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."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Ars Technica

NVIDIA Releases GeForce 378.49 Drivers

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 27, 2017 - 02:38 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers

Update: There are multiple issues being raised in our comments, including a Steam post by Sam Lantinga (Valve) about this driver breaking In-Home Streaming. Other complaints include certain applications crashing and hardware acceleration issues.

Original Post Below

Now that the holidays are over, we’re ready for the late-Winter rush of “AAA” video games. Three of them, Resident Evil VII, the early access of Conan Exiles, and the closed beta of For Honor, are targeted by NVIDIA’s GeForce 378.49 Game Ready drivers. Unless we get a non-Game Ready driver in the interim, I am guessing that this will cover us until mid-February, before the full release of For Honor, alongside Sniper Elite 4 and followed by Halo Wars 2 on the next week.

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Beyond game-specific updates, the 378-branch of drivers includes a bunch of SLI profiles, including Battlefield 1. It also paves the way for GTX 1050- and GTX 1050 Ti-based notebooks; this is their launch driver whenever OEMs begin to ship the laptops they announced at CES.

This release also contains a bunch of bug fixes (pdf), including a reboot bug with Wargames: Red Dragon and TDR (driver time-out) with Windows 10 Anniversary Update. I haven’t experienced any of these, but it’s good to be fixed regardless.

You can pick up the new drivers from their website if, you know, GeForce Experience hasn’t already notified you.

Source: NVIDIA

What, no Cheez Whiz? Still, it is thermal paste round up

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 26, 2017 - 09:02 PM |
Tagged: thermal paste, Arctic Silver, Arctic MX, cooler master, MasterGel Pro, CRYORIG, EKWB, thermal grizzly

Kitguru just tested seven thermal pastes; Arctic Silver 5 and Céramique 2, Cooler Master's MasterGel Pro, Cryorig CP15, EKWB Ectotherm and Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut.  They wanted to see what performance difference, if any, existed between them for no matter how effective your cooler is, it can't dissipate heat that is not transferred to it from your CPU.  Their test was conducted with a i7-4790K CPU and Cooler Master Hyper 212 LED CPU Cooler and the results show that the incumbent is not necessarily your best choice.

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"Following on from our previous articles about fan configuration and static pressure vs airflow fans, today we are looking at thermal paste. Specifically, we are hoping to find out whether or not choosing different types of thermal paste actually makes any difference. To do this, we test 7 products from 6 companies to see how much difference thermal paste really makes."

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

CASES & COOLING

Source: Kitguru

Optical disillusion; Microsoft's HoloLens

Subject: General Tech | January 26, 2017 - 06:42 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, hololens

Microsoft seems to be exploring new territory, previously reserved for those who need a nice mouse or headphones with the pure sound of platinum.  Their HoloLens has been available for several months and they have managed to sell several thousand of them in that time.   Roger Walkden, the commercial lead for HoloLens spoke with The Register and stated that he is happy with the amount of sales so far.  While you cannot expect a headset costing well over $2000 to have large commercial appeal, the pittance of sales of the HoloLens so far makes you wonder if they have misjudged the market.  Then again, maybe we will be seeing Windows 11 Rhodium Exclusive Edition on offer for a select few.

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"The Microsoft HoloLens, Judge Dredd-style "mixed reality" headset, went on sale in the UK last year, with the firm offering a developer-only version for £2,179, and an enterprised-focused model for £4,529."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Pioneer Announces First UHD Blu-ray Optical Drives

Subject: Storage | January 26, 2017 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: Ultra HD, UHD, Pioneer, optical, drive, disc, blu-ray, BDR-S 11 J-X, BDR-S 11 J-BK, 5.25, 4k

Pioneer has announced a pair of new 5.25-inch optical drives (via their Japanese site), and both offer support for UHD Blu-ray playback. These (SATA III) drives are the BDR-S 11 J-BK and BDR-S 11 J-X, and their Ultra HD capability represents a "world's first" for a BD burner, according to Pioneer.

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Image credit: Anandtech

There has been much discussion about support for UHD Blu-ray on the PC in the past year, and the technical capabilities of existing BDXL-compatible drives seemed to offer support for the current crop of UHD media. Unfortunately, the DRM requirements seem to involve the entire chain, and these new Pioneer optical drives support the required AACS 2.0 decryption. But this is just the tip of the iceberg with system requirements, as Anandtech lists what you will actually need to play back UHD Blu-rays on your computer:

  • A PC that supports AACS 2.0 and Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX)
  • An appropriate optical disk drive
  • Software that handles UHD BD playback
  • Windows 10
  • A GPU that has an HDMI 2.0a output with HDCP 2.2 (and AACS2 supported by its driver, which eliminates current-gen standalone GPUs)
  • A 4K TV/display that has an HDMI 2.0a input with HDCP 2.2

The software playback requirements are apparently handled via the included software, which Pioneer lists as PowerDVD 14 - though even the latest commercial version (PowerDVD 16) does not support UHD playback yet. It is possible that a custom version, or one previously unavailable to the public, has been included; as Pioneer specifically states that this included PowerDVD 14 software will allow you to "play Ultra HD Blu-ray such as movies, animation, music, Blu-ray, DVD-Video on your computer".

pioneer_BDRS11JX.jpg

Image credit: Anandtech

The two models are differentiated by a more premium audio focus for the BDR-S 11 J-X (and correspondingly higher price, based on reported pricing, below), with this model offering the following audiophile-oriented enhancements:

"BDR-S 11 J-X​ displays the playback quality of the audio CD to be played back in four levels, and in the case of low quality, it carries the "audio CD check function" which displays the coping method such as setting change of this machine It is suitable for applications such as CD ripping and music playback. In addition, by applying the coating adopted also for high-end audio equipment to the disc tray to improve the vibration isolation performance, it also enhances heat dissipation by applying special paint to the interior and exterior of the enclosure, realizing high quietness and reliability..."

Pricing was not included in the official announcement, though Anandtech's report quotes (Japanese-language) PC Watch with pricing roughly equivalent to $200 US (BDR-S 11 J-BK) and $300 US (BDR-S 11 J-X) for the drives. Availability begins in late February in Japan.

Source: Anandtech

Podcast #434 - Nintendo Switch, Xbox Scorpio, Das Keyboard X50 Gaming

Subject: Editorial | January 26, 2017 - 03:46 PM |
Tagged: Xbox Scorpio, podcast, Nintendo Switch, In Win 301, EVGA G3 850W, Das Keyboard Gaming, Chomecast

PC Perspective Podcast #434 - 01/26/17

Join us this week as we discuss Nintendo Switch, EVGA SuperNOVA 850w G3, Xbox Project Scorpio, Das Keyboard Gaming, 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, Allyn Malventano, Josh Walrath, Jermey Hellstrom

Program length: 1:07:50

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
    1. Ryan: Moleskin
  4. Closing/outro

Source:

The Gigabyte GTX 1060 G6, a decent card with a bit of work

Subject: Graphics Cards | January 25, 2017 - 08:37 PM |
Tagged: windforce, factory overclocked, GTX 1060 G1 GAMING 6G, GeForce GTX 1060, gigabyte

In their testing [H]ard|OCP proved that the Windforce cooler is not the limiting factor when overclocking Gigabyte's GTX 1060 G1 Gaming G6, even at their top overclock of  2.1GHz GPU, 9.4GHz memory the temperature never reached 60C.  They did have some obstacles reaching those speeds, the cards onboard Gaming mode offered an anemic boost and in order to start manually overclocking this card you will need to install the XTREME ENGINE VGA Utility.  Once you have that, you can increase the voltage and clocks to find the limits of the card you have, which should offer a noticeable improvement from its performance straight out of the box.

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"We’ve got the brand new GIGABYTE GeForce GTX 1060 G1 GAMING 6G video card to put through the paces and find out how well it performs in games and overclocks. We will compare its highest overclock with one of the best overclocks we’ve achieved on AMD Radeon RX 480 to put it to the test. How will it stand up? Let’s find out."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

For those who like it longer and harder; XCOM 2: The Long War

Subject: General Tech | January 25, 2017 - 07:35 PM |
Tagged: gaming, xcom 2, the long war 2, Pavonis Interactive

Pavonis Interactive have come through once again for XCOM fans, with the release of the Long War 2 mod, available for download though Steam.  It adds many things other than simply length to your game, such as an infiltration stage to missions which represents the amount of groundwork done by your team before the mission.  If you can reach 100% then Advent forces will be at a disadvantage, if you do not have time to fully prepare you can expect to face stronger opposition.  If you have enough active forces, you can choose to split them between two simultaneous mission instead of having to choose one mission while ignoring the other.  If this peaks your curiosity, pop over to Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN for a deeper look into the changes this mod makes to XCOM 2.

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"From the very first mission of The Long War 2, the stakes are different. Your enlarged squad isn’t doing anything as brash as blowing up an Advent statue; instead, they’ve managed to track down an under-strength patrol and are determined to take it down."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

If you hate Windows 10, stop whining and start WINE-ing

Subject: General Tech | January 25, 2017 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: apple, wine, linux, windows 10, mac

So much for your excuses, if you have sworn that you are abandoning Microsoft because of Windows 10 then start migrating to Mac or Linux and shrink their market share.  Wine 2.0 just dropped, allowing you to continue to use your Windows programs and play your games on Mac or Linux.  Shader Model 4 and 5 support has been improved, DX9, Direct3D 10 and Direct3D 11 all are improved or added for your visual enjoyment.  If you want to make a statement to Microsoft then hit them where it hurts and head over to Slashdot to start your journey onto a competitors OS.

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"It's finally here! After so many months of development and hard work, during which over 6,600 bugs have been patched, the Wine project is happy to announce today, January 24, 2017, the general availability of Wine 2.0. Wine 2.0 is the biggest and most complete version of the open-source software project that allows Linux and macOS users to run applications and games designed only for Microsoft Windows operating systems."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

Microsoft Xbox Project Scorpio Whitepaper Leaked

Subject: Systems | January 25, 2017 - 03:30 AM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, Project Scorpio, microsoft

Digital Foundry received an Xbox Project Scorpio whitepaper from an anonymous source, although they were able to validate its authenticity. Basically, they sent it to their own, off-the-record sources who would have access to the same info, and those individuals confirmed it’s an official document that they’ve seen before. Of course, the trust bottlenecks through Digital Foundry, but they’re about as reputable as you can get in this industry, so that works.

Anywho, disclaimer aside, the whitepaper unveils a few interesting details about how Project Scorpio is expecting to provide higher performance. The most interesting change is what’s missing: the small, on-chip RAM (ESRAM). Microsoft claims that the higher global memory bandwidth removes the need to have it on Project Scorpio.

Digital Foundry is still a bit concerned that, while the 320 GB/s bandwidth might be enough, the latency might be a concern for compatibility. Personally, I’m not too concerned. Modern GPUs do a huge amount of latency-hiding tricks, such as parking whole shaders at global memory accesses and running other tasks while the GPU fetches the memory the original shader needs, swapping it back and finishing when it arrives. Also, the increased GPU performance will mean that the game has more room to be wasteful of GPU resources, since it only needs to perform at least as good as a regular Xbox One. I expect that there wouldn’t be enough round-trips to ESRAM for it to be a major slowdown when running on Project Scorpio (and its not-ESRAM).

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Seriously, Wall-E with a Freddie Mercury 'stache.

Microsoft does suggest that developers make use of ESRAM on Xbox One and Xbox One S, though. Yes, don’t deliberately throw away performance on the slower machines just because that accelerator isn’t available on higher-end devices, like Project Scorpio or a gaming PC (heh heh heh).

Another point that Digital Foundry highlighted was that the actual number of rendered fragments (pixels that may or may not make it to screen) didn’t scale up by a factor-of-four (going from 1080p to 4K) in all cases. A first-party developer noticed a case where it was only a 3.5x scaling between the two resolutions. (This metric was actually rendered pixels, not even just GPU load, which would include resolution-independent tasks, like physics simulations.) I’m not exactly sure how the number of fragments decreased, but it could be due to some rendering tricks, like when Halo renders the background at a lower resolution. (Yes, I’m using Khronos verbiage; it’s less ambiguous.)

They also assume that Project Scorpio will use pre-Zen AMD CPU cores. I agree. It seems like Zen wouldn’t be around early enough to make production, especially when you consider the pre-release units that are circulating around Microsoft, and probably third-party developers, too.

Project Scorpio launches this holiday season (2017).

A new NVMe drive with familiar components, Patriot's Hellfire 480GB

Subject: Storage | January 24, 2017 - 06:22 PM |
Tagged: patriot, hellfire 480gb, NVMe, M.2, PCIe SSD, M.2 2280

Patriot brings you what should be Arthur Miller's favourite SSD, the Hellfire 480GB M.2 PCIe NVMe drive.  The Tech Report recently published a review of this drive, comparing it to the dozens of SSDs they have recently tested, which is still a mere drop in the bucket that is the SSD market.  The drive uses Phison's PS5007-E7 controller and 15nm MLC NAND from Toshiba, components familiar to anyone who spends a lot of time looking inside of SSDs and which can give a good estimate of the speeds to expect.  With a sale price of about $230 it does not have to be the fastest NVMe drive in the world to be a great deal; read the full review to see if this might be the M.2 drive for you.

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"Patriot joins the high-end storage fray with its first NVMe SSD, the Hellfire series. We run the 480GB version of this drive through our testing gauntlet to see whether it can keep up with the rest of the NVMe crowd."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

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