machines, and laser cutting devices
- APIs for apps to interface with the above drivers
- Device apps and extensions through the Windows Store
- Job spooling and queuing
- Easy ways to query what the device and its capabilities
The reliance upon the Windows Store might tell the larger tale. It appears that Microsoft is giving the nod to the maker community, not out of excitement, but to enable app developers to interface with these devices. Could the "modern" Windows APIs provide enough flexibility for 3D printing apps to exist without Microsoft's support? What about the next classification of peripherals?
All pondering aside...
The demo involved Antoine Leblond, of Microsoft, printing a vase from a MakerBot Replicator 2. According to TechCrunch, MakerBot will not only invade Windows 8.1 but also be stocked at Microsoft Stores. This is a solid retail win for the maker movement, giving users a chance throw one of these in the back seat of the car and drive it home from the store.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 28, 2013 - 02:05 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: BUILD, BUILD 2013, internet explorer, IE11, Windows 7
Windows 8.1 will be bundled with Microsoft's latest web browser, Internet Explorer 11. The line of browsers, starting with Internet Explorer 9, are very competent offerings which approach and eclipse many competitors. Microsoft has made some errors since then, breaking standards for personal gain, but their recent efforts in supporting W3C – and even arch-nemesis Khronos – displays genuine good faith.
HTML5 Developer Tools rivalling even Mozilla and Google
But Windows XP never surpassed Internet Explorer 8, and apart from glitch and vulnerability fixes, Windows 7 is in almost exactly the same state as the day Windows 8 shipped. Internet Explorer 10 made it to the platform, late and reluctantly, along with severely neutered back-ports of Windows 8 DirectX enhancements. The platform update was welcome, but lacks the importance of a full service pack.
More importantly, the hesitation to bring IE10 to Windows 7 suggested that it would be the last first-party web browser the platform would see.
Not true, apparently. During their Build conference, Engadget claims to have spoke with a Microsoft representative who confirmed Windows 7 will receive the latest Internet Explorer. This is good news for every user of IE and every web designer with a cool WebGL implementation but is held back by browser market share concerns.
Honestly, my main concern is with the future of Internet Explorer, 12 and beyond. I am encouraged by the recent effort by Microsoft, but with Windows RT demanding for every browser to be built atop Internet Explorer, it better keep up or we are screwed. The web browser might be our operating system in the near future, applications should not be held back by the least of all possible platforms – be it Internet Explorer, Webkit, or any other dominant browser.
Of course, I should note that Engadget was not being specific with their source, so some grain of salts would be wise until it ships.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 25, 2013 - 07:41 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Windows 8.1, BUILD 2013, BUILD, Blue
June 26th will be the first time for the general public to, legitimately, experience the preview build of Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, and the all blue'd-up Windows Server Essentials. This preview will be available through the Windows Store, but will not be upgradable to the final code.
Again, this preview will require, basically, Windows re-installation when final code hits.
Disclaimer aside, MSDN and TechNet subscribers got the updates ahead of time for server operating systems. Included with this release, a feature dubbed "Desktop Experience", providing the same interface as Windows 8.1.
Ars Technica played around with the updates and compiled several captioned screenshots into a carousel. Check them out. Of course, things could change, but this should be a better indication than -- for instance -- Windows 8 Developer Preview.
The final version of Windows 8.1 is expected to be released at some point later this year. The update will be free for current Windows 8 users.
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | June 22, 2013 - 01:43 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: noise cancellation, noctua, computex 2013, computex
Update (June 22-2013, 4:43pm EDT): I was contacted by Noctua about the TDP ratings... quoting from their email:
As for the question regarding the TDP rating of the original NH-D14, I'd like to stress that the cooler can *easily* handle any 130W CPU! Our D14 is renowned to be among the best performing heatsinks for overclocking on the market and and many users have pushed their CPUs well beyond 250W using this cooler.
Noctua apparently does not like including TDP values for their coolers because it varies heavily on the conditions (such as, of course, room and case temperature). It makes sense, of course, because then customers would go looking at reviews and see what overclocks were achieved with the system.
Yes, I know Computex is long over, but I missed something that I want to cover.
Noctua has been teasing active noise cancellation (ANC) for their CPU coolers for quite some time now; Tim published his brief thoughts, 13 months ago, on their press release leading up to Computex 2012. The prototype, this year, is a full unit rather than the fan from last year.
This design is a modified NH-D14 cooler with added technology from RotoSub AB to sample its own noise and destructively interfere. According to Noctua, this will be the first ANC cooling unit for a CPU. The plan, as their press release suggests, is to release a cooler with the model named "R-ANC" after its (R)otoSub (A)ctive (N)oise (C)ancellation (R-ANC) technology. To me, this seems like a confusing choice in name as it breaks away from their existing standard and limits choice in name for future models based on this technology. Personally, I would have preferred to see "NH-D14R" or "NH-D14ANC", but alas I am not a marketer.
Also, in the process of researching for this article, I have been unable to find a canonical TDP-rating for this device. I was not too surprised to have a difficult time finding it for this unreleased product, but TDP is even omitted from the established, albeit louder, default NH-D14. Some sources claim this cooler can support an Intel i7 Extreme processor, which typically requires a 130W thermal dissipation; other sources say you should be somewhat cautious with this cooler with CPUs >95W TDP; some even claim it is great for air-only overclocking. Rolling all of these sources together, assuming a kernel of truth in each, I would assume this cooler (and, by extension, its upcoming R-ANC variant) would be good for decent air-only overclocks until you reach the -E series.
But, grain of salt, have some.
No word of pricing, but Noctua believes they will have it available spring/summer of next year. For some reference, the default NH-D14 can be found for about $75-$100; expect the R-ANC to be slightly north of that.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2013 - 03:16 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, microsoft, ea, E3 13, E3
Update: Microsoft denies the statements from their support account... but this is still one of the major problems with DRM and closed platforms in general. It is stuff like this that you let them do.
Consumers, whether they acknowledge it or not, fear for the control that platform holders have over their content. It was hard for many to believe that having your EA account banned for whatever reason, even a dispute with a forum moderator, forfeited your license to games you play through that EA account. Sounds like another great idea for Microsoft to steal.
@dohertymark If your account is banned, you also forfeit the licenses to any games that have licenses tied to it as listed in the ToU. ^AC
— Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) June 14, 2013
Not stopping there, later on in the thread they were asked what would happen in the event of a security breach. You know, recourse before destroying access to possibly thousands of dollars of content.
@KillerRamen Ensure your account security features are enabled, and security proofs details are correct. ^ML
— Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) June 15, 2013
While not a "verified account", @xboxsupport is.
They acknowledge ownership of this account in the background image there.
Honestly, there shouldn't have been any doubt that these actually are Microsoft employees.
At this point, we have definitely surpassed absurdity. Sure, you typically need to do something fairly bad to have Microsoft stop charging your for Xbox Live. Removing access to your entire library of games, to me, is an attempt to limit cheating and the hardware community.
Great, encourage spite from the soldering irons, that works out well.
Don't worry, enthusiasts, you know the PC loves you.
Gaming as a form of entertainment is fundamentally different than gaming as a form of art. When content is entertainment, its message touches you without any intrinsic value and can be replaced with similar content. Sometimes a certain piece of content, itself, has specific value to society. It is these times where we should encourage efforts by organizations such as GoG, Mozilla and W3C, Khronos, and many others. Without help, it could be extremely difficult or impossible for content to be preserved for future generations and future civilizations.
It does not even need to get in the way of the industry and its attempt to profit from the gaming medium; a careless industry, on the other hand, can certainly get in the way of our ability to have genuine art. After all, this is the main reason why I am a PC gamer: the platform allows entertainment to co-exist with communities who support themselves when the official channels do not.
Of course, unless Windows learns a little something from the Xbox. I guess do not get your Windows Store account banned in the future?
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 14, 2013 - 04:06 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: E3, E3 13, ea, dice
How could I resist?
I was surprised, the EA keynote -- usually an event which dances past, carefully not leaving anything like "an impression" on its way out -- stuck with me more than any other keynote. Sure, throughout the EA Sports segment I was cleaning my "office" and only modestly paying any level of attention, but I feel that DICE swept the show when they appeared. This, and the rest of the week brought good, bad, and awesome news for us PC gamers.
You have probably seen the Battlefield 4 multiplayer demo by this point. We linked to it, we discussed it. It seems like the destructibility found in the Battlefield 3 single player campaign was absent from the multiplayer not because of a technical reason but rather a design decision. Sure, we can see the radio tower collapse, but building destruction was quite simplified even when compared to Bad Company 2.
The Skyscraper collapse seems like it is a legitimate aspect of the game this time around and not just a baloney promotional piece. When the building collapses you can notice the control point disappear from the mini-map in the bottom left corner of the HUD. That gameplay element required quite a bit of design thought, even Bad Company 2 made buildings with Conquest flags indestructible. Maybe the harsh limitations on Battlefield 3 destructibility was more to keep unified game play between the PC and the 24 player-limited consoles?
Sadly, during E3 we have found that mod support will not be available for Battlefield 4. I must compliment GM of DICE, Karl-Magnus Troedsson, for his blunt honesty. It would be much simpler to kick your feet and say wait and see for something you know will never see the light of day; but, he gave us the straight answer. Sure, he said then engine is not ready for a public release but even then he admitted that it was not for our benefit. They do not have a good idea what boundaries they want to allow modders to access. While disappointing, at least it does not have a condescending tone like we experienced with Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 mod support requests.
Karl-Magnus Troedsson, DICE GM: We get that question a lot. I always answer the same thing, and then the community calls me bad names. We get the feedback, we understand it. We also would like to see more player-created content, but we would never do something like this if we feel we couldn’t do this 100 percent. That means we need to have the right tools available, we need to have the right security around this regarding what parts of the engine we let loose, so to say. So for BF4 we don’t have any planned mod support, I have to be blunt about saying that. We don’t.
Moving on, though. As we know, Disney decided that LucasArts properties would be best left to the hands at EA. The internet simultaneously joy-teared at the thought of a Star Wars Battlefront title developed by DICE. Sure enough, Star Wars: Battlefront 3 is a thing, and it will be developed using the Frostbite 3 engine.
Still no word on an Indiana Jones titled based on Mirror's Edge. Heh heh heh.
Oh by the way, the announcement I am, by far, most excited for is Mirror's Edge. I absolutely loved the first game, despite its terrible dialog, for how genuine and intrinsically valuable it felt. It gave the impression of a passion project, both in gameplay and in narrative theme. Thankfully, the game is being developed and it will come to the PC.
We also found out that Mirror's Edge is planned to be an "open world action adventure title". Normally that would scare me, but, that was what we were expecting of the first Mirror's Edge before their linear bait-and-switch.
Cannot tell if good or bad... but we will see at some point in the future.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 13, 2013 - 04:17 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: E3, E3 13, dell, alienware, alienware x51
The launch of Haswell led to many new product launches, and so did E3. The overlap? The Alienware X51 gaming desktop has been refreshed with some very compelling components at a surprisingly compelling price.
Unfortunately, there is a slight difference between the Canadian and the American offerings; it is not a case of one citizen paying more than the another, however, as things are more shuffled around than outright better. Our Canadian readers start with a base price of $1499.99, and Americans start out at $1449.99. Americans can spend an extra $100 to upgrade their DVD reader to a Blu-Ray drive, Canadians get Blu-Ray by default. Therefore, if you desire a Blu-Ray drive, it is $50 cheaper to be Canadian; otherwise, it is $50 cheaper to be American.
Whether you are Canadian or American, I would personally recommend spending the extra $100 upgrading your RAM from 8GB to 16 GB. Sure, 8GB is a lot, but the extra can go a long way especially with the direction that web browsers have been heading. You each, also, have the option of spending $300 and receiving a 256GB SSD albeit also at the expense of, beyond the $300, reducing your 2TB HDD down to a slower, 5400RPM 1TB drive.
In all, this actually looks quite compelling for someone who wishes to have a console-esque form-factor near their TV. Unfortunately there are currently no Ubuntu-based options for this X51, although you may freely ($0) choose between Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and Windows 8 64-bit.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Shows and Expos | June 13, 2013 - 02:26 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: E3, E3 13, amd
The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is the biggest event of the year for millions of gamers. The majority of coverage ends up gawking over the latest news out of Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo, and we certainly will provide our insights in those places if we believe they have been insufficiently explained, but E3 is also a big time for PC gamers too.
5 GHz and unlocked to go from there.
AMD, specifically, has a lot to say this year. In the year of the next-gen console reveals, AMD provides the CPU architecture for two of the three devices and have also designed each of the three GPUs. This just leaves a slight win for IBM, who is responsible for the WiiU main processor, for whatever that is worth. Unless the Steam Box comes to light and without ties to AMD, it is about as close to a clean sweep as any hardware manufacturer could get.
But for the PCs among us...
For those who have seen the EA press conference, you have probably seen lots of sports. If you stuck around after the sports, you probably saw Battlefield 4 being played by 64 players on stage. AMD has been pushing, very strongly, for developer relations over the last year. DICE, formerly known for being an NVIDIA-friendly developer, did not exhibit Battlefield 4 "The Way It's Meant to be Played" at the EA conference. According to one of AMD's Twitter accounts:
— AMD Radeon Graphics (@AMDRadeon) June 12, 2013
On the topic of "Gaming Evolved" titles, AMD is partnering with Square Enix to optimize Thief for GCN and A-Series APUs. The Press Release specifically mentioned Eyefinity and Crossfire support along with a DirectX 11 rendering engine; of course, the enhancements with real, interesting effects are the seemingly boring ones they do not mention.
The last major point from their E3 event was the launch of their 5 GHz FX processors. For more information on that part, check out Josh's thoughts from a couple of days ago.
Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 12, 2013 - 08:47 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: E3, razer, blade, haswell, gtx 765m, geforce
With the launch of Intel's Haswell processor, accessory maker-turned notebook vendor Razer announced a pretty slick machine, the Blade. Based on a quad-core, 37 watt Core i7 Haswell CPU and a GeForce GTX 765M GPU, the Razer Blade packs a lot of punch.
It also includes 8GB of DDR3-1600 memory, an mSATA SSD and integrates a 14-in 1600x900 display. The design of the unit looks very similar to that of the MacBook Pro but the black metal finish is really an attractive style change.
The embedded battery is fairly large at 70 Whr and Razer claims this will equate to a 6 hour battery life when operating non-gaming workloads. With a weight just barely creeping past 4 lbs, the Razer Blade is both portable and powerful it seems.
The price tag starts at $1799 so you won't be able to pick one of these up on the cheap, but for users like me that are willing to pay a bit more for performance and style in a slim chassis, the Blade seems like a very compelling option. There are a lot of questions left to answer on this notebook including the thermal concerns of packing that much high frequency silicon into a thin and light form factor. Does the unit get hot in bad places? Can the screen quality match the performance of Haswell + Kepler?
We are working with Razer to get a model in very soon to put it to the test and I am looking forward to answering if we have found the best gaming portable on the market.
Subject: Displays, Shows and Expos | June 12, 2013 - 08:24 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift, VR, E3
I have been a big proponent of the Oculus Rift and its move into the world of consumer-ready VR (virtual reality) technology. I saw it for the first time at Quakecon 2012 where Palmer Luckey and John Carmack sat on stage and addressed the new direction. Since then we saw it at CES and finally got in our own developer kit last month for some extended hands-on.
While I have definitely been impressed with the Rift in nearly every way while using it, the first thing anyone says when putting on the headset for the first time is about the graphics - the resolution of the unit was just too low and it creates a "screen door" effect because of it. As I wrote in my first preview:
I will say that the low resolution is definitely a barrier for me. Each eye is only seeing a 640x800 resolution in this version of the kit and that close up you can definitely see each pixel. Even worse, this creates a screen door effect that is basically like looking through a window with a screen installed. It's not great but you could get used to it if you had to; I am just hoping the higher resolution version of this kit is closer.
At E3 2013 the team at Oculus was able to put together a very early prototype of an HD version of the screen. By using a new 1920x1080 display each eye is able to see 960x1080; roughly twice the pixel density of the initial developer kit.
I got to spend some time with the higher resolution model today and I have to say that the difference is striking - and instantly noticeable. Gone was the obvious screen door effect and I was able to focus purely on the content. The content itself was new as well - Oculus and Epic were showing the Unreal Engine 4 integration with a custom version of the Elemental demo. The colors were crisp, the effects were amazing and only in a couple of rare instances of solid white color did we notice the black lines that plagued the first version.
As of now Oculus doesn't have plans to offer an updated developer kit with the 1080p screen installed but you just never know. They are still looking at several different phone screens and haven't made any final decisions on which direction to go but they are definitely close.
When I inquired about improvements on head tracking latency and accuracy to aid in motion sickness concerns (like I seem to have) Oculus was hesitant to say there was any single fix. Instead, a combination of lower latency, better hardware and even better thought out content were key to reducing these effects in gamers.