I can't believe its not bezel! AOC's Frameless Q2781PQ display

Subject: Displays | February 1, 2017 - 07:25 PM |
Tagged: AOC, Q2781PQ, ips display, 1440p

Ignoring the creative marketing terms used in the PR, which describe the Q2781PQ as a Quad HD 4-sided “frameless” AH-IPS panel, the new monitor does have its good points.  It is a 27" 1440p Advanced High Performance IPS with a 50,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio and a 5ms response time.  While there certainly is a bezel, it appears to be quite slim and the stand will not block off a large portion of your desk.  The MSRP of $499 is not unreasonable for this product although if you want to go all out you can get the Swarovski crystal encrusted Q2781PS for an extra $100.  Gamers may be less enamoured of this panel as it lacks adaptive sync technology but for watching or creating media it is certainly worth a peek. 

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Fremont, Calif. – January 31, 2017 – AOC, a worldwide leader in monitor display technology, today announces the 27-inch Quad HD Ultra Slim Frameless IPS Monitor (Q2781PQ). AOC’s Q2781PQ sports an ultra slim design and asymmetric stand, along with QHD resolution (2560 x 1440) a 50,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio and a new 4-sided “frameless” AH-IPS panel. It features a modern AH-IPS panel that allows for wide viewing angles of 178°, ensuring brilliant colors and Clear Vision, the image performance engine that can upscale Standard Definition (SD) sources to High Definition (HD) for sharper, more vivid viewing. The display also features Full sRGB color for the best color uniformity from any perspective. With excellent picture quality and features such as Flicker-FREE technology, the monitor meets the needs of style conscious home users and professionals alike. The AOC Q2781PQ is available now at Amazon.com for an MSRP of $499. AOC is also launching the Q2781PS, which sports the same features as the Q2781PQ, along with a Rose Gold base and edge and a luxury back panel adorned with crystals from Swarovski. It will be available on Amazon.com in the coming months for $599.

The Q2781PQ comes with an upgraded design and improved image quality that is certain to impress design-conscious users of all types. Alongside its ultra slim appearance and stylish asymmetric stand, the display comes in a new 4-sided “frameless” design with minimal black borders around the screen. The stand is also compact and saves space on the desk. Inside its elegant design, the display boasts the latest technology providing you with a first-class viewing experience. It features a modern AH-IPS panel that allows for wide viewing angles of 178°, ensuring brilliant colors with Full sRGB consistency and best color uniformity from any perspective. The AOC Q2781PQ comes with QHD resolution (2560 x 1440 pixels) and over 3.6 million pixels. Users interested in image or video editing will benefit from crisp and vivid visuals that impress with detail.

Modern features such as Flicker-FREE technology and multiple video inputs turn the AOC Q2781PQ into a functional and pleasant companion at home or in the office. Users who frequently spend long hours in front of a display will benefit from AOC Flicker-FREE technology, which regulates the monitor’s brightness through a DC (direct current) backlight system and thus reduces the unpleasant flickering that so frequently causes eye discomfort and fatigue. A range of up-to-date inputs allow users to connect the monitor up with their gaming consoles, Blu-ray players or portable devices such as laptops. These include a DisplayPort, two HDMI inputs and D-Sub.

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Source: AOC

You load 58GB and what do you get? A prettier settlement Garvey says is facing a threat

Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2017 - 06:50 PM |
Tagged: gaming, fallout 4

Arriving soon on Steam for Fallout 4 owners is an texture update which is rather impressive in size.  Not only do you need the space to fit a game that will triple in size but the hardware requirements have gone up, at the least an i7-5820K, 8GB GTX 1080 or RX 490 8GB and  8GB of RAM is recommended.  You will be able to add the content on Steam and easily remove it if your box is not quite up to the task. Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN were also told next week is bringing new features to Mod content.  Follow the link for screenshots.

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"Can your box blast bonny Boston? Is your rig ready for the roof felt? Can your hog handle HD hats? Is your silicon-snorting framecrusher pumped for 60 reps of sand a second? Will your deck deck the decking? Read on for the system requirements."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

Microsoft's hot new idea for the server room; IR lasers

Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2017 - 05:51 PM |
Tagged: wireless, servers, firefly

Forget LiFi, Firefly uses infrared lasers to transmit data and torture acronyms.  Researchers out of Penn State, backed by Microsoft, are working on a way to get rid of the wiring in your server room and replace it with IR lasers and mirrors; hold the smoke.  By using multiplexed beams, they have created a proof of concept test which allows bi-directional data streams at 10 gigabits per second though there is some work to be done before it is ready for a full test.

The mirrors would be MEMs controlled, ensuring that the signal should theoretically be able to reach any receiver, even ones obscured by other equipment.  Anyone sick of cable management or looking for new ways to keep people out of the server room can take a peek at the link to the research that The Register posted.  On the other hand, the simple act of walking into your server room, setting down a box or even a leaf on the wind would be likely to cause downtime.  Could protective goggles might be the newest sysadmin fashion faux pas? 

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"Shown off at Photonics West 2017 in San Francisco, Firefly (acronymically tortured out of Free-space optical Inter-Rack nEtwork with high FLexibilitY, we kid you not) proposes FSO to provide multiple 10 Gbps inter-rack links."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

AMD Announces Q4 2016 and FY 2016 Results

Subject: Editorial | February 1, 2017 - 04:14 AM |
Tagged: Vega, ryzen, quarterly results, Q4 2016, Q4, FY 2016, amd, AM4

Today AMD announced their latest quarterly earnings.  There was much speculation as to how well or how poorly the company did, especially in light of Intel’s outstanding quarter and their record year.  Intel has shown that the market continues to be strong, even with the popular opinion that we are in a post-PC world.  Would AMD see a strong quarter, or would Intel take further bites out of the company?

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The results for AMD are somewhere in between.  It was not an overly strong quarter, but it was not weak either.  AMD saw strength in the GPU market with their latest RX series of GPUs for both desktop and mobile applications.  Their CPU sales seemingly were flat with limited new products in their CPU/APU stack.  AMD is still primarily shipping 32nm and 28nm products and will not introduce 14nm products until Ryzen in late Q1 of this year.  While AMD has improved their APU offerings at both mobile and desktop TDPs, they still rely on Carrizo and the Bristol Ridge derivative to provide new growth.  The company’s aging Piledriver based Vishera CPUs still comprise a significant portion of sales for the budget and midrange enthusiast markets.

The company had revenues of $1.11B US for Q4 with a $51M net loss.  Q3 featured revenues of $1.31B, but had a much larger loss of $293M.  The primary factor for that loss was the $340M charge for the adjusted wafer start agreement that AMD has with GLOBALFOUNDRIES.  AMD did make less this past quarter, but they were able to winnow their loss down to the $51M figure.  

While AMD stayed steady with the CPU/APU and GPU markets, their biggest decline came in the semi-custom products.  This is understandable due to the longer lead times on these products as compared to AMD’s CPUs/APUs and GPUs.  The console manufacturers purchase these designs and then pay out royalties as the chips are produced.  Sony and Microsoft each had new console revisions for this holiday season that feature new SoC designs from AMD for each.  To hit the holiday rush these companies made significant orders in Q2 and Q3 of this year to allow delivery in Q4.  Once those deliveries are made then Sony and Microsoft dramatically cut orders to allow good sell-through in Q4 and not have massive unsold quantities in Q1 2017.  With royalties down with fewer chips being delivered, AMD obviously suffers at the hand of seasonality typically one quarter sooner than Intel or NVIDIA does.

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For the year AMD had nearly $300M more in revenue as compared to 2015.  2016 ended at $4.27B as compared to 2015’s $3.99B.  This is generally where AMD has been for the past decade, but is lower than they have seen in years past with successful parts like Athlon and their Athlon 64 parts.  In 2005 AMD had $5.8B in revenue.  We see that AMD still has a way to go before matching some of their best years as a company.

One of the more interesting aspects is that even through these quarterly losses AMD has been able to increase their cash on hand.  AMD was approaching some $700M a few years back and with the losses they were taking it would not be all many years before liquidity was non-existent.  AMD has been able to build that up to $1.26B at the end of this quarter, giving them more of a cushion to rely upon in tight times.

AMD’s year on year improvement is tangible, but made more impressive when considering how big of an impact the $340M charge that the WSA incurred.  This shows that AMD has been very serious about cutting expenses and monetizing their products to the best of their ability.

This coming year should show further improvement for AMD due to a more competitive product stack in CPUs, APUs, and GPUs.  AMD announced that Ryzen will be launching sometimes this March, hitting the Q1 expectations that the company had in the second half of 2016.  Previous to that AMD thought they could push out limited amounts of Ryzen chips in late Q4 2016, but that did not turn out to be the case.  AMD has shown off multiple Ryzen samples running anywhere from 3.2 GHz base with a potential engineering sample with a boosted speed up to 4 GHz.  Ryzen looks far more competitive against Intel’s current and upcoming products than AMD has in years.

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The GPU side will also be getting a boost in the first half of 2017.  It looks like the high end GPU Vega will be launching in Q2 2017.  AMD has addressed the midrange and budget markets with the Polaris based chips but has been absent at the high end with 14nm chips.  AMD still produces and sells Fury and Nano based offerings that somewhat address the area above the midrange, but they do not adequately compete with the NVIDIA GTX 1070 and 1080 products.  Vega looks to be competitive with what NVIDIA has at the high end, and there is certainly a pent up demand for an AMD card in that market.

AMD had a solid 2016 that showed that the current management team could successfully lead the company through some very challenging times.  The company continues to move forward and we shall see new products with CPUs, GPUs, and motherboards that should all materially contribute to and expand AMD’s bottom line.

Source: AMD

Razer Announces Yellow Mechanical Keyboard Switch

Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2017 - 12:49 AM |
Tagged: razer, mechanical keyboard

Since they ended their reliance upon Cherry’s MX line of switches, Razer created / co-created their own line. Until this month, desktop keyboards contained one of two, color-coded entries: the Razer Green or the Razer Orange mechanical keyboard switches. The Green is designed to be similar to the Cherry MX Blue, with a 50cN activation force and a clicky response. The Orange, on the other hand, aims at the Cherry MX Brown, with a 45cN activation force and a bumpy response, without a click. As such, both of them have some sort of feedback at the point of activation.

(One cN weighs about as much as a gram on the surface of the Earth.)

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This month, Razer announced the Razer Yellow switch. They are claiming this one is linear and silent, with an activation force of 45cN. Comparing back to my table, you would see this fits right in with the Cherry MX Red switch, although Razer has, again, changed the design slightly, mostly around travel distance. I’m personally not really a fan of linear switches on keyboards, mostly because I type and I tend to bottom them out. Still, they are a beloved option for many, and now Razer provides the option.

The Razer Yellow switch is just available in the Razer Blackwidow Chrome V2 at the moment.

Source: Razer

MSI's tiny Trident 3 gaming system

Subject: Systems | January 31, 2017 - 08:24 PM |
Tagged: gaming desktop, SFF, gtx 1060, i7-7700, msi, Trident 3

MSI's Trident 3 PC comes complete with Windows 10 Home, a DS4200 keyboard and a DS B1 gaming mouse.  The actual system is a mere 346.25x232.47x71.83mm (13.6x9.2x2.8") and hides a shrunken GTX 1060, a Core i7-7700, two 8GB sticks of DDR4-2400 and in the system that TechPowerUp reviewed, a 256GB Kingston SATA M.2 SSD and a 1TB Toshiba HDD.  It is easy to use for VR, with USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C and Type-A ports as well as HDMI on the front panel.  MSI did need to make some sacrifices to squeeze these components in, the system does not support overclocking nor XMP profiles.  The performance at 1080p is respectable for a fully configured system and it starts at $899, with upgrades available.

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"MSI's Trident 3 is a compact SFF system that can provide a console-like gaming experience. Equipped with an Intel Core i7-7700, a custom mITX MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB GAMING, 16 GB of RAM, an M.2 SSD and a mechanical HDD for storage duties, it is small yet extremely capable."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

Systems

Source: TechPowerUp

RGB disease has infected the Thermaltake Toughpower Grand

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 31, 2017 - 06:45 PM |
Tagged: thermaltake, Toughpower Grand, 750w, RGB, modular psu, 80 Plus Gold

Coloured LEDs are continuing to spread throughout PC components, the latest being the Thermaltake Toughpower Grand RGB 750W Modular PSU which can glow in 256 different colours.  The LEDs are not the only thing which has been added to the newest member of the Grand family, indeed [H]ard|OCP found significant improvements in this PSU's DC output quality when compared to previous three Grand models they have tested.  Even if you will never use the LEDs this is a PSU worthy of your consideration, from the 10 year warranty and proper 80 Plus Gold rating right through to the pricing of $100.

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"Thermaltake over the years has built some extremely good computer power supply units and along with that, it has also charged a premium for those which sometimes put it at a severe disadvantage in the value department. That changes today, in a very good way. It has flashy spinny LEDs, which you can turn off easily. And a 10 year warranty."

Here are some more Cases & Cooling reviews from around the web:

CASES & COOLING

Source: [H]ard|OCP

NVIDIA Bundle launches today! For Honor or Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands

Subject: General Tech | January 31, 2017 - 05:57 PM |
Tagged: game, nvidia, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, For Honor, tom clancy, Ghost Recon Wildlands

Today NVIDIA offers a new free Ubisoft game for those picking up a GTX 1070, GTX 1080 or a system containing one or more of those cards.  You can choose either For Honor, an arena stlye game pitting Knights, Samurai and Vikings in hand to hand combat or Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands which will lie somewhere between Arma and Just Cause.  Neither game is yet released, For Honor arrives February 14th while Ghost Recon Wildlands doesn't launch until March 7th but you can get an early look at the game.

NVIDIA has also made the process to collect your game somewhat easier, as long as your GeForce and Ubisoft accounts are linked you can simply enter the code to chose your free game.  If you are one to avoid Uplay at all costs you could always give your code away as a gift.

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"We are also debuting a new easier way to redeem codes through GeForce Experience, it means customers no longer have to tolerate long sign up webpages but can simply enter their code within GeForce Experience itself and have their choice of game automatically added to their Uplay account."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: NVIDIA

Win our RX 460 Budget Gaming System!!

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 31, 2017 - 04:18 PM |
Tagged: rx 460, radeon, giveaway, contest, buildapc, amd

As part of our partnership with AMD to take a look at the Radeon RX 460 as a budget gaming graphics solution, we are giving away the computer we built for our testing. If you missed our previous stories, shame on you. Check them out here:

Check out the embeded block below to see how you can win our system. It is a global giveaway, so feel free to enter no matter where you live! Thanks again to AMD for providing the hardware for this build!

Radeon RX 460 Budget System Giveaway (sponsored by AMD)

Source: AMD

Living dangerously; delidding your i7-7700k

Subject: Processors | January 30, 2017 - 07:29 PM |
Tagged: kaby lake, core i7 7700k, overclocking, delidding, risky business

Recently [H]ard|OCP popped the lid off of an i7-7700k to see if the rumours that once again Intel did not use high quality thermal interface material underneath the heatspreader.  The experiment was a success in one way, the temperatures dropped 25.28%, from 91C to 68C. However the performance did not change much, they still could not reach a stable 5GHz overclock.  They did not let that initial failure discourage them and spent some more time with their enhanced Kaby Lake processor to find scenarios in which they could reach or pass the 5GHz mark. They met with success when they reduced the RAM frequency to 2666MHz, by disabling Hyperthreading they could reach 5GHz with 3600MHz RAM but only when they increased the VCore did they manage to break 5GHz. 

Of course you must exercise caution when tweaking to this level, a higher VCore will certainly reduce the lifespan of your chip and delidding can have a disastrous outcome even if done carefully.  If you are interested in trying this, The Tech Report has a link to a 3D printed tool to help you in your endeavours.

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"Last week we shared our overclocking results with our retail purchased Core i7-7700K Kaby Lake processor. We then took the Integrated Heat Spreader off, replaced the Thermal Interface Material and tried again for 5GHz with 3600MHz memory and failed. This time, less RAM MHz and more core voltage!"

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Basemark's VRScore PC, the World's First Comprehensive VR Benchmark

Subject: General Tech | January 30, 2017 - 06:40 PM |
Tagged: Basemark, VRScore, VRTrek

Basemark's VRScore, which went into early access nearly a year ago is now officially available, with some versions arriving in the coming months.  There will be a total of five versions ranging from a simplified Free version to a Corporate Premium which allows system builders to automate their testing.  Most users will be interested in the Professional version, which offers customization and detailed analysis; similar to Basemark's current products or the difference between 3DMark free and paid for verions.  Even without a headest, the 4k 3D benchmark can offer you a glimpse into how your system would perform if you did purchase one.

The engine used in the benchmark is the latest CryEngine with support for DX11 and 12 and they have fully vetted the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and OSVR HDK2 for testing.  Not only do you get to see the world of Codename: Sky Harbor but if you purchase one of the corporate editions you get a physical headset latency tester, the VRTrek.  It measures the latency in both eyes simultaneously, providing benchmarkers with detailed analysis on the performance of the headset.

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You can read the full PR below the fold.

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Source: Basemark

Full Steam ahead! Cache your games in this DIY cache server

Subject: General Tech | January 30, 2017 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: steam, cache, Nginx, ubuntu

There are tricks to managing your Steam library if you are running low on space or simply setting up something new, from tricking Steam by copying files manually or the new feature which allows you to move games from within Steam.  One other possible way to manage your time and bandwidth is to build yourself a small little webserver which caches any Steam game you have downloaded locally, so you can reinstall them without using up your bandwidth.  Those familiar with Riverbed appliances and the like will already be familiar with this process but many gamers may not be.  Ars Technica walks you through the build and teaches a bit about caching and basic webservers along the way; check it out you are not already well versed in setting up something similar.

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"But there’s an alternative to having to re-download all your Steam games from the Internet: you can set up a local Steam caching server, so that once you download something, you’ve got it on your LAN instead of having to reach for it across the net and incur usage fees."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

Toshiba Plans To Spin Off Storage Business, Sell 20% Of New Company

Subject: General Tech, Storage | January 29, 2017 - 10:09 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, nand, flash storage, flash memory, business

ZDNet is reporting that Toshiba is in a bit of a financial bind following losses from acquisitions and its Westinghouse division -- which saw massive losses and cost overruns in the US Nuclear market -- which could amount to billions of dollars. In an effort to offset some of those losses and preserve shareholder equity, Toshiba plans to spin off its memory business into a new company and then offer up to a 20% stake in that new company for sale. The new company would include its memory chip and SSD business though its image sensor division would stay with Toshiba and not be part of the spin off.

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Toshiba is the second largest memory manufacturer behind Samsung and it is one of the company's most profitable divisions making up the majority of its operating profit.

The company is hoping that other companies or investors will be interested in a piece of that business and that the company will be able to raise enough money from the sale of up to 20% of the spin off company to make up for the losses incurred in its US nuclear market ventures.

Toshiba plans to hold a shareholder meeting in March to seek approval for the plan stating that if it us unable to proceed with the plan and complete a sale to bring in cash by the end of its fiscal year (the end of March), “shareholder equity could be wiped out.”

It is interesting that Toshiba is once again having a bit of corporate drama and needing to restructure (it sold off its PC division in 2015). This could be a good opportunity for one of the smaller memory makers or even one of the spinning rust manufacturers to become more relevant in the flash storage space (and if having a stake got them access to IP for their own stuff even better though that would probably cost them a ton more!). Alternatively, the stake could be bought up by an a large company that just wants a profit machine to grow even larger (heh).

Hopefully the guys will discuss this bit of news on the podcast! What are your thoughts?

Source: ZDNet

Asus Enters Single Board Computer Market with Tinker Board

Subject: General Tech | January 29, 2017 - 05:53 AM |
Tagged: asus, tinker board, Rockchip, rk3288, cortex a17, Raspberry Pi, sbc, 4k, kodi, xbmc

Asus is jumping into the single board computer market with its 90MB0QY1-M0EAY0 Tinker Board. With a physical layout matching the latest Raspberry Pi 3, the Tinker Board offers up faster hardware including support for 4K H.264 video decode.

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The single board PC offers up the following I/O options:

  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x HDMI 2.0
  • 1 x Micro SD (UHS-1)
  • 1 x Micro USB (for power)
  • 1 x Audio (192 Hz / 24 bit)
  • 40 pin header (28 pin GPIO)
  • 1 x CSI (camera)
  • 1 x DSI (display)
  • PWM and S/PDIF solder points

Asus has opted to use a 32-bit ARM processor to power the device rather than the 64-bit SoC found in the Raspberry Pi 3. Specifally, Asus is using the Rockchip RK3288 which features four ARM Cortex A17 CPU cores clocked at 1.8 GHz and a Mali-T764 GPU. The SoC is paired with 2GB of LPDDR3 memory and wireless radios for 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0.

Compared to the Raspberry Pi, the Asus Tinker Board has twice the RAM and allegedly twice the processing power with GeekBench score of 3,925 versus the Pi’s 2,092. The Mali-T764 GPU is capable of 4K H.264 (and 10-bit H.265) video decoding which makes it better than the Pi which can only do 1080p in hardware. The cores are clocked faster on the Tinker Board but obviously do not support 64-bit instructions. The increase of system memory is perhaps the biggest boon for those looking to use it for a cheap desktop or media streamer. And for those using analog audio, Asus has included its own audio solution that is, at least on paper, much better than the Pi's.

The Asus SBC reportedly uses up to 5 watts of power with an average power usage of 2.25 watts when playing back a 1080p video with a HDMI display attached.

The Tinker Board at launch is compatible with Debian OS and Kodi media playback software.
The physical layout matches that of the Pi meaning it should be compatible with cases and is potentially a drop in replacement for products powered by a Pi so long as it can supply enough power.

It is currently available from British retailer Farnell for ‎£45.83 ($56.91) or ‎£55 ($68.30) with VAT. It does not appear to be avaiable on this side of the pond quite yet but you can import it if you want to get your hands on it.

More competition in the single board PC space is a good thing, but I do wonder how successful the Asus Tinker Board will be. It is faster, but it is also nearly twice as expensive as the Pi. A lot is going to depend on how well it is received by the software and modding communities and how well Asus supports that Rockchip processor with various Linux distributions and applications at launch and over time. The Pi’s VideoCore IV GPU is closed source and getting information from Broadcom is a pain, but at least it is a known quantity at this point and the boards using it (like the Pi) have the market share and community support to get things working with it. I am also curious how well the audio solution works and whether or not the Gigabit Ethernet port can actually hit gigabit speeds.

What are your thoughts on the Asus Tinker Board?

Source: Farnell

BPainter Add-on Extends Painting in Blender

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2017 - 04:03 AM |
Tagged: Blender

These days, 3D content is created mostly by blocking out geometry, then painting materials onto it with stencils and stamps. For instance, if you wanted a rusty sign, you would start with a metal base, stencil on the logo, then paint, stamp, or stencil rust spots, scratches, and whatever else. When you’re done, you can then export the resulting, 2D textures. Previously, you would bounce back and forth between Photoshop and your 3D application, trying to remember which edge on your UV outline corresponds to which triangles on the model.

While this Blender Plug-in doesn’t have the same benefits as something like Substance Painter, and its library of PBR materials, BPainter can allow you to paint separate layers and channels on your 3D model. In other words, you can paint scratches and scuffs into the roughness channel, and colors into the albedo channel, directly on top of your model, which immediately shows you the results in your scene’s lighting. Again, this is less direct than “select steel from material library” “fill steel on object” “select rusted steel from material library” “paint rusted steel on object” but it’s a welcome plug-in none-the-less.

Unless one has been announced in the last week, there is currently no release date for BPainter. Their last plug-in, Asset Sketcher, was released under the GPL license.

Steam Client Can Now Move Game Installations

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2017 - 03:11 AM |
Tagged: valve, pc gaming, steam

A little late on this one, but it’s been on my backlog for quite a while and I think it’s worthy of “public service announcement” status. Last week, Valve published a new Steam Client feature that allows users to relocate specific games to other folders. Just right-click on any installed games, click “Properties”, click the “Local Files” tab, then click “Move Install Folder...”.

Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinallyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

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Yup!

So yeah, if you want to switch games to and from an SSD, the Steam Client can do it for you. You could always do it by shutting down Steam Client, moving the folder between two folders that Steam tracks, and restarting the client. I have experienced some situations where the Steam Client then looks at the files, determines that they’re invalid, and redownloads them. While I that just happened to align with a new patch or something, it’s a moot point now that Steam Client just does it for you.

So yeah, if you didn’t already find out about this: enjoy.

DirectX Intermediate Language Announced... via GitHub

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 28, 2017 - 02:19 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, DirectX, llvm, dxil, spir-v, vulkan

Over the holidays, Microsoft has published the DirectX Shader Compiler onto GitHub. The interesting part about this is that it outputs HLSL into DirectX Intermediate Language (DXIL) bytecode, which can be ingested by GPU drivers and executed on graphics devices. The reason why this is interesting is that DXIL is based on LLVM, which might start to sound familiar if you have been following along with The Khronos Group and their announcements regarding Vulkan, OpenCL, and SPIR-V.

As it turns out, they were on to something, and Microsoft is working on a DirectX analogue of it.

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The main advantage of LLVM-based bytecode is that you can eventually support multiple languages (and the libraries of code developed in them). When SPIR-V was announced with Vulkan, the first thing that came to my mind was compiling to it from HLSL, which would be useful for existing engines, as they are typically written in HLSL and transpiled to the target platform when used outside of DirectX (like GLSL for OpenGL). So, in Microsoft’s case, it would make sense that they start there (since they own the thing) but I doubt that is the end goal. The most seductive outcome for game engine developers would be single-source C++, but there is a lot of steps between there and here.

Another advantage, albeit to a lesser extent, is that you might be able to benefit from performance optimizations, both on the LLVM / language side as well as on the driver’s side.

According to their readme, the minimum support will be HLSL Shader Model 6. This is the most recent shading model, and it introduces some interesting instructions, typically for GPGPU applications, that allow multiple GPU threads to interact, like balloting. Ironically, while DirectCompute and C++AMP don’t seem to be too popular, this would nudge DirectX 12 into a somewhat competent GPU compute API.

DXIL support is limited to Windows 10 Build 15007 and later, so you will need to either switch one (or more) workstation(s) to Insider, or wait until it launches with the Creators Update (unless something surprising holds it back).

ZTE Axon 7 Nougat Update Needs More Time

Subject: Mobile | January 27, 2017 - 10:12 PM |
Tagged: zte, axon 7, nougat, Android

The German offices of ZTE Mobile have announced (via their Facebook page) that the Android 7.0 update will be coming later in this quarter, which would be before the end of March. In November, this branch announced that the update would be coming in January. This update is supposed to bring Daydream to the handset, as this was one of the big promises that ZTE made about the device before it launched. They are not confident with it in its current state, though.

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Our readers were asking about my opinion of the device, since I published a “Just Delivered” post about it four months ago. I said that I would wait until the Nougat release, which I was, at the time, expecting in October or November, because I had a feeling that ZTE envisioned the phone with that OS version. Since then, bugs have come and gone, most of which were relatively benign, like messing up whitespace in the lock screen’s current date. Personally, I started getting a bug where my camera would occasionally fail to focus, instead humming and blurring like it’s focusing in and out tens or hundreds of times per second until you close the app using the camera. (It started happening, off and on, just after the last service update, although it could just be a coincidental hardware issue with my unit. I’m waiting until I see it in Nougat to call customer support.)

Either way, it’s probably a good thing that ZTE is taking their time with this one. I’m guessing this update is when those who adopted the Axon 7 will begin to solidify judgments about the company as a higher-end phone vendor going forward.

Firefox 51 and Chrome 56 Launch with WebGL 2.0

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2017 - 08:55 PM |
Tagged: webgl, webgl2, firefox, chrome, google, mozilla, Opera

After quite a bit of anticipation, both Mozilla and Google have just shipped compatible implementations of WebGL 2. This feature was unlocked to the public in Firefox 51 and Chrome 56 for the desktop, both released this week, while Opera will push it out to desktop and mobile on their next version, Opera 43. Microsoft currently has the API “under consideration” for Edge.

As we’ve highlighted in the past, this new version of the graphics API pushes the platform up to OpenGL ES 3.0, with a few exceptions that are typically made for security reasons. This update allows quite a few new features like off-screen render targets, which is useful for deferred rendering. The shading language is also significantly larger, and can now operate natively on integer types and 3D textures.

WebGL 2.0 does not include compute shaders, however, which is a bit unfortunate. That said, it is (at least last I checked) a highly-requested feature and the browser vendors are interested in providing it.

Learn about holography

Subject: General Tech | January 27, 2017 - 06:24 PM |
Tagged: holography

Ars Technica takes a look at a recent breakthrough in projecting dynamic holograms which can be viewed from a wide variety of angles.  This has been something which has been very difficult to achieve, for reasons which Ars articulates, but which researchers have managed to accomplish with the use of clouded glass.  You usually see that type of glass used to obscure light, for instance to offer privacy when in the bathroom but when designed correctly it can instead act as a large number of lenses project a focused holographic image. There is still a lot of work to be done to scale the holograms to a size and resolution which would be attractive for commercial usage but you can read up on the current state of the research if you are curious.

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"Sometimes it amazes me how fast physics goes from fundamental ideas to producing a new toy. The latest example comes from a bunch of experiments and theory on how opaque materials affect light passing through them, a topic that we have covered extensively in the past."

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Source: Ars Technica