Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems | February 12, 2014 - 10:45 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox, xbone, ps4, Playstation, pc gaming
PCMag, your source for Apple and gaming console coverage (I joke), wrote up an editorial about purchasing a gaming console. Honestly, they should have titled it, "How to Buy a Game Device" since they also cover the NVIDIA SHIELD and other options.
The entire Console vs PC debate bothers me, though. Neither side handles it well.
I will start by highlighting problems with the PC side, before you stop reading. Everyone says you can assemble your own gaming PC to save a little money. Yes, that is true and it is unique to the platform. The problem is that the public vision then becomes, "You must assemble and maintain your own gaming PC".
No. No. No.
Some people prefer the support system provided by the gaming consoles. If it bricks, which some of them do a lot, you can call up the manufacturer for a replacement in a few weeks. The same could be absolutely true for a gaming PC. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a computer from a system builder, ranging from Dell to Puget Systems.
The point of gaming PC is that you do not need to. You can also deal with a small business. For Canadians, if you purchase all of your hardware through NCIX, you can add $50 to your order for them to ship your parts as a fully assembled PC, with Windows installed (if purchased). You also get a one-year warranty. The downside is that you lose your ability to pick-and-choose components from other retailers and you cannot reuse your old stuff. Unfortunately, I do not believe NCIX USA offers this. Some local stores may offer similar benefits, though. One around my area assembled for free.
The benefits of the PC is always choice. You can assemble it yourself (or with a friend). You can have a console-like experience with a system builder. You can also have something in-between with small businesses. It is your choice.
Most importantly, your choice of manufacturer does not restrict your choice in content.
As for the consoles, I cannot find a rock-solid argument that will always be better on them. If you are thinking about purchasing one, the available content should sway your decision. Microsoft will be the place to get "Halo". Sony will be the place to get "The Last of Us". Nintendo will be the place to get "Mario". Your money should go where the content you want is. That, and wherever your friends play.
But, of course, then you are what made the content exclusive.
Note: Obviously the PC has issues with proprietary platforms, too. Unlike the consoles, it could also be a temporary issue. The PC business model does not depend upon Windows. If it remains a sufficient platform? Great. If not, we have multiple options which range from Linux/SteamOS to Web Standards for someone to develop a timeless classic on.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 12, 2014 - 08:25 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ubuntu, SteamOS, nuc, Intel, debian
Two days ago, Intel added a new BIOS for the NUC to their download center. Its main update addresses a problem with booting some operating systems, such as SteamOS. Ars Technica published an editorial a couple of weeks ago about using the Haswell-based NUC with four Linux distributions. It basically comes down to the NUC not seeing a bootloader file that Debian-based OSes leave in their own branded folder. The BIOS was available less than two weeks later.
The update also addresses (PDF) fan speed control, a bug with disk encryption passwords, a couple of BIOS settings, and a system hang with certain USB thumb drives.
If you have a NUC and want to make it a SteamOS (or Ubuntu, etc.) device, this should fix your woes. I mean, there was already a workaround involving four terminal commands but it is that much easier nonetheless. It is available now at Intel's store.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 7, 2014 - 01:30 AM | Scott Michaud
There is actually a bit more to the title's pun than meets the eye. Amazon has just purchased Double Helix Games, the video game company which resulted from a merger between The Collective and Shiny Entertainment (or whatever was left of them). Their most recent title was Killer Instinct for the Xbox One.
The Amazon Cauldron gag, now extra Shiny.
Snarkiness aside, the obvious question is: "Amazon, why are you purchasing a game developer?"
While Amazon is stating that they are simply building innovative games for customers, the rumor mill believes it is more than that. Beyond having an Android-based marketplace, various sources are reporting that Amazon is expecting to develop a sub-$300 gaming console based on that platform. It certainly sounds reasonable. It would give Amazon's video and audio services a controlled set-top box as well as a portal to their Android Appstore. Beyond that, it would not require much extra research and development. It would be a sensible next step.
That said, Amazon has already been developing games for a little while. Their current portfolio could easily be classified as, "2D". The acquisition of Double Helix could simply be a play for games with a little more... depth. Yes, I should feel bad for that pun. No, I do not.
Finally, all 75 of the employees will keep their jobs, according to TechCrunch. Their paychecks will now have an Amazon logo on them, and that is about it. Don't you love it when you can report on a merger or acquisition and not feel bad about it?
Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 6, 2014 - 03:26 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: sony vaio, sony
Oh look, something that was not purchased by Lenovo.
Sony has decided to sell its VAIO brand to Japanese Industrial Partners (JIP). Sony has been developing computers under thO brand since the mid 90's. While never a top-five player in the industry, they had a significant presence in stores and in the possession of people I bumped into on a day-to-day basis. The division was apparently in the red. It currently employs 1,000 people, of which 250-300 are expected to be hired with this deal.
Whether the rest will be laid off or reshuffled within Sony remains to be seen.
As for Sony, they hope to focus on smartphones and tablets. They had a significant presence at last month's CES where they brought multiple Xperia models. VAIO also had its share of the attention though, so I guess that really does not mean much.
The acquisition is expected to complete near the end of July.
Subject: Systems | February 5, 2014 - 01:46 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, zotac, ZBOX ID45, gt 640
HONG KONG – Feb. 5, 2014 – ZOTAC International, a global innovator and manufacturer of graphics cards, mainboards and mini-PCs, today combines the power of 3rd Generation Intel Core i3 processing with NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 graphics to create the ultimate 4K ready HTPC. The new ZBOX ID45 series delivers the perfect synergy of energy-efficiency and high-quality video processing in a compact form factor.
“ZOTAC has always married the capabilities of energy-efficient Intel processors with incredible NVIDIA GeForce graphics since the first ZBOX shipped with NVIDIA ION,” said Carsten Berger, senior director, ZOTAC International. “The latest ZBOX ID45 series pushes that synergy even further with greater performance while maintaining excellent energy-efficiency.”
The NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 graphics enhances the video playback capabilities of the ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series with high-quality HD processing and 4K video decode capabilities for a superior HTPC experience. An Intel Core i3 3227U processor delivers outstanding CPU performance with dual processor cores and Intel HyperThreading technology for unmatched multitasking responsiveness and quick video transcoding capabilities.
Dual Gigabit Ethernet enables excellent wired networking capabilities for redundant connectivity or to transform the ZBOX ID45 series into a high-performance network router. Wireless 802.11ac networking technology delivers a wireless experience that’s comparable to wired Ethernet on the ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series.
The ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series ships as a barebones and as a PLUS version with 4GB DDR3 and 500GB hard drive preinstalled. Users can install a variety of operating systems on the ZOTAC ZBOX ID45 series including Windows 7, 8 and OpenELEC.
- ZOTAC Combines 3rd Generation Intel Core i3 with NVIDIA GeForce GT 640
- New ZBOX ID45 series Intel Core i3 3227U 1.9 GHz, dual-core, 3MB L2 cache
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 640 2GB DDR3
- PLUS models available with 4GB DDR3 500GB HDD
- HDMI, DVI-I and VGA (with included adapter) outputs 4K video decoding
- High quality HD video processing
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0 w/ external WiFi antenna
- 4 x USB 3.0
- Gigabit Ethernet Bundled
- VESA75/100 mount
Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 4, 2014 - 09:00 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Chromebox, asus
Often, people purchase a device with the intent of running a web browser on it. I understand the appeal of Joshtekk.com and we can all relate to the desire for it to have a dedicated machine. Google, through Chrome OS, targets this market with a line of laptops dedicated to web browsing. They are effective against virulent infections, a useful feature for casual Joshtekk encounters, with its limited native applications and simple recovery process.
ASUS is, by no means, first to this market. Samsung had a couple of Chromebox models almost two years ago. That said, the ASUS Chromebox will start at $179 USD (which is much cheaper than Samsung's $329 offering). The base model will contain an Intel Celeron 2955U processor (the aforementioned Samsung packed a Celeron B840), which is not a high-performance processor, but may suffice for your web browsing needs. If not, an Intel Core i3 model has also been announced but I do not have pricing to relay about that one. A Core i7-4600U version may or may not surface, as well. Its graphics will support options up to an Intel HD 4400.
One feature that is unexpected is its video outputs. The ASUS Chromebox supports both HDMI and DisplayPort connections for dual monitors and 4K. Given that this is a 5-inch by 5-inch (and fanless) design, with access to Netflix and other streaming services, it could make a good replacement for a "smart TV".
The ASUS Chromebox will be available in March starting at $179 USD. This price comes with 100GB of Google Drive space, free for 2 years. Also free: a VESA mount kit to, I believe, attach the Chromebox to the back of an HDTV.
If interested, read on for the press release.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 28, 2014 - 04:54 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: gigabyte brix, gigabyte, amd
If you feel a little déjà vu while reading this, it is because this system is identical to the MAINGEAR SPARK. Both devices are powered by an AMD A8-5557M APU backed with an AMD Radeon R9 M275X mobile discrete GPU. They even use the same case with the same color scheme. The only difference that I could find is the MAINGEAR logo on the front versus the GIGABYTE logo on the top. I think we could safely say that both devices are made at the same place. I expect that GIGABYTE was the OEM for MAINGEAR's Steam Machine.
Check out Tim's post about the SPARK.
Check out GIGABYTE's product page for the BRIX Gaming.
When Tim published his post about the SPARK for CES, back on January 6th, little was known about the R9 M275X (beyond its 2GB of GDDR5). That is still the case. AMD has not said anything further about the mobile GPU. The press release from GIGABYTE claims that it will support DirectX 11.1 (which implies it will not support DirectX 11.2) and OpenGL 4.1 (which implies a lack of support for OpenGL 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4). GIGABYTE also claims that it will support "the latest OpenCL 1.1 standard" (which implies lack of support for OpenCL 1.2).
I seriously doubt that this is true.
I cannot see AMD regressing that heavily on API compatibility. OpenGL 4.2 has been supported since the HD 5000 (desktop) and HD 6000M (laptop) series. OpenCL 1.2 has been supported since the HD 5000 (desktop) and HD 7000M (laptop) line. One of the main features of OpenCL 1.2 is the ability share resources with DirectX 11 (OpenCL 1.1 shares with DirectX 10). In fact, I cannot find a single chip that AMD produced which supports OpenGL 4.1 and OpenCL 1.1 and fails to support OpenGL 4.2 and OpenCL 1.2.
I would not trust GIGABYTE's press release when it comes to the R9 M275X.
Still nothing on pricing and availability for the GIGABYTE BRIX Gaming. Its product code will be the "GB-BXA8G-8890", which totally rolls off the tongue, so we have that going for us. It is a very interesting device. I wonder if we will see it, and other BRIX entries, find their way into the catalogs of other system builders.
Subject: Systems | January 27, 2014 - 03:55 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: shuttle, XPC Barebone, SZ87R6
Shuttle has updated their XPC Barebone system with Haswell parts. At 332x261x198mm (13x10.2x7.8") it is not the smallest chassis on the market but is small enough to fit in most spaces and with a style that would not look out of place among stereo components. It ships with a Z87 motherboard and a 500W PSU as well as a custom CPU cooler but you get to pick and choose which components you will be putting in this machine, it is a Barebone system after all. MadShrimps put a full system together using this as the base and were impressed by the cooling performance and overall look of the system.
"Shuttle has refreshed its latest XPC Barebone with a new configuration featuring the Z87 chipset, for allowing installation of the Intel Haswell processors and also features plenty of connectivity options. Thanks to the 500W power supply, we should not have a lot of issues when choosing a high performance video card, two 3.5’’ drives and a CPU with a rated TDP up to 95W."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- MESH Elite Mini Gamer Plus System @ Kitguru
- HP Proliant MicroServer Gen8 @ SPCR
- Supermicro 7047AX-TRF/72RF SuperWorkstation @ Kitguru
- Intel NUC KIT D54250WYKH Review @ Legit Reviews
- Zotax Zbox Nano AQ01 Plus Review @ Bjorn3D
Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 25, 2014 - 07:42 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Lenovo, IBM, x86, servers
Lenovo will take (or purchase) the x86 torch away from IBM in the high-end server and mainframe market, too. The deal is worth $2.3 billion of which $2 billion will be cash, the remains will be paid to IBM in stock. IBM walked away from talks with Lenovo last year in a deal that was believed to be similar to this one.
Lenovo, famously, took over IBM's PC business in 2005.
... which is increasingly not IBM.
x86-based servers have been profitable, even for IBM. This is yet another example of a large company with a desire to increase their margins at the expense of overall profits. This is similar to the situation with HP when they considered getting out of consumer devices. Laptops and desktops were still profitable but not as much as, say, an ink cartridge. Sometimes leaving money on the table tells a better story and that is okay. Someone will take it.
Lenovo will also become an authorized reseller of IBM cloud computing and storage solutions (plus some of their software). IBM will continue to operate their server and mainframe businesses based on their own architectures (such as Power and Z/Architecture).
Approximately 7,500 of IBM's current employees will be hired by Lenovo as a part of this agreement. Unfortunately, I do not know how many current employees are affected. 7,500 could be the vast majority of that workforce or only a small fraction of it. Hopefully this deal will not mean too many layoffs, if any at all.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 22, 2014 - 01:27 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, SteamOS
When Valve launched SteamOS, it was definitely a beta product. Its installer prompted Ryan to make a troubleshooting video on our Youtube channel. It also apparently required a computer equipped with a UEFI which only became common about two or three years ago. It is also very difficult to install as a dual-boot configuration which complicates its coexistence with Windows (because Microsoft will certainly not support it from their end).
Thankfully, most or all of these issues are being addressed in the latest beta SteamOS ISO... at your own risk. They are very careful to highlight that this beta has not been properly tested. Given that their initial release could nuke a random hard drive full of data, I would take that warning seriously.
These changes come from the project, "Ye Old SteamOSe". I am not sure that it solves the USB overwrite issue that we experienced (unless it was already fixed at some point) but I would expect that custom partitions and dual-boot would be impossible if that bug still existed. The highlighted features, according to the announcement's comments, are:
- Non-EFI support
- DVD install support
- Custom partitions in Expert mode (cannot resize NTFS partitions).
- Dual-boot in Expert mode.
If you would like to give SteamOS installation another shot, on a machine that you feel comfortable testing software with, then check out the Steam Universe thread.