Buy an EVGA GeForce GTX 10 Series - Get EVGA PowerLink FREE

Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 05:45 PM |
Tagged: powerlink, pascal, evga, deals

EVGA sent along a newsletter which is worth mentioning as there are a few good deals to be had, even if you have already picked up one of their cards.  Anyone who recently bought a Pascal based EVGA card or is planning to in the near future can get up to four EVGA Powerlink cable management ... thingies.  It is for your PCIe power connectors and wraps around your GPU, allowing you to power your card without exposing those wires and connectors, great for modders or those who prefer a clean looking build.  You do need to create an EVGA account and register your card, do keep that in mind.

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The PCIe power connectors on the Powerlink are adjustable, no matter which card you purchased you will be able to use the adapter.  There are capacitors inside which are intended to help ensure smooth power delivery, so this not simply an extenstion cord.  They also have some deals on previous generation NVIDIA cards as well as their TORQ mouse.

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$99.99 $399.99 $32.99

There is also a rather unique deal for those who game on the go as well as at home. As it says below, every purchase of an EVGA SC17 980m laptop (758-21-2633-T1) comes with a free GTX 1070 FTW as long as supplies last.

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Source: EVGA

Google Shows Off $69 4K HDR Capable Chromecast Ultra at #madebygoogle Event

Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 04:28 PM |
Tagged: google, chromecast, media streaming, 4k, hdr, google home

During Google's #madebygoogle event (embedded below), the company introduced a number of new pieces of hardware including a new Chromecast. The Chromecast Ultra is aimed at owners of 4K televisions and supports both 4K Ultra HD and HDR content from the likes of Netflix, YouTube, and other apps. Like previous models, the Chromecast takes input from Android, iOS, Mac OSX, and Windows devices that "cast" media to the TV. Additionally, it can be paired with Google Home where users can use voice commands such as "Ok, Google. Play the sneezing panda video on my TV."

Chromecast Ultra 4K HDR.jpg

The Chromecast Ultra is a small circular puck with a Micro USB port and a short flexible flat HDMI cable that is permanently attached to the device. The Micro USB port is used for both power and data. One neat feature about the new Chromecast Ultra is that the power adpater has an Ethernet port on it so that users can hook the streaming device up to their wired network for better performance (important for streaming 4K content). Not to worry if you rely on WiFi though because it does support dual band 802.11ac.

Google has not yet revealed what hardware is under the hood of its new 4k capable Chromecast, unfortunately. They did release pricing information though: the Chromecast Ultra will be $69 and is "coming soon". If you are interested you can sign up to be notified when it becomes available.

Source: Google

Amazon Updates Fire TV Stick With Alexa Voice Control

Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 04:09 PM |
Tagged: media streaming, fire tv, amazon

Later this month Amazon will be releasing a new Fire TV Stick with upgraded internals and Alexa Voice controls. The refreshed media streamer features a 1.3 GHz MediaTek MT8127 SoC with four ARM Cortex A7 cores and a Mali 450 GPU, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage (for apps mainly, and not expandable), and support for newer 802.11ac (dual band, dual antenna) Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.1 wireless technologies.

While that particular SoC is ancient by smartphone standards, it is a decent step up from its predecessor's dual 1GHz ARM A9 cores and VideoCore 4 GPU. It supports h.265 and HEVC decode along with 1080p60 output. The inclusion of 802.11ac WiFi should help the streaming device do its job effectively even in areas littered with WiFi networks (like apartment buildings or townhomes).

Amazon Fire TV Stick.jpg

The big change from the old Fire TV Stick is the integration of Alexa Voice control and a new remote control with microphone input. Using voice input, users can control media playback, open apps, search for content, and even order pizza. There is no 4K support or expandable storage here (for that you would have to move to the $99 Fire TV) but it is less than half the price.

The refreshed Fire TV Stick will be available on Amazon for $39.99 on October 20th. Pricing along with the additional voice input makes it a competitive option versus Roku's streaming stick and Google's Chromecast.

Related: 

Source: Amazon

Meet the three flavours of Server 2016

Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 02:29 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, server 2016

Ars Technica have put together an overview of the new Windows Server, three pages which broadly cover the new features you will find.  As has often been discussed there will be three ways of installing the new Server OS, the familiar Desktop experience as well as Core and Nano.  Nano is similar to the Core installation which we saw introduced in Server 2012 but further reduces the interface and attack surface by removing the last remnants of the GUI, no support for 32bit apps and the Microsoft installer; all you get is a basic control console.  The Core and Desktop versions remain the same as in the 2012 version. 

If you are curious about the inclusion of Docker features such as the Linux-like containers and changes to Hyper-V or deployment techniques drop by for a read.

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"Like a special breed of kaiju, Microsoft's server platform keeps on mutating, incorporating the DNA of its competitors in sometimes strange ways. All the while, Microsoft's offering has constantly grown in its scope, creating variants of itself in the process."

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Source: Ars Technica

Kingston's affordable HyperX Cloud Stinger gaming headset

Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2016 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: kingston hyper x, kingston, gaming headset, Cloud Stinger, audio

Kingston have updated their line of gaming headsets with the new HyperX Cloud Stinger, available already for ~$50.  This makes them attractive for those who do not often use a gaming headset but might want one around just in case.  The low price could make you underestimate the design, Kingston used 50mm drivers and the microphone mutes itself the moment you swing it away from your voice hole.  That said, Overclockers Club were not in love with the quality of the sound compared to expensive headphones, but for this price point they have no qualms about recommending these for casual use.

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"Overall, I'm quite impressed with the HyperX Cloud Stinger Gaming Headset. A mouth full just to say that – but after disliking the HyperX Cloud Revolver as much as I did – I'm actually quite happy with this drop in price and slight redesign. With closed ear cups I would have expected a little more in the bass-land, it wasn't the end of the world. The overall sound is nice and flat, and movies, music, and games are all quite tolerable in the closed environment."

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The free ride is over and noticeable amount of people hopped back to Windows 7

Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2016 - 01:27 PM |
Tagged: Windows 7, windows 10, microsoft, market share

A change of one percent may seem tiny at first glance but historically it is an incredibly large shift in market share for an operating system.  Unfortunately for Microsoft it is Windows 7 which has gained share, up to 48.27% of the market with Windows 10 dropping half a point to 22.53% while the various flavours of Windows 8 sit at 9.61%.  This would make it almost impossible for Microsoft to reach their goal of two one billion machines running Windows 10 in the two years after release and spells bad news for their income from consumers. 

Enterprise have barely touched the new OS for a wide variety of reasons, though companies still provide significant income thanks to corporate licenses for Microsoft products and older operating systems.  It should be very interesting to see how Microsoft will react to this information, especially if the trend continues.  The sales data matches many of the comments we have seen here; the changes which they made were not well received by their customer base and the justifications they've used in the design of the new OS are not holding water.  It shouldn't be long before we here more out of Redmond, in the mean time you can pop over to The Inquirer to see Net Applications' data if you so desire.

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"The latest figures from Net Applications’ Netmarketshare service show Windows 7, now over seven years old, gain a full percentage point to bolster its place as the world’s most popular desktop operating system with 48.27 per cent (+1.02 on last month)."

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Source: The Inquirer

Blender 2.78 Released

Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2016 - 10:58 PM |
Tagged: Blender

Blender 2.78 has been a fairly anticipated release. First off, people who have purchased a Pascal-based graphics card will now be able to GPU-accelerate their renders in Cycles. Previously, it would outright fail, complaining that it didn't have a compatible CUDA kernel. At the same time, the Blender Foundation fixed a few performance issues, especially with Maxwell-based GM200 parts, such as the GeForce 980 Ti. Pre-release builds included these fixes for over a month, but 2.78 is the first build for the general public that supports it.

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In terms of actual features, Blender 2.78 starts to expand the suite's feature set into the space that is currently occupied by Adobe Animate CC (Flash Professional). The Blender Foundation noticed that users were doing 2D animations using the Grease Pencil, so they have been evolving the tool in that direction. You can now simulate different types of strokes, parent these to objects, paint geometry along surfaces, and so forth. It also has onion skinning, to see how the current frame matches its neighbors, but I'm pretty sure that is not new to 2.78, though.

As you would expect, there are still many differences between these two applications. Blender does not output to Flash, and interactivity would need to be done through the Blender Game Engine. On the other hand, Blender allows the camera, itself, to be animated. In Animate CC, you would need to move, rotate, and scale objects around the stage by the amount of pixels on an individual basis. In Blender, you would just fly the camera around.

This leads in to what the Blender Foundation is planning for Blender 2.8x. This upcoming release focuses on common workflow issues. Asset management is one area, but Viewport Renderer is a particularly interesting one. Blender 2.78 increases the functionality that materials can exhibit in the viewport, but Blender 2.8x is working toward a full physically-based renderer, such as the one seen in Unreal Engine 4. While it cannot handle the complex lighting effects that their full renderer, Cycles, can, some animations don't require this. Restricting yourself to the types of effects seen in current video games could decrease your render time from seconds or minutes per frame to around real-time.

As always, you can download Blender for free at their website.

Some Things I've Noticed about Windows 10 Patches

Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2016 - 10:07 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

I've been seeing a lot of people discussing how frequently Windows 10 seems to be getting updated. This discussion usually circles back to how many issues have been reported with the latest Anniversary Update, and how Microsoft has been slow in rolling it out. The thing is, while the slow roll-out is interesting, the way Windows 10 1607 is being patched is not too unusual.

The odd part is how Microsoft has been releasing the feature updates, themselves.

windows-10-bandaid.png

In the past, Microsoft has tried to release updates on the second Tuesday of every month. This provides a predictable schedule for administrators to test patches before deploying them to an entire enterprise, in case the update breaks something that is mission-critical. With Windows 10, Microsoft has declared that patches will be cumulative and can occur at any time. This led to discussion about whether or not “Patch Tuesday” is dead. Now, a little over a year has gone by, and we can actually quantify how the OS gets updated.

There seems to be a pattern that starts with each major version release, which has (thus far) been builds 10240, 10586, and 14393. Immediately before and after these builds start to roll out to the public, Microsoft releases a flurry of updates to fix issues.

For instance, Windows 10 version 1507 had seven sub-versions of 10240 prior to general release, and five hotfixes pushed down Windows Update within the first month of release. The following month, September 2015, had an update on Patch Tuesday, as well as an extra one on September 30th. The following month also had two updates, the first of which on October's Patch Tuesday. It was then patched once for every following Patch Tuesday.

The same trend occurred with Build 10586 (Windows 10 version 1511). Microsoft released the update to the public on November 12th, but pushed a patch through Windows Update on November 10th, and five more over Windows Update in the following month-and-a-bit. It mostly settled down to Patch Tuesday after that, although a few months had a second hotfix sometime in the middle.

We are now seeing the same trend happen with Windows 10 version 1607. Immediately after release, Microsoft pushed a bunch of hotfixes. If history repeats itself, we should start to see about two updates per month for the next couple of months, then we will slow down to Patch Tuesday until Redstone 2 arrives sometime in 2017.

So, while this seems to fit a recurring trend, I do wonder why this trend exists.

Part of it makes sense. When Microsoft is developing Windows 10, it is trying to merge additions from a variety of teams into a single branch, and do so once or twice each year. This likely means that Microsoft has a “last call” date for these teams to merge their additions into the public branch, and then QA needs to polish this up for the general public. While they can attempt to have these groups check in mid-way, pushing their work out to Windows Insiders in a pre-release build, you can't really know how the final build will behave until after the cut-off.

At the same time, the massive flood of patches within the first month would suggest that Microsoft is pushing the final build to the public about a month or two too early. If this trend continues, it would make the people who update within the first month basically another ring of the Insider program. The difference is that it is less out-in, because you get it when Windows Update tells you to.

It will be interesting to see how this continues going forward, too. Microsoft has already delayed Redstone 2 until 2017, as I mentioned earlier. This could be a sign that Microsoft is learning from past releases, and optimizing their release schedule based on these lessons. I wonder how soon before release will Microsoft settle on a “final build” next time. It seems like Microsoft could avoid many stability problems by simply setting an earlier merge date, and aggressively performing QA for a longer period until it is released to the public.

Or I could be completely off. What do you all think?

Source: Wikipedia

Logitech Releases C922 Pro Stream Webcam with 720p/60

Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2016 - 12:25 AM |
Tagged: webcam, skype, Pro Stream Webcam, logitech, C922x, C922, C920, 720p/60

Logitech has announced the successor to the popular C920 with the C922 Pro Stream Webcam, and this new model includes a 720p/60 mode, along with the 1080p/30 capability of its predecessor.

Logitech C922 01.jpg

“C922 Pro Stream Webcam offers full HD quality and features for all streaming needs. At either 1080p 30 FPS or 720p 60 FPS, C922 is the perfect solution for streaming to Twitch, YouTube and any other video streaming application imaginable. Advanced 20-step autofocus through a full HD glass lens with F-stop F 2.8 and 78-degree field of view means no matter what action is happening, C922 can capture those crucial moments in perfect HD clarity.”

Logitech lists these specs for the C922:

  • Video streaming or recording: 1080p30 FPS / 720p60 FPS / 720p30 FPS with supported apps
  • Video calling: Full HD 1080p with the latest version of Skype for Windows or 720p with
  • supported clients
  • H.264 video compression (Skype only at this time)
  • Full HD Glass lens (F=2.8) with 20-step autofocus
  • 78° horizontal field of view
  • Dual stereo microphone with automatic noise cancellation
  • Automatic low light correction
  • Tripod ready universal clip fits laptops and monitors (C922 SKU only)
  • Dimensions:
    • Width: 95mm
    • Depth: 24mm - 71mm including clip
    • Height: 29mm - 43.5mm including clip
    • Weight: 162g
  • USB cable: 6-ft

Logitech C922 02.jpg

The C922 includes a tripod, while the C922x does not

There will be two SKUs of the C922, each of which retail for $99.99:

  • C922 - exclusive to Best Buy and bestbuy.com, includes tripod and a 3 month XSplit license
  • C922x - available on Amazon.com - does not include the tripod but includes a longer 6 month XSplit license

Both versions are available now.

Logitech C922 Pro Stream Webcam.jpg

Full press release after the break.

Source: Logitech

The Founders Edition is not the foundation of NVIDIA's retail career

Subject: General Tech | September 29, 2016 - 03:14 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, competition, jen-hsun huang, Founder's Edition

When Microsoft launched the Surface there were negative reactions from vendors who saw this as new competition from what was previously their partner.  Today DigiTimes reports that certain unnamed GPU vendors have similar feelings about NVIDIA's Founder's Edition cards.  Jen-Hsun responded to these comments today, stating that the Founders Editions were "purely to solve problems in graphics card design". 

While he did not say that NVIDIA would not consider continuing practice in future cards he does correctly point out that they did share everything about the design and results with the vendors.  Those vendors are still somewhat upset about the month in which only Founder's Editions were available for sale as they feel they lost some possible profits by not being able to sell their custom designed GPUs.  Then again, considering the limited supply on the market, the amount of sales they could have made that extra month would certainly have been limited.  It will be interesting to see if we hear more about this directly from the vendors in the coming weeks.

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"Since Nvidia has restricted its graphics card brand partners from releasing in-house designed graphics cards within a month after the releases of its Founders Edition card, the graphics card vendors are displeased with the decision as it had given Nvidia time to earn early profits without competition."

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Source: DigiTimes