The retro Ataribox comes with new AMD hardware

Subject: General Tech | September 26, 2017 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: atari, ataribox, amd, Indiegogo

Atari have released a tiny trickle of new information about their somewhat mysterious Ataribox; it will run some flavour of Linux on AMD hardware and cost somewhere between $250 to $300.  They describe their upcoming product as equivalent to a mid-range PC, not quite up to running AAA games but able to handle Minecraft or Terraria in addition to classic Atari games.  This will make it somewhat more expensive than an NVIDIA Shield and more on par with a current generation gaming console; somewhat apt as they too rely on AMD hardware.

Atari will be launching an Indiegogo campaign this fall to fund the Ataribox, with an expected release 12 months after that launch date.  While the idea is intriguing, for who doesn't want to play old Atari games on a nice looking machine; one wonders if Atari can honestly refer to themselves as struggling entrepreneurs in need of assistance in launching a product.  Drop by The Inquirer for more.

atari-box-1.jpg

"The Ataribox will be based on PC tech, and as such won't be tied to any one ecosystem. Now, usually this would send us screaming for the hills, but we know this one is going to get funded, so we're not sweating about sharing some more info."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer
Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Marseille

Overview

When we first saw product page for the Marseille mCable Gaming Edition, a wave of skepticism waved across the PC Perspective offices. Initially, an HDMI cable that claims to improve image quality while gaming sounds like the snake oil that "audiophile" companies like AudioQuest have been peddling for years. 

marseille-site.png

However, looking into some of the more technical details offered by Marseille, their claims seemed to be more and more likely. By using a signal processor embedded inside the HDMI connector itself, Marseille appears to be manipulating the video signal to improve quality in ways applicable to gaming. Specifically, their claim of Anti-Aliasing on all video signals has us interested.

So for curiosities sake, we ordered the $150 mCable Gaming Edition and started to do some experimentation.

IMG_4878.JPG

Even from the initial unboxing, there are some unique aspects to the mCable. First, you might notice that the connectors are labeled with "Source" and "TV." Since the mCable has a signal processor in it, this distinction which is normally meaningless starts to matter a great deal.

Similarly, on the "TV" side, there is a USB cable used to power the signal processing chip. Marseille claims that most modern TV's with USB connections will be able to power the mCable.

While a lot of Marseilles marketing materials are based on upgrading the visual fidelity of console games that don't have adjustable image quality settings, we decided to place our aim on a market segment we are intimately familiar with—PC Gaming. Since we could selectively turn off Anti-Aliasing in a given game, and PC games usually implement several types of AA, it seemed like the most interesting testing methodology. 

Continue reading our look at the new Marseille mCable Gaming Edition!!

What's New, Plexycat? Plex News Adds Customized News Clips to Your Media Library

Subject: General Tech | September 26, 2017 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: plex server, plex pass, plex news, plex, news

Plex has always been an excellent way to organize the movies, TV shows, and other media that you already have, but one area in which it has traditionally lacked is outside content. The Plex team has taken steps to address this in recent years, first with the introduction of DVR support in late 2016 and followed by the ability to watch live TV this past June. Now Plex has set its sights on another area of outside content: news.

plex-news-my-newscast.jpg

Plex today announced Plex News, a new service that aggregates recent video clips from over 190 global and local news publishers and integrates them "seamlessly and beautifully" into your media library. The initiative is based upon Watchup, a personalized news aggregation service that Plex acquired last January. Users can choose the topics and sources of news they prefer, and Plex will create custom video feeds containing each day's news. "AI and machine learning" will then learn the type of content each users prefers and automatically adapt the user's news feed as new videos and content sources are added.

Plex News is especially exciting to us because it follows a progression we started with Live TV and DVR where we’re bringing you great media from outside your library in a way which integrates seamlessly and beautifully. This makes it easier than ever to start using Plex if you’re new, and gives you another universe of content to explore outside of your own media, without ever leaving Plex.

In addition to clips from expected sources like CNN and the CNET, Plex claims that it has reached a deal to provide users with local news in more than 80 percent of U.S. markets as well, which positions Plex as a unique source for both enjoying your on-demand content library and keeping up with important events in the "real world."

plex-news-ios.jpg

Plex News is launching as a free ad-supported service and will roll out to all users over the next two days, starting first with Plex Pass subscribers. It is available at launch for Android TV (including NVIDIA SHIELD), Apple TV, Roku, Android Mobile, and iOS, with support for other platforms to follow.

Source: Plex Blog

Skimmer Scanner, a start to protecting yourself at the pump

Subject: General Tech | September 25, 2017 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: skimmer scanner, security, bluetooth

If you haven't seen the lengths which scammers will go to when modifying ATMs to steal your bank info you should really take a look at these pictures and get in the habit of yanking on the ATM's fascia and keyboard before using them.  Unfortunately as Hack a Day posted about last week, the bank is not the only place you have to be cautious, paying at the pump can also expose your details.  In this case it is not a fake front which you need to worry about, instead a small PIC microcontroller is attached to the serial connection between card reader and pump computer, so it can read the unencrypted PIN and data and then store the result in an EEPROM device for later collection.  The device often has Bluetooth connectivity so that the scammers don't need to drive right up to the pump frequently.

There is an app you can download that might be able to help stop this, an app on Google Play will detect Bluetooth devices utilizing the standard codes the skimmers use and alert you.  You can then tweet out the location of the compromised pump to alert others, and hopefully letting the station owner and authorities know as well.  The app could be improved with automatic reporting and other tools, so check it out and see if you can help improve it as well as keeping your PIN and account safe when fuelling up. 

Skimmers-Main.jpg

"It would be nice to think that this work might draw attention to the shocking lack of security in gas pumps that facilitates the skimmers, disrupt the finances of a few villains, and even result in some of them getting a free ride in a police car. We can hope, anyway."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: Hack a Day

EFF Leaves the W3C over DRM Decision

Subject: General Tech | September 24, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: w3c, eff, DRM

On September 18th, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, EFF, announced that they were leaving the World Wide Web Consortium, W3C, due to its stance on DRM, effective immediately. This was published in the form of an open letter from Cory Doctorow, which is available on the EFF’s website.

eff-logo_full.png

There’s several facets to the whole DRM issue. In this case, Cory Doctorow seems focused mostly on the security side of things. Creating an architecture to attach code that manipulates untrusted data is sketchy, at a time that browser vendors are limiting that attack surface by killing as many plug-ins as possible, and, in this case, a legal minefield is layered atop it due to copyright concerns. Publishers are worried about end-users moving data in ways that they don’t intend... even though every single time that content is pirated before its release date is a testament that the problem is elsewhere.

We can also get into the issue of “more control isn’t the same as more revenue” again, some other time.

As for the consequences of this action? I’m not too sure. I don’t really know how much sway the EFF had internally at the W3C. While they will still do what they do best, fight the legal side of digital freedom, it sounds like they won’t be in a position to officially guide standards anymore. This is a concern, but I’m not in a position to quantify how big.

Source: EFF

New NVIDIA SHIELD TV SKU: 16GB with Remote for $179

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 10:29 PM |
Tagged: SHIELD TV, pc gaming, nvidia

NVIDIA is adding a third SKU to their SHIELD TV line-up, shaving $20 off the price tag by including just a media remote, rather than the current low-end SKU’s media remote and a gamepad. This makes the line-up: SHIELD (16GB, Remote Only) for $179.00, SHIELD (16GB, Remote + Gamepad) for $199.99, and SHIELD PRO (500GB, Remote + Gamepad) for $299.99.

All SKUs come with MSI levels of uppercase brand names.

nvidia-2017-optional.png

This version is for those who are intending to use the device as a 4K media player. If you are not interested in gaming, then that’s $20 in your pocket instead of a controller that you will never use on your shelf. If, however, you want to game in the future, then the first-party SHIELD CONTROLLER is $59.99 USD, so buying the bundle with the gamepad now will save you about $30 (Update, Sept 24th @ 5:45pm: $40... I mathed wrong.) That leaves a little bit to think about, but the choice can now be made.

The new bundle is now available for pre-order, and it ships on October 18th.

Source: NVIDIA

Unreal Engine 4.18 Preview Published to Epic Launcher

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: ue4, epic games, pc gaming

Epic Games has released a preview build of Unreal Engine 4.18. This basically sets a bar for shipped features, giving them a bit of time to crush bugs before they recommend developers use it for active projects. This version has quite a few big changes, especially in terms of audio and video media.

epic-2017-zengardenwebassembly.jpg

WebAssembly is now enabled by default for HTML5.

First, we’ll discuss platform support. As you would expect, iOS 11 and XCode 9 are now supported, and A10 processors can use the same forward renderer that was added to UE4 for desktop VR, as seen in Robo Recall. That’s cool and all, but only for Apple. For the rest of us, WebAssembler (WASM) is now enabled by default for HTML5 projects. WASM is LLVM bytecode that can be directly ingested by web browsers. In other words, you can program in C++ and have web browsers execute it, and do so without transpiling to some form of JavaScript. (Speaking of which, ASM.js is now removed from UE4.) The current implementation is still single-threaded, but browser vendors are working on adding multi-threading to WASM.

As for the cool features: Epic is putting a lot of effort in their media framework. This allows for a wider variety of audio and video types (sample rates, sample depths, and so forth) as well as, apparently, more control over timing and playback, including through Blueprints visual scripting (although you could have always made your own Blueprint node anyway). If you’re testing out Unreal Engine 4.18, Epic Games asks that you pay extra attention to this category, reporting any bugs that you find.

Epic has also improved their lighting engine, particularly when using the Skylight lighting object. They also say that Volumetric Lightmaps are also, now, enabled by default. This basically allows dynamic objects to move through a voxel-style grid of lighting values that are baked in the engine, which adds indirect lighting on them without a full run-time GI solution.

The last thing I’ll mention (although there’s a bunch of cool things, including updates to their audio engine and the ability to reference Actors in different levels) is their physics improvements. Their Physics Asset Editor has been reskinned, and the physics engine has been modified. For instance, APEX Destruction has been pulled out of the core engine into a plug-in, and the cloth simulation tools, in the skeletal mesh editor, are no longer experimental.

Unreal Engine 4.18 Preview can be downloaded from the Epic Launcher, but existing projects should be actively developed in 4.17 for a little while longer.

Source: Epic Games

Crytek Releases CRYENGINE 5.4

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 01:10 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, crytek

The latest version of CRYENGINE, 5.4, makes several notable improvements. Starting with the most interesting one for our readers: Vulkan has been added at the beta support level. It’s always good to have yet another engine jump in with this graphics API so developers can target it without doing the heavy lifting on their own, and without otherwise limiting their choices.

crytek-2016-logo.png

More interesting, at least from a developer standpoint, is that CRYENGINE is evolving into an Entity Component framework. Amazon is doing the same with their Lumberyard fork, but Crytek has now announced that they are doing something similar on their side, too. The idea is that you place relatively blank objects in your level and build them up by adding components, which attaches the data and logic that this object needs. This system proved to be popular with the success of Unity, and it can also be quite fast, too, depending on how the back-end handles it.

I also want to highlight their integration of Allegorithmic Substance. With game engines switching to a PBR-based rendering model, tools can make it easier to texture 3D objects by stenciling on materials from a library. That way, you don’t need to think how gold will behave, just that gold should be here, and rusty iron should be over there. All of the major engines are doing it, and Crytek, themselves, have been using Substance, but now there’s an actual, supported workflow.

CryEngine is essentially free, including royalty-free, to use. Their business model currently involves subscriptions for webinars and priority support.

Source: Crytek

Amazon Web Services Discuss Lumberyard Roadmap

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, amazon

Lumberyard has been out for a little over a year and a half, and it has been experiencing steady development since then. Just recently, they published a blog post highlighting where they want the game engine to go. Pretty much none of this information is new if you’ve been following them, but it’s still interesting none-the-less.

amazon-2017-lumberyard-startergame.jpg

From a high level, Amazon has been progressing their fork of CryEngine into more of a component-entity system. The concept is similar to Unity, in that you place objects in the level, then add components to them to give them the data and logic that you require. Currently, these components are mostly done in Lua and C++, but Amazon is working on a visual scripting system, like Blueprints from Unreal Engine 4, called Script Canvas. They technically inherited Flow Graph from Crytek, which I think is still technically in there, but they’ve been telling people to stop using it for a while now. I mean, this blog post explicitly states that they don’t intend to support migrating from Flow Graph to Script Canvas, so it’s a “don’t use it unless you need to ship real soon” sort of thing.

One of Lumberyard’s draws, however, is their license: free, but you can’t use this technology on any cloud hosting provider except AWS. So if you make an offline title, or you use your own servers, then you don’t need to pay Amazon a dime. That said, if you do something like leaderboards, persistent logins, or use cloud-hosted multiplayer, then you will need to do it through AWS, which, honestly, you were probably going to do anyway.

The current version is Lumberyard Beta 1.10. No release date has been set for 1.11, although they usually don’t say a word until it’s published.

Source: Amazon

Unity 2017.2.0f1 Released

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2017 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, Unity

While it’s not technically released yet, Unity has flipped the naming scheme of Unity 2017.2 to Unity 2017.2.0f1. The “f” stands for final, so we will probably see a blog post on it soon. This version has a handful of back-end changes, such as improved main-thread performance when issuing commands to graphics APIs, but the visible changes are mostly in two areas: XR (VR + AR) and baked lighting.

unity-logo-rgb.png

From the XR standpoint, a few additions stand out. First, this version now supports Google Tango and Windows Mixed Reality, the latter of which is tied to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, so it makes sense that Unity would have support in the version before that gets released (October 17th). In terms of features, the editor now supports emulating a Vive headset, so you can test some VR elements without having a headset. I expect this will mostly be good for those who want to do a bit of development in places where they don’t have access to their headset, although that’s blind speculation from my standpoint.

The other area that got a boost is baked global illumination. Unity started introducing their new Progressive Lightmapping feature in Unity 5.6, and it bakes lighting into the scenes in the background as you work. This update allows you to turn shadows on and off on a per-object basis, and it supports double-sided materials. You cannot have independent lighting calculations for the front and back of a triangle... if you want that, then you will need to give some volume to your models. This is mostly for situations like the edge of a level, so you don’t need to create a second wall facing away from the playable area to block light coming in from outside the playable area.

I’m not sure when the official release is, but it looks like the final, supported build is out now.

Source: Unity