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Amazon Chimes in with a videoconferencing solution that is primed to take on the big players

Subject: General Tech | February 14, 2017 - 06:39 PM |
Tagged: amazon, chime, videoconferencing

If there is one thing we are short on, it is incompatible videoconferencing applications to use and support.  Obviously this is why Amazon purchased Biba and has now leaped into the fray to provide Chime, a truly unique service which will transmit your voice and video over the internet in something called a conference.  Sarcasm aside, Amazon Web Services have proven that they provide a solid set of services, which will be the backbone of the new app.  Those who have struggled with Adobe's offering or tried to have a meeting during many of the outage periods which plague various other providers might want to take a look.

The basic service is free, Plus allows screen sharing and access to corporate directories for $2.50 per user a month and the Pro version runs $15, allowing up to 100 people in a video call as well as the all important personalized URL.  Pop by Slashdot if you so desire.

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"Amazon has released new service to make voice and video calls and share screen. Called Chime, the service is aimed at business users. It directly competes with well-known players such as Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Cisco's WebEx, among others."

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Source: Slashdot

AMD Releases Radeon Software Crimson ReLive 17.2.1

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 14, 2017 - 10:57 PM |
Tagged: amd, graphics drivers

Just in time for For Honor and Sniper Elite 4, AMD has released a new set of graphics drivers, Radeon Software Crimson ReLive 17.2.1, that target these games. The performance improvements that they quote are in the 4-5% range, when compared to their previous driver on the RX 480, which would be equivalent to saving a whole millisecond per frame at 60 FPS. (This is just for mathematical reference; I don’t know what performance users should expect with an RX 480.)

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Beyond driver overhead improvements, you will now be able to utilize multiple GPUs in CrossFire (for DirectX 11) on both titles.

Also, several issues have been fixed with this version. If you have a FreeSync monitor, and some games fail to activate variable refresh mode, then this driver might solve this problem for you. Scrubbing through some videos (DXVA H.264) should no longer cause visible corruption. A couple applications, like GRID and DayZ, should no longer crash under certain situations. You get the idea.

If you have an AMD GPU on Windows, pick up these drivers from their support page.

Source: AMD

The Genius SP-925BT bluetooth speaker, the sound is larger than the price tag

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2017 - 10:09 PM |
Tagged: audio, SP-925BT, genuis, Bluetooth Stereo Speaker

If you are looking for an inexpensive bluetooth speaker that you won't worry about taking to the beach or other places it is at risk of harm, the $30 Genius SP-925BT is not a bad choice.  It features two 50mm speakers and a passive sub-woofer, with a 1500mAh battery.  In addition to Bluetooth 4 connectivity there is also a 3.5mm jack to connect devices without a radio.  Modders Inc tried a variety of audio sources and found the quality and volume perfect for sharing you music with a crowd of people.

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"Bluetooth technology is rendering wires passé in a world where using a mobile phone is an essential part of daily life. Staying connected no longer requires continuous tethering of devices to cables, so why shouldn’t audio listening enjoy the same freedom as well?"

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Source: Modders Inc

Living in VIVO 24K, a unique looking PSU

Subject: Cases and Cooling | February 17, 2017 - 11:13 PM |
Tagged: modular psu, VIVO, VIVO 24K, 650W, 80 Plus Gold

VIVO is certainly not a top of mind brand name, which is part of the reason [H]ard|OCP were interested in reviewing their 24K 650W PSU.  The top, front and back of the PSU feature a honeycombed design which not only give it a unique look but also help with ventilation.  The test results from this newcomer were a pleasant surprise; it measured up to the established competition, offering good power delivery and deserving of the advertised 80 PLUS Gold rating.  It is nice to see a new product measure up straight out of the gates, it will be worth keeping an eye on VIVO in the future.

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"VIVO is likely not a brand name that you are familiar with when it comes to enthusiast-level computer power supplies. We were not familiar with the VIVO name assuredly and its single PSU offering. All the more reason to put it through our PSU testing gauntlet when VIVO asked us to. Will VIVO regret putting its value brand PSU to the test?"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

BOINC on your phone?

Subject: General Tech | February 16, 2017 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged: boinc, fast radio bursts

If you are not familiar with the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Networked Computing, aka BOINC, then hopefully it is because you devote your spare processing power to Folding@Home.  If you are still unfamiliar, it is a way to divvy up huge data sets and associated calculations to numerous local clients, install by volunteers who are willing to donate spare processing cycles; the most famous is SETI@Home.

The story at the The Register describes something similar, though instead of performing the calculations, you would capture the data.  The idea is to utilize the radio receivers in mobile devices and software defined radio kits to capture the mysterious fast radio bursts that astronomers have detected emanating from far off galaxies.  The researchers have a lot of work ahead of them as the 1GHz signals can be swamped by terrestrial sources and the periodicity of the signals is not clear.  It will be interesting to watch how this project unfolds.

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"Friends, take out your mobiles in the name of science! Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics are trying to look for fast radio bursts in the Milky Way galaxy with “low-cost radio receivers.” And by that, they mean, your smartphones."

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Source: The Register

The Qt Company Announces Qt 3D Studio

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2017 - 09:46 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, Qt, nvidia

NVIDIA has just donated their entire DRIVE Design Studio to The Qt Company, who will form it into Qt 3D Studio. This product will be a visual editor for 3D user interfaces, where layers of 2D and 3D objects can be created, animated, and integrated into C++ applications. It will take them a little while to clean it up for public consumption, but it will eventually be available under the commercial / open-source dual-license that users of Qt are accustomed to.

If you’re not familiar with the Qt Framework, then, basically, think of a cross-platform, open-source alternative to the .NET framework, although it is based in unmanaged C++. (It also competes with GTK+. This isn’t a major point, but I would like it to be clear that it’s not a two-person race between one proprietary and one open-source player.) When AMD updated their graphics drivers to Crimson Edition, and flaunted huge speed-ups, it was mostly because they switched the control panel's UI framework from .NET to Qt.

As an aside, The Qt Company joined the Khronos Group on the day that Vulkan launched, which was almost exactly a year ago, and they are actively working on integrating the API in their framework. Combined with today’s announcement, it’s not hard to imagine how much easier it will be, some day, to create efficient and beautiful UIs.

Update: Speaking of which, The Qt Company is apparently planning to release Vulkan support with Qt 5.10.

What's so bright about the Genius Scorpion M8-610?

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2017 - 09:00 PM |
Tagged: input, genius, scorpion M8-610, gaming mouse, ambidextrous

The symmetrical design of the Genius Scorpion M8-610 will ensure comfort no matter what your chirality is, something that is seemingly more uncommon in gaming mice these days.  The Avago ADNS-9800 laser sensor can provide between 800 to 8200 DPI and all the buttons are Omron D2FC-F-7N, not bad for a mouse that runs less than $40.  Modders Inc took a look at the mouse and the software suite which accompanies it in their latest review; take a look at what they thought right here.

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"While it is easy to get lured by fancy colors and flashy design when looking for a gaming mouse, it always comes down to functional consistency above all else. Aside from the keyboard, the mouse allows users to communicate with the computer and to the wider world online."

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Source: Modders Inc

Jack Sprat would approve of the third incarnation of the ASUS Zenbook

Subject: Mobile | February 20, 2017 - 07:03 PM |
Tagged: zenbook 3, UX390UA, ultrabook, kaby lake, asus. zenbook

We caught a glance at the new ASUS ZenBook 3 at CES and today Kitguru provides a full review of one, albeit a slightly different model.  The UX3901UA model contains a Kaby Lake i5-7200U with HD 620 graphics, 8GB LPDDR3-2133 and a 512GB M.2 SATA SSD.  The 12.5" screen is 1080p with no adaptive graphics or other tricks.  Where things seem to go off the rails is when you look at the thickness of the Zenbook, at its thickest it is 11.9mm (0.46").  This means you get no ethernet nor USB type A plugs as they simply would not fit and you have to content yourself with a single Type C plug.  For some the sacrifice is worth it; if you are one who likes petite sized computers you should head over for the full review.

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"What has really caught my eye about the ZenBook 3 is its physical dimensions – it measures just 11.9mm thick, while it weighs a mere 910g. With Kaby Lake hardware inside, as well as the promise of a crisp 1080p display and Harman Kardon speakers, could this be our new ultrabook of choice?"

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Source: Kitguru

MSI's wee AERO ITX family of NVIDIA graphics cards

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 16, 2017 - 08:35 PM |
Tagged: msi, AERO ITX, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, gtx 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, SFF, itx

MSI have just release their new series of ITX compatible GPUs, covering NVIDIA's latest series of cards from the GTX 1050 through to the GTX 1070; the GTX 1080 is not available in this form factor.  The GTX 1070 and 1060 are available in both factory overclocked and standard versions.

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All models share a similar design, with a single TORX fan with 8mm Super Pipes and the Zero Frozr feature which stops the fan to give silent operation when temperatures are below 60C.  They are all compatible with the Afterburner Overclocking Utility, including recordings via Predator and wireless control from your phone. 

The overclocked cards run slightly over reference, from the GTX 1070 at 1721MHz boost, 1531MHz base with the GDDR5 at 8GHz to the GTX 1050 at 1518MHz boost, 1404MHz base and the GDDR5 at 7GHz.  The models which do not bear the OC moniker run at NVIDIA's reference clocks even if they are not quite fully grown.

Source: MSI

Qualcomm Announces the Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem

Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2017 - 01:19 PM |
Tagged: X20, snapdragon, qualcomm, modem, LTE, DSDV, Category 18, Carrier Aggregation, CA, 5x20 MHz

Qualcomm has announced the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, their 2nd-generation Gigabit LTE solution built on 10nm FinFET and offering what Qualcomm says are “a number of industry firsts”, which include first to Category 18 (downlink) and first to receive up to 12 spacial LTE data streams simultaneously.

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“It is the first commercially announced Gigabit LTE chipset designed to deliver fiber-like LTE Category 18 download speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps, a 20 percent improvement in download speeds over the previous generation. Additionally, it allows support for up to 5x20 MHz downlink Carrier Aggregation (CA) across licensed and unlicensed FDD and TDD radio frequencies, as well as 4x4 MIMO on up to three aggregated LTE carriers. Lastly, it supports integrated Dual SIM Dual VoLTE (DSDV) capability, a first for Snapdragon LTE modems. These leading-edge features of the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem are supported by the first commercially announced single-chip RF transceiver capable of simultaneously receiving up to 12 spatial streams of LTE data.”

Compared the the X16 modem featured in the upcoming Snapdragon 835 SoC, the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem moves from Cat 16 to Cat 18 on the downlink, with support for 5x20 MHz (vs. the X16’s 4x20 MHz) Carrier Aggregation and “can simultaneously receive 12 unique streams of data on as few as three 20 MHz carriers”, with up to 256-QAM and 100 Mbps per stream. Uplink is at the same 2x20 MHz/64-QAM as the X16 modem, for speeds of up to 150 Mbps.

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The X20 LTE modem now includes VoLTE for both cards in a dual-SIM implementation:

“The Snapdragon X20 LTE modem also features more advanced dual SIM functionality and, as the first Snapdragon LTE modem to support DSDV, it provides users with the benefits of Ultra HD Voice and other IMS-based services on both SIMs inserted into the device.”

Qualcomm has begun to sample the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem to customers, with the first commercial devices expected 1H 2018.

Full press release after the break.

Source: Qualcomm