T'is the season to write gift guides, tra la la la la ...

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2016 - 02:24 PM |
Tagged: gift guide, holiday gift guide

Ryan has started cracking the whip but we haven't quite assembled our picks for the Christmas season so for now you can check out what the gang at The Tech Report has on offer.  As you might expect, the HTC Vive appears but you might not have suspected that a pressure cooker and sous-vide machine are on their list.  There is a lot more in the way of recommendations, from a CPU delidder to a projector or a 55" 4K TV with HDR if you are more of a traditionalist.  Hide your credit cards and check out the whole list.

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"The TR staff knows just how hard it can be to find the right gift to please the nerd in your life, so we've compiled a list of the items we've used and enjoyed over the past year. If you're stuck on what to buy for your favorite techie this holiday season, maybe we can help."

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Tech Talk

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: AUKEY

Introduction and First Impressions

Aukey, a prominent seller of mobile accessories on Amazon, has an interesting product for PC enthusiasts: an RGB mechanical gaming keyboard for $59.99. The price is definitely right, but is it any good? We’ll take a look!

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“The AUKEY KM-G3 mechanical keyboard takes the gaming experience to a new level. Tactile, responsive mechanical keys put you in control for an outstanding typing or gaming experience. The KM-G3 offers preloaded multi-color RGB backlit lighting effects and patterns. Ideal for FPS, CF, COD, LOL and Racing games - Just use the Function key to easily switch between gaming presets.”

The KM-G3 keyboard is a standard 104-key design, using blue switches (presumably a generic switch as no brand is listed), and there is RGB lighting which can be cycled between various colors and patterns, or switched off if desired. Aukey is also offering a 2-year warranty on the keyboard, which should help allay any fear about a purchase.

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Continue reading our review of the AUKEY KM-G3 RGB mechanical gaming keyboard!

Serious Sam VR, now with tag teaming NVIDIA cards

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2016 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: serious sam vr, nvidia, gaming, pascal

Having already looked at AMD's performance with two RX 480's in a system, the recent patch which enables support for multiple NVIDIA GPUs have dragged [H]ard|OCP back into the game.  Lacking a pair of Titan X cards, they tested the performance of a pair of GTX 1080s and 1070s; the GTX 1060 will not be receiving support from Croteam.  It would seem that adding a second Pascal card to your system will benefit you, however the scaling they saw was nowhere near as impressive as with the AMD RX 480 which saw a 36% boost.  Check out the full results here and yes ... in this case the m in mGPU indicates multiple GPUs, not mobile.

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"Serious Sam VR was the first commercial enthusiast gaming title to include multi-GPU support with AMD's RX 480 GPU. Now the folks at Croteam have added mGPU support for NVIDIA cards as well. We take a look at how well NVIDIA's VRSLI technology fares in this VR shooter title."

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Gaming

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Friends don't let friends perform unattended updates ... or Bitlocker be broken

Subject: General Tech | November 30, 2016 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: bitlocker, microsoft, windows 10, security, hack

Is Bitlocker cramping your voyeuristic cravings and preventing you from snooping on your loved ones or strangers?  Assuming you do not instead seek medical help for your problem, all you need to do is wait for Windows to perform a version update and for the user to get bored and walk away.  Hop onto their machine and press SHIFT+F10 to get a command prompt which will be running at root privileges and take advantage of the fact that Windows disables Bitlocker while installing an updated version of Windows.  This will not work for all updates, it needs to be a major OS update such as the move to Anniversary Edition which changes the version of Windows installed on the machine.

Microsoft is working on a fix, in the meantime sticking with Windows Long Term Service Branch or slighly modifying how updates are pushed via WSUS or SCCM will ensure this vulnerability cannot be leveraged.  You can also take the simple measure of sticking around when major updates occur.  Pop over to Slashdot for more information.

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"This [update procedure] has a feature for troubleshooting that allows you to press SHIFT + F10 to get a Command Prompt," Laiho writes on his blog. "The real issue here is the Elevation of Privilege that takes a non-admin to SYSTEM (the root of Windows) even on a BitLocker (Microsoft's hard disk encryption) protected machine." Laiho informed Microsoft of the issue and the company is apparently working on a fix."

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Source: Slashdot

A handcrafted and possibly artisinal CPU with a 15m die size

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2016 - 01:23 PM |
Tagged: megaprocessor, DIY, neat

The Megaprocessor is a working CPU which is blown up in size to allow you to walk into it to watch how data is physically processed with your own eyes.  There are 8,500 LED's in the core and another 2,048 for the memory which light up as data passes through the 15,300 transistors in the core and the memory's 27,000; though that total count includes the transistors which control the LEDs.  The core's clock is a staggering 25kHz and there is 256 bytes of both RAM and ROM.  The site actually provides you with the assembly language to write code for the processor if you are interested and you can visit the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England to see it in person.  Drop by The Register for a quick look and for links to the project page for more details on the computer and build process, including a murderous vacuum cleaner.

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"His ultimate goal other than the pure satisfaction of building the thing and getting it running, as El Reg reported in June this year, was to show the public how computers work by blowing the CPU up to a human-viewable scale."

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Source: The Register

I’m Going To Build My Own Netflix With Pi and Plex

Subject: General Tech | November 28, 2016 - 01:44 PM |
Tagged: Raspberry Pi 3, plex, pandora, Netflix

***This is your own personal Netflix seeing as how you are no longer able to access Netflix on "unofficial" devices.  Check the comments for great info.**

Over at Linux.com you can find instructions on making a very inexpensive headless Plex Media Server.  You will need a working PC to start up the installation by formatting an SD card and setting it up with NOOBS.  A little configuration work on the Pi, linking it to your locally stored video libraries and online content such as CNN and Netflix and you have a media centre ready for use, for well under $100.  Maybe you could consider making one as a gift for someone deserving.  The full instructions and parts list can be found here.

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"No, you don’t have to buy an expensive, bulky PC. All you need is a Raspberry Pi 3, a hard drive, an SD card and a mobile charger. It should all cost less than $100."

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Source: Linux.com

Ubisoft Offers One Free New Game with Eligible Purchase

Subject: General Tech | November 26, 2016 - 06:49 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, ubisoft, ea, bethesda

The Ubisoft store is offering the standard edition of either The Division, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, Rainbow Six: Siege, or Far Cry Primal when you purchase (or pre-order) another, participating title. These other games aren’t just from Ubisoft, though. They also include new releases from EA, Bethesda, and SquareEnix, such as Battlefield 1 (which still requires Origin) and Skyrim: Special Edition.

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This is interesting for two reasons. First, and most obvious, if you really want one of the four titles and one of the applicable ones, then it might be cheaper than buying them individually (although you should check for sales elsewhere first).

The second point regards how the various publishers are handling Steam’s dominance in the PC space. EA is now even participating their titles, which are not available on Valve’s service, in promotions from stores owned by other competitors. Meanwhile, it seems like Bethesda is happy putting their stock wherever, and they will even discount games by a third or a half if it aligns with a big Steam Sale. Then we get Ubisoft, who has their own store, but also lists on Steam and does fairly good sales there, too.

Anyway, the sale is running until the 27th. As I said earlier, though, be sure that any combination of game that interests you is actually cheaper than their respective sale price at competing stores before buying.

Source: Ubisoft

Valve Adds Support for OSVR

Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 08:51 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, VR, osvr, razer, sensics

There’s a few competing VR standards at the moment. Obviously, mobile has a bunch of them; Google technically has two of their own. On the PC, the top two are Oculus and SteamVR. A third one, Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR), was co-founded by Razer and Sensics.

Valve has now added their platform to Steam, including the tools that users will need to filter compatible content for that headset.

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OSVR is an interesting initiative. For instance, when they released their second developer’s kit, HDK2, they also released an upgrade kit for the original. Currently priced at $220, it upgrades the screen to 2160x1200. They also have a Leap Motion upgrade, although that’s currently listed as “coming soon”. It has also been added to Unreal Engine 4 for the last few versions, so engine developers are considering it worthy of first-party support.

Source: OSVR

Japan Announces $173 Million USD Supercomputer

Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: Japan, supercomputer

According to Reuters, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have set aside 19.5 billion yen to build a high-end supercomputer. This will translate into 130 PetaFLOPs, which would put it ahead of all other announced clusters. The article claims that the government will rent the computer out to Japanese corporations, many of which currently use American-based cloud services.

The supercomputer has been named ABCI: AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure.

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Image Credit: つ via Wikipedia

From a hardware standpoint? There’s not a whole lot else to say about it. The money has been set aside, but no-one has been selected to build it. Companies will submit their bids by December 8th, and we assume they’ll make an announcement at some point after.

This also means we don’t know what is planned to go into each node. Despite targeting ABCI at AI, Japan is sticking to the “FLOPs” rating, and thus will probably be focused on floating-point workloads. It would be weird to see such an expensive machine be focused on 8- or 16-bit instructions, but then we see Google creating custom ASICs, called TPUs, that seem to get huge performance boosts by sticking to low-precision workloads. Could that even scale to a competitive supercomputer? Or would it cut out too many potential customers that need 32- and 64-bit precision?

Either way, I would guess that this computer will use more conventional, GPU-style co-processors from someone like Intel (Xeon Phi) or NVIDIA. Really, we don’t know, though. No-one does at this point. It’s an interesting branding, though.

Source: Reuters

Just Picked Up: Logitech G900 and G810

Subject: General Tech | November 25, 2016 - 06:39 PM |
Tagged: logitech, mouse, keyboard, g900, g810

I braved the Black Friday lines... at about three in the afternoon, because this guy isn’t going to get trampled for discounts on computer hardware. Luckily, Best Buy still had a single G900 Chaos Spectrum mouse in stock at 50% off, and a few G810 Orion Spectrum keyboards at about 35% off. I was actually looking to pick them up on Boxing Week if they dropped in price, because I surprisingly needed another mechanical keyboard, but this is even better than I expected.

So, I picked up one of each.

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One of the things that attracted me to the G900 was its ambidextrous design with a tilt scroll wheel. It’s surprisingly hard to get a mouse for left-handed users that also has four directions of scrolling. The 2014 left-handed edition of the Razer Naga has a tilt wheel, although its left and right mouse buttons are swapped, so those who are used to right-handed mice will need to wait until Razer Synapse loads and connects to reverse them to left-on-left and right-on-right. What I’m trying to say is that, for the last two years, my old mouse would have left button right-click and right button left-click until my profile abruptly kicked in about 30 seconds after login. I don’t need to deal with that anymore, while still keeping the mouse tilt wheel.

I did notice that Logitech’s G Software refuses to allow binding scroll wheel input to mouse buttons (which I attach to my thumb buttons for comfortable scrolling). Both EVGA and Razer allow this, albeit you need to perform a full click for each notch, short of writing an AutoHotkey macro. It’s not too bad, because you can bind the keyboard’s up and down arrows instead, but scrolling and arrows might not behave the same in all applications, such as with Tweetdeck.

As for the G810, this keyboard feels really nice. The coating of the keycaps are nice and non-stick, the RomerG switches feel pretty good to me, keeping in mind my favorite Cherry MX switch is the MX Brown, and the keyboard’s feet are possible the best I’ve used. There are actually two sets of feet: one set that inclines the keyboard to about 4 degrees, and another that raises it to about 8 degrees. (These values are written on them.) Even better, it’s stable and takes quite a bit of force to slide.

I would prefer it to have a couple of macro keys, even a single row of them, but there’s only so much I can ask for. The media keys are RGB backlit and surprisingly clicky. I’m not sure what type of switch they use, but it feels mechanical... but a very short one like you would see on a mouse, not a keyboard. The G810 also has a volume roller, which I was a huge fan of when I was introduced to it with the first generation of Corsair K60 and K90 mechanical keyboards. (If another brand did it before them, in 2012, then I’m sorry! Corsair was the first that I’ve seen do it!) I should note that the Logitech roller is a bit smoother than the Corsair one, but, again, the K60 and K90 are about four years old at this point.

So yeah, that’s about it.