Modulate all the things! EpicGear's Defiant modular gaming keyboard

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 03:33 PM |
Tagged: modular, mms, mechanical keyboard, input, epicgear, defiant

Move over modular PSUs and mice, the Epicgear Defiant is a modular keyboard.  What that actually means is that you can swap the actual switches on the keyboard, as long as they are Modular Matrix Structure switches.  The MMS switches as described as analogous to Cherry MX switches, though the colours do not translate directly and The Tech Report found them to be of equivalent quality.  In their testing they found that gaming with mismatched switches was somewhat unpleasant, so make sure to get a full set of the ones you plan to use.  The full review can be found here.

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"Some gaming keyboards offer customizable backlighting and key caps to change up the feel of the keys underneath one's fingers. EpicGear's Defiant keyboard goes one better and lets gamers change out its key switches themselves for a different tactile experience. We switched around the Defiant's clickers to see if the feature upped our game."

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Windows 10 Releases Target ~September and ~March

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

Now that Microsoft has pushed their third major version of Windows 10, the Creators Update, the company has decided to settle on a six-month rotation. This is similar to how the Ubuntu distribution of Linux pushes updates, although Windows 10 will be targeting September and March rather than Ubuntu’s October and April (and Ubuntu has a different long-term support model, as we’ll discuss below). More importantly, it’s designed to occur at the same time as Office 365 ProPlus updates, so IT departments can certify and roll out both at the same time.

windows-10.png

The previous release cycle was a little… chaotic. The November Update occurred about three and a half months after the initial release, followed almost nine months later by the Anniversary Update. Seven months after that, the Creators Update landed, which brings us to today.

Each version will be supported for eighteen months.

Source: Microsoft

Windows 3.11 in WebVR

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: Windows 3.11, webvr

One of the latest WebVR experiments puts an emulated Windows 3.11 terminal in a virtual space. In it, you can play Minesweeper, Solitaire, and generally mess around. Because it’s a WebVR demo, certain browser, OS, and VR headset combinations will also work, in case you wanted to feel like you were actually in front of a beige box.

webvr-windows31-new.jpg

If you’re using it without WebVR, then it will appear as a static 3D scene. Make sure you enable mouse pointer lock, because you will need to use the virtual mouse pointer, not your actual mouse pointer. It will ask you when it’s loaded and focused, but your browser will probably require you to click allow or something.

Source: Metacade

Interesting Blender Updates for Upcoming Versions

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 02:49 AM |
Tagged: Blender

The Blender Foundation and volunteers have been quite busy, especially over the last few weeks. Two major changes that are prepared for Blender 2.79: near-parity between CUDA and OpenCL, and an implementation of the Disney PBR shader.

Aside: A physically-based (“PBR”) shader allows modeling a bunch of common materials, such as plastics, ceramics, metals, and so forth, using parameters that are independent of lighting. This means that you can reuse the same object and material in all of your scenes, and it will behave like we expect it would given the environment. For instance, PBR materials account for conservation of energy, so objects get shinier as they get smoother, but they also look darker off-axis because less light is being diffusely scattered.

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While it was always possible to render in Cycles with a PBR workflow, you needed to create your own node setup, which typically consisted of about seven or eight elements connected in a specific way. When this new version lands, you will just need to connect the appropriate textures and colors to their corresponding pins in this node. The Disney-based Principled BSDF accounts for albedo (base color), subsurface scattering, metallic, specular, roughness, anisotropic reflections, sheen, clearcoat, index of refraction, and transparency.

blender-2017-openclperf.png

Update (April 21st @ 5:35pm): Blah! I forgot to embed the chart. Here it is.
Image Credit: Blender Foundation

Now we get to “near-parity between CUDA and OpenCL”. According the Blender Foundation, OpenCL can support all features found on CUDA with the exception of correlated multi jitter. This is accompanied by a graph, embed above, showing the RX 480 beat the GTX 1060 in a variety of benchmark scenes. Unfortunately, at the same time, GPU-accelerated rendering in Cycles now requires GCN 2.0 and up, which is the AMD R9 290 and later. Blender will still work on older cards, like the R9 280 or, heck, probably even the Radeon HD 4890, but the final render will need to be done on the CPU.

Blender 2.79 doesn’t have a firm release date, but the code freeze schedule has it expected for some time in either May or June.

Joe Macri on Ryzen

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2017 - 08:05 PM |
Tagged: video, amd, Joe Macri, ryzen

TechARP just posted a video of AMD's Joe Macri discussing the new Ryzen processors from AMD.  It is not quite 20 minutes long which gives you a chance to quickly hear from AMD about what they feel the new architecture means for the company, as well as the impact it will have on gamers and enthusiasts.  He does mention the HSA Foundation and how AMD is working towards a basic change in how PCs utilize resources. They also embedded a link to a video featuring AMD's Radeon Product Marketing Manager, Adam Kozak, on the new 500 series if you have time.

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"AMD Corporate Vice President, Product Chief Technology Officer and Corporate Fellow, Joe Macri, flew in to brief us on the disruptive nature of the new AMD Ryzen processors. Join us for his full tech briefing!"

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Source: TechARP

There are a couple of ways to enjoy Dawn of War III

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2017 - 07:57 PM |
Tagged: dawn of war III, open beta, giveaway, relic, gaming

Dawn of War III will not be released until the 27th of this month but you can take a look at it already.  Relic are hosting an open beta which kicks off this Friday and encompasses the whole weekend.  You will be able to play as any of the three races, with a somewhat shortened line up, in 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 multiplayer games.  You will not be able to play on your own against an AI player and there are only three maps but if you can't wait until the launch or desire a closer look at the game before deciding to pick it up on release day you can get a quick peek.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN have posted a video of gameplay you can check out, with a commentary track.

Also worth noting is that recent NVIDIA cards coming from Amazon, at least of the ASUS STRIX variety, now include a game key for DoW 3 as opposed to the For Honor or Ghost Recon: Wildlands offer currently advertised.

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"The multiplayer open beta test for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War III is starting Friday but ugh, waiting! For those who want to see 40K real-time strategy action right now, Relic have released a video of a full 3v3 match with commentary from some of the folks who made the game."

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Logitech Announces the G413 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2017 - 01:35 PM |
Tagged: romer-g, mechanical, magnesium, logitech, keyboard, gaming, aluminium

Logitech has announced the G413, a mechanical gaming keyboard with the company's exclusive Romer-G mechanical switches and premium construction (including an aluminum-magnesium upper panel).

Logitech G413 Carbon Mechanical Gaming Keyboard.jpg

"Engineered for precision and performance, the keyboard delivers unrivaled performance in a thoughtfully balanced, modern design. The Logitech G413 features Logitech’s exclusive Romer-G mechanical switches, offering 25 percent faster actuation than standard mechanical keys, as well as a brushed anodized aircraft-grade aluminum top case, USB passthrough port and precision key backlighting for an affordable price."

High_Resolution-G413 Carbon Keycaps.jpg

Logitech lists these features for the G413 mechanical gaming keyboard:

  • Romer-G Mechanical Switches: Logitech’s exclusive Romer-G mechanical switches are purpose-built for professional-grade performance, responsiveness and durability. With a short-throw actuation point of 1.5 mm, Romer-G switches register key presses up to 25 percent faster than standard mechanical switches, so you can get your shots off faster than your opponent. Designed to enhance gameplay, Romer-G switches offer the perfect blend of speed, precision and quiet performance.
  • Precision Key Lighting: Romer-G mechanical switches are also purpose-designed for precise and clean lighting through the keycaps. This means keys are always visible and never distracting, especially during late night gaming sessions. The Logitech G413 Carbon features elemental red backlighting and the Logitech G413 Silver features iconic white backlighting, for a premium, focused look.
  • Aircraft-Grade Aluminum Alloy: A brushed 5052 aluminum-magnesium alloy top case serves as the keyboard’s backbone. The result is a minimal design balanced with a full set of features. With a focus on high-end finish and performance, the Logitech G413 is crafted from the highest-grade materials.
  • USB Passthrough: Convenience and speed are directly within reach. The additional, dedicated USB cable connects the USB passthrough port to its own input for full power throughput and data speed. 
  • Full Function Keys: Media control is built-in so you can use the FN key to control volume, play and pause, mute, game mode, lighting, etc. The FN toggle feature in the Logitech Gaming Software (LGS) configure the keys to perform media commands by default.  
  • Programmable Macros: Use LGS to program custom functions and macro commands on F1-F12 buttons. Execute complex commands, or unleash a timed series of actions or spells with the press of a button.
  • Performance Keycaps: Laser-etched cylindrical keycaps come standard plus a set of 12 optional performance faceted keycaps designed by esports pros are included.

High_Resolution-G413 BTM Carbon.jpg

With an MSRP of $89.99 the G413 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard goes on sale this month in two versions, with a black finish (shown here) and a silver finish that is exclusive to Best Buy.

Source: Logitech

Sounds like a roundup, headphones and speakers galore

Subject: General Tech | April 18, 2017 - 04:22 PM |
Tagged: audio, Fugoo, sennheiser, jabra

Over at The Inquirer is a roundup of new audio devices they have seen and were impressed by.  They cover headphones, bookshelf speakers and wireless speakers with interesting features that might tempt you to open your wallet.  If you are planning an outdoor party now that the weather is starting to change, the Fugoo XL speaker offers waterproofing to ensure a shower won't ruin your day as well as a reinforced casing if you tend to be hard on your electronics.  They also list several in-ear headphones, including a wireless model from Sennheiser which might attract fans of a certain phone.

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"IT'S BACK for 2017, our never quite ending (that is to say regularly updated) guide to the best speakers and headphones that you can get your paws on, including some familiar names and some that could save you a ton by being awesome noobs. Keep checking back, we'll be adding more as the year progresses."

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Source: The Inquirer

I knew him; IDF, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy

Subject: General Tech | April 17, 2017 - 04:09 PM |
Tagged: Intel, idf

It is not a post-PC world but it is now officially a post-IDF world as Intel announces they are too diverse to host such a PC-centric conference.  It was 20 years ago today that the first IDF was held in Beijing and Intel announced some time ago the cancellation of this years event in China, however until today they had still planned to hold their scheduled event in San Francisco.  The rationale offered is Intel's expansion into FPGAs, Optane storage, IoT devices, wireless communications and other fields pushes them beyond the scope traditionally represented at the IDF.  Why cancellation of the event in preference of broadening the scope is not explained in their announcement.  Ars Technica has related links here.

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"While the company earlier said that it would not have a Chinese event, the San Francisco IDF was still being planned, albeit with a "new format," in the early months of 2017. It appears now that this 'new format' is in fact 'non-existence.'"

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Source: Ars Technica

Syberia II Is "On The House"

Subject: General Tech | April 15, 2017 - 09:57 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, microids, ea

I’m apparently about a month late on this one, but it’s better than never for those who, like me, missed the news the first time around. Syberia II is a point-and-click adventure title from 2004 and it is currently “On The House” through EA’s Origin service. These promotions would be the same as if EA had a timed, 100%-off sale: claim it before it’s over and it’s yours for free, permanently.

ea-2016-origin-on-the-house-logo.png

It might not be around for long, though. I’m guessing this deal is to promote the upcoming Syberia III, which was originally announced in 2009 and should launch in about a week or two (depending on your region). If this sort of game interests you in any way, and especially if you have an active Origin account, then it’s a good idea to add Syberia II to your games library, even if you don’t plan on installing it right away.

Source: EA (Origin)

Cloudy with Microsoft; the new Chrome OS competitor?

Subject: General Tech | April 13, 2017 - 12:33 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface 3, Project Scorpio, windows 10 cloud

From what The Inquirer has been able to find out, the Microsoft event taking place next month will not herald the release of the Surface Book 2, Surface Pro 5 nor the Surface Phone. 
It is quite likely we will see a new low cost Surface 3 device announced as well as more information on Project Scorpio.  This should also offer the first details on the new OS that Microsoft has been working on to challenge ChromeOS in low cost devices.  Windows 10 Cloud, also known as Bespin, will be a low cost OS which runs Windows Universal apps and will be aimed at students and those who want small inexpensive devices for light computing usage.  Check out more details here.

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"Microsoft sent out cryptic invites on Wednesday (we're still waiting for ours) which suggests there will be an education focus at the event, with the invite sporting 'Learn what's next' caption and '#MicrosoftEdu' hashtag."

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Source: The Inquirer

Besiege your friends on custom levels

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2017 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: gaming, Besiege, Spiderling Games

Remember Besiege, the game which allowed you to create your own engines of destruction and which lead to an influx of rather amusing videos of successful and not so successful inventions.  Spiderling Games have announced that they will be releasing an update which will allow you to design custom levels and invite up to 7 friends to join you in that level.  As you can see from the video below you can work together or battle it out after creating your particular machine.  Drop by Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN for more details.

"Multiplayer and a level editor are coming to physics-based warmachine workshop Besiege later this year, developers Spiderling Games have announced."

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It has been a while since the last legal battle but Qualcomm may be our next contender

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2017 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: sueball, qualcomm, Intel, blackberry, apple

Ah, the old days of Microsoft versus governments, Apple and Samsung, Intel and AMD, SCO and ... well just about everyone; lately there has not been much legal vitriol in the headlines.  This may change as Qualcomm is now involved in several suits which are likely to become high profile.  First up is what may be the driving force behind their need to seek restitution from Apple; they were just ordered to pay Blackberry $815 million after that company was successful in their legal battle to dispute certain royalty payments.  Even a company as large as Qualcomm is going to feel the pain from that.

On to the real upcoming battle royal, featuring Apple and Qualcomm over the iPhone 7.  It seems that Apple has taken offence to Qualcomm's claims that Apple handicapped their chip to ensure it did not out perform the models which contained an Intel chipset.  Qualcomm released a large rebuttal to the lawsuit which Apple launched this January which you can read about at Ars Technica, or follow the link to read the entire document.  This may prove to be the next interesting technological legal battle, stay tuned for more.

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"For example, Qualcomm’s technological contributions enable popular smartphone apps such as Uber, Snapchat, Spotify, Apple Music, Skype, Google Maps, and Pokémon GO, among others."

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Source: Ars Technica

UNIGINE Superposition GPU Stress Test Released

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2017 - 09:09 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, UNIGINE, unigine 2

There are quite a few game engines available these days. Unity stepped up its game and Epic Games, Crytek, Amazon, and others entered the market with various free-to-start licensing options. Back in the early DirectX 11 days, UNIGINE released their popular Heaven benchmark to promote their engine, which had a relatively affordable, up-front fee. (I don’t remember what it was at the time, but the engine currently starts at $1495 USD, albeit royalty-free.)

Available up to 8K60, because lol why not?

Today, they have released a new benchmark, called Superposition, which focuses on two things: VR and GPU stress testing. The setting is some old-timey physics lab, and it includes some minigames to keep you entertained after you determined that your overclock is stable and your performance is assigned some value. According to Phoronix, UNIGINE has been looking into Vulkan, but they haven’t added it to the engine yet. On Linux, you’ll be using OpenGL 4.5, but Windows has a choice between that and DirectX 11.

UNIGINE Superposition is available for Windows and Linux.

Source: UNIGINE

SK Hynix has huge stacks of NAND

Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2017 - 01:29 PM |
Tagged: SK Hynix, 72 layer, tlc

SK Hynix have created an impressive die which has 72 layers of TLC 3D NAND.  The storage density of their chips are somewhat lower than the competition, this particular chip sports 256Gb of capacity.  This is due to the larger size of SK Hynix's cells, which has the benefit of allowing more layers than other manufacturers have been able to successfully create.  The Register was told that compared to the previous generation of 48 layer NAND you could expect to see up to a 20% increase in read and write speeds, another benefit to their new process.  To think, it was just a year ago that Al first introduced us to what 3D NAND would mean to the PC industry.

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"Korean flash fabber SK Hynix has built a 72-layer 3D NAND die with 256Gb capacity. That number of layers, in effect a higher-rise flash chip than anybody else has built, is impressive but the 256Gb capacity is not; Toshiba's 64-layer flash die has a 512Gb capacity. Like the SK Hynix chip, it is a TLC (3bits/cell) device. It started sample shipping in February."

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Source: The Register

EpicGear's Morpha X gaming mouse, you can swap the sensors and switches as well as the weight

Subject: General Tech | April 10, 2017 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: epicgear, Morpha X, gaming mouse, input, ADNS-9800, PMW3360, pixart

Modular gaming mice with changeable weights and shells have become common; ones that allow you to switch the sensor on the other hand are rather rare.  EpicGear's Morpha X lets you do exactly that, it comes with two PixArt sensors, a PMW3360 optical sensor and an ADNS-9800 laser sensor.  The Tech Report strongly suggests disconnecting the mouse when swapping sensors to avoid any possibility to need to reset the mouse.  It is not just the sensors you can swap, the mouse ships with several Omron D2F switches of varying colours as well as a tool to help swap them.  The mouse is a little pricey but for those with a strong opinion as to which sensors and swiches are the best, this mouse is worth a look.

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"EpicGear's Morpha X gaming mouse offers a wealth of customization options, from its shell to its sensor to its RGB LED accent lighting. We swapped out every component and tested every setting to see whether the Morpha X delivers a spot in the gaming-peripheral hall of fame."

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Another successful VLAN thanks to the Fragging Frogs, AMD and PCPer

Subject: General Tech | April 10, 2017 - 12:24 PM |
Tagged: VLAN party, kick ass, gaming, fragging frogs

The Fragging Frogs' VLAN 15 was a success, wrapping up early Sunday morning as the final golfers headed for the 19th hole.  At its peak we had over 50 people on simultaneously, with 70 unique participants joining throughout the event.  There were over a dozen games played, from newer releases such as Rocket League, Ghost Recon Wildlands and Escape from Tarkov through classics like TF2 and UT2K4 as well as some games only the truly odd can love like Dino D-Day.

Prizes included four motherboards, a cooler, a case and a keyboard which have all featured in reviews here at PCPer as well as a Ryzen 7 1700 straight from AMD.  You should drop by the forum thread to pass on your appreciation of the contributions mmettin, Brandito and of course Lenny, without whom these events would not be possible. 

Hope you had fun at VLAN 15, if you didn't make it this time we hope to see you for the next one!

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Fragging Frogs VLAN 15 on Saturday April 8 10:00 AM ET, come celebrate 14 years of gaming!

Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2017 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: VLAN party, kick ass, gaming, fragging frogs

A long time ago on a website far far away, a brave group of Frogs embarked on a long journey of fun and well ... virtual murderation.   In April of 2003, back when UT2k4 was shiny and new and not retro-gaming the Fragging Frogs held their first live event, a tournament to crown one of us the king of Unreal Tournament.  Since then the gang have been hosting drop-in games every week in a come as you are format and every once and a while Lenny and the crew put together a VLAN party.

FraggingFrogs.jpg

The time has come again to announce another official Fragging Frogs VLAN, this one kicking off at 10AM EDT on Saturday April 8th and going as long as there is still someone gaming.  The previous VLAN saw over 90 people join in at one time or another, with an average of over 50 people active on TeamSpeak and in games.  No matter what type of game you are looking to play, there will be a group you can hook up with to play together or against!

As is tradition, there will be an undisclosed amount of prizes given away at the event but you will have to be on Teamspeak in order to qualify to win.  These prizes are supplied by hardware manufactures, software developers and even from the closets of certain reviewers here at PC Perspective.  You could end up with your own Joshtekk memorabilia!

Post to the official thread to let Lenny and the gang know you plan to attend, especially if you are not yet a forum member as the thread will let you know what you need to do to be eligible to win as well as how to connect to the TeamSpeak server and what patches and mods you should set up.  The list of games people plan on playing has hit 20, if you have one you want to play that is not on the list then make sure to comment in the thread.

See you there!

Windows 10 obsessive net nanny edition

Subject: General Tech | April 7, 2017 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, creators update, stalking

The discussion surrounding the telemetry and data of users of Windows 10 which is collected by Microsoft has been energetic and not without a certain amount of vitriol.  Until this past week, much of it has been based on educated guesses and traffic analysis, with Microsoft deigning to provided specifics.  That has changed with the upcoming release of the Creators Update and Microsoft have finally released the details of what data they collect in both the new Basic and Full modes. 

The list is impressive.

The new Basic mode is the same as the previous Full mode, collecting hardware and software information and how they are used, driver usage data, inking and typing data and allowing remote access of your machine and documents without your knowledge.  While this will certainly help with troubleshooting Windows issues it does seem a bit much to collect without users approval.

The new Full mode is even more like an overly attentive software company, it includes all of the above plus it collects your user settings and preferences, installed browsers and the use thereof, an inventory of attached peripherals and how long you use them, a list of every application you've ever installed and a long list of other data which the Register lists here.

Windows 10 Enterprise and some of the Windows Server 2016 editions offer a bit more control which is good, considering many companies sign agreements with clients to the effect that none of their data will be shared with third parties.  That is something Microsoft seems to have trouble comprehending as they continue to pressure businesses to update their infrastructure.

All of this data does help Microsoft collect errors and develop effective fixes but one questions the necessity of the sheer amount of extraneous data collected at the same time.  Perhaps some of the more paranoid claims made by people on the internet were not all that far off base after all. 

If Microsoft does not offer ways to disable at least some of these features, let us hope that security companies find ways to block them; every single one is a vulnerability which could be exploited by people other than Microsoft.

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"Right now, it's doing a little damage control, and preempting complaints about privacy, by listing the types of information its operating system will automatically and silently leak from PCs, slabs, and laptops back to Redmond."

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Source: The Register

Canonical (Ubuntu) Abandons Funding for Unity Desktop

Subject: General Tech | April 6, 2017 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, linux, canonical

For the next long-term support (LTS) build, Ubuntu 18.04, Canonical is moving back to the GNOME desktop. For the last several versions of the operating system, they have put their home-grown Unity desktop at the forefront. The official blog post also announces that Canonical “will end our investment in Unity8, the phone and convergence shell” to focus on desktop, cloud, and internet of things.

As always with open-source software, it’s possible that someone could take the project and keep it going, but I doubt that this will happen (outside of the hobbyist and archivist circles). The general consensus, from what I’ve seen, could be summarized as: “Finally!”

Update (April 6th @ 6:45pm EDT): Speaking of, UBports, which is a Patreon-supported group of hobbyists that port Ubuntu Touch to new devices, apparently expects to continue Unity development.

I haven’t heard any discussion over what this means for Canonical’s engineering team. I hope that this will just lead to reassignments, rather than lay-offs.

Also, this has nothing to do with the Unity game engine. That's a very different company and a very different product. I just thought I'd make that clear in case it comes up.

Source: Canonical