Just Picked Up: Logitech G900 and G810

Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 06:39 PM |
Tagged: logitech, mouse, keyboard, g900, g810

I braved the Black Friday lines... at about three in the afternoon, because this guy isn’t going to get trampled for discounts on computer hardware. Luckily, Best Buy still had a single G900 Chaos Spectrum mouse in stock at 50% off, and a few G810 Orion Spectrum keyboards at about 35% off. I was actually looking to pick them up on Boxing Week if they dropped in price, because I surprisingly needed another mechanical keyboard, but this is even better than I expected.

So, I picked up one of each.

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One of the things that attracted me to the G900 was its ambidextrous design with a tilt scroll wheel. It’s surprisingly hard to get a mouse for left-handed users that also has four directions of scrolling. The 2014 left-handed edition of the Razer Naga has a tilt wheel, although its left and right mouse buttons are swapped, so those who are used to right-handed mice will need to wait until Razer Synapse loads and connects to reverse them to left-on-left and right-on-right. What I’m trying to say is that, for the last two years, my old mouse would have left button right-click and right button left-click until my profile abruptly kicked in about 30 seconds after login. I don’t need to deal with that anymore, while still keeping the mouse tilt wheel.

I did notice that Logitech’s G Software refuses to allow binding scroll wheel input to mouse buttons (which I attach to my thumb buttons for comfortable scrolling). Both EVGA and Razer allow this, albeit you need to perform a full click for each notch, short of writing an AutoHotkey macro. It’s not too bad, because you can bind the keyboard’s up and down arrows instead, but scrolling and arrows might not behave the same in all applications, such as with Tweetdeck.

As for the G810, this keyboard feels really nice. The coating of the keycaps are nice and non-stick, the RomerG switches feel pretty good to me, keeping in mind my favorite Cherry MX switch is the MX Brown, and the keyboard’s feet are possible the best I’ve used. There are actually two sets of feet: one set that inclines the keyboard to about 4 degrees, and another that raises it to about 8 degrees. (These values are written on them.) Even better, it’s stable and takes quite a bit of force to slide.

I would prefer it to have a couple of macro keys, even a single row of them, but there’s only so much I can ask for. The media keys are RGB backlit and surprisingly clicky. I’m not sure what type of switch they use, but it feels mechanical... but a very short one like you would see on a mouse, not a keyboard. The G810 also has a volume roller, which I was a huge fan of when I was introduced to it with the first generation of Corsair K60 and K90 mechanical keyboards. (If another brand did it before them, in 2012, then I’m sorry! Corsair was the first that I’ve seen do it!) I should note that the Logitech roller is a bit smoother than the Corsair one, but, again, the K60 and K90 are about four years old at this point.

So yeah, that’s about it.

Tesla stores your Owner Authentication token in plain text ... which leads to a bad Ashton Kutcher movie

Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 12:52 PM |
Tagged: Android, Malware, hack, tesla, security

You might expect better from Tesla and Elon Musk but apparently you would be dissappointed as the OAuth token in your cars mobile app is stored in plain text.  The token is used to control your Tesla and is generated when you enter in your username and password.  It is good for 90 days, after which it requires you to log in again so a new token can be created.  Unfortunately, since that token is stored as plain text, someone who gains access to your Android phone can use that token to open your cars doors, start the engine and drive away.  Getting an Android user to install a malicious app which would allow someone to take over their device has proven depressingly easy.  Comments on Slashdot suggest it is unreasonable to blame Tesla for security issues in your devices OS, which is hard to argue; on the other hand it is impossible for Telsa to defend choosing to store your OAuth in plain text.

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"By leveraging security flaws in the Tesla Android app, an attacker can steal Tesla cars. The only hard part is tricking Tesla owners into installing an Android app on their phones, which isn't that difficult according to a demo video from Norwegian firm Promon. This malicious app can use many of the freely available Android rooting exploits to take over the user's phone, steal the OAuth token from the Tesla app and the user's login credentials."

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Source: Slashdot

Rumor: Microsoft Working on x86 Emulation for ARM64

Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: x86, windows 10, microsoft, arm

According to Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet, Microsoft is working on emulating the x86 instruction set on ARM64. Her sources further claim that this is intended to be a Windows 10 feature that is targeting Redstone 3, which is the feature update expected in late 2017 (after the upcoming Creators Update in early 2017). Of course, Microsoft will not comment on this rumor. Mary Jo Foley is quite good at holding out on publishing until she gets multiple, independent sources, though. Still, projects slip, pivot, and outright die all of the time, even if the information was true at one point.

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Media Center is still dead, though.

So, while keeping in mind that this might not be true, and, even if it is, it could change: let’s think.

The current speculation is that this might be aimed at enterprise customers, including a potential partnership with HP and Qualcomm. This makes sense for a few reasons, especially when you combine it with Microsoft and Samsung’s recent efforts to port .NET Core to ARM. Combining rumors like this might be akin to smashing two rocks together, but you never know if it’ll spark something. Anyway, you would expect these sorts of apps could jump architectures fairly well, because they’re probably not real-time, form-based applications. You might be able to get a comfortable enough user experience, even with the inherent overhead of translating individual instructions.

Another possibility is that Microsoft hasn’t given up on the Windows 8 / Windows RT vision.

Back in that era, the whole OS seemed designed to push users toward their new platform, Metro. The desktop was an app, and that app contained all of the Win32 bits, isolating them from the rest of the PC and surrounding that tile with everything WinRT. The new platform was seductive for Microsoft in a few ways. First, it was more secure, and people considered Windows the operating system that’s plagued with malware. Second, it let them assert control over their apps, like Apple does with their App Store. At the time, they even demanded that third-party web browsers be nothing more than re-skins of Internet Explorer. Firefox? Don’t even think about bringing Gecko in here. It’s Trident or bust.

Say what you like about those first two points, I know I have, and often disapprovingly from an art enthusiast standpoint, but there was a third one that also interested Microsoft:

Hardware independence.

The WinRT runtime, when it was first unveiled, was pretty much designed in a way that Microsoft could swap out everything underneath it if they wanted to jump ship and move to a new architecture. At the time, almost a decade ago, Intel wasn’t competitive against ARM in the mobile space. This kept Windows applications, and Microsoft, watching the rest of the world sail away.

But supporting both ARM and x86 isn’t good enough. What if IBM wins next time? Or a completely different instruction set? If everything calls an API that can be uprooted and transplanted elsewhere? There will never need to be this mobile concern again.

But then we have this whole decades of stuff that already exists problem. While I don’t like the frog boil analogy, it could be Microsoft’s attempt to uproot enough x86-locked content that people can accept UWP. I’m not sure that will work out, especially since we rely upon real-time software that is not accepting Windows Store, but it might be their goal.

What do you all think?

Source: ZDNet

Steam Autumn Sale (and Steam Awards Nominations) Begin!

Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 04:17 AM |
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming, black friday

Okay, I admit it: I’m a little late on this one. Sorry, all! Sometimes you need to shelf a post because it’s taking forever to write, but you only realize it after days of researching and editing have gone by. In the mean time, simple posts, like this one, begin to collect dust in the queue. You just need to know when to let go, even if it’s temporarily. This time I didn’t.

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Oh well. So Valve decided to host their Autumn Sale from now until 1pm (EST) on Tuesday. To me, a sale that starts just before American Thanksgiving and ends hours after Cyber Monday... seems like a Black Friday sale. They even acknowledge it as such in their announcement, so I guess I’m not alone.

There really isn’t much to say, though. Gabe Newell will get your money via big discounts on new and bundled back catalog games... oh wait, there is. Remember how Steam was pushing “Discovery” with their new store aesthetic? How it was supposed to help users find relevant content within their store? They just decided to create “The Steam Awards”, which are user-nominated through the store listing.

This is quite interesting. From Steam’s perspective, it allows a handful of games to get promoted to a wider audience, which could allow some games break out of their niche. On the other hand, since it is user-selected, it would need a niche to have a chance at that exposure. Whether it helps good games find an audience that would otherwise die off? Not sure. I am interested to see, if this really is a phase in the Discovery initiative, what else will be introduced. Time will tell...

Source: Valve

Have tape over your webcam? Might want to fill your headphones with wax as well!

Subject: General Tech | November 24, 2016 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: security, hack, audio, Realtec

Security researchers have discovered a way to flip an output channel on onboard Realtec audio into an input channel, thus turning your headphones into an unpowered microphone.  The ability of a speaker or headphone to be used as a microphone is not news to anyone who has played around with headphones or input jacks, but it is possible some readers had deprived childhoods and have never tried this.  While you cannot mitigate this vulnerability permanently you could certainly notice it as your headphones would no longer play audio if the port is configured as input. 

Drop by Slashdot a link, and if you have never tried this out before you really should find an old pair of headphones and experiment with ports as well as snipping off one side of a pair of earbuds.  One supposes iPhone 7 users need not worry.

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"In short, the headphones were nearly as good as an unpowered microphone at picking up audio in a room. It essentially "retasks" the RealTek audio codec chip output found in many desktop computers into an input channel. This means you can plug your headphones into a seemingly output-only jack and hackers can still listen in. This isn't a driver fix, either."

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Source: Slashdot

Async Compute turning the Gears of War

Subject: General Tech | November 23, 2016 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, gears of war 4, gaming, dx12, async compute, amd

[H]ard|OCP sat down with the new DX12 based Gears of War 4 to test the performance of the game on a variety of cards, with a focus on the effect of enabling Async Compute.  In their testing they found no reason for Async Compute to be disabled as it did not hurt the performance of any card.  On the other hand NVIDIA's offerings do not benefit in any meaningful way from the feature and while AMD's cards certainly did, it was not enough to allow you to run everything at maximum on an RX 480.  Overall the game was no challenge to any of the cards except perhaps the RX 460 and the GTX 1050 Ti.  When playing at 4K resolution they saw memory usage in excess of 6GB, making the GTX 1080 the card for those who want to play with the highest graphical settings.  Get more details and benchmarks in their full review.

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"We take Gears of War 4, a new Windows 10 only game supporting DX12 natively and compare performance with seven video cards. We will find out which one provides the best experience at 4K, 1440p, and 1080p resolutions, and see how these compare to each other. We will also look specifically at the Async Compute feature."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Touchless jackpotting, making ATM's disgorge their contents remotely

Subject: General Tech | November 23, 2016 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: hack, bank, atm, security, cobalt

Imagine walking down the street, only to notice an ATM spewing money out of its slots and into a bag held by a shady looking character; but not in a video game.  In at least 14 countries including Russia, the UK, the Netherlands and Malaysia, hackers are using a program dubbed Cobalt to conduct remote logical attacks on ATMs.  These attacks cause the ATM to empty itself, into the waiting hands of an accomplice who only needs to show up at the appropriate time.  As the attacks are conducted remotely the mule may have only the slightest connection to the hackers that compromised the banking system which makes them very hard to catch.  The Inquirer has links to more information on Cobalt, unfortunately they do not have any details on fortunate times or locations to be present at.

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"HACKERS HAVE MANAGED to hack cash machines so that they do what everyone who has ever used one has wanted them to do, which is just spit out cash like it was going out of fashion."

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Source: The Inquirer

Dishonored 2 v1.2 Released with Performance Fixes

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2016 - 04:57 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, dishonored 2, bethesda

When Dishonored 2 came out, it apparently had quite a few performance issues. Users were complaining about stuttering and low performance, even with high-end graphics cards. One post on Reddit grew popular when an employee of Bethesda allegedly tweeted that a GTX 1070 should get ~60 FPS on Very Low at 1080p. The card is generally recommended for users looking for maxed out 1080p or 1440p for the next couple of years, so you might be able to see the expectation mismatch.

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The second patch, released yesterday, is primarily aimed at performance optimizations. First, NVIDIA users are recommended to upgrade to 375.95, which was pushed to GeForce Experience and their website late last week. Beyond adding an SLI Profile, Bethesda “strongly advise[s]” the driver to fix a performance bug.

On their side, they fixed an issue with AMD GPUs when cloth is simulated and they now allow those cards to use HBAO+. They also allow the user to limit frame rates all the way up to 120 FPS, although the physics engine cannot handle rates above that, so it’s hard-capped there. This sucks for users with 144Hz monitors, but 120 FPS is pretty generous of a cap if one must exist. Bethesda also addressed stuttering and they fixed the engine attempting to allocate more VRAM than the card has. I’m not sure whether this bug led to outright crashes, or just stuttering as the asset is pulled from system RAM or disk, but either way is quite bad.

If you had a problem playing Dishonored 2, then you might want to try again. If you are waiting to purchase, or have already refunded the game, then unfortunately I can’t say whether it’s all better; I haven’t played it, at least not yet.

Acer's Predator XB321HK, the highest resolution G-SNYC monitor you can hope for until DP 1.3?

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2016 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: g-sync, Predator XB321HK, acer, 4k, ips

Thanks to DisplayPort 1.2's bandwidth being limited to a maximum of 17.28Gbit/s, shoppers looking for a high end variable refresh rate gaming monitor have a tough choice to make.  Leave aside aspect ratio, colour depth and panel type for the immediate question; do you prefer the higher definition of a 4K display but with a limited maximum refresh rate or will you be satisfied by 1440p or 1080p with a refresh rate that can hit upwards of 200Hz?  The Predator XB321HK chooses path of greater resolution, offering 3840x2160 but with a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz, on an IPS screen with 4ms grey to grey response time.  If you prefer an MVA ultra-widescreen with a higher resolution, perhaps investigate the Acer Z35, if the XB321HK is closer to what you are looking for check Hardware Canucks full review here.

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"With a sensible 4K form factor, a G-SYNC module and a stunning IPS panel, Acer's Predator XB321HK is the stuff gaming monitor dreams are made of. Unfortunately its refresh rate is limited by today's interface technology."

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WoW, Microsoft is back in the porting business again. x86 to ARM expected with Redstone 3

Subject: General Tech | November 22, 2016 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: CHPE, arm, x86 emulator, x86, windows 10, redstone 3

We haven't seen Windows 10 Redstone 2 yet but already we have some news about Redstone 3 which hints at the coming of the Surface phone.  Microsoft is working on x86 emulation for ARM processors, allowing proper Windows programs and not just Universal Apps to work on ARM based machines.  They pulled this off in the past with the switch from 32bit to 64bit applications, with Windows on Windows emulation and porting x86 to ARM and vice versa has been a long term project at Microsoft. 

The possible issue that comes from this eventuality is the interface.  Just like in a game ported from a gaming platform to PC, moving from an ecosystem with a limited input device to a platform designed with a mouse and keyboard will cause issues.  The reverse tends to be worse, for instance Skyrim's abysmal inventory system exists specifically because it was planned to be released on consoles.  Now imagine Excel or file management software trimmed down and designed specifically to run on a phablet, as well as on a PC.  For more on this possible nightmare, check out The Inquirer.

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"According to Mary-Jo Foley, the font of all knowledge Windows-wise, the company is looking at x86 emulation for ARM processors. It’s not a new idea, but it's looking likely for Redstone 3."

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Source: The Inquirer

You need a mouse with a heartrate monitor, right?

Subject: General Tech | November 21, 2016 - 06:28 PM |
Tagged: input, mionix, naos QG

Mionix have added new features to their Naos QG gaming mouse, some of which you might be hard pressed to understand.  The mouse is capable of tracking your clicks per minute and the current speed of the mouse, which is perhaps reasonable, but it also tracks your heart rate.  This is perhaps a nod towards the sports portion of eSports, but it certainly raises the question as to what your target Hearthstone heart rate is, should it be low or high?  On the other hand it uses a PMW-3360 optical sensor, capable of up to 12000 DPI resolution with five steps available, seven programmable buttons and an onboard ARM processor for eventual macro support.  Even if you feel this is far beyond the pale, you should check the mouse at eTeknix out just for its uniqueness.

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"They’ve already proven a popular choice with the eSports scene, and their latest mouse, the Naos QG is about to make an even bigger splash on the eSports and streaming scene, with its biometric data that can show you a gamers physical performance in-game, as well as offer developers a new level of interaction to gamers too. "

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Source: eTeknix

Love to argue on the internet? Why not leave your mark on the IoT!

Subject: General Tech | November 21, 2016 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: iot, security

Hack a Day takes you on a bit of a trip through memory lane to demonstrate how current programmers can have a major influence on the standards that the Internet of Things will eventually adopt.  If you remember X.25's loss to TCP/IP thanks to the volume of adoption the latter had, or mourn the loss of SOAP's XML based transmission to JSON then you have an idea what they are discussing.  

If a large enough group of programmers choose a particular communications protocol or software library to design connected household appliances, manufacturers will find it easier and more economical to base their products on the skills of the programmers who work for them.  Any security and performance enhancements that come about because of this would be an added benefit to the company and of great value to the end users.  Pick up that keyboard and see if you can't turn the tide and plug up the I/O ports of the death toaster.

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"In the long term however it’s unlikely we’re going to let one company become the backhaul for consumer Internet of Things traffic. It’s unlikely that there will be one platform to rule them all. I don’t think it’s going to be long till IFTTT starts to see some complaints about that, and inevitably clones."

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Source: Hack a Day

There is classy, and then there is Apple classy

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2016 - 12:29 PM |
Tagged: apple, iphone 6 plus

There are quite a few Apple iPhone 6 Plus owners who are having troubles with the multi-touch functionality, or even with serious screen flickering and today Apple announced what causes it.  They have decided that blaming their customers is the best way to deal with this issue and they will fix it for you, if you give them $150.  Their justification is that this issue could only be caused by multiple drops onto hard surfaces, even if the screen has not cracked Apple has decreed that there is still damage being done internally and you need to pay to have it repaired.  The Inquirer has a different solution, buy a different phone.  That might be hard for some people to do, even if Apple devices are not as stable as the competition.

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"Apple has determined that some iPhone 6 Plus devices may exhibit display flickering or Multi-Touch issues after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface and then incurring further stress on the device," said the Apple Multi-Touch programme information."

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Source: The Inquirer

Thrustmaster Announces New TS-PC Racing Wheel

Subject: General Tech | November 18, 2016 - 12:12 AM |
Tagged: wheel base, wheel, TX, Thrustmaster, T500, T300, racing, force feedback, Alcantara

Thrustmaster is announcing today the upcoming availability of their latest PC focused racing wheel and base.  The TS-PC is a brand new design that integrates many new features as compared to their previous offerings.  The press release did not mention compatibility on consoles, but it seems for now that it is aimed squarely at the PC (hence the name).

The big improvement from past part is the inclusion of a 40 watt motor providing more force than what we had seen previously in the T500, T300, and TX series of wheel bases.  I do not know how it compares to the Fanatec CSL’s 6 Nm of force, or the higher end ClubSport V2’s 8 Nm.  My guess is that it could very well be somewhere between those two options.

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The motor needs some extra cooling so that apparently has received a pretty good upgrade.  Thrustmaster seems to like their acronyms, so they are calling this cooling system the MCE.  This stands for Motor Cooling Embedded.  Few details were provided, but this system is in place to keep the motor at peak efficiency even at high transient levels of force.  It does this without ramping up the speeds of the fans in the base.  Hopefully soon we can find out how Thrustmaster was able to increase the thermal capacity in a base that is not all that much larger than previous products.

Thrustmaster is also implementing what they call a F.O.C algorithm (Field Oriented Control) that supposedly boosts the already impressive precision of the H.E.A.R.T. system (Hall Effect AccuRate Technology).  I told you they like acronyms.  This features the same 16 bit resolution of the T500 and T300 products, but it seems the new software reading the values is able to do a better job at it than previous parts.

Powering all of this is an external power supply that supports up to 400 watts of peak power.  This is a peak number and not what it can do under constant load.  That number is probably closer to 100 watts, but the specifics have not been released yet.  The motor in the wheel base does not pull a constant amount of current, so its needs are varied depending on the type of inputs required by the application.  When more force is required, it typically is not for extensive periods of time.  It seems that the power supply that Thrustmaster is using is going to be quite a bit more powerful than those that were integrated into the T500/T300/TX wheel bases.

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The open wheel itself is a new design.  It features suede grips, an aluminum plate, and aluminum paddles.  Thrustmaster claims that it has optimized stiffness and weight to give it the best overall response for the size of the product.  More mass is never a good thing when trying to transmit small or subtle variations of force feedback, so the less mess in a wheel while maximizing rigidity gives the best overall experience no matter how strong the motor is.

The TS-PC is compatible with the entire Thrustmaster ecosystem of parts.  This includes the 599XX Alcantara wheel that I reviewed some months back.  Wheels, pedals, and shifters are all compatible with the new base so users can customize their experience as needed.

The TS-PC will be available on Dec. 5, 2016 for $499.

Click to read the entire press release.

Source: Thrustmaster

Podcast #425 - Samsung 960 EVO, NZXT S340, NVIDIA revenue, wireless Vive, Serious Sam VR, Steam VR on Linux and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2016 - 03:53 PM |
Tagged: wireless, VR, video, valve, TPCAST, tempered glass, steam, serious sam, Samsung, S340, podcast, nzxt, linux, htc, 960 EVO, 375.86

PC Perspective Podcast #425 - 11/17/16

Join us this week as we discuss new Samsung 960 EVO, NZXT S340, NVIDIA revenue, wireless Vive, Serious Sam VR, Steam VR on Linux and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts:  Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Sebastian Peak

Program length: 1:13:46

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan:
  4. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Not a bad quarter to be a GPU vendor, though some fared better than others

Subject: General Tech | November 17, 2016 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: amd, Intel, nvidia, jon peddie, q3 2016

Compared to Q2 2016, total GPU shipments including discrete and integral chips in the mobile and desktop markets increased by 20%; good but not enough to recover to the volume we saw in Q3 2015.  Indivdually, total AMD sales increased by 15% and but Intel 18% but it was NVIDIA that was the most successful with a 39% increase.  In AMD's case they saw sales of their aging desktop APUs drop by 10% but that was more than offset by a jump in discrete GPU sales of 34.7% and an increase in laptop demand by 19.1% . The discrete GPU market as a whole has grown by 35.6% from the last quarter and by 10.1% when compared to last year.  This is not bad news for AMD or Intel but it is certainly NVIDIA who has the most to celebrate.  Pop over to Jon Peddie Research for a look at their overview, or check out the full report if you subscribe to them.

Obviously the PC is still dead ... right?

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Courtesy of JPR

"AMD's overall unit shipments increased 15.38% quarter-to-quarter, Intel's total shipments increased 17.70% from last quarter, and Nvidia's increased 39.31%."

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Please State Your Name; looking at performance in this short VR film

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2016 - 01:33 PM |
Tagged: VR, nvidia, gaming, amd

VR offers a variety of new creative opportunities, not simply a new way to make games.  For instance StudioDisrupt has created a VR movie called Please State Your Name about a decapitated robot's head in a garbage dump.  While the movie has a script which it runs through, you have the freedom to move your perspective around the world.  While this may not sound overly interesting, Kyle over at [H]ard|OCP has watched this movie 25 or 30 times this week even before embarking on this review so there must be something to it.  Check out their full look at the performance of AMD and NVIDIA cards in this VR movie by following that previous link.  A second version of the movie is available for those using their cellphone as a VR headset, somewhat more limited but seeing as how the movie is free you should take the opportunity.

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"Please State Your Name is not a game, it is not really an "experience" either, but rather a short film done in a Virtual Reality world, which puts you right in the middle of the story. This genre of VR is where AMD has been putting a lot of its resources. Can we expect the Radeon RX 480 to show us its VR prowess once again?"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

That's an expensive Linux install! Microsoft gives the Linux foundation $550,000

Subject: General Tech | November 16, 2016 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, linux

Microsoft is obviously serious about its new found support of Linux, having just joined the Linux Foundation at the top tier of membership.  Already, we have seen the bash shell integrated with Windows 10, with familiar commands such as grep, sed, and awk as well as scripting support.  After that somewhat surprising development Microsoft once again made the unexpected move of offering eight different Linux server images on Azure.  Their newfound interest in the open source OS expands today, with their membership in the Linux Foundation they can continue to integrate more open source tools and projects into their current offerings.  You can pop by The Inquirer to read more about this unexpected turn of events.

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"The non-profit group advances open technology development and promotes Linux, and Microsoft has signed up as a Platinum member, the highest-ranking option that comes with a $500,000 annual fee."

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Source: The Inquirer

Epic Games Releases Unreal Engine 4.14

Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2016 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, ue4, pc gaming, epic games

Every couple of months, Epic Games drops a new version of Unreal Engine 4 with improvements all over. As such, you should check the full release notes to see all of the changes, including the fifty-one that Epic thinks are worth highlighting. Here are some that I think our readers would enjoy, though.

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First, Vulkan support for mobile devices has apparently moved out of experimental. While this will not be enabled for desktop applications, it's interesting to note that DirectX 12 is still in experimental. Basically, if you squint and put blinders on, you could sort-of see some element of Vulkan beating DirectX 12 to market.

Second, Unreal Engine 4 has significantly upgraded their forward renderer. In a lot of cases, a deferred renderer is preferable because it's fast and consistent; the post-process shader only run once per output pixel, ignoring lighting triangles that are covered by other triangles. The way this is structured, though, makes multisample anti-aliasing impossible, which is slightly annoying on desktop but brutal in VR. As an added benefit, they're also using forward shading to help the deferred renderer with translucent materials.

Unreal Engine typically uses a lot of NVIDIA SDKs. This version updates PhysX up to 3.4, which allows “continuous collision detection” on rigid bodies. This means that fast moving object shouldn't pass through objects without colliding, because the collision occurred between two checks and was missed, if this feature is enabled. They are also adding the Ansel SDK, which allows players to take high-detail screenshots, as a plug-in.

Skipping down the release notes a bunch, Unreal Engine 4.14 also adds support for Visual Studio 15, which is the version after Visual Studio 2015 (Visual Studio 14.0). Both IDEs are, in fact, supported. It's up to the developer to choose which one to use, although Visual Studio 15 makes a lot of improvements regarding install and uninstall.

Finally, at least for my brief overview, Unreal Engine 4.14 begun to refactor their networking system. It sounds like the current optimizations are CPU-focused, but allowing more network-capable objects is always a plus. Epic Games claims they are benchmarking about 40% higher performance in this area.

Source: Epic Games

CM MasterPulse Pro Gaming Headset; the only drivers you need are the magnetic kind

Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2016 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: MasterPulse Pro Gaming Headset, coolermaster, audio, 7.1 headset

Cooler Master's MasterPulse Pro Gaming Headset offers virtual 7.1 surround, with 44mm drivers which have a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz.  All software duties are performed by the fairly large sized inline controls; the headset will not work on a phone or plane but will work on anything with USB audio capabilities.  Overclockers Club tried the headset out and they discovered these things are incredibly loud, even when the volume on the headset is turned down as far as possible.  This is somewhat of a negative when listening to media as you need to adjust your system volume down significantly, however for gaming they found it to be beneficial when listening for directional clues such as footsteps.  Take a read through the full review to see what you think about the MasterPulse Pro.

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"This is where the CM MasterPulse Pro set really stands out: gaming. The extensive bass response along with the ability to go LOUD allows you to crank up the volume to hear the details while still getting rocked with crystal clear and thunderous explosions. Because of the prodigious output, it's very easy to hear quiet sounds you might normally miss, while also placing things quite easily in terms of direction."

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Audio Corner