Get HITMAN for free with a Radeon RX 470 graphics card or eligible systems

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 9, 2016 - 11:11 PM |
Tagged: giveaway, hitman 2016, amd, rx 470

If you purchase a Radeon RX 470 or a system with said GPU and an FX 8370, 8350 or 6350 you can get a copy of the latest Hitman game for free.  If you purchased a card recently you should still be eligible, just pop over to the redemption page, sign in and redeem your code.

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You can pick up the 4GB model for as little as $170 but you would be wiser to invest a little more in the 8GB version.

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Source: AMD

Samsung will be disabling the charging ability of the Note 7

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2016 - 10:58 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy note 7, verizon, recall

If you are one of the 7% that like living dangerously and are not returning your Samsung Galaxy Note 7 you may find yourself unable to charge it.  Samsung are going to push out an update on December 19th which will disable the devices ability to charge.  The incendiary devices suffer from a design flaw which does not leave enough space for the battery to swell, which can lead to an electrical short in the battery which ends badly for both the device and the owner.  Verizon has decided to take an interesting stand and will be blocking this update, allowing those who wish to continue using this device to continue to do so.  Pop over to The Inquirer for more details.

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"THE REMAINING owners of the highly flammable Samsung Galaxy Note 7 will have their devices remotely killed from 19 December when an over-the-air update will prevent their devices from charging."

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Source: The Inquirer

DOOM Removes Denuvo DRM

Subject: General Tech | December 9, 2016 - 12:01 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, DRM, doom, bethesda

Well this is an interesting news post for a couple of reasons. Personally, I dislike DRM. A lot. It’s software that reduces end-user rights, as both consumers and potentially even as members of society after copyright expires (depending on how judges, and the Librarian of Congress, interpret whether fair use or expiration will override the DMCA’s felony clauses). It’s especially annoying when you see DRM on content that was pirated prior to the official launch, because ticking off your customers and screwing with archivists will really help you if you can’t even secure your own supply chain.

--deep exhale--

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As for today’s story, id Software has officially removed the Denuvo DRM package from their game. On the one hand, it’s good that AAA developers sometimes remove copy-protection after some initial launch window, to limit long-term damage. It’s not DRM-free like you would see on GOG, though, so there is still the possibility that games could artificially die in 10, 40, 100, or 400 years, even if Windows and the other, technical platforms it requires are still around.

On the other hand, because the removal of DRM aligns with DOOM being cracked, that's all the dozens of tech news sites are now reporting. Personally, I hope that this coverage increases sales, especially since the Steam Winter Sale is rumored to start in about two weeks, and DOOM has already been discounted to 50%-off before (I believe during QuakeCon). Still, you can't help but gawk at the Streisand effect as it unfolds before you.

Anywho, Steam is currently in the middle of pushing a 12 GB patch for the title at the moment. While the sites reporting on the removal of Denuvo aren’t clear, and the release notes don’t say, I’m guessing that it was rolled in with Free Update 5.

Source: TorrentFreak

X marks the spot; rumours of Broadwell-E's successor appear

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2016 - 06:22 PM |
Tagged: rumour, Intel, skylake-x, kaby lake x, LGA 2066

DigiTimes today published a possibly accurate post on the upcoming replacement for the ageing Broadwell-E platform, Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X.  These chips will feature a new socket and along with that a new chipset, bearing the predictable name of X299.   The quoted prices seem to fit with Intel's pricing scheme, from $468 to $1,780 but we did not hear of any core counts or frequency ranges, the expected release date is about a year away.  The new chips will of course support DDR4 and we might see a hint of them at Gamescom 2017 in Germany.  They also state you can expect to see Intel's 7xxx family of chips and the accompanying Z270 and H270 chipsets at CES this January; a reasonable expectation.

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"The new Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processors will feature a new LGA 2066 socket and support DDR4 memory. The CPUs will pair with Intel's new X299 chipsets."

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Source: DigiTimes

Watch Dogs 2, in two parts

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2016 - 08:04 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, amd, gaming, watch dogs 2, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, gtx 1060, rx 480x, rx 470

[H]ard|OCP have spent a lot of with Watch Dogs 2 recently, enough to create three articles covering the game of which two are now published.  The first article focuses on performance at ultra settings and finding the highest playable settings that the GPUs they tested were capable of, without installing the high resolution texture pack.  As it turns out, the game is much more graphically demanding than many other recent releases, so much so that only the Titan X and GTX 1080 was able to perform at 4k resolutions, the GTX 1070 and 1060, as well as the RX 480 and 470 only feature at lower resolutions. 

The second article looks at performance with the texture pack installed, which did not have much effect on overall performance but significantly increased VRAM usage.  Even the mighty Titan X struggled with this game, we will need a new generation of GPUs to utilize all the available graphics features available in this game.  The last review will be up soon and will focus on what effect each of the graphical settings have on the visual appearance of the game.

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"Watch Dogs 2 has been released on the PC. We will have a three part evaluation of performance and image quality starting today with performance comparisons. We will also find the highest playable settings for each graphics card and the gameplay experience delivered. Finally, a graphically demanding game."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Intel just got some competition, Qualcomm's 10nm server chips will launch first

Subject: General Tech | December 7, 2016 - 06:25 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, centriq, centriq 2400, server

The days when AMD and Intel were the two choices to build a server with are long gone.  The ARM architecture has been making serious inroads as various vendors have begun to offer various solutions utilizing ARM designs, up to and including AMD for that matter.  Today, Qualcomm have joined these ranks, announcing their first processor family designed to power a server.  The Centriq 2400 series is based on a 10nm process node, with up to 48 cores.  As The Inquirer points out, this is a rather impressive shot across Intel's bow as Qualcomm will ship a 10nm FinFET before Intel does.

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"The Qualcomm Centriq 2400 series, the first in the Centriq product family that Qualcomm has been working on for four years, has up to 48 ARMv8-compliant cores targeting compute-intensive data centre applications that require power efficiency and is built on the 10nm FinFET manufacturing processor."

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Source: The Inquirer

Fishing for performance improvements? A shallow dive into Intel's desktop Kaby Lake

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2016 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, kaby lake, Intel, 7th generation core

Ryan recently offered a sneak peek at Kaby Lake, which powered two HP Spectre laptops recently sent to PC Perspective for review.  [H]ard|OCP managed to acquire a desktop version of the i7-7700K along with a mysterious unreleased motherboard which supports both Skylake and Kaby Lake architectures.  When testing the two chips in Passmark there was no meaningful performance difference, a pattern repeated in 3D Mark and Sandra.  The performance per clock is not the whole story with this chip, there are new features and possible overclocking improvements but at the moment it does not look like there is a compelling reason to upgrade if you are already on Skylake.  The same is not true if you are using a previous generation.

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"If you are wondering what Intel's new Core i7-7700K Kaby Lake processor's performance will look like when it is launched next month at CES, we have a quick preview for you here today. Just some quick and dirty synthetic benchmark numbers to whet your appetite at 4.5GHz with comparison to the i7-6700K at matched clocks."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: The Khronos Group

Maybe Good that Valve Called their API OpenVR?

Update, December 6th, 2016 @ 2:46pm EST: Khronos has updated the images on their website, and those changes are now implemented on our post. The flow-chart image changed dramatically, but the members image has also added LunarG.

Original Post Below

The Khronos Group has just announced their VR initiative, which is in the early, call for participation stage. The goal is to produce an API that can be targeted by drivers from each vendor, so that applications can write once and target all compatible devices. The current list of participants are: Epic Games, Google, Oculus VR, Razer, Valve, AMD, ARM, Intel, NVIDIA, VeriSilicon, Sensics, and Tobii. The point of this announcement is to get even more companies involved, before it matures.

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Image Credit: The Khronos Group

Valve, in particular, has donated their OpenVR API to Khronos Group. I assume that this will provide the starting point for the initiative, similar to how AMD donated Mantle to found Vulkan, which overcomes the decision paralysis of a blank canvas. Also, especially for VR, I doubt these decisions would significantly affect individual implementations. If it does, though, now would be the time for them to propose edits.

In terms of time-frame, it’s early enough that the project scope hasn’t even been defined, so schedules can vary. They do claim that, based on past experiences, about 18 months is “often typical”.

That’s about it for the announcement; on to my analysis.

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Image Credit: The Khronos Group, modified

First, it’s good that The Khronos Group are the ones taking this on. Not only do they have the weight to influence the industry, especially with most of these companies having already collaborated on other projects, like OpenGL, OpenCL, and Vulkan, but their standards tend to embrace extensions. This allows Oculus, Valve, and others to add special functionality that can be picked up by applications, but still be compatible at a base level with the rest of the ecosystem. To be clear, the announcement said nothing about extensions, but it would definitely make sense for VR, which can vary with interface methods, eye-tracking, player tracking, and so forth.

If extensions end up being a thing, this controlled competition allows the standard as a whole to evolve. If an extension ends up being popular, that guides development of multi-vendor extensions, which eventually may be absorbed into the core specification. On the other hand, The Khronos Group might decide that, for VR specifically, the core functionality is small and stable enough that extensions would be unnecessary. Who knows at this point.

Second, The Khronos Group stated that Razer joined for this initiative specifically. A few days ago, we posted news and assumed that they wanted to have input into an existing initiative, like Vulkan. While they still might, their main intentions are to contribute to this VR platform.

Third, there are a few interesting omissions from the list of companies.

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Microsoft, who recently announced a VR ecosystem for Windows 10 (along with the possibly-applicable HoloLens of course), and is a member of the Khronos Group, isn’t part of the initiative, at least not yet. This makes sense from a historical standpoint, as Microsoft tends to assert control over APIs from the ground up. They are, or I should say were, fairly reluctant to collaborate, unless absolutely necessary. This has changed recently, starting with their participation with the W3C, because good God I hope web browsers conform to a standard, but also their recent membership with the Khronos Group, hiring ex-Mozilla employees, and so forth. Microsoft has been lauding how they embrace openness lately, but not in this way yet.

Speaking of Mozilla, that non-profit organization has been partnered with Google on WebVR for a few years now. While Google is a member of this announcement, it seems to be mostly based around their Daydream initiative. The lack of WebVR involvement with whatever API comes out of this initiative is a bit disappointing, but, again, it’s early days. I hope to see Mozilla and the web browser side of Google jump in and participate, especially if video game engines continue to experiment with cross-compiling to Web standards.

It's also surprising to not see Qualcomm's name on this list. The dominant mobile SoC vendor is a part of many Khronos-based groups including Vulkan, OpenCL, and others, so it's odd to have this omission here. It is early, so there isn't any reason to have concern over a split, but Qualcomm's strides into VR with development kits, platform advancements and other initiatives have picked up in recent months and I imagine it will have input on what this standard becomes.

And that’s all that I can think of at the moment. If you have any interests or concerns, be sure to drop a line in the comments. Registration is not required.

Are your Puma powered packets ponderous? A router update should be coming to fix your latency

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2016 - 06:50 PM |
Tagged: Intel, Puma, latency, lag

Intel's Puma 6 system on a chip is a popular choice in modem provided by ISPs across the western world and if you have recently upgraded your broadband modem you may have noticed an undesirable side effect.  There is an issue with the chip which is causing bursts of high latency, ruining video streaming and gaming for those affected by the issue.  There is good news, The Register confirmed with Intel that a fix is forthcoming and you should expect your ISP to push out a firmware update soon, hopefully not while you are in the middle of something important.

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"Intel's Puma 6 chipset, used in gigabit broadband modems around the world, suffers from latency jitter so bad it ruins online gaming and other real-time connections."

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Source: The Register

HP Launches Ruggedized Apollo Lake Powered Convertible Tablet For Students

Subject: General Tech | December 5, 2016 - 07:34 AM |
Tagged: x360, Intel, hp, convertible tablet, apollo lake, 2-in-1

HP recently introduced a new convertible tablet for students. Built to be a bit more ruggedized than the consumer Pavilion model, the new HP ProBook X360 11G Education Edition is an 11” 2-in-1 laptop weighing in at 3.19 pounds, 0.78 inches thick, and designed to pass the MIL-STD 810G specification test with a spill resistant keyboard, shock and minor drop tolerance, and keyboard keys that are difficult to rip off (heh).

HP’s new convertible uses the same 360-degree hinge design as the existing Pavilion x360 notebooks which allows the user to bend the display all the way back so that it can be used as a tablet with the keyboard on the underside. Unlike the older consumer versions though, it appears HP has slightly upgraded things.

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On the outside the notebook is dark gray with black around the display and has a more business aesthetic while keeping the curves of the consumer model. The display is an 11” SVA panel with LED backlighting that is protected by Gorilla Glass 4. There is a 720p front facing webcam above the display and a 1080p camera on the keyboard that can be used while in tablet or tent modes while using the display as a viewfinder. Further, HP managed to cram what looks like a decent sized keyboard sans numpad and a trackpad that supports multi touch gestures 

The display supports both multi touch and digitizer input using the optional Active Pen which is nice to see and a feature I had wanted to see on the Pavilion x360 when i was looking for a replacement for my old convertible (I'm still looking heh).

Along the edges HP has included HDMI 1.4b, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 (USB 3.0) Type A, one USB Type-C, one 3.5mm audio jack, and a Micro SDXC card slot for expansion.

Internally, the ProBook X360 11G EE is powered by one of two possible Apollo Lake SoCs: a dual core Celeron N3350 running at 1.1GHz and up to 2.4GHz boost and HD Graphics 500 or a quad core Pentium N4200 clocked at 1.1GHz base and up to 2.5GHz with an Intel HD 505 GPU. Regardless of the processor choice, the convertible also includes 8GB of DDR3L-1600 memory and a 64GB eMMC drive that can be upgraded to a 128GB ot 256GB M.2 SSD for better performance. Ditching the 500GB spinning rust drive of the consumer version is a good thing and is likely what helped HP get the ruggedized specifications.

Networking is handled by Intel dual band 2x2 MIMO 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.2, and Realtek-powered Gigabit Ethernet. HP claims up to 11 hours of battery life.

The ProBook X360 11G Education Edition comes with a 3 year warranty and starts at $329 with availability expected in January. Unfortunately, the convertible will initially only be available to educational institutions and HP partners though eventually you should be able to pick one up through a reseller. Another possible wrinkle is that the notebooks come preloaded with HP’s School Pack software which has software for students that lets a teacher do lesson planning, desktop sharing, and a student social network among other things. Of course if your school does not use this platform it is just more pre-installed software taking up resources. On the other hand, they do come with Windows 10 Pro rather than Home so that is something at least.

I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one to see how it feels as it sounds like it is more solidly built than the non education edition version.

 

Source: Tech Report