Mate, those optical switches are Bloody loud on that B840 keyboard of yours!

Subject: General Tech | January 2, 2017 - 08:09 PM |
Tagged: bloody, B840, gaming keyboard, input, A4Tech

The Bloody B840 is a bit of a chimera, having optical switches which incorporate a metal knob in each key to produce a click when a button is fully depressed like a mechanical keyboards keys.  Their LK Sound Creator Tech makes the keys similar to Cherry Blue in terms of travel distance and actuation force, but the actual keystroke is registered with the infrared beam that comprises the optical switch.  TechPowerUp is working on proper testing for keyboard response times, the tests they tried showed that the optical technology on the Bloody keyboard is technically faster to register a keypress, but not so much that they noticed it during use.  You can see their full review here.

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"Bloody is a new gaming peripherals brand A4Tech recently introduced. Today, we take a look at their new B840 keyboard with the new optical Bloody LK2 switch. It promises a long lifespan, extremely fast response times, and a clicky response, which is new for optical switches."

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Source: TechPowerUp!

Annoy the neighbours from the comfort of the couch; 3D printed remote controlled snowblower

Subject: General Tech | December 30, 2016 - 06:24 PM |
Tagged: DIY, 3d printing

Snowblowers are noisy and not as effective as a shovel, but when it is remote controlled it certainly becomes an attractive solution.  Over at Hack a Day there is a link to a 3D printing project which gives you the plans to print out your own snowblower.  The project does encompass the entire machine, it might be prudent to look the project over and see if standard snowblower parts can be included in the build; especially if you already own one.  3D printing is growing in utility as well as popularity.

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"This year’s model features a slipper clutch — combined with a differential from a heavy RC truck — to forestall damage to the attachment if you happen to hit any rocks or ice chunks. The blades are also thicker and lack teeth in this iteration, as they would catch on anything hard and shatter the blade more often than not."

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Source: Hack a Day

Windows 10 "Game Mode" Library Spotted

Subject: General Tech | December 30, 2016 - 07:19 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft

A new version of Windows 10 was leaked, and it apparently contains a file called “gamemode.dll”. Some people are speculating that this could be API hooks for applications to request higher priority with CPU and GPU resources, increasing performance. Microsoft gave a "no comment" to PC Gamer about the issue, but Windows Central cites anonymous sources claiming that this is the case, and it is either related or analogous to how the Xbox One multitasks.

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While I believe the DLL exists, of course, I’m skeptical about its function -- but I would bet that it’s true (given how sure everyone seems to be). Also, I’ve seen GPGPU compute times fluctuate wildly by leaving other windows open, so there is probably some overhead that the OS can reduce. It just seems weird that this has come out of nowhere.

We’ll probably find out soon, because the Creators Update (Windows 10 1703) is coming out in a few months. Whatever this DLL is, it seems targeted at that feature update.

You can also check out other features of the leaked 14997 build, listed by Paul Thurrott.

Kingston's value priced HyperX Cloud Stinger headset

Subject: General Tech | December 29, 2016 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: gaming headset, Cloud Stinger, hyper x, kingston

Kingston's HyperX's Cloud Stinger headset is good for those who would only occasionally need a headset for gaming or a quick Skype call.  Built mainly of plastic and vinyl, it does contain 50mm drivers which offer decent bass response for gamers and action movie viewers.  The microphone offers reasonable sound reproduction and the noise cancellation feature operated acceptably when The Tech Report tested it.  If you are looking for a headset that is comfortable after extended wear or which can reproduce subtle melodies you should look elsewhere but for occasional gaming or travel duties this headset is worth investigating.

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"HyperX is making its hit gaming headsets more accessible with the $50 Cloud Stinger, a budget pair of cans that relies on a tried-and-true design and no gimmicks to promise a solid essential gaming experience. We put on the Stinger to see whether it left us buzzing."

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Frog Fractions 2 finally uncovered!

Subject: General Tech | December 27, 2016 - 06:19 PM |
Tagged: frog fractoins 2, gaming, kick ass

If you missed the wonderfully brilliant insanity which was Frog Fractions you can still play it over here, and you should!  It won't make sense at first and frankly you will still be befuddled at the end, but the trip is worth it, no matter how odd the task you are required to perform happens to be.  In order to play the second you must pick up Glittermitten Grove, as Frog Fractions 2 is now hidden within the game; the was released a while back but as of Christmas you can now find Frog Fractions 2 hidden within.  Cheers to Ars Technica for the news; have fun trying to figure out the new Frog Fractions and keep an eye out as it may appear in other places.

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"Crawford took Frog Fractions 2 in a different direction from Frog Fractions, explaining that its release would be a complex and hidden process—there might be multiple games that came together to form Frog Fractions 2, like some kind of weird Voltron; or the game might be released and hiding in plain sight for months before anyone discovers what it really is."

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Source: Ars Technica

Microsoft finally reaches step 1; admission

Subject: General Tech | December 23, 2016 - 05:54 PM |
Tagged: windows, microsoft, windows 10

Chris Capossela, Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft, was on Windows Weekly recently and admitted, for the first time, that Microsoft may have gone a bit too far during their "Get Windows 10" extravaganza.  This shocking revelation supposedly occurred a short while after they released the version in which the red X in the popup window broke with their GUI's standard and no longer closed the window and cancelled the installation.  According to Slashdot this is the first time Microsoft have admitted to the use of excessive rendition techniques on Windows 7 and 8 users.

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"It's no secret that Microsoft has been aggressively pushing Windows 10 to users. Over the past year and a half, we have seen users complain about Windows 10 automatically getting downloaded to their computer, and in some cases, getting installed on its own as well. The automatic download irked many users who were on limited or slow data plans, or didn't want to spend gigabytes of data on Windows 10."

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Source: Slashdot

Ben Heck Show Virtual Boy Mod Complete

Subject: General Tech | December 23, 2016 - 07:12 AM |
Tagged: virtual boy, Nintendo

A few weeks ago, The Ben Heck Show tore down and repaired a Virtual Boy, with plans on making it smaller and head-mounted in a future episode. While I am a couple weeks late on sharing the second video, Ben Heck and Karen Corbeill have completed their mod, and the device is now attached to a face shield mount. They call the new device “Virtual Man”, which of course they did.

One of the best parts about The Ben Heck Show (and other DIY video worklogs) is the tricks that you’ll see. In this case, Ben Heck explains how a typical scanner can be used to get fairly accurate 2D measurements of devices, because the image is formatted in inches. (He still verifies with a caliper, though, especially since they can have slight distortion on one axis.) This could be quite useful, especially if I end up doing more animations like my Cherry MX switches.

UploadVR Tries Wireless Vive Accessory by TPCAST

Subject: General Tech | December 23, 2016 - 03:33 AM |
Tagged: VR, vive, pc gaming, htc

A little over a month ago, we reported on HTC’s announcement of the wireless upgrade kit for their Vive. It was created by TPCAST, which was a participant in HTC’s VR startup accelerator. The actual upgrade kits won’t ship until early 2017, but UploadVR was given some time with the wireless accessory. The video was shot in the UploadVR office, which makes this the first public usage outside of a controlled event as far as I am aware, but TPCAST was present.

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Image Credit: UploadVR

It apparently works. The previewer didn’t have any real complaints about its performance versus wired, and they were satisfied with its tracking, despite doing flips and other maneuvers to try to break communication with the wireless bases. This is promising, as the 60 GHz signal, used by the wireless adapter, can be picky about anything except direct line-of-sight. That said, the video base station is designed to be placed on the ceiling, with a 160-degree FOV, so it shouldn’t be too obstructed in almost any scenario.

According to UploadVR, TPCAST claims that it adds less than 2ms of delay.

While we are on this topic, there have been rumors that HTC might announce (probably just announce) a replacement to the original VIVE unit. One possibility is that it is basically the same system, just with the wireless functionality built in, making this upgrade kit sufficient for first-generation adopters. That would probably be the only scenario, at least that I can think of, which doesn’t involve a bunch of angry 2016 buyers, though.

We’ll see when CES rolls around.

Source: UploadVR

Unity 5.6 Beta Supports Vulkan API

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 11:54 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, Unity, vulkan

One of the most popular video game engines, Unity, has released a beta for Unity 5.6, which will be the last version of Unity 5.x. This release pushes Vulkan into full support on both desktop and mobile, which actually beats Unreal Engine 4 on the desktop side of things. Specifically, Vulkan is available for the Android, Windows, Linux, and Tizen operating systems. Apple users should be happy that this version also updates Metal for iOS and macOS, but Apple is still preventing vendors from shipping Vulkan drivers so you really shouldn’t feel too happy.

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At Unity’s Unity 2016 keynote, the company claimed about 30-60% better performance on the new API “out-of-the-box”. I do find this statement slightly odd, though, because Unity doesn’t really provide much access to “the box” without expensive source code up-sells. The most user involvement of the engine internals, for what I would assume is the majority of projects, is buying and activating a plug-in, and Vulkan would be kind-of crappy to hide behind a pay wall.

I mentioned that this will be the last Unity 5.x version. While the difference between a major and a minor version number tends to be just marketing these days, Unity is changing their major version to align with the year that it belongs to. Expect future versions, starting with a beta version in April, to be numbered 2017.x.

Unity 5.6 comes out of beta in March.

Source: Unity

Enderel, the total Skyrim conversion, is to get an expansion

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 06:53 PM |
Tagged: skyrim, Enderal, mod. expansion, gaming

If you have yet to try out the total conversion mod for Skyrim, Enderal: The Shards of Order you are missing out.  A world not quite as large as Skyrim but every bit as beautiful and full of lore is yours for free, all you need is Skyrim.  The skill trees are very different, paths are unlocked by meditation after levelling and they have added new balance to the game to prevent you from becoming easily overpowered by wandering around and bashing low level monsters.  In order to increase main skills like One Handed Weapons or secondary skills like Lockpicking, you need to purchase a training book in order to use the points gained from levelling, and they become very expensive.

Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN have been informed that the lead writer of Enderal, Nicolas Samuel and a few helpers, will be creating an expansion to the game, adding new quests and subplots.  Check out the mood trailer below.

"SureAI’s huge Skyrim total conversion Enderal: The Shards of Order [official site], which builds a whole new game upon Bethesda’s foundations, is getting an expansion of its own in 2017."

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Learn about the tech in Vive's Lighthouse

Subject: General Tech | December 22, 2016 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: vive, valve, Lighthouse, alan yates

Curious about the tech behind Valve's Lighthouse room-scale VR positioning system for the HTC Vive?  Learn about it from Alan Yates, one of the leads on the project at Valve over at Hack a Day in a 40 minute video.  He discusses the various attempts at finding a way to make the positioning system work, from failed bearings to the eventual discovery of the optimal thickness for the mirror. If you can't wait for the second generation of Lighthouse, he also provides you with a way to get your hands on an ASIC on a breakout board which will help you build your own version.

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"[Alan Yates] is a hacker’s engineer. His job at Valve has been to help them figure out the hardware that makes virtual reality (VR) a real reality. And he invented a device that’s clever enough that it really should work, but difficult enough that it wasn’t straightforward how to make it work."

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Source: Hack a Day

Crytek Closing Multiple Studios in Downsizing Restructure

Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2016 - 09:58 PM |
Tagged: crytek

While they developed very interesting technology and franchises, Crytek has been struggling with finances over the last few years. Until today, the software developer has been operating out of seven studios throughout Europe and Asia. Today, they announced that five of these (Budapest, Hungary; Sofia, Bulgaria; Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai, China; and Istanbul, Turkey) will shut down, leaving Frankfurt, Germany and Kiev, Ukraine as the only two up and running.

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The press release includes a quote from the co-founder, Avni Yerli, that I found interesting:

Undergoing such transitions is far from easy, and we’d like to sincerely thank each and every staff member – past and present – for their hard work and commitment to Crytek. These changes are part of the essential steps we are taking to ensure Crytek is a healthy and sustainable business moving forward that can continue to attract and nurture our industry’s top talent. The reasons for this have been communicated internally along the way. Our focus now lies entirely on the core strengths that have always defined Crytek – world-class developers, state-of-the-art technology and innovative game development, and we believe that going through this challenging process will make us a more agile, viable, and attractive studio, primed for future success.

Specifically, the “attractive” adjective assigned to his studio. I can think of two reasons why this word would be used, each with very different connotations. It’s possible that this words is used to reassure talented engineers that would, if it wasn’t for these concerns, consider working at the company. It’s also possible that they are trying to telegraph to the world that they are interested in being acquired.

Still, this is definitely a tough time for many employees and former-employees of Crytek. I don't want to layer too much analysis over this.

Source: Crytek

Roccat's Suora mechanical keyboard, dressed up for a rave

Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2016 - 06:45 PM |
Tagged: input, suora fx, mechanical keyboard, roccat, RGB, cherry mx blue

The Suora FX matches the original Roccat Suora design, only thoroughly infected with RGB disease.  The keyboard sent to Benchmark Reviews sported Cherry MX Blue switches, with the obvious addition of LED lights underneath the keys.  They found the Swarm Gaming software which comes with the keyboard to let you program lighting effects and macros to be somewhat simpler in design that the competitions.  This could be a good thing if you are not looking to program intricate lighting effects, but might disappoint those that plan to.  Drop by for the full review here.

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"Without sacrificing functionality, the Suora FX maintains the same frameless design seen on its predecessor, the original Suora. This keyboard does not have any of the extra gimmicky bells and whistles seen on other mechanical gaming keyboards. Instead, the Suora FX gets directly down to the point to provide the user with functionality without compromising gaming performance."

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Hack inflight entertainment crashes planes! Ya, not so much ya nutter

Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2016 - 06:04 PM |
Tagged: security, fud

You will probably see a headline picked up from the Telegraph warning of how hackers can use the in-flight entertainment systems to cause planes to crash; please ignore it.  Pilots do not generally log into a secret part of the interface on your setback screen to control the airplane, they have a separate system which is not about to be overridden by someone screwing with that system.  On the other hand they could force everyone to watch a Rob Schneider movie, which might be worse.  The Inquirer also suggests playing with cabin lighting or broadcasting fake announcements, as annoying as the teenager chatting away on the phone next to you or the child screaming in the background.  There were some reasonable suggestions in the article, which you can see here.

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"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THIS IS YOUR PILOT SPEAKING. It turns out that hackers may be able to fiddle with the in-flight entertainment system on board and take control of the plane."

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Source: The Inquirer

5G might be a hard cell

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 19, 2016 - 05:19 PM |
Tagged: 5G, cell phones, predictions

At least one expert is predicting that the roll out of 5G mobile service will either be delayed or poorly implemented.  Over at The Register Professor William Webb offers his insight as to why this will be.  He predicts that the physical upgrading or replacing of existing signal stations from 4G to 5G will be significantly more expensive than the upgrade to 4G was and that a hybrid option will result in an insignificant increase in network speeds.  He also suggests that total mobile data usage is starting to plateau and we may not even need this extra bandwidth.  That is a contentious claim, with mobile usage seemingly increasing thanks to more and more streaming apps and the ever expanding market of mobile users.  Any slowdown in total usage could instead be caused by pricing, many simply can't afford the overage charges incurred by heavy data usage but would gleefully slurp up more the moment their data caps increase.

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"THE 5G WIRELESS VISION is flawed because technological advances are insufficient to deliver it, users won't pay extra for the higher data rates and don't need the greater capacity it is expected to provide - and because mobile operators can't afford to implement it anyway."

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Source: The Inquirer

Fatal1ty, you Monster! The FXM 200 gaming headset

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2016 - 10:49 PM |
Tagged: fatal1ty, monster, FXM 200, gaming headset, audio

Ah Monster, forever famous for their cable pricing.  Surprisingly the Fatal1ty FXM 200 gaming headset is a mere $95, an amazing value as they feature both Hex720 Sound Chamber Technology and Game-tuned Pure Monster Sound!  Surprisingly, The Tech Report were impressed with the quality of gaming audio which came out of this headset and had no reservations in recommending it for gamers, either single player or online.  However that quality did not extend to listening to music, as the quality of audio suffered greatly when listening to various tracks.  This does make sense as Fatal1ty products are made for gamers, not audiophiles.  Drop by for a look at their full review here.

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"Famed gamer Fatal1ty has joined up with Monster to produce a pair of signature headsets: the FXM 100 and FXM 200. We put the FXM 200 to the test to see whether its performance lives up to that fabled name."

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Stop paying the ransomware you idiots! You get nothing back and encourage them to continue!

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2016 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: ransomware, security, idiots, backup

To anyone working in the field, it will come as no surprise that almost half of the 1600 businesses and consumers in the survey quoted at The Inquirer have been the victim of a ransomware attack.  What will come as a disappointment to you is that 70% of those who were infected paid the the ransom, 25% of them between $20,000 to $40,000.  Shockingly the majority of those who paid the ransom got nothing back; after all how could someone who makes money by purposefully infecting machines not honour their word?

If you are infected with ransomware you have lost the data, pure and simple.  Reimage and move on, this is why you have backups.  It is painful and frustrating but if you pay the bitcoins you are not going to get anything back and are encouraging them to continue by making this a lucrative business.  Just as it is with spam, it takes only a tiny percentage to fall for it to make it profitable.  Go and back your stuff up, twice.  If you need a stocking stuffer for someone get them an external drive or a subscription to an online backup service, look into CryptoDrop or a similar program.  Just don't give them bitcoins

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"The report suggested that as many as 46 per cent of the respondents had been affected by ransomware and that 70 per cent of these had admitted to paying the ransom, contrary to the advice of law enforcement agencies."

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Source: The Register

Drabby Lake has sprung a leak, so to the Intel 200 series chipset

Subject: General Tech, Processors | December 15, 2016 - 05:29 PM |
Tagged: leak, kaby lake, intel 200

Tech ARP have an interesting story posted today, it would seem they pried the specs of the upcoming Kaby Lake processors and accompanying Intel 200 chipset.  The top chip, the $349 Core i7-7700K will have 4 cores and 8 threads running at 4.2 GHz, with an 8 MB L3 cache and a TDP of 95W while the non-K version will have it core clock dropped to 3.6GHz, TDP dropped to 65W and price lowered to $309.  The chipsets will encompass series similar to the previous generations from Intel, including the LGA 1151 Z270, H270, Q270, B250 and Q250 series.  There is no information on the socket the server level C422 and high end X299 boards will use in this leak, but we are sure you can extrapolate from existing rumours and innuendo.  Follow that link for the entire lineup.

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"As AMD gears up to launch the AMD Ryzen desktop processor in early Q1 2017, Intel has finalised the launch plans for their desktop Kaby Lake processors, and the accompanying 200 Series chipsets.

Although Intel has been extremely secretive, we managed to obtain the specifications and launch details of the desktop Kaby Lake processors, and the 200 Series chipsets. Check it out!"

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Source: TechARP

NVIDIA Releases GeForce 376.33 Drivers

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2016 - 10:07 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers

While they’re not really promoting this release, such as with a blog post on the GeForce website, NVIDIA has just released their 376.33 WHQL drivers. This one is not associated with any specific game release, so it seems like this is more of a maintenance release, working on bugs rather than application-dependent optimizations. The release notes specifically mention several security improvements, so I would assume they’re going back through previous changes and looking at things like video memory management, which might also lead to overall performance and stability enhancements.

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As for the long-running Folding@Home bug affecting some of our readers, it turns out that the cause was a bug in the application that just happened to work until NVIDIA applied a fix on their end. This reminds me of when I was working on an OpenCL-based software renderer. At one point, I started crashing when executing on the Intel CPU, but not on either GPU (Intel HD 4600 or NVIDIA GTX 670). I later found out that it was an out-of-bounds access in my code, when a render group slightly bled off the side of the render buffer, which the GPU drivers silently compensated for. It looked like Intel’s CPU driver had a bug, but, really, it was just the only one that didn’t work around my bug.

Despite this, NVIDIA is planning on releasing a workaround for Folding@Home in a hotfix driver, until the organization can patch the issue on their own. This driver is not the one, though.

Source: NVIDIA

Who's a pretty Dog? Watch what the graphics settings do to image quality

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2016 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: gaming, watch dogs 2

[H]ard|OCP have already gone through the highest quality video settings in Watch Dogs 2 which are still playable at a reasonable frame rate, now they are investigating how these settings actually effect the visual quality. The High Resolution Texture Pack does indeed make a difference to the world, much like it did in Skyrim but how do the two NVIDIA only  shadow options differ from the Ultra setting?   The Extra Details slider seems to be a renamed draw distance slider with the effect you would expect and there is a long look at the variety of AA options offered.  If you are curious which of these options most appeal to you, take a long look.

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"In Part 3 of our Watch Dog 2 series we focus on the image quality aspects of this game. We will compare high resolution textures, shadows, ambient occlusion, extra details slider and AA. If you are curious what those features look like, how they compare between quality levels, this article will give you an idea what to expect."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP