Garnering Intel on a brand new discrete GPU company

Subject: General Tech | February 20, 2018 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: Intel, discrete gpu

Intel discreetly released a tidbit of information on a new project they are undertaking, a GPU specifically for HPC which will compete with AMD and NVIDIA's current offerings.  We do not know much, The Inquirer was able to ferret out that this will be a two chip solution, with a GPU and FPGA for optimization.  The chips will be fabbed on a 14nm process and contain 1.542 billion transistors, significantly lower than either AMD or NVIDIA's current cards; an interesting fact which we do not know what effect it will have on performance.   Drop by to see if you can glean any more info here.

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"The chip maker showcased a prototype design for an in-house graphics acceleration unit based on a 14-nanometre process at the excitingly named IEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, reported PC Watch."

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Source: The Inquirer

Windows 10 on ARM Details

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2018 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, qualcomm, arm

Paul Thurrott found a developer documentation page, Troubleshooting x86 Desktop Apps, on the Windows Dev Center. The goal of the page is to list a few reasons why the software you develop might not be compatible with Windows 10 on ARM and the WOW translation layer. Yup, they’re reusing that name, which was the translation layer for 32-bit Win32 applications running on 64-bit Windows.

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Based on this document, we now know that Windows on ARM:

  • Will not translate x86 drivers, just x86 applications and services.
  • Does not support 64-bit applications (Thurrott.com says they’re working on it.)
  • Does not support (hardware-accelerated) OpenGL 1.1+ or DirectX 1-8
    • Vulkan is not mentioned anywhere, but I’m guessing not.

There are also a few other issues, like the application cannot modify Windows components (ex: the 7-zip entry in the Windows file explorer’s right-click menu) unless it is recompiled for ARM. Thurrott.com also says that Hyper-V is not supported in Windows 10 on ARM.

The amount of software that Windows on ARM can run is surprisingly both broader and narrower than I would have expected. The major issue for me is OpenGL – you would think that the graphics driver would dictate this, not so much the OS APIs. I certainly hope that, especially after their other pushes toward openness, Microsoft isn’t pressuring ARM manufacturers to not ship an OpenGL driver, even though the hardware vendors clearly know how to support OpenGL ES at the very least.

And yes, there could very well be a good reason, and they might even be working on OpenGL support as we speak, but it’s an odd omission (at least for now).

Lastly, this has nothing to do with UWP applications. This document is only about standard Win32 applications running on ARM processors. UWP is designed to be cross-architecture. You just need to include the ARM target when you build and package.

Source: Microsoft

Switch your OS on Nintendo's portable gaming thingamjigger

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2018 - 12:59 PM |
Tagged: Nintendo Switch, nvidia, Tegra X1

Sometimes a flaw in a chips design can be used for good, for instance a flaw in Nvidia's Tegra X1 chip which allows a successful install of Linux.  The flaw is in the firmware, so Nintendo will not be pushing a fix out that will disable this feature on current Switches.  For now, those who have managed this trick are not sharing so you will have to wait to try to fry your own Switch for now.   As The Inquirer points out, this is not a terrible issue as the Linux based Switch still needs work to enable you to play anything on it, be it Switch games, legacy Nintendo or Steam.

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"NOT CONTENT with simply getting Linux to boot on the Nintendo Switch, the hacker folks over at fail0verflow have managed to get the hybrid console to behave like a full-fat Linux PC."

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Source: The Inquirer

"Five Layers of" UWP DRM Cracked

Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2018 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: DRM, pc gaming, uwp, arxan

TorrentFreak is reporting that the software piracy group, CODEX, has broken the MSStore, UWP, EAppX, XBLive, and Arxan copy protection mechanisms protecting Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection. Because this is the first and currently only case of an Arxan-protected title being cracked, TorrentFreak is cautious to claim that the copy protection is broken, just in case there’s a flaw in this specific title that allowed circumvention.

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Image Credit: LadyOfHats via Wikipedia (Public Domain license)

That said, piracy groups are smart engineers, and DRM essentially amounts to saying, “I’m giving you all the pieces required to unlock this content, but I’m doing it in a way that you hopefully won’t figure out”. At least with most encryption, there are some components (keys and passwords) that are never public, and they are required to unlock the content. DRM doesn’t have that option, because otherwise no-one would be able to use the content it “protects”. (Then there’s also the whole “what are you spending and what are you hoping to gain by using DRM” argument that is often overlooked, because exerting control often correlates with a decline in sales, but that’s another discussion.)

Regardless, CODEX claims that this is the first time a UWP titles has been successfully pirated. It took about four months after its release, but it eventually happened.

Source: TorrentFreak

Steam's Lunar New Year Sale Started Today

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2018 - 09:50 PM |
Tagged: valve, pc gaming, steam sale, steam

If you need more games that you purchased on sale but probably will never play, then Valve’s Lunar New Year sale is for you. Year of the Dog is the theme, and so most of the promoted games have dogs in them. Yes, Half Life 2’s robot counts – Valve’s 2004 classic is currently sitting at 90% off.

valve-2018-steam-365dogdays.png

Personally, I just picked up Okami HD. I was interested in this game when it first came out, but I was purposely avoiding console titles, so I just kept waiting. I just found out that it was released on the PC back in December, and it’s now 30% off its regular price. Good enough for me!

It’s cute that Valve is going back to some sort of meaning in their sales. These sorts of things used to be conversation starters. I don’t know, but it felt like a lot of the Steam Sales lately became… sterile. It feels odd to describe a sale as an experience, but they kind-of were at times.

Or maybe I just like puppies. I dunno.

Windows 10 brings you Ultimate Power!!!

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2018 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Microsoft's new Ultimate Performance mode is impressively name but a bit hyperbolic as what it refers to is a new power plan which will be available to desktop machines in Build 17101 and Build 17604.  There is not much more information on the new setting, apart from its intent to reduce micro-latencies, likely referring specifically to intense computational tasks and not aimed at making your game run faster.  It is possible that an enthusiast would benefit from the new power schema, it will be interesting to see the results once the update lands.  In the mean time you can pop by Slashdot for links and commentary.

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"As the name implies, this is a step up for people for whom even the High Performance mode isn't enough -- it throws power management out the window to eliminate "micro-latencies" and boost raw speed. You can set it yourself, but PC makers will have the option of shipping systems with the feature turned on. Ultimate Performance isn't currently available for laptops or tablets, but Microsoft suggests that could change."

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Source: Slashdot

Podcast #487 - AMD Desktop APUs, Snapdragon 845, ARM Machine Learning, and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 15, 2018 - 11:32 AM |
Tagged: podcast, Intel, amd, nvidia, raven ridge, r5 2400g, r3 2200g, arm, project trillium, qualcomm, snapdragon 845, x24, LTE, 5G

PC Perspective Podcast #487 - 02/15/18

Join us this week for a recap of news and reviews including new AMD Desktop APUs, Snapdragon 845 Performance Preview, ARM Machine Learning, 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: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg, Ken Addison

Program length: 1:18:46

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Picks of the Week:
    1. 1:09:00 Jeremy: &genie=1
  4. Closing/outro
 

Are you proud of the time your DM went apoplectic due to your actions in game? Check out Underworld Ascendant

Subject: General Tech | February 14, 2018 - 04:17 PM |
Tagged: Underworld Ascendant, gaming, rpg

Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN's preview of Underworld Ascendant describes a game that eclectic roleplayers will love as it seems to encourage unorthodox solutions.  Instead of trying to dodge your way over a trap; why not drop a rock in it and watch the physics engine cause a jam in the trap rendering it useless?   Perhaps you have a nefarious use for the glue plant mentioned in preview or figure sneaking behind a foe and dropping the ceiling on it makes more sense than a duel.  The game is still in development but looks like it could be a great source of entertainment for those with a certain bent.

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"This is a game in which you can levitate a crate, move it through a fire with your mind, and then lob it over a skeleton’s shoulder-bone so that it crashes into a wooden support behind that skeleton and starts a larger fire that results in collapsing struts, falling boulders, and a dog’s delight of shattered bones to chew on."

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Chrome offers a more peaceful web

Subject: General Tech | February 14, 2018 - 12:47 PM |
Tagged: chrome, ad blocker

On Feb 15th Chrome will push out an update which will enable ad filtering on the popular web browser.  They will not take this to the extremes of many ad blocker or script filtering add-ins but instead will block ads which do not conform to the guidelines of the Coalition for Better Ads.  That would mean full page ads with a timer to prevent you from accessing the page until it hits zero, ones with autoplaying audio, pop ups and flashing ads

There will likely be some unintended consequences, as various text editors have pop ups to recover data and there are sites where you want autoplaying content so we shall see how Chrome modifies their ad filter over time.  This is good news for websites as it does not completely prevent ad revenue, only encourages the owners to ensure the ads they allow to be displayed follow certain guidelines.   Pop by Slashdot if you want to join in their reasoned and informed discussion about tomorrows update.

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"Chrome's ad filtering is designed to weed out some of the web's most annoying ads, and push website owners to stop using them. Google is not planning to wipe out all ads from Chrome, just ones that are considered bad using standards from the Coalition for Better Ads. Full page ads, ads with autoplaying sound and video, and flashing ads will be targeted by Chrome's ad filtering, which will hopefully result in less of these annoying ads on the web."

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Source: Slashdot

The new Skype, with assorted features you don't want and none of the ones you used to love

Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2018 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, skype, security

The new Skype looks much like a child who swallowed far too many Halloween candies and happened to be facing a monitor during the inevitable outcome; a feature not many requested.  Also gone is the ability to program your own add-ins and apply them to Skype to enhance recording and a variety of other features which made the product useful.  Microsoft ended that when they took Skype over, however they offer some other less popular features.   One such is a vulnerability which allows the unsecure update process to be used to inject nasty DLLs to give SYSTEM level access to an attacker.  From what The Inquirer has been able to find out, Microsoft will not be releasing a patch for vulnerable versions but will instead release a new version at some point, without the vulnerability baked in. 

Conspicuosly absent from this discussion was the soon to be Team-ed Skype for Business which may or may not feature this particular problem.  As it updates through Office 365 it should be safe, but not many security execs are satisifed by 'should'.

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"Long story short - there's so much code that would need to be rewritten that it isn't worth it to Microsoft to shore-up this version. What's not quite clear is whether this affects the grotesque UWP version of Skype or just the old desktop version."

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Source: The Inquirer

VideoLAN Releases VLC 3.0 "Vetinari"

Subject: General Tech | February 12, 2018 - 09:37 PM |
Tagged: vlc

VLC made a name for itself by pretty much playing anything. I noticed its existence during the “download a bunch of codec packs and hope they’re not malware” period, and it is pretty much my default media player at this point. It doesn’t even care about DVD regions (if your drive, itself, doesn’t have a hard-coded check, and they rarely do these days) for those of us who don’t read the websites of online retailers carefully enough when buying a movie.

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But anyway, it’s now at a new major version: VLC 3.0.0 “Vetinari”.

In terms of features, this new version adds HDR and 360 videos, as well as extended support for BluRay discs (BD-Java menus and overlay). That said, it still will not just play any BluRay off the shelf. I tried. It cannot circumvent the required copy protection, so that will need to be taken care of some other way. Hardware acceleration is now enabled by default, so high resolution videos will be easier on systems.

As always, VLC is free. Download away.

Source: VideoLAN

G.Skill Launches 4700 MHz Trident Z RGB DDR4 Memory

Subject: General Tech, Memory | February 11, 2018 - 04:45 PM |
Tagged: G.Skill, Trident Z RGB, ddr4, Samsung, samsung b-die, xmp

G.Skill will soon be upgrading its Trident Z RGB line of DDR4 DIMMs with a 16 GB kit capable of running at 4700 MHz. With the claimed fastest commercial kit of RGB-equipped memory modules, the new 2 x 8 GB kit uses Samsung B-die ICs and supports XMP 2.0 memory profiles. The super-fast memory kit has been in development for quite a while and is slated for availability in Q2 2018.

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G.Skill has managed to tighten the timings on its 4700 MHz kit to CL19-19-19-39 while needing only 1.45V which is nice to see. The company has reportedly validated the new memory using a MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC motherboard and Intel i7 8700k processor. G.Skill notes that the new kit is notable because it is the first retail kit to hit 4700 MHz as well as the first memory kit with RGB LEDs to hit that lofty memory speed. Corsair comes close at 4600 MHz with its 16 GB Vengeance LPX DDR4 kit at 15-15-15-36 which will set you back a cool $589.99 MSRP.

I am curious on the overclocking headroom on these modules actually (heh). G.Skill is reportedly using highly screened B-dies so maybe the 5,000 MHz its other kits have hit (when overclocked) would be possible. I would like to see AMD’s Infinity Fabric performance at that point when it is not being held back by memory speed especially where its upcoming APUs are concerned. On the Intel side of things, I think tighter timings are preferrable (after a certain threshold of acceptable speed of course) when pursuing the best performance so a "slower" 3600 to 4600 MHz kit at CL15 or lower might be a better buy. In any case, memory continues to be pricey, and I would uess G.Skill's new kit will hit at least $600 MSRP.

G.Skill is not yet talking pricing on these modules, but they aren’t going to be cheap. We should know more in a couple of months as we enter the second quarter.

Also read:

Source: G.Skill

Tesoro's GRAM Spectrum takes on the low profile mechanical keyboard heavyweights

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2018 - 02:38 PM |
Tagged: input, mechanical keyboard, Tesoro, GRAM Spectrum, Tesoro Agile

Not to be confused with a certain UK based grocery chain, Tesoro have been making peripherals for a while now and have just released a new low profile mechanical keyboard.  As is tradition now, a new keyboard deserves new switches, the GRAM Spectrum features Tesoro Agile Blue or Red switches with an actuation distance of 1.5mm and a 50 million click lifespan.  Benchmark Reviews found these switches comparable to Cherry switches of the same colour and as you can see below they feature clear plastic to allow your RGBs to flow freely from underneath the keycaps.  Drop by for details on the software and their final verdict.

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"Over the last few months, we have seen more and more low-profile mechanical keyboards hitting the market. With the Tesoro GRAM Spectrum, it comes with all the goodies normally seen on a mechanical gaming keyboard. But the feature that sets this one apart from the rest are the low-profile mechanical switches."

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The green team is rolling in greenbacks

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2018 - 01:06 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, jen-hsun huang, billions

NVIDIA's odd take on the end of quarters means that we are just seeing their Q4 2017 earnings report along with their fiscal 2018 earnings.  The news is good for the green team, with Q4 earnings of $2.91 billion, up 34% from Q4 2016.  Total fiscal 2018 earnings are  $9.71 billion, an increase of 41% from fiscal 2017 released last January.  The success of the Nintendo Switch certainly helped and the $133 million tax cut they received didn't hurt, nor the popularity of graphics cards, which NVIDIA states they would prefer to sell to gamers; though it is unclear how they could enforce this on the open market. 

It is too early to see an impact from their removal of consumer class GPUs from data centres, assuming they do not reverse this particular decision we will see a jump in that revenue in the coming quarters.  The Inquirer offers their take on the finer points of NVIDIA's earning statement here.

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"The firm revealed in its Q4 earnings report 2017 that its total revenues for the quarter swelled by a massive 34 per cent from the previous year, with its revenue for the full fiscal year hitting $9.71bn, up by 41 per cent."

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Source: The Inquirer

Sennheiser's GSX 1000 7.1 USB DAC; audio the way it wants to play

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2018 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: audio, sennheiser, GSX 1000, DAC, 7.1

Sennheiser's GSX 1000 is an external USB 24-bit/96 kHz DAC, using Sennheiser's own 7.1 Binaural Rendering Engine with a headphone amp and a line-out port to connect to active speakers. The only difference between the GSX 1000 and the 1200 is that you will not be able to daisy chain multiple DACs together, a feature not many of us need.  TechPowerUp were more than impressed with the sound, but the DAC fell short of perfection as you cannot modify the preset equalizer choices nor disable the noise cancellation on the mic jack; both of which should be possible on an audio device of this price.

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"The Sennheiser GSX 1000 Audio Amplifier is a beautiful external USB sound card equipped with the best 7.1 virtual surround sound system we've heard so far, and a host of other interesting features primarily aimed towards hardcore gaming."

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Source: TechPowerUp

LinkedIn and Microsoft find a way to help you need to find a new job ... in a hurry

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2018 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: résumé, microsoft, linkedin, bad idea, résumé assistant

It is so obvious that it is hard to believe Microsoft didn't do this years ago.  Obviously the best time and place to search for a new job is over your current employers network, using Microsoft Word.  Now you can, as Word and LinkedIn will now be joined at the hip.  Yes, that source of bizarre requests to connect with people you have essentially nothing in common with apart from the fact that you may have been employed at some time in your life is coming to O359!  It won't start out as annoyingly persistent as Clippy, it will be buried under the Review tab on your ribbon, but it will be there unless IT decides to block it. 

It is of course referred to as having an AI, to pop up those completely inappropriate job suggestions LinkedIn excels at, as well as scanning the résumés of others to offer you advice on how to best write about your qualifications.  Read more about Microsoft's $25 billion Résumé Assistant over at El Reg.

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"Microsoft has glued LinkedIn and Office 365's Word together so it can automatically help folks write or update their résumés – and find them new jobs at the same time."

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Source: The Register

Podcast #486 - AMD Mobile APUs, new Xeon-D processors, EPYC offerings from Dell, and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2018 - 11:21 AM |
Tagged: podcast, amd, raven ridge, 2500U, APU, Intel, xeon-d, dell, EPYC, vaunt, Tobii

PC Perspective Podcast #486 - 02/08/18

Join us this week for a recap of news and reviews including AMD Mobile APUs, new Xeon-D processors, EPYC offerings from Dell, 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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Ken Addison

Peanut Gallery: Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:16:53

Podcast topics of discussion:

  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Picks of the Week:
    1. 1:12:15 Alex: Terraria
  4. Closing/outro
 

Valve Supporting AMD's GPU-Powered TrueAudio Next In Latest Steam Audio Beta

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 7, 2018 - 09:02 PM |
Tagged: VR, trueaudio next, TrueAudio, steam audio, amd

Valve has announced support for AMD's TrueAudio Next technology in its Steam Audio SDK for developers. The partnership will allow game and VR application developers to reserve a portion of a GCN-based GPU's compute units for audio processing and increase the quality and quantity of audio sources as a result. AMD's OpenCL-based TrueAudio Next technology can run CPUs as well but it's strength is in the ability to run on a dedicated portion of the GPU to improve both frame times and audio quality since threads are not competing for the same GPU resources during complex scenes and the GPU can process complex audio scenes and convolutions much more efficiently than a CPU (especially as the number of sources and impulse responses increase) respectively.

AMD True Audio Next In Steam Audio.jpg

Steam Audio's TrueAudio Next integration is being positioned as an option for developers and the answer to increasing the level of immersion in virtual reality games and applications. While TrueAudio Next is not using ray tracing for audio, it is physics-based and can be used to great effect to create realistic scenes with large numbers of direct and indirect audio sources, ambisonics, increased impulse response lengths, echoes, reflections, reverb, frequency equalization, and HRTF (Head Related Transfer Function) 3D audio. According to Valve indirect audio from multiple sources with convolution reverb is one of the most computationally intensive parts of Steam Audio, and TAN is able to handle it much more efficiently and accurately without affecting GPU frame times and freeing the CPU up for additional physics and AI tasks which it is much better at anyway. Convolution is a way of modeling and filtering audio to create effects such as echoes and reverb. In the case of indirect audio, Steam Audio uses ray tracing to generate an impulse response (it measures the distance and path audio would travel from source to listener) and then convolution is used to generate a reverb effect which, while very accurate, can be quite computationally intensive with it requiring hundreds of thousands of sound samples. Ambisonics further represent the directional nature of indirect sound which helps to improve positional audio and the immersion factor as sounds are more real-world modeled.

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GPU versus CPU convolution (audio filtering) performance. Lower is better.

In addition to the ability of developers to dedicate a portion (up to 20 to 25%) of a GPU's compute units to audio processing, developers can enable/disable TrueAudio processing including the level of acoustic complexity and detail on a scene-by-scene basis. Currently it appears that Unity, FMOD Studio, and C API engines can hook into Steam Audio and the TrueAudio Next features, but it remains up to developers to use the features and integrate them into their games.

Note that GPU-based TrueAudio Next requires a GCN-based graphics card of the RX 470, RX 480, RX 570, RX 580, R9 Fury, R9 Fury X, Radeon Pro Duo, RX Vega 56, and RX Vega 64 variety in order to work, so that is a limiting factor in adoption much like the various hair and facial tech is for AMD and NVIDIA on the visual side of things where the question of is the target market large enough to encourage developers to put in the time and effort to enable X optional feature arises.

I do not pretend to be an audio engineer, nor do I play a GPU programmer on TV but more options are always good and I hope that developers take advantage of the resource reservation and GPU compute convolution algorithms of TrueAudio Next to further the immersion factor of audio as much as they have the visual side of things. As VR continues to become more relevant I think that developers will have to start putting more emphasis on accurate and detailed audio and that's a good thing for an aspect of gaming that has seemingly taken a backseat since Windows Vista. 

What are your thoughts on the state of audio in gaming and Steam Audio's new TrueAudio Next integration?

Also read:

Source: Valve

Dell's Epyc package

Subject: General Tech | February 7, 2018 - 04:41 PM |
Tagged: amd, dell, EPYC, R6415, R7415, R7425

Dell has released three new PowerEdge server models, all powered by one or two of AMD's new EPYC chips.  The R6415 is a single socket, 1U server which supports 1TB of RAM, though The Register does point to a PR slide that implies 2TB might be achievable.  The R7415 is larger at 2U because it can hold up to 12 SAS/SATA/NVMe + 12 NVMe drives or up to 14 3.5" drives.  Last up is the dual socket R7425 with either 32 SATA/SAS drives or 24 NVMe flash drives and up to 4TB of RAM.  Check out more specs at The Register.

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"There are three PowerEdge AMD-powered servers: the R6415, R7415, and R7425. These accompany the PowerEdge 14G R640 and R740 Xeon SP servers in the Round Rock company's server portfolio, and they inherit general PowerEdge management and feature goodness."

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Source: The Register

Intel flaunts their Vaunt and its fricking laser beams

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2018 - 11:40 AM |
Tagged: Intel, vaunt, AR

Intel recently showed off a prototype of their Vaunt smart glasses, which have a significant advantage over Google's failed Glass, no visible camera.   Instead these glasses fire a laser into your eyeholes, something you usually are told to avoid but in this case should be perfectly safe.  The laser projects small monochrome images or text at the bottom of your field of vision, which does not interfere with your line of sight and is mostly invisible until you look down.  So far the amount of information able to be displayed is limited on the prototype and it is a long way off of hitting the market so you should expect changes.  If you have some sort of minor vision problem, The Inquirer assures us that you will still be able to see the information the Vaunt displays.

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"Instead, the Vaunt glasses use a low-powered class one laser to project a monochrome 400x150 resolution image on to the retina of your eye. Yeah, if you find eyes queasy you might want to get yourself a cup of tea."

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Source: The Inquirer