Project Scorpio Unveiled as "Xbox One X," Lands November 7th for $499

Subject: General Tech | June 11, 2017 - 04:56 PM |
Tagged: Xbox Scorpio, xbox, microsoft, E3

At its E3 2017 keynote Sunday, Microsoft finally unveiled the official details for its upcoming "Project Scorpio" console, now called "Xbox One X." The console, surprisingly smaller than even the Xbox One S, will launch November 7, 2017 and, as expected, will be priced at $499, the same launch price of the original Xbox One in November 2013.

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With a maximum 6 teraflops of GPU horsepower and a class-leading 326GB/s memory bandwidth, Microsoft is hoping that its significant performance advantage over Sony's $399 PS4 Pro, as well as its ability to play UHD Blu-ray discs, will help justify the $100 price difference for consumers.

  Xbox One X PS4 Pro

CPU

2.3GHz 8-Core 2.16 GHz 8-Core
GPU 6 TFLOPS 4.2 TFLOPS
Memory 12GB GDDR5 8GB GDDR5
Memory Bandwidth 326 GB/s 218 GB/s
UHD Discs Yes No
Storage 1TB HDD 1TB HDD
Price $499 $399

One of the criticisms of the PS4 Pro is that many of the games "optimized" for the system do not utilize 4K assets or run at true 4K resolution. In response, Microsoft clarified repeatedly throughout its keynote that many games designed for Xbox One X will indeed run at 4K/60fps. While Microsoft will likely ensure that its own house-published titles and those from close partners will hit this mark, it remains to be seen how well cross-platform games from third parties will fare.

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As for those who don't have 4K displays, Xbox One X will use supersampling to increase perceived resolution and quality at 1080p. The popular Xbox 360 backwards compatibility feature (which will soon include original Xbox games) will also benefit from the Xbox One X's increased horsepower, with Microsoft promising faster load times and improved anti-aliasing.

As with the PS4 Pro, all games will support both console generations, with many titles going forward "enhanced for Xbox One X." One of Sony's biggest problems is the lack of games that truly take advantage of the PS4 Pro's unique features, so Microsoft's ability to bring third party developers on board will be key to the Xbox One X's success.

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We'll need the console to hit the market to get a more detailed look at its technical specifications, but based on Microsoft's claimed performance numbers, the Xbox One X looks like a relatively good deal from a hardware perspective. The console's 6 TFLOPS of graphics processing power compares to an NVIDIA GTX 1070, which currently retails for just over $400. Add in the 1TB hard drive, custom 8-core CPU, and UHD Blu-ray player, and the price is suddenly not so unreasonable. Of course, newer cards like the AMD Radeon RX 580 also hit around 6 TFLOPS for ~$220, but you won't be able to find one of those these days. At a $100 premium over the PS4 Pro, however, it's unclear how the console community will value the Xbox One X's hardware advantage.

One thing that is clear is that Microsoft's Xbox team wasn't too happy to be the source of mockery based on performance and sales for the past four years, and they're highly motivated to come out swinging this fall.

Preorders for Xbox One X have yet to be announced, but you'll find the Amazon pre-order page here when orders go live.

Source:

Windows 10 S ... the S could stand for secure

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2017 - 02:29 PM |
Tagged: Windows 10 S, security

Microsoft recently pointed out that their new lite version of Windows 10 for students, Windows 10 S, is completely immune to all known malware.  This does make sense, the OS is simply unable to install anything that is not from the Windows Store, which does not host any official malware, even if some of the available programs are not entirely useful.  That security will last as long as no one figures out a way to fake the file validation and the connection to Microsoft's online store, or manages to get a malware infected file approved for sale on the store.  Apple has had some experience which prove that is not an impossibility.   Pop by Slashdot for more.

You could also chose to go with the OS of choice for financial institutions and various other industries, Windows XP Embedded with the Enhanced Write Filter.  Generally secure and can be reset with a simple reboot ... in most cases.

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"However, if you want to guarantee your safety from ransomware, then Microsoft points out there's an even more secure option to consider -- Windows 10 S. The new, hardened Windows 10 variant only runs apps from the Windows Store, which means it can't run programs from outside Microsoft's ecosystem, and that includes malware. Which is why, as Microsoft says, "No known ransomware works against Windows 10 S."

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Source: Slashdot

Logitech's G433 7.1 Gaming Headset: Stylish Looks and Pro-G Drivers for $99

Subject: General Tech | June 9, 2017 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: wired, surround, Pro-G, logitech, headset, headphones, gaming, G433, DTS Headphone:X, drivers, 7.1

Logitech has released their latest surround gaming headphones with the wired G433 Gaming Headset, a 7.1-channel (via DTS Headphone:X) model that is latest to use the company's Pro-G drivers.

Logitech G433_Red.jpg

The style of the new G433 is quite eye-catching, with four colors (black, red, blue, and blue camo) of a unique fabric finish that Logitech says is hydrophobic (repels water) for enhanced durability. The G433 primarily function as an analog headphone (with a 3.5 mm plug) unless an included USB DAC/headphone amp is used, giving PC users access to DTS Headphone:X surround up to 7.1 channels and customizable EQ via Logitech's Gaming Software. The microphone is a removable boom style with noise reduction to help improve voice clarity, and Logitech has used a 5-element double-grounded cable to eliminate crosstalk and prevent game audio from bleeding into voice.

g433_colors.jpg

The G433 arrives with an MSRP of $99, making the headset the least expensive Pro-G option to date, but this comparatively low price tag for a premium option still provides the buyer a complete accessory pack including the USB DAC,  alternate ear pads, two 3.5 mm audio cables (one with inline mic), a 3.5 mm audio/mic Y-cable, and a fabric storage bag.

Logitech G433_Blue.jpg

The Logitech G433 is available now, and with a pair on hand will have a full review up very soon!

Source: Logitech

AI to the rescue? Microsoft assimilates the security company Hexadite

Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2017 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, hexadite, windows defender, security

If you have never heard of Hexadite you are not alone, the online security company was formed in 2014, headquartered in Boston but based in Tel-Aviv.  As it was just purchased by Microsoft for around $100 million so they can integrate Hexadite's Automated Incident Response Solution into their Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection.  AIRS is not antivirus software, instead it is a tool that integrates with existing software and monitors for any alerts.  Once an alert is detected the tool automatically investigates that alert and searches for solutions, in theory saving your security teams sanity by vastly reducing the number of alerts they must deal with directly.  It will be interesting to see if this has an effect on the perception of companies and users as to the effectiveness of Windows Defender. 

More over at The Inquirer.

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"Hexadite's technology and talent will augment our existing capabilities and enable our ability to add new tools and services to Microsoft's robust enterprise security offerings."

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Source: The Inquirer

Podcast #453 - More Computex, WWDC, 3D Xpoint, and more

Subject: General Tech | June 8, 2017 - 11:22 AM |
Tagged: X399, x370, x299, wwdc, video, shield, podcast, plex, pixel, macbook, Mac Pro, Logitech G413, Lian-Li, gigabyte, computex, asus, asrock, apollo lake, 3D XPoint

PC Perspective Podcast #453 - 06/07/17

Join us for talk about continued Computex 2017 coverage, WWDC '17, 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: 1:33:54
 
Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. Computex Continued
  3. WWDC 2017:
  4. News items of interest:
  5. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  6. Closing/outro
 

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

Source:

IBM Announces 5nm Breakthrough with Silicon Nanosheet Technology

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 09:31 PM |
Tagged: silicon nanosheet, Samsung, IBM, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, FinFET, 5nm

It seems only yesterday that we saw Intel introduce their 22nm FinFET technology, and now we are going all the way down to 5nm.  This is obviously an exaggeration.  The march of process technology has been more than a little challenging for the past 5+ years for everyone in the industry.  Intel has made it look a little easier by being able to finance these advances a little better than the other pure-play foundries.  It does not mean that they have not experienced challenges on their own.

We have seen some breakthroughs these past years with everyone jumping onto FinFETs with TSMC, Samsung, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES introducing their own processes.  GLOBALFOUNDRIES initially had set out on their own, but that particular endeavor did not pan out.  The ended up licensing Samsung’s 14nm processes (LPE and LPP) to start producing chips of their own, primarily for AMD in their graphics and this latest generation of Ryzen CPUs.

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These advances have not been easy.  While FinFETs are needed at these lower nodes to continue to provide the performance and power efficiency while supporting these transistor densities, the technology will not last forever.  10nm and 7nm lines will continue to use them, but many believe that while we will see the densities improve, the power characteristics will start to lag behind.  The theory is that past 7nm nodes traditional FinFETs will no longer work as desired.  This is very reminiscent of the sub 28nm processes that attempted to use planar structures on bulk silicon.  In that case the chips could be made, but power issues plagued the designs and eventually support for those process lines were dropped.

IBM and their research associates Samsung, GLOBALFOUNDRIES at SUNY Polytechnic Institute Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s NanoTech Complex in Albany, NY have announced a breakthrough in a new “Gate-All-Around” architecture made on a 5nm process.  FinFETs are essentially a rectangle surround on three sides by gates, giving it the “fin” physical characteristics.  This new technology now covers the fourth side and embeds these channels in nanosheets of silicon.

The problem with FinFETs is that they will eventually be unable to scale with power as transistors get closer and closer.  While density scales, power and performance will get worse as compared to previous nodes.  The 5nm silicon nanosheet technology gives a significant boost to power and efficiency, thereby doing to FinFETs what they did with planar structures at the 20/22nm nodes.

ibm-suny-asml-euv-machine-1440x812.jpg

One of the working EUV litho machines at SUNY Albany.

IBM asserts that the average chip the size of a fingernail can contain up to 30 billion transistors and continue to see the density, power, and efficiency improvements that we would expect with a normal process shrink.  The company expects these process nodes to start rolling out in a 2019 time frame if all goes as planned.

There are few details in how IBM was able to achieve this result.  We do know a couple things about it.  EUV lithography was used extensively to avoid the multi-patterning nightmare that this would entail.  For the past two years Ametek has been installing 100 watt EUV litho machines throughout the world to select clients.  One of these is located on the SUNY Albany campus where this research was done.  We also know that deposition was done layer by layer with silicon and the other materials.

What we don’t know is how long it takes to create a complete wafer.  Usually these test wafers are packed full of SRAM and very little logic.  It is a useful test and creates a baseline for many structures that will eventually be applied to this process.  We do not know how long it takes to produce such a wafer, but considering how the layers look to be deposited it takes a long, long time with current tools and machinery.  Cutting edge wafers in production can take upwards of 16 weeks to complete.  I hesitate to even guess how long each test wafer takes.  Because of the very 3D nature of the design, I am curious as to how the litho stages work and how many passes are still needed to complete the design.

This looks to be a very significant advancement in process technology that should be mass produced in the timeline suggested by IBM.  It is a significant jump, but it seems to borrow a lot of previous FinFET structures.  It does not encompass anything exotic like “quantum wells”, but is able to go lower than the currently specified 7nm processes that TSMC, Samsung, and Intel have hinted at (and yes, process node names should be taken with a grain of salt from all parties at this time).  IBM does appear to be comparing this to what Samsung calls its 7nm process in terms of dimensions and transistor density.

Nanosheet-5nm-for-release-1.jpg

Cross section of a 5nm transistor showing the embedded channels and silicon nanosheets.

While Moore’s Law has been stretched thin as of late, we are still seeing these scientists and engineers pushing against the laws of physics to achieve better performance and scaling at incredibly small dimensions.  The silicon nanosheet technology looks to be an effective and relatively affordable path towards smaller sizes without requiring exotic materials to achieve.  IBM and its partners look to have produced a process node that will continue the march towards smaller, more efficient, and more powerful devices.  It is not exactly around the corner, but 2019 is close enough to start planning designs that could potentially utilize this node.

Source: IBM

Qt Outlines What Their View on Vulkan Support Is

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 09:10 PM |
Tagged: Qt, vulkan

During our recent interview, the Khronos Group mentioned that one reason to merge into Vulkan was because, at first, the OpenCL working group wasn’t sure whether they wanted an explicit, low-level API, or an easy-to-use one that hides the complexity. Vulkan taught them to take a very low-level position, because there can always be another layer above them that hides complexity to everything downstream of it. This is important for them, because the only layers below them are owned by OS and hardware vendors.

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This post is about Qt, though. Qt is a UI middleware, written in C++, that has become very popular as of late. The big revamp of AMD’s control panel with Crimson Edition was a result of switching from .NET to Qt, which greatly sped up launch time. They announced their intent to support the Vulkan API on the very day that it launched.

Yesterday, they wrote a blog post detailing their intentions for Vulkan support in Qt 5.10.

First and foremost, their last bulletpoint claims that these stances can change as the middleware evolves, particularly with Qt Quick, Qt 3D, Qt Canvas 3D, QPainter, and similar classes. This is a discussion of their support for Qt 5.10 specifically. As it stands, though, Qt intends to focus on cross-platform, window management, and “function resolving for the core API”. The application is expected to manage the rest of the Vulkan API itself (or, of course, use another helper for the other parts).

This makes sense for Qt’s position. Their lowest level classes should do as little as possible outside of what their developers expect, allowing higher-level libraries the most leeway to fill in the gaps. Qt does have higher-level classes, though, and I’m curious what others, especially developers, believe Qt should do with those to take advantage of Vulkan. Especially when we start getting into WYSIWYG editors, like Qt 3D Studio, there is room to do more.

Obviously, the first release isn’t the place to do it, but I’m curious none-the-less.

Source: Qt

Dawn of War III Vulkan Support on Linux to Add Intel GPUs

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 04:54 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, linux, vulkan, Intel, mesa, feral interactive

According to Phoronix, Alex Smith of Feral Interactive has just published a few changes to the open source Intel graphics driver, which allows their upcoming Dawn of War III port for Linux to render correctly on Vulkan. This means that the open-source Intel driver should support the game on day one, although drawing correctly and drawing efficiently could be two very different things -- or maybe not, we’ll see.

feral-2017-dawnofwar3.png

It’s interesting seeing things go in the other direction. Normally, graphics engineers parachute in to high-end developers and help them make the most of their software for each respective, proprietary graphics driver. In this case, we’re seeing the game studios pushing fixes to the graphics vendors, because that’s how open source rolls. It will be interesting to do a pros and cons comparison of each system one day, especially if cross-pollination results from it.

Source: Phoronix

Roccat's newest Kone, the EMP gaming mouse

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: input, roccat, Kone EMP, gaming mouse

Roccat;s new Kone EMP shares some attributes with earlier members of the Kone lineup, specifically the Owl-Eye optical sensor based on PixArt’s PWM 3361DM, which can be set at up to 12000dpi and the SWARM software suite to program the mouse.  The onboard ARM Cortex-M0 and 512kB of memory allows the mouse to keep that programming, even on another machine which does not have SWARM installed.  Modders-Inc tested the mouse out, see what they thought of it here.

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"The Roccat Kone EMP is the next mouse in the Kone line up and the successor to the Kone XTD. The Kone EMP features Roccat's OWL-Eye optical sensor and four RGB LEDs for custom lighting."

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Source: Modders Inc

A chat with Paradox on sequels and expansions

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: gaming, paradox

Paradox is well named as it has a very different philosophy from the rest of the industry about how to treat games after they have been released.  It is becoming quite common for developers to already be working on a sequel to a game that they have just released, or are in the process of releasing.  Once a game launched you can expect to see numerous and often expensive DLC released for the game, which usually offer little to no new real gameplay or functionality.

Paradox treats games completely differently, their DLC expansions are often expensive but frequently offer a significant change to the base game and when released they always add several major new features to anyone who owns the game without charge.  They do this for a long time after launch, two examples are Crusader Kings II which is five years old and has twelve expansions, while the four year old Europa Universalis IV has ten expansions.  Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN sat down with the creative director Johan Andersson and CEO Fredrik Wester to discuss the future of these games and Paradox itself, as well as talking about the effects of offering major updates to older games as opposed to the more common constant release of sequels to games.

Paradox-Logo.jpg

"With Crusader Kings II now five years old and twelve expansions deep, and Europa Universalis IV a relatively sprightly four years and ten expansions, what is the future of these titles? At what point are they done and at what point does the thought of a sequel come up."

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Coming as a shock to no one, Wannacry can exploit Windows 10

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: wannacry, windows 10, security

If you have an unpatched Windows installation you are vulnerable to the SMBv1 exploit, except perhaps if you are still on WinXP in which case your machine is more likely to crash than to start encrypting. Do yourself a favour and head to Microsoft to manually download the patch appropriate for your OS and run it, if you already have it then it will tell you so, otherwise it will repair the vulnerability.  The version of Wannacry and its progenitor, EternalBlue, which is making life miserable for users and techs everywhere does not currently go after Win10 machines but you can read how it can easily be modified to do so over at Slashdot.

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"The publicly available version of EternalBlue leaked by the ShadowBrokers targets only Windows XP and Windows 7 machines. Researchers at RiskSense who created the Windows 10 version of the attack were able to bypass mitigations introduced by Microsoft that thwart memory-based code-execution attacks."

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Source: Slashdot

GOG.com Summer Sale Has Just Begun

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 07:02 AM |
Tagged: sale, pc gaming, GOG

GOG.com, formerly Good Old Games, because good old names, is having their summer sale. Discounts are advertised at up to 90%, and a copy of Rebel Galaxy will be gifted immediately following your first purchase.

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For me, this was the moment that I jumped on The Witcher 3. I deliberately avoided it until the DLC were bundled and the whole package was on a significant discount, which is now the case. The Witcher 3 Game of the Year, albeit not the year that we’re in, is now 50% off. Another front-page deal is Dragon Age Origins Ultimate Edition for 80% off, as is the original Mirror’s Edge, although I already have both of them. If you haven’t played it yet, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is great, and it’s 85% off (under $2).

Source: GOG.com

MSI Unveils Fanless Cubi 3 PC Powered By Kaby Lake-U Processors

Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 02:35 AM |
Tagged: msi, SFF, barebones, nuc, kaby lake, Intel, Optane, computex

MSI recently introduced a new member of its Cubi small form factor barebones PC lineup. The Cubi 3 is a fanless PC that is build around Intel’s Kaby Lake-U processors and will arrive sometime this fall.

MSI Cubi 3.jpg

Notebook Italia and Tek.No got hands on of the MSI mini PC at Computex.

The Cubi 3 is a bit larger than its predecessors, but with the larger enclosure MSI was able to achieve a fanless design for up to (U series) Core i7 processors. The SFF PC sports a brushed aluminum case that shows off the top of the CPU heatsink through vents that run around the top edge of the case. There are two flat antennas for Wi-Fi and Bluetooh integrated into the left and right sides of the case.

FanlessTech reports that the MSI Cubi 3 will sport 15W Kaby Lake-U processors from low end Celerons up to Core i7 models. These parts are dual core parts with HyperThreading (2c/4t) with 3 MB or 4 MB of L3 cache and either HD (615 or 620) or Iris Plus (640 or 650) integrated graphics. The processor is paired with two DDR4 SO-DIMM slots for up to 32 GB of 2133 MHz memory, an M.2 2280 SSD (there is even Intel Optane support), and a single 2.5” drive.

The Cubi 3 has an audio jack and two USB 3.0 ports up front, and what appears to be two USB 2.0 ports on the left side. Rear I/O includes one HDMI, one DisplayPort, two more USB 3.0, two Gigabit Ethernet, two COM ports, and one power jack for the 65W AC power adapter.

There is no word on pricing yet, but it is slated to begin production in August with availability this fall.

It is always nice to see more competition in this niche fanless SFF space, and the little box would not look out of place on a desk or even in the living room. What are your thoughts?

Source: Fanless Tech

Valve Ends Steam Greenlight Program

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2017 - 08:48 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming

As of today, June 6th, Valve has closed their Greenlight program. New submissions will not be accepted and voting has been disabled. Next week, starting on June 13th, Valve will open Steam Direct, which allows anyone to put their game on the platform for a deposit of $100 per title, which will be refunded once the title makes $1,000 in sales. Valve performs a light amount of testing on each game it receives, so it makes sense to have something that prevents you from drowning upon the opening of the flood gates, and it’s nice that they refund it when sales are high enough that their typical fees cover their expenses, rather than double-dipping.

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There is still some doubt floating around the net, though... especially regarding developers from impoverished nations. As a Canadian, it’s by no means unreasonable to spend around a hundred dollars, plus or minus the exchange rate of the year, to put a game, made up of years of work, onto a gigantic distribution platform. That doesn’t hold true everywhere. At the same time, Valve does have a measurable cost per submission, so, if they lower the barrier below that, it would be at their expense. It would also be the right thing to do in some cases. Either way, that’s just my unsolicited two cents.

Steam Direct opens on June 13th.

Skype Deprecates Several Platforms

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2017 - 02:27 AM |
Tagged: skype, microsoft

Microsoft has just announced that they will be retiring several Skype apps in about a month’s time (July 1st). The affected platforms are Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 8.1, Messaging for Windows 10 Mobile, Windows RT, and Skype apps for TV. It’s important to note that Skype for Windows Phone still works, although it requires the Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary Update or later. This was originally announced last year, but no date was given at the time (just "in the coming months").

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Some sites are noting a workaround for affected users: Skype for Web. Unfortunately, this is probably not a viable option in most circumstances. Specifically, Skype for Web does not officially support mobile browsers, which means that Windows RT users might be in luck, but every other affected device is without options come July 1st.

Source: Thurrott

Rumor: New Edition of Windows 10 Pro Planned

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2017 - 02:07 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows, windows 10

The Verge is reporting on an allegedly leaked slide from Microsoft that announces a new edition of Windows 10 Pro. It is given the placeholder name “Windows 10 Pro for Workstation PCs” and it has four advertised features: Workstations mode, ReFS, SMBDirect, the ability to use up to four CPUs, and the ability to use up to 6TB of RAM.

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Image Credit: GrandMofongo (Twitter)

If this rumor is true, I don’t believe that it will behave like Windows 10 Enterprise. Because it unlocks the ability to address more RAM and CPU sockets, I doubt that users would be able to switch between Windows 10 Pro and “Windows 10 Pro for Workstation PCs” with just a no-reboot login to an Azure Active Directory. This is just speculation, of course, and speculation on a rumor at that.

The Workstation mode is kind-of interesting, though. The Windows 10 Creators Update introduced Game Mode, which allowed games to be prioritized over other software for higher performance (although it hasn’t been a hit so far). Last month, they also announced power management features to throttle background apps, but only when running on battery power. It makes sense that Microsoft would apply the same concepts wherever it would be beneficial, whether that’s optimizing for performance or efficiency for any given workload.

It does seem like an odd headlining feature for a new edition, which I’d assume requires an up-sell over the typical Windows 10 Pro SKU, when they haven’t demonstrated a clear win for Game Mode yet? What do you all think?

Source: The Verge

Valve and Mozilla Announce SteamVR and WebVR for macOS

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2017 - 04:58 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, valve, steamvr, webvr, apple, macos

At WWDC, Valve and HTC announced that their SteamVR platform would be arriving for macOS. This means that the HTC Vive can now be targeted by games that ship for that operating system, which probably means that game engines, like Unreal Engine 4 and Unity, will add support soon. One of the first out of the gate, however, is Mozilla with WebVR for Firefox Nightly on macOS. Combine the two announcements, and you can use the HTC Vive to create and browse WebVR content on Apple desktops and laptops that have high-enough performance, without rebooting into a different OS.

webvr-logo.png

Speaking of which, Apple also announced a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure with an AMD Radeon RX 580 and a USB-C hub. Alternatively, some of the new iMacs have Radeon graphics in them, with the new 27-inch having up to an RX 580. You can check out all of these announcements in Jim’s post.

Source: HTC

WWDC 2017: One Small Step for the iMac, One Giant Leap for the iMac Pro

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2017 - 04:13 PM |
Tagged: wwdc, imac pro, imac, apple, all-in-one

In a product-packed WWDC keynote Monday afternoon, Apple announced significant hardware updates to its all-in-one iMac desktop line. After letting the product line go without updates since late 2015, Apple is finally bringing Kaby Lake to its standard iMac models and, as rumored, will be launching a new high-end "iMac Pro" model in December.

kaby-lake-imacs.jpg

iMac

The now "normal" line of iMacs received a range of expected feature updates, including USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 support, and new discrete GPU options from AMD.

imac-27-gpu.jpg

The 21.5-inch 4K iMacs will be configurable with Radeon Pro 555 and 560 GPUs with up to 4GB of VRAM, while those opting for the 27-inch 5K iMac will be able to choose from the Radeon Pro 570, 575, or 580 with up to 8GB of VRAM.

The Radeon Pro 580, coupled with software and API improvements coming as part of the next version of macOS, "High Sierra" (no, seriously), was specifically called out as being ready to power a new era of VR experiences and content creation on the Mac, thanks to Apple partnerships with Valve (Steam VR), Unity, and Epic (Unreal Engine 4).

imac-vr.jpg

Other new features available on the iMac include higher official RAM limits (32GB for the 21.5-inch model and 64GB for the 27-inch), faster NVMe flash storage (up to 2TB capacities), two Thunderbolt 3 ports (which will support Apple's new external GPU initiative), and improved displays (higher maximum brightness, 10-bit dithering, and greater color reproduction).

imac-prices.jpg

The starting price for the new iMacs ranges from $1,099 to $1,799 and they're available for order today at Apple's website.

iMac Pro

By far the more interesting Mac-related announcement from today's keynote is the new iMac Pro. Although it shares the same basic design as its "non-Pro" counterparts, it features an improved dual fan cooling system that Apple claims is able to accommodate much higher end hardware than has previously been available in an iMac.

imac-pro.jpg

This includes Xeon CPUs ranging from 8 to 18 cores, up to 128GB of 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory, up to 4TB of flash storage that Apple rates at a speed of 3GB/s, graphics options powered by AMD's upcoming Vega platform, and, to power it all, a 500 watt power supply.

imac-pro-cooling.jpg

The new iMac Pro will also include four USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports (compared to just two on the non-Pro models), as well as 10Gb Ethernet (NBase-T), making it not only the most powerful iMac, but also the most powerful Mac yet, as Apple continues to let its Mac Pro line languish in the midst of future promised updates.

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The iMac Pro's hardware is already quite pricey before you factor in Apple's 5K display, design, and "Apple Tax," so those familiar with the company won't be shocked to learn that this new flagship Mac will start at $5,000 when it launches this December.

Source: Apple

Honey, I shrunk the silicon

Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2017 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: IBM, global foundries, Samsung, 5nm, 3nm. eulv, GAAFET

Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography has been the hope for reducing process size below the current size but it had not been used to create a successful 5nm chip, until now.  IBM, Samsung and GLOBALFOUNDRIES have succeeded in producing a chip using IBM's gate-all-around transistors, which will be known as GAAFETs and will likely replace the current tri-gate FinFETs used today.  A GAAFET resembles a FinFET rotated 90 degrees so that the channels run horizontally, stacked three layers high with gates filling in the gaps, hence the name chosen. 

Density will go up, this process will fit 30 billion transistors in a 50mm2 chip, 50% more than the previous best commercial process and performance can be increased by 40% at the same power as our current chips or offer the same performance while consuming 75% less power.  Ars Technica delves into the technology required to make GAAFETs and more of the potential in their article.

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"IBM, working with Samsung and GlobalFoundries, has unveiled the world's first 5nm silicon chip. Beyond the usual power, performance, and density improvement from moving to smaller transistors, the 5nm IBM chip is notable for being one of the first to use horizontal gate-all-around (GAA) transistors, and the first real use of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography."

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Source: Ars Technica

NVIDIA SHIELD TV Update 5.2 adds TV Tuners, NAS write capability

Subject: General Tech | June 2, 2017 - 04:55 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, shield, SHIELD TV, plex, plex pass

Yesterday I posted a news blurb about the update to Plex that brought Live TV viewing and an enhanced DVR capability to the widely used and very popular media software package. In that story I mentioned that the NVIDIA SHIELD (and all Android TV systems) were among the first of the roll out, capable of both serving Live TV but also streaming and viewing it. Yes, the NVIDIA SHIELD continues to be one of the most interesting parts of the cord cutting economy, with a balance of hardware performance, software improvements, and cost.

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Along with the Plex software update, NVIDIA has its own update pushing out starting yesterday, Experience Upgrade 5.2, starting with the SHIELD Preview Program members. This update brings a couple of important changes that make the Plex Live TV rollout much more interesting. First, the SHIELD now has support for a wider array of TV tuners, including direct attached USB TV tuners. Here is the updated list of supported hardware:

  • HDHomeRun Network Tuners:
    • Connect – Dual tuner, Base model
    • Extend – Dual tuner, Converts MPEG2 to H.264 for lower bandwidth and size requirements
    • Prime – Requires cable subscription and a CableCARD
  • Hauppauge Dual USB Tuners:
    • WinTV-dual HD 1595 (NTSC) – US/Canada
    • WinTV-dual HD 1590 (DVB-T/T2) – UK/EU
  • Single USB Tuners – Not recommended due to single tuner capability
    • AVerMedia AVerTV Volar Hybrid Q (H837) for US/Canada

NVIDIA claims there are more tuners on the way soon, so we’ll keep an eye out on the updates.

The second update allows SHIELD to write to network attached storage devices (NAS). Previously, the Android TV box could only mount them as read-only partitions, even in Plex, making them useless for recording live TV via the Plex DVR. With the 5.2 release you can now direct write to NAS hardware, allowing the SHIELD to store copies of recorded TV shows and movies in a location that makes sense. If you have a non-hard drive SHIELD unit, this is a great feature, and even if you have the 500GB model, this easily expands usable storage with hardware you may already own.

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Also as a part of the update are more general tweaks and improvements including “network storage directory and connectivity enhancements, Wi-Fi performance improvements, and experience enhancements for SHIELD remote and SHIELD controller.”

NVIDIA is celebrating the release of this Plex update by offering a 6-month Plex Pass subscription as a part of the deal if you buy a new SHIELD TV. That’s a $30 value, but a Plex Pass is a requirement to take advantage of Live TV. For users that already own the SHIELD, you’ll have to shell out the $5/mo for the premium Plex offering (worth it for sure in my view) to try out the live TV feature.

Source: NVIDIA