Have a 3D printer? Why not set up a Kinect based 3D scanner to go with it?

Subject: General Tech | March 24, 2017 - 01:36 PM |
Tagged: kinect, 3d scanning, microsoft

You may have seen a similar project in the past, if not this might be something you should check out.  If you have seen it, the process has matured somewhat and the quality of the imaging has improved.  In addition to the Kinect and a decent PC, you will need to install the The Kinect SDK and Kinect Explorer, along with Reconstruct Me, AutoDesk 123D Catch  and Skanect.  Drop by Techware Labs to read through the setup instructions and see if this project catches your imagination, or if there are updates to the process your own Kinect scanner might benefit from.

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"How many times have you sat there and thought about getting a 3D Scanner? If you are in to 3D printing then it’s probably a lot. If you go online and look for a 3D scanner you will find a lot of them with extremely high price tags. From $120 - $32,000. Seems a bit crazy on the high end but you are paying for the resolution. The idea behind a 3D scanner is that you use a laser that bounces back to a camera to tell it the contours of the model. Well what does a Kinect do? It scans a body for motion tracking using lasers and a camera. BINGO, there is a 3D scanner waiting to be used."

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Microsoft is making friends again, no new Win 7/8 updates for new chips

Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2017 - 01:11 PM |
Tagged: ryzen, kaby lake, microsoft, Windows 7, windows 8

KB4012982 describes the error you will see if you attempt to update Windows 7 or 8.x on 7th generation Intel processors, AMD Bristol Ridge and newer or Qualcomm "8996" and more recent models.  Microsoft has implemented the hardware based obsolescence which they had discussed several months ago when they stated that new chips would need Windows 10 to run.  This move will of course be heralded as brilliant and no one could possibly find this upsetting in the least, especially not in this Reddit thread.  It is a good thing Microsoft does not have a near monopoly in the market and that anyone who does not support this decision can choose from a wide variety of easily implemented alternatives.

Expect there to be workarounds, the vast majority of Enterprise customers have no interest in moving their infrastructure to Windows 10, nor the budget available to do so if they wanted.

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"Microsoft has started the process of built-in obsolescence to current hardware by blocking updates of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to Intel 7th Generation (Kaby Lake), AMD Ryzen and Qualcomm Snapdragon 82x processors."

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Source: Reddit

Let's get patching

Subject: General Tech | March 15, 2017 - 12:11 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, patch tuesday

Patch Tuesday arrived, after a delay of a month thanks to a SMB bug which was announced just prior to our scheduled day of updating.  That particular SMB issue was patched by a third party and today you can get it directly from Microsoft if you decided to live dangerously during the shortest month of the year.  The list of fixes include the traditional Adobe Flash patch as well as numerous others which you should really get around to installing before the podcast tonight.  The Register were kind enough to provide links and a summary of what each patch is intended to repair, you can read about them all here.

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"These flaws range from a hypervisor escape in Hyper-V, remote-code execution via PDF and Office files and malicious SMB traffic, to the usual barrage of information leaks and privilege escalations."

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Source: The Register

NVIDIA, Microsoft, Ingrasys (Foxconn) Announce HGX-1

Subject: Systems | March 9, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, microsoft, hgx-1, GP100, dgx-1

When NVIDIA announced the Pascal architecture at last year’s GTC, they started with the GP100 architecture that was to be initially available in their $129,000 DGX-1 PC. In fact, this device contained eight of those “Big Pascal” GPUs that are connected together by their NVLink interconnection.

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Now, almost a full year later, Microsoft, NVIDIA, and Ingrasys have announced the HGX-1 system. It, too, will contain eight GP100 GPUs through eight Tesla P100 accelerators. On the CPU side of things, Microsoft is planning on utilizing the next generation of x86 processors, Intel Skylake (which we assume means Skylake-X) and AMD Naples in these "Project Olympus" servers. Future versions could also integrate Intel FPGAs for an extra level of acceleration. ARM64 is another goal of theirs, but in the more distant future.

At the same time, NVIDIA has also announced, through a single-paragraph statement, that they are joining the Open Compute Project. This organization contains several massive players in the data center market, spanning from Facebook to Rackspace to Bank of America.

Whenever it arrives, the HGX-1 will be intended for cloud-based AI computations. Four of these machines are designed to be clustered together at high bandwidth, which I estimate would have north of 160 TeraFLOPs of double-precision (FP64) or 670 TeraFLOPs of half-precision (FP16) performance in the GPUs alone, depending on final clocks.

Source: NVIDIA

ARMing the Cloud; Qualcomm's Centriq 2400 Platform will power Microsoft Azure instances

Subject: General Tech, Systems | March 8, 2017 - 12:20 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, OCP, microsoft, falkor, centriq 2400, azure, arm, 10nm

Last December Qualcomm announced plans to launch their Centriq 2400 series of platforms for data centres, demonstrating Apache Spark and Hadoop on Linux as well as a Java demo.  They announced a 48 Core design based on ARM v8 and fabbed with on Samsung's 10nm process, which will compete against Intel's current offerings for the server room.

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Today marks the official release of the Qualcomm Falkor CPU and Centriq 2400 series of products, as well as the existence of a partnership with Microsoft which may see these products offered to Azure customers.  Microsoft has successfully configured a version of Windows Server to run on these new chips, which is rather big news for customers looking for low powered hosting solutions running a familiar OS.  The Centriq 2400 family is compliant with Microsoft's Project Olympus architecture, used by the Open Compute Project Foundation to offer standardized building blocks upon which you can design a data centre from scratch or use as an expansion plan.

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Enough of the background, we are here for the specifications of the new platform and what can be loaded onto a Centriq 2400.  The reference motherboard supports SOCs of up to 48 cores, with both single and dual socket designs announced.  Each SOC can support up to six channels of DDR4 in either single or dual channel configurations with a maximum of 768GB installed.  Falkor will offer 32 lanes of PCIe 3.0, eight SATA ports and a GbE ethernet port as well as USB and a standard 50Gb/s NIC.  NVMe is supported, one design offers 20 NVMe drives with a PCIe 16x slot but you can design the platform to match your requirements.  Unfortunately they did not discuss performance during their call, nor any suggested usage scenarios.  We expect to hear more about that during the 2017 Open Compute Platform US Summit, which starts today.

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The submission of the design to Open Compute Project ensures a focus on compatibility and modularity and allows a wide variety of designs to be requested and networked together.  If you have a need for HPC performance you can request a board with an HPC GPU such as a FirePro or Tesla, or even drop in your own optimized FPGA.  Instead of opting for an impressive but expensive NVME storage solution, you can modify the design to accommodate 16 SATA HDDs for affordable storage.

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Qualcomm have already announced Windows 10 support on their Snapdragon, but the fact that Microsoft are internally running Windows Server on an ARM v8 based processor is much more impressive.  Intel and AMD have long held reign in the server room and have rightfully shrugged of the many times in which companies have announced ARM based servers which will offer more power efficient alternatives.  Intel have made huge advances at creating low power chips for the server room; AMD's recently announced Naples shows their intentions to hold their market share as well.

If the submission to the OPC succeeds then we may see the first mainstream ARM based servers appear on the market.  Even if the Windows Server instances remain internal to Microsoft, the Centriq series will support Red Hat, CentOS, Canonical and Ubuntu as well as both GCC and LLVM compilers. 

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(click to seriously embiggen)

ARM may finally have reached the server market after all these years and it will be interesting to see how they fare.  AMD and Intel have both had to vastly reduce the power consumption of their chips and embrace a diametrically opposite design philosophy; instead of a small number of powerful chips, servers of the future will consist of arrays of less powerful chips working in tandem.  ARM has had to do the opposite, they are the uncontested rulers of low powered chips but have had to change their designs to increase the processing capabilities of their chips in order to produce an effective product for the server room.  

Could Qualcomm successful enter the server room; or will their ARMs not have the necessary reach?

Source: Qualcomm

Glad it is not Podcast night! Microsoft is not having a good day

Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2017 - 01:17 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, outlook, office 365, skype, hotmail

Many users of Hotmail, Outlook and Skype are finding themselves unable to log in to their accounts and some are complaining about access to their XBox accounts.  The problem is being described as an authentication issue, something that users of Exchange Online are all too familiar with.  Microsoft is currently working on a solution and the incident count on Down Detector seems do have dropped in the past few hours but there are still some problems.  The professional side also seems to be suffering as well, with several performance issues effecting a variety of services.  If you are one of those currently suffering, you can follow the link from The Register to report it on Down Detector, if you wish.

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"Naturally, users of Microsoft's cloud services have taken to Twitter and Reddit to moan about the downtime, with some complaining that Xbox online services have also been hit by the downtime."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft HoloLens Takes Michael Abrash Too Literally?

Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2017 - 07:37 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, hololens

When Michael Abrash moved from Intel to Valve, according to his post on the latter company’s blog, he suggested that he should help optimize Portal 2. The response from Jay Stelly was interesting: “Yeah, you could do that, but we’ll get it shipped anyway.” That’s... not something you’d expect from a company that is getting ready to ship a huge, AAA title.

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He took that feedback as a license to think outside the box, which led to their “wearable computing” initiative that eventually formed the basis of Steam VR. One key part of this blog post was the minor parenthetical, “think Terminator vision”.

Apparently, Microsoft’s HoloLens team has. As a cute little Unity demo, they are overlaying text and post-processing shaders atop the camera feed. It’s not just baked 2D text, though; they are also pushing the feed through object- and text-recognition, suggesting that users take the source (available on GitHub) and extend it through translation or text-to-speech.

The demo is primarily written in C#, which makes sense, because Unity.

Source: Microsoft

Huzzah! Delayed reboots are returning to Win10 Home

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2017 - 01:33 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

If you are using Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, you may have already disabled the automatic reboot function after updates are installed but for Home users after the Anniversary update, that has not been possible.  It turns out there are a lot of users quite upset with unplanned reboots, especially those who leave their computers running overnight or while they are away.  Microsoft have accepted this feedback and will return the ability to delay reboots to owners of the Home Edition in their next update.  In the meantime, The Register describes a way in which you can regain a little more control over automatic reboots with your current build.

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"Since the Windows 10 Anniversary Update in 2016, there is no way to prevent Windows 10 [Home] from automatically installing updates and rebooting your PC," fumed one vulture fan, John, who added that a group policy can be set on W10 Pro and Enterprise editions to prevent automated restarts."

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Source: The Register

The Microsoft Store's unintentional cash back offer

Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2017 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, oops, Lawsuit

If you purchased anything from the Microsoft store between November 2013 and February 24 of this year and live in the USA you could be eligible for up to $100 in cash damages.  It seems that the credit card information they provided on receipts contained more than half of your credit card numbers which is in violation of a law implemented in 2003 which states that no more than five numbers can be shown on receipts.  Now that the judgment against Microsoft is in, the proposed settlement for Microsoft to set aside $1,194,696US for customers who were affected by this issue.  The settlement needs to be approved by the judge so you cannot claim your money immediately, keep an eye out for more new.  The Register have posted links to the original lawsuit as well as the judgment right here.

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"On Friday, the Redmond giant agreed to give up roughly seven minutes of its quarterly revenue to a gaggle of Microsoft Store customers who claimed that their receipts displayed more of their payment card numbers than legally allowed."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Cancels February's Monthly Cumulative Update

Subject: General Tech | February 17, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Don’t worry if you didn’t receive cumulative Windows Updates this month.

At first, Microsoft showed no love for Valentine’s Day when they delayed the update that was supposed to roll out to the public. No explanation was provided. Two days later, Microsoft decided to write off the whole month. Everything that has been fixed since January 10th will be delayed until March 14th.

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This is quite the wait. Peter Bright of Ars Technica notes that “off-cycle updates are also unpopular”. Yes, IT professionals hate it when software vendors are difficult to schedule around. I’m not sure how much that had to do with this decision, though. On the one hand, when a new build launches to the public, it’s not uncommon to have an update (or more) per week over the first couple of months. On the other hand, it would be reasonable for Microsoft to assume that customers, those who carefully test patches before deploying them, would not have ingested a huge, nebulous feature release into their network just weeks after launch. Still, out-of-band updates happen, and it’s interesting that it didn’t happen in this circumstance.

One thing that this patch should have fixed, however, is delayed or clipped display output in games (and other 3D applications) on multi-monitor systems. While not as critical as security, it is probably annoying for anyone affected to need to wait another 28 days. Microsoft claims it will be fixed then, though.

Source: Microsoft