Get HITMAN for free with a Radeon RX 470 graphics card or eligible systems

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 9, 2016 - 06:11 PM |
Tagged: giveaway, hitman 2016, amd, rx 470

If you purchase a Radeon RX 470 or a system with said GPU and an FX 8370, 8350 or 6350 you can get a copy of the latest Hitman game for free.  If you purchased a card recently you should still be eligible, just pop over to the redemption page, sign in and redeem your code.

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You can pick up the 4GB model for as little as $170 but you would be wiser to invest a little more in the 8GB version.

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Source: AMD

Samsung will be disabling the charging ability of the Note 7

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2016 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy note 7, verizon, recall

If you are one of the 7% that like living dangerously and are not returning your Samsung Galaxy Note 7 you may find yourself unable to charge it.  Samsung are going to push out an update on December 19th which will disable the devices ability to charge.  The incendiary devices suffer from a design flaw which does not leave enough space for the battery to swell, which can lead to an electrical short in the battery which ends badly for both the device and the owner.  Verizon has decided to take an interesting stand and will be blocking this update, allowing those who wish to continue using this device to continue to do so.  Pop over to The Inquirer for more details.

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"THE REMAINING owners of the highly flammable Samsung Galaxy Note 7 will have their devices remotely killed from 19 December when an over-the-air update will prevent their devices from charging."

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Source: The Inquirer

DOOM Removes Denuvo DRM

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2016 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: pc gaming, DRM, doom, bethesda

Well this is an interesting news post for a couple of reasons. Personally, I dislike DRM. A lot. It’s software that reduces end-user rights, as both consumers and potentially even as members of society after copyright expires (depending on how judges, and the Librarian of Congress, interpret whether fair use or expiration will override the DMCA’s felony clauses). It’s especially annoying when you see DRM on content that was pirated prior to the official launch, because ticking off your customers and screwing with archivists will really help you if you can’t even secure your own supply chain.

--deep exhale--

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As for today’s story, id Software has officially removed the Denuvo DRM package from their game. On the one hand, it’s good that AAA developers sometimes remove copy-protection after some initial launch window, to limit long-term damage. It’s not DRM-free like you would see on GOG, though, so there is still the possibility that games could artificially die in 10, 40, 100, or 400 years, even if Windows and the other, technical platforms it requires are still around.

On the other hand, because the removal of DRM aligns with DOOM being cracked, that's all the dozens of tech news sites are now reporting. Personally, I hope that this coverage increases sales, especially since the Steam Winter Sale is rumored to start in about two weeks, and DOOM has already been discounted to 50%-off before (I believe during QuakeCon). Still, you can't help but gawk at the Streisand effect as it unfolds before you.

Anywho, Steam is currently in the middle of pushing a 12 GB patch for the title at the moment. While the sites reporting on the removal of Denuvo aren’t clear, and the release notes don’t say, I’m guessing that it was rolled in with Free Update 5.

Source: TorrentFreak

X marks the spot; rumours of Broadwell-E's successor appear

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2016 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: rumour, Intel, skylake-x, kaby lake x, LGA 2066

DigiTimes today published a possibly accurate post on the upcoming replacement for the ageing Broadwell-E platform, Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X.  These chips will feature a new socket and along with that a new chipset, bearing the predictable name of X299.   The quoted prices seem to fit with Intel's pricing scheme, from $468 to $1,780 but we did not hear of any core counts or frequency ranges, the expected release date is about a year away.  The new chips will of course support DDR4 and we might see a hint of them at Gamescom 2017 in Germany.  They also state you can expect to see Intel's 7xxx family of chips and the accompanying Z270 and H270 chipsets at CES this January; a reasonable expectation.

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"The new Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processors will feature a new LGA 2066 socket and support DDR4 memory. The CPUs will pair with Intel's new X299 chipsets."

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Source: DigiTimes

Watch Dogs 2, in two parts

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2016 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, amd, gaming, watch dogs 2, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, rx 480x, rx 470

[H]ard|OCP have spent a lot of with Watch Dogs 2 recently, enough to create three articles covering the game of which two are now published.  The first article focuses on performance at ultra settings and finding the highest playable settings that the GPUs they tested were capable of, without installing the high resolution texture pack.  As it turns out, the game is much more graphically demanding than many other recent releases, so much so that only the Titan X and GTX 1080 was able to perform at 4k resolutions, the GTX 1070 and 1060, as well as the RX 480 and 470 only feature at lower resolutions. 

The second article looks at performance with the texture pack installed, which did not have much effect on overall performance but significantly increased VRAM usage.  Even the mighty Titan X struggled with this game, we will need a new generation of GPUs to utilize all the available graphics features available in this game.  The last review will be up soon and will focus on what effect each of the graphical settings have on the visual appearance of the game.

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"Watch Dogs 2 has been released on the PC. We will have a three part evaluation of performance and image quality starting today with performance comparisons. We will also find the highest playable settings for each graphics card and the gameplay experience delivered. Finally, a graphically demanding game."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Intel just got some competition, Qualcomm's 10nm server chips will launch first

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2016 - 01:25 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, centriq, centriq 2400, server

The days when AMD and Intel were the two choices to build a server with are long gone.  The ARM architecture has been making serious inroads as various vendors have begun to offer various solutions utilizing ARM designs, up to and including AMD for that matter.  Today, Qualcomm have joined these ranks, announcing their first processor family designed to power a server.  The Centriq 2400 series is based on a 10nm process node, with up to 48 cores.  As The Inquirer points out, this is a rather impressive shot across Intel's bow as Qualcomm will ship a 10nm FinFET before Intel does.

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"The Qualcomm Centriq 2400 series, the first in the Centriq product family that Qualcomm has been working on for four years, has up to 48 ARMv8-compliant cores targeting compute-intensive data centre applications that require power efficiency and is built on the 10nm FinFET manufacturing processor."

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Source: The Inquirer

Fishing for performance improvements? A shallow dive into Intel's desktop Kaby Lake

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2016 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, kaby lake, Intel, 7th generation core

Ryan recently offered a sneak peek at Kaby Lake, which powered two HP Spectre laptops recently sent to PC Perspective for review.  [H]ard|OCP managed to acquire a desktop version of the i7-7700K along with a mysterious unreleased motherboard which supports both Skylake and Kaby Lake architectures.  When testing the two chips in Passmark there was no meaningful performance difference, a pattern repeated in 3D Mark and Sandra.  The performance per clock is not the whole story with this chip, there are new features and possible overclocking improvements but at the moment it does not look like there is a compelling reason to upgrade if you are already on Skylake.  The same is not true if you are using a previous generation.

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"If you are wondering what Intel's new Core i7-7700K Kaby Lake processor's performance will look like when it is launched next month at CES, we have a quick preview for you here today. Just some quick and dirty synthetic benchmark numbers to whet your appetite at 4.5GHz with comparison to the i7-6700K at matched clocks."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Are your Puma powered packets ponderous? A router update should be coming to fix your latency

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2016 - 01:50 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Puma, latency, lag

Intel's Puma 6 system on a chip is a popular choice in modem provided by ISPs across the western world and if you have recently upgraded your broadband modem you may have noticed an undesirable side effect.  There is an issue with the chip which is causing bursts of high latency, ruining video streaming and gaming for those affected by the issue.  There is good news, The Register confirmed with Intel that a fix is forthcoming and you should expect your ISP to push out a firmware update soon, hopefully not while you are in the middle of something important.

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"Intel's Puma 6 chipset, used in gigabit broadband modems around the world, suffers from latency jitter so bad it ruins online gaming and other real-time connections."

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Source: The Register

HP Launches Ruggedized Apollo Lake Powered Convertible Tablet For Students

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2016 - 02:34 AM |
Tagged: x360, Intel, hp, convertible tablet, apollo lake, 2-in-1

HP recently introduced a new convertible tablet for students. Built to be a bit more ruggedized than the consumer Pavilion model, the new HP ProBook X360 11G Education Edition is an 11” 2-in-1 laptop weighing in at 3.19 pounds, 0.78 inches thick, and designed to pass the MIL-STD 810G specification test with a spill resistant keyboard, shock and minor drop tolerance, and keyboard keys that are difficult to rip off (heh).

HP’s new convertible uses the same 360-degree hinge design as the existing Pavilion x360 notebooks which allows the user to bend the display all the way back so that it can be used as a tablet with the keyboard on the underside. Unlike the older consumer versions though, it appears HP has slightly upgraded things.

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On the outside the notebook is dark gray with black around the display and has a more business aesthetic while keeping the curves of the consumer model. The display is an 11” SVA panel with LED backlighting that is protected by Gorilla Glass 4. There is a 720p front facing webcam above the display and a 1080p camera on the keyboard that can be used while in tablet or tent modes while using the display as a viewfinder. Further, HP managed to cram what looks like a decent sized keyboard sans numpad and a trackpad that supports multi touch gestures 

The display supports both multi touch and digitizer input using the optional Active Pen which is nice to see and a feature I had wanted to see on the Pavilion x360 when i was looking for a replacement for my old convertible (I'm still looking heh).

Along the edges HP has included HDMI 1.4b, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 (USB 3.0) Type A, one USB Type-C, one 3.5mm audio jack, and a Micro SDXC card slot for expansion.

Internally, the ProBook X360 11G EE is powered by one of two possible Apollo Lake SoCs: a dual core Celeron N3350 running at 1.1GHz and up to 2.4GHz boost and HD Graphics 500 or a quad core Pentium N4200 clocked at 1.1GHz base and up to 2.5GHz with an Intel HD 505 GPU. Regardless of the processor choice, the convertible also includes 8GB of DDR3L-1600 memory and a 64GB eMMC drive that can be upgraded to a 128GB ot 256GB M.2 SSD for better performance. Ditching the 500GB spinning rust drive of the consumer version is a good thing and is likely what helped HP get the ruggedized specifications.

Networking is handled by Intel dual band 2x2 MIMO 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2, and Realtek-powered Gigabit Ethernet. HP claims up to 11 hours of battery life.

The ProBook X360 11G Education Edition comes with a 3 year warranty and starts at $329 with availability expected in January. Unfortunately, the convertible will initially only be available to educational institutions and HP partners though eventually you should be able to pick one up through a reseller. Another possible wrinkle is that the notebooks come preloaded with HP’s School Pack software which has software for students that lets a teacher do lesson planning, desktop sharing, and a student social network among other things. Of course if your school does not use this platform it is just more pre-installed software taking up resources. On the other hand, they do come with Windows 10 Pro rather than Home so that is something at least.

I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one to see how it feels as it sounds like it is more solidly built than the non education edition version.

 

Source: Tech Report

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Announced on Unreal Engine 4

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2016 - 04:43 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, mechwarrior 5, Mechwarrior

Piranha Games, known for the free-to-play MechWarrior Online, has just announced MechWarrior 5: Merceneries. The first thing I noticed is that they revived the Merceneries subtitle, used twice before with expansion packs to MechWarrior 2 and MechWarrior 4. The second thing I noticed is that it now runs on Unreal Engine 4, despite MechWarrior Online being based on CryEngine.

The third thing I noticed is that, while it’s a bit of a meme to start MechWarrior things with the mech powering up, the video actually begins with the pilot on foot, walking through the hangar. I’m wondering whether this will be expanded upon in the gameplay or narrative. I don’t really see how it could work, but it seems like a fair amount of effort for no real intent. Yes, I’ve played MechAssault 2, but it seems highly unlikely that anything like that will happen.

MechWarrior 5 takes place in 3015, which means that it will have a very small subset of the weapons and equipment that you would see in, say, MechWarrior 3 (~3060) and MechWarrior 4 (~3063). There probably will not be ER weapons, pulse lasers, gauss rifles, ECM, LBX autocannons, or anything like that. I would be surprised to see anything more than standard lasers, PPCs, short-range missiles, long-range missiles, machine guns, and standard autocannons. It will be an interesting change of pace.

MechWarrior 5 also might be single-player only. The teaser site seems to suggest that MechWarrior Online will continue to be updated, which I interpret to mean that it will be its multiplayer companion.

It is expected for release in 2018.

LibRetro Vulkanizes PlayStation

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2016 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, vulkan, libretro

About half of a year ago, LibRetro added Vulkan support to their Nintendo 64 renderer. This allowed them to do things like emulate the console’s hardware rasterization in software, and do so as an asynchronous shader, circumventing limitations in their OpenGL path trying to emulate the console’s offbeat GPU.

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Image Credit: Universal Interactive via Wikipedia

They have now turned their sights (“for the lulz”) to the original PlayStation, creating a Vulkan back-end for emulators like Beetle PSX.

The fairly long blog post discusses how the PlayStation is designed in detail, making it an interesting read for anyone curious. One point that I found particularly interesting is how the video memory is configured as a single, 1MB, 2D array (1024x512x16-bit). At this time, texture resolution was quite small, and frame buffers were between 256x224 and 640x480, so that’s a lot of room to make a collage out of your frame and all textures in the scene, but it’s still odd to think about a console imposing such restrictions now that we’re spoiled by modern GPUs.

In terms of performance, the developer claims that modern GPUs can handle 8k resolutions with relative ease, and four-digit FPS at lower resolutions.

DIY self driving car; what could possibly go wrong!

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2016 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: DIY, self driving car, comma.ai, geohot

George Hotz, aka [Geohot], created the comma.ai program in an effort to create and sell a program to control self driving cars.  The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took offence to this, citing the possibility of this endangering humans in a letter sent to his company Comma.Ai.  He shut down the project rather than having to deal with lawyers, red tape and regulations.  The code survived however and is now available on GitHub.  Hack a Day took a look and discovered it is written in Python with some C included and is rather easy to interpret if you are familiar with the language.  It is compatible with Acura ILXs or Honda Civic 2016 Touring models, if you are so inclined.

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"First there was [Geohot]’s lofty goal to build a hacker’s version of the self-driving car. Then came comma.ai and a whole bunch of venture capital. After that, a letter from the Feds and a hasty retreat from the business end of things. The latest development? comma.ai’s openpilot project shows up on GitHub!"

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Source: Hack a Day

Razer Joins The Khronos Group

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2016 - 12:58 AM |
Tagged: VR, razer, osvr, Khronos

The Khronos Group is the standards body that maintains OpenGL, Vulkan, OpenCL, along with several other APIs and formats. They are made up of several members, which include companies of various sizes along with educational institutions, with a couple of tiers where members of the higher level, Promoter, get board nomination rights.

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The lower level, Contributor, has just received a new member: Razer. The Khronos Group published a little statement to their front page, but didn’t provide a way to permanently link it and the Read More just directs to Razer’s homepage. Also, Razer didn’t provide a press release on their website, at least by the time this news was published, so I included the statement below to prevent it from getting buried in a few days:

The Khronos Group is proud to announce that Razer has joined as a Contributor Member. Razer is a world leader in connected devices and software for gamers. Its award-winning design and technology span systems, peripherals, audio and wearable technologies. Razer co-founded OSVR, an open-source platform that integrates VR, AR and mixed reality hardware and software APIs that support a universal VR ecosystem.

Based on this, it’s easy to speculate that Razer is looking to have a say and a vote in how graphics APIs evolve, nudging it as needed for OSVR, their co-founded virtual reality platform. Basically every other VR developer worth mentioning is already a member, including Google, Microsoft, Oculus VR, Samsung, Sony, and Valve. Likewise, Vulkan is undergoing rapid development, and the next version, codenamed Vulkan Next, has VR as one of its “top priorities”. It seems like a good time for Razer to get involved.

Otherwise? Not much to speak of here. Razer is a fairly big company that wants to be active in technology development, and it can easily afford the Khronos Group membership fee. I mean, the amount they spent on USB ports with a specific shade of green would cover about twenty years of membership to the Khronos Group, so it seems within their reach.

Shhh, no input lag, only Dream Machines' DM Pro S

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2016 - 03:14 PM |
Tagged: gaming mouse, input, dream machines, DM Pro S

The Dream Machines DM1 PRO S gaming mouse uses a Pixart PMW 3360 optical sensor, not one commonly utilized in the market.  The DPI of the sensor can be toggled in set increments from 400 up to 12000, with the colour of the light under the logo indicating your current setting; the lack of software precludes manipulation of those presets.  The overall design of the mouse looks ambidextrous, however there are only thumb buttons on the left side of the mouse.  TechPowerUp were very impressed with the performance of the new sensor, as to the rest of the features you will just have to pop over and read them yourself.

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"A few months ago, we reviewed the Dream Machines DM1 PRO, and Dream Machines is now back with the DM1 PRO S. This version has an updated sensor, has been slimmed down to be even lighter, and has a rather nice glossy finish. Improvements, which could be a game changer."

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Source: TechPowerUp

T'is the season to write gift guides, tra la la la la ...

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2016 - 02:24 PM |
Tagged: gift guide, holiday gift guide

Ryan has started cracking the whip but we haven't quite assembled our picks for the Christmas season so for now you can check out what the gang at The Tech Report has on offer.  As you might expect, the HTC Vive appears but you might not have suspected that a pressure cooker and sous-vide machine are on their list.  There is a lot more in the way of recommendations, from a CPU delidder to a projector or a 55" 4K TV with HDR if you are more of a traditionalist.  Hide your credit cards and check out the whole list.

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"The TR staff knows just how hard it can be to find the right gift to please the nerd in your life, so we've compiled a list of the items we've used and enjoyed over the past year. If you're stuck on what to buy for your favorite techie this holiday season, maybe we can help."

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Serious Sam VR, now with tag teaming NVIDIA cards

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2016 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: serious sam vr, nvidia, gaming, pascal

Having already looked at AMD's performance with two RX 480's in a system, the recent patch which enables support for multiple NVIDIA GPUs have dragged [H]ard|OCP back into the game.  Lacking a pair of Titan X cards, they tested the performance of a pair of GTX 1080s and 1070s; the GTX 1060 will not be receiving support from Croteam.  It would seem that adding a second Pascal card to your system will benefit you, however the scaling they saw was nowhere near as impressive as with the AMD RX 480 which saw a 36% boost.  Check out the full results here and yes ... in this case the m in mGPU indicates multiple GPUs, not mobile.

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"Serious Sam VR was the first commercial enthusiast gaming title to include multi-GPU support with AMD's RX 480 GPU. Now the folks at Croteam have added mGPU support for NVIDIA cards as well. We take a look at how well NVIDIA's VRSLI technology fares in this VR shooter title."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Friends don't let friends perform unattended updates ... or Bitlocker be broken

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2016 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: bitlocker, microsoft, windows 10, security, hack

Is Bitlocker cramping your voyeuristic cravings and preventing you from snooping on your loved ones or strangers?  Assuming you do not instead seek medical help for your problem, all you need to do is wait for Windows to perform a version update and for the user to get bored and walk away.  Hop onto their machine and press SHIFT+F10 to get a command prompt which will be running at root privileges and take advantage of the fact that Windows disables Bitlocker while installing an updated version of Windows.  This will not work for all updates, it needs to be a major OS update such as the move to Anniversary Edition which changes the version of Windows installed on the machine.

Microsoft is working on a fix, in the meantime sticking with Windows Long Term Service Branch or slighly modifying how updates are pushed via WSUS or SCCM will ensure this vulnerability cannot be leveraged.  You can also take the simple measure of sticking around when major updates occur.  Pop over to Slashdot for more information.

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"This [update procedure] has a feature for troubleshooting that allows you to press SHIFT + F10 to get a Command Prompt," Laiho writes on his blog. "The real issue here is the Elevation of Privilege that takes a non-admin to SYSTEM (the root of Windows) even on a BitLocker (Microsoft's hard disk encryption) protected machine." Laiho informed Microsoft of the issue and the company is apparently working on a fix."

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Source: Slashdot

A handcrafted and possibly artisinal CPU with a 15m die size

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2016 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: megaprocessor, DIY, neat

The Megaprocessor is a working CPU which is blown up in size to allow you to walk into it to watch how data is physically processed with your own eyes.  There are 8,500 LED's in the core and another 2,048 for the memory which light up as data passes through the 15,300 transistors in the core and the memory's 27,000; though that total count includes the transistors which control the LEDs.  The core's clock is a staggering 25kHz and there is 256 bytes of both RAM and ROM.  The site actually provides you with the assembly language to write code for the processor if you are interested and you can visit the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England to see it in person.  Drop by The Register for a quick look and for links to the project page for more details on the computer and build process, including a murderous vacuum cleaner.

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"His ultimate goal other than the pure satisfaction of building the thing and getting it running, as El Reg reported in June this year, was to show the public how computers work by blowing the CPU up to a human-viewable scale."

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Source: The Register

I’m Going To Build My Own Netflix With Pi and Plex

Subject: General Tech | November 28, 2016 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi 3, plex, pandora, Netflix

***This is your own personal Netflix seeing as how you are no longer able to access Netflix on "unofficial" devices.  Check the comments for great info.**

Over at Linux.com you can find instructions on making a very inexpensive headless Plex Media Server.  You will need a working PC to start up the installation by formatting an SD card and setting it up with NOOBS.  A little configuration work on the Pi, linking it to your locally stored video libraries and online content such as CNN and Netflix and you have a media centre ready for use, for well under $100.  Maybe you could consider making one as a gift for someone deserving.  The full instructions and parts list can be found here.

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"No, you don’t have to buy an expensive, bulky PC. All you need is a Raspberry Pi 3, a hard drive, an SD card and a mobile charger. It should all cost less than $100."

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Source: Linux.com

Ubisoft Offers One Free New Game with Eligible Purchase

Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2016 - 06:49 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, ubisoft, ea, bethesda

The Ubisoft store is offering the standard edition of either The Division, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Rainbow Six: Siege, or Far Cry Primal when you purchase (or pre-order) another, participating title. These other games aren’t just from Ubisoft, though. They also include new releases from EA, Bethesda, and SquareEnix, such as Battlefield 1 (which still requires Origin) and Skyrim: Special Edition.

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This is interesting for two reasons. First, and most obvious, if you really want one of the four titles and one of the applicable ones, then it might be cheaper than buying them individually (although you should check for sales elsewhere first).

The second point regards how the various publishers are handling Steam’s dominance in the PC space. EA is now even participating their titles, which are not available on Valve’s service, in promotions from stores owned by other competitors. Meanwhile, it seems like Bethesda is happy putting their stock wherever, and they will even discount games by a third or a half if it aligns with a big Steam Sale. Then we get Ubisoft, who has their own store, but also lists on Steam and does fairly good sales there, too.

Anyway, the sale is running until the 27th. As I said earlier, though, be sure that any combination of game that interests you is actually cheaper than their respective sale price at competing stores before buying.

Source: Ubisoft