Epic Games Releases Unreal Engine 4.14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Epic Games

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

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

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

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

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The Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro is interesting, but check out that GPU

Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2016 - 12:38 PM |
Tagged: radeon pro 460, radeon pro 450, radeon pro 455, apple, radeon pro, macbook pro

Ars Technica had a chance to look at the new 13" and 15" MacBook Pro models, the ones with the touch enabled strip at the top of the keyboard.  What is more interesting is the hardware inside, both lines use Skylake processors, the 13" dual core CPUs and the Pro models a four core processor.  Ars Technica looks at the various hardware features, peripheral attachments and software in their preview but it is on the third page that we get some interesting information about the discrete GPU Apple chose for the 15" Pro models.

Instead of onboard Intel HD Graphics, you choose between a Radeon Pro 450, 455 or 460.  All are 35W Polaris chips which were chosen for their ability to send signal to up to six screens simultaneously; Intel's onboard GPU can only drive three.  That allows you to drive a pair of 5K Thunderbolt 3 monitors as well as the laptop display, Intel's APU can only power a single 5K display in addition to the integral display.  As we are still stuck with DisplayPort 1.2, 5K monitors are treated as two separate monitors by the GPU, though to your eyes they are a single seamless display which is what gives AMD the advantage.  There are other benefits such as support for 10-bit 4K HEVC decoding support, though the gaming performance will be somewhat limited. 

Check out their full preview here.

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"The new design of the MacBook Pros is nice, and Apple’s decision to put in nothing but Thunderbolt 3 ports has prompted a fresh wave of dongle talk, but the signature feature of the new MacBook Pros was always going to be the Touch Bar."

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Source: Ars Technica

Would you like some fresh RAT? MadCatz is simplifying their mouse lineup.

Subject: General Tech | November 14, 2016 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: input, madcatz, RAT 1, gaming mouse

Perhaps it is just me, but the MadCatz RAT 1 somewhat resembles that wonderful device for injuring yourself in the winter; the GT Snow Racer.  The new RAT 1 is similar to the old, with a slightly higher weight, red and black highlights and as you would expect, it sports an LED.  They changed the sensor to a PAW3204DB which is usually found on wireless mice, which has a maximum DPI of 1600.  This proved to be a less than perfect solution as The Tech Report found it made movement predictions, great if you were planning on drawing a straight line but not good when gaming.  Check out the full review here, hopefully MadCatz will offer a higher end model with a similar design and better sensor.

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"MadCatz is in the middle of a top-to-bottom refresh of its RAT line of gaming mice. We tried out the entry-level rodent in the litter, the RAT 1, to see whether this $30 mouse offers gamers an affordable path to domination in their favorite titles."

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Valve says VR is soon coming to Linux

Subject: General Tech | November 14, 2016 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: linux, mac os. valve, steam, VR, steamvr, OpenVR

Valve's OpenVR based project, which goes by the obvious moniker of SteamVR, has been shown powering an HTC Vive, using Vulcan on an unspecified Linux distro.  This proof of concept is to back up their claims that SteamVR should be available to consumers very soon.  At the moment their are few VR games using either OpenGL or Vulkan so your software choices will be limited.  At the same time, you may also be limited in the headset you can choose as Oculus developers have stated that all Mac OS support projects are currently on hold.  Road to VR has the full presentation from Valve’s Joe Ludwig embedded in their post here.

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"However, Valve will soon move to encourage a diminishing of that monopoly, as it plans to bring SteamVR – the company’s Steam-integrated VR platform – to both Linux and Mac OSX platforms within the next few months."

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Source: Road to VR

Optalysys GENESYS Optical Co-Processor Announced

Subject: General Tech | November 13, 2016 - 06:24 PM |
Tagged: optical computing, HPC

We occasionally discuss photonic computers as news is announced, because we're starting to reach “can count the number of atoms with fingers and toes” sizes of features. For instance, we reported on a chip made by University of Colorado Boulder and UC Berkeley that had both electric and photonic integrated circuits on it.

This announcement from Optalysys is completely different.

The Optalysys GENESYS is a PCIe add-in board that is designed to accelerate certain tasks. For instance, light is fourier transformed when it passes through a lens, and reverse fourier transformed when it is refocused by a second lens. When I was taking fourth-year optics back in 2009, our professor mentioned that scientists used this trick to solve fourier transforms by flashing light through a 2D pattern, passing through a lens, and being projected upon film. This image was measured pixel by pixel, with each intensity corresponding to the 2D fourier transform's value of the original pattern. Fourier transforms are long processes to solve algebraically, especially without modern computers, so this was a huge win; you're solving a 2D grid of values in a single step.

These are the sort of tricks that the Optalysys GENESYS claims to use. They claim that this will speed up matrix multiplications, convolutions (fourier transforms -- see previous paragraph), and pattern recognition (such as for DNA sequencing). Matrix multiplications is a bit surprising to me, because it's not immediately clear how you can abuse light dynamics to calculate this, but someone who has more experience in this field will probably say “Scott, you dummy, we've been doing this since the 1800s” or something.

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Image Credit: Tom Roelandts
The circles of the filter (center) correspond to the frequencies it blocks or permits.
The frequencies correspond to how quick an image changes.
This is often used for noise reduction or edge detection, but it's just a filter in fourier space.
You could place it between two lenses to modify the image in that way.

From a performance standpoint, their “first demonstrator system” operated at 20Hz with 500x500 resolution. However, their video claims they expect to have a “PetaFLOP-equivalent co-processor” by the end of the 2017. For comparison, modern GPUs are just barely in the 10s of TeraFLOPs, but that's about as useful as comparing a CPU core to a digital signal processor (DSP). (I'm not saying this is analogous to a DSP, but performance comparisons are about as useful.)

Optalysys expects to have a 1 PetaFLOP co-processor available by the end of the year.

Source: Optalysys

HTC Announces Wireless Kit from TPCAST for Vive VR

Subject: General Tech | November 10, 2016 - 11:36 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, htc, htc vive

UploadVR is reporting that a wireless upgrade kit was on display at a trade-show by Alibaba in Shenzhen, China. TPCAST, the company that created the accessory for the headset, is a participant in the Vive X program. This startup accelerator provides $50,000 to $200,000, mentorship, and other support to assist development of VR-related technologies. HTC claims that TPCAST's wireless solution will perform equivalently to the default, wired configuration.

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Image Credit: UploadVR

Wireless almost always requires a battery, and HTC claims that two will be available. The default “standard” battery is expected to last about 90 minutes, although they plan a larger battery that fits in the pocket of the individual's clothing. UploadVR doesn't mention anything about price or capacity of this one, although I hope that the wiring from clothes to headset is easily managed.

The upgrade kit will cost about $220, when converted into USD from Chinese Yuan, and begins pre-order on November 11th at 7am PST. The units will ship in early 2017 with current owners of the HTC Vive (authenticated by serial number) getting bumped to the front of the line. I'm guessing this is to gut the scalping market, which is nice, unless they goof and allow unlimited orders for a single serial number.

Source: UploadVR

Podcast #424 - AMD Radeon Pro GPUs, Corsair Carbide Air 740 Review, MSI Gaming Notebook Overview, VRMark, and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 10, 2016 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: VRMark, VR, video, Red Alert 2, radeon pro, podcast, nvidia, notebook, NES Classic, nasa, msi, Mate 9, Leica, laptop, Kirin 960, gaming, DeepMind, carbide air 740

PC Perspective Podcast #424 - 11/10/16

Join us this week as we discuss new AMD Radeon Pro GPUs, Corsair Carbide Air 740 Review, MSI Gaming Notebook Overview, VRMark, and more!

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

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

Hosts:  Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, and Jeremy Hellstrom

Program length: 1:09:34

  1. Week in Review:
  2. Casper!
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: I am applying for a position in this administration! going to change the direction of technology policy
  5. Closing/outro

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

Intel will be absorbing USB and WiFi duties into the chipset

Subject: General Tech | November 10, 2016 - 12:17 PM |
Tagged: wifi, usb 3.1, Intel

Rumours have reached the sensitive ears of DigiTimes about the inclusion of USB 3.1 and WiFi chips on Intel's upcoming 300-series chipsets.  This move continues the pattern of absorbing secondary systems onto single chips; just as we saw with the extinction of the Northbridge after AMD and Intel rolled the graphics and memory controller hubs into their APUs.  This will have an adverse effect on demand from Broadcom, Realtek and ASMedia who previously supplied chips to Intel to control these features.  On the other hand this could lower the price AMD will have to pay for those components when we finally see their new motherboards arrive on market.  Do not expect to see these boards soon though, the prediction for the arrival of the 300-series of motherboards is still around 12 months from now.

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"Intel reportedly is planning to add USB 3.1 and Wi-Fi functions into its motherboard chipsets and the new design may be implemented in its upcoming 300-series scheduled to be released at the end of 2017, according to sources from motherboard makers."

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Source: DigiTimes

FarCry 3: Blood Dragon Free from Ubisoft Club

Subject: General Tech | November 9, 2016 - 07:05 PM |
Tagged: ubisoft, pc gaming, free games, free

Ubisoft has been giving away a game for free to all who claim it, once per month. If you do, then it is yours forever. If not, then you missed it. The most recent entry is FarCry 3: Blood Dragon, which is a standalone spin-off of the Einstein-quoting island shooter that parodies 80s action content. These games will be delivered by their UPlay digital distribution platform, and you require an Ubisoft account to claim it, but that's your choice to make for free content.

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We're almost at the end of Ubisoft's 30th anniversary promotion, with just a single title left. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm guessing it has some significance to the company and, like the announcement of a sequel to Beyond Good and Evil, could be accompanied by larger news.

Any guesses?

Source: Ubisoft

Red Alert 2 VR Fan Proof-of-Concept in Unreal Engine 4

Subject: General Tech | November 9, 2016 - 06:25 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, VR, ue4, red alert, command and conquer

Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 was a 2D real-time strategy game about a science-fiction alternate universe version of Cold War Allies vs Soviets. The base-building mechanic involved collecting funds from captured neutral structures and harvesting resources throughout the map. Ádám Horváth, a fan of the series, with 3D assets created by an artist who goes by the name Slye_Fox, created a VR implementation in Unreal Engine 4.

The interface implementation is quite interesting in particular. It looks almost like someone hovering over a board game, interfacing with the build menu via a virtual hand-held tablet. The game mechanics look quite complete, with even things like enemy AI and supply crates (although think the camera didn't catch when it was actually picked up) implemented. It definitely looks good, and looks like it could form the basis for a full real-time strategy interface for VR.

The Brookhaven Experiment, the next in the new wave of VR shooters

Subject: General Tech | November 9, 2016 - 02:03 PM |
Tagged: brookhaven experiment, VR, amd, nvidia, htc vive

[H]ard|OCP has a new Vive title to test on AMD and NVIDIA silicon, a wave shooter with some horror elements called The Brookhaven Experiment.  As with most of these games they found some interesting results in the testing, in this case the GPU load stayed very consistent, regardless of how much was on the screen at any time.  The graphical settings in this title are quite bare but it does support supersampling, which [H]ard|OCP recommends you turn on when playing the game, if your system can support it.  Check out the rankings in their full review.

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"If naked mutants from another dimension with horribly bad skin conditions interests you, this is YOUR VR game! The Brookhaven Experiment is a tremendously intense 360 degree wave shooter that will keep you on your toes, give you a workout, and probably scare the piss out of you along the way. How do AMD and NVIDIA stack up in VR?"

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Let's hack some lightbulbs; HueHueHue

Subject: General Tech | November 9, 2016 - 01:10 PM |
Tagged: hack, iot, phillips, hue

If you were hoping to drive someone a wee bit crazy by remote controlling their light bulbs you have probably missed your opportunity as Phillips have patched the vulnerability.  This is a good thing as it was a very impressive flaw.  Security researchers figured out a vulnerability in the ZigBee system used to control Phillips Hue smart light bulbs and they did not need to be anywhere near the lights to do so.  They used a drone from over 1000 feet away to break into the system to cause the lights to flash and even worse, they were able to ensure that the bulb would no longer accept firmware updates which made their modifications permanent.  Unpatched systems could be leveraged to turn all the lights off permanently, or to start an unexpected disco light show if you wanted to be creative.  You can pop by Slashdot for a bit more information on the way this was carried out.

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"Researchers were able to take control of some Philips Hue lights using a drone. Based on an exploit for the ZigBee Light Link Touchlink system, white hat hackers were able to remotely control the Hue lights via drone and cause them to blink S-O-S in Morse code. The drone carried out the attack from more than a thousand feet away."

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Source: Slashdot

Diamonds are forever, make the memory last

Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2016 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: long term storage, nitrogen vacancy, diamond

Atomic impurities in diamonds, specifically negatively charged nitrogen vacancy centres in those diamonds, could be used for extremely long term storage.  Researchers have used optical microscopy to read, write and reset the charge state and spin properties of those defects.  This would mean that you could store data, in three dimensions, within these diamonds almost perpetually.  There is one drawback, as the storage medium uses light, similar to a Blue-Ray or other optical media, exposure to light can degrade the storage over time.  You can read more about this over at Nanotechweb.

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"The nitrogen vacancy (NV) centre can be used for long-term information storage. So say researchers at City University of New York–City College of New York who have used optical microscopy to read, write and reset information in a diamond crystal defect."

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Source: Nanotechweb

A Few "Sneak Peeks" at Adobe MAX 2016

Subject: General Tech | November 8, 2016 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: voco, stylit, premiere pro, clovervr, audition, Adobe

At their annual MAX show, Adobe hosts a keynote called “Sneak Peeks”. Some of theses contain segments that are jaw-dropping. For instance, there was an experimental plug-in at Adobe MAX 2011 that analyzed how a camera moved while its shutter was open, and used that data to intelligently reduce the resulting motion blur from the image. Two years later, the technology eventually made its way into Photoshop. If you're wondering, the shadowy host on the right was Rainn Wilson from the US version of The Office, which should give some context to the humor.

While I couldn't find a stream of this segment as it happened, Adobe published three videos after-the-fact. The keynote was co-hosted by Jordan Peele and, while I couldn't see her listed anywhere, I believe the other co-host is Elissa Dunn Scott from Adobe. ((Update, November 8th @ 12pm EST: Turns out I was wrong, and it was Kim Chambers from Adobe. Thanks Anonymous commenter!))

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The first (and most popular one to be reported on) is VoCo, which is basically an impressive form of text-to-speech. Given an audio waveform of a person talking, you are able to make edits by modifying the transcript. In fact, you are even able to write content that wasn't even in the original recording, and the plug-in will synthesize it based on what it knows of that person's voice. They claim that about 20 minutes of continuous speech is required to train the plug-in, so it's mostly for editing bloopers in audio books and podcasts.

In terms of legal concerns, Adobe is working on watermarking and other technologies to prevent spoofing. Still, it proves that the algorithm is possible (and on today's hardware) so I'm sure that someone else, if they weren't already working on it, might be now, and they might not be implementing the same protections. This is not Adobe's problem, of course. A company can't (and shouldn't be able to) prevent society from inventing something (although I'm sure the MPAA would love that). They can only research it themselves, and be as ethical with it as they can, or sit aside while someone else does it. Also, it's really on society to treat the situations correctly in the first place.

Moving on to the second demo: Stylit. This one is impressive in its own way, although not quite as profound. Basically, using a 2D drawing of a sphere, an artist can generate a material that can be applied to a 3D render. Using whatever they like, from pencil crayons to clay, the image will define the color and pattern of the shading ramp on the sphere, the shadow it casts, the background, and the floor. It's a cute alternating to mathematically-generated cell shading materials, and it even works in animation.

I guess you could call this a... 3D studio to the MAX... ... Mayabe?

The Stylit demo is available for free at their website. It is based on CUDA, and requires a fairly modern card (they call out the GTX 970 specifically) and a decent webcam (C920) or Android smartphone.

Lastly, CloverVR is and Adobe Premiere Pro interface in VR. This will seem familiar if you were following Unreal Engine 4's VR editor development. Rather than placing objects in a 3D scene, though, it helps the editor visualize what's going on in their shot. The on-stage use case is to align views between shots, so someone staring at a specific object will cut to another object without needing to correct with their head and neck, which is unnecessarily jarring.

Annnd that's all they have on their YouTube at the moment.

Source: Adobe

Steam "Discovery Update 2.0" Is Now Live

Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2016 - 09:07 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming

As we mentioned last week, Valve was working on a major refresh of the Steam homepage, with a heavy emphasis on letting users find products that interest them. This update is now live, and will be presented to you the new next time you load (or reload) the store page. They also have a banner link, right near the top, that highlights changes, including a few they've already made over the course of 2016.

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One glaring thing that I note is the “Recently Viewed” block. There doesn't seem to be a way to disable this or otherwise limit the amount of history that it stores. While this is only visible to your account, which should be fairly obvious, it could be a concern for someone who shares a PC or streams regularly. It's not a big issue, but it's one that you would expect to have been considered.

Otherwise, I'd have to say that the update looks better. The dark gray and blue color scheme seems a bit more consistent than it was, and I definitely prefer the new carousel design.

What do you all think?

Hack a Day Prize, the 5 winning projects

Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2016 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: contest, Dtto

This year there were over 1000 entries to the Hack a Day prize, they needed to be new projects which exemplified the five themes of the contest; Assistive Technologies, Automation, Citizen Scientist, Anything Goes, and Design Your Concept. The top prize winner is a modular robot, made from 3D printed parts, servo motors, magnets, and electronics you can easily source.  There was also a Reflectance Transformation Imaging project to photograph a fixed object in varying light conditions, an optics bench for making science projects involving light much easier to set up and new high resolution tilt sensors and stepper motors.  Check out the projects over at Hack a Day, they include the notes on how to replicate these buids yourself.

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"Dtto, a modular robot designed with search and rescue in mind, has just been named the winner of the 2016 Hackaday Prize. In addition to the prestige of the award, Dtto will receive the grand prize of $150,000 and a residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena, CA."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: Hack a Day

LastPass Drops Premium Requirement for Mobile Apps

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2016 - 02:11 AM |
Tagged: lastpass

If you're using the free version of LastPass to guard your passwords, you can now access your vault through the mobile app for free. Previously, a subscription to LastPass Premium, which is about $12 per year, was required to use the service outside of desktop browser extensions and the website. The subscription service still exists, but for its other benefits, like sharing your vault with up to five other users, two-factor authentication through YubiKey, or securely storing 1GB of files (which could be good for things like encryption keyfiles to personal web servers).

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The native Windows “LastPass for Applications” is still Premium-class, though.

If you are still interested in LastPass Premium, they are participating in the Humble Lifehacker Software Bundle. Users who do not currently have LastPass Premium, who also pay more than (currently) $7.64 USD, will get 12 months. They will also get DisplayFusion and CyberGhost VPN, as well as everything in the $1 tier, like a couple of Stardock enhancements for Windows.

Source: LastPass

Turtle Rock Studios Releases "Dam It" Left 4 Dead Campaign

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2016 - 12:00 AM |
Tagged: left 4 dead, pc gaming

The first Left 4 Dead was developed by Turtle Rock Studios during their brief time as a Valve subsidiary. At some point, they were working on a fifth campaign that was intended to bridge the gap between Dead Air and Blood Harvest. Players start at the landed plane and work their way toward a hydroelectric dam. One section, contrary to the game's theme, was apparently designed to encourage survivors to split up, some in a sniper tower and others running through a trench.

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Bills Here!
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Turtle Rock Studios has apparently streamed gameplay at some point. Since then, they published the campaign as a Left 4 Dead mod. It's not finished, and apparently quite glitchy, although I haven't played it yet, but it's free.

Check out the post at their forums, which has a link to concept material and the mod itself.

Windows 7 Allegedly Gaining Quicker than Windows 10

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2016 - 04:09 PM |
Tagged: Windows 7, windows 10, microsoft

For the second month in a row, NetMarketShare are reporting that Windows 7 is gaining market-share faster than Windows 10. It's difficult to know exactly what this means, and for who, but one possible explanation is that users upgraded to Windows 10 and rolled back to 7 in significant amounts. It will be interesting to monitor the next couple of months, now that Windows 7 is no longer available at retail, to see how its market-share shifts. Then, a few months after that, we'll need to see how Zen and Kaby Lake, which are not supported by Windows 7 and Windows 8.x, changes that further.

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I'll now spend the rest of the post discussing statistics... because I can visualize the comments.

NetMarketShare records browser identification strings from partnered websites. As you would expect, there's a bit of controversy regarding how accurate their numbers are. Some of this criticism is simply wrong, usually misunderstanding how small a truly random sample needs to be to converge to the same ratios you will see in a large sample. Just a thousand truly random samples can get you within a few percent of hundreds of millions of people. Studies like this, if they are truly random, have plenty enough data to get a very precise ratio.

A valid concern, however, is whether their pool of websites under- or over-represent certain groups, especially when you attempt to make comparisons on the order of a hundredth of a percent. NetMarketShare claims that they try to get a global representation, including government websites, and they correct their traffic based on the CIA's per-country statistics. Still, it's good to question whether the group of people you are trying to investigate are represented by NetMarketShare's traffic, and how their limitations lower your effective precision.