The all new and improved version of the new and improved S.T.A.L.K.E.R.; the Lost Alpha gets a Directors Cut

Subject: General Tech | May 3, 2017 - 01:53 PM |
Tagged: gaming, stalker, lost alpha, kick ass, directors cut

Many many moons ago, the lost Alpha version of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which included vehicles and some rather interesting new fauna to chew on your innards was released to the world to allow them to revisit the Zone as it was originally imagined.  The released game was much smaller, as the habit developers have of initially overreaching the scope of their games is nothing new.  What is new is the Developer's Cut of the Lost Alpha which you can now get hold of to play, though the installation process is a little intricate as you can see from the instructions Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN have provided. 

The original Lost Alpha now incorporates game mechanics which were added in Call of Pripyat as well as updates to the engine and various other features.  If you have fond memories of the Zone, you should head back in to see what is new.

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" You might remember Dezowave reluctantly released 2014’s unfinished (but still great) version after scamps leaked a rough development build. Now they’ve launched what they’re calling the Developer’s Cut of Lost Alpha, fixing bugs and making it even bigger. Have a look."

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Vega's specs grow less vague

Subject: General Tech | May 3, 2017 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: rumour, amd, VGA, DRM

DRM finally did something good for us; revealing detailed information on AMD's new GPU.  In this case the DRM is a portion of the Linux kernel which interfaces with the GPU and some inquisitive minds dug through the code to find details on Vega, which will be supported by this new version of DRM.

This is still in the realms of rumour, but the source is very good as AMD would not likely enter the wrong specifications into this update.  According to the specs which wccftech compiled from the code, Vega features 64 compute units, each containing 64 GCN stream processors, the 4096 SPs will be split into four Shader Engines.  A little math, based on the stated performance figures of 12.5 TFLOLPS for FP32 and 25 TFLOPS for FP16 operations, the GPU should clock above 1.5GHz.  There were no details on the memory frequency though as it uses HBM2 we know it will have a 2048-bit interface which could lead to some interesting performance numbers.

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"Thanks to the latest Linux graphics driver update submitted by AMD we now have detailed specifications of the upcoming Radeon RX Vega GPU. The DRM, Direct Rendering Manager, update to Linux was issued yesterday and it’s the first update to date that adds comprehensive Vega feature support to Linux. No doubt in preparation for Vega’s launch which is expected to take place at the end of the month."

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Source: wccftech

Microsoft Announces Windows 10 S for Education

Subject: General Tech | May 2, 2017 - 10:16 AM |
Tagged: Windows 10 S, windows 10, windows, OS, operating system, microsoft, Education

Microsoft has introduced a new version of Windows 10 today during their education event, with low-cost education-specific laptops (starting at $189) to feature Windows 10 S, a lightweight edition of the OS for education.

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During the presentation it was revealed that the only way to install applications that are not found within the Windows store on Windows 10 S would be to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. The installation and configuration saves to a USB key that saves the state of the student’s laptop, so that any laptop in the school can be used by the student after inserting their USB key, which reconfigures the OS to the last state used with that key.

Microsoft demonstrated the speed of their streamlined version of the OS with a first boot, which took around 10 seconds on a new machine due to the stripped-down features and limited pre-installed applications. Windows 10 S will be available free to all schools on their current "genuine Window Pro PCs", and free subscriptions to Microsoft Office 365 and Minecraft: Education Edition were also announced.

Windows 10 S will arrive this summer, and while a future on low-cost consumer devices for a Windows Store-only version of the OS seems likely, Windows 10 S seems geared specifically for the education sector for now.

Source: Microsoft

The $100 Pinebook; usable as a laptop?

Subject: General Tech | May 1, 2017 - 01:54 PM |
Tagged: pinebook, arm, Cortex A53. ubuntu

Pinebooks are built around the same ARM Cortex A53 that the kickstarted Pine board utilized, but instead of being a Raspberry like board, it is a built to order laptop.  The 11.6" model is $89 and the 14" model will cost you $99.  The screen is 1366×768, it comes with a 640x480 camera as well as a pair of USB ports, audio, miniSD and miniHDMI connectors.  Hack a Day ordered one and found that in some ways this is still a work in progress as there are issues with some of the outputs which may soon be addressed in an update to the Ubuntu MATE 16.04 OS it runs.  Still a laptop for less than $100 is impressive and might be worth tinkering with, take a more detailed look here.

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"The Pine A64 was a 64-bit Quad-Core Single Board Computer which was kickstarted at the tail end of 2015 for delivery in the middle of 2016. Costing just $15, and hailed as a “Raspberry Pi killer,” the board raised $1.7 million from 36,000 backers. It shipped to its backers to almost universally poor reviews."

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Source: Hack a Day

Is iFi Audio the best choice for a name, let alone a tiny DAC?

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2017 - 02:19 PM |
Tagged: audio, DAC, iFi Audio, nano iDSD LE

As you can see from the comparative size of the RCA jacks, the iFi Audio nano iDSD LE is a very small DAC, especially as they have squeezed a 1000 mAh battery inside for portable usage.  Don't let the tiny package fool you, the device supports a wide variety of signals including PCM from 44.1 to 384 kHz/16-32 bit, DSD 2.8, 3.1, 5.6 and 6.2 MHz/1 bit, DXD 352.8, 384 kHz/24 bit.  TechPowerUp reviewed the DAC with both HiFiMAN Edition S headphones and Sennheiser IE-800s in ear headphones, take a look right here.

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"iFi Audio's nano iDSD LE is a little DAC/amp with big ambitions. It packs all the knowledge from the bigger DAC/amps in iFi's huge portofolio of products into a small package. Despite being small, it still features RCA line-outs, a very respectable headphone amplification circuit, and a 1000 mAh battery."

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Source: TechPowerUp

Intel gives their Atom C2000 a longer half life

Subject: General Tech | April 28, 2017 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: c2000, atom, Intel, Avoton

Intel have released a new C0 stepping of their Avoton based Atom C2000 series, which have been dying off at an alarming rate thanks to a flaw in the chip's low pin count bus clock outputs.  The chips are found in the Synology DS1815+ series as well as in Cisco routers, Dell servers and a variety of other products; the flaw in the LPC clock bus would cause them to enter a state in which a reboot would be fatal.  Intel has offered a patch for the motherboards of devices using these chips for a while and have now released new versions of these chips which do not suffer from the same problem.  

The Register accumulated a longer list of devices that could be at risk and technical details on the nature of the flaw here.

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"Intel finally has reworked its flawed Atom C2000 chips, which have been failing at a greater-than-expected rate for about a year and a half."

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Source: The Register

HyperX's Pulsefire, KISS in action

Subject: General Tech | April 27, 2017 - 02:55 PM |
Tagged: input, hyperx, pulsefire, gaming mouse, pixart, PMW3310

HyperX's Pulsefire is a mouse, plain and simple.  It does not glow, nor can you remove or add peices to it, it is just a large, functional $50 gaming mouse with a Pixart PMW3310 optical sensor. The Tech Report tested it out, contrasting it to the Logitech G302 which the reviewer uses on a regular basis.  Take a look if you are shopping for a mouse, and only a mouse, not programmable macro, weight enhanced and sensor swapping input device of doom.

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"HyperX is making a foray into yet-unexplored gaming peripheral territory today with its Pulsefire gaming mouse, a simple and software-free rodent. We put this mouse to the mat to see whether HyperX's keep-it-simple approach plays well with gaming mice."

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Slow down there pardner, maybe wait for Microsoft to push out the Creators Edition

Subject: General Tech | April 27, 2017 - 02:11 PM |
Tagged: creators update, microsoft, windows 10

It is a lesson which is learned anew by every wave of new adopters, installing something brand new can lead to unexpected problems.  In this particular case it is the Windows 10 Creators Update, some of those who have manually updated are now in a Vista-like driver conundrum.  There is a method behind Microsoft's madness, they are pushing out the updates to systems they have vetted first and slowly expanding their scope as issues come to light and are resolved, more or less.  If you are doing a fresh install you may end up with several devices which are not functioning properly, if you are manually updating you may find yourself without a working machine.  Patience can be a virtue, especially when it comes to Windows 10.  The Inquirer has some rather pointed commentary here.

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"IF YOU'RE as excited as Microsoft are about the Creators Update to Windows 10, we've got some bad news. The company is warning people not to jump the gun and install it themselves, despite having made the disc image available to download."

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Source: The Inquirer

The next generation of id tech might make Ryzen shine

Subject: General Tech | April 26, 2017 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: id software, amd, ryzen, robert duffy

Over at HEXUS you can sit back and watch a video of Robert Duffy from id Software discuss the potential of AMD's Ryzen processors in the next generation of game engines, with some hints about Vega.  He is confident that the team at id will be able to utilize the large core counts of Ryzen processors to enable great performance in 4K and even 8K with the new engine.  He specifically mentioned "framerate improvements, improved realism, and improved AI in games - all from the extra cores and threads available.

They were not able to tease any secret information from him, but the video is worth watching for both those interested in Ryzen or looking for information on what is next from id Software.

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"AMD has published a video interview with id Software's CTO (Chief Technical Officer), Robert Duffy. Unsurprisingly the interview talks up the capabilities and potential of AMD Ryzen tech in gaming engines, and in particular in the next generation id tech currently in development."

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Source: HEXUS

Could Vega be just around the corner?

Subject: General Tech | April 26, 2017 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: amd, Vega, rumours

A Facebook post from AMD Poland has started rumours flying around the interwebs as the implication is we will see it arrive this quarter; though perhaps taking a Facebook post as a verified source may lead to disappointment.  However, there is a bit more evidence than just the post which Digital Trends has displayed, we have seen CompuBench results of a mysterious AMD GPU which is very likely to be Vega.  It will have 64 compute units which translates into 4096 stream processors unless something very strange is going on.  The benchmarks also list two frequencies 1GHz and 1.2GHz which indicates computing performance of 8.2 TFLOPS and 9.8 TFLOPS respectively which puts it in the neighbourhood of the GTX 1080's 8.9 TFLOPS.  That will not necessarily directly translate into gaming performance but does indicate that AMD has a nice surprise in store for us. 

Don't forget to add a bit of salt to your rumour consumption and keep your eyes peeled for more information.

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"Of course, it’s entirely possible that someone at AMD Poland spoke out of turn, and so this information should be considered unverified at this point. But there’s other information that seems to confirm an imminent release, such as a Vega GPU showing in CompuBench benchmark results — something that usually happens shortly before a new component is released."

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Photonic computing is extremely cool right now

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2017 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: photonics, nanowires

Confining light in a small enough space to fit on a chip is not an easy task.  Infrared wavelengths tend to be many times larger than the desired width of the nanowires that the light is transmitted over.  The researchers in this story from Nanotechweb were working on a way to transmit a 1342 nm IR signal over a 100nm nanowire and came up with a successful solution.  By placing their nanowire in a silicon photonic crystal which has periodic holes that can slow or trap light they have been able to transmit data over that nanowire at speeds of up to 10 billion bits per second.  There is a catch though, the continuous-wave lasing which they use creates an impressive amount of heat, which at such small sizes will create serious interference.  Currently they are running their tests at temperatures as low as 4 Kelvin to prevent heat from interfering; it will be a while before we see room temperature applications but they are getting ever closer.

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"They have shown that a photonic crystal/nanowire hybrid can sustain telecom-band lasing stable enough to transmit a high-frequency data signal, and believe that the platform’s advantages for component integration could enable them to build an on-chip photonic network."

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Source: Nanotechweb

Snapdragon for Windows 10; in time for Christmas?

Subject: General Tech | April 24, 2017 - 01:15 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, snapdragon 835, qualcomm

Qualcomm have provided an updated estimate for when we might expect to see Windows 10 running on Snapdragon 835 devices, moving it very close to the end of the second half of 2017.  Having a product launch in December is risky if Qualcomm had hoped to see sales for the holiday season, especially for a type of product we have not seen since Microsoft released ARM powered Surface devices.  It is possible that the price may be attractive enough to entice some users into purchasing the devices but we likely won't see much action until the beginning of 2018.  The Register could not glean any more information beyond the updated release date from the call, we are still somewhat in the dark as to what Snapdragon powered Win 10 devices we will see.

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"But in last week's Q2 2017 earnings call, CEO Steve Mollenkopf said “Our Snapdragon 835 is expanding into Mobile PC designs running Windows 10, which are scheduled to launch in the fourth calendar quarter this year.”

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Plans to Throttle Background Processes

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2017 - 08:02 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Pre-release builds of the next major update to Windows 10, planned for the September time frame, give or take, introduce a new power management feature. Starting with Intel’s sixth-generation Core processors, with support for other vendors planned in the coming months, Windows 10 will be able to prevent background apps from forcing high-power states. This will keep the CPU at a voltage and frequency that gets more work done per watt, even if it takes a little longer, which should result in longer battery life.

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There will be (and currently is) an override available for end-users, as well as an API for developers to suggest which processes can be throttled, and under what circumstances. This entire feature will also be disabled when the device is plugged in. I wonder if we’ll see that characteristic change a little in Windows Server, though, since it might be useful for data centers to throttle some maintenance tasks to cut down on the power and cooling bills for their many, many machines. Currently, it’s designed for battery life.

You can play around with this feature in the new Insider build, but, again, not while plugged in.

Source: Microsoft

PCPer Meetup in London! Sponsored by ARM! Win a FREE Chromebook!

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2017 - 10:27 AM |
Tagged: meetup, london, giveaway, contest, Chromebook, arm

For a short romantic summer trip, Josh Walrath and I (Ryan Shrout) will be heading across the pond to London, England! With the primary goals of technology education and beer consumption, we thought it would be prudent to invite any and all PC Perspective fans in the area to join us for a night of talking tech, comparing beer preferences and just saying hello!

On Thursday April 27th starting 7:30pm, you will find Josh and me sitting in a dimly-lit booth at the Momentus Bar inside The Cumberland Hotel located at Great Cumberland Place London W1H 7DL. We have no specific agenda but will probably be there until at least midnight, hamming it up with anyone that walks over.

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Yes, it looks fancy, but you're talking to some fancy lads, right!?!

As if hanging with your favorite hosts of the PC Perspective Podcast wasn't enough, I was able to coherce our good friends at ARM to sponsor the event and handing us a couple of Chromebooks to give away as well! That's right - come meet Josh and me at The Cumberland Hotel and have a couple of drinks!

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On display at the event in London will be two ARM-powered Chromebooks: the Acer R13 and the new Samsung Chromebook Plus!

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The Samsung Chromebook Plus powered by ARM

The Samsung Chromebook Plus is powered by the OP processor...a curious part with an even more curious website: www.whatisop.com.

Even though only those in attendance will be able to get hands-on with the two Chromebooks, we are offering the giveaway of the units to our global fan base! All you have to do is enter via the Gleam competition below for your chance to take home one of these two devices!

ARM-powered Chromebook Giveaway!

So, here's the summary: if you are in the London area on April 27th and want to come hang out with Josh and me at Momentus Bar at The Cumberland Hotel, we would love to see you at 730pm! If you aren't in the London area on April 27th, enter the contest above for your chance to win an ARM-powered Chromebook!

PC Perspective London Meetup! Sponsored by ARM!

7:30pm - 12:00am on April 27th

Momentus Bar at The Cumberland Hotel

Great Cumberland Pl, Marylebone, London W1H 7DL, UK

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A HUGE THANKS to our friends at ARM for sponsoring these events and paying for Josh's excuse to drink! Hopefully we will see a lot of you in person very soon!

Windows 10 Cloud ("S"?) Performance Targets Leaked

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2017 - 12:49 PM |
Tagged: windows 10 cloud, windows 10, uwp, microsoft

The upcoming version of Windows that can only install applications from the Windows Store, Windows 10 Cloud, will be Microsoft’s latest attempt at locked-down devices, like Windows RT was back in the Windows 8.x days. The goal is to take on the Chromebook market, which is similarly locked down to Google Chrome and Google Play Store apps (although Google allows developer sideloading). To be fair to Windows 10 Cloud, it can be upgraded to Home or Pro to run Win32 applications for a fee, although that somewhat flies in the face of “streamlined, simpler experience” if you acknowledge a monetary value in unlocking the features you claim those users theoretically don’t want.

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Image Credit: Windows Central

Preamble and opinion aside, it would seem that Microsoft is hoping to push OEMs into making decent devices. They are recommending a minimum specification of quad-core Celeron, 4GB of RAM, >40 Wh battery, and “fast eMMC or SSD” storage. This last note about “fast” eMMC amuses me, because it not-so-subtly telegraphs that cheap laptops, despite having technically solid state memory, don’t have a noticeably better experience than typical hard drives.

Microsoft is expected to discuss the initiative on May 2nd at their #MicrosoftEDU event.

Oculus App Version 1.14 Released

Subject: General Tech | April 22, 2017 - 02:37 AM |
Tagged: Oculus, oculus rift

Oculus has updated their Oculus App to version 1.14. This release has two noteworthy features: full support for 360-degree tracking with three sensors, and the Touch controller can now be used with some, but not all, games that were previously gamepad-exclusive. For the latter, you will need to check with each specific game in the Oculus store, where it will be listed with a “Touch (as gamepad)” tag.

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As for the former, Oculus has been allowing 2- (like the Vive) and 3-sensor setups for 360-degree tracking for a while, but experimentally. They have apparently settled on the three-sensor setup for final support, though. According to their documentation, they recommend that two of the sensors are plugged into USB 3.0 or higher, while leaving the third on USB 2. Specifically, the USB 2-connected sensor will be the one behind the user, with the two USB 3.0 sensors sitting out in front; to visualize this, imagine stereo speakers sitting on either side of your TV, with only one surround sound speaker behind the user. It will be interesting to see how Oculus two-sensor, Oculus three-sensor, and Vive two-sensor compares, especially since the last two are (in the case of Oculus, now) officially supported, but the first one isn’t.

While I don’t currently have a Rift, Oculus apparently delivers updates on a staggered schedule. Don’t be surprised if your system isn’t pushed to the new version immediately.

Source: Oculus

Twitch Announces New Affiliate Program

Subject: General Tech | April 21, 2017 - 07:49 PM |
Tagged: twitch, pc gaming, amazon

While Twitch had quite a large lead as a streaming service, it had a fairly large gap between its regular creators and their “Twitch Partners”. If you weren’t a Twitch partner, you couldn’t directly monetize your stream, guarantee that your stream would be transcoded, and so forth.

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That isn’t changing, but they are introducing an easier to obtain, middle tier that will have some, but not all, of the Partner perks. “Twitch Affiliate” is this middle-ground, and, while it is invite-only, it is open to pretty much anyone who intends to stream on a regular basis. Specifically, the threshold is about 500 online minutes in a month, spread out over at least seven days, and an average of at least three viewers at the same time; you will also need at least 50 followers. If you stream a few times per week, this is not a very high bar, but it’s still not automatic.

I should note that Twitch will only consider the previous 30 days, rolling.

The goal of this new tier is to provide some support for streamers, as they try to find their on-ramp to being a Twitch partner. At first, only the (relatively controversial) “Bits” system will be available for monetization, but other revenue streams, like video ads, should follow. Also, while you’re not guaranteed to receive video transcodes, Affiliates get priority access to whatever is left over from the Partners.

Personally, I’d like a guarantee that transcodes would be available, because I don’t want to occasionally alienate some viewers by sending Twitch too high of a bitrate for the, let’s say even just 10% of the time, that lower-quality versions would be unavailable. It still puts pressure on me to lower the quality that I send Twitch, which will often result in worse VOD quality. (I realize that you can use multiple encodes… and I currently do… but certain things, like frame rate, need to be consistent – at least with the current version of OBS Studio.)

Twitch should begin to contact eligible streamers soon, and will continue rolling in new users as they become eligible. Even then. it's not an immediate, automatic thing, though.

Source: Twitch

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.

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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.

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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