MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries Announced on Unreal Engine 4

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2016 - 04:43 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, mechwarrior 5, Mechwarrior

Piranha Games, known for the free-to-play MechWarrior Online, has just announced MechWarrior 5: Merceneries. The first thing I noticed is that they revived the Merceneries subtitle, used twice before with expansion packs to MechWarrior 2 and MechWarrior 4. The second thing I noticed is that it now runs on Unreal Engine 4, despite MechWarrior Online being based on CryEngine.

The third thing I noticed is that, while it’s a bit of a meme to start MechWarrior things with the mech powering up, the video actually begins with the pilot on foot, walking through the hangar. I’m wondering whether this will be expanded upon in the gameplay or narrative. I don’t really see how it could work, but it seems like a fair amount of effort for no real intent. Yes, I’ve played MechAssault 2, but it seems highly unlikely that anything like that will happen.

MechWarrior 5 takes place in 3015, which means that it will have a very small subset of the weapons and equipment that you would see in, say, MechWarrior 3 (~3060) and MechWarrior 4 (~3063). There probably will not be ER weapons, pulse lasers, gauss rifles, ECM, LBX autocannons, or anything like that. I would be surprised to see anything more than standard lasers, PPCs, short-range missiles, long-range missiles, machine guns, and standard autocannons. It will be an interesting change of pace.

MechWarrior 5 also might be single-player only. The teaser site seems to suggest that MechWarrior Online will continue to be updated, which I interpret to mean that it will be its multiplayer companion.

It is expected for release in 2018.

LibRetro Vulkanizes PlayStation

Subject: General Tech | December 4, 2016 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, vulkan, libretro

About half of a year ago, LibRetro added Vulkan support to their Nintendo 64 renderer. This allowed them to do things like emulate the console’s hardware rasterization in software, and do so as an asynchronous shader, circumventing limitations in their OpenGL path trying to emulate the console’s offbeat GPU.

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Image Credit: Universal Interactive via Wikipedia

They have now turned their sights (“for the lulz”) to the original PlayStation, creating a Vulkan back-end for emulators like Beetle PSX.

The fairly long blog post discusses how the PlayStation is designed in detail, making it an interesting read for anyone curious. One point that I found particularly interesting is how the video memory is configured as a single, 1MB, 2D array (1024x512x16-bit). At this time, texture resolution was quite small, and frame buffers were between 256x224 and 640x480, so that’s a lot of room to make a collage out of your frame and all textures in the scene, but it’s still odd to think about a console imposing such restrictions now that we’re spoiled by modern GPUs.

In terms of performance, the developer claims that modern GPUs can handle 8k resolutions with relative ease, and four-digit FPS at lower resolutions.

Move Over T150...

The Thrustmaster TMX was released this past summer to address the Xbox One ecosystem with an affordable, entry level force-feedback wheel.  This is essentially the Xbox version of the previously reviewed Thrustmaster T150 for the PS3/PS4.  There are many things that these two wheels have in common, but there are a few significant differences as well.  The TMX is also PC compatible, which is what I tested it upon.

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A no-nonsense box design that lets the buyer know exactly what systems this product is for.

The Basics

The TMX is priced at an MSRP of $199.  Along with the T150 this is truly an entry level FFB wheel with all of the features that racers desire.  The wheel itself is 11” wide and the base is compact, with a solid feel.  Unlike the T150, the TMX is entirely decked out in multiple shades of black.  The majority of the unit is a dark, slick black while the rubber grips have a matte finish.  The buttons on the wheel are colored appropriately according to the Xbox controller standards (yellow, blue, green, and red).  The other buttons are black with a couple of them having some white stenciling on them.

The motor in this part is not nearly as powerful as what we find in the TX and T300rs base units.  Those are full pulley based parts with relatively strong motors while the TMX is a combination gear and pulley system.  This provides a less expensive setup than the full pulley systems of the higher priced parts, but it still is able to retain pretty strong FFB.  Some of the more subtle effects may be lost due to the setup, but it is far and away a better solution than units that feature bungee cords and basic rumble functionality.

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The back shows a basic diagram of the mixed pulley and geared subsystem for force-feedback.

The wheel features a 12 bit optical pickup sensor for motion on the wheel.  This translates into 4096 values through 360 degrees of rotation.  This is well below the 16 bit units of the TX and T300rs bases, but in my racing I did not find it to be holding me back.  Yes, the more expensive units are more accurate and utilize the Hall Effect rather than an optical pickup, but the TMX provides more than enough precision for the vast majority of titles out there.  The pedals look to feature the same 10 bit resolution that most other Thrustmaster pedals offer, or about 1024 values for several inches of travel.

Click to read the entire wheel review!

DIY self driving car; what could possibly go wrong!

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2016 - 02:59 PM |
Tagged: DIY, self driving car, comma.ai, geohot

George Hotz, aka [Geohot], created the comma.ai program in an effort to create and sell a program to control self driving cars.  The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took offence to this, citing the possibility of this endangering humans in a letter sent to his company Comma.Ai.  He shut down the project rather than having to deal with lawyers, red tape and regulations.  The code survived however and is now available on GitHub.  Hack a Day took a look and discovered it is written in Python with some C included and is rather easy to interpret if you are familiar with the language.  It is compatible with Acura ILXs or Honda Civic 2016 Touring models, if you are so inclined.

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"First there was [Geohot]’s lofty goal to build a hacker’s version of the self-driving car. Then came comma.ai and a whole bunch of venture capital. After that, a letter from the Feds and a hasty retreat from the business end of things. The latest development? comma.ai’s openpilot project shows up on GitHub!"

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Source: Hack a Day

Razer Joins The Khronos Group

Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2016 - 12:58 AM |
Tagged: VR, razer, osvr, Khronos

The Khronos Group is the standards body that maintains OpenGL, Vulkan, OpenCL, along with several other APIs and formats. They are made up of several members, which include companies of various sizes along with educational institutions, with a couple of tiers where members of the higher level, Promoter, get board nomination rights.

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The lower level, Contributor, has just received a new member: Razer. The Khronos Group published a little statement to their front page, but didn’t provide a way to permanently link it and the Read More just directs to Razer’s homepage. Also, Razer didn’t provide a press release on their website, at least by the time this news was published, so I included the statement below to prevent it from getting buried in a few days:

The Khronos Group is proud to announce that Razer has joined as a Contributor Member. Razer is a world leader in connected devices and software for gamers. Its award-winning design and technology span systems, peripherals, audio and wearable technologies. Razer co-founded OSVR, an open-source platform that integrates VR, AR and mixed reality hardware and software APIs that support a universal VR ecosystem.

Based on this, it’s easy to speculate that Razer is looking to have a say and a vote in how graphics APIs evolve, nudging it as needed for OSVR, their co-founded virtual reality platform. Basically every other VR developer worth mentioning is already a member, including Google, Microsoft, Oculus VR, Samsung, Sony, and Valve. Likewise, Vulkan is undergoing rapid development, and the next version, codenamed Vulkan Next, has VR as one of its “top priorities”. It seems like a good time for Razer to get involved.

Otherwise? Not much to speak of here. Razer is a fairly big company that wants to be active in technology development, and it can easily afford the Khronos Group membership fee. I mean, the amount they spent on USB ports with a specific shade of green would cover about twenty years of membership to the Khronos Group, so it seems within their reach.

Shhh, no input lag, only Dream Machines' DM Pro S

Subject: General Tech | December 1, 2016 - 03:14 PM |
Tagged: gaming mouse, input, dream machines, DM Pro S

The Dream Machines DM1 PRO S gaming mouse uses a Pixart PMW 3360 optical sensor, not one commonly utilized in the market.  The DPI of the sensor can be toggled in set increments from 400 up to 12000, with the colour of the light under the logo indicating your current setting; the lack of software precludes manipulation of those presets.  The overall design of the mouse looks ambidextrous, however there are only thumb buttons on the left side of the mouse.  TechPowerUp were very impressed with the performance of the new sensor, as to the rest of the features you will just have to pop over and read them yourself.

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"A few months ago, we reviewed the Dream Machines DM1 PRO, and Dream Machines is now back with the DM1 PRO S. This version has an updated sensor, has been slimmed down to be even lighter, and has a rather nice glossy finish. Improvements, which could be a game changer."

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Source: TechPowerUp

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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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!

DSC_0140.jpg

“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.

DSC_0144.jpg

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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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.

windows-10-update-stuck-at-32.jpg

"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