Graphics performance out of this galaxy; benchmarking Mass Effect Andromeda

Subject: General Tech | April 5, 2017 - 01:28 PM |
Tagged: mass effect, andromeda, gaming

The new instalment to the Mass Effect series has arrived, with a lot of press both positive and negative.  What many want to know is not which bug is most amusing, but if their GPU has what it takes to run the game at 4k or if they are better at 1440p or 1080p.  [H]ard|OCP's testing shows RX 480 and GTX 1060 owners can manage 1440p with some graphical sacrifices which owners of GTX 1070s or 1080s will be able to enjoy.  For those looking for a playable experience at 4k the GTX 1080 Ti is the only card that can manage it and even that card struggles somewhat.  Pop by for all the details, including memory usage.

usd84mVnsqW2iatGoBFziU-480-80.jpg

"Let’s find out how various video cards perform in Mass Effect: Andromeda and what it takes to play this game smoothly at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K. In this preview we’ll examine several video cards, compare apples to apples performance and find the highest playable game settings for each video card."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

UEFI ransomware may brick your BRIX

Subject: General Tech | April 5, 2017 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, brix, uefi, ransomware

Be careful what you do with your BRIX as two rather unpleasant vulnerabilities were disclosed at a recent BlackHat event.  Gigabyte did not implement two security features which these exploits take advantage of, there is no write protection on the UEFI firmware nor a system of cryptographic signatures on UEFI firmware files which can let any file update the UEFI.  While the proof of concept demonstration only prevented the infected BRIX from booting again, this could also be used to infect your machines UEFI quietly and in a way extremely difficult to repair, you would need a UEFI update that wrote over every sector of the firmware to ensure you removed the bugs.  Pop by Slashdot for more on this depressing topic.

20150603180435_big.png

"Last week, at the BlackHat Asia 2017 security conference, researchers from cyber-security firm Cylance disclosed two vulnerabilities in the firmware of Gigabyte BRIX small computing devices, which allow an attacker to write malicious content to the UEFI firmware."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: Slashdot

Just can't mount that SD card?

Subject: General Tech | April 4, 2017 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: sd card, nand reader, DIY, data recovery

Hack a Day have posted a quick quide on how you can recover data from an unmountable SD card in a safe and fairly easy manner.  With the use of sandpaper, solder and enamelled wire you can hook up the VSS and VCC pins to a NAND reader, as long as there is a working controller on the card and no physical shorts.  If you don't happen to have a NAND reader, they link to a project that will show you how to build your own, or you can source it from a supplier.  Once you have read the data you can flash it to another SD card or learn about how to translate the content if you have the tools.  Check out the comments for more and keep an eye out for a follow up article on working with the recovered data.

P4RCC.png

"If you ever find yourself in need of an SD card recovery tool you could always roll your own DIY NAND reader. We will likely give this process a try just to play round with the concept. Hopefully we’ll never need to do SD card recovery!"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: Hack a Day

DDR5 is still coming and it won't be a volatile launch

Subject: General Tech | April 3, 2017 - 02:44 PM |
Tagged: ddr5, NVDIMM-P, NVDIMM-F, NVDIMM-N

Move over Optane, DDR5 would like its time in the spotlight as well.  In 2018 we will see the full specifications of DDR5 being released, including a new non-volatile standard called NVDIMM-P.  NVDIMM-P will handle terabytes worth of flash storage, with a latency about 10 times as much as the more standard NVDIMM-N at 100's of nanoseconds which should allow large scale storage with very low latencies and will retain data after being powered down.  Pop by The Register for a deeper look at the non-volatile future of DDR5. 

nvdimm_roadmap.jpg

"The JEDEC Solid State Technology Association has revealed that a full standard for DDR5 memory will arrive in June 2018, along with a new NVDIMM-P standard to house the memory, connect it to computers and protect the contents of RAM."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Unity 5.6 Released with Vulkan Support

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2017 - 07:54 PM |
Tagged: Unity, pc gaming, vulkan

If you are a perpetual license holder for Unity 5.x, then your last free update has just arrived. Unity 5.6 brings Vulkan for Windows, Linux, and Android. I just installed the new version and checked to see which graphics APIs it uses on Windows when you uncheck the auto box, and the list comprises of DirectX 11 and DirectX 9. It’s possible that auto could be choosing Vulkan, but I’m not going to query which process is loading which DLL under a variety of conditions. If you’re interested in Unity development, go to File -> Build Settings -> Player Settings -> Other Settings and choose the load order of your APIs, using the + button to add one that’s not there by default.

unity-logo-rgb.png

The lighting system should be more impressive, though. In Unreal Engine 4, I’m used to having dynamic lighting until I stop everything and start a lighting bake. When it’s done, I have static lighting until I invalidate it with a change (and the level is set to invalidate light maps on changes). In Unity 5.6’s case, though, it will just slowly replace the light maps as they are calculated, getting progressively higher quality. Since you can notice problems at low quality, you only need to wait as long as it’s required to see the errors, which speeds up development.

In terms of platforms, Unity 5.6 adds Daydream, Cardboard, Nintendo Switch, and WebAssembly.

Unity 5.6 is available now. The preview of Unity 2017, the next version, should arrive this month.

Source: Unity

Mad Catz Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2017 - 04:04 PM |
Tagged: Mad Catz, bankrupt

Back in September, we reported on the purchase of Saitek, from Mad Catz to Logitech, for $13 million USD in cash. Unfortunately, we now need to report that Mad Catz has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on March 30th, 2017. This level of bankruptcy is strict; it involves shutting down and liquidating. If we see a Mad Catz in the future, it will be someone else who purchased their trademark.

mad-catz-logo.png

When I first heard this news and posted it in our PC Perspective Slack channel, the immediate reaction was, “Is this an early April Fool’s joke?” Apparently not, but it highlights how out-of-the-blue this seemed if they weren’t on your radar. Last year, they shrunk their workforce by about 37%, but the news kind-of flew past us. (A good barometer of company health is that lay-offs around 10% is typical for a restructure. When you start getting past this level, like 15% or more, then it’s okay to be suspicious about whether it’s driven by something other than the stereotypical handbook of corporate management.)

Other than this early tremor, and the New York Stock Exchange delist story from earlier this month, it seemed like the company was just coasting along. Hopefully everyone affected will have no problems finding new employment soon.

Windows 10 Creators Update Accessible on April 5th

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2017 - 08:53 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, creators update

TL;DR:

  • Windows Update will begin pushing the Creators Update on April 11th
  • Early adopters can, this time, use a tool to force the update as early as April 5th.
  • ISOs are currently available, but marked as Insider Preview.
  • The earlier you update, the more patching you should expect to do, historically.

While Jeremy has already given a brief mention to the news that the Windows 10 Creators Update will begin rolling out on April 11th, Microsoft has just announced that users can opt-in as early as April 5th. If the Anniversary Update is any indication, then the average user should wait until Windows Update devices to passes them the new bits (or longer). In fact, the main reason (besides just liking new things) for forcing an early install should be “it was a convenient time”.

windows-10.png

Of course, as I say this, I’m remembering my experience with the November 2015 update, refreshing Windows Update for two days. I was participating in an Epic Games game jam at the time, and I didn’t want the update to drop right in the middle of my work. It should be any minute now, right? ... Yes, Microsoft giving enthusiasts an explicit opt-in tool is a great step forward. I’m definitely glad they did it. I’m just emphasizing the point that the first few weeks of a Windows feature update are, historically, a bit dicey.

The ISOs for the final build (15063) are already out, but they’re currently on the Windows Insider Program website. I’m not sure if the contents will change at some point, and, if so, when that new ISO will be available for public consumption, so clean installers will probably want to wait a little bit still.

If previous updates are any indication, we’ll be in for about a month or two of updates every week or so until it gradually slows down to “Patch Tuesday”. Or, you can stay on Anniversary Edition (or another OS entirely). Personally, I’ll probably be installing the Creators Update sometime late next week.

Source: Microsoft

Ryzen from the Ashes in a new optimized state

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2017 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: amd, ryzen, ashes of the singularity

[H]ard|OCP takes a look at the new optimizations in the Oxide Game Engine and come up with similar positive results as Ryan.  They tested the CPU by dropping the resolution and quality in AotS and utilizing the CPU focused benchmark, as opposed to the GPU focused benchmark utilized by many sites, including ourselves.  Their tests showed a 16.46% improvement which shows these optimizations do not simply have an effect on graphical performance but also improve CPU calculation performance as well.  Pop by for the full review.

maxresdefault.jpg

"There has been a lot of talk about how AMD's new Ryzen processors have pulled up somewhat short at low resolution gaming. AMD explained that code optimizations from game developers are needed to address this issue, and today is the day that we are supposed to start seeing some of that code in action."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Microsoft won't teach an old, or possibly deceased dog new tricks

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2017 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, server 2003, security

Microsoft is once again putting sales ahead of customer security, although it is for a 10 to 14 year old operating system which they officially pulled the plug on almost two years ago.  Sadly the end of support did not have any impact on the infrastructure budget allocations of tens of thousands of businesses and so Server 2003 remained in use.  Security researchers spotted an attack last year which exploits a vulnerability in IIS WebDAV which will allow a buffer overflow attack to succeed.  Predictably Microsoft's answer is that you should buy a brand new server OS, with hardware upgrade costs likely to be required as well.  Thankfully there is a patch available from a third party, which you can check out over at The Register

It is a dream, but perhaps this might convince some bean counters that an infrastructure upgrade might be a reasonable investment.

Penny-pinch.jpg

"Microsoft will not patch a critical security hole recently found and exploited in IIS 6 on Windows Server 2003 R2 – the operating system it stopped supporting roughly two years ago."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Today Is Palmer Luckey's Last Day at Facebook / Oculus

Subject: General Tech | March 31, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: oculus vr, Oculus, facebook

Almost exactly two months after ZeniMax won a $500 million USD judgement against Oculus, subject to appeal, of course, co-founder Palmer Luckey will leave the company. As expected, Facebook isn’t commenting on who initiated this departure because of their corporate policy, and it would be inappropriate and unprofessional for a company to do so (except in certain circumstances).

Their official message, via UploadVR, is as follows:

Palmer will be dearly missed. Palmer’s legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and helped build an industry. We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.

Facebook.png

Brendan Iribe, another co-founder and former CEO of Oculus VR, is still at the company as far as we know. Last we heard, through his blog post on the company’s website, he’s moved to an internal team that focuses on their PC initiatives: the Rift, research, and computer vision.

For now, it’s somewhat unclear how the company is structured. John Carmack is supposedly still the CTO, but I don’t think Facebook has found anyone to replace Brendan Iribe as CEO yet. Today’s departure leaves another vacant hole, although, according to Tom Forsyth’s joke tweet, his title was “Palmer” and thus his role will likely be retired. Who knows? If your name just happens to be Palmer, then maybe you can apply for it.

Source: UploadVR

Can you break the WASD CODE?

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2017 - 03:44 PM |
Tagged: input, WASD Keyboards, CODE, Cherry MX, mechanical keyboard

WASD Keyboards have introduced the CODE, a keyboard for those that take their key bashing seriously.  The CODE comes in a wide variety of forms, there are 104, 87, and 61 key models and you have a choice of Cherry MX Brown, Blue, Clear, or Green switches, it even includes a USB to PS/2 adapter for those who have a preference for the old connector.  In TechPowerUp's eyes it is unfortunate that they chose sculpted keycaps as it prevents you from swapping in your own favourite ones, unless you switch them all.  Putting aside that quibble, the other customization options which they WASD CODE offers are rather impressive; if you are particular about your typing devices you should check out the full review.

keyboard-6.jpg

"The CODE keyboard is a collaboration between a keyboard manufacturing company and a famous software developer, making it designed with one thing in mind - lots of typing. Offering rare Cherry MX Green and MX Clear switches, and dip switches to toggle between pre-programmed keyboard layouts, the CODE is built to last and built to code on."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: TechPowerUp

Intel is proud of its tiny sized FinFET

Subject: General Tech | March 30, 2017 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: Intel, 14nm, 14 nm FinFET

At Intel's Technology and Manufacturing Day event in San Francisco there was a lot of talk about how Intel's 14nm process technology compares to the 16nm, 14nm, and 10nm offerings of their competitors.  Investors and enthusiasts are curious if Intel can hold their lead in process tech as Samsung seems to be on track to release chips fabbed on 10nm process before Intel will.  Intel rightly pointed out that not all process tech is measured the same way and that pitch measurements give only one part of the picture; meaning Samsung might not actually be smaller than them.

The Tech Report were present at that meeting and have written up an in depth look at what Intel means when they dispute the competitions claims, as well as their rationale behind their belief that the 14nm node still has a lot of life left in it.

14nmcomparo.png

"As process sizes grow smaller and smaller, Intel believes that the true characteristics of those technology advances are being clouded by an over-reliance on a single nanometer figure. At its Technology and Manufacturing Day this week, the company defended its process leadership and proposed fresh metrics that could more accurately describe what a given process is capable of."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Move Over Nintendo Power GLove!

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2017 - 09:04 PM |
Tagged: CaptoGlove, AR, VR, gaming, controller, bluetooth 4.0, BTLE 4.0, glove

There’s a new sheriff in town!  The jauntily named “CaptoGlove” promises to be a true game and VR controller in a handy glove.  Originally developed some five years ago by an Italian air force pilot for his recovering father, he has continued development of the unit so it is actually a useful game controller with a precise 3D space positioning system.  Codeveloped with the Reusch group in Italy, the CaptoGlove looks to be a pretty polished piece of gaming equipment useful in a wide variety of applications.

The glove features 10 degrees of freedom and a variety of potential actuations.  The glove caries about 10 hours of charge and can be quickly recharged.  It features Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0 connectivity.  It is essentially plug and play and the user can assign functions to the different fingers.

capto_01.png

It is a somewhat stylish looking product, which is not surprising given that Reusch has been making sporting gloves for some 80 years.  The material looks robust and should last a long, long time.  There are no details about replacing the battery, in fact many of the specifications about the glove are still unknown.  It does look to be a pretty dextrous implementation that supersedes products coming before it.

This glove is on Kickstarter and they have almost achieved their goal in the past 6 days.  A single glove will be $160 through the Kickstarter and a pair will run $299.  The highest level includes two extra sensors that allow even more precision with gaming and VR/AR, but that comes at a steep $599.

capto_02.png

The gloves have been tested with all kinds of games and functionality is good.  The videos that CaptoGlove show off have decent performance and accuracy in many titles.  Currently there is no force feedback enabled nor announced.  This is not to say that it won’t show up in the future, but this first generation consumer product still has plenty of functionality to keep people interested.

AR/VR applications show the most promise for CaptoGlove.  It has been tested with all of the major projects out there and seems to work fine.  I will be very curious how well it works in applications like Tilt Brush!  If eventually they make a haptic version of the glove, it could be a killer application for it.

The Kickstart continues for the next 25 days and there are still many interesting bundles to be had.

Planescape: Torment, the 'it just works version'

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2017 - 03:03 PM |
Tagged: gaming, planescape, GOG

Planescape: Torment is an RPG that has a special place in a lot of peoples memories as one of the games stood out as being the best example of its genre.  GOG have sold it for a while now, allowing people to revist the game or experience what exactly it is all the older gamers are reminiscing about.  The problem has been that in order to make it run on newer machines with screens with resolutions somewhat better than 640x480 you needed to apply a lot of mods and hope for a bit of luck as things would often go horribly wrong.  Today the Beamdog Enhanced Edition was announced, though places like Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN have already had a chance to play it.

The graphics are upscaled to the resolution of your desktop but not overly polished so you will definitely notice this is not a modern game.  On the other hand the quests are still there and it is not like many recent games feature a tour through the Outer Planes?  You can grab it at GOG for 30% off if you already own the original, or pay $20 otherwise.  You should also check out the changelog RPS captured from the webpage, there are some rather amusing notes found within for those who have played the game before.

pst7s.jpg

"Not played PST before? PSTEE is all the invitation you need. Native high-res support, scaleable UI, a few helping hands and most of all it just works. Played PST before? Well, like me, the last time round you probably did it modded, and as such PSTEE, though a smoother ride, won’t feel particularly revelatory. If it’s your first time back since 1999, however, rest assured that it treats your memories well."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Get ready to meet your Creator. The next major Win10 update draws nigh

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2017 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: windows 10

Ars Technica takes you on a walk through the upcoming Creators Update for Windows 10, which will start being installed on machines in just under two weeks.  Starting with the good, there are some interesting new features, such as Edge now being able to display EPUB titles natively even if you will not have the ability to mark up those pages as you can websites.  It also sees the inclusion of Windows Holographic API, though as of yet nothing apart from MSPaint seems to benefit from this addition.  Game Mode will also appear for users, with support for both win32 and UWP applications, though you will have to adjust settings in the non-UWP to enable the new feature.

There is a long list of other changes, for both better and worse, which you can check out in the full article.

oobe-privacy.png

"The next big update to Windows 10 is nearly upon us: Windows 10 version 1703, known as the Creators Update, will be published to Windows Update next Patch Tuesday, on April 11th."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

Tencent Purchases 5% of Tesla Motors

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2017 - 03:04 AM |
Tagged: tesla, tencent

Five percent of Tesla Motors has just been purchased by Tencent Holdings Limited. For our audience, this could be interesting in two ways. First, Tesla Motors is currently home to Jim Keller, who designed several CPUs architectures at AMD and Apple, including AMD’s K8, Apple’s A4 and A5, and AMD’s recent Zen. Second, Tencent has been purchasing minority chunks of several companies, including almost half of Epic Games, five percent of Activision Blizzard, and a few others, but the move into automotive technologies is somewhat new for them.

tesla-2016-logo2.png

From Tesla’s perspective, Tencent could be strong leverage into the Chinese market. In fact, Elon Musk tweeted to Bloomberg Business that they are glad to have Tencent “as an investor and advisor. Clearly, this means that they consider Tencent to be, in some fashion, an adviser for the company.

Personally, I’m curious how Tencent will affect the energy side of the company, including their subsidiary, SolarCity. I don’t really have anything to base this on, since it’s just as “out of left field” for Tencent as automotive technologies, but it’s something I’ll be occasionally glancing at none-the-less.

Source: Ars Technica

Dubai Future Accelerator Program Backs zSpace

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2017 - 09:54 PM |
Tagged: zspace, VR, AR

A few weeks ago, we posted about an education company that joined the Khronos Group’s OpenXR Working Group for VR and AR APIs. As I mentioned at the time, I have a personal interest in education technologies, due in part to my background before joining PC Perspective. While the education field is in need of more than just technology, companies like zSpace are building infrastructure to deliver information in new and more varied ways, which will hopefully reach more students (and reach the rest more deeply).

As for the news: after the previous post, zSpace followed up to let us know that they’ve been accepted into the Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) program. This is a fairly large (hundreds of millions of dollars, USD) investment fund that primarily focuses on their amount of innovation. The fund has a handful of “challenge” areas, such as health and water / electricity, that are considered for the “public good” and thus eligible. I’m guessing zSpace qualified under “Knowledge and Human Development Authority” but their press release doesn’t elaborate.

Previously accepted companies, according to Forbes, are Honeywell and Hyperloop.

I'm not sure how much of our audience is focused in the education / IT sector, so let us know in the comments if you found this follow-up relevant to you. (PC Perspective allows anonymous comments, so you don't have to jump through too many hoops to leave your opinion.)

Source: zSpace

Teasing a little information out of AMD about Vega

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2017 - 01:04 PM |
Tagged: amd, Vega, rumour, HBM2

The Inquirer have posted a tiny bit of information about AMD's upcoming Vega and as any rumours about the new GPU are hard to find it is the best we have at the moment.  AMD's claim is that the second generation HBM present on the 4GB and 8GB models could offer equivalent memory bandwidth to a GTX 1080 Ti, which makes perfect sense.  The GTX 1080 Ti offers 484 GB/s of memory bandwidth while AMD's R9 series first generation HBM offers 512 GB/s.  The real trick is filling that pipeline to give AMD's HBM2 based cards a chance to shine and which depends on software developers as much as it does the hardware.  As well, The Inquirer discusses the possible efficiency advantages that Vega will have, which could result in smaller cards as well as an effective mobile product.  Pop over to take a look at the current rumours, here is hoping we can provide more detailed information in the near future.

AMD-Vega-Radeon-Next-Generation-GPU-1920x1080.jpg

"AMD HAS TEASED more information about its forthcoming Vega-based graphics cards, revealing that they will come with either 4GB or 8GB memory and hinting that a launch is imminent."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Blizzard Announces StarCraft Remastered and a Patch

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2017 - 02:55 AM |
Tagged: starcraft, pc gaming, blizzard

On the night of the GSL Season 1 finals, and the week of StarCraft’s 19th birthday, Blizzard made a couple of announcements associated with the game. First, the game will receive a patch (1.18a) with an official observer mode, improved support for Windows 7, 8.1, and 10, support for the UTF-8 character set, and a couple of bug fixes.

It will also be made free. Anyone can download and play it.

But... if you want a graphical upgrade, Blizzard also announced the (not free) StarCraft Remastered edition. This will arrive in the summer, and it will include new audio and artwork, bringing the early-Windows 9x graphics up to 4K (with 1080p cutscenes). The gameplay will be the same, to the point of even being cross-play compatible with the original game’s multiplayer. The addition of Battle.net skill-based matchmaking will apparently be exclusive to owners of the Remastered edition, though.

The 1.18a patch will arrive in a couple of days, making the original (non-Remastered) game free. The Remastered edition will arrive in the summer, but no word on price yet.

Source: Blizzard

Is picking up Bloody's B820R gaming keyboard a bright idea?

Subject: General Tech | March 27, 2017 - 01:32 PM |
Tagged: bloody, B820R Light Strike RGB Animation, gaming keyboard, input, LK Optic Switch

We have seen a handful of Bloody keyboards on the market, with their unique take on switches.  They use an LK Optic Switch as opposed to a mechanical switch, it detects keypresses when an  photosensors detect an interruption in the beam emanating from the infrared LEDs within the keyboard.  The other difference in the design comes from the RGB feature, instead of being integral to the key they are actually installed in the body of the keyboard.  Benchmark Reviews have become somewhat expert at Bloody keyboards, check out what they thought of this model in their full review.

B820R-4-1.jpg

"In this article for Benchmark Reviews, we’ll take a closer look at the Bloody B820R Light Strike RGB Animation Gaming Keyboard, and determine if this latest offering has what it takes to set itself apart from the rest of the mechanical keyboard market."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk